“I am always tuning my orchestra. Somewhere deep inside there is a sound that is mine alone, and I struggle daily to hear it and tune my life to it.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, from My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

Thomas Alexander Harrison La Mer nd oil on canvas
“La Mer” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Thomas Alexander Harrison

                   

“There is not so much, not so much as I had thought, not much though it is enough, I thought, though I think, though I say, though I will never say it cannot be enough, I was once a child, it is enough to have been a child and to have known this, to know and to be, to ferry, to cross, to apprehend is to remember and it is enough, I know.  And so the music makes me.” ~ G. C. Waldrep, from “What is a Hexachord”

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, 72 degrees.

Well, it took two days, but Corey’s ship finally got under way last night around 9 p.m. On Friday morning I was in my doctor’s office when Corey called to find out where I was. He had been told to take his truck home and get back right away because the ship was going to get under way at 3 p.m. It was impossible for me to leave, so we decided that he would just park the truck, and I would get one of the kids to help me pick it up later.

Lowell Birge Harrison Fifth Avenue at Twilight
“Fifth Avenue at Twilight” (1910s, oil on canvas)
by Lowell Birge Harrison

I left the doctor’s office as soon as I could and went to the pier where I sat around for two hours waiting for Corey to be able to come out and say goodbye. Then he realized that he had forgotten his shaving kit, so I drove back home, grabbed it and Tillie, and drove back to the pier. Tillie and I said goodbye (again), and we left. That was around 2:40.

Corey texted me at 4:35 to see if his truck was still in he yard. It was. Apparently, they were not getting under way until 1 p.m. the next day (Saturday). I drove to the yard, gave him his keys, and we went back home. Saturday morning I drove him back to the ship and said goodbye again. The ship didn’t leave at 1 p.m. Pushed to 3 p.m. Didn’t leave at 3 p.m. Finally, finally, left last night.

It was an exhausting goodbye. It’s hard enough when we have to leave one another, but to have to do it three times is just nerve-wracking.

“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking how you’ll escape one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” ~ John Green, from Looking for Alaska

Last night I slept fitfully, waking every two hours or so. The dogs were so confused. I had spent a lot of yesterday trying to keep busy, trying to get caught up on here, spending some time with Tillie one-on-one because she gets so sad when Corey leaves. Then she jumped in the pool after we played stick, so I went ahead and gave her a bath, and since I was giving Tillie a bath, I gave Bailey a bath. I was soaking wet when it was all over.

Thomas ALexander Harrison Venice in Moonlight
“Venice in Moonlight” (c1885)
by Thomas Alexander Harrison

I thought that I had exhausted myself, but apparently not. Today, I’m sore, and that shot that my doctor gave me on Friday to try to alleviate the pain has had absolutely no effect. There is a spot on my left shoulder that is simply one big knot, and no matter what I do, it won’t release. It’s hard to stick your own thumb into a spot on your back to try to effect a release in a muscle, and obviously, it’s not working.

So today I’m trying to go easy, not make any plans to accomplish much of anything other than some laundry and some writing. We’ll see how those plans go. I was supposed to watch Olivia last night, but that fell through, and even though I miss any chance in which I do not get to spend time with her, I was really not in the best shape to have her here, so I guess that worked out for the best.

“Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding
and beauty. ~ Linda Hogan, from “The Way In”

On Tuesday, I have an appointment with the long-term disability guy again to go over my current status. I was turned down by Social Security yet again. This when I am about to be referred to a hand surgeon because of the constant pain in my left hand which is exacerbated anytime I try to write anything (left-handed, you know). I was appalled by how my penmanship looked on the latest form I had to complete, but hey, they get what they get. I tried.

Lowell Birge Harrison Moonlight on the River
“Moonlight on the River” (1919)
by Lowell Birge Harrison

In the short time that Corey was home he was able to do a few things, like change the igniter in the oven, except he changed the wrong one and had to do it over, and the one that he took out mistakenly broke when he removed it, so I need to order two more because the damned double oven takes three in all. He didn’t have the time or energy to do any kind of work on the bathroom, not that I expected him to do so, but he did get a chance to switch out the old television in our bedroom for the older television in Eamonn’s former bedroom because ours was on its last leg, and even though Eamonn’s was older, it still works. Get all of that?

