“I can’t feel a thing; All mournful petal storms are dancing inside the very private spring of my head.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Letters To Milena

Claude Monet The Seine at Port-Villez, Blue Effect 1894
“The Seine at Port-Villez, Blue Effect” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Claude Monet

                   

“And what were they anyway, sprigs of grass, things of blue? For a long time I wanted to use words, then didn’t.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

Friday early evening, 80 degrees. Tropic Storm Andrea warning in effect.

I know. I know. The time between real posts seems to stretch on inexorably. The truth is, writing is hard at the moment. The truth is, I find myself in the midst of a major depressive episode, the likes of which I haven’t seen in many years.

Isaak Brodsky, New Moon, 1906, oil on canvas
“New Moon” (1906, oil on canvas)
by Isaak Brodsky

Why?

If I knew, I might be able to find some kind of resolution, but there really is no why. Not really. I’m just kind of empty, kind of numb, kind of unable to string together words to form sentences, sentences to form paragraphs. Mostly, I can write about why I can’t write, and I’m not really sure what kind of post that will produce, but I thought that I’d at least try.

If you’ve never suffered from depression, you simply cannot relate. You might try to understand, but it will be hard. It’s hard enough for the person who is suffering from depression. And because it is to hard for her or for him, it is hard for anyone who might happen to be in the vicinity.

I can only say in advance, that I’m sorry.

“—You’re very poetic.
—No, just sad.” ~ José Saramago, from Blindness

I think that this started about six weeks ago, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I know that it started while Corey was still at sea. It didn’t abate once he returned home, and it (the depression) took a major hit when I held my small dog Alfie’s body in my arms as Brett dug a grave beneath his bedroom window.

Georgia O'Keeffe Untitled paren Night City paren 1970s
“City Night” (1926, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

In an attempt to alleviate my pain and sorrow, I convinced everyone that it was time to visit the human society from which we had adopted Tillie so that we could find a playmate for her, someone closer to her size. The reality is that it was too soon; I realize that now, but of course, it’s too late as we came home with two new dogs: a hound mix 8-week-old puppy I named Kopi, which is Indonesian for coffee (I had wanted to call her Gilly, but Tillie kept getting confused), and a 17-month-old named Jake, for Jack Kerouac (his name was Jack, but we all kept saying Jake, so that was obviously what he was supposed to be called).

You would think that the adoptions would have made some of the sadness go away, but instead, Jake reminds me of Shakes because he is an obvious mama’s boy who clings to me, and this made me think of Alfie, who was never loved enough because of Shakes, and it made me sad all over.

Add to this that the playmate we hoped Jake would be has not turned out as planned: Jake and Tillie do not get along at all; in fact, they seem to despise one another, but everyone gets along with Kopi.

And all of this has led to more guilt on my part for not waiting longer, guilt for bringing home two new pets without considering that Tillie might not like it even though we took her to the shelter with us, and she played with both of them without any problems while we were there. And of course guilt that life sucks for everyone when it sucks for mom.

“In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.” ~ Isaac Marion, from Warm Bodies

Depression is so insidious and unpredictable. It creeps up like a slow-moving fog, or it hits like a mighty nor’easter, all at once and unrelenting. This time, it was a bit of both. There was the gradual descent, and then the sudden appearance of a precipice. I was unprepared.

John DUncan Fergusson The Troacadero, Paris ca 1902
“The Troacadero, Paris” (ca 1902, watercolor)
by John Duncan Fergusson

As many of you know, I am on antidepressants and mood stabilizers, so some of you may be confused as to why I am depressed. The truth is that there is only so much that medicine can do. The brain is a funny thing. Somewhere within mine, a switch didn’t throw all of the way, or a connection was broken, and now, there is this, this nothingness, this painful numbness.

Depression comes from the brain, but it is felt in the heart.

I try very hard not to let mine show too much, but I know that I’m not very successful in doing so. And now we have two dogs and a plus one, for whom a future is uncertain. I know that we cannot return him to the shelter; that would be too cruel, for him to live with a family, get lots of attention, have a yard in which to run and play, and then to find himself inside a cage? I couldn’t do that to my worst enemy. And so we are searching for a family that can give him love. Unsuccessfully, so far. Ideally, behavior modification would be possible, and we could live happily with all three dogs.\

Ideally . . .

“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.” ~ Robert Hass, from “Faint Music,” in Sun Under Wood

Outside, nature seems to be a perfect reflection of my state of mind: It is at once sunny and partly cloudy, and in the very next instant, grey with whipping winds. Who knows how intense this storm will be. We may have a fierce tropical storm or a short-lived thunderstorm, but I’m trying to pen this before everything hits and before Alexis arrives with the baby.

Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1924
“Starry Night” (1922-24, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

Even though my heart isn’t quite in it, we are taking Olivia for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night. It is going to be a task to continue to try to keep Jake and Tillie separated, try to watch over Kopi to make frequent trips outside for the potty training, and then, add to the mix the curious 11-month-old that Olivia has become, but I haven’t seen her in many days, and I miss her terribly.

Part of me thinks “to hell with it” as what’s a little more stress added to the mix, and part of me thinks this is another bad decision atop other bad decisions, and yet another part of me just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.

The air outside is like liquid as the humidity is climbing to 100 percent, and my sinuses are constricting with the climb. A smarter person would crawl into bed for the duration, but a smarter person would not have brought home two new dogs so soon after the loss of long-time pets.

If I only had a brain . . .

“I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have been dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.”—Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Wall

It all goes back to my first section: Why?

August Strindberg, Jealousy Nigt, 1893
“Jealousy Night” (1893, oil on canvas)
by August Strindberg

I read an interesting piece about Stephen Fry, who I love in every single thing he does. Apparently, while working on a project in 2012, he had a major episode and attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills with vodka. Fry, who suffers from bipolar disease, described it better than I could, although I must emphasize that I am in no way feeling suicidal:

“There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”

I mention this only because of Fry’s phrasing that there is no reason, and while he may have been talking about someone who is thinking about committing suicide, I apply the words to my own depressive episodes: There is no reason. Sometimes there is, but more often than not, there just isn’t. And so people on the outside sometimes think reductively, as in, “it’s all in her head,” and funnily enough, it is—in a way.

I’ll try to put together another post in the next few days, and maybe by then I’ll be able to express myself a bit more cogently, until then,

Peace.

Image theme: Blues

Edward Potthast Seascape moonlight
“Seascape Moonlight” (date unknown, oil on canvas)
by Edward Potthast

Music by S. Carey, “In the Stream”

                   

The Truth the Dead Know

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

~ Anne Sexton

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“It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves’ feet guide the world.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

John O'Connor Moon and Convolvulus oil on canvas
“Moon and Convolvulus” (nd, oil on canvas)
by John Scorror O’Connor

                   

“You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.” ~ Richard Adams, from Watership Down

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 85 degrees.

I know that it’s been weeks since I have written an actual post, one that was primarily my thoughts and not a rehashing of something else. I apologize, but my state of mind has been mired in sadness, and my body has been protesting mightily. If it were one or the other, I could cope, but with both hitting me, it’s all just been too much.

John Scorror O'Connor Track to Corbel's Farm 50-60s oil on canvas
“Track to Corbel’s Farm” (1950s-1960s, oil on canvas)
by John Scorror O’Connor

Right after Corey got home, I started to feel terrible physically—very weak, lots of muscle pain, lots of headaches and nausea. I made the mistake of offering to keep Olivia for the whole weekend, and it really did me in. I probably should have begged off, but I had already said that I would. I mean, it was my idea in the first place.

Corey has been concerned that I’m upset with him about something or that I am angry, and I had to tell him that it’s not any one thing in particular. It’s a whole lot of everything and nothing to do with him. So hard to explain.

And then yesterday happened.

“What cannot be said will be wept.” ~ Sappho

The night before, Alfie was throwing himself all over the bed and whimpering. It was horrible. I would get him to calm down, and then it would start again. We knew what we had to do. But it’s so damned hard.

John Scorror O'Connor Linley's Field oil on canvas
“Lingley’s Field” (nd, oil on canvas)
by John Scorror O’Connor

Corey insisted on going alone. I told him that whatever he decided to do I would support. In his heart, I think he thought that Alfie could still be fixed; I knew that we were past that point. Luckily, the vet told him that because of his age, he would probably not survive any kind of surgery. She said that she thought that Alfie’s problems were much worse than tooth abscesses, possibly cancer.

And so Corey came home with the small body wrapped up in a towel, and we began the heartbreaking process of burying Shakes’s brother. Brett asked if Alfie could be buried beneath his window, and I agreed. And while Brett and Corey dug a small grave for our smallest dog, I sat on the bed holding the still warm body and allowed myself to keen, to weep and scream until I had nothing left except for another tear in my heart, another scar that doesn’t show.

“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies.” ~ Voltaire

So after, we all retreated to our various places of comfort—I to my bed, Brett to his computer, Corey to his backyard—until Eamonn came home from work, and we began to emerge once again. Eamonn cooked dinner for everyone, and then we watched some mindless television until sleep came at last.

John Scorror O'Connor Burn at Cochieton nd oil on canvas
“Burn at Cochieton” (nd, oil on canvas)
by John Scorror O’Connor

Today, I feel mostly numb, except for the migraine that began in the night. And during my periods of wakefulness in the night, I found myself searching with my hand for the small body that usually placed itself against my back or thighs, and it wasn’t there. You see, after Shakes died, Alfie became quite the cuddle monster, seeking curves to curl into in search of warmth and comfort, all of the places that Shakes had claimed as his own.

