“Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Tree”

Neverland by Hannes Flo, (FCC)

“My life is a crystal teardrop. There are snowflakes falling in the teardrop and little figures trudging around in slow motion. If I were to look into the teardrop for the next million years, I might never find out who the people are, and what they are doing.” ~ Joan Baez, as found in Joan Didion’s “Where the Kissing Never Stops”

Friday afternoon, snow and rain, cold, 39 degrees.

During the night when I was letting the dogs out, I looked out to see snow covering the ground, which was a surprise. The weather forecast did not call for snow, only more rain. Corey and I agree that the weather here is actually quite depressing. I can only hope that as the weather gets warmer that we are finally able to dry out around here. The mud is overwhelming, as is the near constant rain.

So we lost internet Wednesday night, right as I was watching that new documentary on HBO about Michael Jackson, Finding Neverland. It’s actually quite disturbing as it features two men who were childhood victims of abuse at Jackson’s hands. Truthfully, I’m surprised that they were able to make it. I know that Jackson’s estate sues people all of the time. Nevertheless, it’s more than time that these victims were able to tell their stories.

Anyway, I can’t believe the nerve of some companies, wanting to be paid for their services as opposed to offering them for free. I remember reading something sometime ago about how Tesla wanted electricity to be free, and someone who wanted the internet to be free. Such radical ideas: actually giving the public something that they can use as opposed to making a profit.

Hmm……..Things that make you go hmm……

“I hear two sibilants—here silk,
the snowstorm outside. Beating soul
and breathing blood. We both got what
we wanted” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, from “Playacting” (Trans. Christopher Whyte)

I decided to be proactive for a change, and rather than wait for the internet to become available again, I decided to go ahead and write some posts on Microsoft Word until we can get it restored on Monday. Then I’ll just post and backdate, which I know is cheating, but hey, when you’re me, and you never know what day it is, does it really matter?

So no podcasts for me for a bit, so I’ve been listening to some of my old music playlists. I made the mistake of putting on an old country playlist while I was taking a bath, and boy, some of those songs are just heartbreaking. For example, there was Blaine Larsen’s, “How Do You Get so Lonely,” which is about a boy who commits suicide, and then there was “Alyssa Lies,” which is about child abuse.

Boy, I know how to put together a playlist that makes you want to cut your wrists with a rusty razor blade—that was a Kathleen saying, or maybe it was a Gail saying. Can’t remember. But those two women were big friends of mine once upon a time.

“I’m tired of my life, my clothes, the things I say. I’m hacking away at the surface, as at some kind of gray ice, trying to break through to what is underneath or I am dead. I can feel the surface trembling—it seems ready to give but it never does..” ~ James Salter, from a letter to Robert Phelps (July 6, 1969-70)

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to another long-time friend of mine, the woman who taught me piano for almost eight years. I always looked up to her, and when she got melanoma years ago, I was so afraid that she would succumb to it, but fortunately, she didn’t, and she went on to have a son by a man who later betrayed her big time.

She was such a classy, talented woman, and oddly enough, she’s the one who made me love Bach, who I had always eschewed before she started teaching me. I was intimidated by Bach—too many notes on the page, as it were, but I learned to master his Two-Part Inventions, and went on to the Three-Part Inventions before I stopped.

I really miss playing, but my piano is in terrible shape. I hope that one day I can find a decent used piano to purchase. Corey’s parents had a beautiful piano in their basement that I always coveted, but then his brother threw out the keys that had come loose, and they got rid of the piano. I miss learning new pieces. I mean, I could teach myself, but there is something special about learning from someone who really knows music. God I loved to play the piano, and I was relatively good at it. I wasn’t one of those naturals who can sit down at a keyboard and just play what they hear in their brains, nor could I ever master changing keys on my own.

I went to school with a couple of people like that, incredibly talented both of them. The one who played the cello died of AIDS during the height of the epidemic, and the other, who played any instrument she touched, ended up having a major tragedy in her life that she never recovered from.

“My wound existed before me;
I was born to embody it.” ~ Joë Bousquet, from “Traduit du silence”

Which just proves that no one is immune from life’s travails, regardless of talent, and here I am still, even when I never imagined being this old, never thought that I would make it this far, and I still feel mediocre every single day of my life. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching for months now, trying to figure out why I can’t be happy. Honestly, I still don’t have an answer, and my inability to find one just makes me madder and madder at myself.