Mostly he tried to relax when he could and to spend some quality time with Tillie. He enjoyed spending time with Olivia, who really loves him. Unfortunately, while I had her I took her over to my mom’s house, and Olivia didn’t seem to recognize her and wouldn’t let my mom hold her, which was sad for my mom, I know.

“The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward.” ~ Colum McCann, from Let the Great World Spin

Anyway, what else is new?

I’m trying to stave off this depression, and sometimes it seems as if it’s working, and then I’ll be somewhere, like in the car, and I suddenly tear up because of a song on the radio, or a smell that wafts in through the open window. Fall just kills me.

Lowell Birge Harrison The Evening Star nd oil on canvas
“The Evening Star” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Lowell Birge Harrison

I feel as if I have so much on my plate right now, but I suppose as compared to most people, it isn’t that much. I don’t know. My ability to handle things when I’m feeling like this is pretty much altered for the worse. I spend my time watching things like “What Not to Wear” and wonder how these women have a hard time spending $5,000 on a new wardrobe. As I said to Corey, I could do that in an afternoon just buying shoes, boots, and purses. He nodded knowingly.

I want ………………………., hell, I don’t know what I want, cannot even begin to formulate what I want, what I need, what I feel. I know that I’m kind of lopsided emotionally at the moment because Corey has just left again, and neither of us want him to be going to sea forever, but for now it’s the best, perhaps only option. I hate having no options. Just makes me feel so trapped.

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from To the Lighthouse

Thomas Alexander Harrison Seascape nd oil on canvas
“Seascape” (nd)
by Thomas Alexander Harrison

I’m remembering Falls from the past, when the air would begin to cool, and the Literary Festival was just around the corner, and the campus was full of life and possibilities. That’s the word: possibilities.

I wonder when my life stopped having possibilities. If it did stop, or if I’ve just forgotten how to latch onto them, forgotten how to recognize them. I wonder so much that I’m whirling around in a maelstrom of my own construction. I just want to come up for air.

Bah. Bah, I say. Blue art by the artist brothers Thomas Alexander and Lowell Birge Harrison (American), and blue music for my mood.

More later. Peace.

Music by Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, “Ain’t No Way”

                   

Fragments for the End of the Year

On average, odd years have been the best for me.

I’m at a point where everyone I meet looks like a version
of someone I already know.

Without fail, fall makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced.

The sky is molting. I don’t know
if this is global warming or if the atmosphere is reconfiguring
itself to accommodate all the new bright suffering.

I am struck by an overwhelming need to go to Iceland.

Despite all awful variables, we are still full of ideas
as possible as unsexed fruit.

I was terribly sorry to be the one to explain to the first graders
the connection between the sunset and pollution.

On Venus you and I are not even a year old.

Then there were two skies.
The one we fly through and the one
we bury ourselves in.

I appreciate my wide beveled spatula which fulfills
the moment I realized I would grow up and own such things.

I am glad I do not yet want sexy bathroom accessories.
Such things.

In the story we were together every time.

On his wedding day, the stone in his chest
not fully melted but enough.

Sometimes I feel like there are birds flying out of me.

~ Jennifer K. Sweeney

“The lights dim and everyone moves in amber. They flicker like votives. That’s what we will all be one day, insects in sap, strange jewels.” ~ Vanessa Veselka, Zazen

"Winter" (1902, tempera on canvas)by Akseli Gallen-Kallela
“Winter” (1902, tempera on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

                   

“There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into. There’s a rest point between the heart muscle’s close and open—an instant of keenest living when you’re momentarily dead.  You can rest there.” ~ Mary Karr, from Lit: A Memoir

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and unseasonably warm, 72 degrees.

