“You might be looking for reasons but there are no reasons.” ~ Nina LaCour, from Hold Still

Emil Nolde, Landschaft, Nordfriesland, 1920 (I have always found that the art of Nolde completely encompasses what I’m feeling, regardless of the emotion)

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Thursday, late afternoon, cloudy and humid, thunderstorms on the horizon, 85 degrees.

So . . . Thursday thoughts . . .

I’ve been pondering regret, all kinds of regret, and I decided that instead of just mulling over all of this in my head that I would try to get some of these thoughts down here. I have no idea as to just how successful I’ll be in doing this, as lately, each time I begin to type, all of the myriad of ideas racing through my head suddenly disappear, and I am left with nothing, no words, no well-constructed lines of thought and logic.

Simply nothing.

So perhaps rather than trying to write well-constructed sentences, I’ll just type the thoughts as they come, much like my dream post of a few days ago. So here goes, in no particular order or priority:

  • I regret that I was not more patient with my mother, that I was not more forthcoming with her, but it always seemed so hard, seemed as if she just wouldn’t understand, and honestly, I don’t know if she would have wanted to hear what I had to say. My mother was not one for warm and fuzzy, not one for hugs, not one for saying “I love you,” and I never really found out why. I had my theories, but no real confirmation.
  • I regret that I do not have regular contact with my dad’s last living sibling, my Uncle Ely in Florida. He’s old and sick, and I doubt that I’ll see him again while he still lives. It’s the last tie on that side.
  • I regret not going back to the hospital in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning to be with my dad; instead, I fell asleep, and he died alone.
“The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

More:

  • I really wish that we had painted this whole house before we moved in, but we had no electricity, and we were dealing with closing up things in Norfolk while simultaneously trying to set up things here. But I wonder if we’ll ever have this house straightened out.
  • I wish that I had been more proactive in taking care of the house on Benjamin. I hated that house for several reasons, but still, it was my home, and my children were raised there.
  • I really, really regret not applying to a low-residence MFA program when it would have made more sense. An MFA is considered a terminal degree, which means that having one allows you to apply to tenure track positions at colleges and universities. I’ve found one that I’d still love to attend, but that costs money. There is no money
  • I regret that I was never better with finances. I’ve reached an age that I was totally unprepared for, and my financial situation is no better than it was 20 years ago. How does that happen?
“I had buried too much too deeply inside me. And here I am, instead of there.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Then there are these:

  • I regret the break up of my first marriage, not because of the relationship, but because of what it did to my kids. I don’t know if Eamonn will ever forgive me for it, even though his father fell in love with another person less than two months after leaving.
  • I really regret letting certain friendships fall by the wayside when spouse #1 and I split, especially my very long friendship with Pat and the one I had with Becky from the museum. They were two incredible women. For a weird reason, there was a rift between spouse #1 and I, and our relationship with our closest friends, Pat and Winn, a rift I’ll never fully understand, and now I’ll never be able to see or talk to Pat again; I did not even know that she had died until almost a year later.
  • I regret feeling too tired to drive out to see Alan after work that afternoon. His sister said that he waited for me.  He died soon after.
  • I regret that I did not see Dallas one more time before he died. I don’t know that it would have been a good visit, but once someone dies, you always think of things that you wish you had said. It’s still weird for me, his death. There has been no service, no closure, just texts, messages, and rumors. I don’t know how to handle that.

“Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of inextinguishable regrets.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness

  • I wish that I was in touch with more of my mom’s family. That everything with her family in Great Bridge ended so abruptly still pains me deeply. That I don’t know the status of her sister in Winston Salem shames me.
  • I am so embarrassed that I have not paid to have the dates put on my mom’s grave marker. It was something that I was going to get around to doing, but then never did. I just don’t understand how things like that happen, or rather, how I let things like that happen.
  • Sometimes I still regret not moving to New York and actually trying to make it in the theater. I know that I probably don’t have the guts to do such a thing, yet I also know that I do. Does that make sense?
  • I regret trying to teach Heart of Darkness to a bunch of freshmen at Tech.

