“My heart is maneuvering in rings of trembling darkness and unreasonable echoes of over-thoughtfulness.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters of Virginia Woolf

PS Kroyer Hornbaek in Winter oil on canvas1891
“Hornbaek in Winter” (1891, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

                  

“A sigh just isn’t a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from The Moor’s Last Sigh

Tuesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warm, 69 degrees.

DHS222
“Summer Evening at Skagen Beach” (1893, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

Last night I dreamed about my father. We needed to buy nitroglycerine, not sure why. Corey, my mother, my father, and I went to an old-fashioned hardware store. The man who helped us told us that we needed to be very careful not to jostle the canister when transporting it, so my dad also bought a weird-looking cart in which to move the canister. My dad and mom went to get the car. My dad called and said to meet them at the school. There was no school anywhere near the hardware store. Corey and I were lugging around this heavy cart with the canister, and I was really worried about moving it so much because I had seen what the nitro could do. The hardware store’s manager had poured a little bit around a door knob and the wood around the doorknob melted.

When we didn’t see my dad and mom, we went back inside the store. Then my dad called and wanted to know where we were, why we weren’t at the school. I told him that we couldn’t find the school. He got really mad and started yelling at me over the phone, and I heard my mother in the background telling him to calm down. Corey and I went back outside to see if we could see them. They were across the street in my dad’s old Falcon, and when I looked again, my dad was punching my mother (nothing like this ever happened in real life). I ran up to my dad and grabbed him from behind. My mother said that he was beating her because he was mad at me. Suddenly, we were in the middle of the street, and traffic was all around us. Then the dream ended.

“Heart on fire, ashes everywhere
— there’s no return from a red like that.” ~ Manuel de Freitas, from “Fado Menor,” trans. Richard Zenith

My mother still has the ability to make me feel like a six-year-old just by uttering four words: “Don’t lie to me.” This was an oft-heard phrase when I was growing up, and it has continued well into adulthood. As an only child, I was blamed for anything that happened, and very often for things that didn’t happen. Example: My mother once had me in tears by accusing me of flushing a bottle of nail polish down the toilet. I hadn’t done such a thing, and it never would have occurred to me to do such a thing.

PS Kroyer Sea at Skagen 1882 oil on canvas
“Sea at Skagen” (1882, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

Today, she pulled into the driveway behind the Rodeo and wanted to know who had banged up the car. “There’s a big one on the front and one on the back.”

I told her that there were no new dents, that the one on the front had rust on it  because it had been there so long, had been there when I got the Rodeo, to which she responded, “Don’t lie to me.”

I wasn’t lying. I don’t lie. I’m not a liar. I felt sick to my stomach.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ~ John Banville, from The Sea

PS Kroyer Summer Night on the South Beach at Skagen 1893 oil on canvas
“Summer Night on the South Beach at Skagen” (1893, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

My friend Mari asked me in an e-mail what I’ve been doing. I responded with the following:

What am I doing? Thinking about how I used to say to myself that May Sarton didn’t start writing professionally until she was in her 50’s, and that was the perfect excuse. What’s my excuse now? I try to post something every day on my blog. On days that writing is just too hard, I usually resort to something from Jon Stewart or a single poem. I started two novels during NaNoWriMo, but failed to finish either of them. I dream in French sometimes, and I still write poems in that time between sleep and wakefulness, only to forget them entirely before I can write them down. I dream about my few friends, now scattered across the country, and I imagine lives for them since I am miserable about keeping in touch. I bought GRE prep materials so that I could take the GRE this year and apply to GW’s PhD program by January of next year. I wonder if I’ll really do that.

What am I doing?

Nothing.

“and I am only nerves, strung on constellations,
meridians and vectors quivering.” ~ Cynthia Huntington, from “Meds”

I began this post three hours ago. In between I’ve played stick with Tillie and finished reading a book that I started yesterday. I wonder if I have anything to say. I wonder if I ever have anything to say. I wonder why anyone would care what I have to say. I wonder what the point is, the point to this blog, the point to me.

PS Kroyer Painting on the Beach at Stenbert 1889 oil on canvas
“Painting on the Beach at Stenbert” (1889, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

What am I, not who, but what? Am I doomed to be stuck in replay mode forever, that same track over and over again, the one in which I pine over the future that is not and bemoan the fates over the now that is?

