“We never know the quality of someone else’s life, though we seldom resist the temptation to assume and pass judgement.” ~ Tami Hoag, from Dark Horse

Henri Matisse, “Open Door, Brittany” (1896, oil on board)

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” ~ Paulo Coelho, from The Alchemist

Saturday afternoon, partly cloudy, 45 degrees.

Corey has gotten a ride into Coeburn to pick up the second round of shots for the puppies. The rescue coordinator managed to get someone to donate the shots, not sure who, but it’s a definite boon. The pups are a bit overdue for this round. Here’s hoping that the woman who was on tap to foster them will be willing to take them soon once they’ve gone through this round of vaccinations.

Richard Diebenkorn, “Interior with Doorway” (1962, oil on canvas)

Lately, when I make it into the living room in the morning, I really want to turn around and go back to bed and hide beneath the covers. The living room can best be described as a disaster area. Let me back up: When we moved, we bought an oversized bean bag chair at Sam’s that could be opened into a full-sized mattress. We slept on this  during the moving process. Recently, we decided to let the dogs sleep on it temporarily, mostly for Tillie’s arthritis. Since the arrival of the pups and goats, the bean bag has been appropriated at various times and is in a state of complete breakdown. Someone or the other made a hole in the middle of the cover, and it has become a game to pull out the pieces of memory foam with which it has been stuffed.

The living room floor is covered in pieces of memory foam, and as soon as I sweep, more pieces appear. It’s our own version of a ball pit, albeit one composed of memory foam. Why do I let the puppies do this,  you may wonder. I’m swimming against a tide composed of 17 rapidly growing puppies and two goat kids. What would you do? How would you go about handling all of this . . . this . . . what this is?

I know. You wouldn’t be in this situation, would you? You would have had the females spayed last year. Or you wouldn’t have taken on more dogs when Dallas died. Or you would have taken the puppies to any available shelter and been done with it. Or you would have put all of the animals in the big barn that doesn’t exist. Or you would have gathered all of your family and friends and held a big ol’ barn raising. Or you never would have moved onto a farm without the proper equipment, or structures, or working capital. Or………….

“but we can’t know what suffering will cost us.
It could cost the very self that longed for it,
that winked at its specter, lurking,
blueing the sky. In the wake of its coming,
the small boat of our souls—” ~ Eliza Griswold, from “In Another Year of Fewer Disappointments”

Sunday afternoon, overcast, 49 degrees.

So just as I began to fall into the familiar rhythm of writing, the laptop decided to throw the old problems at me: repeated scripts and constant screen blackouts. It was all too much, and so I abandoned the post in the hopes that I would be able to finish today. It’s odd, really, how one day this laptop will work just fine, and then the next, nothing works, or works consistently. Today seems to be a better day; you could almost believe that this machine has moods.

Almost.

Marcus Stone, “Doorway” (nd, oil on canvas)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, your smooth judgment of our ragged current state of affairs. Granted, I’m assuming that you are judging, and maybe you aren’t, but if the tables were turned, I would probably judge. That’s the kind of person that I am, or rather, used to be. I’ve become much kinder in the ways in which I view people and their circumstances. I suppose that it’s one of the benefits of being on the far side of youth: experience has in fact taught me not to be so swift in my condemnation of others, has taught me the pitfalls of doing so, among many other life lessons that youth in general can never begin to understand.

The fact is that I probably judge myself much more harshly than anyone else ever could. My critical eye is most keen when turned inward. Funny, I just remembered something that my first serious boyfriend said to me, quite without malice—that I should be a critic when I grew up because I was always criticizing everyone and everything. I was maybe 15 at the time. I wonder how I had already become so damned cynical at such a young age, but truthfully, I don’t have to wonder much. My mother was one of the most judgmental people that I have ever encountered. Hands down.

My Aunt Betty, my mom’s best friend for years, once used the word deluge to describe a heavy rain that had been going on for days, and I remember my mom being so put out about the word, going on and on about how Betty used these strange words. But I also remember that at the time I thought that it was such a cool-sounding word, and I immediately looked it up in the dictionary (you know, those books we used pre-Google). So weird when those little blips of memory arrive unbidden.

But I digress . . .

“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life —where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” ~ Miranda July, from It Chooses You

Back to my assessment of my critical eye and my mother: She was always most critical of those closest to her—me, my dad, her family, her friends. I’m not sure if any of us ever measured up, so I’m not surprised that I too grew up to be hyper critical, but for the most part, I have reserved that criticism for those outside of my inner circle, so I was truly surprised when that boyfriend made that comment. I denied it and laughed it off, but alone with my thoughts, I mulled it over. Was I that critical? And for that matter, how does one go about being paid to criticize?

John Singer Sargent, “Venetian Doorway” (c1902, watercolor on paper)

So as regards the current situation in which we no find ourselves—anything that you could say or think, I have already said and thought. Like it or not, having three bitches become impregnated is irresponsible, regardless of the reasons that led to such a turn of events. Corey and I never quite seem to be able to make it to this side of being responsible adults, at least not when it comes to finances. Try as we might, we never seem to get it right, so we keep finding ourselves in these impossible situations.

