“Words carry oceans on their small backs.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Sunset on the New River by Jo Munday fcc
Sunset on the New River
by Jo Munday (FCC)

                      

“What do you know about yourself? What are your stories? The ones you tell yourself, and the ones told by others . . . I suppose the truth is that we begin more than once; we begin many times. Over and over we start our own tales, compose our own stories, whether our lives are short or long. Until at last all our beginnings come down to just one end, and the tale of who we are is done.” ~ Cameron Dokey, from Before Midnight

Monday early evening. Partly cloudy, extremely humid and hot, 87 degrees.

Part of a comment in my spam folder: your broadcast offered shiny transparent idea. I like that: shiny, transparent idea. Probably the best compilation of words I’ve seen in days, and of course, not mine.

Stream, New River nukeit1 fcc
Stream Feeding the New River
by nukeit1 (FCC)

Spam comments are sometimes worth perusing, if only to find the nuggets above. I’m not making fun of the broken English comments. After all, if someone is speaking broken English, that means he or she speaks another language. How many of us English-speaking Americans can say the same?

Anyway, I don’t promise this will be a lucid post. I’m coming off my second night of insomnia. I have no idea as to what has caused this latest bout, but it’s a serious one. The dogs are snoring, Corey is snoring, I’m thinking about tile.

Let me explain: Corey has decided that we’re going ahead with the bathroom renovation in the next few days. I agree that it’s time. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, it has to be a total gut to see what water damage we have, which means tile, faucets, tub, sink/vanity, toilet, tile . . . The idea of doing this doesn’t scare me. What scares me is making sure we’ve budgeted for every possible scenario.

Too many numbers, measurements, and finishes are roiling about in my brain; hence, the inability to shut it off and go to sleep.

“The mind is constantly trying to figure out what page it’s on in the story of itself. Close the book. Burn the bookmark. End of story. Now the dancing begins.” ~ Ikko Narasaki

So at three in the morning I had a sudden realization that the tub we had agreed on wouldn’t work because it was a drop in without a skirt. Drop-in means we would have to build a supporting frame and create an attractive skirt. I kid you not, I got on the computer at 3 in the morning to research the difference between drop-in tubs and tubs that come with an apron or skirt.

Down by the New River by Jo Munday FCC
Down by the New River
by Jo Munday (FCC)

Then I realized that the original tile configuration I had come up with was going to be too expensive, so back to the pages and pages of tile choices. This is what happens when you have OCD—every detail becomes a challenge. If only I approached my writing with the same verve. No. I save that for tile.

In between the dashes to the computer, I would try to determine which medicine I could add to my nighttime meds that might induce sleep without putting me into a coma. Somewhere around 4:30 a.m. I drank a shot of Kahlua and cream. Whatever.

“Living with one’s passions amounts to living with one’s sufferings, which are the counterpoise, the corrective, the balance, and the price. When a man has learned—and not on paper—how to remain alone with his suffering, how to overcome his longing to flee, the illusion that others may share, then he has little left to learn.” ~ Albert Camus, from Notebooks, 1942-1951

Finally a made myself leave the computer, set a short playlist of soft music, and planted myself in bed. Perhaps sleep . . . no, not sleep as a particular song on playlist began to take my mind someplace I really didn’t want to go, back to my early 20’s, driving up a mountain road with friends in tow, going to New River. I think Dicky Betts was on the radio. I was never a Southern rock aficionado, but I had select favorites, especially the songs with girls’ names: “Amy,” “Melissa,” and “Allison.”

New River Gorge Bridge from Beneath by amanderson2 fcc
New River Gorge Bridge from Beneath
by amanderson2 (FCC)

The playlist I had selected was mostly bluegrass, and I remembered another time, with my ex, when we used to listen to a bluegrass program on the radio every Sunday night. The radio. A little clock radio with the added bonus of a cassette tape player. Big deal once upon a time.

Then it all came back, fast, an oncoming onslaught that I could not have predicted and that I could not temper with a different set of memories from a different point in time. I don’t speak highly of my ex, and there are reasons, but to deny that we had some magic once would just be unfair to both of us. Mostly the magic was in the early days when we were poor students surviving each month on less money than you can imagine.

Poverty makes you creative. You rely on friends, free things (like New River and the Cascades), and mix tapes as the soundtrack to your days. There were cookouts, big pots of stew, a bottle of wine that had to last two weeks.