I suppose it is fitting that the two brothers should leave us within months of each other, having come into this world together in the same litter. They spent their entire lives together, and they left this world in the same order in which they were birthed.

“So much that can neither be written nor kept inside!” ~ Tomas Tranströmer, from Cry into the Nordic Night

And so I come to you again, seeking to find words in which to immerse myself, hoping to write my way out of this hollow, for it has always been the words that have saved me, words that have calmed me, words that have been the balm to my ills. And I sit here with my fingers on my keyboard and try to write my way out of this, and all I can think of is how it should have been better for Alfie, but it wasn’t.

John Scorror O'Connor Thatched Barn and Sunflower
“Thatched Barn and Sunflower” (1958, oil on board)
by John Scorror O’Connor

You see, Alfie was like the middle child of the dogs, the one who never quite got enough attention. He was so hard to love because of his persnickety disposition, the whole canine rage thing. He could turn on you in a second. But in the last month or so, he had seemed to mellow, and I don’t know whether it was mellowing or that he was just resigned to his fate. All I know is that he certainly seemed to enjoy being around people more, and he seemed to want more human touch.

And again I wonder about the depth of a dog’s soul. As sentient beings, how much do they sense? Of what are they aware? The canine capacity for love seems boundless. Witness the dogs that will show affection to even the foulest humans, the ones who beat them, who starve them, who maim them and kill them.

If I think about this too much, I just might go crazy, but it all seems so very inhumane, how little value is placed on beings whose humanity is often more than the hands that carry their fate.

“In the end I would rather wonder than know.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

What defines humanity? The ability to feel? The ability to reason? The ability to communicate? Or is it the ability to do harm? The ability to kill? The ability to inflict pain deliberately?

John Scorror O'Connor Botany Pool
“Botany Pool” (1955, oil on canvas)
by John Scorror O’Connor

It is a question I ask again and again and again, each time I am confronted by loss, each time I have to make a decision I would rather not make, each time life blows up in my face. And still I have no answers.

The reality for me is that I will probably use the last active cell in my brain to wonder why, even though I know there is no answer. I don’t understand life, this I know, but I keep going, keep moving forward. And sometimes it’s as arduous as foraging the Serengeti with a machete, and sometimes it’s like traversing the English Channel on an inflatable raft, and sometimes it’s seemingly as simple as slipping down a stream on an inner tube, feet dangling in the water, cold drink in hand.

I’m still looking, still searching, still finding, and still losing. I don’t have the answers, and sometimes—like—today it seems as if I don’t have any answers at all, but I suppose that’s okay, too.

More later. Peace.

All images by British artist John Scorror O’Connor (1913-2004).

Music by Aron Wright, “And Still, The Darkness Comes”

                   

Heartless Poem

It is true that my heart does not exist.
It is absolutely true that the birds are not mine,
the river will not stop for me, the leaves will not
stop aiming for the very ground where I stand,
that I cannot hold the smallest amount of air
in my hands. The closed fist of the moon
punches its way through the lake.
Someone else might talk about the moon as a heart,
but that’s all I’m going to say about it.
On this night when the stars begin their lies
about the light beyond them, when the young men
from Tuzla are hanging from lamp posts
instead of lights, I am here to tell you
my heart has never existed.
The only feelings I have ever heard of
take to the highway with the carts
and trucks of the other refugees.
Why do you think you need to join them?
If it were a violin my heart would not rest
between anyones chin and shoulder. It would
sit in a pawnshop window for someones supper.
On this night when my heart does not exist,
I eat out of the hands of yesterday.
If it did exist, the fist of my heart would
grab the hanged man by the collar of his soul
and turn him away from his own death.
But who can say anything about the soul?
The soul, too, is just another migrant.
I have heard that the soul and the heart are
the two best scavengers of whatever past
you have discarded by the side of the road.
You can find them sneaking around in some orchard
behind the smoke a farmer uses against the frost
or plucking the hanged mans weight like a pear.
See, it is not so hard to say something about nothing.
The stars are already leaking their light into dawn.
But I can tell you that my own heart has never existed.
Thats all Im going to say about it.

~ Richard Jackson

“I don’t know where to begin because I have nothing to say” ~ Mary Ruefle, from Madness, Rack, and Honey

For lovers of essays on writing, this book by Ruefle is a must read. I have it on my wishlist. Click here to read the NY Times review.

Reblogged from mythologyofblue

By some miracle I cannot figure out, it was given to me to hear these voices, and all these examples of a human life were speaking, and when I listened carefully I could hear that they were speaking about speaking, and when I listen carefully to them speaking about speaking I could hear they were singing about listening. And that has been a long journey for me, of listening. 