How does that happen exactly? Seriously. How?

We genuinely try and try and try. We have no extravagances in our lives now, never go to bars or movies, never buy clothes, rarely buy books, never go out to eat. His biggest personal expense is cigarettes, and mine is makeup/skincare, but even those things have been pared back to the barest of bones. We do have internet, and we do have a television subscription service (a cable alternative), but being able to at least watch a few key shows is frankly one of the only things keeping me sane.

“Sometimes you imagine that everything could have been different for you, that if only you had gone right one day when you chose to go left, you would be living a life you could never have anticipated. But at other times you think there was no other way forward–that you were always bound to end up exactly where you have.” ~ Kevin Brockmeier, from The View from the Seventh Layer

I have no answers to any of this. Right now, my biggest concern is transferring these puppies to the rescue people and then doing a major deep clean of the house. Exciting, right?

And in the meantime, I keep questioning my life choices and wondering how and why it seems that an emotional bomb exploded and destroyed any normalcy I once had in my life. I continue to wonder how best to fix everything that is wrong while simultaneously wondering if any of this is in fact fixable. Look, I know that few people actually have lives that are as seamless as they might appear. Behind the safety of doors firmly fixing outside factors and circumstances externally, what happens inside, physically or mentally, can never truly be known by others.

So this brings me back to my original query: What would you do? What would anyone do? How do people with seemingly smooth-sailing lives handle it when it all goes to hell? Drugs? Alcohol? Emotional addictions? I’m not being facetious. Truly. When Corey makes my morning cup of coffee, I ask him to add opium. Am I joking? Yes. No. Probably.

Panaylotis Tetsis, “French Door” (1961)

Let me back up. I don’t have a drug problem. In fact, it would be damned hard for me to do so, first because of the money such a thing would take, and second, and more importantly, because I hate relinquishing control, to anyone or anything, which is why I’ve never even tried anything more than pot and speed (way back in the day). But it feels good to make such facetious comments because it lets me know that I haven’t completely lost myself, haven’t lost the sardonic side, haven’t lost the small ability to make feeble jokes in the face of mountains of ca ca.

And so I continue to slog through it as best I can, and while that may not seem the best way to handle things, especially to someone just looking in, it’s the only way I can, the only way I know how. And that means that at this precise moment, there is a passel of puppies sleeping in a scrum on the bean bag behind me. Small pieces of memory foam cover at least half the surface of the living room floor. Corey is in the kitchen with the two goats and the rest of the puppies trying to put together soup for our dinner, and my most recent to-do list was probably shredded by the goats when I wasn’t looking.

Ask me next week how things are, and I probably won’t be able to cite any major changes or improvements in our current circumstances. But at least we’ll be here, on the ridge, in the midst of over 100 acres of rambling land just ripe with possibilities. And perhaps that’s the most important word of all: possibilities.

There are still possibilities. And so I go on.

More later. Peace.


Music by Onuka, “Time”


Sometimes, When the Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

~ Lisel Mueller

 

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“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.” ~ Joan Didion

The Golden Horse in Iceland by Stuck in Customs*

“and you will somehow
get through the slow days and the busy days and the dull
days and the hateful days and the rare days, all both so delightful
and so disappointing because
we are all so alike and so different.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “gamblers all”

Friday afternoon. Cool, high 40’s.

Most of this week has been quite mild, with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. I wonder if we’re going to have any kind of winter this year.

Stone Hut in the Morning Light, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

Corey is not leaving this week. Another postponement, but with a twist: the company rep called and asked Corey if he’d like to go ahead and get on the Pacific run. Corey said that he’d rather wait for the ship he’s supposed to be on. He’s tired of all of the changes and just wants to go as planned. I told him that he made the right decision. Going to the Pacific would be a huge change, and one that neither of us are ready for. We had discussed the possibility of him shipping out in the Pacific one day, but not now. So more waiting . . .

I went to the neurologist on Tuesday, only for her to tell me that essentiallythere was nothing new that we could do, no new meds on the horizon, nothing, so we would just continue with the treatment that we’re doing, and try the Botox shots again . . . she’ll see me again in a year. Now this might seem like same old, same old, but what torques me out of shape is that the last time I spoke to her nurse, the nurse was quite adamant that the doctor had to see me on a regular basis to continue prescribing my meds, but the doctor tells me that she really sees no need to see me more than once a year.

So the shots are scheduled for February 21. Supposedly, they will be stronger this time. Let’s hope so, as I’ll be paying out of pocket, and I’d really like for them to last more than six weeks, which is all that I got last time. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see . . .

Waiting . . .

“I am a recluse at present & do nothing but write & read & read & write.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume 1: 1903-1917

I received a lovely surprise in the mail a few days ago: Leah, a faithful reader and commenter, send me a birthday card and some chocolate. She’s such a thoughtful person, and it was really a  nice surprise. I’ve already sampled some of the chocolate . . . I suppose I’m over my holiday chocolate overload.

