“At last, she makes her choice. She turns around, drops her head, and walks toward a horizon she cannot see. After that, she does not look back anymore. She knows that if she does, she will weaken.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from And the Mountains Echoed

Fog over the ridge, by C. Fickel

“You cannot fight against the truth
of what has happened.
You cannot expect metaphor
to comfort you ~ Nate Pritts, from “Decoherence”

Sunday afternoon with an amazing effulgent sun and unseasonably warm temperatures, 65 degrees.

I’m not entirely certain as to what I want to say today, but I know that the words are just below the surface. The fact is that I probably should go for a walk up to the ridge and beneath the trees, especially as the weather is beautiful even though the wind is wicked, and more than likely, I will interrupt this post to do just that, or perhaps not. I haven’t decided yet.

As far as the eye can see: a view from the right side of the ridge, by L. Liwag*

Last night was another rough one, sleep wouldn’t come even though I was so tired, and then I awakened several times during the night, only to spend about three hours trying to will myself back to sleep. If you’ve never suffered from insomnia, you cannot possibly understand, but if you, too, have been susceptible to these spells, you have my complete sympathy. Once morning comes, more often than not, you feel groggy and half formed, at best.

One of the main reasons that I’m having such a hard time sleeping is that I’m out of a lot of my regular medications. Since moving here, I’ve had a real beast of a time trying to find a pain management practice that will take me, and I have yet to find a practicing psychiatrist who is accepting new patients. It took three months just to find a primary care physician because no one wants to touch you if you have been in pain management because the assumption is that you are a drug addict. I’m not joking about this.

“Meanwhile, within the tiny moments of this hell
I was fighting a small fight of my own which was not leading
anywhere—but like a man with a bent spoon trying to dig through a
cement wall I knew that a small fight was better than quitting: it
the heart alive.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “If you let them kill you, they will”

Apparently, this area is rife with people who are addicted to opiates and amphetamines, which means that those of us who just want meds in order to live a normal life are pretty much out of luck. Without my maintenance pain meds, I spend hours trying to calm my legs, as one offshoot of my chronic pain is RLS (restless leg syndrome), and like insomnia, it’s almost impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it. Essentially, though, your legs tingle and ache, and you feel the need to keep moving them to try to find a comfortable position, something that doesn’t exist.

To Infinity and Beyond: Under such an effulgent sky, by L. Liwag

The medicine most prescribed for RLS, ropinirole, is one that I cannot take because it can cause tardive dyskinesia, which is involuntary body movements. Oh, the irony. Several years ago, I took relpax, and for a while, it was doing good things for me, that is until my doctor noticed that I was moving even while sitting, so she promptly pulled it from my regimen. Later, my pain doctor prescribed ropinirole for my RLS, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized the connection when I started making those weird movements without realizing it. So the medicine that is supposed to stop the discomfort of RLS movement can cause dyskinesia, or involuntary movement: it’s yet another instance of damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Unfortunately, the RLS is the least of my medical issues. I’ve been without my maintenance meds for more than two months now, and the result is that I am back to having three or four migraines a week. It’s so disheartening because I had finally gotten my migraines under control after years of trying to find the med that would work best for me, and I tried a dozen or more, including Botox—no lie. So until I can find a neurologist or pain medicine doctor, I’m basically ingesting ibuprofen and supplements in an attempt to stem the tide. The success is limited, at best.

“Lonely for weeping, starved for a sound of mourning
I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands” ~ James Wright, from “The Slackening of the Tide”

Anyway, enough of my medical trials and tribulations . . .

I was telling you how we actually came to be here, on this glorious piece of land with so very many possibilities, so let’s go back to 2017 again. As I had mentioned, 2017 was one helluva year for us, all of us, near and far. But in the midst of this, Corey took his mind off things by looking for land. We had decided that once we could get back to a somewhat stable place, that we were going to move.

From here to eternity: a view of our land from the left side of the ridge, by L. Liwag

I had wanted to leave Norfolk for years, but never felt that I could or should because of my mother; I’m an only child, you see, and while that may seem like a wonderful thing to be, it actually isn’t, especially if you have an elderly parent with medical issues of her own. I’m not complaining about it; god knows my mother took care of me through my asthma, migraines, and a host of other things. But once I had begun to recover from her death in 2014, we decided to look for the land that we had always talked about.

The first piece of land that we looked at was absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a hefty price tag, one that we could not possibly afford. Then, during the summer of 2017, on a whim, Corey and I decided to look at another piece of land that he had found. It was about seven hours from Norfolk, but we ended up driving around for about nine hours because we got so lost. Once we finally found it, though, we both fell in love. It was over 100 acres, and there was a small house on the property that was built in the late 1800s. Fortunately, it had been updated over time. Even better, the price was amazingly affordable.

So began our saga of trying to leave Norfolk, and the house that I had lived in for a very long time. I simply cannot go into all of the details that made this transition so hard, but it will suffice to say that it took us almost a year from the time that we first saw it to the time at which we finally arrived. It was a very, very, long, hard year.

