“I put out my hand and the dark falls through it.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Before That”

A winter coated Aukštaitijos National Park, Lithuania

                    

“I like the dark part of the night, after midnight and before four-thirty, when it’s hollow, when ceilings are harder and farther away. Then I can breathe, and can think while others are sleeping, in a way can stop time, can have it so–this has always been my dream–so that while everyone else is frozen, I can work busily about them, doing whatever it is that needs to be done, like the elves who make the shoes while children sleep.” ~ Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Monday, later afternoon. Much warmer, 50’s.

A bad weekend as far as sleeping goes. I realize the insomnia is probably stress-related, the anticipation of what’s coming, but geez it’s a pain.

Stripeikiai Honeymaking Museum, Lithuania

Saturday night Corey convinced me to watch 28 Days Later, a zombie movie. Normally, I don’t like zombie movies, but what he failed to mention was that this particular movie was more of a drama, so I actually liked it, enough to say, “let’s watch the sequel,” 28 Weeks Later, which we did, which meant that by 5:30 in the morning, I was wide awake, and watching special features.

Consequently, I awoke with a headache yesterday afternoon, and the headache progressed into a migraine. Lovely.

Last night wasn’t much better, even though we weren’t watching any movies. What was particularly bad was that I actually fell asleep around 11:30, but then I woke up an hour later and couldn’t get back to sleep . . . so 4 a.m. and another headache today. We were awakened by Eamonn coming into our room to show us the flowers that he had bought for his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day and his demand that I do something with them for him. Great.

How did it get to be Valentine’s Day is really the question that I need to ask . . .

“For me, one of the most important knowings I have now . . . it’s literally beyond words. It comes from a place of silence. There’s no way in words to capture what it is. And so the challenge of writing is how do you capture what has no words. Because in the expression, you lose it.” ~ Dr. James Orbinski, Triage: Dr.James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma

So Corey is not leaving today, obviously. His plans have changed—no, really? Quelle surprise . . .

Apparently, the shipping company is having some problems with the Coast Guard inspection, hence the delay. Corey spoke with his contact today, and there is nothing definite yet. This is both good and bad news: good because we get a few more days together, bad because we were already in the mindset that he was going, good because we can get a few more things done around here, bad because Corey had himself taken off the schedule for his other job . . .

Trakai Castle, Lithuania

In other words, nothing new in the lovely existence that is our world, the world of topsy turvey.

But towards the goal of taking care of things, last night Corey bathed all three dogs. Then the real fun began: we needed to cut the boy dogs’ nails. This involves putting on a muzzle as neither of them are well-behaved when getting their nails cut. We did Shakes first as he is the worst, and somehow he managed to get out of his muzzle and bite Corey’s hand. The whole ordeal was a fiasco from start to finish. The only thing that we have to show for it is clean dogs with trimmed nails and a sore hand for Corey.

I did my first aid thing and applied lots of antibiotic ointment, sterile gauze and tape. This outcome is precisely why we wait so long to cut their nails.

I remember that I had the same problem with my old dog Ascot; the vet gave me a tranquilizer to give her before I cut her nails the next time. I gave her the tranquilizer, and she appeared to be sufficiently stoned, but then when I cut the first nail, she came to life and bit me. Had to get a tetanus shot that time. I know that the dogs must sense apprehension in me, which heightens their own apprehension, but I just can’t help it. Perhaps I should have taken the tranquilizer.

“What did you think,
that joy was some slight thing?” ~ Mark Doty, from “Visitation

So over the weekend the temperature dropped, and we had snow flurries, but by the morning, the snow was gone. The wind kicked up significantly, which made the sliding door rattle and shake. One of the things on our to-do list in the house is to replace the insulation, which I know is shoddy. I had to stop watching “Holmes on Holmes” because the list of new products that I want to try in the house when we proceed with the renovation has gotten ridiculous, but I love that spray on insulation that he uses. Very cool.

Jesuit Church, Kaunas, Lithuania

Yes, I can even get excited over insulation. Sad, I know, and yet more proof that I do not leave this house nearly enough.

All of this reinforced for me that I do not like the cold unless it is accompanied by snow. Bitter cold is nasty, and such weather always brings to mind those movies in which men appear with frost in their moustaches, and everyone’s breath comes out like exhalations of smoke. And while that is all very romantic in the movies, it is not nearly so in real life.

Add to this that the cold has quite deleterious effects on my body—stiff hands, aching back and neck. Joy, joy, joy. (Oh, unintentional play on the quote . . .)

“First, he says, you have to go out into the world. This is not a simple matter of going outside one’s door. No, that is simply going out. That’s what one does when one is on the way to the store to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. When one goes out into the world, one is shedding preconceptions of past paths and ideas of past paths, and trying to move freely through an unsubstantiated and new geography. ” ~ Jesse Ball, The Way Through Doors

Speaking of getting out, Corey did a little research on Lithuania and discovered these two disconcerting facts: The country has the highest suicide rate in the world, and the highest homicide rate in Europe. Those are not good statistics no matter how you look at it.