I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

~ Mary Ruefle, from Madness, Rack, and Honey

                     

[Image: Matthais Heiderich]

Music by The Tallest Man on Earth, “Kids on the Run”

“I am a jumble of passions, misgivings, and wants. It seems that I am always in a state of wishing and rarely in a state of contentment.” ~ Libba Bray, from The Sweet Far Thing

Three Seascapes circa 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851
“Three Seascapes” (ca 1827)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

                   

“So I fill my hands with the shards of infinite ardors.
A generous cargo of ohs and oh wells.
And a strange half-wish to be a ghost.

It is the thing I wish for most.” ~  Jill Alexander Essbaum, from The Devastation

Monday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warmer, 70 degrees.

I had a full-blown Caitlin dream last night. I haven’t had one of those in a very long time. By full-blown, I mean, I saw her, held her, fed her, talked to her, called her by name. I cannot begin to express how much this hurts my heart. And to compound the ache, my father was also in the dream in a very active way: we talked about something, he smiled, I kissed his cheek.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Setting Sun and the Sea not sure, watercolor
“Setting Sun and the Sea” (title questionable, nd, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

In the first part of the dream I was in a medical center with Caitlin. Our nurse was very nice, and she was trying to get us a private room so that I could breast feed Caitlin. There was a lot of noise in the hall, and I peeked out and saw soldiers and people running. The medical center was being stormed by someone, I don’t know who. I looked around the hallway to see if there was a way out, and there wasn’t.

I went back into the room and closed the door quietly. I told our nurse what was going on. Other people came into the room with their babies. Everyone was scared. People were looking to me. I fed Caitlin and ignored everything else. My ex wanted to know how I could have fed her. I told him I breastfed her; he wanted to know where the milk came from. I told him that it was just there again, like it had always been. Then I went to the windows and said that we could try jumping to safety.

“Sometimes fear grips me that these fragile moments of life will fade away. It seems that I write against erasure.” ~ Assia Djebar,  from “Assia Djebar: The Tireless Walker of Memory,” trans. Erin E. Brady and Guillaume Basset

In another part of the dream I was having an affair with my second cousin at Great Bridge. Everyone knew, but no one said anything. I was still married to my ex. I had four children, and one of them looked like my cousin. My ex wanted to know if he was the father or if my cousin was the father. I lied.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Lonship Lighthouse, Lands End, c1834-5 watercolor
“Longship Lighthouse, Lands End” (ca 1834-5, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Then, I was talking to all of my cousins about the cars I had when I was a teenager, and I remembered when I spun my VW Beetle into a ditch (this really happened). My cousin said that he remembered, but the ditch was in front of my mother’s house. I said that there were no ditches there, only in Great Bridge.

Then we were singing karaoke. I signed up to do a duet of a country song, but when the music started, I realized that I couldn’t read the screen with my contacts in, so I didn’t know the words. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were part of the group I was with, and they wanted to do a sing-off. I said that I couldn’t because I couldn’t see the words. They said that I was just making an excuse. Then two of the women in the group said they would sing with me.

At some point in this sequence, I was sitting outside with my dad. He may have been working on a fishing rod. I told him that I was really glad that he was my father. He smiled.

I awoke with a pain in my heart and a completely empty feeling.

“Because the body is so ephemeral and corrupt,
what is beautiful today may not be so ten years hence,
I give you words.
Because my thoughts are strange and dreamlike
and not to be trusted to icon or art,
I put them into words for you” ~ Shaindel Beers, from “I Give You Words

Today has been completely out of whack. My doctor’s office called to say that they had to cancel my appointment today because they hadn’t gotten approval for my shots, not the Botox for my migraines, but the cortisone for both of my wrists. Unbelievable. The Botox has finally been approved, but not the cortisone? What gives? I really need shots in both of my hands because they hurt all of the time.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Storm Clouds colon Sunset with a Pink Sky 1825
“Storm Clouds: Sunset with a Pink Sky” (1825, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Then my dermatologist’s office called and wanted to know if I could come in at 8 in the morning instead of 2 in the afternoon. Really? No. I made these appointments to work around Brett’s school schedule. He has an exam tomorrow. And besides, I’m not even conscious at 8 in the morning. Of course, I didn’t tell them that.

In between, Brett found out that an exam he thought was on Wednesday is actually today. Yep, major freaking out ensued.

Then I paid some bills, and I tried to create an online account for my life insurance, and the site kept saying that there was no policy in existence. I called customer service. Policy is in existence. Associate took all of my information and said to give it a bit and try again. He had a hard time with my e-mail address. I bet he put it in wrong because I still can’t log in to the site.

So much fun. Love days like these. Just want to do nothing, but no. I’m a responsible adult with responsible adult obligations………….. whatever……………

“In one way, causeless emotion reminds me of melancholy: when we have sorrows without a name.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

For Mother’s Day, I ordered myself a couple of books and a one-pound bag of Chimes Mango Ginger chews. These things are addictive, and the ginger is very good for your heart and digestion, or so I tell myself, but they’re impossible to find in grocery stores. So yesterday, Brett went with me to T. J. Maxx, mostly to get out of the house, and I tried on clothes, which always makes me feel fat and ugly, and there on the shelves in the gourmet section were Chimes Chews, plain ginger, mango ginger, orange ginger. Unbelievable.

