“We all need mantras, I guess—stories we tell ourselves to keep us going.” ~ Lauren Oliver, from Pandemonium

Toddler in front of Manchester ruins by Shirley Baker*

“There is a beauty in the world, though it’s harsher than we expect it to be.” ~ Michael Cunningham, from The Hours

Thursday afternoon, mostly cloudy and warm, 76 degrees.

Dallas showed up a few hours ago with the horse trailer again. At least Corey was home this time. Dallas is determined to take my horse Napoleon over to his place to stud some mares that are in heat. He also wants to take Sassy to try to impregnate her. The last time he showed up to do this, I almost hit him over the head with a heavy object. The man is infuriating when he’s been drinking.

Boy pushing child in door swing

He’s out there ordering Corey around, doing the same thing that he did to me, telling Corey to be very quiet, even as he yells. Dallas is oblivious to the irony. Neither horse is cooperating, which I find oddly amusing, but I know that Corey must be frustrated.

Apparently, though, they’ve finally gotten Napoleon into the trailer but have given up on Sassy, who isn’t having anything to do with Dallas and his trailer; with any luck, Dallas will be departing soon. The banging and yelling have made the dogs and me nervous. I actually had plans to take the dogs for a walk, but I was definitely not going out there while all of that chaos was going on, only to be called into the fray, regardless of my plans

Neither my nerves nor my patience could have taken it. With any luck, I still might be able to get a walk in. We’ll just have to see, I suppose, but of course, I’m writing now, so it’s doubtful that I’ll actually make it outside. (I really need to manage my time better, or perhaps, it’s my mind. Who knows . . .)

“Still, there are times i am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.” ~ Jhumpa Lahiri, from “The Third and Final Continent”

Just a week ago Corey and I were talking about how everything in Norfolk would already be in bloom, but everything around here was still bare, and then suddenly, we woke up, and there was green grass, and blossoms on some trees, and bulbs coming up everywhere. It’s finally spring on the ridge.

Children playing in ruins

One of the reasons that I had wanted to get a walk in was to explore just what was in bloom in the various nooks and crannies everywhere. Perhaps next year I’ll have been able to get various bulbs in the ground and more bushes planted that I want: peonies, day lilies, tulips, mock orange, wisteria, Carolina jasmine, wisteria, maybe even a couple of flowering crabapple  and blossoming cherry trees. That would be nice. I miss the huge blooms on my peony plants, and I had fully intended to dig them up to transplant, but as with most things involved in the move, it just didn’t happen. In fact, we’re still realizing exactly how much we’re missing from our belongings that didn’t make it here. Odd.

So I hear the tractor pulling out and Dallas yelling over the engine, as if anyone could even figure out what he’s talking about now. Sorry. I know that I should be kinder, should be nicer, should be less judgmental.

I’m not. Sorry. Not really.

“. . . the ones who dance
As though they’re burying
Memory—one last time—
Beneath them.” ~ Tracy K. Smith, from “Duende”

And by the way, it appears that Maddy is going into heat sooner than anticipated.  I told Corey that we need to buy some diapers to put on her because I definitely to not want her impregnated; I remember that my mother used to keep this diaper thing that she would put on the Yorkies when they went into heat. My life just keeps getting more and more interesting. So now the hunt it on for affordable spaying. Anyone have any ideas?

Young toddler with old bicycle wheel, Manchester UK, 1964

Unfortunately, I realized that Maddy’s condition means that her sisters from the litter, those currently still residing with Dallas, must be going into heat as well, and he is completely irresponsible about such things; witness the two recent litters of puppies he now has in residence. I would really like to steal some of his females and have them spayed and then return them. He’d never notice.

If wishes were fishes . . .

Sleep sucked last night, and I kept having dreams that were filled with strange images and food. I even woke up and wrote down the details of one particular dream because it unnerved me so much. So I dreamed about chicken and dumplings, BBQ, the old townhouse in Alexandria, my former sister-in-law, and my ex. Needless to say it was all jumbled and disturbing, and I awoke feeling like I’d run a marathon, that is if I’d ever run a marathon, or could run a marathon, or would run a marathon (I’ve seen how people look at the finish line; no thank you).

