“Words carry oceans on their small backs.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Sunset on the New River by Jo Munday fcc
Sunset on the New River
by Jo Munday (FCC)


“What do you know about yourself? What are your stories? The ones you tell yourself, and the ones told by others . . . I suppose the truth is that we begin more than once; we begin many times. Over and over we start our own tales, compose our own stories, whether our lives are short or long. Until at last all our beginnings come down to just one end, and the tale of who we are is done.” ~ Cameron Dokey, from Before Midnight

Monday early evening. Partly cloudy, extremely humid and hot, 87 degrees.

Part of a comment in my spam folder: your broadcast offered shiny transparent idea. I like that: shiny, transparent idea. Probably the best compilation of words I’ve seen in days, and of course, not mine.

Stream, New River nukeit1 fcc
Stream Feeding the New River
by nukeit1 (FCC)

Spam comments are sometimes worth perusing, if only to find the nuggets above. I’m not making fun of the broken English comments. After all, if someone is speaking broken English, that means he or she speaks another language. How many of us English-speaking Americans can say the same?

Anyway, I don’t promise this will be a lucid post. I’m coming off my second night of insomnia. I have no idea as to what has caused this latest bout, but it’s a serious one. The dogs are snoring, Corey is snoring, I’m thinking about tile.

Let me explain: Corey has decided that we’re going ahead with the bathroom renovation in the next few days. I agree that it’s time. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, it has to be a total gut to see what water damage we have, which means tile, faucets, tub, sink/vanity, toilet, tile . . . The idea of doing this doesn’t scare me. What scares me is making sure we’ve budgeted for every possible scenario.

Too many numbers, measurements, and finishes are roiling about in my brain; hence, the inability to shut it off and go to sleep.

“The mind is constantly trying to figure out what page it’s on in the story of itself. Close the book. Burn the bookmark. End of story. Now the dancing begins.” ~ Ikko Narasaki

So at three in the morning I had a sudden realization that the tub we had agreed on wouldn’t work because it was a drop in without a skirt. Drop-in means we would have to build a supporting frame and create an attractive skirt. I kid you not, I got on the computer at 3 in the morning to research the difference between drop-in tubs and tubs that come with an apron or skirt.

Down by the New River by Jo Munday FCC
Down by the New River
by Jo Munday (FCC)

Then I realized that the original tile configuration I had come up with was going to be too expensive, so back to the pages and pages of tile choices. This is what happens when you have OCD—every detail becomes a challenge. If only I approached my writing with the same verve. No. I save that for tile.

In between the dashes to the computer, I would try to determine which medicine I could add to my nighttime meds that might induce sleep without putting me into a coma. Somewhere around 4:30 a.m. I drank a shot of Kahlua and cream. Whatever.

“Living with one’s passions amounts to living with one’s sufferings, which are the counterpoise, the corrective, the balance, and the price. When a man has learned—and not on paper—how to remain alone with his suffering, how to overcome his longing to flee, the illusion that others may share, then he has little left to learn.” ~ Albert Camus, from Notebooks, 1942-1951

Finally a made myself leave the computer, set a short playlist of soft music, and planted myself in bed. Perhaps sleep . . . no, not sleep as a particular song on playlist began to take my mind someplace I really didn’t want to go, back to my early 20’s, driving up a mountain road with friends in tow, going to New River. I think Dicky Betts was on the radio. I was never a Southern rock aficionado, but I had select favorites, especially the songs with girls’ names: “Amy,” “Melissa,” and “Allison.”

New River Gorge Bridge from Beneath by amanderson2 fcc
New River Gorge Bridge from Beneath
by amanderson2 (FCC)

The playlist I had selected was mostly bluegrass, and I remembered another time, with my ex, when we used to listen to a bluegrass program on the radio every Sunday night. The radio. A little clock radio with the added bonus of a cassette tape player. Big deal once upon a time.

Then it all came back, fast, an oncoming onslaught that I could not have predicted and that I could not temper with a different set of memories from a different point in time. I don’t speak highly of my ex, and there are reasons, but to deny that we had some magic once would just be unfair to both of us. Mostly the magic was in the early days when we were poor students surviving each month on less money than you can imagine.

Poverty makes you creative. You rely on friends, free things (like New River and the Cascades), and mix tapes as the soundtrack to your days. There were cookouts, big pots of stew, a bottle of wine that had to last two weeks.