Finally got all of my meds refilled, and with the beginning of the year deductible, it almost cost $200. Painful. Everything hasn’t kicked in yet, so I’m still feeling a bit out-of-sorts.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela Snow-Covered Cliffs at Kalela, 1901 tempera on canvas
“Snow-Covered Cliffs at Kalela” (1901, tempera on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

On Monday I allowed myself to get caught up in Dave Cullen’s book Columbine (my other birthday book), and I never wrote a real post; however, I’ve been saving the NASA Gangnam style video for one of those days, so it all worked out. Columbine is an incredible look at the events leading up to that fateful day, as well as events afterwards. So much of what I had come to believe was based on the myths perpetuated by the media: that the two shooters were outcasts (they weren’t), that the two belonged to some group called the Trench Coat Mafia (they didn’t), that they targeted jocks (they didn’t), that the two were goth kids (they weren’t).

I found the book fascinating in its straightforward presentation of facts based on countless interviews, journal entries, videos, police reports, etc.; I also appreciated the ways in which Cullen addressed the prevailing myths and then debunked them.

“Sometimes I dream a sentence and write it down. It’s usually nonsense, but sometimes it seems a key to another world.” ~ Anne Carson

Last night I dreamed that someone wanted to borrow my car to make a drug deal. I was uncomfortable with it but too afraid to say no. Then I was back in the small apartment that appears frequently in my dreams, and I was trying to figure out why one half of the kitchen was on one wall and the other half was across the apartment and why there were so many beds, five or six.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela Imatra in Winter 1893 oil on canvas
“Imatra in Winter” (1893, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

A few nights ago I dreamed that my dad and my Aunt Remy had decided that Corey and I should move to South Carolina to run the fish business. I didn’t really want to go, especially because we would have to live in a trailer, but I didn’t want to disappoint my dad or my aunt. As an incentive, my aunt offered to pay for me to get my hair done. It was a very strange dream.

Then the night before I awoke Corey by saying out loud, “You act like you’re still single.” Apparently I had been having a dream in which the two of us were arguing about something, and I said that to him in the dream, only I actually said it out loud. He was very confused.

Still not as funny as the dream that Corey had last week in which he dreamed that his mother had starting calling him Hot Dog, and when he asked why she was calling him that, she told him it was because he was a little slow. Boy was he upset over that dream. I assured him that his mother would never call him Hot Dog and that no one thought for a second that he was slow.

“And that sound, that single sound,
When the mind remembers all,
And gently the light enters a sleeping soul,
A sound so thin it could not woo a bird” ~ Theodore Roethke, from section 3 of “The Rose”

Yesterday we were watching Olivia, who has recently begun to eat baby food, which is fun yet still a reminder of just how quickly time passes.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake Keitele 1905 oil on canvas
“Lake Keitele” (1905, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

I called my mother to let her know that Olivia was at our house, and of course she arrived when the baby was sleeping. I offered to awaken her, but thankfully my mother declined. Olivia’s naps are too short as far as I’m concerned, and if’s actually sleeping, then I want to leave her alone. Not sure what Alexis was planning to accomplish  (if anything) while we had Olivia, but I’m just glad to spend time with her.

I kind of wish that I had thought to tell Alexis to send the stroller as it was amazing outside, and I don’t think that Olivia gets outside very much. When the boys were small, I had a double stroller, and I would take them for walks all of the time, Eamonn sitting in the front, and Brett usually napping in the back. Ann and I would walk to Lex’s school to pick her up, babies in tow, Rebecca in Ann’s stroller, and first Eamonn and then both boys in mine. Those were good days.

“We walked on the river bank in a cold wind, under a grey sky. Both agreed that life seen without illusion is a ghastly affair.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Diary Entry, 10 November 1917

I read the most depressing news story today: A teenager who performed in the inaugural festivities just a few weeks ago was killed in a gang-related shooting. Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and one other boy were shot near King College Prep on the South side of Chicago.  According to the Chicago Tribune:

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Frosty Birch Trees, 1894, oil on canvas
“Frosty Birch Trees” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Friends of the slain girl said King was dismissed early today because of exams, and students went to the park on Oakenwald—something they don’t usually do.

