“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” ~ William Styron, from Conversations with William Styron

Literary circles of influence

“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.” ~ Cassandra Clare, from Clockwork Angel

Thirty Day Book Challenge

For this meme, I’m only going to talk about fiction, no poetry or drama. So here goes . . .

Day 01: Best book you read last year

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, which I began reading as an ARC; however, I dropped the ARC in the pool, so I had to grab a new copy as soon as the book hit the market. Actually, that was probably a couple of years ago. Last year’s favorite was predictably The Fault in our Stars, which was luminous.

Day 02: A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. For a while, I read this series once a year. I haven’t done so in the last four or five years, but I plan to bring back this annual pilgrimage to Middle Earth. Coming in at a close second are all of the Harry Potter books, and books 1-6 of the Dune Series.

Day 03: Your favorite series

You would think that it would be #2 above, but it’s not. My favorite series is actually the Harry Potter series. I was a little late in coming to the series as I mistakenly believed that they were children’s books, but once I had read the first, I devoured books one through three and then had to wait for the next one.

Day 04: Favorite book of your favorite series

This one would is hard as I really love books 3 and 5. The Prisoner of Azkaban introduced Sirius Black, one of my favorite characters. The Order of the Pheonix killed Sirius Black. I believe that these two books represent Harry’s headlong rush into maturity as he was buoyed along by circumstances not of his choosing.

Day 05 : A book that makes you happy

Another hard category for me because I rarely read anything with a happy ending, but after giving it some thought, I would have to say Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss. Timeless, the inherent silliness of the wordplay in this book inspires a smile. I once used this particular book in a literature class to illustrate dramatic effect: rising action, falling action, dilemma/conflict, denouement, etc.

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

Day 06: A book that makes you sad

Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. The three women in this book all face life-changing decisions, but the way in which Cunningham weaves together the three different streams of consciousness is remarkable. A close second would be Tuesdays with Morrie, but it’s not fiction.

Day 07: Most underrated book

Josephine Humphreys Rich in Love. I loved everything about this book, and it left me thinking for days.

Day 08: Most overrated book

Ulysses, by James Joyce. Oh, I know, I’m supposed to love this book because of the whole English literature thing, and at one point I really did love it, but as time has passed, I have realized that only English majors and professors could really love this book.

Second is Kafka’s Metamorphosis. I just can’t get past the whole cockroach thing. I know that it’s a metaphor about life and alienation and comformity, but still, a bug.

Day 09: A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Before I read The Hour I First Believed, I hadn’t touched anything by Wally Lamb. I kept hearing about the book, but didn’t buy it, probably because of the title; it just sounded too uplifting. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth, and equally surprised by just how much this book touched me.

Day 10: Favorite classic book

I am actually very partial to Charles Dickens, especially David Copperfield more than Great Expectations; I still haven’t been able to make myself like Moby Dick. And of course, pretty much anything by Fitzgerald or Woolf is on my top list.

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

Day 11: A book you hated

Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. That’s a few hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

Day 12: A book you used to love but don’t anymore

This would be almost anything by Patricia Cornwell written after book five in her Kay Scarpetta series. Initially, I loved Scarpetta, a tough, intelligent woman, but as the series continued, Cornwell became so formulaic that Scarpetta turned into a whiny shell of her former self.

Day 13: Your favorite writer

This one is impossible. I have a favorite writer for each genre, for example, P. D. James for mystery; J. R. R. Tolkien for fantasy; Frank Herbert for science fiction; Anne Rule for true crime; F. Scott Fitzgerald & Virginia Woolf for classics; J. K. Rowling for young adult; Thomas Harris for thrillers; Ian Rankin for detective stories. Actually, I could probably come up with more, but I think that I’ve completely missed this one.

Day 14: Favorite book of your favorite writer

I love The Great Gatsby. I still believe that it’s wasted on juniors in high school. You need some adult experience and perspective to appreciate all of the nuances of this book.

Day 15: Favorite male character

At the moment, I am completely enamored of Tyrion Lannister (Song of Fire and Ice series). I love everything about him, his wit, his wisdom, his perspective on life and family. Everything.

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” ~ Carl Sagan

Day 16: Favorite female character

This is so hard, so very very hard, but if I must narrow it to one, I think it would have to be Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander from The Millenium Trilogy. Lisbeth is incredibly smart but terribly flawed. She is seemingly unafraid and simultaneously uncomfortable and ill at ease.