“Something aches at the very core of me, something ancient and deep and stronger than words: the filament that joins each of us to the root of existence, that ancient thing unfurling and resisting and grappling, desperately for a foothold, a way to stay here, breathe, keep going.” ~ Lauren Oliver, Delirium

I have been poor a few different times in my life. It’s not a preferred state. And I know that it is easy to romanticize the past, to forget all of the horrible exchanges of bitter words and all of the resultant tears. Time allows those things to soften, and if you are really lucky, allows you to forget most of the bad. I’ve never been good at the forgetting thing.

But last night, or rather, early this morning, as I watched the room change from dark to light, as I listened to the birds, I remembered riding up a mountain in a really raggedy Toyota. I remember singing along to bluegrass and sipping cheap cold beer from a can.

Kaymoor Trail Stream, New River urbanwoodchuck fcc
Kaymoor Trail Stream, New River
by urbanwoodchuck (FCC)

I had everything in front of me, bad and good. The kids, the careers, the friends, and the lovers. Corey wasn’t anywhere near my orbit because he was too busy growing up in Ohio. All of the possibilities were still there. All of the dreams were still waiting to be dusted on the wind. All of the words had yet to leave my brain.

My writing back then was so maudlin, so juvenile . . . hearts, flowers, love. No depth. No strength. I hadn’t seen even half of what life would deal me; how could I possibly write about it?

“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” ~ Lois McMaster Bujold

So while the world outside was moving minute by minute into the future, I was lost somewhere in the past, somewhere on a narrow mountain road, and life was like a juicy ripe peach, there for the taking. I’m fairly certain we were at the Narrows, New River.

Between the Rails jronaldlee FCC
Between the Rails
by jronaldlee (FCC)

The air was so clean that you could smell the green. The water that pooled around my bare feet was clear enough to see the pebbles on the bottom. Occasionally, the train passed by, a grey line among the green, a sound among the natural silence. Those were the days long before parasailers and kayakers and whitewater rafting groups. Fewer people, more nature. It was a good day. We stayed for hours until the sun began to set behind the mountain, and a chill crept into the air.

But this is why I was left so damned melancholy: I will never have those days again. I am closer to my last chapter than one written in my beginning. Yet I remember feeling everything so acutely, embracing life so completely, inhaling the very essence of the day.

Words are beginning to fail me now. I fear that I my writing is broaching on the clichéd. But for a few hours between dawn and daylight, I was there, and it was richer than anything I have glimpsed with my tired eyes in too long, and I fell asleep with a dull ache in my heart and a very tired soul.

More later. Peace.

All images are used under creative commons license.

Music by Mindy Smith and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Anymore of This”

                    

The Heart Under Your Heart

New River Gorge Bridge at Fayette Station Gary Hartley
New River Gorge Bridge at Fayette Station
by Gary Hartley (creative commons)

Who gives his heart away too easily must have a heart
under his heart.
~ James Richardson

The heart under your heart
is not the one you share
so readily so full of pleasantry
& tenderness
it is a single blackberry
at the heart of a bramble
or else some larger fruit
heavy the size of a fist
it is full of things
you have never shared with me
broken engagements bruises
& baking dishes
the scars on top of scars
of sixteen thousand pinpricks
the melody you want so much to carry
& always fear black fear
or so I imagine you have never shown me
& how could I expect you to
I also have a heart beneath my heart
perhaps you have seen or guessed
it is a beach at night
where the waves lap & the wind hisses
over a bank of thin
translucent orange & yellow jingle shells
on the far side of the harbor
the lighthouse beacon
shivers across the black water
& someone stands there waiting

~ Craig Arnold

“Behind all this, some great happiness is waiting.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Seven Laments for the War-Dead” (trans. Chana Bloch)

New York Skyline at Sunset
by Corey Fickel (June 2012)*

                   

“-What do you do all day?

-I stand myself.” ~ Émile Cioran, from About the inconvenience of being born

Monday evening. Sunny, hot, and humid.

Clear Blue Waters off Island of Ascension
by Corey Fickel (2012)

The above quote is particularly apt at the moment as I’m having quite a hard time standing myself—for various reasons. Just one of those things.

It seems that I am not going to find the time to write a proper post unless I just make the time. Since Corey arrived home last Tuesday, I have been absorbed, in what exactly I couldn’t tell you. I mean, other than the vast relief and happiness in having him home safe, I just seem to be flitting from one thing to another, unable to focus very well for more than an hour or two.

I’ve been quite hyper and in full OCD mode. I even found myself upset that Corey’s luggage was cluttering the dining room, so yesterday I condensed all of his things that he will be taking back to the ship and promptly announced that they need to go in the garage. Then I spent a couple of hours cleaning off the dining room table and polishing furniture. How can one person contain so many battling emotions simultaneously? I really don’t know: happy, stressed, wired, content . . . It’s all too much.

