“You burn with hunger for food that does not exist.” ~ David Foster Wallace

Fire and Ice: Art of Nature, by Henri Bonnel(Pixdaus)

                      

“I am a jumble of passions, misgivings, and wants. It seems that I am always in a state of wishing and rarely in a state of contentment.” ~ Libba Bray

Colorful Winter's Day (Pixdaus)

Thursday evening. Clear and cold. Third day of this migraine.

Is the knot in my neck causing my migraine, or is my migraine causing the knot in my neck? These are the things that I ponder as 2010 comes to a close. I’ve been working on this particular post for two days, maybe three; it’s hard to remember. You see, I choose the quotes based on my mood, which guides the theme for my quotes, my images, and the accompanying music.

I love the David Foster Wallace quote that I am using as the header for this post. It’s not a new quote for me, but its meaning is  a constant in my life: the search for that which isn’t, the need for that which has yet to appear, the yearning for that which may never exist in this lifetime.

For the past two nights, I have stayed up quite late and slept into the afternoon, a habit that I thought that I had broken during  my stay with my mother. But it’s so cold everywhere—outside in the brisk air that makes my lungs seize up, and inside my brain, which refuses to thaw long enough to create—so cold that I cannot will myself to face the day. And then there is this days’ old migraine. So very tired of the omnipresent brain constriction; I have to wonder what this is doing to my grey cells in the long-term.

And so contentment, shall we say, continues to elude me on this, the almost eve of a new year.

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ~ Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

Winter Sunset on House (Pixdaus)

By the way, does anyone happen to know a good curse-breaker because there is definitely some bad mojo at work on this family: This morning the police knocked on our door looking for Alexis. Her permanent address is still here. Seems that both of her cars were involved in an accident. Okay, yes, I know. Not the best way to be awakened, but luckily, not bad news in the police-at-your-door vein of bad news.

The good news is that the cars were parked outside her apartment. The bad news is that both cars were totalled by the huge-ass Suburban that slid on the ice and slid into the Civic that my mom just gave to Alexis; said civic was pushed back into the old Civic, which was pushed about 15 feet with the parking brake on. Neither car survived the encounter well.

Oddly enough, that’s how I lost my favorite car, my Oldsmobile Calais, in an encounter with a big-ass Suburban. The right front fender was pushed into an accordion into the passenger seat. The Suburban has a small dent in its bumper. The Calais never recovered.

So I suppose a few lessons can be learned from this experience:

  • Buy an old Suburban if you want a vehicle that is built like a tank.
  • Don’t count on  the fact that you did not slide on the ice as a sign that all is well because other people are out on the ice with bigger vehicles than yours.
  • Always have car insurance (which we do), and always be glad when the other driver also has insurance.

So now Alexis and Mike have the onerous task of dealing with insurance companies, adjusters, and trying to find two new/used vehicles, and Mike is due back on site in Northern Virginia on January 3.

So about that curse-breaker?

“Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
out of the room that lets you feel secure.
Infinity is open to your sight.
Whoever you are.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Entrance”

Winter Sunset through Trees (Pixdaus)

The snow is gradually melting. In the past few nights the temperature has dropped below freezing, which means black ice on the roads, something that Brett and I experienced on our way home on Tuesday evening.

We went out Tuesday afternoon while Corey was trying to sleep before having to go back to work for another 11 hours that night. Brett wanted to look for yet another vintage coat at is now-favorite surplus store. No-joy on the coat, but he did find a great hood that fits on his jacket, and it was $10. Excitement all around. Then we went to another store to exchange a couple of presents, which meant that we found ourselves driving home after dark.

The Rodeo has a winter drive mode the same as my old Trooper Izzie did, and it’s a great feature. Just push that button, and feel the traction increase. We did hit one spot of ice but had minimal slippage. Luckily for us as just a few feet ahead of us was a car that had not made it over the patch quite as well and was in the median, which on that particular stretch of road has a dip. State Police were already on scene, but we didn’t see any injuries.

The best practice this week has been to stay inside and off the roads as much as possible. My mother had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, which I was planning to drive her to, but she canceled it as she was certain that the roads would be horrible. I tried to explain that in the afternoon, things were fairly good, mostly slush, but she wasn’t having it, so she has rescheduled. That being said, she drove herself to bingo this evening. Does anyone else notice the illogic that rules my mother? 