Day 17: Favorite quote from your favorite book

“There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire,” from Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient

Day 18: A book that disappointed you

This may sound strange, but I was disappointed in Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak. I saw the original movie when I was just a girl, but I fell in love with the characters, the story, and especially, the scenery. So years later when I read the book, I just couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed that I didn’t come away with the same feelings that the movie inspired in me.

Day 19: Favorite book turned into a movie

Sorry, but this has to be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I know that I’ve already mentioned this, but truly, Peter Jackson’s interpretation was brilliant. But a close runner-up would be A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. The eye scene still haunts me. And third would be The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink. Honorable mention: Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence.

Day 20: Favorite romance book

Oh this would have to be Wuthering Heights. I don’t read romance in the vein of Harlequin romance, but as far as a love story, this one wins. Heathcliffe.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Day 21: Favorite book from your childhood

Another tie, this time between A Secret Garden and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Both books featured adventurous female protagonists, and I read and reread each of them many times between the ages of 8 and 14.

Day 22: Favorite book you own

You might as well ask me who my favorite child is, or who my favorite dog is because this one is completely impossible to answer.

Day 23: A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

I feel that I should read something by David Foster Wallace, like Infinite Jest, yet I can’t help but feel that he’s highly overrated, which is purely a gut feeling and probably unfair. And I’m also shocked to say this, but I haven’t read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Day 24: A book that you wish more people would’ve read

Carson McCullers’ Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I know that it shows up as required reading in some college courses, but still, the characterizations alone make this simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.

Day 25: A character who you can relate to the most

I’m basing this on a book that I just read, Chez Moi, by Agnes Desarthe. The protagonist in this book is a woman who is in the middle of trying to figure out her life. She has made mistakes, has suffered losses, but throughout, she survives, and eventually thrives.

“My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.” ~ Edith Sitwell

Day 26: A book that changed your opinion about something

Sho-Gun by James Clavell. I first read this book while I was an undergraduate. It wasn’t the length that made me wary, but the things that I had heard. I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted a historical novel. I was so wrong. This book was a sweeping epic of feudal Japan, and I’m heartbroken that I cannot find my original two-volume hardbound set.

Day 27: The most surprising plot twist or ending

I hated what happened at the end of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. McMurphy is erased as a human being; however, the redemption comes through Chief Bromden, who finally releases himself. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Griffin & Sabine trilogy, by Nick Bantock; everything about these books is surprising.

Day 28: Favorite title

Their Eyes were Watching God. I love everything about this book.

Day 29: A book everyone hated but you liked

I’m actually going to switch this around to a book everyone liked but I hated: Gone with the Wind . . . boring . . . Second would be Catcher in the Rye . . . seriously?

Day 30: Your favorite book of all time

Heart of Darkness Catch22 The Shining The Handmaid’s Tale Kafka on the Shore The World According to Garp Lolita Member of the Wedding The Alchemist Silence of the Lambs The Bone Collector The Naming of the Dead A Game of Thrones The Hunger Games The Golden Notebook A Wrinkle in Time Gorky Park Ethan Frome Remorseful Day The Weight of Water The Godfather Red Dragon The Blind Assassin Snow Falling on Cedars…………………………………..

Music by Jackie Greene, “I Don’t Live in a Dream”


 

Sections in the bookstore

– Books You Haven’t Read
– Books You Needn’t Read
– Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
– Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
– Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
– Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
– Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
– Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
– Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
– Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
– Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
– Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
– Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
– Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
– Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
– Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
– Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
– Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
– Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them

~ Italo Calvino, from If on a winter’s night a traveler

 

 

“He did not remember when everything began to remind him of something else.” ~ Tobias Wolff, from “Bullet in the Brain”

"Cloister Cemetery in the Snow (1817-19, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Cloister Cemetery in the Snow” (1817-19, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich

“I never change, I simply become more myself.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates,  from Solstice

Wednesday late afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

I spent a lot of time today editing photos that Corey downloaded from the camera, starting with last Christmas. Yes, I am remiss. I changed my header image and my gravatar. What do you think?