“The beauty of the world  . . . has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own

The pool is officially open—at last. The dogs (well, not Alfie) are quite happy, as am I. It has been beastly hot the past week, and being able to get in the pool even for an hour is very refreshing. Brett’s new school schedule is during prime pool time, however, from 2:15 to 4:20. It’s just as well, I suppose. I can’t stay in too long, which means that I don’t end up with that sun-sapped feeling.

Looking Towards Antigua
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Eamonn came home from work yesterday with a doggie float. I didn’t even know they made such things. This one is damaged, so the store was just going to chuck it, so Eamonn brought it home. So far, though, neither Tillie nor Shakes seem to be interested in spending any time on it.

On Saturday after swimming, Corey and I gave the dogs baths outside with the hose. Actually, Corey wanted no part of it, but I convinced him to help me, especially when Alfie had one of his psychotic episodes and tried to bite off my hand.

Note to self: Never, ever own another high-strung terrier breed.

Anyway, I ordered K-9 Advantix for their fleas as the Frontline that I have used the past two months has done absolutely nothing to conquer the fleas, and the skin condition that Shakes has seems to get worse after I administer it, so I’m going back to Advantix. Hoping that will take care of the fleas and scratching.

“I have a faith in language.  . . . It’s the most flexible articulation of our experience and yet, finally, that experience is something that we cannot really articulate. We can look out and see the sunlight in those trees, but we can’t convey the full unique intimacy of that experience.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 38

I know that not all of you will be interested in The Paris Review interview segments that I’ve been posting in between, but I’m hoping that those of you who love words and writers might find them as enjoyable as I have. Personally, I always find it interesting to hear other writers (real writers) speak of their craft.

Shades of Blue, U.S. Virginia Islands
by Corey Fickel (2012)

I was saddened by the death of Nora Ephron, who I have always considered to be such a master of the English language, a modern-day Dorothy Parker (two women I adore). I have felt a kinship with her curmudgeonliness and the way that her work always has an edge to it but also has a quiet beauty to offset that edge.

For those of you who may not be aware, Ephron was married to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame). Their stormy marriage led to her novel “Heartburn,” which was turned into a movie directed by her friend Mike Nichols. The movie, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, was a tour-de-force riposte about marriage and infidelity. (Ephron once famously said that the Bernstein character would “have sex with a venetian blind.”

“It is really hard to be lonely very long in a world of words. Even if you don’t have friends somewhere, you still have language, and it will find you and wrap its little syllables around you and suddenly there will be a story to live in.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from I’ll Ask Three Times, Are You OK?

I have a confession: I always imagined myself to be an unknown Dorothy Parker. I mean, if I were going to be famous, and if I couldn’t be a torch singer, then I would want to be someone like Dorothy Parker: a woman who spoke her mind, even in the most polite of company.

Churning Blue Waters, Shoreline, Island of Ascension
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Parker was a columnist, critic, poet, writer, and essayist, but she was best known for her acerbic wit. I mean, the alcoholism I could do without, obviously, but man, she didn’t pull any punches, and she was outspoken about those causes in which she was heavily invested, such as civil rights and civil liberties. Like myself, she was staunchly left-wing and did not suffer fools gladly.

Ephron was of the same ilk, and her recent passing leaves a gaping hole in that class of female writers who really did do it all.

Ah, well.

“I am not alone. Whatever else there was or is, writing is with me.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Let’s see, what else?

Wild Goats on Hillside, Antigua
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Brett got an A in his first section of pre-Calculus. Eamonn is applying for the apprenticeship school at the shipyard. Corey is enjoying yard work, in spite of the heat, and Alexis is very heavy with child.

The heat is getting to her, and she is already visibly dropping. I predict a delivery date of July 8th. She and Mike have everything just about ready in the apartment. I’ve ordered a new mattress for the cradle as the old one is quite thin and torn in a few places. I couldn’t find any mattresses in any local stores, at least none that I could afford, but I found a nice two-inch one on Amazon, and I ordered some cradle sheets. My mother bought a car seat for me to have in my car (I’m just letting her do whatever makes her (my mother) happy at this point, and she was determined to buy it).

I’m having work done on the Rodeo this coming week so that it will be a safe vehicle for transporting mother and child if necessary. I have to admit that I am quite excited and like Lex, more than ready for baby (Olivia, we think) to be here.

Well, I didn’t do so bad for a quick post, did I?

More later (but sooner, I hope). Peace.

*All images are from Corey’s recent hitch. Enjoy.

Music by Peter Bradley, “Heart of a Girl”

                   

Work, Sometimes

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn’t it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a
moment!

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.

~ Mary Oliver