“I am grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead

And finally, a few more:

  • I regret accruing student debt for Brett that still looms out there, haunting me and him. College should not break people financially.
  • I regret everything bad that happened with Mari, still.
  • I regret the how the last two years played out.
  • I regret never having another child.

Ultimately, I regret far too many things to list here, far too many thing to try to enumerate in any kind of cogent way. People I have wronged. Relationships better left unpursued. Arguments. Words spoken and unspoken. Decisions made and those put off and then forgotten. Stupid things like something I left undone at Dillard’s, or a night that would have been better never happening, the wrong outfit at a wedding . . .

Who can live with such things and not go crazy? Is it any wonder that I never feel adequate or whole?  Any wonder that my entire sense of self is controlled by guilt? Such self-loathing. Such would-have, should-have recriminations. Such bullshit obsessing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate being like this.

Enough already.


Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”


Wind in a Box

—after Lorca

I want to always sleep beneath a bright red blanket
of leaves. I want to never wear a coat of ice.
I want to learn to walk without blinking.

I want to outlive the turtle and the turtle’s father,
the stone. I want a mouth full of permissions

and a pink glistening bud. If the wildflower and ant hill
can return after sleeping each season, I want to walk
out of this house wearing nothing but wind.

I want to greet you, I want to wait for the bus with you
weighing less than a chill. I want to fight off the bolts

of gray lighting the alcoves and winding paths
of your hair. I want to fight off the damp nudgings
of snow. I want to fight off the wind.

I want to be the wind and I want to fight off the wind
with its sagging banner of isolation, its swinging

screen doors, its gilded boxes, and neatly folded pamphlets
of noise. I want to fight off the dull straight lines
of two by fours and endings, your disapprovals,

your doubts and regulations, your carbon copies.
If the locust can abandon its suit,

I want a brand new name. I want the pepper’s fury
and the salt’s tenderness. I want the virtue
of the evening rain, but not its gossip.

I want the moon’s intuition, but not its questions.
I want the malice of nothing on earth. I want to enter

every room in a strange electrified city
and find you there. I want your lips around the bell of flesh

at the bottom of my ear. I want to be the mirror,
but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.
I do not want to be the yellow photograph

or book of poems. When I leave this body, Woman,
I want to be pure flame. I want to be your song.

~ Terrance Hayes (found on Poetry Foundation)

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” ~ Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper Rooms by the Sea 1951 oil on canvas
“Rooms by the Sea” (1951, oil on canvas)
by Edward Hopper

                   

Feels like a Hopper day.

Whenever I see an image by artist Edward Hopper, I am reminded of two things: Mari and the museum, which had one of my favorite Hopper paintings on display (“New York Pavements”). The people in Hopper’s paintings always seem to be alone, even when with someone else, which appeals to my love of solitude.

For more information about the artist, click here. Wikipaintings has a nice collection of work by Hopper.

Here are some of my favorites:

My Edward Hopper Eye, My Claude Monet

I walk the streets at night
shutting first one eye, then the other.

The left eye is Hopper, its lens
too clear for comfort, the hard lines
of a town you’re stuck in, always
August, noon or midnight.

The right eye haloes each street lamp.
Threads of light dissolve each tree into
the next in Paris, spring,
dusk.

In Monet’s garden of well-tended horizons
I sleep three nights, then someone delivers
a newspaper. In the damp green air
events rub off on my hands.

In every storm
one eye watches bare light
shock the land, split a tree;
the other sees each gutter
alive with wings and the rain rinsing.

And so the eyes argue:
one strips, one clothes. One cauterizes,
one salves. And I
walk on.

~ Veronica Patterson

                   

Music by Helios, “Halving the Compass”

 

“I have a sense of melancholy isolation, life rapidly vanishing, all the usual things. It’s very strange how often strong feelings don’t seem to carry any message of action.” ~ Philip Larkin

Arrowtown Mist
by Veronica McLaughlin (Titirangi Storyteller)

                   

“How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?” ~ Albert Garcia, from “August Morning

Friday, late afternoon. Sunny and cool, no humidity, 71°.