Friends said the girl was a majorette and a volleyball player, a friendly and sweet presence at King, one of the top 10 CPS selective enrollment schools. Pendleton performed with other King College students at President Barack Obama’s inaugural events.

Neighbors said students from King do hang out at Harsh Park, 4458-70 S. Oakenwald Ave., and that students were there this afternoon before the shooting took place. A group of 10 to 12 teens at the park had taken shelter under a canopy there during a rainstorm when a boy or man jumped a fence in the park, ran toward the group and opened fire, police said in a statement this evening.

Gun violence is nothing new in Chicago, but poignancy of this story brings it home: She was just celebrating in the nation’s capital, participating in something incredible, especially for someone so young, and then in just a blink, she is gone.

The U.S. averages 87 gun deaths a day, according to most sources. It just befuddles me how we as a nation are so inured to gun violence.

“I wanted silence. My daydreams were full of places I longed to be, shelters and solitudes. I wanted a room apart from others, a hidden cabin to rest in. I wanted to be in a redwood forest with trees so tall the owls called out in the daytime.” ~ Linda Hogan from “Dwellings”

I think that I’ll probably spend the rest of the afternoon absorbed in another book. I still feel a real lack of energy, and my concentration is not strong, so it would not be a good day to tackle the taxes, too likely to make stupid mistakes.

I do wish that Eamonn would complete his paperwork for his merchant mariner’s documents, but I’m not going to nag. This has to be his decision, and he has to be the one to do the work for it. It’s hard, though.; it would be so easy for me to sit down and complete the paperwork for him, but then what would I be teaching him? That if he procrastinates long enough, Mom will do it for him?

Akseli Gallen-Kallela The Lair of the Lynx 1909
“The Lair of the Lynx” (1909, oil on canvas)
Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Not good. Not acceptable.

Still, my need to take care of things for my children threatens to come to the forefront all of the time, but if I am to be honest, that need is selfish as it allows me to rescue them, and perhaps they don’t need rescuing, at least not in the way that they did years ago. Perhaps if left to their own devices they will do just fine. It’s such a weird balancing act, this whole parenting thing, how to know when to and when not to, how to decide when help is more hindrance and when help is truly helpful.

I know that I was fortunate in that my parents helped me tremendously when I was my kids’ ages, but at the same time, I had a very, very strong streak of independence, and I never would have dreamed of asking my mother to fill out paper work of any kind for me. I must remember, must remind myself that they are not me. And how wonderful that they are not.

More later. Peace.

Music by Morcheeba, “Crimson”

                   

This Hour and What Is Dead

Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.

At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy’s pants.
His love for me is like his sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven, But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.

And this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.

At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.

Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I’ve had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.

~ Li-Young Lee

“There are many things in your heart you can never tell to another person. They are you, your private joys and sorrows, and you can never tell them. You cheapen yourself, the inside of yourself, when you tell them.” ~ Greta Garbo

Moon Rise over Cultus Mountain, Skagit County, WA
by Scott Terrell (AP)

                   

“Will I ever write properly, with passion & exactness,
of the damned strange demeanours of my flagrant heart?” ~ John Berryman, from “Monkhood”

Saturday, late afternoon. Sunny, humid, mid 80’s.

It’s been a rough week. I started a regular post last Saturday and wiped it. Started another one on Sunday. Wiped that too.

Perigree Moon behind Angels of St. Isaaks Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia
by Dmitry Lovetsky (AP)

Did manage to go to some great poetry readings, though. This year, I finally convinced Brett to attend a few of the events at ODU’s annual Literary Festival. In its 35th year, it’s one of the longest-running literary festivals in the country. He was only disappointed by one presenter and loved the other three. I went to two, wanted to make it to one on Thursday, but just couldn’t. As a result, though, I have discovered two new poets, both of whom I will be writing more about at another time.