I told Corey that I think my brain is full of holes, and I do. My mother thinks she might have early Alzheimer’s, and then she tells me that I’m just as bad at remembering things, so as usual, I take her words to heart, and I think, “my brain must be full of holes because I cannot remember things.” And is this post yet another attempt to dissect the person that is my mother, to try to see past her words into her DNA, the strands that define her, as if in so doing I might finally begin to understand.

No. I will never understand.

“Oh, my friend sometimes the realization runs through my head that I am actually living a supremely dangerous life: for I belong among those machines that can explode! I can’t emphasize that strongly enough. The intensities of my feeling make me shudder and laugh aloud.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Selected Letters

My friend Mari’s father died in February after a long illness. We both loved our daddies, but I would not say that we were “daddy’s girls,” or perhaps we were. Who knows. My father, when he comes to me in dreams, is always different, as in each dream is different, and I wonder if I’ve forgotten who he was. I don’t think so. But when I dream of family members, it’s always the past; everyone is younger, like my cousins who aren’t really my cousins—when I dream about the females in the family, they are always young, like they were when I used to care for them in the summers. And one other strange recurring theme: I am always very close to my male cousin, the only male with four sisters. In my dreams, we are always very, very close. We can tell each other anything.

PS Kroyer Summer Evening 1908 oil on canvas
“Summer Evening” (1908, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

My dreams are my past, replaying itself, unfolding in different ways. I rarely dream of future selves, either the past or now, alternative nows. But my father is in my dreams much more than my mother. I suppose my dreams are my way of maintaining those connections that in real life have faded into pale, almost transparent threads, from lack of work, lack of maintenance, which doesn’t actually make sense because on a woven blanket or on a quilt, those areas that fade the fastest are the ones that are touched the most.

So does this mean that because I touch these people so often in my dreams, then the imaginary quilt is fading?

I have not answers, only far too many questions today. No answers. No defining moments. Only standing on the porch hugging my arms close to my body, trying not to let a single tear escape as my mothers says, “Don’t lie to me.”

More later. Peace.

All images by Peder Severin Krøyer, Danish painter known as prominent member of Skagen painters

Music by Maggie Eckford, “What If”

                   

Today It Seemed I Had Nothing to Say

that hadn’t been said already—
my head full of moldy
hay and feelings
of futility—

until you asked me
what it was like, for a change,
to have no barred owl
brooding above the barn,

and so I went stealing again,
softly, softly
up the worn wood loft ladder,
hoping to startle up
a glimpse of something

that even now might heft
itself lightly through the mouth
of the mow, and drift just
out of view, off-levelly,
all hollow and feather pillow,

folding and unfolding
and folding itself silently into
the forest where its terrible
utility moves like a shudder
over every living thing.

~ Todd Boss

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” ~ Allen Ginsberg

“Open Door on a Garden,” Konstantin Somov (oil on canvas) 

  

“My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line.” ~ Louis-Ferdinand Céline
"Door Open onto the Garden," Pierre Bonnard (oil on canvas)

 I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with Cal lately—chills, aches, and lethargy—so I have not written a word in a week. A very long time for me, especially when the Internet is actually on. 

Everytime that I start to think that maybe I could actually go back to work, my body gives me a wake-up call, as in, “Have you lost your mind?” This past week, temperatures around here reached record highs. Meanwhile, I was walking around with goose bumps on my arms. A couple of nights ago, I woke myself when my body was shaking, which made the bed jerk. It’s all quite disconcerting. 

And then, of course, there is the insomnia, which makes just getting through the day a chore. One night it was nigh on 6 a.m. before sleep came. Last night, I was so grateful to be sleepy by 3 a.m. What a strange life I lead. 

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton
"30 Regent Terrace," Francis Campbell Cadell (1934)

Corey had to work today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it doesn’t really matter as we had no plans for mother’s day. Eamonn came by with flowers and a card. He can be such a sweetie when he wants to be. Alexis is supposed to come by later, so just a quiet day at home. 

Corey and I were married on mother’s day nine years ago. We didn’t really want to get married on a Sunday, but it was the only day that we could get the Women’s Club in Norfolk, which is an old Victorian home in the Ghent section of Norfolk. We were contemplating the Botanical Garden, but decided on the house so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the weather. I walked down the winding staircase in five-inch heels, and miraculously, I didn’t trip. 

But I digress . . . 

For the most part though, I have only had one request over the years when it concerns mother’s day: Please do not give me any appliances, as in a toaster or something of that sort. Just feels too domestic and traditional for my tastes. 