I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to figure out exactly what it is I want to say. I just don’t know. Part of me wants to write nonsense, cover subjects that require little thought, and truthfully, little active participation on the part of my little grey cells. But another part of me is quite introspective today, but I’m not entirely sure that I can go there.

Blackbird’s Nest in the Folded Hands of a Graveyard Statue
Berlin, Germany (National Archives, 1932)

Two choices. Two paths. The one less traveled by, and all of that, but I don’t know if I want to go down either. I feel a bit like Alice asking the Cheshire Cat which path to take. He doesn’t really answer her, just tells her that she’ll arrive somewhere.

Today when I was outside with Tillie I found a fallen bird’s nest, and it made me inexplicably sad. I mean, I looked it over, and the craftsmanship was impeccable. I had to hope that the nestlings were already long gone, that the feral cats that live in the bushes in the park next door didn’t find the nest and its inhabitants.  Yes, it’s in a cat’s true nature to hunt, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.

Each year a bird builds a nest in our mailbox. The mail carrier and I have a tacit agreement: I don’t remove the nest, and he puts the mail off to the side away from the nest. But one year we had a substitute carrier, and when I went out to get the mail, I found the nest removed from the mailbox.

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?” ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

My love of songbirds comes from Mari, from whom I learned which birds like which seeds. In the house that she used to share with her ex-husband there was a picture of Mari standing in a rubber rain coat and galoshes in a downpour. She was filling her bird feeders. Nothing deterred her from this daily routine.

Bird Feeder by Trebz (FCC)

Because her house was situated a bit off the beaten path and near water, she had phenomenal luck with hummingbirds. I put up hummingbird feeders but was only successful in creating a habitat for fire ants. I’ve never been able to attract any hummers to my yard; although now that I have so much more shade, perhaps I’d have better luck in growing hardy fuchsia plants, which are like beacons for hummingbirds. They don’t like really hot, humid weather, and every year I would hang several baskets only to have them wilt and die by mid summer.

I used to do so much more in the yard when Mari was around. Her love of gardening and birding was infectious, and we would spend hours roaming around garden centers buying pants and feeders.  Even though I had planned to fill my planters this year with colorful annuals, I never got around to doing so.

My relationship with Mari enriched my life in countless ways. I miss that kind of friendship.

“Today in my heart
a vague trembling of stars
and all roses are
as white as my pain.” ~ Federico García Lorca

You know what else I miss terribly? Teaching literature. It’s been so very long since I stood in front of a class filled with people who were eager to discuss a new poem, a new short story. I feel as if my mind is atrophying from a lack of outside stimulation. The creative mind is emboldened, nurtured by like minds. I remember one student in a section of American literature who began the class very quietly. Within a few weeks, he was volunteering to read poems aloud, and I could always count on him to add something meaningful to the discussion. In my mind, I can still see his face over a decade later.

Conductor Frrederik Magle by magle.dk (FCC)

Should I go back to school? I know. You’re wondering where that came from? To be honest, it has never left. It is always there, right next to the haunting knowledge that I will never have another child. The two things have carved out niches of emptiness in my soul that will never be filled. I can subsume them, and very often I can make it through a few days without thinking of one or the other or both, but never for very long.

It’s my ongoing inability to separate, to forsake that which is no longer a part of my life. I do not carry my heart on my sleeve—I carry my entire soul there, the esse that is me, omnipresent, looming just within reach, a tether that will never be long enough for complete separation.

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I warned you from the outset that this post could go either way, and now it’s obvious as to which path I chose.

