“October is a symphony of permanence and change.” ~ Bonaro W. Overstreet

Toward the Storm (Pixdaus)

 

                    

“There are many windows through
which we can look out into the
world, searching for meaning . . . ” ~ Jane Goodall

Field Storm 1 (Pixdaus)

To my credit, the header for this post was applicable when I first began writing it; that it is now almost an entire week later does not negate the sentiment behind the header, so I opted to keep it.

The previous post, abandoned in midstream and never quite returned to in any creative fashion probably is the best example of what life has been like: starts and stops, wrong turns, lost threads, and unfinished thoughts. It is almost 11 p.m. on Wednesday evening. That I last had the opportunity to write was almost seven days ago simply blows my mind.

How did it get to be November? Where was I? How can Thanksgiving be in a few weeks? How did Gretchen win “Project Runway”? Oops, that last one just sort of slipped in when I wasn’t paying attention.

If you could see this draft, you would definitely question my grip on reality. I have about ten different quotes on this page relating to three, possibly four themes. Rather than try to sort through and pare beforehand, I have decided to just write and see what fits. Very revealing actually in that I have no idea what my life will be like from one moment to the next, so how could I possibly know which quote will fit and which quote will be irrelevant?

You see my predicament . . .

“For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart.There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel—looking, looking, breathlessly.” ~ Carlos Castaneda

Before the Storm by Joel Le Montagner (Pixdaus)

I’m still camping out at my mother’s house. Her broken tibia is mending quite well (according to the orthopaedic surgeon who saw her this morning), but her stomach ailments remain mysterious and unresponsive (according to the urgent care physician we saw after the visit to the orthopaedist). Four and a half hours later, my mother felt slightly better as she had accomplished one major goal in getting her rather large and bulky immobilizing brace changed to something smaller and more comfortable.

I, however, felt that eating glass might actually be a comforting alternative to the morning’s events. I suppose it had been building for a while, but today was my breaking point. I knew that if I did not get away, get away from my mother, get away from this house, get away from the various medications and ailments and problems and prognoses that Corey might have to have me fitted for a full-body immobilizing brace.

I texted my daughter to ask her to please spot me today by coming over and staying with my mother as I was nearing a breaking point. Her reply text only reinforced that aspect of my life that is in and of itself a large part of the problem: she would be over in a “bit” as she still had to eat lunch, wash the dishes, takes a shower . . . essentially, in her sweet time, my request be damned. That she finally deigned to make an appearance at 5:30 did not amuse me in the least.

Nevertheless, after returning from the doctors’ visits I settled my mother in with lunch, several doses of pepto tablets measured out to chew each hour in an aggressive move by the urgent care physician to calm her stomach, a cup of tea, a glass of 7-up, her reading glasses, and the television remote control. Then I left. Ostensibly to pick up Brett at school, but the destination could have been the grocery store. Anywhere was better than here, and I did not want to have my meltdown in front of my mother only to have her retreat into her poor, pitiful me persona, which would, in turn, reduce me to a large puddle of guilt.

“So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea” ~ Elizabeth Bishop, “Insomnia”

Field Storm 2 (Pixdaus)

Moving along . . . I spent some time this afternoon with Brett and my three dogs; I believe that I can attest that all involved—human and canine—benefitted from the quality time. Brett and I talked about nothing of any great importance as we took turns rubbing bellies and ears and heaping attention on dogs that quite obviously never receive a kind word, a small treat, or any love at all . . .

So here I am, sitting here with my music playing quietly in a house that is finally, thankfully, quiet. If  you were to ask me what my aversion to noise is, I might be hard-pressed to answer you, especially as I can engage in as much inane chatter as the next person. But having moved from my parents’ home a long time ago, having left a home that subsists on a backdrop of television during every waking moment, I have become much accustomed to having my silence when I want it and if I need it, that and the fact that I no longer possess the ability to tune out that which I do not want to hear, such as how much the showcase is on “The Price is Right” or the screech of the wheel as it turns on “Wheel of Fortune.”

