“Sometimes we suffer too much reality in the space of a single night.” ~ Alejandra Piznarik, from “Sex, Night”

Image from Elephant’s Dream (cc)*

” . . .they would walk home in
the evenings when the light was soft, anything bad sliding
off them, and they would feel owned, completely owned,
in a good way, by the air, which would touch them constantly,
sometimes urgently, sometimes lightly, just to let them know
it was there, and they would think maybe this is what being
alive is” ~ Emily Berry, from “No Name”

Saturday afternoon, cloudy, 74 degrees.

I think that today would be a good day for a walk with the dogs mostly because I was walking everywhere in my dreams last night. I frequently walk in my dreams—to my imaginary jobs, to school, to the doctor’s office—it’s weird. Last night I was walking home (in Norfolk) down Shore Drive, which is definitely not a street for pedestrians. I was walking when I realized that it was getting dark, and there was no one around. I started to pick up my pace until I was running, but then I found myself running on all fours, but it felt completely natural, and I was able to run quickly, like some kind of animal.

I’ve had the being on all fours dreams before, but last night’s was one of the first times in which I felt myself moving. I’ve dreamt that I’ve been walking to and from a primary school in which I was teaching, but my walk takes me through a sketchy part of town, and I have to keep looking down alleys. Those are always strange as I’ve never really lived anywhere that had a lot of alleys.

I remember that in part of last night’s dream I was trying to remember if I had ever gone walking completely naked, and my dream mind remembered a time in which I went to school completely naked. I know—the naked dreams are all about being vulnerable—but in this particular naked dream I didn’t feel at all vulnerable, just incredibly free. I sent to school (college), but no one was especially surprised or concerned, and I felt very at home in my naked body. Go figure that one out because I’ve never been able to translate that one.

“Night opens itself only once. It’s enough . . . And I am well aware what night is made of.” ~ Alejandra Piznarik, from “Sex, Night”

Lately my dad has been making many appearances in my dreams. Last night he was bailing some of us out of jail (unsure as to who exactly was there), and it cost him $1500, and I was worried about how I would ever be able to pay him back. Funnily enough, though, he wasn’t mad; he was smiling. If you ever met my dad  you would know that he was not a big smiler, which is probably where my antipathy towards smiling comes from.

But last night he was smiling, and it unnerved the me in the dream because I couldn’t quite figure out if it was a happy smile or a mad smile, if that makes sense. I have a vague memory of him appearing in my dreams the night before last as well, but now I cannot quite grab the thread of the dream, even though I awoke from it thinking that it was so powerful that I would definitely remember everything, but of course, I cannot. The only part that I can remember is that I was in the military, which is very, very weird.

For some strange reason, Brad Pitt was in part of my dream: I was sitting across from him in some kind of restaurant, and he was telling me why his marriage failed, and it was the most natural scenario, which it definitely would not be. I was also back at my old pain management doctor’s office so that I could get trigger point injections, but instead of the neurologist, it was another doctor that I saw for a while before him, and I was very confused. Oh, and Jennifer Aniston made an appearance as well.

I don’t have many celebrity dreams, and if any do appear, it’s not usually in a casual setting, but last night, this dream seemed to be populated with famous people. In another part I was in a movie theater, and I was watching a documentary. The strangest part was that I knew that the person sitting next to me was not who he claimed to be, and I knew that the scene involving the primates (?) would reveal who he really was, and I knew that Brad Pitt would be angry at the charade.

When the truth was revealed on the screen, a loud argument erupted, and we were all asked to leave the theater, which meant going up an aisle filled with chaise lounges because those are always in theaters .  . .The whole sequence was truly bizarre.

“. . . each of us
joins night’s ongoing story” ~ Li-Young Lee, from “Black Petal”

Sorry to go on so much about my dreams, but I always find them fascinating. I’ve never actually bothered to try that whole lucid dreaming thing, mostly because my dreams are already to full. I’ve found over the years that not everyone dreams like this, though, which is definitely a shame for those people because dreams that are so vivid are actually pretty cool, that is, until they aren’t, like the ones in which I awake screaming or yelling or crying.

I have wondered if my vivid dreaming is part of what makes my sleep so fractured. Apparently, not everyone awakens two to three times a night. That whole seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep only happened in my youth. Once I got married (the first time) and began to worry about adult problems like bills and rent and everything else, my ability to sleep uninterrupted ceased, and then with the birth of babies, sleep at night became even more fractured.