My thoughts are meandering, so I thought that I’d create an appropriate post. Here are rambling thoughts, just because I can:

  • I really like eggnog with bourbon. It’s such an appropriately winter drink. Just saying.
"Hut in Snow" (1827, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Hut in Snow” (1827, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • No one sends Christmas cards any more. To date, we have received a whopping two. That won’t stop me from sending them, though.
  • Corey thinks I’m silly for sending out cards after Christmas, but I contend that my cards bear good wishes for the coming year, which makes them pretty timeless. Anyway, I hope to get them out in the next few days.
  • I need to make Olivia’s Christmas stocking, but so far I am uninspired. Nothing is really striking me, so I think that I just need to go to the fabric store and meander.
  • I’m not really feeling this whole Christmas season yet, and it’s almost the middle of the month. Perhaps my vacation threw off my whole timing?
  • When Corey and I were on the bus that took us from the airport to the pier, we passed this expansive wetland, and this is what I thought: That would be a great place to hide a body. Does this make me stranger than I already think that I am?

“You, clamped in your Depths,
climb out of yourself
for ever.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Illegibility”

Things that wish were different:

  • I wish that I was as secure about my physical being as Corey is about his. He gladly poses for pictures and then actually allows people to see those pictures. I reluctantly pose for pictures, and then—if and only if I Photoshop them into an acceptable state—chances are great that no one will ever see them.
"Winter Landscape with Church" (1811, oil on canvas)Caspar David Friedrich
“Winter Landscape with Church” (1811, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I wish that I could live more in the present and future instead of so much in the past, but I realize that at this point in my life, I am unlikely to change.
  • I wish that my children did not inherit my insecurities and inanities. Alexis is way too OCD; Eamonn overcompensates because he is insecure; and Brett views the world through a cynical lens. All me.
  • I wish that I were better at maintaining friendships, but I realize that having been burned badly in my last significant friendship that I am very, very gun-shy.
  • I wish that I could go back and change my decision not to pursue my doctorate decades ago.
  • I wish that I knew what made my mother such a hard person. I mean, what happened to her? There had to be something. When I told her that my ex and Ann were flying to Germany for Patrick’s memorial service, she said, “Why?” As in, she really couldn’t fathom what the point was. I just don’t understand.

Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Things I genuinely don’t like about myself:

  • I don’t really think that I’m a good soul, you know, the kind of person who people will say, “She was a good person.”
Caspar David Friedrich, Graveyard under Snow 1826 oil on canvas
“Graveyard Under Snow” (1826, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I acknowledge that I’m an intellectual snob, and it’s not an exactly endearing quality, but at least I am aware that it’s true.
  • I have to force myself to make small-talk. Idle conversation is not my forte, but engross me in a political discussion or a discussion on the disparities in society, and I can talk forever.
  • I have one of those mouths that turns down at the corners. I realized this when I was about 14, and it has bothered me ever since. I mean, how can you go about with a cheerful disposition if your mouth cannot even physically reflect this?
  • When did I get thighs? I’ve never had thighs, but, well, there they are. Getting older is hard enough without gaining bodily sections that you never had. I used to like my legs, really like them as in not be ashamed to show them, but now? Geez.

“That’s why I speak
In a voice so soft it sounds like writing
Night writing. A structure of feeling
Broken by hand.” ~ Ben Lerner, from “Mean Free Path”

Things that creep into my thoughts in the middle of the night:

  • I am not middle aged. I am older than middle aged, unless I’m going to live much longer than anyone in my family. This is a brutal reality.
Caspar David Friedrich, Dolmen in the Snow oil on canvas
“Dolmen in the Snow” (1807, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • It’s strange to realize that more of your life is past you than before you.
  • In the last 15 months, I have lost three people and one canine friend. And people wonder why I am so fixated on loss.
  • At this stage of my life, I am probably going to be dealing with the loss of more people from my life, and I wish with all of my heart that this were not so.
  • Maybe I really am too old to embark upon a whole new chapter. How does one know this? Who decides what is too old?
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote when he was just a child that he was going to be a writer and go on adventures. When I was just a child, I said that I was going to be a poet. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. Why didn’t I?

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka

Idle remnants:

  • The name of the book that I was going to write years ago was White Moon on Black Water: Writings on Loss and Resolution. I still think it’s a good title.
  • I really wish that I could be working in the publishing industry in some capacity.