“Chantez, riez; soyez heureux, soyes célèbres;
Chacun de vous sers bientôt dans les ténèbres” ~ Victor Hugo
(Sing, laugh; be happy, be famous;
Each one of you will soon be in the darkness)

Silence (Pixdaus)

It’s now 9 o’clock, and I began this post hours ago. My headache is getting worse, so I need to wrap things up for now.

I just took some more pain medicine for my migraine, which reminds me of a very troubling and infinitely sad story that Corey showed me on The Virginian-Pilot’s website, pilotonline.com. It seems that in February of this year, a marine who served in Afghanistan was admitted to Portsmouth Naval Hospital for chest pains. The marine, who was suffering from PTSD, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a very treatable form of cancer, with a 90 percent five-year survival rate.

Twenty-year-old Lance Cpl. Ezequiel Freire never left the hospital. Instead, he died of a drug overdose, caused by too many doctors prescribing too many medications without taking into consideration what treatment Freire was already receiving. His autopsy showed a high dose of Fentanyl and 10 other narcotics and sedatives. This young man died of a toxic pharmaceutical cocktail, the kind of death that is on the upswing in this country because of the rampant use of prescribed narcotics.

Freire survived over 50 firefights during his six-month deployment only to die because too many doctors who were involved did not pay attention. But no firings will result from this tragedy because it’s a military hospital, and no suits can be brought because of that little thing called the Feres Doctrine, which absolves the military and the U.S. government from liability.

The other really pathetic aspect to this story is that some people used the comments section of the story to try to say that this (Freir’s death) is the kind of thing that will happen under Obamacare because healthcare will be government-run. Seriously? This kid was 20; he served his country; he was traumatized so much that he couldn’t enjoy a meal in a restaurant because of the noise, and he was given a potent mix of drugs: “first morphine, then oxycodone and its time-release variant OxyContin, supplemented by Dilaudid. Simultaneously, he was receiving a series of sedatives for anxiety – first Ativan, then Xanax, and finally Klonopin – plus Ambien and then Lunesta for insomnia.”

And you want to turn this horrible situation into a commentary on government healthcare reform? Have you no shame? You people are barbarians.

Enough. More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “Flowers in December”

                   

Flowers in December
Before I let you down again,
I just want to see you in your eyes.
I wouldn’t have taken everything out on you,
I only thought you could understand.

They say every man goes blind in his heart,
And they say everybody steals somebody’s heart away.
And I got nothing more to say about it
Nothing more than you would me.

Send me your flowers of your december,
Send me your dreams of your candied wine.
I’ve got just one thing I can’t give you…
Just one more thing of mine

They say every man goes blind in his heart
And they say everybody steals somebody’s heart away
And I’ve been wondering why you let me down

And I’ve been taking it all for granted

 

“Sometimes, I think you can glimpse it in another.” ~ Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

Mist at Sunset (Pixdaus)

                    

“I search for the words. ‘Restless. As if you haven’t really met yourself yet. As is you’d passed yourself once in the fog, and your heart leapt—’Ah! There I Am! I’ve been missing that piece!’ But it happens too fast, and then that part of you disappears into the fog again. And you spend the rest of your days looking for it.” ~ Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

                    

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
Koktebele
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

19 April 1962
Moscow

~ Nazim Hikmet
translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing

Music by Ennio Morricone, “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America

“Remembrance and reflection how allied. What thin partitions divides sense from thought.” ~ Alexander Pope

Antique Grandfather’s Clock Face

    

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Remembrance, reflection, recrimination, and finally, regret. 

Once upon a time, I had four coffee mugs, each with a different quote by Shakespeare. My favorite mug, the one that I used at work for several different jobs, was the one inscribed with the quote above. That mug is gone now, and I have never been able to find another set of mugs like the first one. 

Odd the things you remember when you least expect it. 

“People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” ~ St. Augustine
Antique Clock Face

I’m in a melancholy place. I realize that this state is due in part to Jennifer’s situation and my inability to separate completely what is happening to her from what happened to Caitlin. Last night when Alexis called me to give me an update, she said that she was afraid to call me because I always seemed to get upset. I told her that I wanted her to call, that I needed to know what was going on. 

Jennifer isn’t Caitlin. I know that. I also know that I harbor knowledge that no one should have to have imprinted on memory but unfortunately, too many people do: the names and categories of brain tumors, what a shunt is and how it works, the questions to ask a neurosurgeon and an oncologist. It’s the kind of knowledge that I wish I did not own, never had to incorporate into my life. 