I suppose the dogs replaced the children at some point because I now awaken instantly when I sense a dog stirring and moving towards the front door. When my children were babies, the same thing would happen: Something in me would cause me to awaken instantly when a baby or child stirred, even once they were in their own rooms. Maybe that’s just an innate mother thing because I did it with Olivia as well.

“Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy.” ~ Henri Frédéric Amiel

In other news . . .

I’ve been reading the Mueller report because, well, democracy you know. Amazingly, it’s  not filled with a lot of legalese, making it fairly easy to go through, but I’ve been taking my time, going back and forth so that I don’t end up giving myself an aneurysm from being so angry.

Trust me. It’s better this way, well, better for my blood pressure, plus, I really don’t need yet another thing to keep me from being able to sleep. I’m really trying not to allow the state of the union to move to the top of my worry list.

I’d really like to print the report, but I think that I’ll wait until we see an unredacted version. Overall, though, I really want to hear from Mueller himself. His letters to and interactions with the pseudo attorney general only confirmed my initial suspicions about the entire Mueller investigation and the blatant bullshit of the administration’s declaration of total exoneration.

I’m so tired of all of this, the constant breaking news because there’s never a day in which something else stupid or illegal or evil happens. How did our country get to this point? But more importantly, why aren’t more people upset? I truly don’t understand. No, not everyone out there gives a whit about politics, but this is our entire system of government, people. This is our Constitution being blatantly ignored, and need I remind everyone that democracies die in countries all of the time, and the U.S. is not immune, no matter how superior we all feel to the rest of the world.

“We heard of nights lit
with lightning bugs and cigarettes. With rumflame
and tonguefire. We needed none of it. The nights were
black puzzleboxes and we solved them. It was easy—
in the darkness, our minds sparked like flint.” ~ Catherine Pierce, from “The Geek Girls”

And now for something completely different . . . (I really miss Monty Python).

Last night Bill Maher made a Carpenters’ reference, and very few people in the audience got it. As the Dump would say, “sad.” You know that you are aging when you make cultural references that no one else in the room understand and/or appreciates.

Anyway . . . Corey bought me a small bottle of Maker’s Mark a few weeks ago, and I’ve been parceling it out like it’s gold, which it is actually akin to, considering the cost. I’ve just been having a weird craving for bourbon the last few months; it’s especially weird as I rarely drink any more, probably more as a reaction to being around a drunken Dallas.

Who knows. Certainly not I. But there really was a point to this: Even though the driveway is still in precarious shape because of the section that washed out, Corey met Dallas coming up the driveway yesterday pulling the horse trailer with the tractor. He (Dallas, not Corey) was sloppy drunk and talking about loading Sassy in the trailer and what he’d do to her if she wouldn’t get inside. Corey reminded him that the driveway was damaged, and actually convinced Dallas to turn around.

There was a lot more to the episode, but I just don’t want to get into it. Suffice it to say that Corey locked on of the gates on the driveway, which is good as Dallas actually came back up the drive after Corey left, and if Dallas had made it all the way here and tried to scare Sassy into the trailer, I’m really not sure how I would have reacted. As it was, Corey’s retelling of everything left me shaken. I’m really beginning to hate a lot of what is going on around here, the constant threats of lawsuits, and jail and violence, even though we’re not actually in the midst of it. But we’re close enough that it’s affecting us.

I had wanted to get away from people, away from neighbors, but I suppose you truly cannot get away from such things unless you are physically unreachable. I mean, we’re pretty isolated on our property, but these people can still reach us. Several years ago I wrote a post about hermits and hermitages; I remember it fondly. The irony is that when Corey first met Dallas, we thought that it was so great to have a contact who knew everyone and knew a lot about our property. That boon has become my bane.

Ah me . . . I just need to spend more time writing and practicing my piano, more said than done.

More later. Peace.

*All images are taken from the short movie Elephant’s Dream, which is the world’s first open movie, made entirely using open source graphics software and presented under a Creative Commons license. To see more images or to watch the movie, go to Blender Foundation | www.blender.org

Music by Disturbed (yes, again), “Sound of Silence”


Falling Water (section one)