    Caspar David Friedrich Tree of Crows, oil on canvas, ca 1822
    “Tree of Crows” (ca 1822, oil on canvas)
    Caspar David Friedrich
  • I really wish that I were working.
  • It’s hard for me to answer the question posed by strangers, “So, what do you do?” Do? Nothing?
  • I am of that generation that equates self-worth with careers. That old Puritan work ethic: Hard work brings success. Interestingly, though, I have never equated money with success, as in the more I made, the more successful I was. My goal was always that I like what I was doing, whatever it was.
  • Do you know that well before the scrapbooking fad I was making books for people, and these books were filled with pictures and poems and quotes that I thought suited the individual. My therapist asked me if this wouldn’t be a good business idea, and I told her that I didn’t really think so. That right there shows you how my mind does not work in a capitalist fashion. I could only see the books as creative outlets, not as a money-making venture. This is why I will never be rich.

(All images by Caspar David Friedrich, 19th century German Romantic painter)

Music by Efterklang (a recent discovery), “Natural Tune”

                   

Abyss

You’ve left a hole
the size of the sky
in the chair across the table

in the chasm of the closet
your shoes hold the shape
of every step we took

through the seven rooms
of a world with no language
but that of moving

on macadam and the miles
of velvet earth before rainfall
between rows of corn

and up the curving drive
until they landed beside
the bed a black hole

you disappeared through
as I look for a sign
of you slivered with stars

your body without borders
nowhere and everywhere
in the wind moving through trees

on its way down the hall
to the back of my neck
in the chill you still send through me

and so I slip into the deep
abyss of your shoes
standing where you were last

pointing in two directions
trusting the way forward
is also the way back

~ Wyatt Townley

“Creativity is the marriage humanity makes with eternity.” ~ Eric Maisel, Affirmations for Artists

Back Lane in Woodford, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts in another, until the taxis are dancing with the daffodils, until a whole has been made from all these separate fragments.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from  Letter To A Young Poet

Sunday, late afternoon. Sunny and warm.

White Wooden Garden Gate (Wikimedia Commons)

I slept very soundly last night. Now that I think of it, I’m sleeping better lately, not so much up and down every two to three hours. I am still sleeping about eleven hours, but I still feel like I need it, which is so strange.

I had more vivid dreams last night. Once again, I dreamed that I was back with my ex, but I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be with Corey. I really hate dreams like that because I wake up all discombobulated, and it takes me a few minutes to regain my footing.

Corey had to work the late shift last night, so I watched television until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I have a vague memory of Corey getting home this morning and untangling me from the covers. I was probably wound up in them in my usual fight with the dogs for my portion of bed space. Of course, all of this is done without me being aware of it.

When I finally got out of bed today, I tackled all of the dishes. I don’t mind washing the dishes; what I do mind is washing the dishes while sweat pours down my face and into my eyes. Our kitchen is beastly hot at all times, and it has always been this way. But my tolerance for the heat is nil so that by the time I finish washing the dishes and wiping down the counter and stove, I’m a sopping mess. It’s quite sexy, I must say.

Not.

Anyway, I thought that I’d start a post early enough today so that I might be able to finish it without dragging it out throughout the week.

“The sky is no longer out there, but it is right on the edge of the space you are in. The sense of colour is generated inside you. If you then go outside you will see a different coloured sky. You colour the sky.” ~ James Turrell

Planet Earth Vol. 10 by geograpcics (DeviantArt)

I had a good session with my therapist on Wednesday. She asked what I wanted to talk about, and I told her that there were two possibilities: my daughter and my inability to deal with not going back to work; however, since I still hadn’t talked to Alexis, there really wasn’t much point in discussing that issue as it was at a standstill. So work it was.

One of the reasons that I like my therapist so much, aside from the fact that we have known each other for over 20 years, is that she has this innate ability to get to the heart of matters. I can tell you after seeing several different therapists, not everyone in the profession can do this.

I told her that I dream about going back to work at least three times a week and that the dreams never end well. We pondered that and a few other aspects for a bit, but ultimately she said that my loss of identity, the identity that I have always tied to having a career—making money, being successful on my own terms—my inability to deal with the loss of those things was grief, and I hadn’t dealt with that grief.

Geez. Grief? Again? No, we all know that I don’t do grief well, not at all.

What it boils down to is that as long as I keep thinking that I might be able to go back to work, then I’m never going to deal with the fact that I can’t go back to work, certainly not full time and not in the kind of careers that I have had in the past. I mean, the reality is that if I had been working in the past two weeks, out of those ten days, I would have been out of commission for four; no one is going to want someone on staff who is that unreliable, and I cannot predict when my body will decide to take a time out.