I also know fear, real, palpable fear, the kind of fear that takes over life and makes every second a study in emotional torture: Fear of the unknown and the known, fear of the uncontrollable, fear of that which is in our control, fear of time passing too quickly, and fear of not having enough time. It is the kind of fear that you can know intimately but be unable to articulate, and it certainly cannot be described adequately to inform someone who is in the midst of it. 

“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.” ~ Léon Bloy
Antique Grandfather's Clock in Antique Store

So many decisions still need to be made, decisions about who will care for Reilly permanently should Jennifer not recover. I remember being Jennifer’s age, remember my own fallibilities at that time, and cannot imagine having to make these decisions with my younger sense of self. 

This is part of the unfairness of fate: only having the knowledge to face the worst when the need for that knowledge no longer exists. I do not believe in that saying that a person is never given more to bear than he or she can handle. These onerous loads are almost always placed upon the people who are most unprepared. That is because most people live life forwards, hoping for the best and guarding against the worst. 

Only people who have touched the face of relentless pain and despair realize that the future is dependent upon the past, that normalcy is a myth. When the impossible becomes reality, it is almost always more than any individual is prepared or able to bear.  Survivors, those left behind, almost always wish not to be. Those who survive are forever changed and not necessarily for the better. Survivors muddle along after the life-cleaving event, never again complacent, some small part always thinking about the worst that can happen. 

The truth is that two kinds of people exist in this world: the whole and the broken. And the whole become broken after sharing intimacy with tragedy. 

“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” ~ Pearl S. Buck
Late 19th Century Pocket Watch (Swiss)

As sentient beings we make thousands of choices during our lifetimes. Sometimes the choices are easy, requiring little thought or reflection. Other times, the choices that we make ultimately change the courses of our lives. 

I have made too many choices that I regret, choices about Caitlin, choices about my father, but the decision that I made 12 years ago is the one haunting me today. When I found out that Alan had cancer, I called his sister and asked if I could visit him. I set a date, but on that day, I stayed at school late; I don’t remember why. By the time I was supposed to drive to Alan’s house, I was exhausted. I did not go. 

Alan died before I saw him. At his funeral, his sister told me that he had gotten dressed and had come downstairs on the day that I was supposed to visit. He waited for me. It was one of his lucid days. I know that she did not tell me this to shame me; she was trying to let me know how much Alan still cared about our friendship. 

My reasons for not going that day are worthless. Some of you may wonder why I still think about something I did not do 12 years ago. I can only tell you that I am haunted by my bad decisions, particularly those that directly affected someone else important to me. 

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” ~ C. S. Lewis
Old Watches

I’m really not certain as to why this post took this turn. I can only say that after talking with Alexis last night, I was overcome with feelings of regret—the insufferable what-if of life. 

And then last night I did sleep, but it was fitful and filled with disturbing dreams: I had a baby, a girl, and I was amazed that she was talking so soon. Then the girl child turned into a boy child. I was sitting in a waiting room while Corey was in a class. Someone said, “Does anyone know whose baby this is?” 

I said that he belonged to me, but he was supposed to be with his father. The boy came running to me, and I swooped him into my arms. Throughout the dream, my ex kept appearing, and I thought it odd that he would want to spend time with me now that he is living with his girlfriend. Corey was not happy to see him. 

Brett, Alexis and Eamonn were helping their father to drag bags of empty cans into a place for recycling. My ex asked if we would help. The baby disappeared. Corey and I turned away and began walking down a sidewalk. 

I woke up with another headache. 

“In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real.” ~ Libba Bray
Time with Shadows and Light

Chiaroscuro ((k-är-skr): The practice of using the contrast of light and dark pictorially; also called clair-obscur. What a great word and also the perfect description of my life. 

Sometimes I think of life in photographic terms: light and dark, what is seen versus what is shadowed. The images that are crystal clear from a distance can become unfathomable when looked at too closely. And some images that are easily interpreted upon first glance later morph into something that cannot be comprehended when revisited. 

Perhaps this accounts for my preoccupation with the sky: my love for blue skies is matched only by my love for night skies. I am a study in contradictions:  I am comforted by the mountains as well as the sea. What wounds me also nourishes me.

Would that I could be the kind of person who accepts things at face value, who moves through life unfettered by the need to question, to analyze, to disseminate, to cull. Would that allow me to move past the past, to bury all of the speculation and regret? Or perhaps it is just as Oscar Wilde once said: “One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.” 

More later. Peace. 

Music by One Eskimo, “Kandi” 

                                                                                                                                         

Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint 

Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose of your breath
places on my cheek at night. 

I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair. 

If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master, 

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

~ Federico Garcia Lorca