Granted, the last few years have been majorly stressful, and that I even made it out in sort of one piece still amazes me. I remember years ago, after I lost Caitlin, and I went to that first psychiatrist (who I loathed), and he told me that losing a child is ranked as the second or third biggest stressor in life, with being in a concentration camp ranking as first. How did people even survive that when they were finally liberated? How did they not hate everyone and everything?

Anyway, I had a point, which was that other life stressors include moving, starting a new job, and getting married. I got married (the first time), moved to Blacksburg, and started graduate school and teaching composition all within two weeks of each other.
I supposed I’ve never been one to do things half way. It’s all or nothing. Or maybe, it’s everything or nothing. Who knows.

“All I can hear now is the sound of my own heart, opening and closing, opening and closing, opening.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Handmaid’s Tale

But getting back to the idea of being happy: I know that only I can control my happiness. I’m not naïve enough to think that someone else can make me happy. No matter how much Corey loves and cares for me, he cannot control what is inside of me, nor does he try to.

There is such a feeling of deep regret within me, regret, and guilt, and a sense of being incredibly ungrateful.

Let me explain: I have wanted to live in the mountains, on my own property, for as long as I can remember, ever since the first time I drove into Blacksburg to visit Paul. I knew in that instant that my soul belonged in the mountains. So here I am, surrounded by everything I ever wanted, land, an incredible vista, animals, yet somehow, it’s not enough.

No. Let me back that up. It’s not that it’s not enough; it’s that there is such a large hole in my heart that I’m having a hard time allowing myself to be filled with the splendor with which I am surrounded. Aside from the mud, this place is everything. But I don’t have my kids, and I no longer have a home in Norfolk. I wasn’t able to keep my parents’ home in the family, and I know that many people are not able to do this, but I feel like such a failure because of that, and because I wanted my kids to have the opportunity to have it someday. And more than that, I want my kids.

It’s coloring everything, and I hate it more than I can say, so maybe I should stop trying to say anything more at the moment.

More later. Peace.


Music by Ruelle, “Slip Away”

 


Rebus

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.

This rebus—slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life—
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.

As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.

The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.

How can I enter this question the clay has asked?

~ Jane Hirshfield (found on Poetry Foundation)

“Memory swells our reflections.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from ” Mural”

Hovsep Pushman Reflections 2, oil on board 1920s
“Reflections 2” (1920s, oil on board)
by Hovsep Pushman

 “I am convinced that memory has a gravitational force. It is constantly attracting us. Those who have a memory are able live in the fragile present moment. Those who have none don’t live anywhere.” ~ Patricio Guzmán, from Nostalgia for the Light

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not so cold, 50 degrees.

So late last night I wrote another poem. I’ve had the first line in my head for about a week, mulling it over, and then it came to me. It’s about my mom, so I really can’t tell if it’s any good. But I like the title . . .

Anyway, I’m hoping to put up the tree today, but I’m at the mercy of my sons, so I’m not counting on it. You see, Corey took all of the Christmas stuff—decorations, wrapping paper, tree—and put it in my mom’s garage, which is huge. I need all of it to come back over here. Alexis still has Corey’s truck, although I found out that Mike’s been driving it, which doesn’t make sense because it costs a fortune to fill up, but the Lex saga continues unabated, and I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Hovsep Pushman The Violets of Yesterday
“The Violets of Yesterday” (1920s-30s, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman

But because I don’t have the truck, I need Eamonn’s SUV. Unfortunately, on Friday, one of Eamonn’s closest friends died. I don’t know the circumstances yet, but I’m really hoping it wasn’t a suicide. So Eamonn is pretty devastated, and I don’t want to push him to bring over everything, even though he said earlier that he would help.

Brett and Em are coming over to do the outside lights, and they are bringing some stuff with them, but he can’t fit a lot into that old Honda, so I have no idea what I’m going to have here and what’s going to still be in the garage, and so once again, everything is much more complicated than it should be, and stressing over it and everything else is not helping me to get in the holiday spirit, as it were.