I drove to Oak Park, took two tours,
And looked at some of the houses.
I took the long way back along the lake.
The place that I came home to—a cavernous
Apartment on the East Side of Milwaukee—
Seems basically a part of that tradition,
With the same admixture of expansion and restraint:
The space takes off, yet leaves behind a nagging
Feeling of confinement, with the disconcerting sense
That while the superficial conflicts got resolved,
The underlying tensions brought to equilibrium,
It isn’t yet a place in which I feel that I can live.
Imagine someone reading. Contemplate a man
Oblivious to his settings, and then a distant person
Standing in an ordinary room, hemmed in by limitations,
Yet possessed by the illusion of an individual life
That blooms within its own mysterious enclosure,
In a solitary space in which the soul can breathe
And where the heart can stay—not by discovering it,
But by creating it, by giving it a self-sustaining
Atmosphere of depth, both in the architecture,
And in the unconstructed life that it contains.
In a late and very brief remark, Freud speculates
That space is the projection of a “psychic apparatus”
Which remains almost entirely oblivious to itself;
And Wright extols “that primitive sense of shelter”
Which can turn a house into a refuge from despair.
I wish that time could bring the future back again
And let me see things as they used to seem to me
Before I found myself alone, in an emancipated state—
Alone and free and filled with cares about tomorrow.
There used to be a logic in the way time passed
That made it flow directly towards an underlying space
Where all the minor, individual lives converged.
The moments borrowed their perceptions from the past
And bathed the future in a soft, familiar light
I remembered from home, and which has faded.
And the voices get supplanted by the rain,
The nights seem colder, and the angel in the mind
That used to sing to me beneath the wide suburban sky
Turns into dreamwork and dissolves into the air,
While in its place a kind of monument appears,
Magnificent in isolation, compromised by proximity
And standing in a small and singular expanse—
As though the years had been a pretext for reflection,
And my life had been a phase of disenchantment—
As the faces that I cherished gradually withdraw,
The reassuring settings slowly melt away,
And what remains is just a sense of getting older.
In a variation of the parable, the pure of heart
Descend into a kingdom that they never wanted
And refused to see. The homely notions of the good,
The quaint ideas of perfection swept away like
Adolescent fictions as the real forms of life
Deteriorate with manically increasing speed,
The kind man wakes into a quiet dream of shelter,
And the serenity it brings—not in reflection,
But in the paralyzing fear of being mistaken,
Of losing everything, of acquiescing in the
Obvious approach (the house shaped like a box;
The life that can’t accommodate another’s)—
As the heart shrinks down to tiny, local things.

~ John Koethe (rest of the poem here)

“At last, she makes her choice. She turns around, drops her head, and walks toward a horizon she cannot see. After that, she does not look back anymore. She knows that if she does, she will weaken.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from And the Mountains Echoed

Fog over the ridge, by C. Fickel

“You cannot fight against the truth
of what has happened.
You cannot expect metaphor
to comfort you ~ Nate Pritts, from “Decoherence”

Sunday afternoon with an amazing effulgent sun and unseasonably warm temperatures, 65 degrees.

I’m not entirely certain as to what I want to say today, but I know that the words are just below the surface. The fact is that I probably should go for a walk up to the ridge and beneath the trees, especially as the weather is beautiful even though the wind is wicked, and more than likely, I will interrupt this post to do just that, or perhaps not. I haven’t decided yet.

As far as the eye can see: a view from the right side of the ridge, by L. Liwag*

Last night was another rough one, sleep wouldn’t come even though I was so tired, and then I awakened several times during the night, only to spend about three hours trying to will myself back to sleep. If you’ve never suffered from insomnia, you cannot possibly understand, but if you, too, have been susceptible to these spells, you have my complete sympathy. Once morning comes, more often than not, you feel groggy and half formed, at best.

One of the main reasons that I’m having such a hard time sleeping is that I’m out of a lot of my regular medications. Since moving here, I’ve had a real beast of a time trying to find a pain management practice that will take me, and I have yet to find a practicing psychiatrist who is accepting new patients. It took three months just to find a primary care physician because no one wants to touch you if you have been in pain management because the assumption is that you are a drug addict. I’m not joking about this.

“Meanwhile, within the tiny moments of this hell
I was fighting a small fight of my own which was not leading
anywhere—but like a man with a bent spoon trying to dig through a
cement wall I knew that a small fight was better than quitting: it
kept
the heart alive.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “If you let them kill you, they will”

Apparently, this area is rife with people who are addicted to opiates and amphetamines, which means that those of us who just want meds in order to live a normal life are pretty much out of luck. Without my maintenance pain meds, I spend hours trying to calm my legs, as one offshoot of my chronic pain is RLS (restless leg syndrome), and like insomnia, it’s almost impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it. Essentially, though, your legs tingle and ache, and you feel the need to keep moving them to try to find a comfortable position, something that doesn’t exist.

