“He spoke of human solitude, about the intrinsic loneliness of a sophisticated mind, one that is capable of reason and poetry but which grasps at straws when it comes to understanding another, a mind aware of the impossibility of absolute understanding. The difficulty of having a mind that understands that it will always be misunderstood.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from Man Walks into a Room

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Frozen Lake Shore 1964 oil on canvas
“Frozen Lake Shore” (1964 oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

                   

“And you refuse to cry. Smart move, you hear a voice say quite distinctly. You might need those tears someday. And you have been telling yourself the same thing all your life.” ~ Franz Wright, from “The Lesson”

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 41 degrees.

Two weeks. Two weeks since I’ve done more than played spider solitaire and shopped my way through grief via online shopping for makeup, nail polish, and books. I won’t apologize. It has worked for me before, and until yesterday, I had managed to hold in all but the smallest of tears.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Winter Landscape oil on canvas
“Winter Landscape” (nd, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But yesterday was the killer. Alexis and I were doing more cleaning out at my mom’s house. I was going through mountains of paperwork, some from as far back as 2000, when I came across an advanced directive form that my mother had filled out at some point. It was undated, but it was a shock.

You see, I had told the doctors that my mom wanted a no code, a DNR, that she did not want to be kept alive on machines. Well on this form she had checked that she did want CPR. I have no idea when she filled out this form, and it didn’t quite jibe with what she had said to me, but still. Had I made the wrong decision? Did I do the wrong thing?

It was all too much, and I finally broke down, irrevocably, loudly, lost it, in front of my daughter and granddaughter, and I couldn’t stop it, as much as I tried. The ugly, snotty, loud keening.

What if I did the wrong thing? I will never know, and once again, I have been placed in the position of making THE decision for someone I love, and once again, I have no idea if I did the wrong thing at the wrong time.

It is quite literally tearing my heart into small pieces.

“I gave you sorrow to hang on your wall
Like a calendar in one color.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The Nails”

Last night I had a dream that I have during periods of great sadness and stress. My former high school/college Catholic boyfriend has come back, and I have to tell him that I do not love him any more, that I love Corey. And the pain that I see on his face just kills me because I know that I have caused it. Many more things happened, like a ship takeover, and people removing their skin, but his face is what haunts me. I haven’t seen this person since Caitlin’s funeral, but he represents a different period in my life, when I was a different person.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela  April oil on canvas 1966
“April” (1966, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

So I forced myself to stay in bed for hours, tried to sleep more, tried to sleep away the memory of the dream. It did not work.

So here I am finally, on the day that I had decided that I would try to come back to this forum, this place of confession and reflection, that I would try to resume my relationship with words and images in attempt to creep back into some kind of normalcy. Perhaps I chose the wrong day.

What I am about to tell you might better be left unsaid, or kept to myself. Who knows. I only know that these words must come out else I go back into that place of complete lost control, back into the moment of sheer terror at feeling too much.

For those of you who chose to subscribe in the past few weeks, if you do not really know what I do here, I apologize in advance.

“I live with regrets—the bittersweet loss of innocence—the red track of the moon upon the lake—the inability to return and do it again” ~ John Geddes, from A Familiar Rain

No one prepares you for how it will feel when you lose your second parent. Most people live with a kind of trepidation as their parents age or become ill, live with a sense of dread at how it will play out in those final days. But how many people tell you how to prepare for that second loss, for the moment you enter the classification of orphan?

Okay, I know. Not really an orphan in the true sense of it, but orphan, no parents, nevertheless.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Autumn Landscape oil on canvas 1957
“Autumn Landscape” (1957, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

Let me back up a few paces. I had the same two parents my entire life. Today that is a rarity of sorts. No divorce, no steps. None of that. And even though my parents’ marriage was troubled in so very many ways, they were my parents, my touchstone to family, and when I lost my father, I was cast adrift in a way that I cannot even begin to explain.