“Longing is not memory, but rather what is selected from memory’s museum. Longing is selective, like an adept gardener. It is the replaying of a memory after its blemishes have been removed.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish

So perhaps I shall turn the rest of this into a random thoughts post . . . yes . . . why not?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Harmony in Silver and Green” (nd, oil on panel, detail)
by Hovsep Pushman
  • I have read that a movie is on the horizon called Big Eyes, or something like that; it is based on those pictures of children with huge eyes, popular in the 60s, I think.
  • I have never understood the attraction of those images, but I remember that one of the grocery stores that my mom frequented gave away reproductions.
  • That was when you could actually get encyclopedias and such for coupons earned on purchases. (Remember green stamps? I do, vaguely) . . .
  • Apparently the artist (Keane) who became famous for painting those images did not actually paint them. His wife did.
  • Another woman shafted by the system.
  • Those pictures always freaked me out as a kid.
  • The irony is that today, most cartoons and comics (especially Asian anime) feature characters with over-sized eyes.
  • I still find that kind of characterization creepy.

“Memory belongs to the imagination.” ~ Alain Robbe-Grillet, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction, No. 91”

So since this post is kind of about memory, here are a few more random ones:

Hovsep Pushman Statue, Vase and Bowl color lithograph
“Still Life: Vase and Bowl” (nd, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman
  • The first bit of verse that I memorized: “Where the bee sucks, there suck I: /In a cowslip’s bell I lie;”
  • It was by Shakespeare; I was seven or eight.
  • The first book of poetry that I ever owned: A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • I think that it was given to me right before we moved to the Philippines after my father retired from the Navy.
  • I once thought about memorizing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Just to see if I could.
  • I was 11.
  • I remember the first line of a truly dreadful poem that I wrote in the 9th grade: “I, am nothing, without you”
  • I thought that putting the commas in would give me pauses.

“Nothing is left of that time beyond memories, only a faint remembering.” ~ Cesare Pavese

Hovsep Pushman Reflections oil on panel
“Reflections” (nd, oil on panel)
by Hovsep Pushman

Do you want to know something ironic? I think my memories of my early life are more easily accessible than my memories of the last ten years.

  • My mother once put me up to engaging my father in conversation in a very proper British accent while Dad was talking to someone else.
  • I did it. I remember I began with, “Father, dear. Mummy has . . .”
  • That’s all I remember of that, but can you imagine how strange that man must have thought I was, how strange our family was?
  • I once spent about four weeks speaking in nothing but a Cockney accent
  • It became so much of a habit that I actually answered the phone by saying, “‘Ello, luv.”
  • I really should have been on the stage.
  • Speaking of which, I gave serious thought to moving to New York right after high school graduation, but I’m pretty sure my mother talked me out of it.
  • As someone who loved to pretend and act, how did I end up with three kids who are all afraid to be on a stage?

“I was going to be a memory when I grew up.” ~ Alejandro Zambra, from Ways of Going Home

Let’s bring this full circle:

Hovsep Pushman Silence Oil on canvas
“Silence” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Hovsep Pushman
  • When I was about 8 or 9, my mother told me that I could marry the Prince of Wales.
  • Where did my mother get her airs from?
  • She never got over leaving London and coming back to the states.
  • I wish she had gone back to London for a visit, yet I’m glad that she didn’t because the London of today is nothing like the London of my childhood.
  • I just had a flash of a wild memory: My dad shipped his convertible to London when he was transferred there. We used to go on country drives on Sunday, you know, family, friends, picnics . . . I had seen in some movie how this glamorous woman sat up on the back seat of the convertible and let the wind blow through her hair. You guessed it, while no one was paying any attention to me, I got up on the back seat (on the part that housed the folded soft top) and sat there for a good part of the drive until my mother turned around and saw me.
  • I still wonder if my dad saw me in the rear view mirror and didn’t do anything because he thought it was funny.
  • No seat belts for us.
  • I guess I got my airs from my mother and movies.

My new poem is below. I’ve also included a particularly beautiful poem by Philip Shultz, not because I’m comparing mine to his, but because I love how it ties in to the idea of memory.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Armenian artist Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966).