I’ve been mulling over a myriad of things, beginning to think that I’ve reached conclusions, solutions, only to end up more confused and scattered. These are the things occupying my thoughts lately:

  • Will Alexis ever learn how to accept her role as a mother?
  • Will Brett go to New Zealand, and if so, will her ever come back? Will such a journey help him to find that which he seeks?
  • Will we all make it through the next few months?
  • Will I leave the house in the morning only to return to it hours later to find Shakes dead?
  • Will Tillie continue to have unexplained seizures?
  • Will I ever come out of this funk?
  • Will I ever have just one day in which I am not torn up by guilt, fear, and regret?

This, and so much more . . . A person could go well and truly mad from too much pondering.

“Sometimes
melancholy leaves me breathless.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Sometimes”

My melancholy always deepens in the fall, which is conflicting at best as autumn is my favorite season, but it is also the season of my deep regret and my keenest losses. So many decisions were made in autumn that changed my life forever. You know Frost’s two roads? Well, is it possible to have stood at the fork in the road a hundred times? A thousand? Sometimes, it seems so.

So what characterizes my melancholy? I mean, if I had to describe it, which I have done in the past, just how would I do that? I wonder . . .

Perigree Moon beside San Francisco’s Coit Tower
by Frederic Lawson (AP)

Like Søren Kierkegaard, my melancholy is almost like a living part of me: “I have one more intimate confidant-my melancholy. In the midst of my joy, in the midst of my work, she waves to me, calls me to one side, even though physically I stay put. My melancholy is the most faithful mistress I have known, what wonder, then, that I love her in return.”

My melancholy is like . . .

  • The deepest blues in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”
  • A slow Alison Krauss song, full of longing
  • The smell that fills your nostrils when you turn over a pile of wet leaves—earthy and rich
  • The dregs of a cup of Darjeeling
  • The way it feels when the credits roll at the end of The English Patient
  • The haunting sound of the fiddle in the soundtrack to Legends of the Fall
  • The way sand feels beneath your feet as it is borne back to the sea by the tide
  • The mother in the Dorothea Lange photograph
  • The echo of a foghorn across the bay in the still of the night
  • The sliver of the waning moon in the nigh sky

“and in the end
when the shadow from the ground
enters the body and remains,
in the end, you might say,
This is myself
still unknown, still a mystery.” ~ Linda Hogan, from “Inside

You might say that none of those things is particularly sad, and you would be right. My melancholy isn’t sadness. It isn’t depression. It isn’t the bleak dullness of a February morning without snow. Rather, it is an ache, a longing, a yearning, but for what exactly, I still cannot say.

Moon Rises above an Egret Nesting, Wichita, Kansas
by Bo Rader (AP)

The things on my list individually can be beautiful and haunting. Together, they can be overwhelming. Perhaps that’s why I listed them as opposed to piling them all together in a paragraph. Separated by that forced line break, there can be a pause, a moment in which to collect oneself before venturing on.

Am I blathering? Perhaps. Sorry.

At least I’m supposedly in good company. Famous people known for their melancholy? Van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, John Keats, Ernest Hemingway, Søren Kierkegaard. Notice that list is all male? I think that when famous women were (are?) melancholic, they were categorized as depressed, which is actually not the same thing. Depression can be completely debilitating; whereas melancholy is more reflective. The melancholic can be depressed, but the depressed individual is not necessarily melancholic.

I perused a few interwebs articles on melancholy (academic as opposed to cultural), and most assign a few clear characteristics to the melancholic. On the plus side, they are talented, creative, idealistic, and loyal. They like lists (no kidding) and charts, and they pay attention to detail. On the other side, though, they can be perfectionists; they procrastinate, often spending more time planning than doing. They tend to remember the negatives and have a low self-image, and they have a deep need for approval.

Really? No, really? Hmm . . .

“I have in me like a haze
Which holds and which is nothing
A nostalgia for nothing at all,
The desire for something vague.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from “[I have in me like a haze]” (trans. Richard Zenith)

Did you know that melancholy literally means black bile (Greek, melas (black) + khole (bile) = melancholia)? This definition comes from the ancient characterizations of personalities according to the four humours (The four humors of Hippocratic medicine are black bile (Gk. melan chole), yellow bile (Gk. chole), phlegm (Gk. phlegma), and blood (Gk. haima), and each corresponds to one of the traditional four temperaments. A humor is also referred to as a cambium(from Wikipedia and lots of other sources)). Just a bit of history.