The Scarlet Sunset circa 1830-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851
“The Scarlet Sunset,” detail (ca 1830-40, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

I’m trying not to think about it too much because I already justified to myself ordering the one-pound bag. I’m also trying not to think about the shirt that I tried on that was too tight in the—wait for it—ARMS. I have fat arms. How does that happen? Why does that happen? Why do women lose tone in weird bodily appendages and men don’t?

So the trip out of the house to lift our spirits ended up making me feel fat and ugly and inefficient. Now here’s the real rub: I can’t stop thinking about how I paid x amount to order this one-pound bag, when I could have paid y and gotten them at T. J. Maxx. My never pay retail mantra is kind of stuck, like LP’s? Remember that, how they would stick in a spot and play the same sound over and over again, and sometimes, this would happen at night when you would put on an album to fall asleep by, and then you’d fall asleep, and something would nudge you in your sleep, and you’d wake up to the sound of the record stuck on a scratch or groove? Am I the only one that happened to?

“This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath . . .” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Shapechangers in Winter”

So, no relief in the wrists, no sassy red capris with white polka dots because they looked stupid on me, no cute lavender denim shorts because, well, the stupid thing. I did come away with two pair of really gauzy yoga pants and a new bra, so I’ll just stay at home and wear my yoga pants and hide my arms.

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Beacon Light, oil on canvas
“The Beacon Light” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ack. What am I going on about, anyway. That my arms are flabby is no surprise. That I didn’t look all chic in the red capris is no surprise. That I found Chimes locally is a surprise. I think that I’m just trying to keep my mind from dwelling on my dreams last night. I did so many things, saw so many people, touched on so many memories. I think part of what caused such emotional dreams were two things I saw yesterday: the movie Boy A, which is heartbreaking, and then a short film on Tumblr about a wolf looking for her cub. Ack. Set myself up, I suppose.

The reality is that the dream of breastfeeding Caitlin was so perfect and so very, very painful. That is something that will never happen again. That baby that I held in my arms with the dark hair, the one who looked up at me in contentment—it’s not real. What is real is that I feel like I picked and picked and picked at a scab, and now it is raw again.

The scar that had faded to a pale grey line is red and aching, and it’s going to take me months to heal from this, and why can’t I be better about this? Why does the pain caused by a dream have to be so immediate and so real? Once again, I am among the walking wounded, and no matter how many of these damned Chimes I chew, I fear it is going to get better later rather than sooner.

More later. Peace.

Images by Joseph Mallord William Turner, English Romantic artist (1775-1851)

Music by Sleeping At Last, “Uneven Odds,” absolutely breathtaking

And speaking of  Tim McGraw (really miss you, Corey), “I Need You”


                   

Turner, Late Painting

This almost empty
canvas
is sister
to an empty page
just as a poem
enters: white

with all
its possibilities
emerging from the brush—
smoke or cloud
or beach foam—

and there in the corner
a patch
of burnt orange
where the sun will
eventually
come up.

~ Linda Pastan

“Follow the tugs in your heart. I think that everyone gets these gentle urges and should listen to them. Even if they sound absolutely insane, they may be worth going for.” ~ Victoria Moran

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1990, oil on photograph
“Untitled, 1990” (oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

                   

“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.” ~ Simone Weil

Friday, late afternoon. Sunny and quite windy, 61 degrees.

I’m hoping that I”ll be able to write an actual post today. I mean, I have my quotes, and I have chosen an artist for my images. Let’s just see if the brain can manufacture some cogent thoughts, string them together well enough that I actually have something to say.

Gerhard Richter, Abstrakt 1989, oil on paper
“Abstrakt 1989” (oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

I just came in from playing a rousing game of stick with Tillie. She has been so neglected lately (she says), especially because I keep bringing that new puppy around and paying so much attention to her, holding her, talking to her, playing with her. Tillie just doesn’t understand what the attraction is and quite frankly, she’s very perturbed with me that I am choosing the new puppy over her. I try to explain that Olivia will be leaving to go to her own home soon, but Tillie isn’t having any of it.

Hence, the undivided attention this afternoon. Dogs are funny, as I’ve said many times before, but dogs are also quite possessive and jealous, which I know from experience, but every time I have the baby for more than a few hours, both Tillie and Alfie start doing things to make me pay more attention to them. All of this makes me wonder if Tillie would actually want us to get another lab for her to play with . . . hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

“We have only fragments—but even this seems fitting, for what is the moment but a fragment of greater time?” ~ Mary Ruefle, from Madness, Rack, and Honey

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1984, oil on paper
“Untitled 1984” (oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

So I have a real treat for Corey when he gets home: the History Channel show “Vikings.” I’ve recorded all of the episodes for him. I know that he’ll really like it. I’ve watched a couple of episodes, but I’ve decided to wait until Corey is back so that we can watch the rest together.