Music by Memoryhouse, “Old Haunts (Aurora Remix)”

                   

Shopping at Wal-Mart the Week before Christmas

It all began with the Almond Rocha, you see,
the richly colored pink and gold tin
I took from the shelf without thinking,
one of my mother’s favorites, even though
each time I gifted her this sweet,
I was sure to hear a weary sigh
followed by the words,
I have diabetes, you know,
even as she dug into the can
for one of the gold, foil-wrapped
butter crunch toffees, as if somehow
the knowledge of her condition
had slipped my mind
sometime since the last time
she had reminded me
of the circumstance she herself
ignored so judiciously,
but every Christmas
I would give her a large tin
because it was the only present
I was sure she wouldn’t hate, the only one
that wouldn’t have to go back to the store
for one reason or another,
and I’ll let you in
on another little secret—
I didn’t find a single empty tin
when I spent those long winter days
erasing her from the home
in which she had spent almost
a half century, not one
nestled among the endless packs
of charity greeting cards
with their insipid messages,
not a single one
hidden among the baskets
filled with long-dried bingo markers
in red and green and blue,
not even one left neglected
in the old bar, where funnily enough,
I found an almost empty bottle of tequila
and a very dusty liqueur bottle
shaped like a monk.
So I replaced the new tin on the shelf,
among all the other holidays confections,
left my half-filled cart
of soaps, nail polish,
and lemons, and promptly
walked out into the night
before the memory of her voice
could catch me.

L. Liwag
December 14, 2014

                   

Talking to Ourselves

A woman in my doctor’s office last week
couldn’t stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie
with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only
the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month
of Alzheimer’s. I stood there, listening to
his longing reach across the darkness with
each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

This morning my five-year-old asked himself
why he’d come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

When my father’s vending business was failing,
he’d talk to himself while driving, his lips
silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn’t care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.

“Too important,” I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, “What’s that you said?”

~ Philip Schultz

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

From the Infinity Series by L. Liwag©

“Memory is a part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our hearts pumping. It is memory that reminds our bodies to work, and memory that reminds our spirits to work too: it keeps us who we are.” ~ Gregory Maguire

In the Gloaming II (pointillated) by L. Liwag

I no longer weep on Caitlin’s birthday. That fact does not make me sad. No. That’s not the truth. That fact does make me sad, for does it mean that I have forgotten? In truth, I have not forgotten anything, but I suppose the memory has become so much a part of me that it no longer sits alone by itself, waiting to be taken from its perch, brought to the front, so that it can hold sway over my entire existence. 

That is the fact, the truth, the reality.

We are all collections of our memories—both painful and lovely, luminous and cutting. We file our memories in the small repositories within our brain, move them around over time so that some can be recalled instantaneously, while others are relegated to forgotten corners where they collect dust, withdraw into almost nothingness, only to resurface at inappropriate times. 

“Memory is a tenuous thing, like a rainbow’s end or a camera with a failing lens.”  ~ Ellen Hopkins

Lynnhaven Pier at Twilight (pointillated) by L. Liwag

Some years, the memories of my baby girl breach my consciousness in horrible ways, unrelenting waves that pull me under and leave me gasping for air. But most years, the memories are just there. I can delve into them if I choose, or I can just look at them from afar, keep my distance, choose not to touch them. 

That I have arrived at this point in my life is a good thing, I think. That I can meet March 26 without the fear of complete emotional paralysis means that I no longer feel Caitlin’s presence, her life, her death, so keenly. She is no longer the fresh wound that I bore for so many years, one that I continually tore the scab from so that I could watch it bleed. Rather, she and all that she was has become one of those fine lines on my body, one of the silvery scars that make me who I am. 

I do not believe for a moment that there will not still be days in my life on which I suddenly find myself overcome with grief, but I know that those days will happen with less and less frequency because that is the way of life. We live, we collect, we sift, we hold, we discard. All of the pieces that are precious never fade entirely. That is why we are allowed the gift of memory. Some of the pieces will not go away. That is why we are burdened with the pain of memory. 

“Some things don’t last forever, but some things do. Like a good song, or a good book, or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down on the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there.” ~ Sarah Dessen

Caitlin and Me

For me, the pain of those days in November has melded with the joy of those days in March and April so that it has all become one. If I pick too much at the threads, it will fray and unravel, but if I just touch it gently, it will remain whole, with all of its swirls and hues. The Pointillists knew that if they created enough colored dots, the eyes would see a whole image. Such is memory: thousands and thousands of disparate dots, a second here, an afternoon there—all coming together to create the one image. 