Note: I began this post yesterday afternoon, and then got distracted as usual, that and the whole Dallas interruption; but I’ve decided to finish it today because . . . things . . . why not?

“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” ~ Anthony Doerr, from All the Light We Cannot See

Friday afternoon, rain and cooler, 64 degrees.

So, another bad night. Migraine today. Storms outside and inside, I guess. I’m supposed to call some rep about getting the new migraine medication Aimovig with assistance, but the key words here are supposed to and call—easier said than done. I never ever ever thought that I’d miss having a working phone. Is it possible to get a phone to make outgoing calls only, as in no one can call in and bother you? You get to call on your time, when it’s convenient for you?

Someone should invent that . . .

Little girl with a pushcar frame, Manchester, UK, 1969

So I’m committed to finishing this post. Just as I’ve committed myself to doing the taxes this weekend . . . yep, have to do that. I’ve also made a pact with Corey that I’m going to get back to my piano. I’ve cleaned and dusted it, and I’ve been doing scales and exercises to get my fingers back into shape. I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll practice 30 minutes a day until I get back into shape, and then an hour a day to get back to Chopin and Beethoven.

I think that it’s a good plan. Now it’s a matter of staying focused.

Now that the weather is warmer, I have so many goals: piano playing, writing, house organizing, furniture refinishing. I can do this, I tell myself, even as internally I begin to panic. I know. It makes no sense. I’ve set the goals. I’ve made the to do list. No one else has done this for me. No one is making me do any of this . . . but it’s that old battle of feeling that I’m not meeting expectations.

Whose? Don’t ask me. I truly don’t know.

“We spend our life trying to bring together in the same instant a ray of sunshine and a free bench.” ~ Samuel Beckett, from Texts for Nothing

I’ve been exploring YouTube again, looking for new artists, renditions with which I am unfamiliar. I like YouTube, but hate the ads that pop up at the most inopportune times. I mean, I realize that those ads are the method by which people on that channel makes a lot of their income, but still, I wish that it was more like the original days of the channel, when you could listen for hours without an ad. Of course, if I were willing to pay for premium, I would have to deal with ads.

Boy with a cricket bat outside a terraced house in Manchester, UK

Not going to be doing that any time soon, even if I did have the money. I mean, it’s the principle . . . at least, that’s what I tell myself . . . Ah, the inequities of life, such small problems that dart into our lives like pesky mosquitoes. At least I have a computer on which I can view the channel. I have electricity, water, a roof over my head. I need to remind myself of these things when I’m feeling pitiful about my current plight.

We may not have a fully-stocked larder, but we aren’t starving. We don’t have to live in a cage, or a processing room filled with desperate people. We don’t have to pick through garbage piles looking for the odd thing that might be turned into coin in order to purchase a meal for our children. This world is so full of want and need, and when I think about it, it just about destroys my soul.

I probably should stop now before I go on a full-blown rant about the haves and the have-nots and how very and truly warped our society is, right down to its very bones.

More later. Peace.

*All images are by photographer Shirley Baker, who is well known for her stark images of working-class people living in the inner-city neighborhoods of Salford and Manchester, UK. Taken between 1961 and 1981, Baker frequently focused her lens on the children in these neighborhoods. For a good biography go here. unfortunately I was not always able to find an accurate caption citing exact date and location.

Music by The Sweeplings, “Carry Me Home”


Necessities (two sections)
1.
A map of the world. Not the one in the atlas,
but the one in our heads, the one we keep coloring in.
With the blue thread of the river by which we grew up.
The green smear of the woods we first made love in.
The yellow city we thought was our future.
The red highways not traveled, the green ones
with their missed exits, the black side roads
which took us where we had not meant to go.
The high peaks, recorded by relatives,
though we prefer certain unmarked elevations,
the private alps no one knows we have climbed.
The careful boundaries we draw and erase.
And always, around the edges,
the opaque wash of blue, concealing
the dropoff they have stepped into before us,
singly mapless not looking back.

