“Some nights stay up till dawn, as the moon sometimes does for the sun. Be a full bucket pulled up the dark way of a well, then lifted out into the light.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

Irish Cob Horse (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“Time is constantly passing. If you really consider this fact, you will be simultaneously amazed and terrified . . . As soon as it arises, it is gone. You cannot find any duration. Arising and passing away are simultaneous. That is why there is no seeing nor hearing. That is why we are both sentient beings and insentient beings.” ~ Norman Fischer

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and low 50’s.

Four days since my last post, more if you count real posts with words. Have kind of hit a wall again when it comes to posting. Hoping that after the holidays I can get back into the swing. Who knows. Actually, I had really wanted to post yesterday, but the computer was non-cooperative. I had to shut down completely twice, and after all of that, I just thought, bugger it, and stopped trying.

Chilly Christmas on Colton Hills, Wolverhampton, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

The tree is up, as are the stockings, but the house is still half-way done. I need to clear off the dining room table and decorate in that room, and of course, everything needs a good dusting. The living room is still full of boxes from the tree decorations. I would put them back in the garage myself, but you know how that goes. Corey has been called into work last minute the past few days, so he hasn’t had much time around here. Of course, there are my two sons . . .

Hoping to finish shopping this weekend—stocking stuff, underwear, socks, the not-s0-glam presents. I still haven’t done my Christmas cards (we’ve only received two cards so far this year; how sad). I’m thinking that if I get the dining room done today, perhaps I can do the cards tonight, but the past few days have been limited to one project.

The nasty cough is mostly gone, but the wheezing remains, as does the lethargy. I’m just bloody thankful that I did not get the usual accompanying bad migraine from the cough, which always used to happen when I got my annual bronchitis bout. I am fast becoming a true believer in migraine botox. Of course I say that now, but I’ll have to pay out of pocket for the next dose as it will come in 2012 with new my new copayment. Oh well . . .

“You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

When I selected these quotes, I think that I had something else in mind, but I can’t quite be certain. But I have found over the years that it’s hard to go astray with Rilke and Rumi, two of my favorites, obviously.

Attaka in Winter Pasture (Wikimedia Commons)

A blogger friend of mine mentioned a site to me (I Write Like) on which you can paste a sample of your writing, and a program will do a quick analysis and spit out the name of a famous writer whose style is similar to yours (or vice versa). I’ve put in several different samples, and this is what I’ve gotten: I write like E. L. Doctorow, Anne Rice (?), H. P. Lovecraft (haven’t read anything by), David Foster Wallace (well, that’s not bad, I suppose), and one other person that I can’t remember.

What does this tell me? Not a lot, other than I don’t write like Fitzgerald or Woolf, which would have been too much to ask for, I suppose.

It’s interesting though in that I’m certain the program looks at things like sentence length, word choices, phrasing, etc., and from the various results that I’ve gotten it tells me that I don’t write like the same person on any given day. What does that say about me? That’s I’m just as fragmented as I’ve always believed myself to be? That my style depends upon my mood? That I don’t have a style, per se?

Quite honestly, I think that what it says most of all is that—as I’ve long suspected—the interwebs have a brain and wicked sense of humor.

“Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.” ~ Paracelsus, Swiss Alchemist, Philosopher

Last night I dreamt of my uncle, the one who wasn’t really my uncle but was one of my dad’s lifelong best friends, so in the Filipino way, I called him uncle and have always thought of his family as relatives. He died two years after my father died. That I still dream of him says a lot about what a presence he was in my life. I dreamed that he was a jewelry maker and that he had designed these incredible necklaces with beautiful stones. I picked out one that had lovely aquamarine stones.

German Winter: Horses in Snow (Wikimedi Commons)

Then my dreams carried me back into the classroom, and I was teaching math (me? please) to grade school children during summer school. I was with some of the people I had taught with at the middle school, and they did not try to hide their displeasure at my appearance. No one was prepared with any kind of lesson plans, and I was serving the kids cake. Make of that what you will.

Why must I dream of people I would much rather never see again, let alone give a thought to? Why cannot my dreams be more populated with the faces of those I love and have loved? Why does my mind go to such strange places sometimes: math and cake? And why, oh why, whenever I dream about working in some way, do I always have this sudden realization that I cannot be working and that I will have to repay the government thousands of dollars?

I know. There are no answers for such futile questions.

“Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.” ~ Wendell Berry, Stanza VI, “Sabbaths 2001”

A woman with whom I worked once asked me why I used the word dreamt instead of dreamed. I think that it’s probably just an offshoot of my literary training. Shakespeare. You know. But dreamt just comes naturally to me, and seems a bit more poetic somehow.

Non sequitur. Or maybe not.

