“There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences.” ~ Wallace Stegner, from All the Little Live Things

Throwback Thursday: April 26, 2015 post
Web Droplets by Martyn Wright FCC
Web Droplets by Martyn Wright (FCC)

The other day I was looking for something on my site, and the following post showed up in my search results. When this happens, I usually read the words that I wrote in the past, and sometimes I am flabbergasted . . . I mean, who was this person who cobbled together these words in such a way, and why can I not do so now? It’s a double-edged sword: on the one side lies the positive sense of amazement, and on the other lies the overwhelming sense of disappointment. I want to be able to write like this once again, but since I cannot, I have decided to share the post itself with the understanding that while I may be feeling these emotions today, I am unable to describe them in any cogent way.

Hence, the rerun. Apologies for this.

 “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 reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning.” ~ Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things

Sunday early evening. Sunny and cooler, 57 degrees.

Drips by Ricardo Camacho FCC
Drips by Ricardo Camacho (FCC)

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?

Rain on a Window Gabriele Diwald FCC
Rain on a Window by Gabrielle Diwald (FCC)

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.

Water Drops by Jo Naylor FCC
Water Drops by Jo Naylor (FCC)

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 is 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.

Peony in Rain by James Mann FCC
Peony in Rain by James Mann (FCC)

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.

Rainy Day by Keshav Mukund Kandhadai FCC
Rainy Day by Keshav Mukund Kandhadai (FCC)

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”

 


It Rains

It rains
over the sand, over the roof
the theme
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,
reclaiming
its place,
asking me for a cup
to fill once more with needles,
with transparent time,
with tears.

~ Pablo Neruda

“How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from A Thousand Splendid Suns

A view towards the far end of the pond

“Here I saw the truth of the horizon,
the way of coming and going in this life.
I never drifted up from my beginning:
I rose as inexorably as heat.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph”

Monday afternoon, partly cloudy and absolutely lovely, 76 degrees.

Apologies. It’s been a few days since I wrote anything here. I’ve been distracted, more than usual. I began listening to a podcast, “A New Winter.” I began listening last week, and then became so absorbed that I binged right through the weekend. Unlike the true crime genre to which I’m partial, it’s a creepy dramatization, and I was hooked, all the way through 62 episodes. Yep. Sixty-62.

Red Bud in bloom

I know. Too much, right?

Anyway, I had a Two for Tuesday planned, and then on Wednesday, I had another one of those doctor’s appointments that didn’t happen because my appointment had been changed somehow, or I changed it somehow, thinking that I was actually changing my neurologist’s appointment. I honestly don’t know, but I got ready, put on real clothes, arrived on time, only to be told that my appointment was on June 5. From that point on my week was wrecked.

So here I am, trying to start over, get back into the rhythm of writing, creating, putting something out there. Anything. We’ll just have to see how this goes. I do have new pictures of the farm and the animals, at least.

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, from an interview with The Guardian (10 April 2009)

So I’m sitting outside at yet another makeshift work station, kind of hunched over, and my back is protesting mightily. But it doesn’t matter because the birds are serenading, and the sun is peeking through the clouds, and the air is clean, and there’s a light breeze making the Dogwood tree sway and the bamboo wind chimes clatter in a non-jarring way. The goats and the dogs are outside, as well, and Ruby, the female goat just came by to have her ears scratched; Max isn’t quite as loving, and his crooked jaw makes him look, well, a little goofy, but he’ll eventually come to have his ears scratched.

Not sure what this is, but it looks cool

I was sitting here a little while ago just listening to music and the birds and absolutely nothing else—no car horns, no sirens, no airplanes, no leaf blowers—nothing. Sometimes I forget to notice this nothingness, forget to appreciate what it took to achieve it. The last few years have been so freaking tumultuous, and sometimes it seemed like there was no end in sight, but there was, for the most part, perhaps not the ending that we had envisioned, but an ending of sorts, and now I’m here, sitting on property that is mine, and my nearest neighbors are far away.

No judgmental next-door neighbors peering over the fence, no city ordinances, no community rules. Of course, we also don’t have curbside recycling or trash pickup, and that is a definite loss, but in the grand scheme of things, I suppose we are still firmly on the plus side of the columns.

“Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about
how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost
imperceptible breeze.” ~ Jim Harrison from “Cold Poem”

Corey needs to call the gas company to let them know that part of the driveway washed away with the most recent rain; they’re responsible for the upkeep of the drive since they have wells along the way—it’s a weird setup. But first he’s gone to Coeburn and Norton to pick up an ink cartridge for the printer so that I can send yet more forms to the IRS, trying to get us a waiver for Corey not having health insurance because, well, money.

Wildflowers growing all over the ridge

I mean, I’m completely for the Affordable Care Act, but I’ve never understood penalizing people for not having health insurance if they cannot afford to have health insurance, and the only way that those same people can get out of the penalty is if they ask for it and justify the lack. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m fairly certain that a majority of people would have health insurance if they could actually afford it. Not having it really, really sucks. There should have been a built-in opt-out function for those of us without the funds to afford the coverage instead of a built-in penalty that you can only get rid of once you’ve been granted a waiver.

Anyway, I need to print those and another form, and something else. Honestly, it’s been a few days since I first tried to print only to find out that we were out of ink, so now I’ve forgotten. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes. I make lots and lots of notes, and the fact that I still don’t have my desk set up means that my post-its are still in a box somewhere, as are my colored paper clips that I used to organize papers, and all of that other helpful stuff that I’ve come to depend on over the years. Truthfully, I’ve had a long-standing love-affair with office products; don’t ask me why. Alexis has the same penchant, as well as an unhealthy attachment to large, oversized bags and purses. I cannot imagine where she got any of that from.

I need my notes. I just can’t function without them. I know my mind too well. I have no problems with long-term memory, or memories of most important events, or things like song lyrics, but ask me what I had planned to do in a few hours, and, well . . . not so much . . .

“The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.” ~ Gustave Flaubert, from Madame Bovary

I’m curious, actually. Does anyone even read these quotes? Does anyone out there find them as fascinating as I do? I mean, I spend a lot of time looking for my quotes, and then I spend an inexorable amount of time planning posts thematically, taking into consideration the kinds of posts that I tend to write the most, or thinking about something that I think that I might want to tackle in the future.

Tink and Ash snuggling

I’m asking because my tumblr meanderings, when I do them, are mostly in search of quotes, new poems and poets, and images. I’m not much for the other kinds of posts, but I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should post the quotes there and leave them out of my posts.

The problem, for me, as I see it, is that I’ve been using this format since almost the beginning: five quotes, a header quote, six images, a poem, and a song. It’s worked, or at least, it works for me—most of the time. The quotes are my springboard, as it were, a way to tap into my muse and see what comes out.

Who knows, really? Certainly not I.

“It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided
into those who wish to move forward
and those who wish to go back.” ~ Louise Glück, from “Faithful and Virtuous Night”

I’m thinking that the only thing that would make being outside today better would be if we had a hammock set up. I really miss my hammock. I’ve always had a hammock, ever since I was first married to my ex. When I was living with my parents. they had this hammock thing that fit on a metal frame, but it was canvas. I used to spend a lot of time on that in the backyard, reading in the sun. I had actually forgotten about that.

I actually have a brand new cheap hammock that came in one of my subscription boxes; I doubt that it’s terribly comfortable, but I wouldn’t know because there isn’t anywhere here to attach it. We have a lot of trees, but they are either too close together, like the apple trees, or too far apart. Ideally, I’d love to get on of those frames from Costco and the big, double rope hammock. Ah yes, that would be the ticket.

Sine I first began this post, the sun has become obscured by more clouds, and the wind has picked up. I think that I’ll stay out here for a little longer and then go inside and try to do a bit of cleaning. I still haven’t figured out where all of the dust comes from that settles in the house so quickly. We don’t have the furnace running, no ceiling fans on, so where does all of the dust come from? I’m reminded of the importance of dust in Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials, but unfortunately, my dust isn’t magical. It’s been years since I read that, and I still haven’t gotten a copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in the follow-up trilogy even though it was published in 2017. It on my to-read list, which probably has about 200 things on it.

So much to do, so much to do . . . Books to read, cabinets to sand and paint, rooms to paint and unpack . . . And then there’s my car, which needs work, a barn that needs to be built . . . Ugh, enough for now.