Full Moon behind a Mosque in Amman
by Ali Jarekj (Reuters)

Of course, we don’t go around any more telling people they have too much black bile or too much blood in their constitution, but maybe we should. I mean, the corresponding personality traits (sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholic) are pretty much spot on. The sanguine individual is an impulsive dreamer, the choleric an aggressive leader, the phlegmatic quiet and relaxed, and the melancholic introverted and creative.

All I know is that my black bile makes me not people-oriented and less outgoing. It also makes me withdrawn and vengeful. And I’m still fairly certain that I would have been persecuted as a witch.

“I am light honed
To a still point in the incandescent
Onrush, a fine ash in the beast’s sudden
Dessication when the sun explodes.” ~ Wole Soyinka, from “Around Us, Dawning”

So, this is where I am now: My melancholy defines me in so many ways:

  • I have so many things that I want to do, but I never seem to do them, just plan them.
  • I spend an inordinate number of hours contemplating things, the whys and wherefores.

    Moon Shines behind the Minaret of Mohamed Ali Mosque in Cairo
    by Asmaa Waguih (Reuters)
  • Essentially, I don’t like people. I love humanity and its wonderful diversity, but most people irritate me.
  • But those I like, I like with a fervor. Those I love, I love with all of my being.
  • One of the articles said that melancholics can be bad parents because they have such high expectations, and I do, have high expectations, that is. But not for my children to have fame or fortune, rather, that they have happiness and contentment, two things that have eluded me most of my years
  • I don’t like to be wrong, and it took me years, nay, decades, to learn how to admit when I was wrong, and I am ashamed to say that it took me far too long to learn how to apologize and truly mean it.
  • Because I live so much inside myself, I am not self-deluded, but I am self-critical and self-deprecating.
  • I live in a state of guilt. I’m not sure if this is necessarily my melancholic humor, or just my life.

As one particular site pointed out, “One feature that makes melancholy an aesthetic emotion—like that of sublimity—is its dual nature. There are negative and positive aspects in it which alternate, creating contrasts and rhythms of pleasure.” I suppose this duality is what compels me to try to define that which truly cannot be defined.

However, the site that I liked the best had a nice list of positives and negatives about the four kinds of people, and one thing that it listed really kind of made me take notice: the melancholic can be “moved to tears with compassion.” I never knew that was a trait of melancholy. I always thought that because I cried at commercials, wept at others’ misfortune, ached at injustice, that it was just my soft heart betraying me once again.

Oh, and one more: The melancholic seeks the ideal mate. Fortunately for me, I believe that I have found him.

More later. Peace.

In the mood for the moon, the big, beautiful moon.

Music by Grizzly Bear, “Deep Blue Sea” (From Dark Was the Night CD*)

*Dark Was the Night is the twentieth compilation release benefiting the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. Featuring exclusive recordings by a number of independent artists and production by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, the compilation was released on 16 February 2009 (UK) and 17 February (US) as a double CD, three vinyl LPs, or as a digital download.[6] John Carlin, the founder of the Red Hot Organization, was the executive producer for the album. The title is derived from the Blind Willie Johnson song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”, which is covered on this collection by the Kronos Quartet (from Wikipedia entry on CD).

                     

Wavelength

They were sitting on the thin mattress
He’d once rolled & carried up the four floors
To his room only to find it covered nearly all
Of the bare wood
Leaving just a small path alongside the wall
& between them was the sack
Of oranges & pears she’d brought its neck
Turned back to expose the colors of the fruit
& as she opened a bottle of wine
He reached over to a tall stack of books
& pulled out The Tao & with a silly flourish
Handed it across the bed to her   she looked up
& simply poured the two squat water glasses
Half-full with wine & then she
Took the book   reading silently   not aloud
As he’d assumed & suddenly he felt clearly
She knew the way
Two people must come upon such an understanding
Together of course but separately

As the moon & the wave remain individually one

~ David St. John

 

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising.” ~ John Muir, John Muir: John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

Great Blue Heron in Morro Bay, CA by mikebaird (FCC)

                     

“An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless, measureless leaves upon the sea.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Early Friday evening. Absolutely beautiful day, high 60’s, low humidity.