Horse at Moulzie, Upper Glen Cova, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

I mean, I have been thinking about why I use the words that I use. I have been very, very fortunate throughout my life to have worked with and encountered people with a real command of the English language, not just in college and graduate school, but at the newspaper and even at the government contracting firm for whom I worked years ago. There I worked with two men who were both very erudite and articulate. Then there was the museum director for whom I worked.

Dipping my toes into so many different pools has shaped me in so many ways, has afforded me continuous growth. I miss that as I do not believe that we should never stop growing. I miss the garrulous banter of the newsroom that nurtured me when I was an undergraduate. I miss the deep, rich voice of the man who walked into my office, hand outstretched, and said, “I’m from corporate. I’m here to help,” with just the faintest trace of irony beneath his words.

Sitting here, I do not have the same opportunities to hear the rich pageantry that is still churning somewhere out there without me. I mean, I know that in general, our society is in a period of decline culturally and socially, but I know that there are still people out there who love the word, love the sound of words, love the essence of words, and I’m not speaking of politicians, who use and abuse words.

They exist still, perhaps not those same individuals, but those individuals who just by their very essence enrich those around them with their everyday verse, the verse of Walt Whitman’s common man.

“The time has come to turn your heart into a temple of fire. Your essence is gold hidden in dust. To reveal its splendor, you need to burn in the fire of Love.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

I supposed the point at which I have arrived is the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart” of which W. B. Yeats spoke in “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”—searching for a theme in vain, “What can I enumerate but old themes?”

Winter in Westphalia, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

You know the rag and bone man. He lives still today, with his shopping cart with the wobbly wheel, his trash bags filled with aluminum cans and other things that the world has deemed as refuse. He (and she) walks along, collects, and most of us have no concept of what might be of value to him.

The traditional rag and bone man, who amassed household refuse and resold it to make a living, the rags and bones of life, what we castoff in search of . . . something. I think that as writers we are all rag and bone men at some point: gathering, sifting, getting rid of what we can, keeping some, always looking for more. And more often than not, we are looking for a theme, a theme that eludes us.

Whether that’s words, or even the perfect turn of the phrase, we wander, perhaps not down streets and alleyways with our rag bags or our carts, but we wander, and we pick up, and sometimes out of what we collect, we are able to make something worth more than the parts alone.

But only sometimes.

More later. Peace.

Music by Diana Krall, “White Christmas’

                   

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

“The stars are suspended on strings that are pulled up in the daytime and let down at night.” ~ Babylonian Mythology, 3000 B.C.

Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand

“the sound of wind
rustling bamboo leaves
near my window
short is my nap
and its dream” ~ Shikishi

I have been unable to post recently: Three nights of restless, intermittent sleep has taken its toll once again. I feel as if I were a method actor preparing for the role of a zombie, so much so that my eyes seem to have taken on that glassy sheen of the cinema un-dead. Absolutely delightful.

Last night/this morning was perhaps even worse than the night before. Usually I sleep in two-hour intervals; last night it was half hour intervals. I downed an Alka Seltzer a short bit ago and am now sipping on a cold Pepsi. No, I do not need the caffeine, but I do need the fizz. And then there are the migraines, the ones that come roaring in around 2 a.m. All in all, not the best few days.

The one good thing about getting out of bed so much is that one or more of the dogs gets up with me, and we stumble to the back door together. I stick my head outside as they are about their business. Last night was deliciously cool, and the air smelled like spring.

“Below the surface-stream, shallow and light,
Of what we say we feel—below the stream,
As light, of what we think we feel—there flows
With noiseless current strong, obscure and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.” ~ Matthew Arnold

In spite of my not posting for a few days, nothing much happened. I mean, I watched RHNY on Thursday night as Kelly had a meltdown of epic proportions, making repeated nonsensical declarations: “Satchels of gold.” “Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton.” “Feelings are so 1979.” “Bethenny has knives on her tongue . . . eee eee eee (stabbing motions). I know that it’s not nice to make fun of crazy people, so I’ll just say for the record, I told you she was crazy last year.

Since I could not focus enough to post yesterday or the day before, I spent an inordinate amount of time surfing aimlessly. In my searches, I came upon the perfect curling iron, decided to change my shampoo, and read some hype about something called a Far Infrared Dome, which is supposed to be based on Eastern concepts of acupuncture only with infrared heat. If I were going to believe the pitch, then this machine would cure all of my ails: chronic pain, back pain, muscle aches, poor circulation, gout, and a grumpy disposition (just threw in the gout to see if you were paying attention).