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place . . . I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

This past week was a busy one for Brett. He is taking is IB exams in all of his classes. The better he does on these exams, the better the chance he has of getting college credits for the courses, which will be wonderful. He submitted his art portfolio to the IB board, but that takes a couple of months for review before he hears anything. It was a combination of sketches and photographs. I was duly impressed with the quality of his work. He has two more exams this week, and then he is pretty much finished except for a few odds and ends, so he will have a nice break before graduation. 

For his final project in art, Brett is going to paint something on one of the doors in the art room. He hasn’t told me what he plans to paint, but I can’t wait to see it. 

Tomorrow, Corey and I need to go back to the financial aid departments at ODU and TCC to complete the paper work for both boys to get tuition adjustments, which (we hope) will increase their Pell Grants. At least there is one good thing about being poor. 

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” ~ René Magritte
"The Balcony Room," Adolph von Menzel (1845)

We watched a movie a few nights ago called “Haunting in Connecticut,” which is supposedly based on a true story. I hadn’t heard anything about the movie, but we were in the mood for something scary. Turns out, it’s pretty dark—dead bodies with words carved into them, some kind of ectoplasm and séances, lots of hallucinations. Of course, watching something like that before trying to go to sleep is probably not the best idea. 

Then last night, I was watching this program about women who kill. I think that I’ve seen it before. Anyway, three of the stories really got to me. Two of them involved young girls who got pregnant, hid their pregnancies from their families, then threw their babies in the trash. 

Anytime I read about something like this happening, it really upsets me in so many ways: That these girls felt that they could not go to their parents with the truth says a lot about the kind of pressure families put on their daughters. Like the article I just read that stated that most parents do not believe that their children are having sex; they believe that other people’s children are having sex, but not theirs. How utterly naive.  The kind of naiveté that causes people to be against birth control in favor of abstinence. 

Facts: Forty-six percent of all teens in the U.S. between 15 and 19 have had sex. A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned; they account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually. This is reality, folks. 

Sure abstinence is the goal. It’s just not the reality.  So these girls get pregnant but do not tell their families out of fear, out of shame, because they want to see the disappointment in their parents’ eyes, whatever the reason. The tragic part is that they choose to throw their babies away like trash in part because they have spent the last nine months convincing themselves that it isn’t real. 

“There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.” ~ William Somerset Maugham
"The Four Rooms," Vilhelm Hammershoi (1914, oil on canvas)

However, the story that still gets to me, that still rips my heart right from my chest is that of Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons, Michael and Alex. When the car was found, the two boys were still strapped into their car seats in the back seat of the car. Imagine for a moment what it must have felt like for those boys when the water began to come into the car, as they yelled for their mother, the woman who had to hear their screams. Imagine the fear and helplessness that had to overtake them as the minutes passed and the water kept rising. 

There is evil in this world. Of that, I have no doubts at all. Susan Smith killed her sons because she wanted to be free of them so that she could date the man who broke off their relationship, the man who said that he was not ready for children. So this mother, this monster decided that the best thing to do would be to kill her children and to blame it on an imaginary black man. 

In 1995, Smith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. During her trial, she tried to use as a defense that her step-father had molested her and that she suffered from a lifetime of depression. Someone else’s fault. Of course. 

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~ Oscar Wilde
 Found on Wikimedia Commons (lost the title, sorry) 

Perhaps this was not the best issue to discuss on mother’s day. Or perhaps we need to be reminded that not all mothers are good and kind and loving. That some mothers care more about themselves than they do their children. That some mothers should never have had children. That some mothers, completely contrary to societal expectations, are filled with hate and resentment for the very children they bore. 

Fortunately, most mothers do not fall into the former category. Most mothers love their children with a fierce, protective love that no one can touch. 

I do not believe in perfection, but I do believe that some things and some people come very close to this ideal.  Motherhood, in its truest sense, is that continual strive to achieve perfection—saying the right words said at the right time, listening instead of lecturing, comforting with an embrace that bespeaks more than any words, accepting even when faced with a reality that is contrary to expectations. Motherhood is complex, tasking, and never easy. It is not for the weak hearted or the selfish. It is the only job in the world that expects you to know everything on day one. It is the only career that breeds anxiety and insecurity in continuous doses. 

When the door closes, and the child is on the other side, off to unknown places, it is the mother who remains behind and whispers to no one in particular, “It will be all right.” 

More later. Peace

Music by Jon McLaughlin, “We All Need Saving”