I’m an only child. Sorry. I was an only child. The loss of my father wounded me, tore at me, left me feeling not only sad, but scared. Now I had to take care of my mother, and I knew that I would never be able to do it in the way that she needed, and honestly, I failed her in so many ways. But back to the original point: When you lose that second parent, and you are an only child, there is no one else left to tell embarrassing stories about you at family dinners. There is no one else to remind you of things that happened in your childhood. There is no one else left to brag about you, about the things that you did, about how you participated in the Dances of Asia as a young child before the Queen Mother (found the original program in her closet), about how you wrote for the Norfolk Compass (found an old copy also in her closet) or did that thing or whatever.

There is no one else.

“Tighter and tighter, the beautiful snow
holds the land in its fierce embrace.
It is like death, but it is not death; lovelier.
Cold, inconvenienced, late, what will you do now
with the gift of your left life?” ~ Carol Ann Duffy, from “Snow”

What I found out after my mother died is that she talked about me all of the time, said wonderful things about me to neighbors, friends, whoever would listen. I had done this and this and that.

And I know that I have complained, lamented that she did not share this sense of pride with me, that I had it come to me second hand, but does that diminish it? I cannot tell you as I honestly do not know.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Snow-covered Telephone Wires oil on canvas 1960
“Snow-covered Telephone Wire” (1960, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

I can only tell you that after my father died, my mother become my albatross, which is a terrible thing to say, but I am trying to be honest here. Listen, this is the woman who said to me on the phone one time that she wouldn’t help me any more if I was dying. I am not making that up. She really said that to me. This is the woman who would get mad at me or one of us and would stop calling for months. The longest time was four months. I waited to see how long it would be.

When I was in a bind and I went to my cousin for help, I begged him not to tell my mother. He couldn’t understand why I was so afraid. I realize now that he never saw the woman that I knew, the one who could be absolutely unforgiving. He knew the funny woman, the one who was sweet and caring, and I’m not saying that she wasn’t, just not so much with me. I’m only saying that if she knew I had borrowed money from someone because I was in a complete bind, she never would have forgiven me, one for doing it in the first place, and two, for embarrassing her.

“The disturbed mind and affections, like the tossed sea, seldom calm without an intervening time of confusion and trouble.” ~ Charles Dickens on grief and how to heal a mourning heart in a letter to his younger sister

My mother reminded me frequently that my credit was shot, that I had run up a bunch of debt after Caitlin died and shopped my way through my loss for three years. She never forgot, and she never forgave. She said to me more than once that she just knew that the bank had closed my account (they hadn’t), that the city was coming after me (they weren’t). She really believed these things of me.

Einer Reuter H Ahtela no title oil on canvas 1946
No Title (1946, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But this is also the same woman who would drive up in my driveway, honk the horn three times, and give me bags of Russell Stover candy eggs for Easter, or bags of Riesen because she had bought too many, or pork chops. Whatever . . . The same woman who used to take me to lunch when the boys were young and I worked at ODU and had a schedule that allowed me to go to lunch with my family. The same woman who bought me a purple Coach purse.

My mother loved through her gifts. It is a trait that she passed on to me, but I told myself early that I would always say I love you to my children, to my spouse, frequently, and without hesitation. That a gift was good, but a hug was better.

I don’t know if my mother’s inability to hug and to say “I love” you stemmed from her childhood, from days of not having a mother, from the times when her father drank away the family money. I don’t know. She never told me, and I never asked. It’s not the kind of thing that we could talk about.

“But to write is to dignify memory
[…] revives the unremembered” ~ Allan Peterson, from “Footnotes”

Let me pause here. People in general loved my mother. The guy at the Honda dealer who sold her her car told me that she used to call just to talk to him, and the woman in the finance office said that my mother was “so sweet.” Relative strangers loved her.

I suppose I reached a point at sometime in my life at which I no longer expected hugs or declarations of love, but that does not mean that there was not a hole there. She was better with my kids. Sometimes when they said, “I love you Oma,” she would say it back. Sometimes.