To Infinity and Beyond: Under such an effulgent sky, by L. Liwag

The medicine most prescribed for RLS, ropinirole, is one that I cannot take because it can cause tardive dyskinesia, which is involuntary body movements. Oh, the irony. Several years ago, I took relpax, and for a while, it was doing good things for me, that is until my doctor noticed that I was moving even while sitting, so she promptly pulled it from my regimen. Later, my pain doctor prescribed ropinirole for my RLS, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized the connection when I started making those weird movements without realizing it. So the medicine that is supposed to stop the discomfort of RLS movement can cause dyskinesia, or involuntary movement: it’s yet another instance of damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Unfortunately, the RLS is the least of my medical issues. I’ve been without my maintenance meds for more than two months now, and the result is that I am back to having three or four migraines a week. It’s so disheartening because I had finally gotten my migraines under control after years of trying to find the med that would work best for me, and I tried a dozen or more, including Botox—no lie. So until I can find a neurologist or pain medicine doctor, I’m basically ingesting ibuprofen and supplements in an attempt to stem the tide. The success is limited, at best.

“Lonely for weeping, starved for a sound of mourning
I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands” ~ James Wright, from “The Slackening of the Tide”

Anyway, enough of my medical trials and tribulations . . .

I was telling you how we actually came to be here, on this glorious piece of land with so very many possibilities, so let’s go back to 2017 again. As I had mentioned, 2017 was one helluva year for us, all of us, near and far. But in the midst of this, Corey took his mind off things by looking for land. We had decided that once we could get back to a somewhat stable place, that we were going to move.

From here to eternity: a view of our land from the left side of the ridge, by L. Liwag

I had wanted to leave Norfolk for years, but never felt that I could or should because of my mother; I’m an only child, you see, and while that may seem like a wonderful thing to be, it actually isn’t, especially if you have an elderly parent with medical issues of her own. I’m not complaining about it; god knows my mother took care of me through my asthma, migraines, and a host of other things. But once I had begun to recover from her death in 2014, we decided to look for the land that we had always talked about.

The first piece of land that we looked at was absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a hefty price tag, one that we could not possibly afford. Then, during the summer of 2017, on a whim, Corey and I decided to look at another piece of land that he had found. It was about seven hours from Norfolk, but we ended up driving around for about nine hours because we got so lost. Once we finally found it, though, we both fell in love. It was over 100 acres, and there was a small house on the property that was built in the late 1800s. Fortunately, it had been updated over time. Even better, the price was amazingly affordable.

So began our saga of trying to leave Norfolk, and the house that I had lived in for a very long time. I simply cannot go into all of the details that made this transition so hard, but it will suffice to say that it took us almost a year from the time that we first saw it to the time at which we finally arrived. It was a very, very, long, hard year.

“It takes courage . . . to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. ~ Marianne Williamson, from “A Return to Love”

Honestly, there were days in which I believed that the dream that we had so fervently sought would never happen. And during the wait, we suffered—emotionally, physically, spiritually. It seemed that the entire world was against us.

Three at the trough, by C. Fickel

You know, at times like that it’s hard not to wonder if some kind of karmic disharmony isn’t being visited upon you. You begin to think that you must have done something absolutely horrible at some point to be faced with the almost insurmountable. There was even a point during all of this that a piece of the ceiling in the Norfolk house suddenly crashed to the floor, and all that we could do was look at one another and shake our heads because it just felt like it was yet one more thing beyond our control. Mind you, a piece of your ceiling falling is a pretty major event, but we had been through so much that by the time it happened, it was just one more thing in a very long list of one more things. It’s weird to think of that event in that way now

But we clung to one other and to the possibility of actually realizing a dream that had seemed so out of reach for so long, and very long story abbreviated, now, here we are. And there is no other place in the world that I would rather be.

“In this life, this is how
one must wait, past despair,
the heart a fossil, the minutes molten, the feet turned to stone. ~ Li-Young Lee, from “Here I Am”

Well, that all came out much faster than I had thought. I suppose the words were much closer to the surface than I had thought. That’s good when that happens, although at times I feel that I’m just throwing words at the screen and hoping that something sticks and makes sense, kind of like spaghetti noodles that aren’t overcooked.