In my mind’s eye, I see Caitlin with her dark hair and almond eyes, her chubby arms and legs. I see her without the wires, without the machines. I can still hear the machines, but I no longer see them. In truth, I do not remember very much about the day on which she was born. I remember the doctor, and I remember that it was afternoon. I remember taking a shower. Other than those few things, I do not remember.  Unfortunately, too much of what I remember came later. 

Today, though, I remember her arms and her hands. I am not weeping, nor am I overwhelmed with sadness, and that is a good thing. For now. 

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.” 

 ~ Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 

                                                                                                           

Rain Light 

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning 
 

~ W. S. Merwin 

Ray LaMontagne’s “Empty” 

“Half my life is in books’ written pages, lived and learned from fools and from sages.” ~ “Dream On” by Aerosmith

die tanzerin poster

“Die Tanzerin” (detail), by Gustav Klimt

 

“Lost in a dream of mirrors. Lost in a paradox.” ~ “Dream of Mirrors”* (Iron Maiden)

“A reflected dream of captured time . . .”

kananga-mineral-water-japanAs I’m sitting here, staring at the blinking cursor, I could swear that it’s mocking me: You cannot write. You cannot write. Ha ha ha . . .

I know, I do have a habit of personifying inanimate objects quite often, but I’m certain that it’s because my mind works on the same plane as those very objects that I personify. In other words, I understand the cursor, the mouse, the keyboard in the same way that I know what my dogs are saying.

Trust me. It’s a special gift—being this in touch with non-living, objects. Notice I did not say non-sentient? That’s because these little buggers are sentient (I don’t care what you think Bruce Hood; this is my special kind of  Supersense). For example, the mouse knows precisely when to act up: When I am exhausted and having a hard time editing myself. The keyboard knows exactly when to shift the keys one place over: When I am on a roll and not paying attention to the screen so that once I finally look up, I have 20 lines of gibberish.

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. And I think that the ceiling fan may be in on it as well. By the way, the dogs are laughing at me.

“Have you ever felt the future is the past, but you don’t know how?”

Of course, you are probably sitting there thinking, ‘She’s sounding pretty strange today. Stranger than usual, that is.’ Well you’d be acting strangely too if you had the dream that I had last night. It was filled with confrontation, religious symbolism, a non-working right leg, a professor who turned on me in class, and a red-headed woman who was out to get me. Trust me, all of that trying to escape, falling off a metal bleacher and landing inside a church: That takes a toll on a person’s psyche.

Nevertheless, the actual reason for this post is that David Bridger  posted an interesting meme: Describe the most interesting dream you have ever had, or the dream that you simply cannot forget. I have quite a few, but there is one in particular that really sticks with me because it did not feel like a dream. It felt like a memory.

Now we all know about my Buddhist tendencies to believe in reincarnation: You keep coming back until you get it right. Well this particular dream felt so real, so linear and complete that when I told Corey about it, I also mentioned that I thought that it was more of a memory than a dream.

Okay, for you non-believers out there, just go with the flow. I mean the whole reincarnation thing has always troubled me because I fear coming back as a cockroach; however as someone pointed out to me, coming back as a cockroach would not be so bad because someone would step on you or poison you, which would end that particular incarnation, and then you would be able to come back as something better, that is unless being a cockroach is your final destination, in which case, we really don’t want to ponder that too much.

Moving on. I find it particularly hilarious that many people who claim to have had past lives declare that they were someone famous. How many people could have been Napoleon, or George Washington, or Marie Antoinette. Why is it that no one ever remembers being a scullery maid, or a blacksmith, or a fisherman?

(Just a note: You thought that the whole first section was a complete drop-in, something to fill space, but I had my motives: If I began this post with something completely nonsensical and outrageous, then by the time I got to reincarnation, it couldn’t possible phase you, and you’d just keep reading. (I do have my moments of lucidity within my insanity . . .))

“Have I dreamt this time, this place?”