Einer Reuter paren H Ahtela The River Freezes oil on canvas
“The River Freezes” (nd, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

As I’ve been working on her house several neighbors have stopped by to tell me how sad they are at her death, to tell me how wonderful she was, how she would do anything for them. I know that they are not just saying this to make me feel better.

Do I sound heartless or just petty? I don’t know. Perhaps I am both. Perhaps I am neither.

In the last few years I knew that my mother’s mind was declining, that she couldn’t remember names of things, that she was becoming more confused, and Corey and I had had the discussion more than once about what we were going to do. My mother would have hated being in any kind of assisted living. About five years ago, maybe a few more, I had an ongoing conversation with her in which I mentioned that I thought it would be a good idea for us to sell both of our houses and to buy one with room enough for all of us.

I was willing, but I don’t think that she trusted me enough to try, so it never came to naught.

“What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like, it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing.” ~ Ray Bradbury, from The Martian Chronicles

As I was going through the papers, I would come across things on which she had written notes to me, things like “Call them as soon as I die to let them know so that they don’t send a check.” That stops you short, I have to say. I came across a note in which she wrote just her name and her telephone number. Was it to remind her? I came across a card she had written to someone saying something along the lines of “I don’t know you. Don’t send me anything like this again.”

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Wintry Source 1962 oil on canvas
“Wintry Source” (1962, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

In the last couple of years my mother, who had been in an ongoing feud with her last living sister, would say that Hilda was hateful, that she was mean. And then my mom would declare that she (my mother) was nothing like that.

I don’t know if my mom remembered that she had told me she wouldn’t help me if I was dying or if she conveniently forgot it. I know that for a while I conveniently forgot it because it was just easier. I was her only child, and like it or not, I had to be the one to take care of things.

So now I’m doing that in the best way I know how, and I have to tell you that at the end of each day for the past four weeks, I have closed my eyes with a sense of failure looming large. I should have . . . I didn’t . . . I wasn’t . . .

“but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

I know what I’m doing. I am aware of the pain I am causing myself. It’s how I operate. I run full steam on a full load of guilt. It began with Caitlin, continued with my father, and now it is here with my mother.

Honestly, I spend so much time these days trying not to let myself think, which is how I come to be spending hours playing spider solitaire and looking for the perfect dark circle concealer. At least I don’t have to leave the house except to feed the cat.

Einar Reuter Pine in Winter Haze oil on canvas 1961
“Pine in Winter Haze” (1961, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But in those moments in which I allow my heart free reign, I feel more than a bit lost, as in what do I do now? It still hasn’t quite hit me, that my mother is really and truly gone. The other day I was in Wal Mart and I came upon the Rusell Stover Easter candy display, and I stopped short. You have to understand that this was a ritual with my mother, the bags of Easter candy, the coconut chocolate birds’ nests. And there was no one to do that this year, so I grabbed every nest they had and put them in my cart.

And then I turned around and saw the displays for St. Patrick’s Day cards, and for a minute I was brought up short again: My other mother-in-law’s birthday was St. Patrick’s Day, and my mother’s was March 15, and for just a fleeting second I thought about buying birthday cards, and then I had to try not to break down in the card aisle in the middle of Wal Mart.

“I tore a sheet of paper out of a notebook, found a pencil, and decided that this, too, would be a day not to remember.” ~ Laurie Halse Anderson, from The Impossible Knife of Memory

For me, my mother was bags of chocolate Riesen, leftover Chinese food, pancit that she used to make better than anyone I knew, reruns of “Bonanza” on the television, enough of an addiction to QVC that she had a line of credit with them, continual complaints about a water bill that was less than half of my normal one, forgotten birthdays (the calendar in her hall has my birthday circled and the word “Oops” written on it; I haven’t taken that down yet), her firm belief that her cat would only eat certain kinds of food, her love of her yard  . . .