Hill of Crosses Near Siauliai, Lithuania, by percivalsmithers (FCC)

I told him that he should not leave the boat while he is there. Of course, most of Europe views the U.S. as one large old West expanse in which everyone owns a gun, and simply walking around leaves one at risk for attack. We fear that which we do not know.

But what do I know, anyway? To prove myself wrong, I decided to search for images of Lithuania, which I have included in today’s post (of course I put the snowy one on top). What I discovered was some lovely Medieval architecture, beautiful churches, and this place called the Hill of Crosses, which is located in northern Lithuania near Šiauliai, the fourth largest city in the country.

According to one site, “There are tens of thousands of crosses planted on a hillside in Lithuania in Kryžiu Kalnas. No one knows for sure why the custom started, but the crosses began appearing in the 14th century . . . The city of Siauliai was founded in 1236 and controlled by Teutonic Knights during the 14th century. The tradition of placing crosses seems to date from this period and may have risen as a symbol of Lithuanian defiance toward foreign invaders. Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression.”

“The pact between page and voice is different from the compact of voice and body. The voice opens the body . . . The page wants proof, but bonds. The body cannot keep the voice. It spills.” ~ Rosmarie Waldrop, from Reluctant Gravities

So I’ll close with this little section on the Grammy Awards. I don’t usually watch awards shows as I find them very boring, but I tuned in last night for two reasons, we don’t have cable at the moment, so I couldn’t watch my regular channels, and also, I wanted to see Adele’s live performance (post-surgery). I never made it that far into the show.

Russian Orthodox Church, Lithuania, by AntoniO BovinO (FCC)

I mean, I loved hearing the Jason Aldean/Kelly Clarkson duet, and I thought that I would like Sir Paul’s performance, but instead, I found it rather sad: his voice has lost something in recent years.

But what did it for me, what made me turn off the show was the whole Chris Brown thing. As with most things, I haven’t forgotten that Chris Brown beat the crap out of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. However, it seems that the industry has forgotten this little aspect of his personality. Perhaps he’s cured in their eyes . . . not. He not only performed (on the same stage that Rihanna later performed on), but he won a Grammy.

P’shaw.

I don’t expect celebrities to be perfect, nor do I idolize them. I do, however, know that many, many impressionable young minds look up to people in the music industry. So what does this turn of events say? That it’s okay to very publicly abuse your significant other as long as you have anger-management treatment, and then everyone can just go ahead with their lives as if nothing happened? And in fact, we’ll reward you three years later because you are just that good?

Puleez. I mean, really. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt this way, angered by seeing Brown strut like a peacock across the stage, as this article in the Chicago Tribune attests:

In an op-ed, Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post said that while people deserve second chances, “That doesn’t mean they deserve a chance to strut around the Grammy stage a few years after being convicted of felony assault.”

Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic tweeted: “I don’t look for the Grammys for moral clarity, but, really? Do the words ‘felony assault’ mean anything at all?”

Enough said.

More later. Peace.

One more image:

Senamiestus, Vilnius, Lithuania, by Sarunas Burdulis (FCC)

Music by Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Want to Stay” (seems appropriate)

                   

From Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs

1.
The deepest words
of the wise men teach us
the same as the whistle of the wind
when it  blows
or the sound of the water when it is
flowing.

2.
Mankind  owns four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars,
and the fear of going down.

3.
Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important:
waking up.

4.
Pay attention now:
a heart that’s all by itself
is not a heart.

~ Antonio Machado (trans. Robert Bly)

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“ . . . Our real fears are the sounds of footsteps walking in the corridors of our minds, and the anxieties, the phantom floatings, they create.” ~ Truman Capote

Cottage in Bowd, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

“But mostly they were lies I told; it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t remember, because it was as though I’d been to one of those supernatural castles visited by characters in legends: once away, you do not remember, all that is left is the ghostly echo of haunting wonder.” ~ Truman Capote

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy and warm, mid 60’s.

Cottage, Hemingford Abbots by gillpenney (FCC)

I slept fourteen hours last night, with only a few interruptions. The house was very quiet and the dogs accommodating. I feel better for it. The choice was between doing the dishes, folding clothes or beginning a post. Not much of a choice really. So here I am.

Last night, the kids went with their father to their grandfather’s house. Corey picked up Brett from his night class and dropped him off there. I imagine that it was one of those uncomfortable gatherings in which people spoke about nothing of consequence as the reality was much too hard to acknowledge. My heart aches for the loss my children are feeling, and I feel strangely guilty that I don’t feel more.

I’m not sure if my heart is in protective mode, in denial, or completely closed off. I would truly hate to think that my distaste for the evil-step-m-in-law is clouding everything that I feel about this man. That would be too, too small-minded. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I just don’t know how to express this, so perhaps I shouldn’t even try.

“Still, when all is said, somewhere one must belong: even the soaring falcon returns to its master’s wrist.” ~ Truman Capote, from Summer Crossing

Well the other big news is that Corey will be going to Lithuania next week . . . yes, you heard me: Lithuania. You know, that little country on the Baltic Sea?