“Honest criticism means nothing: what one wants is unrestrained passion, fire for fire.” ~ Henry Miller

The Open Gate by Victor Peryakin

I had never thought of the loss of my career as something over which to grieve, but I have been working steadily since I was 15, full time since I was 18. That’s a long time. A long time in which to build confidence, a sense of identity, a sense of accomplishment. Dr. K likened it to what happens to people who retire and are totally unprepared for the major life change.

It makes complete sense when I think of it in that way, but my inability to move forward emotionally is also keeping me from enjoying something I have longed to have the leisure to do: write.

I used to dream about quitting work and writing full time. Now, I have the time, and I don’t always write. Dr. K suggested that perhaps in my goal-oriented way of thinking about things, I’ve put too many expectations on my writing, as in writing to finish my book, writing to publish, and because of this, I’m not taking the time to just enjoy the practice of writing.

I have worked on deadline with clearly-defined goals all of my life: proposals to garner funds for this or that, deadlines to go to print, presentations to recruit students, sales goals, whatever. And during all of that time, I longed, ached really, to just be able to write. For three years now, I have been about the practice of writing, but always with some goal in my mind, and my inability to pursue that goal clearly and steadfastly has made me feel that I’m not making any forward progress.

But this is the reality:

  • I wrote my first post on February 26, 2008, but I did not begin to post regularly until July 2008.
  • I’ve published 652 posts, and about 95 percent of those were written, not just videos.
  • I average 1500 words a post, words that are mine, not quotes or poems.
  • Based on about 618 real posts, that’s 927,000 words, give or take a few thousand.

Nine hundred twenty-seven thousand words . . .

  • There are roughly one million words in the English language, but does that include scientific terms, acronyms, numbers, etc.?
  • It is impossible to calculate accurately how many words are in the English language because there are so many mitigating factors: slang, regional dialect, words that come from other languages that are used in English (e.g., cliché, Yentl, sherpa, pierogie), parts of speech, derivations, compounds, etc.
  • Unabridged dictionaries contain between 200,000 to 600,000 entries

Have I written a dictionary’s worth of words?

“Stand high long enough and your lightning will come.” ~ William Gibson

Garden Gate

Of course not. But I’ve written a lot of words, and before today, I never calculated just how many words I’ve pounded out on various keyboards and computers at my disposal.

I’ve certainly written enough words to fill a book, but obviously that does not mean that I’ve written a book. But that’s not the point; the point is that all of this time, I have never really given myself credit for writing, just writing. I’ve always kept the presence of this elusive goal in the periphery, which makes me feel guilty for not doing more with my writing.

Perhaps if I can let go of the idea of returning to work, returning to a full-time career, and perhaps if I can allow myself to feel a sense of accomplishment for the writing that I am doing, then I will be able to move on, or at least to move beyond this standstill in which I have felt myself mired for the past few years.

I know myself too well to believe for a second that I will be able to assuage all of the guilt; I still have that strong Puritanical sensibility: hard work brings success; although to be truthful, I don’t know where it comes from. No wait. I do. It comes from my father, from both my parents, who instilled in me early that I had to work hard to succeed.

But aside from that, if I can start to let go, perhaps I’ll be able to move forward.

“I had forgotten that time wasn’t fixed like concrete but in fact was fluid as sand, or water. I had forgotten that even misery can end.” ~ Joyce Carol Oats, I Am No One You Know: Stories

Rustic Garden Gate on Riverside at Eynsford, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t know, just as I don’t know with any certainty what tomorrow will bring. I just know that I must try. I am so tired of my life being the way that it is.

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with mosaicmoods regarding the Robbins quote that I posted a few days ago about self destiny and piloting “your own ship.” What I take from the quote is that Robbins is saying that if we sit idly by and wait for things to happen to us, then we deserve what we get, but if we pilot our own ships, if we carpe diem, then we have a chance to make our dreams a reality.

Of course, the opportunities that present themselves to us are not always obvious. We are not always self-aware enough to realize that this moment in time is an open door, so we do not go through it. Or, we may sense that the open door is there, but for whatever reason, we do not go through the door. Perhaps we are afraid of what is on the other side of the door. Perhaps we are just to tired to make the journey, however small.