Summer House in Isafjordur, Iceland (with elve house to left), by Stuck in Customs

Corey put together the desk that we got for our bedroom. We got it on clearance, and it’s very roomy as it has a hutch. Once we moved my corner desk into Eamonn’s room, Corey vowed that we wouldn’t be moving it back as it got stuck in the door and was a pain to maneuver. So now I have a new desk, and I’ve been moving things out of Eamonn’s room and into our room. It will be nice to have my little corner of the room workspace again. Of course, my computer is still dead as I need a motherboard that actually fits.

I have managed to find one from a reputable wholesaler that does not cost the three hundred dollars that it was listed for in several other place. (I love the Internet). But of course, I now must wait for the $100 that it will cost to install.

Waiting . . .

“Once, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a ship for several hours, during a furious storm, so that he could later paint the storm. Obviously, it was not the storm itself that Turner intended to paint. What he intended to paint was a representation of the storm. One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.” ~ David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress

One of my favorite poets passed away a few days ago, Wislawa Szymborska. I have a collection of her poems on my wish list for Amazon. Admittedly, I never had a real appreciation for Polish poets before I started my Tumblr, but I really love her work.

The Silent Horse in the Fog, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

I also have another Polish poet on my wish list, Czeslaw Milosz. I still have my Amazon gift card from Christmas, and I haven’t used it yet because I keep changing my mind. I really need to get a new dictionary, and the American Heritage one that I want lists for $37, so do I get the poets that I want or the dictionary that I really could use?

I know that the idea of a paper dictionary is foreign to many people, but I do so love having a good one, and after years of buying new editions, I know that I prefer the American Heritage version over the Webster’s. Personal preference, I know, but when I was in the graduate program at Virgina Tech, the department gave all of us brand new American Heritage dictionaries, and I used that thing until it fell apart.

So what should I order? All of it, preferably . . .

“The memory is cursed with what hasn’t happened.” ~ Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair

I was on tumblr until 4 this morning. Another one of those restless nights . . .

So last night I had one of those end-of-the-world dreams. I was in some town, and all of the people were contracting some kind of deadly virus. I wanted to leave the area, but of course, the military was shooting anyone who tried to leave, so I convinced a small group of people to leave with me. I know that at first there were six or seven of us, but by the end there were only three, two men and myself.

Sleeping In, Iceland, by Stuck in Customs

Somewhere in the middle was this really bizarre scene (more bizarre than the dream as a whole) in which Leonardo DiCaprio was deranged and trying to fight this battle on a rooftop, and then I was fighting him, and I realized that my c-clamp was not attached to my harness but instead, was attached to a belt loop, and I knew that wouldn’t support me.

Anyway, after the rooftop confrontation, I was in a big SUV with the original six or seven people, and I turned down a street, and we all heard a baby crying, and I wanted to stop and look for the baby, but we saw too many people, and realized that if we stopped for the baby, we had to stop for all of them, and we didn’t have the room.

Then, the two men and I were walking (don’t know what happened to the SUV), and there was a little snack shop on the street that hadn’t closed. The guy working there told us that we could have some water, but we ended up doing some food shopping, and I told the guy that I would come back on Tuesday if the world didn’t end and pay him for what we took. He seemed to be okay with that. Where does this stuff in my mind come from?

“The cloud is free only to go with the wind. The rain is free only in falling.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett is having dinner with his father tonight. After last week’s funeral, Brett came home and told me that he and his dad are going to try to spend more time together. This shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I suppose it’s more of my misplaced righteous indignation on behalf of someone else—his dad has ignored him for years, so now he wants to make up for it? I need to get over it and be happy for my son. I know that it has had to hurt not to be in his dad’s life in the past few years. Perhaps I’m jealous? Insecure? All of the above? Who knows . . .

The Lonely Grass House, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

Anyway, I wanted to get this post up before I get back to sorting through old office supplies and doing other chores. My obsession with office supplies has not waned even though I no longer work full time. Books, office supplies, nail polish, black boots, squishy leather purses—things that make me happy and keep my mind occupied. It’s the little things, isn’t it?

Speaking of things that I need to do, I have told Eamonn and Brett that I’ll do their taxes for them. Eamonn really needs the funds to pay for his big traffic ticket, and I also need to do our taxes and this year’s FAFSAs. God do I hate doing forms like those.

So many different sites offer free e-filing, but what they don’t tell you until you are in the middle is that the state form will be an additional fee, so I’m doing free federal for the boys on one site, and then their state filing on the Virginia site, which isn’t too bad as they are both simple forms. It’s just a pain.

I suppose that’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

*All images are taken from Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs site, Iceland Collection (under a Creative Commons license)

Music by The Twilight Singers, featuring Mark Lanegan, “Be Invited”

                   

Sometimes, When the Light
Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood
and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows
or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,
you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows
something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous
that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

By Lisel Mueller