When my mother first fell, I never dreamt that I would still be here full-time six weeks later. Truthfully, though, I don’t really know what I thought or believed at the time, but as the small collection of necessities that I had initially spread about my old bedroom began to grow into might-need items, I realized that life had shifted at some point and had caught me unawares and was taking me along for the ride.

Perhaps that is what troubles me the most about this entire situation: the fact that nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, is controllable. What works on day is completely useless 24 hours later. Signs of improvement can morph into a life-threatening circumstance in less than half a day. And not since the days of Caitlin’s hospitalization has my life been this out of control.

And I find that I cannot even turn to one of my most inviting avenues for comfort: I cannot get on the computer, find answers to my questions, dig for facts. Knowledge is not a mouse click away, and that barrier only adds to my feelings of frustration. I use my knowledge as a shield. Give me facts and I can fight the fears. Medicine X has what side effects? I’ll look that up. No wait. No connection. Can’t leave mom alone to go use a computer at my house. Too many ifs in play. Perhaps I’ll twiddle my thumbs a bit more.

And as each day passes, I am mindful of the calendar, fitfully attuned to the days passing into the beginning of November, nearing the anniversary of Caitlin’s death, the anniversary of my father’s death. Each year from September through November, I hold the incipient crash at bay, never knowing if it will be a bad year or a good year, never able to predict how my psyche will assimilate the events of the days, whether I will feel the emotional pain keenly or merely sense subconsciously the loss.

“And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.” ~ Ezra Pound, Poems of Lustra 

Field Storm 3 by Dmitry Shirkov (Pixdaus)

So what is the theme of this post? Is it time, that it passes too quickly and leaves us confused in its wake? Is it silence, like the air in a field right before a storm, so sweet and still, a moment suspended? Is it my endless search for meaning and answers in a time in which, perhaps, no true answers exist? Or is it simply this:

That in the end, we are all so much dross, not nearly as valuable as we hope, that we are buffeted about like miniscule, insignificant creatures caught in life’s maelstrom, and if, if we are to move beyond, if we are to achieve each our own significance, then we must remain constantly attuned to our personal mainspring lest we become too taughtly wound.

The trick, my friends, is to know exactly how much torsion our psyches can tolerate—that ideal balance between energy and inertia—so that life, the days, the hours, the minutes—unwind as we would hope. For the alternative, to be sprung all at once, leaves nothing for the next time fate decides to hurl us headlong into chaos.

Remember, the temporal slingshot only works in the cinema, and life can slip by like a field mouse.

Music by Matthew Ryan, “The World Is . . . ”

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.” ~ Maria Mitchell

 Oliver Wendell Holmes

   

No man’s knowledge can go beyond his experience”  ~ John Locke

Well, the IB/Honors program was last night, and I was so proud to be there.

As with most things in our life, even the trip to the school was not uneventful. Corey had to work until 3, but the duty sergeant asked if he could stay a bit longer. Corey told him that he could but that he had someplace important that he had to be. Unfortunately, Corey thought the time was 7, not 6. So by 5:15, I’m freaking, as I tend to do. My mother had already left, so Brett and I ended up riding with my ex, Alexis and Eamonn . . . It was one big happy family reunion, only not so much.

No, it wasn’t bad, just weird. Then when we got there, I had to search for Brett’s cap and gown, which was being held by the IB director, only she was nowhere to be found. Found the gown, pulled it over Brett’s head, plopped the cap on. Good to go.

Mr. Martin, Brett’s favorite history teacher, was the speaker, and it was a nice, short speech. Then the people on stage turned the tables on us and declared that parents had to walk their students up to the stage to receive their IB stoles and/or honor tassels. Crap. I look like a sausage. Where is Corey? Lucky that Brett’s last name begins with an S and not a B.

All in all though, the program was very nice. Corey made it in time to walk up with Brett, Paul and me, and everything was over in under 90 minutes. My kind of school program.

