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

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

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

Tuesday afternoon. Overcast and warm, 68 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music by Trent Dabbs, “Stay by Me”

                   

A Boat

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

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

Now the lake expands
and closes in, both.

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

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

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

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

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

~ Margaret Atwood

“She had the scattered feeling she always got when events conspired to mess things up, and nothing exhausted and frustrated her more than a mess she was incapable of fixing.” ~ J. Robert Lennon, The Light of Falling Stars

Overhanging, Indian Lake, Ohio by L. Liwag©  

“Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or like the like of this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Well, another day, another 57 cents . . . whatever.  

More forms for prescription assistance. This time, I was completely befuddled by the contradictory directions, and of course, trying to get a live human at the contact number was fruitless as I was directed back to the site. I often find myself screaming into the phone at the automated attendant, “Live Human Being!” to no avail.  

I spent hours yesterday editing the photographs that I took while we were in Ohio, and so I am treating (?) you to a few in this post. The top one is my favorite. These pictures were all taken on December 21, 2009 at Indian Lake and along the drive home. It was colder than cold that day, especially with the wind whipping off the lake, but it was worth it to get these shots.     

Blue Ice by L. Liwag©

One of the really interesting things about Indian Lake is the number of islands in the middle of the lake, some with houses. I told Corey that I would love to live in one of those houses, especially in the winter. You know, stock up on supplies, and once the lake freezes, ride in on an ice boat or snowmobile only when necessary. The only problem with that idea is whether there would be access to high speed internet. These are the things that I think about.  

“Only awareness of your shadow qualities can help you to find an appropriate place for your unredeemed darkness and thereby create a more satisfying experience.” ~ Robert Johnson

Indian Lake, OH Wide Vista by L. Liwag ©

More very strange dreams. Do you ever dream something, wake up, then go back to sleep and continue the dream? That happens to me often. Last night/this morning, whenever I finally went to sleep, I had this very strange dream that Dillard’s at MacArthur Center was closing down. My former store manager called several of us together to give us going away presents (believe me, something he would not do). Mine was a set of Ralph Lauren flannel sheets. I was exuberant. Then I woke up because Tillie was punching me in the back of the neck with her paws.  

Went back to sleep, and the dream continued: Turns out, the store wasn’t supposed to close, but the assistant store manager read the e-mail incorrectly, so the store was closed; things were sold at unbelievable prices, and it was all a mistake. Then the dream warped into this crime scenario in which the criminals were turning on other criminals. In one storyline, I was in a truck that rammed the loading dock. A man (who knows who) and I jumped out and  confronted the security guard at the store, then I shot the man. But it was all a ruse as we were filming a movie, but then we weren’t. Then it jumped back to the point at which the store was closing, and I went into the cosmetics department to steal an eyeliner, but I didn’t really steal it, I put poison on it. Someone (again, don’t know who) used the eyeliner and became sick. Then I took the eyeliner, dunked it into some kind of solution, and kept it.  

The main thing that I remember, and this is priceless, is what color lipstick I was wearing, and I said to myself in the dream, “You really need to remember this shade because it is very flattering.”  

Is it any wonder that I feel as if my mind is too full most of the time?  

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Snowy Limbs by L. Liwag©

Speaking of my mind, and I was, I am not doing too well in that department. Out of my anti-depressant, you see, so my mood swings are quite intense, which is probably another reason my dreams are dark and wild.  

I keep Corey awake in the middle of the night with my need to talk, especially about things over which I have no control because those are the things that worry me the most. It’s not that I’m a control freak, although I used to be. Rather, I just fret about what might happen, what could happen. I do this when my mood is slipping, and I do it to torture myself. Don’t look for logic here as there is none.  

I told Corey that I really want to go back to work as I feel as if I am stagnating, just sitting here in this room wasting away. It’s a double-edged sword since if I do decide to try to go back to work full time, I will lose my disability, and then I’m not sure if I could get it back if things don’t work out. I cannot work part-time as that would decrease my disability and give them a reason to take away my coverage. Yet I truly believe that if I sit here for another two years without doing something productive, then my mind will turn into mush, porridge, if you will.  

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Frozen Plants by L. Liwag©

Anyway, this is something that I must give serious thought, the benefits and the downsides. Of course, I could spend this time writing my book. Consider: Author J. K. Rowling wrote the seven Harry Potter books in 17 years. That’s pretty amazing. When she began writing, Rowling was out of work and on public assistance; now she is one of the richest people on the face of the earth.  

I don’t begrudge her; I admire her. The Harry Potter series is one of those series of books that will long outlive its author. Its themes of good and evil, compassion and choices will never be outdated. I’m certain that when Rowling first began writing her story she never imagined exactly where it would take her personally. I think of her dedication, her single-mindedness in bringing her story to life, and it makes me feel, well, inferior.  

I never thought that I would get to this point in my life without being published. I mean, I am published—articles, a retrospective for a university, things like that—but not my book, the book that is inside of me, that is probably inside of every English major. I have mulled over plots, titles, characters. I have given so much thought to how I would approach this thing called writing, serious writing, but each time, I step back just before leaping off the cliff into the unknown.  

It’s fear, pure unharnessed fear. I know that. I have the words within me. I think that I have the talent within me as well, but fear keeps me from moving beyond observation and contemplation.  

Sorry, got a bit off track there. You see, if I go back to work, then I have an excuse not to write. Does that make sense? It does to me. If I go back to work, I can become immersed in yet another job that is not my dream job, spend my time doing things for other people, using my creative energies for other purposes.   

It’s not Rowling’s wealth that I want (although I wouldn’t say no), nor is it her fame. It’s her dedication, her willingness to put pen to paper without ever knowing if anyone would read her words, but doing it nevertheless.  

I need to stop fooling around with my life and do something, stop watching movies, reading other people’s words. I need to be true to myself or give up the dream much like giving up the ghost.  

I’ll leave you with a wonderful Basho haiku that I found on Crashingly Beautiful:  

“The Snow we two once
looked at together—has it
fallen again this year?” 
  

More later. Peace.  

Music by Michael Hoppé, “Renouncement” based on the poem by Alice Alice Meynell, with images by E. A. Hoppé:

 

                                                                                                                         

Renouncement

I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight—
The love of thee—and in the blue heaven’s height,
And in the dearest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gather’d to thy heart.
 
 
 
 
 

Alice Alice Meynell

 

Let us give thanks . . .

 

Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.

 

Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.