So much beauty everywhere I look, by L. Liwag

In returning to this forum, I realize that I’m more than likely opening some wounds that really haven’t healed, but this is how I heal best. Fingers on keys, letting them fly without restraint (my very dear friend Rebecca once likened my typing to machine gun fire). I realize that I’m fortunate to have this ability—to write, not to type rapidly—because I am well aware that many people out there who are wounded or trying to heal have nothing more than their own thoughts, and that can often feel all-consuming. But I have always written my way out, have done this since I was a child—truly. I wrote my first poem when I was six. I started my first journal when I was twelve. Words have always been the balm to my soul.

I hope that by rekindling my love affair with this blog, that perhaps my words might touch someone out there in the ether and let them see that they are not alone in feeling lost or depressed or overwhelmed. I do not proclaim to have answers for anyone, myself least of all, but sometimes just reading someone else’s words can be a salve, much like hearing the perfect song can help us heal. We take what we can get, right? We are all only human after all.

Just a note: Today’s poem is a direct result of watching “Little Drummer Girl” on AMC, which was incredible. I really love it when shows incorporate beautiful poetry into the story lines, and Darwish is one of my favorites. I’ve featured his works here before.

More later. Peace.

*By the way, I did pause in this post to go for a long walk up to the top of the ridge with the dogs, which is where I took some of the images in today’s post.

Music by Katelyn Tarver, “You Don’t Know”

 

Now, as you awaken

Now, as you awaken, remember the swan’s
last dance. Did you dance with young angels
while you were dreaming? Did the butterfly
light you up when it burned with the eternal
light of the rose? Did the phoenix appear clearly
before you and call you by your name?
Did you see the morning dawn from the fingers
of the one you love? Did you touch
the dream with your hand or did you
leave it to dream alone, aware suddenly
of your own absence? Dreamers don’t abandon
their dreams, they flare and continue
the life they have in the dream…tell me
how you lived your dream in a certain place
and I’ll tell you who you are. And now,
as you awaken, remember if you have wronged
your dream. And if you have, then remember
the last dance of the swan.

~ Mahmoud Darwish

“From such a gentle thing, from such a fountain of all delight, my every pain is born.” ~ Michelangelo

“Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.” ~ Li-Young Lee, from “Persimmons

This is all.

Thurston Moore, “Benediction”

The voice in my head speaks to me of my father—in a time and place not forgotten.

Old Harrison’s Fishing Pier in Ocean View Where My Dad Loved to Fish

 

“What we want most is only to be held . . . and told . . . that everything (everything is a funny thing, is baby milk and Papa’s eyes, is roaring logs on a cold morning, is hoot-owls and the boy who makes you cry after school, is Mama’s long hair, is being afraid, and twisted faces on the bedroom wall) . . . everything is going to be all right.” ~ Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Father’s Day is very bittersweet for me. Just looking at the rows and rows of cards that I will never buy pains me in inexplicable ways. No more cards. No more photographs. No more echoes of my father’s voice.

This is what I wrote in a post in February 2009: “Memory then, is what saves us, what brings us back from the edge, what supplants those who chose to leave and those who are taken with things left undone. My father is in the night sky, the summer storms, the bold flashes of light just beyond the horizon.”

Instead of a post I thought that I would share a few of my favorite poems about fathers. There is another by Len Roberts, but I cannot find it.

********************

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices

********************

My Father’s Hat
by Mark Irwin

     Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
     on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
     the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
     through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
     his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
     crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
     held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
     was that of clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
     sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
     on water I can’t be sure is there.

********************

The Gift
by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Music by Michelle Branch, “Goodbye to You”

And Now . . . For Something Totally Different

flickering20fireflys
Lightning Bugs

Reflections on the Letter L

I saw this on someone else’s blog, and for the life of me, I cannot remember whose. So if it was yours, please jump in and remind me so that I can give you credit. The idea is that you choose a letter of the alphabet to ponder, and then once you have chosen, you think of ten things that that letter signifies for you and write about them. I thought that it was an interesting writing prompt, and since I am not up for anything too taxing today, I thought that I might try this.

The letter that I have chosen is . . . L. Surprise! I know that you are absolutely dumbfounded, as was I. But it was the first letter that popped into my weary head, and so I thought that free-association may come easier. I’m going to try to find new subjects to write about so that I’m not always writing about the same, predictable things.