China Wu Chuan, by stfbfc (FCC)

Day five of this particular migraine, and today is the worst day so far. Sharp, stabbing pain on the top of my skull, like someone is trying to drive a screwdriver into my head.

In spite of the pain, I have been quite reflective today, probably because I had to drive Corey to work so that I would have the car to do school transport. He had a short shift just over the bridge at the dock off Shore Drive, so we passed Lake Whitehurst. The water was so still, like a mirror. Then, too, the Lafayette River looked like a slate grey plane when we drove over the Granby Street bridge.

In noticing this, I realized something about myself: I pay attention to things and not people. On any given day, I can tell you how the sky looked, what birds I heard, how still or turbulent the water was . . . but I would be hard-pressed to describe the people I passed. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the woman standing at the bus stop right outside my car window as I waited for the light to turn green. I would not be able to describe the cyclist I passed who almost veered into traffic.

Is this a bad thing? Does this reflect negatively on what kind of person I am? Or does it just mean that I am more in tune with the natural world than with the world inhabited by people?

I really couldn’t tell you.

“The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” ~ Edward Gibbon

Morning in Saintes Maries de la Mer, Cote d'Azur, France, by Wolfgang Staudt (FCC, this image can be downloaded as wallpaper)

My affinity for water, though, is long-standing. And when I picked up Corey from the boatyard, a tug was pulling away from the dock. I turned to him and asked him in all seriousness if he doesn’t miss being on the water on days like this.

I know that if I had been born male, know this with every fiber of my being, I would have picked a job that took me onto the water. Why male, you might ask? Unfortunately, the water is still one of the last bastions that is not completely open to women. It takes more than strength of will to do battle with the water and survive. There must be physical strength. That is simply the way that it is.

But I really do understand why my father was always more comfortable at sea as opposed to being on dry land. I mean, I know that being gone for months at a time is a lonely prospect, but I like to think of what it might have been like to be on a NOAA exploration vessel, the things I would have seen, the experiences I might have had.

Truthfully, the only major I regret not pursuing in college is oceanography, which might seem weird for a woman who loves literature and writing, but imagine the tales I would have to tell if I had gone to sea.

It is not something that I would have undertaken lightly, though, as I have a healthy respect for the power that lies just beneath that mirror-like calm, how in an instant the blue can become white churning, relentless and angry.

“I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.” ~ Jacques Réda, from “The Letter Scale,” (trans. Andrew Shields)

Captain on the Bridge by Jens Lumm (FCC)

What still gives me hope—and yes, I am still capable of that—still grants me a sense that all is not lost is my ability to find beauty unexpectedly, when I happen upon a moment so perfect that I must pause and swallow and perhaps wipe away a tear.

Too sappy? But true.

I know that it’s the romantic sensibility in me that gives me this gift, and I am oh so grateful that all of my cynicism has not polluted this side of me. Because yes, I am cynical, snarky, and just plain curmudgeonly. I do not suffer fools at all, and I have very little tolerance for stupidity. But my soul can be quelled in a second when a chance encounter with the splendor that is nature reaches past my veneer of safety, the shell in which I encase myself most of the time so as to repel the ugly and the discouraging that seems to permeate this world.

Don’t bother to ask me if the glass is half empty or half full because I would wonder first about the glass itself, and I would probably prefer that it be empty so that it can refract the sunlight.

I am all too aware of my shortcomings, my deep plunges into the darker side of my soul, and my tendency to speak of too many regrets and too many what ifs, but not today. Today, in spite of the pain that has now taken up residence in my right temple, in spite of a series of telephone calls with some very nasty people, in spite of these things, I choose to reflect on the water, which is partially the theme behind today’s images (still blue water).