I have always been intrigued by Vikings, how their clans worked, the loyalties and the familial lineage. I have also always found it very unfair that Vikings were not given the proper credit for finding North America. Oh well, at least they are recognized more in recent history for their successes. Anyway, the show is very well done, and I’m so glad that I stumbled upon it late one night while I was channel surfing.

My other recent television obsession has been HLN’s coverage of the Jodi Arias trial. I have never really watched anything on HLN that has anything to do with current trials, and I find Nancy Grace to be so damned annoying. My mother used to watch the Casey Anthony trial coverage on Nancy Grace, and she would call me up and want to talk about it. Not so much. But I happened upon the Dr. Drew show, and it’s not him that I like so much as the women he has on his panels, criminal psychologists and lawyers. They are a funny group of women, biting wit, and they tell it as they see it. I probably won’t continue to watch after this trial is over, but for now, it’s pretty entertaining.

“Vitrac called chance a ‘lyric force.’  He’s absolutely right.  There’s a kind of dreamy exhilaration in not knowing where one is going.” ~ Charles Simic, from section III of The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks

Yes, my life does seem pretty boring most of the time, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I had a very nice afternoon yesterday. After Olivia went home, my friend Rebecca and I had lunch/dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I used to work with her at the realty company. Now, she runs her own wedding photography business and is quite successful at it. She’s really come so far from being the marketing assistant I met ten years ago.

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1985, watercolour and oil on paper
“Untitled 1985” (watercolour and oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

Anyway, we/I decided that it’s really unfortunate that we don’t see each other on a regular basis. She was living in Suffolk, and now she lives outside of Richmond in a suburb with her new husband and her son. I’m making a promise to myself that I’m going to make a real effort to see her at least once a month. Friendship has to be maintained, just like a hairstyle or a diet, and frankly, you get a lot more out of a friendship than a workout.

Don’t ask me. I was going somewhere with the metaphor, but it wandered off in the middle, which is happening more lately. I’m really worried that one of my new medicines is beginning to wreak havoc with my cognitive abilities, kind of like the Topamax did. I know that my mind goes all over the place, but it’s really a pain when I’m looking at something on tumblr, and it causes me to think about something else, and then I blink my eyes, and the thought is gone.

I can’t really figure out any other way of explaining it. Simic (above) says that there is a dreamy exhilaration in not knowing where you’re going, and that can be true, but lately, it’s just plain irritating to get lost in the middle over and over again.

“For we are all bound in stories, and as the years pile up they turn to stone, layer upon layer, building our lives.” ~ Steven Erikson, from The Crippled God

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1994, oil on photograph
“Untitled 1994” (oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

Along those same lines, I’m wondering if I am actually physically and mentally capable of going back to get my doctorate. I can’t string together coherent thoughts beyond the first couple of levels. Perhaps it’s a temporary thing, tied in with my inability to write, my inability to concentrate. Hell, I wish I knew what was going on. It’s little things, like not being able to find my download file any more.

Here’s a really stupid example of what I mean: I’ve been trying to remember for over a week something minor that I wanted to mention here, nothing of importance, just one of those “oh, by the way” kind of things, and for the life of me, it won’t come, and then I remember what I’ve forgotten at odd times, like at 3 in the morning when Tillie decides that she really needs to go out.

What is it? Nothing really other than I’ve discovered that centipedes can fly. Those nasty little critters of which I am terrified are back with the warm weather. I saw my first one on the bathroom wall, and as I was watching it—I swear this is true—the bugger jumped off the wall, flew towards me, landed at my feet and started scuttling across the floor at me.

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1991, oil on photograph
“Untitled 1991” (oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

Our bathroom is small, which means I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and I was trying not to scream out loud because the boys would laugh at me. I stood on the side of the bathtub until it went under the cabinet.

So………………that’s what I’ve been trying to remember to tell you, and now that it’s out there, I kind of wish I had forgotten it.

Speaking of the bathroom, Corey gets to work on it when he gets home, and I know that he’s really excited about it . . . not. The floor is buckling. I think that we’re going to have to go ahead and gut it, even though we don’t have a secondary bath yet. Too much is falling apart in there, directly tied in to water damage, and it’s the kind of thing that can cause mold, dry rot in the wood, all things we can’t let go without dire consequences.