Essentially, the device is an open dome that the user places atop his/her body, and then infrared gamma rays from the planet Krypton zap away the pain, leaving a sense of relief and thirst (Users are cautioned to drink water before and after each treatment). Of course, just the increased intake of water could actually be the source of the curative effect.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

Apparently, these infrared domes do a good business in Canada, but I don’t know about elsewhere. Of course they are pricey, but if they actually worked, I could safe a ton on doctor’s visits and shots. I wonder if they are just woo or if there is actually some scientific basis for their claims. Anyone know?

Time out. Had to go lie down and actually fell asleep, real sleep, four hours. Bliss.

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

I had an interesting conversation with my ex on Friday regarding a letter that we received from TCC. Apparently, Eamonn is on academic probation. I’ll admit it: I immediately defaulted on this one and threw the ball into his court. That is a conversation that I could not possibly have without a lot of shouting ensuing (his first, then mine).  How does one get on academic probation at a community college taking four courses? Perhaps by not doing the work? Not going to class? I can only surmise here since I haven’t been firsthand this semester.

I freely admit that I expect a lot of those around me, always have, always will. I expect it because I have seen what each of them can do. Eamonn is a very intelligent person; he can be incredibly intuitive and perceptive. But he is also completely oblivious about the bigger picture—what life is about beyond the scope of his core group of friends, his girlfriend, his little community. Is this surprising? Not really. He’s a teenager who, for the most part, has had a pretty easy life. So on the one hand, I’m not too surprised when he acts as if the world begins and ends with him. That being said, I really thought that he would get it when he started college. You know? It, the big it, as in this is the beginning of my life . . . this is not high school any more . . . this means something.

Unfortunately, it does not appear to have hit home yet. Thus, I pass the buck on this one because I know myself too well, and I know my son. I just do not believe that it is possible to teach another person self-awareness, not matter how much love is behind the lesson. Self-awareness, self-discipline—these things must be learned individually, and almost always as a result of failure, loss, and pain. And the reality is that my instinct to nurture compels me to shield those I love from pain, which is not always a good thing.

“For it would seem—her case proved it—that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Writing this post has been like blood-letting: I began it early this morning when I could not sleep. I came back to it after an intermittent sleep. I became distracted while writing it in searching for the theme of my quotes. I took a turn at Japanese Tanka poetry. And of the five quotes that I had originally selected, only the title and the Matthew Arnold quote remain.

Sometimes it comes so easily—my fingers move across the keys, creating words and sentences as if of their own volition. Other times, I regroup, move things around until I am satisfied. But on rare occasions, the writing is as it has been today: filled with pauses, backtracks, and uncertainty. When this happens, I must quell a deep desire to simply take the whole thing and move it to the trash heap of computing, that never-never land where words go to die. Perhaps twice I have given over to this desire and just said to hell with it and stopped, but when I do that, I feel even worse than I did while I was writing, as if I abandoned my very thoughts, negated them, made them inconsequential.

But I do not know which is worse: to suffer through until an end appears so that I can stop, to continue to write until things begin to take shape more clearly, or simply to close up shop, hang a sign saying “Back Soon,” and surrender to the miasma of words on the page that have refused to go where I willed them. But for today, I will compromise, having reached an ending, I will stop, post, and hope for a better day tomorrow.

More later. Peace.

Music by Iron & Wine, “Passing Afternoon”

“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.” ~ Mawlana Jalal al Din Rum

    

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

Advil Cold & Sinus is good, but Theraflu warming relief is better; however, since I only have Advil Cold & Sinus, that will have to do. With any luck, this is just a cold and not the onset of anything else. When I have serious body aches, it’s hard to say whether or not the aches are from my regular pain or whether they have anything to do with being sick, one of the perks (I don’t think so).   

Oh well.   

Last night I just didn’t have the energy for a regular post, and I’m not sure about my output for tonight, but let’s just follow along and see where this takes us . . .   

I have been meaning to comment on the moon, which was absolutely spectacular in its second full moon phase for December. My entire backyard was fully lit in the middle of the night. The frozen surface of the water in the pool glimmered and looked sort of Tolkien.   

I know that those of you who are old enough are familiar with the phrase once in a blue moon, which is a colloquialism for rarely and has nothing to do with the orb’s color.  The phrase blue moon refers to the second full moon in a calendar month, which is an infrequent occurrence, once every 2.5 years to be exact, and the next one is expected in 2012.   

But this year’s blue moon fell on New Year’s Eve, which makes it a generational blue moon; the last blue moon on New Year’s Eve was 19 years ago. Do you remember where you were on New Year’s Eve 1990? Me neither. The next New Year’s Eve blue moon is supposed to appear in the year 2028, after another metonic cycle (which equals 19 tropical years). I won’t even discuss how old I might be when that happens. Anyway, I was aware of this year’s, sorry, last year’s blue moon appearance, but then promptly forgot to mention it in any previous posts, but when I came across the Rumi quote about the reflection of the moon, it stirred my memory.    