In a symphony, the whole truly is the sum of its parts. A viola chord slightly off, or a cymbal a millisecond to soon—this things bear weight. Nothing is innocuous. Consider Mozart or Beethoven, who heard the sounds of these individual instruments within their minds, who heard the collective and the individual, who translated these imaginings into sounds of such pure beauty.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Sheet Music
(source: wikiversity.org)

Now, consider Clarence Clemons and his impeccable saxophone solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” The sound is raw and deep and it cuts straight to the soul.

The sounds are antithetical, yet not. Clemons’s rendering when he played was filled with the same kind of passion that is often associated with Beethoven’s “Hymn to Joy” from his 9th Symphony. So, too, the individual. We are capable of such beauty, and we are capable of such destruction. We can be rough and raw in our dealings with others, and completely tender in our interactions with a small child. Both the darkness and the light exist, and both carry weight.

“When I think I see clearly and, therefore, think about thinking about,
let me be in the dark, measure and strain . . .
And when I think it’s okay to sleep
or that memory’s a comfort less malicious than
happiness, give me the courage
to deal these cards to the wind
and keep walking.” ~ Ralph Angel, from “At the Seams”

Most of us exist somewhere in the middle, and still fewer dwell at either extreme, but some of us move back and forth like a child’s teeter-totter.

I can only tell you this: If I do not speak about these things, I will break. No, I am not a prodigy like Mozart who heard fully realized pieces of such immense splendor that they needed little rearrangement. But I do bear within myself a constant stream of thoughts and words, and sometimes the weight of these things threatens to drown me.

Tree Still Life in Black & White by dok1 (FCC)

It’s as if somewhere an instrument is slightly out of tune, and I can sense this discord, and when this happens, the melody is simply impossible to realize, but time and life are fickle, always conspiring to steal bits and pieces from our lives unless we grasp what matters most firmly and refuse to relent.

As I sit here with the waning rays of the late afternoon sun bathing my face, I will leave you with this final metaphor, as this post has been rife with bad ones, so why not one more? Wood, specifically a newly felled tree. At first glance something of such mass would appear to bear so much weight that sinking beneath the water seems the only possible action. But when these logs are pushed into the water, they float. They are filled with air pockets. Borne by the current, they travel to their destination. Water, wood, and air come together in a perfect symbiosis.

Yes? See? Well, of course that’s ignoring that the log used to be a tree hanging out with a bunch of other trees before someone with a chainsaw decided its fate. And that bird’s nest used to sit in a tree before a predator knocked it to the ground.

More later. Peace.

Music by Matthew Perryman Jones, “Amelia,” just beautiful


                   

I Like the Wind

We are at or near that approximate line
where a stiff breeze becomes
or lapses from a considerable wind,
and I like it here, the chimney smokes
right-angled from west to east but still
for brief intact stretches
the plush animal tails of their fires.
I like how the stiffness rouses the birds
right up until what’s considerable sends them
to shelter. I like how the morning’s rain,
having wakened the soil’s raw materials, sends
a root smell into the air around us,
which the pine trees sway stately within.
I like how the sun strains not
to go down, how the horizon tugs gently at it,
and how the distant grain elevator’s shadow
ripples over the stubble of the field.
I like the bird feeder’s slant
and the dribble of its seeds. I like the cat’s
sleepiness as the breeze then the wind
then the breeze keeps combing her fur.
I like the body of the mouse at her feet.
I like the way the apple core I tossed away
has browned so quickly. It is much to be admired,
as is the way the doe extends her elegant neck
in its direction, and the workings of her
black nostrils, too.
I like the sound of the southbound truck
blowing by headed east. I like the fact
that the dog is not barking. I like the ark
of the house afloat on the sea of March,
and the swells of the crop hills bedizened
with cedillas of old snow. I like old snow.
I like my lungs and their conversions
to the gospel of spring. I like the wing
of the magpie outheld as he probes beneath it
for fleas or lice. That’s especially nice,
the last sun pinkening his underfeathers
as it also pinks the dark when I close my eyes,
which I like to do, in the face of it,
this stiff breeze that was,
when I closed them, a considerable wind.

~ Robert Wrigley