“Her life—that was the only chance she had—the short season between two silences.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1985, watercolour and oil on paper2
“Untitled 1985” (watercolour and oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

So I was looking for a file, of course I don’t remember which one now, but in searching I came across a paper I had written for one of my publishing classes. I opened it and gave it a quick read, and this is what I have deduced: I can write one heck of an academic paper if I want to. I’m not bragging—really—because I’m actually astonished. This has happened to me before: reading something I wrote years ago and being kind of surprised that I was the one who wrote it.

Example—I wrote a paper on Algernon Charles Swinburne in graduate school on his poem “Hertha.” When I ran across that paper many years later I was astounded to see that I had tied the poem’s lyric style to a particular symphony (of course, I can’t remember which one, at the moment), and I had brought in Norse mythology as a back story to Swinburne’s meaning. Who does that? I did, I guess, but be damned if I see that academic in me now.

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1994, oil on paper
“Untitled 1994” (oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

Was I just faking it? Really, was I just playing the game?

I am so lost sometimes when it comes to understanding myself, my abilities, my strengths and my weaknesses. I hate to say this, but I think that I really am the kind of person who needs external validation for just about everything aspect of my self, or rather, the self that I know is created by others, or something like that.

What do I know, anyway.

More later. Peace.

All images are by German visual artist Gerhard Richter (b. 1932). I was particularly intrigued by his overpainted photographs. To see more of his work and to read about his history, click here.

Music by Night Beds, “22”

                   

Waking

Waking, I look at you sleeping beside me.
It is early and the baby in her crib
has begun her conversation with the gods
that direct her, cooing and making small hoots.
Watching you, I see how your face bears the signs
of our time together—for each objective
description, there is the romantic; for each
scientific fact, there’s the subjective truth—
this line was caused by days at a microscope,
this from when you thought I no longer loved you.
Last night a friend called to say that he intends
to move out; so simple, he and his wife splitting
like a cell into two separate creatures.
What would happen if we divided ourselves?
As two colors blend on a white pad, so we
have become a third color; or better,
as a wire bites into the tree it surrounds,
so we have grown together. Can you believe
how frightening I find this, to know I have
no life except with you? It’s almost enough
to make me destroy it just to protest it.
Always we seemed perched on the brink of chaos.
But today there’s just sunlight and the baby’s
chatter, her wonder at the way light dances
on the wall. How lucky to be ignorant,
to greet joy without a trace of suspicion,
to take that first step without worrying what
comes trailing after, as night trails after day,
or winter summer, or confusion where all
seemed clear and each moment was its own reward.

~ Stephen Dobyns

“These hands — the hands that care, the hands that mold; the hands that touch the lips, the lips that speak the words — the words that tell us we are whole.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God

Lord Howe Island Photos
View from Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia
Source: tripadvisor.com

                   

“You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently

Why hold onto all that? And I said,
Where can I put it down?” ~ Anne Carson, from “The Glass Essay

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy, low 80’s, showers expected.

Yesterday I had to buy a new lawn mower. Ours finally died, and with Corey gone it was up to me to purchase a new one. I went to Sears and picked up a Craftsman with a Briggs and Stratton engine. I applied my little knowledge about mowers and mower engines, and rolled it around the floor to get a feel for it, and then dropped $231 plus tax (sale price). That means that within the last week I have spent $600 on unexpected, emergency purchases.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Do I even need to say how painful this was and is? That’s money that could have gone to catch up my health insurance payments. Money that could have gone towards ordering my much-needed glasses. Money that could have gone towards anything but plumbing and a mower.

Corey is really hard on mowers, and he goes through one every three years or so. This is kind of a foreign concept to me as the mower that I had before Corey )that’s how I categorize everything: before Corey and since Corey) was about 10 years old. I also had a lawn tractor that my dad bought me after my ex left. When I mowed the yard, and yes, I did indeed, I cleaned the mower after each use and put it back in the shed. I would really like for this mower to be stored in the shed, but that means that I need to go out there and make room in the shed, which resembles our garage: massive piles of who-knows-what seemingly placed by a tornado-force wind. I know this to be true because I just took a peek in there.

Disheartening, but hey, I have a new job, right? Right…………………..

“Hear how the mouth,
so full
of longing for the world,
changes its shape?”  ~ Mark Doty, from “Difference

So while mower shopping, I took Brett to purchase some new clothes for school (with his money). He managed to spend $100 and got some new pants, a vest, and several t-shirts. I tried to explain to him that he got a lot for his money, but Brett is, well, thrifty. I understand why, and I suppose it’s good that someone in this family is so inclined as I’m always out there spending money on frivolous things like, say, a lawn mower, and food, and utility bills.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Sorry, a bit on the testy side today.

We stopped by Alexis’s apartment on the way home. She was having one of those days: Olivia is not taking to her new swing. I could not have survived without a baby swing. All of my kids loved it, especially Alexis, who would become calm as soon as the swing began to move, but with those old swings, you had to wind them to make them work, and just as she’d fall asleep, the swing would stop. I would wind it, which would wake her, and the whole process began again. Now, they plug in or use batteries and are so quiet. I really hope Olivia adjusts to hers as the swing is the one item that allowed me to actually begin to eat meals again like an adult, you know, sitting down with utensils, instead of standing and on the run.

