I thought that I’d add something a little different to today’s leftovers post. I was trying to fall asleep when I thought of this list of firsts:
word that pops into your head: palimpsest
song that pops into your head: “House of the Rising Sun”
TV theme show you think of: “Gilligan’s Island”
smell that reaches your nose: freshly mown grass
sound you hear: a rooster crowing
name of first person you think of (not a relative): Sarah
name of first person you think of (relative): Alexis
artist you think of: Van Gogh
classical composer that comes to mind: Chopin
author you think of: Tolkien
poet you think of: Anne Sexton
kind of food that comes to mind: peanut butter cup
drink that pops into your head: chocolate milkshake
movie title you think of: Legends of the Fall
fictional character that comes to mind: Sherlock Holmes
Vintage newspaper articles:
Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, and violence became endemic. Mouse society had collapsed.
Beneath the surface of Japan’s Tateyama Bay stands a shrine called a torii, sacred to the Shinto religion. But more than being a place of spiritual importance, the underwater site is host to something else that’s remarkable — a unique friendship between a man and a fish.
For more than two decades, a local diver named Hiroyuki Arakawa has been entrusted with overseeing the shrine and being a guide to others who wish to visit it. In that time, he’s become well-acquainted with the local marine animals who live in the area — including one friendly Asian sheepshead wrasse named Yoriko.
Over the course of 25 years, the pair have forged an incredible bond based on trust and respect.
Perhaps the sweetest testament to their friendship can be seen in Arakawa’s custom of greeting Yoriko with a kiss.
I used to have a beautiful Samoyed named Sasha. I’d love to have another one:
Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 72 degrees.
I’ve decided to do another one of those surveys that I had in my drafts folder. Don’t really know why, but it just seemed like a thing to do. So here goes . . .
If you could . . .
Travel anywhere, where would it be? My dream is to take a very long vacation trip to Europe, beginning in Ireland, traveling all over the UK, and then other cities in Europe, including Prague, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, and the South Coast of Iceland, among others.
Meet anyone, who would it be? This is hard to narrow to one. The people I would most like to meet are prolific authors such as Margaret Atwood or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling so that I could talk to the about character development. I would like to meet the Dalai Lama and the Pope, not because I’m religious but because I think that the conversations would be incredible. I would also like to meet Peter Jackson, just because . . .
Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be? This one is very, very hard. Personally, I would bring back family members like my parents, if only to be kinder and more involved with them. I would bring back Caitlin, of course, but only if she could be healthy. And I would bring back Sylvia Plath and William Shakespeare, because, again, I would love to have conversations with them.
Be anyone for a day, who would it be? I would like to be president for a day, or maybe a week, because so much in this country needs to be fixed.
Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? This one is easy: books, books, and books. And after books, makeup, just for fun. And third would be shoes/boots, even though I never leave the house.
Change one thing about your living situation what would it be? I would fix our financial situation; I’m not talking about being rich or winning the lottery, but just being comfortable enough not to be worrying about finances all of the time. The stress from this situation can be paralyzing. The other thing I would want to change is the distance from my kids.
Have any superpower what would it be? Not invisibility. Not flying. Not super strength. I would rather have the ability to time travel. Can you just imagine the things that you could see and do? Or I would like to be a true medium, if there is such a thing.
Have one living person back in your life that is not a relative, who would it be? Mari. I miss having her in my life on a daily basis. Also, Kathleen and Rebecca.
Change one thing about the world what would it be? I would fix global warming, because so many things are related to this: food production, fresh water, viability in certain parts of the world. In my mind, this is the most pressing problem facing humanity.
Repair one relationship, which would you choose? My relationship with my youngest son. I would give anything to be able to know how to fix this as it is a constant, deep source of personal pain.
Have your dream house, what would it look like? I would have a log house with wooden beams and lots of big windows, a large kitchen, at least two bathrooms, one of which would have a claw-footed soaking tub, four bedrooms, one big enough for a king-sized bed, a room just for my books, a wrap-around porch, a greenhouse, a writing shed, and an in-ground pool with an attached hot tub.
Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? I would probably change my arms, which sounds weird, but I’ve always wanted to have Linda Hamilton arms from the second Terminator movie. I think that toned arms are very sexy, but even when I was working out all of the time, I couldn’t get my arms to look the way that I wanted them to look.
Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? I think that I’d get rid of either my self-doubt or my tendency to obsess over things that cannot be changed. But I should probably change my body dysmorphia. See, that obsessive stuff again . . .
Refine or perfect one thing that you think you are good at, what would you choose? I would like to be a more productive writer, as in actually doing something with my writing. I think that I have genuine talent as a writer, but I am not productive in the true sense.
Forget one event in your life which would you choose? I would love so much not to remember a few things in my life. You might think that I would like to forget holding Caitlin as she died, but I never want to forget that or forget her short life. In contrast, I wish that I could forget the one time in my life in which something happened because I had too much to drink. That memory still comes back to haunt me, and to this day I do not like to overindulge because of that loss of control.
Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? Nazi Germany and all of the other historical genocides, like Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Darfur, Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and many, many more. Killing people simply because they are others has been such a blight on humanity, but it keeps happening.