“It takes courage . . . to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. ~ Marianne Williamson, from “A Return to Love”

Honestly, there were days in which I believed that the dream that we had so fervently sought would never happen. And during the wait, we suffered—emotionally, physically, spiritually. It seemed that the entire world was against us.

Three at the trough, by C. Fickel

You know, at times like that it’s hard not to wonder if some kind of karmic disharmony isn’t being visited upon you. You begin to think that you must have done something absolutely horrible at some point to be faced with the almost insurmountable. There was even a point during all of this that a piece of the ceiling in the Norfolk house suddenly crashed to the floor, and all that we could do was look at one another and shake our heads because it just felt like it was yet one more thing beyond our control. Mind you, a piece of your ceiling falling is a pretty major event, but we had been through so much that by the time it happened, it was just one more thing in a very long list of one more things. It’s weird to think of that event in that way now

But we clung to one other and to the possibility of actually realizing a dream that had seemed so out of reach for so long, and very long story abbreviated, now, here we are. And there is no other place in the world that I would rather be.

“In this life, this is how
one must wait, past despair,
the heart a fossil, the minutes molten, the feet turned to stone. ~ Li-Young Lee, from “Here I Am”

Well, that all came out much faster than I had thought. I suppose the words were much closer to the surface than I had thought. That’s good when that happens, although at times I feel that I’m just throwing words at the screen and hoping that something sticks and makes sense, kind of like spaghetti noodles that aren’t overcooked.

So much beauty everywhere I look, by L. Liwag

In returning to this forum, I realize that I’m more than likely opening some wounds that really haven’t healed, but this is how I heal best. Fingers on keys, letting them fly without restraint (my very dear friend Rebecca once likened my typing to machine gun fire). I realize that I’m fortunate to have this ability—to write, not to type rapidly—because I am well aware that many people out there who are wounded or trying to heal have nothing more than their own thoughts, and that can often feel all-consuming. But I have always written my way out, have done this since I was a child—truly. I wrote my first poem when I was six. I started my first journal when I was twelve. Words have always been the balm to my soul.

I hope that by rekindling my love affair with this blog, that perhaps my words might touch someone out there in the ether and let them see that they are not alone in feeling lost or depressed or overwhelmed. I do not proclaim to have answers for anyone, myself least of all, but sometimes just reading someone else’s words can be a salve, much like hearing the perfect song can help us heal. We take what we can get, right? We are all only human after all.

Just a note: Today’s poem is a direct result of watching “Little Drummer Girl” on AMC, which was incredible. I really love it when shows incorporate beautiful poetry into the story lines, and Darwish is one of my favorites. I’ve featured his works here before.

More later. Peace.

*By the way, I did pause in this post to go for a long walk up to the top of the ridge with the dogs, which is where I took some of the images in today’s post.

Music by Katelyn Tarver, “You Don’t Know”


Now, as you awaken

Now, as you awaken, remember the swan’s
last dance. Did you dance with young angels
while you were dreaming? Did the butterfly
light you up when it burned with the eternal
light of the rose? Did the phoenix appear clearly
before you and call you by your name?
Did you see the morning dawn from the fingers
of the one you love? Did you touch
the dream with your hand or did you
leave it to dream alone, aware suddenly
of your own absence? Dreamers don’t abandon
their dreams, they flare and continue
the life they have in the dream…tell me
how you lived your dream in a certain place
and I’ll tell you who you are. And now,
as you awaken, remember if you have wronged
your dream. And if you have, then remember
the last dance of the swan.

~ Mahmoud Darwish


“It was as if some space had opened up, a little rift, between words and whatever they were supposed to be doing. I stumbled in that space, I fell.” ~ Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter

Shakes Sailing Across the Water


“The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking
it is necessary to go through
dark and deeper dark
and not to turn” ~ Stanley Kunitz, “The Testing Tree”

Friday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 80’s.

This post is very depressing. You may want to just skip it.

My dog Shakes is dying. He’s the fat, gay mama’s boy, the bigger Jack Russell, and he’s 12. He has congestive heart failure. That wheezy cough that I thought was allergies, wasn’t.

Christmas 2010: Shakes after the Packages

In the past 24 hours, he has collapsed twice, once, his heart seemed to stop. As I’m typing this, he’s at his usual spot, on the floor next to my chair. He’s been on medication for two days, but frankly, he seems worse.

I know that this happens. I know that if you have pets, the chances that they are going to die before you do are great. I know that loss is part of the process in deliberately choosing to open your heart to something. I know all of these things. Ask me if it makes a damned bit of difference.

In my lifetime, I have lost three dogs of my own, not including the deaths of those dogs who lived with my parents. Ascot was a rescue from the pound in Christiansburg, the first few months after I married my ex. She had hip dysplasia, but we adopted her anyway, knowing that she wouldn’t have a long life, but she would have a good one. Then I lost my first lab, Mokie, to old age and illness. And my second lab, Murphy, died of heart failure, and it happened on the one weekend that Corey and I decided to go to the Outer Banks with friends, so she died without me.

I won’t let that happen to Shakes.