The water was the first thing that I noticed this morning, and it has stayed with me all day long and well into night. Actually, one of the best things about living in this area is the proliferation of bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, numerous rivers and lakes, inlets and gullies. The very things that makes this area so dangerous during a hurricane is the very thing that I most love.

“It says we all are beautiful at least once.
And, if you’d watch over me, we can be beautiful again.” ~ D. A. Powell, from “Boonies”

Lake Hawea, New Zealand, by Kiwi Flickr (FCC)

Do you notice what you notice? I mean, are you aware of what seeps into your brain without deliberation? I know that I am not and that I do not, not noticeably, but then images come back to me like my own personal slideshow. But as with most of the images that I post, very few people take residence in them.

I am always astonished when Corey points out something to me that was right in front of me that I never caught myself. He definitely notices people, what they are wearing, how they are standing or walking. Someone once told me that he was attracted to me because of how I carried myself, so full of confidence. Of course, that was years ago.

The comment surprised me, though, because I don’t think that before that moment I had ever paid any attention to how I carried myself, and certainly never considered that I reflected confidence. People used to say that they found me intimidating, which also surprises me as I do not try to be so. I just am as I am, as it were.

Maybe years ago, when I still considered myself a professional with a career, I did exude confidence, but it was not a purposeful decision on my part. I think that perhaps many of us exude things without ever realizing it, which makes me wonder if I now exude a sense of hesitancy . . .

“The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.” ~ Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World

Dawn Reflections by stachelig (FCC)

Speaking of which, Eamonn told me the other night that I was a housewife . . . how incredibly insulting. I’m not married to my house or any other house. Don’t bother to tell me that being a housewife is an honorable profession. Staying at home full time to raise a family is indeed an honorable profession, a choice, one that requires numerous skills. But no one who stay at home to work is a housewife; it’s just such an insulting term.

I know that years ago it was perfectly acceptable, even desirable to be considered a housewife, but things change, dear. I did not start working full time in my teens and pursue three degrees so that I could be told that I’m married to my house.

Let’s just say that I’m semi-retired, and leave it at that.

Of course, Corey does not understand why the term is derogatory, but that is because he’s never been a woman who was fighting to be taken seriously in the workplace. He has never been a woman who was underpaid simply because she had a spouse, and her job was considered a “hobby.” He has never been in a situation in which he was called “missy” in a meeting in which he was the only female in a room full of retired generals and colonels, and he happened to be in charge.

Corey is a male, which does not preclude him having faced discrimination. That is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that because he is not female, and because he did not come of age during a time in which gender roles were being forever reshaped, he cannot possibly understand why the terminology is important. But sometimes, the word choice is everything.

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Lake Crabtree, NC by justindoub (FCC)

Actually, word choice is everything, the end all and be all as it controls thought, perception, attitude, response, hierarchy, power (or the lack of it). In the telephone conversation that I mentioned earlier, a man who I’ve never met tried to run roughshod on me by taking a hostile tone and increasing the volume on his voice. It did not work, and I simply told him, calmly (believe it or not), that this thing was not going to happen.

People use words and language all of the time to try to gain the upper hand, to try to intimidate; just as they use words to woo and to soothe, to placate and to pacify. They use words to assault and to provoke, and they use words to insinuate themselves where they are not necessarily wanted. They use words to evoke hate and to express love, words to reflect sorrow and words to encompass joy.

I have used words to my advantage my entire life. I know the power of choosing exactly the right word, and I know the power in inserting carefully selected words in a timely manner. I have used words as weapons and as balm. I am not proud of the former, and I try to offer more of the latter. I have wielded words as if they could cut to the bone, and in doing so, I have usually accomplished the emotional equivalent of that act. But as with most things in my life, I now wield words as weapons far less than I employ them in empathy.

Why do I tell you this? Perhaps as a cautionary tale. I know, unfortunately, what a bitter taste is left in the mouth after making a meal of words thrown out carelessly. And I can tell you without hesitation that even as they rebound upon the speaker, most words only gain power with use.

This, I know all too well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Eluvium, “When I Live by the Garden and the Sea” (which is where I hope to be someday)

                   

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

~ William Stafford