Meet one notorious person from history, who would it be? This one is hard. I’m fascinated by psychopaths, but from a distance. Would I really want to spend a few hours with Bundy or Manson? Honestly, I don’t know.
Live in any country/city, where would you choose? Ireland. It’s always been Ireland, and I have come to realize that this will never happen, and that still breaks my heart a little.
Change one law in your country, which would you change? Hard to pick just one: I would make the anti-stalking laws better defined and easier to enforce; I would make marriage equality a law of the land; I would make the Equal Rights Amendment part of the Constitution, but most of all, I would protect a woman’s right to choose nationally, eliminating all of those draconian state laws. If you know anyone who has died from an illegal abortion, this will always be a hot button issue.
Have any job in the world, which would you choose? I have always wanted to work for a publishing company; I mean, I’ve wanted to do this since I was a teenager. I got a publishing degree and then never got a job to go with it. Why? I can only blame myself.
Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? Again, hard to pick just one, and small enough to fit in a pocket is particularly hard: my Uncle’s ring that we lost years ago; a gold walnut that my mother had that I wasn’t able to find after she died; a Thai princess ring that my dad gave me, which I lost when I was young; a star sapphire that fell out of a different ring that my dad gave me—I guess it’s mostly sentimental pieces of family jewelry.
Meet any individual who exists in film or print, who would it be? Yoda, from Star Wars, or Aragorn, from the Lord of the Rings book, or Tyrion from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Again, just think of the conversations that you could have, and even though Tyrion was created in Martin’s books, I love Peter Dinklage’s portrayal.
Change one thing from your childhood, what would it be? I always wanted siblings, but I suppose that wasn’t really up to me. If not siblings, then I would have liked to be bi-lingual. Why did I never learn Tagalog?
Get rid of one thing in society, what would it be? Social media. It’s destroying actual social interaction. It’s too easy to be cruel when you live virtually. It’s too easy to forget how to deal with people in real life if you never move away from your screens.
Have a different career, what would you choose? Medicine or law, both of which I seriously considered. Or, marine biology. It never occurred to me when I was young and choosing a field that I could train in a career other than English because you can write no matter what career you have. I know that now. Hindsight.
Eat only one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dessert: pies, Tiramisu, cheesecake, pudding, but only if it didn’t affect my blood sugar. A close second would be fresh fruit.
It’s a really hard Mother’s Day for me. Don’t want to get into why. Suffice it to say that it’s a continuation of my mental landslide . . .
What She Taught Me
She taught me linking verbs, predicate nouns,
long division, have a Kleenex ready, an apple
a day. She taught me three-quarter time, Greenwich
Mean Time. She taught me do re mi, Mexicali Rose,
Rose, Rose, my Rose of San Antone. She taught me
Peas Peas Peas Peas, Eating Goober Peas.
She taught me that a peanut is a goober pea
in certain parts of the world, that it is fine
for things to be different in different parts
of the world, no two goobers alike in their
dry red skins, their pock-marked pods,
that there are latitudes and longitudes we have
never seen, that she had seen some part,
and so would I, that I need not
forego either the swings or baseball, that spelling
is on Friday and it is OK to learn more
than one list, including the hard list; it is not
showing off—it is using what you have.
That using what you have will not please
everybody, that marrying a man of a different stripe
is not a popular thing in a small town in the fifties,
and divorcing and coming home with a child
is even worse, and that you
get up every morning anyway,
and do your work.
~ Marjorie Saiser
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
I wish that I could say that the days have gotten better, but they have not. I wish that I could say that I have finally found the answers, but I have not. I wish that I could say that forgiveness was easy, but it is not.
No one I ask knows the name of the flower
we pulled the car to the side of the road to pick
and that I point to dangling purple from my lapel.
I am passing through the needle of spring
in North Carolina, as ignorant of the flowers of the south
as the woman at the barbecue stand who laughs
and the man who gives me a look as he pumps the gas
and everyone else I ask on the way to the airport
to return to where this purple madness is not seen
blazing against the sober pines and rioting along the
On the plane, the stewardess is afraid she cannot answer
my question, now insistent with the fear that I will leave
the province of this flower without its sound in my ear.
Then, as if he were giving me the time of day, a passenger
looks up from his magazine and says wisteria.
It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.
This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.
The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.
Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.
But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.
Music by Angus and Julia Stone, “Choking”
Choking on these words
You can leave now
Oh haven’t you heard
You can leave now
We stand there like statues from different cities
Both warriors of the same war
Both victors of our territories
Why do I feel so small?
Oh you’ve got it all figured out
What will be will be
Fine work from a sailor’s hand
Who’s always running away
In between all your complex ideas
Found out how love should be
When you get the time to feel anything
Anything real for me
Oh you’ve got it all figured out
What will be will be
Fine words from a sailor’s son
Who’s always running away
I don’t want your sympathy
Don’t quote me another phrase
I understand all your philosophies
But it hurts me just the same
Choking on these words
You can leave now
Oh haven’t you heard
You can leave now
“Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house—the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture—must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstitutred. Imbued with new meaning.” ~ Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things
Sunday early evening. Sunny and cooler, 57 degrees.