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.” ~ Frank Herbert

 I make light of it, but getting Brett to this point has been a concerted effort with many people at his school pulling for him. When Brett started to have problems a couple of years ago, Corey and I sat down with his counselor, a truly generous, wonderful woman, and all of his teachers. We came up with a plan that would allow Brett to stay in the IB program. The head of the program approved the plan, and accommodations were made for Brett’s absences because of illness.

This year, his counselor set up his schedule so that he would only go every other day. Because Brett has always been in advanced classes, he already had enough credits to graduate, but he needed to complete a few core courses for the IB diploma. The every-other-day schedule worked fairly well; he still missed some school, but not nearly as much as last year.  And this year Brett spent his lunch period in Mr. Martin’s room instead of going to the cafeteria. He didn’t eat lunch, and I think that his one-on-one time with Mr. Martin really helped him in a number of ways.

Just being able to listen to a man who knows his subject, a scholar, talk about life and politics, gaining knowledge not found in textbooks—an invaluable experience. I remember having a couple of teachers like that, and I did the same thing: leeched off their knowledge, drank it in, felt privileged for the insights. Anyone with a few years on them will tell you that real knowledge does not come from textbooks; it comes from life—what we do, what we see, what we hear. We learn from the people with whom we interact, the people with whom we disagree. The act of living, seeking, finding—that is the source of real knowledge.

It’s been tough, at times, taxing, but Brett pulled through. So to see him on stage receiving his IB stole was a moment of pure joy for all of us.

“To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” ~ Henry David Thoreau 

 

And so Brett is just a few weeks away from leaving high school forever, from moving into a world he does not know, from moving into another academic realm filled with more textbooks, lectures, and tests. But I hope that this time he will be better prepared to sift through the vast information that is coming his way, to cull it like wheat, and find the heart of what matters, to take away what he needs, and then some.

In the grand scheme of things, high school is but a cobblestone path, one that we must traverse to get somewhere else. Many of us trip over its rough edges; some of us fall, and a few pass smoothly without incident. Only when we are years removed from it can we truly see this period for what it really was: a chance to grow, perhaps to make lifelong friends, to be carefree before life intrudes. Only later do we realize how very much we received from the people who were on the opposite of the room from us, how some of them went beyond what was expected and invited us in, allowed us to think, to analyze, to refine. These are the people we remember because they were our introduction to the limitless possibilities of learning, of appreciating, of moving forward into the great unknown that is life.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Great Lake Swimmers, “Stealing Tomorrow”

Wisdom

So, my daughter had her wisdom teeth taken out last week. You might be wondering what this has to do with writing. Actually, nothing. It’s more of a life event. I remember when I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I accidentally punched the technician. Apparently, the anaesthetic had worn off, so I felt it when the dentist pulled, so I flailed my arms, and the assistant’s chin got in the way. It was pure reflex. My daughter’s experience was far less traumatic. But I was reminded of my own experience when I was elected to drive her for her procedure, and I still find it odd sometimes that I have a daughter who is old enough to have experiences that I have already had because I keep wondering when and if I will ever feel like a grown up . . .

I still don’t quite know what I will be when I grow up, and I keep waiting for that epiphanal day when everything will become crystal clear to me, and I will have all of the answers. I know. You don’t have to tell me that this will actually never happen. The answers will continue to elude me much like the numbers for the lottery (which is why I never bother to play). But unlike the lottery, I believe that answers to some of life’s mysteries will be revealed through the years if I just pay attention. Sometimes the keys are there, hovering, waiting to be grasped, like the perfect word for a poem. We just have to pay attention or delve a bit deeper. We all have our own ways of finding answers, some through religion, some through nature, some through addictions. I will not deign to judge whose path is right and whose is wrong. I only know that when I come upon an answer, it is usually when I am least expecting it, and not necessarily even an answer to something that I was pondering.

But let me leave you with two quotes, one being my all-time favorite by Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And as Socrates said, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” So perhaps knowing that I don’t have all of the answers allows me free to use my imagination as I will.