5.
Even now, the old things first things,
which taught us language. Things of day and of night.
Irrational lightning, fickle clouds, the incorruptible moon.
Fire as revolution, grass as the heir
to all revolutions. Snow
as the alphabet of the dead, subtle, undeciphered.
The river as what we wish it to be.
Trees in their humanness, animals in their otherness.
Summits. Chasms. Clearings.
And stars, which gave us the word distance,
so we could name our deepest sadness.

~  Lisel Mueller

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“Everything is infected with brightness, throbbing with it, and she prays for dark the way a wanderer lost in the desert prays for water. The world is every bit as barren of darkness as a desert is of water. There is no dark in the shuttered room, no dark behind her eyelids.” ~ Michael Cunningham, from The Hours


My Migraine Brain

Monday evening, cloudy, 55 degrees.

April Fool! I wish . . .

Years ago I created an image that I called “My Migraine Brain.” Of course, that image is on a hard drive somewhere in the house, so I had to resort to google and a little bit of adjustment. Anyway, this is what’s going on with me today. Fiercely. And not in that good way.

“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” ~ Max Lerner

Near Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Near Trail of Blue Ice, Portage, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” ~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero 

42-16057799I’ve been reading like a mad woman for the past few days: The Alchemist(Paul Coelho), The Hours (Michael Cunningham), an older one by Jonathan Kellerman, The Butcher’s Theater, and a very early one from James Lee Burke, Black Cherry Blues. (I plan to write some reviews soon, here’s hoping.)

Why so much reading? The alternative is to sit down at this computer and produce something. Each night, I approach my desk as if it were an anathema to me: my body feels alien in the curves of my chair; my screen looms in front of me—tasking me like the white whale. I fear that to sit in my chair for any amount of time might somehow completely drain my body of the little energy I have left. So I walk back to the bed, pick up a book off the stack, or turn on the television.

I have regressed to my amoebic state: I am being whipped about in my single-cell form, a body in motion not of its own volition. I have to tell you that this is a very odd position in which to find myself: being propelled along by forces beyond my control and not having the least idea as to how to escape this eddying current without smashing myself against the rocks.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man perfected without trials” ~ Chinese Proverb

I suppose an update is in order. The current state of affairs is that the job that Corey had hoped would still be open with Vane Brothers is, of Merchant Mariner Documentcourse, no longer available because it took so long to get his Coast Guard certifications. He is making telephone calls, sending out e-mails, doing everything he can, but our hopes that with the arrival of the certified documents from the Coast Guard would come a job seem to be all for naught.

He is so beside himself with feelings of self-doubt that it just wounds me to my core. Having gone through a period of unemployment myself, I know all too well how it affects the psyche, chips away at your sense of self-worth, tears at the very fabric of your soul.

Corey is a wonderful, caring person. He does not deserve this continued assault on his self-esteem. And I am powerless to do anything about it. In fact, it seems that the more that I try, the harder it is for him. I don’t mean in the sense of negating his feelings, but rather, by trying to be there for him, it seems to heighten the issues.

It’s as if my presence serves as a constant reminder of all of the things that are going wrong. It’s no one’s fault. That’s just how it is. His failure at finding a job in his field in this economy is moot. What stands out is the failure itself, regardless of the fact that it is not his. I fear that my words of encouragement sound hollow to him. At times, I let them die on my tongue like sand baked in the sun.

“In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.” ~ Bertrand Russell 

abandoned steel factoryI am reminded of the many closings of mill towns across America, the ways in which once thriving communities were left as mere shells of their former days of productivity. With one decision somewhere in a boardroom in another city far, far away, entire towns were dealt death blows, the only reminder of their once prosperous slice of the American pie remaining in abandoned rusting factories, blights on the landscape.