I only know that I have been hanging about waiting for god knows what for too long. My decision to write just to write is not an earth-shattering decision. I see it more as taking a step or two through the garden gate and down the path. Whether or not that path arrives at a cottage by the sea doesn’t really matter at this point.

To be perfectly honest, I’m just glad to be on the path.

More later. Peace.

Music by Thirteen Senses, “Gone”

                    

Untitled by Halina Poswiatowska

these words have always existed
in the open smile of a sunflower
in
the dark wing of a crow
and also
in the frame of a door left ajar

even when there was no door
they existed
in the branches of a
simple tree

and you want me
to have them to myself
to be
the
crow’s wing the birch and the summer
you want me to buzz
as beehives do
when open to sunshine

fool
i do not own these words
i borrow
them
from the wind from the bees and from the sun

(Translated by Marek Lugowski)

                   

*Just an aside. It’s now 9 p.m. I began this post at 5 p.m. It has taken everything in me not to get up and walk away from trying to publish this damned thing. The computer began to act up as soon as I started to insert my images. Argh . . .

“The Portuguese call it saudade: a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable. Love affairs, miseries of life, the way things were, people already dead, those who left and the ocean that tossed them on the shores of a different land—all things born of the soul that can only be felt.” ~ Anthony De Sa

Five Layers of Movement (Oregon Coast), by Russell Tomlin (used with permission)

The house of saudade calls memory: it’s a small cabin in the corner of a heart.” ~ Henrique M. Coehlo Neto

I have been saving the title quote by Anthony de Sa for weeks now, wanting to write the perfect post to accompany it. Finally I realized that the quote is a microcosm: It needs no other words to illuminate it; it needs none of my musings to explicate it further. Saudade is the exact word for my life.

(And yes, I’ll admit it. I have been on a Joyce Carol Oates kick for a bit now.)     

More later. Peace.

Music by Ólafur Arnalds, “Erla’s Walz”

             

                   

I Saw A Woman Walking Into A Plate Glass Window

I saw a woman walking into a plate glass window
as if walking into the sky.

I saw her death striding forward to meet her,
shadowed in flawless glass.

Dogwood blossoms drew her, a lilac-drugged air,
it was beauty’s old facade,
blinding,
blind: the transparency
that, touched, turns opaque.

The frieze into which she stepped buckled in anger
and dissolved in puzzle parts about her head.

               *          *          *

I saw a woman walking into sunshine confident and composed
and tranquil to the last.

I saw a woman walking into something that had seemed nothing.
As we commonly tell ourselves.

The trick to beauty is its being unassimilable,
a galaxy of glittering reflections,
each puzzle part in place.
Not this raining of glass and blood
about the amazed head.

The unfathomable depths into which she stepped became
the merest surface,
Pain and noise.

               *          *          *

I saw a woman walking into her broken body
as if she were a bride.

I saw her soul struck to the ground because mere space
could not bear it aloft.

I saw how the window at last framed only what was there,
beyond the frame,
that could not fall.

My throat filled with blood:
you would not have believed how swiftly.

“We inhabit ourselves without valuing ourselves, unable to see that here, now, this very moment is sacred; but once it’s gone—its value is incontestable.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

 

 Judy Garland

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other, and a little more loving, have a little more empathy, and maybe we’d like each other a little bit more.” ~ Judy Garland, Little Girl Lost

I had never before seen the following passage by Judy Garland (1922-1969), and I must admit that I don’t remember where I found it (sorry), but I thought it so poignant that I wanted to share it with you. I must mention, though, that after doing a little digging, I realized that it is in fact not one passage, but rather a collection of Garland’s more memorable quotes.

Behind every cloud is another cloud.
I think there’s something peculiar about me that I haven’t died.

I was born at the age of twelve.

When I walk onstage you should hear my balls clank.

I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.

If I am a legend, then why am I so lonely?

I am a chemist. I know what pills I am taking!

The most nightmarish feeling in the world is suddenly to feel like throwing up in front of four thousand people.

At least one wall is shaking.

There is fat and there is bloat.

I’ve either been an enormous success or just a down-and-out failure.

I’m not drunk. I am glazed.

I want to finish this, do you mind?