More later. Peace.


Music by The Civil Wars, “Dust to Dust” (acoustic)


To Drink

I want to gather your darkness
in my hands, to cup it like water
and drink.
I want this in the same way
as I want to touch your cheek—
it is the same—
the way a moth will come
to the bedroom window in late September,
beating and beating its wings against the cold glass,
the way a horse will lower
his long head to water, and drink,
and pause to lift his head and look,
and drink again,
taking everything in with the water,
everything.

~ Jane Hirshfield

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

The English Patient
(Ralph Fiennes & Kristin Scott Thomas)

                   

“Let the darkness transform into rock
across the wilderness of my memory” ~ Liu Xiaobo, from “Fifteen Years of Darkness” (trans. Jeffrey Yang)

Monday night. Stuffy outside, humidity. Seems like storms are looming but not actually becoming.

Count Almásy and Katherine Clifton Dancing Cheek-to-Cheek

Memory is a tricky thing, as I’m sure I have said before. The same memory can at times be nostalgic, conjuring a bittersweet longing for a return to the moment of conception. And then later, that same memory can be so fraught with emotion that tears are the only possible response.

For example: Last night I was flipping through the channels rather aimlessly. I happened upon a showing of The English Patient, a movie that has held the number 2 spot in my all-time favorite movies for well over a decade. (It was formerly in the number 1 spot, that is until the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and well, there is no surpassing that). As I noted the listing, I paused on the channel, thought that I would probably move on to something else, but never changed the channel.

This was a mistake.

I know that I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch The English Patient, and I wasn’t in that frame of mind. But by the time the credits rolled, I was in full emotional meltdown. I pulled my soundtrack off the rack, popped it into the computer, and waited for morning.

“The rapturous notes of an unendurable grief, of isolation and terror,
the nearly impossible to sustain slow phrases of the ascending figures—
they drifted out over the dark water
like an ecstasy.” ~ Louise Glück, from “The Balcony”

The English Patient
Naveen Andrews & Juliette Binoche

I first saw that movie upon its release in 1996, which was a very, very bad year for me. A friend of mine at the museum had recommended the Michael Ondaatje book to me the previous spring, but I had promptly forgotten about it. Immediately after watching the Anthony Minghella-directed movie, I did two things: I bought the soundtrack, and I bought the book. I didn’t look for the best price, or a sale, I just bought them, which, if you know how I shop, is very uncharacteristic.

In 1996, my marriage to my ex was quickly declining, for a multitude of reasons. I had been laid off from the Museum because of the massive deficit, and I was in a very dark, lonely place. My relationship with Mari, one of the bedrocks of my life, was also in rapid decline, for reasons of which I am still not fully aware. But I went to see this movie with her, and, as it turns out, with her young amour, the person who would be responsible for completely changing her.

But I digress.

We went to the Naro, an old renovated theater in the heart of downtown’s Ghent section. The sound in this particular theater is incredible, and from the opening notes of the first song I was totally enthralled.

“We have understood nothing of life until we have understood that it is one vast confusion.” ~ Henry de Montherlant, from The Bachelors

Almásy in the Desert

If you are unfamiliar with the movie (which holds very closely to Ondaatje’s book), I will briefly recap chronologically what is shown in two different timelines: Count Almásy (played by a then rather gorgeous golden Ralph Fiennes) is part of of a Royal Geographical Society archeological expedition in the deserts of Egypt and Libya in the 1930s. Katherine (played by a blond Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband (Colin Firth) join the group. An affair ensues, hearts are broken, promises are broken, WWII breaks out, Almásy trades important maps of the desert with the Germans in exchange for a plane and fuel so that he can keep his promise to return to Katherine, a plane crash follows, the Count is burned beyond recognition, loses his identity and simply becomes the English patient, Juliette Binoche, Naveen Andrews, and Willem Dafoe enter the picture, hearts are broken, betrayals occur, the war ends.

It all sounds so clinical when spelled out like that. It is anything but.

The cinematography is breathtaking. The music is heart-wrenching. The acting is impeccable. So how could something that I consider to be so good hurt me so bad(ly)? To provide a true answer to that would take a lot more time and space than this little forum.

