“I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.” ~ Richard Brautigan, from Trout Fishing In America

“the tea smoke
and the willow
together trembling” ~ Kobayashi Issa

Internet was out until late today. I fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning and did not sleep well, awaking with a headache and heavy sinuses. Spent most of today dealing with customer service representatives. I am completely spent.

I can only offer you this . . .

My love affair with coffee is only surpassed by my much longer love affair with tea, which I began to drink when I was but a child. England, you know. Milky tea and hot bread and butter. Good times . . .

A cup of tea by tee-magazin.de

                   

A Sweetening All Around Me As It Falls

Even generous August
only a child’s scribblings
on thick black paper, in smudgeable chalk –
even the ripening tomatoes, even the roses,
blowsy, losing their fragrance of black tea.
A winter light held this morning’s apples
as they fell, sweet, streaked by one touch
of the careless brush, appling to earth.
The seeds so deep inside they carry that cold.
Is this why some choose solitude, to rise
that small bit further, unencumbered by love of earth,
as the branches, lighter, kite now a little higher
on gold air? But the apples love the earth and falling,
lose themselves in it as much as they can at first touch
and then, with time and rain, at last completely:
to be that bone-like One that shines unleafed in
winter rain,
all black and glazed with not the pendant gold of
necklaced summer but the ice-color mirroring
starlight
when the earth is lonely and dark and knows nothing
of apples.
Seed-black of the paper, seed-black of the waiting
heart—
December’s shine, austere and fragile, carves the
visible tree.
But today, cut deep in last plums, in yellow pears,
in second flush of roses, in the warmth of an hour,
now late,
as drunk on heat as the girl who long ago vanished
into green trees,
fold that loneliness, one moment, two, love, back into
your arms.

~ Jane Hirshfield

                   

Music by Maggie Siff, “Lullaby for a Soldier”

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“Who will wake up at the end of my dream?” ~ Jacques Roubad

Two for Tuesday: Nature in Asian Art

Zhao Shaoang Praying Mantis on Loquat Bamboo two scrolls, ink and color on paper
“Praying Mantis on Loquat Bamboo” (two scrolls, ink and color on paper)
by Zhao Shao’ang

                   

Zhao Shao’ang, Chinese (1903-1998)
Lingnan School, ink and watercolors on paper, scrolls

                    

Blossoms at night,
and the faces of people
moved by music.

~ Kobayashi Issa, trans. Robert Hass

After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom!
   I feel about average.
   A huge frog and I
staring at each other,
   neither of us moves.
   This moth saw brightness
in a woman’s chamber—
   burned to a crisp.
   Asked how old he was
the boy in the new kimono
   stretched out all five fingers.
   Blossoms at night,
like people
   moved by music
   Napped half the day;
no one
   punished me!
Fiftieth birthday:
   From now on,
It’s all clear profit,
   every sky.
   Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
   casually.
   These sea slugs,
they just don’t seem
   Japanese.
Hell:
   Bright autumn moon;
pond snails crying
   in the saucepan.

~ Robert Hass

                   

Music by Luke Sital Singh, “Fail For You”

“Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside. I wonder if the snow LOVES the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Bethlehem, Pennslvania by cornersoftheworld

 

“Here
I’m here—
the snow falling.” ~ Kobayashi Issa

Lost in Winder by aL-baum on deviantART

Boxing Day, home, early evening.

It’s 28° F and dropping. This winter, I am perhaps more grateful for one thing above all others: the return of central heat to our house—a luxury too many of us take for granted. My hope for today? That those without, those facing the elements without the warmth of a coat, or hat, or gloves, those without shelter, those without a hot meal—those much less fortunate than we will be able to find a place to sleep tonight that offers some semblance of comfort.

We are currently experiencing one of the worst snowstorms to hit this area in many years. Earlier today conditions were classified as “near-whiteout,” reminding me of our 26-hour road trip to Ohio last  holiday season in which we found ourselves driving through a blizzard with frozen windshield wipers, and eventually, a flat tire. So glad we aren’t on the road today.

That being said, Corey did have to be at work at 7 this morning, and when he finished his shift at 3, it was snowing harder. For some reason, few snow plows are out (actually, not too surprising as Norfolk probably owns maybe two plows for the entire area), which mean that most major roads, let alone backroads in neighborhoods, have yet to be cleared. Right now Corey is scheduled to be back in at 6 a.m.; the forecast is calling for snow throughout the night, wind, and falling temperatures, which means ice.

People in Hampton Roads cannot drive in snow under the best conditions; give them ice, and driving becomes bumper cars. Not pretty.

“Today on the way home, it snows. Big, soft caressing flakes fall onto our skin like cold moths; the air fills with feathers.” ~ Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Winter Morning (Pixdaus)

Originally, Corey had been scheduled to work yesterday morning (Christmas), but fortunately the yard to which he was supposed to report closed in the wee hours, so he was home with the family. Eamonn came over on Christmas Eve to finish his wrapping, and he spent the night here so that he could be home for Christmas morning. It was lovely.