~ Judy Garland

Judy Garland (Library of Congress)

                   

I don’t claim to be a Garland aficionado, but I have always felt a great deal of empathy and sympathy for the woman who spent almost her entire life manipulated and molded by people—including her own mother—who did not necessarily care about Judy the person, Judy the woman, only Judy Garland, the bankable star.

Garland, who died at 47, suffered from a lifelong battle with self-doubt. Studio executive Louis B. Mayer, misogynist that he was, often belittled her, referring to her as his “little hunchback.” Garland, like other female stars of the time, was put on diet pills to control her weight, and then she was given sedatives so that she could sleep. Little wonder that she became drug and alcohol dependent. Her nose was reshaped in some films, and she was made to wear removable caps on her teeth.

Garland’s adult life was a series of emotional and mental breakdowns, failed relationships and marriages, and suicide attempts. Nevertheless, her acting and singing talents firmly place her among the best performers of all time.

I was never big on The Wizard of Oz, but “Over the Rainbow” holds a special place in my heart as it is one of the songs that I sang to Caitlin over and over as she slept in my arms. In spite of my fondness for “Rainbow,” one of my favorite Garland performances is her rendition of “Smile,”  from “The Judy Garland Show,” followed closely by her performance of “Ol Man River.”

My god, what a voice. Perfect and heartbreaking simultaneously.

More later. Peace.

 

“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

From The Cycle “Windows of My Studio,” Joseph Sudek (1954)

                   

“I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming or brooding. Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities that blend so seamlessly together, not unlike reading the dictionary . . .” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

Thursday afternoon. Clear and cold.

Steps in Snow, New York City, by Merg Ross (1964)

To say that this week has been unproductive would be the height of understatement. The headache from hell continues to march on within my skull relentlessly. I saw my headache doctor on Monday, and he finally admitted that he can do nothing for me. Next step, a referral to a neurologist. Meanwhile, I am on a series of steroids (hooray, not) and all of the attendant side-effects: bloating, water retention, increased appetite, and my personal favorite: headaches.

I decided to try to post today for two reasons: It’s been over almost a week since I last posted, and when I sat down to begin, the pain had subsided a bit, as it always does—here and then gone, assault and then retreat—much like the incoming and outgoing tides. I have no control over when the next onslaught will come; none of my pain medications are working, alone or in combination; and this particular battle is leaving me weak and mostly bed-ridden.

A situation I truly abhor. Of course, whenever I am phsically incapacitated like this, my thoughts always turn to the Social Security judge who said that my pain was not beyond normal parameters, and that I could hold down one of my former positions, say sales manager or marketing director. That man holds a very special place in my heart.

I was able to read a book on Tuesday as the pain was mostly dull, and reading did not seem to exacerbate anything, but sitting in front of the computer screen is still not the best situation, and since I am my own worst enemy, I got up from the computer this afternoon after only a few minutes to take care of a few things around the house, like the dishes and laundry. I wanted to take advantage of the lull. Of course this means that now that I am back at the keyboard, the tide is coming in once again, and rather quickly, too, I might add.

“When Heraclitus said that everything passes steadily along, he was not inciting us to make the best of the moment, an idea unseemly to his placid mind, but to pay attention to the pace of things. Each has its own rhythm: the nap of a dog, the procession of the equinoxes, the dances of Lydia, the majestically slow beat of the drums at Dodona, the swift runners at Olympia.” ~ Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays 

Chairs with Leaves, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, by Ilse Bing (1952)

Eamonn stopped by for one of his 15-minute visits this afternoon, and he brought his friend Sean with him. Sean enlisted in the Army right after high school graduation, and he is due to go back to Iraq in the spring.  Fortunately, he does not have a combat position. He told me that he has been asked to go out on missions, but he has the option to decline, and he has chosen to take that option; however, he says that the other people call him a girl, and various other military slurs for coward. (I did not comment on the whole sexism thing as I just wasn’t up to it.)

I told Sean that there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay out of combat. His current position is a very necessary one, and he is serving his country in his own way. Actually, I was a bit surprised that he enlisted in the first place; in the past, he has displayed a terrible temper (he and Eamonn got into a fist-fight in middle school, and both were suspended) and lack of self-control, but the military seems to have helped him. Having said that, I am awfully glad that Eamonn did not enlist with him.