“Something aches at the very core of me, something ancient and deep and stronger than words: the filament that joins each of us to the root of existence, that ancient thing unfurling and resisting and grappling, desperately for a foothold, a way to stay here, breathe, keep going.” ~ Lauren Oliver, Delirium

I have been poor a few different times in my life. It’s not a preferred state. And I know that it is easy to romanticize the past, to forget all of the horrible exchanges of bitter words and all of the resultant tears. Time allows those things to soften, and if you are really lucky, allows you to forget most of the bad. I’ve never been good at the forgetting thing.

But last night, or rather, early this morning, as I watched the room change from dark to light, as I listened to the birds, I remembered riding up a mountain in a really raggedy Toyota. I remember singing along to bluegrass and sipping cheap cold beer from a can.

Kaymoor Trail Stream, New River urbanwoodchuck fcc
Kaymoor Trail Stream, New River
by urbanwoodchuck (FCC)

I had everything in front of me, bad and good. The kids, the careers, the friends, and the lovers. Corey wasn’t anywhere near my orbit because he was too busy growing up in Ohio. All of the possibilities were still there. All of the dreams were still waiting to be dusted on the wind. All of the words had yet to leave my brain.

My writing back then was so maudlin, so juvenile . . . hearts, flowers, love. No depth. No strength. I hadn’t seen even half of what life would deal me; how could I possibly write about it?

“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” ~ Lois McMaster Bujold

So while the world outside was moving minute by minute into the future, I was lost somewhere in the past, somewhere on a narrow mountain road, and life was like a juicy ripe peach, there for the taking. I’m fairly certain we were at the Narrows, New River.

Between the Rails jronaldlee FCC
Between the Rails
by jronaldlee (FCC)

The air was so clean that you could smell the green. The water that pooled around my bare feet was clear enough to see the pebbles on the bottom. Occasionally, the train passed by, a grey line among the green, a sound among the natural silence. Those were the days long before parasailers and kayakers and whitewater rafting groups. Fewer people, more nature. It was a good day. We stayed for hours until the sun began to set behind the mountain, and a chill crept into the air.

But this is why I was left so damned melancholy: I will never have those days again. I am closer to my last chapter than one written in my beginning. Yet I remember feeling everything so acutely, embracing life so completely, inhaling the very essence of the day.

Words are beginning to fail me now. I fear that I my writing is broaching on the clichéd. But for a few hours between dawn and daylight, I was there, and it was richer than anything I have glimpsed with my tired eyes in too long, and I fell asleep with a dull ache in my heart and a very tired soul.

More later. Peace.

All images are used under creative commons license.

Music by Mindy Smith and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Anymore of This”


The Heart Under Your Heart

New River Gorge Bridge at Fayette Station Gary Hartley
New River Gorge Bridge at Fayette Station
by Gary Hartley (creative commons)

Who gives his heart away too easily must have a heart
under his heart.
~ James Richardson

The heart under your heart
is not the one you share
so readily so full of pleasantry
& tenderness
it is a single blackberry
at the heart of a bramble
or else some larger fruit
heavy the size of a fist
it is full of things
you have never shared with me
broken engagements bruises
& baking dishes
the scars on top of scars
of sixteen thousand pinpricks
the melody you want so much to carry
& always fear black fear
or so I imagine you have never shown me
& how could I expect you to
I also have a heart beneath my heart
perhaps you have seen or guessed
it is a beach at night
where the waves lap & the wind hisses
over a bank of thin
translucent orange & yellow jingle shells
on the far side of the harbor
the lighthouse beacon
shivers across the black water
& someone stands there waiting

~ Craig Arnold


“Beyond the East the sunrise, beyond the West the sea, And the East and West the wander-thirst that will not let me be.” ~ Gerald Gould

View from Castle Dunluce, Irish Coast

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” ~ Tom Stoppard, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

North Sea Dawn

I thought that I should probably post tonight as our Internet service will likely be going by the wayside anytime now. I’m just hoping that it stays on until Monday since Brett has a statistics paper that he must do, and he really needs to consult a few sites in order to complete it.

Corey has realized that even if Congress passes another extension on unemployment benefits, he will not be eligible as he is at the highest tier, meaning he has exhausted his time-limit. I really didn’t realize, or perhaps I didn’t pay that much attention, but unemployment figures are calculated by the number of people who file for unemployment. Right? Well, in order to keep those figures skewing lower, the government does not count those individuals whose unemployment benefits have expired but are still unemployed. If they did, then the figures would be much higher.