So much going through my brain, thoughts coming at me, bombarding my senses, leaving me feeling bruised and broken.
Last night as I lay in bed, sleep elusive once again, I began to wonder when it was, exactly, that I lost my strength, my fortitude, as it were. I used to consider myself such a strong person, a person able to weather storms, a person who could take the worst that life heaped on my plate and still, somehow, survive.
But now? Now I cannot find that strength. I search and search, and I only find weakness, and weakness is to be pitied, and pity? Pity is to be scorned. Who wants pity? At least if someone hates you, that hatred encapsulates a strong emotion. Pity bears nothing. It is hollow and useless.
“My mind is blank, as indifferent as the noonday heat. But images of memories descend from afar and land in the bowl of water, neutral memories, neither painful nor joyful, such as a walk in a pine forest, or waiting for a bus in the rain, and I wash them as intently as if I had a literary crystal vase in my hands.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from “A coloured cloud”
My heart feels old. My soul feels rent. My mind feels spent. And I have to wonder who decided that life should always be hard, that the good days should always have a shadow cast upon them. I have to wonder how other people survive in this world, this world so full of heartbreak and sorrow. How do the strong survive? How do the weak find the strength to try once again?
It’s all such a mystery to me. I can discern no patterns. Perhaps all of the patterns I once saw were only an illusion. It’s all too much like a fogged pane of glass, a window that steam has cloaked, and then that steam devolves into rivulets that run down the pane so quickly to nothing.
We sleep. We wake. We love, and we hate. We eat, and we cry, and we make love as if it were the last time. We lie and we steal, and we move against one another. We forge alliances and then just as easily break them. We speak decisively, and we wonder what we speak. We cling and we rend, and we scream until sound fails us. We fall and fall again. We turn and turn again.
“To be left with only the trace of a memory is to gaze at an armchair that’s still molded to the form of a love who has left never to return: it is to grieve, it is to weep.” ~ Orhan Pamuk, from The Black Book
At different points in my life, I have felt as if I knew exactly what fate had in store for me. So clear was the way ahead. So determined was the heart beating in my breast. And then at other times I have felt as if the roads that I took were actually part of one large labyrinth, seeming to move in one direction, when in actuality, every path reached a dead end.
The people around me search for answers and find none. The man on the corner, holding the tattered piece of cardboard declaring his humble wishes, talks to me of kittens. The woman moving so sure-footed down the hallway stops in her forward progress to ask if I need help. The son walks past me as if he does not see me until I call his name.
And you there, on the bed you have made, how does it feel? Was it everything you ever wanted? Or was it full of briars and thorns, hidden amidst the down?
“you will never let go, you will never be satiated. You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.” ~ Louise Glück, from “The Sensual World”
I speak in riddles because that it the only way I know through. Perhaps if I meander enough, I will once more find my way. Or perhaps if I meander too much, I will find myself completely lost.
The shore is not calm, and the moon is not high, and all of the stars in the universe are hidden from me because they contain truth. And this truth they have scattered here and there, placed a grain here in this broken shell, and another one there, in the knothole of that oak. I know this because I once found truth in the discarded hull of a walnut, and when I looked closely, I saw that its center was shaped like a heart. And I thought to myself, “At last. Here it is, at last.”
And I thought to place that small wooden heart safely under my pillow, where it would conjure restful nights of sleep and dreams, but when my fingers sought beneath my pillow, it was gone.
Truth is like that.
“There’s no understanding fate;” ~ Albert Camus, from “Caligula”
One day, I may actually find my place in this world, but more than likely not. I have no more right to peace of mind than the woman in line behind me at the grocery store, even though she seems to have found her calm place through Dr. Pepper and potato chips.
Can it be bought, this peace of mind? Can I find it amid the words I finger on the screen, as if prying them loose would free them to become realities? Is it hidden in the pages of sonnets an old lover once gifted me, or is it there, among the cornflowers growing absently in the cracked pavement of the parking lot?
Milton lost paradise, and I have yet to find it, but I came close once, so very close . . . but too soon I found that it had only been my imagination, running rampant once again. And so I stand at the shore, tempering my pulse to beat with the outgoing tide—its fierce syncopation ultimately forcing air into my lungs, even as I try to cease the sweep of time’s second hand none too well, if not at all.
More later. Peace.
Music by Angus and Julia Stone, “Draw Your Swords”
over the sand, over the roof
of the rain:
the long l s of rain fall slowly
over the pages
of my everlasting love,
this salt of every day:
rain, return to your old nest,
return with your needles to the past:
today I long for the whitest space,
winter’s whiteness for a branch
of green rosebush and golden roses:
something of infinite spring
that today was waiting, under a cloudless sky
and whiteness was waiting,
when the rain returned
to sadly drum
against the window,
then to dance with unmeasured fury
over my heart and over the roof,
asking me for a cup
to fill once more with needles,
with transparent time,
One night director, designer and animator Adam Patch recorded his drunk wife telling a joke about two corn chips. Afterwards he decided to use his skills to create a short animated video of the joke, using his wife’s recorded voice to narrate the story.