“Once I conjugated every animal to sorrow . . . Even now it seems like every version of melancholy rescues a nocturne for the pallid sky. A type of permanent dusk. Fold down the bedsheet. The room has earned its sadness. Nondescript despite how we have rearranged ourselves inside it, undressing with cold hands. Us with our pilgrim hearts. Stationed fast to parentheses of sleep and winter.” ~ Allison Titus, from Sum of Every Lost Ship

Le me try a slightly sifted explanation in which the chaff has been mostly eradicated:

Final Walk to the Cave of the Swimmers

The love affair between Katherine and Almásy is epic. It is destiny. It is the kind of love between two people that those of us who are romantics firmly believe is possible, what we hope for but what we know we will never have. Even as she lays dying, Katherine offers her love a quiet peace within the last words she writes, and she writes these words even as the lamplight is dying, the air is chilling, and any hope of rescue is firmly quenched.

Later, as he lies in a foreign bed in a deserted house, Almásy spends his time daydreaming about the hours they shared. His copy of Herodotus is filled with love notes and personal commentaries on love and betrayal, overwriting the historian’s account of Greco-Roman history.

After watching the movie and then reading the book, I found a kind of running thread of words and phrases from both in the back of my mind at any given time during the day or night. I underlined passages. I wrote marginalia, the most telling of which was “I wish that I could find someone to love me like this.”

“Now and then, I remember you in times
Unbelievable. And in places not made for memory
But for the transient, the passing that does not remain.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Little Ruth” (trans. by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav)

At that time in my life, I did not feel loved, or rather, I felt loved in the wrong way, if that makes any sense. Any sense of belonging that I felt came from outside my home. I felt stretched too thin, underappreciated, overworked, and mostly, mostly I felt hollow. So when I see this movie, all of those feelings come back to the surface. I remember exactly where I was sitting in the theater. I remember trying to tell my ex about the beauty of the movie, asking him to go see it with me (which never happened).

The English Patient Original Theatrical Release Poster

(Later that year, the owner of the Naro gave me the movie poster as he knew how much I coveted it. I still have it and am still waiting for that room of my own in which to hang it.)

The English Patient does for me exactly what Aristotle’s Poetics declared great drama would do to an audience: allow an empathy with the story so profound as to cause a purging of pity and fear. The mythos (plot) and ethos (character) of the movie combine to reopen old scars, leaving me stinging as if the scab has only recently been scratched, and then, a few days later, I am purged. But the reopening of the portal to that era in my life is not without consequences.

Or, to put it more simply, it’s an elevated version of The Way We Were, the Streisand/Redford collaboration of the 70’s that depicted two ill-fated lovers who loved too much, whose love was all-consuming, and consequently, couldn’t withstand time and circumstance. Of course, The English Patient won nine Academy Awards, and The Way We Were none. But the real point is this: Why is such passionate love always doomed?

But that’s a completely different entry.

More later. Peace.

Music from The English Patient, closing theme, composed by Gabriel Yared

                   

Light By Which I Read

One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the
redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering,
memory seen
through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The horizon edged with chalk, loose where the fabric frayed.
Each yesterday glacier-scored, each a dark passage illumined by a
honeycomb.

*

I begin to fathom the brittle intricacy of the window’s scrim of ice.
For years, I managed without memory—stalled, unnumbered,
abridged—
No more alive than a dismembered saint enthroned in two hundred
reliquaries.
Now, it is hard not to say I remember,
hard, in fact, not to remember.
Now, I hear the filament’s quiver, its annoying high frequency, light
by which I read.

*

River mist, mudbanks, and rushes mediate the dark matter
Between two tomorrows:
one an archive of chance effects,
The other a necropolis of momentary appearances and sensations.
One, a stain of green, where a second wash bleeds into the first.
The other time-bound, fecund, slick with early rain.

*

As if to impose a final hermeneutic, all at once the cicadas wind down.
The gooseberry bush looms like a moon: each berry taut, sour, aglow.
The creek runs tar in the cloud-light, mercury at dusk.
Then the frogs start up.
Clay-cold at the marrow. A hollow pulse-tick.
And it seems, at last, I’ve shed my scorched and papery husk.

~ Eric Pankey

(To see poem with original indents, click on link.)