Rustic Kitchen (photographer unknown)

Apparently, that’s where the ship is in the yard, and the company is putting on a minimal crew to move the ship from there to Cape Canaveral, where it will begin its new route. At first, we thought that he would be leaving this Saturday, but now the departure date has been extended a week.

This change in plans means that Corey will have to pack for both cold (very cold) weather and warm weather. He has mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, Lithuania? But at least we now have a clearer departure date, which means that we can all begin to acclimate ourselves to the idea of his leaving.

Truthfully, I know that it’s not going to really hit me until he is gone—the idea of him being gone for more than a few weeks is hard to wrap my brain around. I mean, everything changes, absolutely everything. I’m really hoping that my breathing is back to normal before he goes because Tillie the lab is going to need some daily exercise so that she doesn’t get lazy or out of shape. I plan to do morning walks with her, but breathing without wheezing is actually a necessity for such things.

“The wind is us—it gathers and remembers all our voices, then sends them talking and telling through the leaves and the fields.” ~ Truman Capote

Anyway . . .

Now that I’m beginning to actually feel better, feel as if I’m getting some energy back, I look around at all of the things that I need to do: I need to do everyone’s taxes, need to complete next year’s financial aid for Brett and Corey, need to deal with the pile of whatever in the corner of my room. It’s so easy to throw a shirt on a stool, but before you know it, the shirt has morphed into some kind of dark blob that has taken on a life of its own.

This bathroom here . . .

Thankfully, all of the Christmas decorations are packed away. I ended up doing most of that myself as I knew that I would. In moments like that, I almost agree with my mother’s declarations that decorating is a waste of time. I said almost . . .

Overall, the house needs a really good cleaning, and I haven’t felt up to it in weeks and weeks, so now everything is reaching critical mass, well at least in my eyes. I often wonder what happened to the woman who used to clean the entire house each Saturday—polishing the furniture, scrubbing the floors, vacuuming everything—where did she go? Perhaps she left in exhaustion. Of course, that woman got by on five or six hours of sleep a night, exercised each morning before work, and worked full time.

Yes, exhaustion . . .

But as I said, a change is indeed going to come to the abode, and everyone needs to get on board.

“So the days, the last days, blow about in a memory, hazy autumnal, all alike as leaves: until a day unlike any other I’ve lived.” ~ Truman Capote

I came across a Truman Capote quote on my tumblr dash, and thought to myself, “yes, it is indeed a Capote kind of day.” I have long admired his descriptive abilities. It’s as if his diminutive body was filled with nothing but words, words that he poured forth in huge bursts, and then when he ran out of words, he stopped living.

This view from my bedroom window . . .

He died quite young in 1984 at only 59, of liver cancer, a result of years of alcohol and drug abuse. I always think of Capote in terms of burning out rather than fading away.

I remember assigning “A Diamond Guitar,” a Capote short story in one of my American literature classes. What was interesting was how much some of the students really hated one of the characters. To accomplish such a thing among audiences is a good indication of how the characters were so well drawn, enough to give rise to hate and empathy. It was the same semester that I assigned Carson McCullers’s novel Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I saw/still see many parallels between McCullers and Capote, their writing, their tortured lives.

I do so miss teaching literature. It used to distress me to no end when one of the boys would come home from school and tell me that his English teacher said that X story meant Y and only Y. Teaching literature in a vacuum is unpardonable in my eyes . . .

“Did you ever, in that wonderland wilderness of adolescence ever, quite unexpectedly, see something, a dusk sky, a wild bird, a landscape, so exquisite terror touched you at the bone? And you are afraid, terribly afraid the smallest movement, a leaf, say, turning in the wind, will shatter all? That is, I think, the way love is, or should be: one lives in beautiful terror.” ~ Truman Capote

I know that you will probably think me quite mad, but in thinking about all of the things that I need to do around here in this house, my thoughts are drawn back to the kind of house I used to imagine I would be living in when I was young. I never imagined a brick ranch in the suburbs, and I have no desire to live in a cookie-cutter McMansion. I always thought that I would be living in a log cabin or a big open loft, or an old farmhouse. The idea of living in a rambling tree house is also quite appealing, the very hap-hazardous nature of such a structure.

This potting shed-cum-writing studio . . .

I envision white rooms that are not carpeted with wall-to-wall, but colorful rugs, lots of toss pillows, comfortable niches in which to curl up and read. The kitchen would be like a farmhouse, with an old solid wood table. The bathroom (or at least one of them) would have a claw-footed bathtub. The floors throughout would be wood planks, and the windows would open out not up.

Outside would be an huge herb garden—lavender, mint, verbena, rosemary, thyme, Russian sage—the smells from which would drift in through the open windows. There would be lots of trees, perhaps a small orchard, wildflowers and roses, climbing vines around the front door. Birds would be frequent visitors. As would butterflies and dragonflies.

Adirondack chairs on the back lawn. Within view, would be the sea.

My whitewashed country cottage by the sea. Some dreams never die.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Bradley Adams, “Wait for the Faithless”

                   

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words