Delusions of reincarnation grandeur. Too funny. But as usual, I digress. Getting back to my memory dream . . .

utamaro-kitagawa-a-young-woman-seated-at-a-desk-writing-a-girl-with-a-book-looks-on
"Young Woman Seated at Desk Writing, Girl With Book Looks On," by Utamaro Kitagawa

I am a young Japanese girl in Feudal Japan. My mother is a person of some importance in court, not a princess, but someone who is definitely of the upper class. I am wearing a white kimono that is covered with small cherry blossoms. In my child’s mind, I think that the kimono should not be white as that is the color for marriage. I wish that I could wear a fancy kimono like the ones that my mother wears, but I am too young.

My mother is trying to teach me how to paint my characters, specifically my name with small willows on a sprig as decoration. I keep trying, but I cannot get the page to look as beautiful as my mother’s.

In leaning over the paper, I spill some ink on my kimono. It is red ink even though I am drawing with black ink, and I think that the splatter looks like blood. My mother chastises me for being so clumsy, and leaves the room with her maid. I continue to work, but instead of drawing what I am supposed to be practicing, I draw the following image instead:

 

Basic RGB

 Japanese Memory Dream Image by L. Liwag

And I think I’ve seen your face, seen this room, been in this place”

I draw this image repeatedly, trying to perfect it until an old man comes into the room. He is my tutor. He looks at what I am drawing and tells me to stop. For some reason, the image makes him uncomfortable. He tells me that I can learn how to draw my characters better if I practice drawing a small canoe first. He takes the brush, and in three easy strokes draws a canoe; then he adds fine lines and a bit of shadow that illustrate the water.

I tell him that I am not able to draw such a simple yet beautiful picture, but he instructs me to begin with the three lines of the canoe. I push aside the image from my mind that I have drawn over and over again, and I take a clean sheet of white paper. I dip the brush in the ink pot, and I draw the three lines. They look just like the old man’s canoe. He smiles at me and bows his head. I bow my head in reply.

The dream ends.

“Think I’ve heard your voice before, think I’ve said these words before”

In setting the action into words, it seems as if it is a very short dream. But the reality is that this dream or memory takes a long time. I begin the lessons with my mother in the early afternoon. I pursue the elusive image in my mind for several hours. By the time I finish the canoe, it is evening.

arnie-fisk-gilded-kimono
"Gilded Kimono," by Arnie Fisk

Things I remember about the dream: My mother’s hair is very beautiful, black and shiny. Her Kimono has very long sleeves or tamoto, that are trimmed in gold, and I wish that I were old enough to wear sleeves like my mother’s. My mother’s maid is short and not very attractive, and she gives me a dirty look when my mother says that I am clumsy. I know that she is trying to make my mother like her more. I shoot the maid a child’s dirty look, although my eyes are cast downward out of respect for my mother.

The red ink that I spill on my kimono spreads quickly like blood, leaving the bottom of my right sleeve, and a portion of the right side of my kimono saturated with the ink. I try to blot the ink with a piece of fabric, and I stick my fingers in water to try to rub out the ink . Someone, I don’t know whose voice it is, says that the ink will come out when the kimono is washed, but my mother scolds the person and says that the kimono, which is made of fine silk, is ruined now.

My tutor does not have a long mustache. He is thin, and he has brown leathery hands, and the bones are prominent. I think that he will not be able to draw well with such hands. My tutor has an assistant, a much younger man, who does nothing. He sits off to the side and drinks tea while the old man instructs me. I think that he is a lazy assistant and wish that I could spent more time with my tutor as I like him very much. He is not as stern as my mother, and he is very patient with me.

The room that I am in throughout the dream has long windows. At first, there is much sunlight streaming into the room. As the day wanes, I no longer notice the sunlight, but at some point my tutor lights the lanterns in the room. The floor is stone, and I am sitting on a large, red cushion. It has gold tassels on each corner.

“Have I found my destination?” 

Picture of the Upper Class by Kitagawa Utamaro
"Picture of the Upper Class," by Utamaro Kitagawa

Now, I had this memory dream several weeks ago, but I still remember every detail, even though this is the first time that I have written about it. I do remember my dreams, but never with this much clarity.

The other very curious thing about this memory dream and reality is that for a very long time, since I was in my early 20’s, I have felt that there is something Japanese in me somewhere along the line. It’s not from my father’s side of the family. In fact, my father hated the Japanese, and for good reason. His village suffered horribly under Japanese rule during WWII.