  1. Lies: I have a very hard time with lies and liars, and I think that it’s because of my nature to trust too easily and too quickly. As a result of this, I frequently find myself encountering people who lie as easily as they breathe. I find this to be a deplorable trait as what is the point in trying to have a relationship of any kind if it is not based on truths that are shared? Too many people in this world get by on façades which they hide behind, never letting anyone see beyond the persona they have created.
  2. Labradors: I have never made it a secret that labs are my favorite breed of dogs. They are quirky, funny and have incredible senses of humor. Just don’t ever buy one as a guard dog. A lab is more than likely to welcome an intruder and lead them to the cookie jar than to attack them. But they are wonderful family dogs and protective of their little humans. Just don’t leave lab puppies alone to their own devices or you will probably find that they have begun to teeth on your best pair of boots or a piece of furniture. 
  3. Loneliness: I am one of those people who can be very lonely if a loved one is away, or I can relish the time alone in the peace and quiet. It really depends upon the circumstances, as in exactly how long I am going to be alone and why. I do not equate being alone with loneliness. Sometimes, it is very nice to spend time alone; while other times, it is infuriatingly tedious. 
  4. Learning: I am a believer in life-long learning. If it were possible, I would stay in school all of the time earning degrees in different subject areas: anthropology, sociology, political science. Since I can no longer teach, it would suit me just fine to be on the opposite side of the lectern listening and devouring. I know that my sons think that I am some kind of freak for thinking this, for actually wantingto sit in a classroom, but I don’t care. I’m not much for online learning. I like the face-to-face time too much. 
  5. I was offered a job teaching English online for an online college several years ago, but I just could not do it. I was supposed to write scripts for other instructors to use to teach literature classes, but when I sat down to do it, I realized that there was no way that I could put down in a script what I do in a classroom. I ad lib too much, depending upon the mood of the class, my mood, the reading material. And what I do depends so much on the immediate feedback from the students. I literally feed off them. Learning, and teaching, are creative processes. A script does not allow for independent thought.

  6. Lantana: In Mexico, lantana grows wild in between the rocks, and it’s everywhere you look. Corey planted lantana in the front yard, and it’s the centerpiece of the miss20huff20lantana201butterfly garden. The plants, when in full bloom, are almost four feet tall and just as wide, and full of orange and yellow and purple and pink blooms. Like our lilac bush and fresh lavender, butterflies love the blooms and the scents, but the lantana also attracts large bumble bees. When I look at the plants, I am always reminded of the plants in Mexico. 
  7. Lightning Bugs: When I was a child, we used to catch these little beacons in jars and watch them light the jars in which we imprisoned them, never having the first idea that we were harming them. When the boys were young, I used to read a book to them by Eric Carle, I believe, about the lonely lightning bug that was looking for his family, and on the last page, he found them, and there were all of these blinking lights. I loved those books. I remember there used to be so many lightning bugs (or fire flies)in the summer time; they were never hard to find. Now, I hardly ever see them. I wonder what happened to them all. 
  8. Leaves: I love to see the changing leaves in the fall, particularly on Maple trees. The best place in Norfolk for beautiful foliage is Forest Lawn cemetery off Granby Street near the Naval Base. There are so many different kinds of trees planted in that cemetery. I remember that right after Caitlin died, the first few years, I would ride through the cemetery every day, and in the fall, there would be this wonderful path of yellows and reds lining the narrow lanes between the sections. Other than there, Skyline Drive in the foothills of Virginia is a lovely place to drive and look at nature’s autumn pageant. 
  9. Loons: Loons are lake birds, larger than mallards but smaller than geese. They can live for up to 30 years and have been known to mate for life, but what is so distinctive about loons, and what I find so intriguing about these water birds, is their call, which has been described as haunting. In some native legends, the loon is a bird of magical power. To me, the sound of a loon calling, and the water lapping is the epitome of a natural concerto.

  10.   
  11. Lockets: Lockets are wondrous things, and you don’t see them much anymore. I’m talking about the sizable lockets of the Victorian era in which small keys and shakespeare-sonnet-locket-based-on-va-museumlocks of hair could be enclosed from prying eyes. Lockets could also contain powders, poisons, and other secrets. Made of sterling, gold, aluminum, brass and copper, the lockets of old were much more interesting than today’s lockets, which tend to be flat, with only enough room for pictures. Round and heart-shaped Victorian lockets were often set with seed pearls and jewels such as rubies, and were often monogrammed and worn close to the heart.
  12. Li-Young Lee: I’ll bet you thought that I was going to finish with love, didn’t you? I told you, I’m trying for new topics tonight. Li-Young Lee is one of my favorite poets, and his poem “The Gift,” one of my very favorite poems. I will close with the first two stanzas of that poem because it always reminds me of my father, his hands, the great care that he took when he was doing something gentle with them:

 
The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

(from The City In Which I loved You, 1990) 

More later. Peace.