“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

“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”