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ~ Henry David Thoreau 

Sunset Over Lake Dora, FL, by Janson Jones

My friend in Alaska, Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana, recently posted two beautiful pictures of the sunset, both of which I am featuring, as well as an older photo of moonrise. Janson and his family went to Florida for the winter break, and the sunset images are the first of his photographs from his latest sojourn down south.   

I know that I’ve been posting a lot of winter and snow pictures, but I thought that for a change of pace tonight I would mix a few beautiful sunsets from warmer area of the lower 49 along with some images of  the moon.   

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

It’s a Thoreau kind of night, by that I mean a bit reflective, a bit peaceful. I return to Thoreau frequently as I have always found great beauty in his words. Thoreau’s ideas about nature, simplicity, friendship, reading, writing, and truth fill me with a sense of quietude far deeper than most other philosophers. One quote in particular, which I found years ago, has always stayed with me: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”   

I was much younger when I found that particular quote, and only in recent years have I begun to appreciate its true meaning. When I think back on all of the pained, vapid verse and prose that I wrote, ink-stained fingers from agonized pauses, searches for just the right phrase to declare my angst, my heartbreak, my despair. Thank god that I don’t know where most of that work is because I think that I would probably burn it if I ever came across it.   

Don’t misunderstand. I’m hardly declaring myself a genius with the written word. Rather I’m saying that now that I have lived much more of life—have stood up for things, have been knocked down by other things, have loved, lost, raged, crashed, gotten back up, fallen, gotten back up, retreated, gone back in—now that I have tasted some measure of life, I believe that I finally understand what Thoreau meant.   

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Years ago, before Google could return a search on subject quotes in a millisecond, people actually had to read a great deal to amass a collection of quotes. And before I ever had a computer, I had a quote journal. It’s still around here somewhere. I used to (still do, actually) cut things out of newspapers and magazines, copy passages I had read, write down the words to songs. Anytime I came across words that I found inspiring, or touching, or life-changing in their intent, I stole them openly and added them to my collection.   

Moonrise Over Long Key, FL by Janson Jones

Now, I still like to find my quotes from places other than quote sites. For example, several blogs that I read use a lot of quotes. Goodreads is also a wonderful source of quotes, and then of course, there are all of the books.   

I have written many times that I collect certain things—books, boots, purses, pens—admittedly to the point of clutter at times, but there is no doubt that what I collect more than anything else in the world, what I earnestly seek, unearth, amass, record, and return to again and again are words, in particular words from other people—writers, philosophers, poets, journalists, artists—those who have experienced life in a different way than my own experiences, or those whose insight I value, or those with whom I find great empathy.  

Words are phenomenal things. They have the power to soothe, to enrage, to instill, to oppress. Words used by a charismatic personality can take a group of people who are indifferent to a cause and ignite within them a desire to act. Give words and a forum to an aggressive individual who desires power without justice, and you can create a dictator. The right words spoken to a young person who is seeking reinforcement can instill the confidence to go on; just as hateful words spoken out of anger can be more injurious than a weapon. 

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” ~ Henry David Thoreau  

Sunset 2 Over Lake Dora, FL, by Janson Jones

I suppose my reflective mood may come from the school project that I typed recently for Brett, one in which he had to research one decade for each of four centuries in American history. The most interesting part of the project was that Brett had to identify an iconic quote, work of literature, piece of music, person and event for each decade. So much delving into history always makes me thoughtful about where we have been as a nation, as a people, as a community, as humanity.   

Brett chose the 1690s, the time of the Salem Witch trials; the 1780s, the post-Revolution and first Congress; the 1860s, the Civil War, and the 1960’s, a time of massive social change in America. There was so much information as each of those decades were times of social reform, cultural divisiveness, upheaval and unrest in society, and governmental change

I don’t know how one could help but be moved when reading the words of individuals such as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and of course, Thoreau, not to mention reading the words to songs of generations past.   

So I will close with this passage from one of Thoreau’s journals (1840):   

No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written. Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma, this may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.    

More later. Peace.   

 Annie Lennox’s  beautiful “Fingernail Moon,” of course:   

    

   

                                                                                                           

From St. Nadie in Winter by Terrance Keenan    

One day, my dear,
you stop and look around you,
find yourself stuffing needs into a sack of thoughts,
realize you have talked your life to pieces,
scratched your self to bits,
that neither hope nor doubt
can protect you,
that you are not mistaken,
that you haven’t lost your grip –
it is dissolving.
Now you can speak about everything silently.