Despite that, I have had this feeling that I have Japanese blood, and I wrote about it in a poem called “Blood Tracings.” I never told my father about my feelings; in fact, I have only told a few people over the years about this sense of heritage, but I have not thought about it in years.

And then this memory dream pervades my bedtime sojourns and leaves me feeling very disquieted.

“Am I still inside my dream? Is this a new reality” 

Who’s to say if my dream means anything. It may just be my mind’s way of sifting through the detritus of the day, which is how I usually interpret my dreams. If there is a red-headed woman in my dream, it’s usually because I have seen a red-headed woman on television, or on a book flap (which was the case last night), or in person.

 But this dream has nothing to do with anything I have thought about recently, nothing I have written about, nor anything that I have seen. It just came to me, and when I awoke, I was certain that it was a memory. I felt that way and still feel this way because of the effect that this memory dream has had on me: I think about it constantly; the details are still quite vivid, and when I awoke from the dream, I immediately said to Corey, “I just had the most curious memory.” Of course he was asleep at the time, so I had to remind him later.

If it was indeed a memory, then it was a good one. Aside from displeasing my mother, I enjoyed my creations with brush and ink. I cared little about my kimono being ruined, and the old man who was my tutor gave me a great deal of comfort. The room in which I was working was obviously the room that was dedicated to learning as there was the one larger desk with several brushes, and many cushions on the stone floor.

I know nothing about Japanese characters. I don’t think that the drawing that I created actually translates into anything. But if it does, I would love to know.

またあいましょ : ‘Mata aai masho’ or “Let us meet again.” Peace.

claude-monet-the-japanese-bridge

 “The Japanese Bridge,” by Claude Monet

*All quotes in text subheadings are taken from Iron Maiden’s “Dream of Mirrors”
                                                                                                                                        
Are you interested in finding more readers for your blog? Do you want to participate in a blogging community? Then go to www.condron.us, one of the best blogging communities available today on the Internet. When you add your blog to the blogroll, you can categorize it so that your blog will be placed in the category to which you think it is best suited. That way, you can ensure that readers who are interested in the same subjects that you write about will have immediate access to your blog. Spend a few minutes looking through Condron’s forum, where you will find discussions on numerous topics, or begin a new topic thread. Condron.us is a blogger’s best friend.

Pensif, Pensare, Pensive

ophelia-toledo-museum-of-art-hughes

Ophelia, Arthur Hughes, 1865

Late Night Thoughts

Where do you go when the night has been too long and unkind? Who takes your hand when you reach out in the darkness? Who will be there when you awaken after your dreams have taken you to places you never wanted to venture? Are these questions for you then?

Who will come for me when I call? Have I expended all of my chances to beckon unto me those who once may have attended unto me but are lost to me forever? I will not turn my head in shame this time, I promise. No more consolation prizes.

My eyes grow so weary: My soul has forgotten grace. The soul should never be without grace, the heart without memory and time. Memory then, is what saves us, what brings us back from the edge, what supplants those who chose to leave and those who are taken with things left undone. My father is in the night sky, the summer storms, the bold flashes of light just beyond the horizon. My daughter is in the mountains, the moss-covered hillocks and crevices, the natural running springs and waterfalls. My grief is invisible to all but me, a constant flame in my heart.

Doubts do not disappear when the stars reveal themselves. They are only cloaked temporarily in the sounds of dew on grass and moonbeams. At dawn, the dream ends the same. Truth, after all, is bitter root, mandrake, and hemlock. Only the hardiest of fools will take truth as a mistress—fools and children who have yet to forswear everything for a lie, and those who are lost already.

I will not treat you unkindly if you promise to love me. The heartache we will share together. I will follow you, yet do not desert me alone in the dark or in places unrevealed. Shadows can consume me and leave me concealed in desolate alleys, waiting for the moon’s pale light to illuminate the path home.

Shall we ponder tomorrow, you and I? Will we believe that we can stay here forever, on this carousel, the golden ring continually eluding our grasp as haunting pipe music plays in the background, and our painted horses, frozen in place, more like us than we care to see? My love, will you remember me? Will you come for me at journey’s end?

So who then shall hear your thoughts in the darkest heart of the night? Who will clasp your hand when you reach out for comfort? When you confess all that has caused you doubt and fear, where will you find comfort? Where will I? In the sounds in the night, after all?