“Until we have seen someone’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.” ~ Marianne Williamson

The two boy Jack Russells came to us from my mother, who bought them from the woman who used to live behind her. I had always wanted a Jack Russell, that is, until I found out that they are truly terror terriers. Never mind. She brought them over and announced that they were birthday presents for the boys.

Shakes Sleeping like a Human

So we welcomed William Shakespeare (Shakes), and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Alfie) into the fold. Murphy was still alive at the time, and the boy puppies put a new spring into her step. We soon found that the boys were escape artists, managing to find any hole in the fence, regardless of size. The neighbors became aware of the two white dogs who lived on the corner, and sometimes returned them before we even knew that they had escaped.

Shakes has always been my dog, following me from room to room, sleeping by my side. Alfie, not so much. In fact, Alfie is probably a wee bit psychotic, going into prolonged growls for no apparent reason. Canine rage, it’s called. The vet prescribed meds, but said that Benadryl was just as effective. So Alfie gets his dose of Benadryl in a blob of peanut butter. Everyone is happier.

So my canine boys are old now, and I’m facing yet another loss. And as we all know, I don’t do loss well, and, well, this is coming at a time in which my defenses are already weakened, and my spirits are mighty low.

“We scribble our little sentences.
Some of them sound okay and some of them sound not so okay.
A grain and an inch, a grain and an inch and a half.

Sad word wands, desperate alphabet.” ~ Charles Wright, from “When You’re Lost in Juarez, in the Rain, and It’s Eastertime Too”

Let’s add a really fine topper to this whole situation, shall we? Corey is leaving tonight. It’s been great that he’s been home, but the time spent running around trying to take care of things has made it so that we’ve hardly had any time with each other, and now he’s gone for at least another five weeks or so.

Shakes and Tillie Vying for the Ladder

And so, and this is very selfish, I know, Shakes in all probability will die while Corey is away.

I dealt with Tillie’s massive seizures without him, and lots of extraneous bullshit without him, and no, this isn’t his fault, and I’m not even close to suggesting that. It’s time and circumstance, both of which seem to be in collusion to bring about that perfect storm (a phrase which used to have real meaning before the media seized upon it and used it ad infinitum), the circumstances in which I will surely approach that point at which just one more thing, even pebble-sized, when added to the precarious perch upon which I find myself, will send me crashing.

Did you follow that?

“Thus I spoke, more and more softly; for I was afraid of my own thoughts and the thoughts behind my thoughts.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

I know that I’ve mentioned the circumstances of my parents’ marriage more than once. Short version, my father spent most of their marriage (we’re talking decades and decades) at sea. They essentially lived separate lives until he retired, and when they were together, they fought and fought and fought.

Shakes Pulling Back the Curtains for a Peep Outside

It was never the kind of marriage to which I aspired. I mean, I’m not that kind of crazy. But now I find myself in the kind of marriage in which one of us is gone for weeks and weeks, out of touch by telephone, and yes, it’s great that there is e-mail, but it’s not the same. It’s just not the same.

Yes, he’s working. Yes, he’s making good money. Yes, we’re able to pay our bills. No, we’re not going to lose our house. No, our utilities are not going to be shut off. No, I’m not going to lose my health insurance.

The adult part of my brain, small that it is, understands all of this. But I have always been ruled by my heart, not my brain, and my heart aches. It simply cannot bear the weight of all of these things, piling on in quick succession. And, I have to say this because it’s true, I hate that, hate hate hate that about myself. Why can I not be better about all of this? Why can I not weigh the pros and cons rationally? Why can I not handle the stress with more aplomb and less angst?

I have no answers. Face it. If I had any answers, I wouldn’t be asking these stupid questions.

“All will go
And one day
We will hold
Only the shadows.” ~ Carl Sandburg, from “Losses”

Shakes Under Cover

So, full circle. Shakes is lying on the floor, head on front paws, breathing relatively well. The image seared into my retinas of his tongue hanging out of his mouth is still fresh, and it’s right there next to the horrid memory of Tillie’s face pulled back in pain and her eyes beseeching me. And all the while, I am of little more use than a lamp post.

We humans seek out animal kinship. We buy, find, rescue dogs, cats, birds, snakes, mice, lizards, even rats. We give these creatures names, and we bestow upon them human characteristics. We talk to them, play with them, feed them, and spoil them. That is, if we are decent humans deserving of animal companionship. I won’t even delve into those beastly humans who inflict great cruelty upon animals because, after all, they’re just fill-in-the-blank, and no, I have not nor will I ever forgive Michael Vick no matter how well he plays football.

I have spoiled Shakes. And in the past few days, I am deliberately spoiling him more, letting him go for car rides, giving him extra treats. I cannot control the fact that he is dying, but I can make his remaining time here as filled with love as is possible. I can say his name lovingly, rub behind his ears gently, and hold him when he has an attack.

And then I can go in the bathroom, turn on the water, and weep.

More later. Peace.

Music by Antony and the Johnsons, “Cut the World”


The Wound

The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell

something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.

Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.

The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.

A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.

The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.

It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.

After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.

~ Ruth Stone