Also, some Congressman (don’t remember who) was saying that there really isn’t a need to extend benefits since the statistical trend is for people to find employment once their benefits expire. Well duh. Of course they find employment, but it is usually underemployment. For example, let’s take an individual who normally earns $50k a year. During the time in which benefits are available, the individual can keep looking in his or her field, trying to match or at least come close to a normal salary; however, once benefits end, that same individual is forced to take absolutely anything because absolutely anything is better than nothing.

Underemployment. Such a term. Such a slap in the face.

All of that being said, Corey hopes to hear from the port security folks by mid-week, and with any luck, Vane Brothers will complete their new vessel and have a need sometime this spring. All we can do is continue to hope as the alternative is grim.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another.” ~ Anatole France

Waves and Mussels

I am feeling terribly melancholy today, not exactly sure why. It has been a very rough week emotionally, what with Alexis’s health, facing the next few months with a decided drop in household income, both Brett and I needing medicine. Sometimes it’s all just too much, and sometimes, it’s all just not enough.

That old saying about never being given more than you can handle? Bah, I say. I have been faced far too often with more than I can handle, and I can attest that it diminishes the self each time that it happens. The question becomes how to continue to throw oneself into the fray knowing that a battle may be won, but the war is far from over. It’s at times such as this that I wish I had a Henry V to rally me with a rollicking St. Crispin’s day speech: “We few. We happy few.” Oh well.

Corey and I were talking about age the other night, and I said that being in your twenties is almost worse than being a teenager because you still think that you know everything, only now you have some power behind you, which makes you dangerous. This statement was preceded by the declaration that I would not be in my 20’s again for anything. Corey said that if a good fairy came and said I will make you 20 again, that I would jump at the chance, and I told him quite honestly that I would not return to my twenties for anything, my thirties perhaps, but definitely not my twenties.

As I told him, I was pretty much insufferable in my twenties, head-strong with no wisdom to make me pause before speaking or acting. I’m not entirely sure that my current self would have been able to tolerate my 22-year-old self. But then, reflection does give one pause, doesn’t it?

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

My friend Maureen and I have been bolstering each other with the sentiment that 2010 will be our year—a year of good change, a year of better circumstances, a year of  repair and restoration for the body and soul. I try to remind myself of that, but with it going into the second week of March, I realize that so far, 2010 is no better than 2009. I’m hoping that some of Maureen’s good fortune makes its way across the world to our abode. ‘Twould be nice.

Wave at Guadeloupe

And so I continue to move through the days, mostly aimlessly, often wearily, thinking myself much put upon, not really knowing what it is I am doing. The dust continues to settle about me, growing thicker with the days, a potent symbol of my disuse. The house continues in its decay, and I with it. We are linked, this house and I, in more ways than I care to admit: built during a time in which things were made to last, but not so well-tended in recent years; a solid foundation, but with chinks and cracks reflecting the settling of time, the encroachment of nature. With some care, we could possibly be bright again, but that care has been postponed and put on the back burner to await a time that is more convenient.

And as I so often find when I am melancholy, I think of the sea, its constant movement, the immense power, the vast stretches of nothingness. I think of my father, who spent almost his entire life on the sea. I think of the cerulean blues of the Caribbean, and the muddy greens of the Atlantic. I remember my graduate school office mate who came from Wisconsin and had never seen the ocean before, how we brought her to Norfolk for Thanksgiving and took her to the oceanfront, and how amazed she was by something I took for granted, and how I tried to see it through her eyes.

I remember my father telling me once that many men who used to work on the water would not learn to swim because they did not want that unendurable wait for exhaustion to overtake them before the sea finally swallowed them. I remember my mother’s neighbor fumbling into our house one December and crying out that she had just gotten the news that her husband had been lost at sea.

I think of Isolde looking out to sea from the windy Irish cliff, searching the sea for signs of Tristan.

Why do I think of these things now? I do not know. They just come to me, and then they recede from memory again like the tide. And all that is left are fading footprints in the wet sand where someone walked but a moment ago, the foamy edge of the receding water, and the stark cry of gulls in the air above.

More later. Peace.

“My Face in Thine Eye” from Tristan and Isolde movie soundtrack

All images taken from Wikimedia Commons.