While I was there I did her dishes, made formula, and gave Olivia a bath. Just these little things really help Lex, and it doesn’t take me any time at all. Of course, by the time I got home after the stress of shopping and spending money, I was beyond tired.

“If I expect as little as possible, I won’t be hurt.” ~ Susan Sontag in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

Later that same day . . .

I took an extended break to do a few things: clean Capt. Jack’s fish bowl, clean Eamonn’s fish bowl, play ball with Tillie and Shakes, and bathe the dogs (well, Alfie was a half bath as he had one of his psychotic episodes, and I really didn’t feel like dealing with it). I’m really, really hoping that someone puts the lawn mower together today or tomorrow morning. Just as I’m hoping a different someone will clean out some space in the shed.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sunset on Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

And I’m really, really hoping that neither of those someone’s are me, but I’m not holding my breath.

Wow. That was really passive/aggressive, wasn’t it? Oh well.

I love my sons, but they don’t take initiative, at least not at home. It reminds me of their father, which is unfortunate. He was great at helping his friends at a minute’s notice, but not so much around here, which is why I took it upon myself to learn some basics about doing things around the house. Not only did I mow the yard, but I used to edge and trim, wash my car, change my oil, and trim the bushes. I know how to change a fixture, do some basic plumbing, and clean gutters.

My mantra? It doesn’t take a penis to use a power tool.

Knowing is only half of it, unfortunately. Being able to do it is the other half, and that’s where I’m stymied. Corey, however, is super handy around the house, which is why things break when he’s away. Which principle is that? Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives (a corollary to Murphy’s Law): Anything that can go wrong will—at the worst possible moment. Yep, that’s how I live my life.

Oh, and by the way, resistentialism also applies (spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects): On the way to pick up Eamonn, the Rodeo’s “Check Engine Light” came on again. Is it not enough that I just spent $1200 on everything from brakes, to tires, to shocks, to oxygen sensors on that damned vehicle? Apparently not.

“there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “Alone with Everybody

Just a bit of a continuation on the last section: I went into the garage to check the laundry, and the washer is leaking. This is probably a direct result of my prior bragging about my plumbing skills; ergo, Sod’s Law, second law, actually: Sooner or later, the worst possible set of circumstances is bound to occur. (For a complete list of all eponymous laws and adages, click here.

Anyway, today’s pictures relate to one of my obsessions: Lord Howe Island, in New South Wales, Australia. Apparently, this little bit of paradise is relatively untouched by the very things that tend to ruin island paradises: too much development, too much commercialism, and too may tourists. I want to go there some day, preferably sooner rather than later. I used to want to go to Hawaii, but time seems to have ruined the last state in the union: overdeveloped, overpriced, overcrowded.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sea Turtle, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Speaking of places, I was reading an article on The Daily Beast about the smartest cities in the country, and quell surprise?! Norfolk, VA ranks as #35 out of 55 listed. Norfolk’s 2009 ranking was 41st. Out of a metropolitan population of 1,675,792, 17 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 10 percent have graduate degrees, as compared to #1, which is . . . Boston, MA with 24 and 18 percent, respectively.

According to the article, scores were compiled based on adults with degrees, as well as data collected from Lumos Labs, which was used to analyze cities in five cognitive areas: “memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The median Lumos Labs score, presented as an estimated IQ score, was worth 50 percent of our final, weighted ranking.” Norfolk’s IQ score was 88.33, as compared to Boston’s score of 176.68.

Who would have ever thought it? I’m just full of irrelevant trivia today.

“I remember the first time I realized the world we are born into is not the one we leave.” ~ Mary Ruefle, from “I Remember, I Remember, On the handsome roofers, attentive cows, and sudden tears of youth

And finally . . .

I want to send my love to Corey’s family in Ohio. Recent events have hit everyone hard, and I’m thinking of all of you. Corey’s Uncle Tom passed away this past week, and I know that my f-in-law John has been hit hard. Big hugs to Alana. Also, my m-in-law Joyce is having back surgery at the end of the month, so I’m wishing her well and hoping that she has good results.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Blinky Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

I think that I’ll stop here for now with a few more glorious shots of Lord Howe Island, and the really intriguing Balls Pyramid, which was discovered in 1788. The former Pacific shield volcano juts out 1,843 feet, making it the world’s tallest sea stack. The first successful climb to the summit was made in 1965. Climbing has since been banned without permission from the minister of state.

                   

Lord Howe Island Photos
Side View of Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com
Lord Howe Island Photos
Aerial View of Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Music by David J. Roch, “Skin and Bones”


                   

Why We Must Struggle

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

~ Kay Ryan