As could be predicted, in many of those communities with nothing left, alcoholism and drug addiction statistics rose. Of those citizens who decided to stay, the rate of unemployment skyrocketed as did the incidences of spousal abuse.

We are a careless society. We throw away entire communities and never look back. And then when the need for assistance increases, we have obtuse politicians making comments about hunger being a great motivator. It sickens and frightens me simultaneously: Everything can disappear in a moment.

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And so we are now left with accepting help from Corey’s parents to fix the disaster of the dead Trooper. The engine cannot be rebuilt. It would cost more to do so than the Trooper is currently worth. So Izzie is off to an Ohio junkyard. I try not to think about it.

Ohio JunkyardSo Corey’s mom and dad are stepping in with a vehicle. It is a life-saver and an anchor. While their intentions are incredibly generous—to help us out of this fix, Corey is finding it very hard to reconcile himself to the idea of accepting support in this way at this point in his life. It makes him feel as if he is a child again, dependent upon his parents to fix things.

After previous years of doing well with our combined incomes, being brought back to square one is akin to starting all over again.

I understand Corey’s frustrations. I felt exactly the same way when my father stepped in and bought the big ugly Buick after my Oldsmobile was totaled. Here I was, a grown woman with children, a job, obligations. But I was in a bind, and my father knew it. He did what came second nature to him. He stepped in and bought a car for me.

I never asked. I never would have been able to ask. It wasn’t a matter of pride, more a matter of feeling overwhelming failure at being at a point in my life in which I should have had the resources to take care of my problems myself without my father stepping in to save me once again.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings.” ~ Hodding Carter, Jr. 

I have often thought about the parent-child cycle: Exactly when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Do we ever stop being our parents’ children? Do we ever stop looking to them, needing them?

Doubtful. We grow up looking to our parents for love, support, help. If we are lucky—and indeed, not everyone is—We get those things from our parents, and so much more. We get our lessons about caring for those who have less than we do. We see our parents doing the right things day after day, and we want to emulate that. We watch carefully, silently, during those times in which we are caught off guard at the echoes of sadness in their voices, and we feel completely unprepared the first time we see our parents cry.

weeping angel with filterWe vow that we will never be the cause of their pain, and then thoughtlessly, we become the very source of their anguish. We promise to do better, and our promises are filled with that toss-of-the-hat carelessness that we do not recognize until years later.

And then later, if and when we become parents ourselves, we realize exactly how fraught with sorrow and pain the prospect of raising a child can be. We vow to do better than our parents, to listen more, to be more available, to be more patient. But things never really work out that way.

At times, we become careless with our love for our children, and they know it, and they store this little nugget away and vow never to be that way with their own children when they have them.

But if we are very lucky, we also remember to cherish those sweet, sweet moments that come around only once in a while: taking an afternoon nap in the hammock in the spring sun with Alexis, barely moving so as not to disturb her slumber; singing “Unchained Melody” to Eamonn in the middle of the night when he could not sleep because of his stomachaches, sitting in the Bentwood rocker, the two of us completely immersed in each other; sitting in the backyard with Brett, in companionable silence, reading books and enjoying the quiet days of spring.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones
Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones

Corey and I are finding our way back as best we can. It’s a tricky path, filled with branches just waiting to trip us when we least expect it. He worries that when I look at him I see a man who has failed, that I am filled with anger and impatience. I worry that when he looks at me he sees a woman who is past her prime, who no longer has anything to contribute.

Of course, we are both wrong. When I look at Corey, I see the man who has brought great joy to my life, who has gone through hell and back and still stands by my side. I hope that when he looks at me he recognizes the force of the love that I carry in my heart for him, that it is inviolable, immense, and without judgment.

We are finding our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

I am not some starry-eyed hopeless romantic that believes that love conquers all. I am a hopeful romantic who understands that love is but one part, and that if the loving is to be successful, it must be based on mutual respect, trust, and an unrelenting belief in the person who is your partner in this life. We are just beginning this arduous task of working our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

More later. Peace.