Truthfully, who among us would want a son or daughter in the army at this very precarious time in our country’s history? I’m just not that person, not when it comes to my kids. Oddly enough though, I once thought of joining the military and said quite boastfully to my friends that I would willingly go into combat if I had to, and I think that I really meant it—at the time.

When you think about it, isn’t it kind of amazing how many vastly different people we are during a lifetime? A would-be warrior here, a want-to-be politician there . . . and then looking back, thinking how odd life would have been if we had walked that path.

“Illusions are important. What you foresee or what you remember can be as important as what really happens.” ~ Javier Marias

House in Demolition by Petr Helbich (1985)

I’m not ready to write about last Saturday yet. It’s a subject that is fraught with emotion, and I know that I am not able to deal with all of the thoughts that are around inside my brain regarding yet another senseless American tragedy and what it means to me, to this country, to both sides of the ongoing fray.

Perhaps tomorrow. We’ll see.

Brett went back to ODU this past Monday, and I don’t think that winter break could have ended soon enough for him. I was starting to notice a definite downswing in his overall mood, and I am fairly certain that it was caused in part because he found himself at loose ends without classes and the company of his friends. 

On other fronts, I went a few days without calling my mother because of my own maladies, which means that when I did call her I got the expected “I could have been dead over here” complaint. I knew that it was only a matter of time before she returned fully to form once I moved back home. All of the kindness and intimacy that passed between us during those months in which I took care of her have already been put on the back burner, only to be replaced by the same old refrains.

I wish that I could say that I am surprised, but I am so not. I was, however, surprised by my mother’s response to my offer to drive her to Roanoke to see her sister whose condition is worsening quickly. My mother wanted none of it as it would upset her too much. I suppose I should have remember her reaction to her older sister’s death a few years ago: My mother wouldn’t even attend the funeral as it would be too upsetting . . . for her.

She has declared that she will never go to another funeral. Her assertion bothers me, although I am not exactly certain as to why it would or should.

“What is to give light must endure burning.” ~ Victor Frankel

Sunset on Lake, by Fausto Mirandoli (Pixdaus)

I suppose that that’s her prerogative  (Bobby Brown totally ruined that word for me) choice, so I should respect it, but it rankles me for lots of reasons: Funerals, obviously, are for those left behind; the dearly departed participate only corporeally. Usually, those attending are family and friends, perhaps coworkers, all of whom are brought together for their own various reasons: grief, love, fear, loneliness, guilt, and occasionally (but, it is to be hoped, rarely) joy.

I don’t know much about funeral customs in other religions and cultures, but the oddly termed post-funeral reception that I have attended many times is probably the most honest part of the entire process. At the service, the deceased is remembered, sometimes lauded. At the reception, after a few glasses of whatever, the stories begin to be told, and those who did not know the deceased quite as well as others get an earful.

They hear about exploits better forgotten, family events at which the departed individual acted particularly rude or obnoxious or funny, and sometimes, little tidbits from the workplace are revealed, tidbits that no one in the family had heard about before this gathering. Truth is part of grief in an odd but integral way, and I think that that’s the part with which my mother is most uncomfortable: the moments in which truth comes out and is bandied about like some kind of Jello salad with miniature marshmallows making its way from person to person: Not everyone necessarily wants it, but most will sample it to be polite, and a few will secretly enjoy it. My mother, on the other hand, refuses to partake.

Hell, what do I know . . .

“Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, along with our busy thoughts.
Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still.” ~ St. Augustine 

Village, by Hajrudin Murselovic (Pixdaus)

I’m sorry that this post is so disjointed; it seems to be going all over the place without any clear focus, which is probably exactly what is really happening (and not just imagined) as that is exactly how my mind feels. Example: I walked from the bedroom to the dining room to do something. I stood there for a few minutes trying to remember what I had come to do. I walked back to the bedroom. Several hours later I remembered that I had gone to the dining room to get a piece of chocolate.

Okay. I probably/definitely did not need the chocolate because of a) the migraine, and b) the calories. But how discouraging . . . to decide that a piece of chocolate would be nice only to forget immediately after taking a few steps only to remember once the desire was no longer there.

It’s especially frustrating for the dogs who jump off the bed to follow me to the kitchen in the hopes of getting something, anything for their efforts only to be thwarted by my abysmal lack of linear thought.

More sooner rather than later (I hope). Peace.

Music by Natalie Walker, “By and By”

                   

Lines for Winter
for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

~ Mark Strand