Then yesterday was another day of running around, more so for Alexis, Eamonn, and Brett than Corey and myself. The kids had to go to their dad’s house, and then their grandfather’s house, then to my mom’s for Christmas dinner, then to their other grandmother’s for dessert. Afterwards, Mike and Alexis decided against their final three stops; Eamonn went to a friend’s house for the remainder of the night, and Corey, Brett and I came home and vegged.

Christmas dinner was wonderfully uneventful this year. Last year’s fiasco with the restaurant was not repeated. Instead, we decided collectively to eschew a traditional dinner in favor of Filipino food, so we had pancit, lumpia, rice, and tuppa. The only nod to westernization were the Pillsbury crescent rolls with fresh butter.

Everyone had their fill, and the aftermath of a big holiday dinner was greatly alleviated by fewer large dishes as well as far fewer leftovers. Admittedly, I had a bit of wine to help me get through the stress that arises whenever my mother’s house is filled with people who are all talking at once, something that tends to wreak havoc with my nerves. Of course, my mother had to comment about me being a wino, which is a hoot since I have gotten to the point at which I may drink a glass of something four times a year, two of them being Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Whatever. 

“Only a house, quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Winter-Licht by Michael Jotze (Pixdaus)

Today was blessedly quiet, with a few exceptions. I could not get to sleep last night, so I visited a few fellow bloggers until I felt my eyes getting heavy around 2:30 a.m. I awoke at one point with Shakes sitting on my chest making hacking sounds like he was about to throw up.

Someone (who shall remain nameless) thought that it would be a wonderful idea to buy all three dogs big beef marrow bones as part of their Christmas. All three dogs took turns throwing up yesterday and into last night. Let us just say that this bad decision shall not be repeated next year.

Anyway, Shakes did not throw up on me (thankfully), and he went back to sleep. I did not, so it was another restless night for me. Which means that I was so glad that my mother called at 10 a.m., asked me if I was still asleep, and then tried to have a conversation with me. I did manage to get a few hours of sound sleep between 10:30 and 12:30, so I’m not completely sleep-deprived.

Everything outside looked so beautiful from inside the house that I decided to snap a few pictures from the doorways (hope to post tomorrow). The big Camellia bush directly across from the kitchen window was almost completely covered and resembled an huge snowball. I then opened the front door and stuck my head out to take some shots of that area. Tillie, who had been waiting for someone to take her snowplowing, immediately gamboled out the front door and sank. I wasn’t worried about her running away, and she had a great time as I clicked away.

However . . . the two Jack Russells got wind of the fun being  had without them and came from beneath whatever covers they had been snuggled in and made a mad dash out the door. When they sank up to their bellies, I thought they would turn around and come back in, but nooooo. They made a run for it. It would have been funnier if not for a few things: Brett got really nervous, and I suddenly realized that if they went into the street, no one would be able to see them (good thing few cars were out and about). So I pulled some boots on over my flannel pjs, put on a sweater and coat, and went in search of the bad boys.

Brett pulled on his boots and ran out sans coat or hat and immediately spotted the two dogs that I hadn’t managed to find yet.  It was only amusing in retrospect. 

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” ~ A. A. Milne

Winter Dreams by Mikhail Tkachev (Pixdaus)

All in all, it was a fairly relaxing Christmas. I did start to go into overdrive on Christmas Eve until Corey reminded me that we had actually done pretty much everything that we needed to do. We had a nice meal, a few nice visits, and the kids got some things that they needed and wanted (the wanted was from relatives other than us).

My special present was that Corey picked up the ring that I had taken to the jeweler’s over two years ago and then forgot about; when I did remember that the ring was there, there was no money to pick it up, and then I convinced myself that they no longer had the ring and was too afraid to call them to find out the status.

Let me back up a second, the last Christmas before everything changed in our house Corey and I were both still working. He had bought me a right-hand ring that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, I didn’t really pay attention to the design until the ring broke at a stress point that was pretty obvious after-the-fact. That’s the ring that I finally took to the jeweler and promptly forgot as things like life took over my mind.

But now I have my ring back, and it’s better than new as the jeweler reinforced the stress area. So good times.

I’m going to close with a passage from James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” which comes from his Dubliners collection. I did a Joycean seminar in which we studied Dubliners, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses—all in four weeks. If you know anything about Joyce, then you realize what a grueling proposition this was (I was unaware when I enrolled). At the time, I didn’t have a real appreciation for “The Dead” as I was still trying to come to grips with Joyce’s transitional epiphany style as well as the lack of final literary resolution to which I had become so accustomed at that point.

Years later, I can appreciate much better Gabriel’s epiphany and the overwhelming subtlety of the snow as imagery for both life and death, paralysis and change.

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland . . . It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” ~ James Joyce

More later. Peace.

Music by The Weepies, “All that I Want’