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Light on the Northern Hills 1960 oil on canvas
“Light on the Northern Hills” (1960, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

And yet she was also this short woman who seemed to get smaller each time I saw her. She was visibly fading, and there was not a damn thing that I could do about it.

I have to say, for the record, this really, really sucks.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks. The words came so fast, and truthfully, I could probably write another thousand without pausing, but it’s getting late in the afternoon, and I have to drive to my mother’s house to take care of her cat, yet another thing that is breaking my heart each day that I close the door and hear his pitiful meows.

All images are by Finnish artist H. Ahtela (also known as Einar Reuter) 1881-1968.

Music by Joe Cocker, “Heart Full of Rain”


Cathedral

The ugliest thing in the world
is the truth.

Who doesn’t want to die
like May rain over the lilacs,
like wild carrots in a ditch?

Only fanatics don’t know
that they know this.

I fly through the January night,
low over a snow-covered Europe,
cathedral after cathedral
casting its light out onto the snow:

Never have I seen
never so clearly.

~ Henrik Nordbrandt, trans. Patrick Phillips

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“And who would want to descend to the bottom | of a silence greater than the ocean?” ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “From Without”

Waves at Dawn by jemasmith FCC
Waves at Dawn by jemasmith (FCC)

                   

“Did I believe that I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see what I thought
was the light is part of the darkness.” ~ Wendell Berry, from “Breaking”

Sunday afternoon. Much warmer, 50 degrees.

I have no idea how far I will get with this post, but I feel a need to at least try.

The last five days have run together into a very strange loop, one from which I fear I may never emerge. Last Tuesday morning (January 28), my mother called me at 6 a.m. in a panic; she had gone out to the garage fridge to get some milk, and she heard water running. It turns out the faucet on the back porch was leaking, not a flood, but not a drip. I told her I would be over in ten minutes.

Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme fcc
Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme (FCC)

Now first, the really odd thing: I was wide awake. I had awakened at 5:30 and was fully alert. This is not a normal state of being for me. Anyway, I drove over to her house and tried to shut off the valve but couldn’t. As I was working, my mother was standing there rubbing her chest with her fist, which is something that she does when she is stressed.

I made her a cup of chamomile tea and sat her down on the couch while I looked up the number for a plumbing company that we had both used. I left her sitting on her couch watching television and sipping her tea.

“I draw in a ragged breath, the kind you take when the pain is too deep to cry, when you can’t cry because all you are is pain, and if you let some of it out, you might cease to exist.” ~ Ally Condie, from Reached

I got back home and made myself a cup of tea and opened the book I was reading. Around 7:30 I was picking up the phone to call my mother to see when the plumbers were coming, but the phone rang first. My mother was on the other end, and she said that she thought that she was having a heart attack.  I will admit that I did not believe her because she has been saying that she’s dying for the last four or five months, but I told her to hang up, open her front door if she could, and I would call 911, which I did immediately.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) taking flight to avoid crashing waves
Great Egret Avoiding Waves by Mike Baird (FCC)

By the time I put some clothes back on, brushed my teeth, and raced back over to my mother’s house, which is only two miles away, the ambulance was gone, which I knew wasn’t a good sign. I went into her house briefly to make sure the cat hadn’t gotten out, and just as I was going to call 911 again to see where they had taken her, the phone rang again; it was the rescue squad. They were taking her to Leigh ER.

I got back in the car, turned on the emergency flashers, and tried to make record time. Let me pause here to say that people are genuinely assholes. Each time I tried to pass someone, another person would deliberately block me in. One guy in a van next to me even laughed. It is truly a good thing that I do not own a weapon.

Somewhere in between all of this my mother had called the water company, and they came out and shut off her water until we could get the faucet taken care of.

“And so does my life tremble,
and when I turn from the window
and from the sea’s grief, the room
fills with a dark
lushness and foliage nobody
will ever be plucked from,
and the feelings I have
must never be given speech.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “Now”

I got to the hospital and was sent back to the ER. The cardiologist told me that they were taking my mom to the cardiac catheter lab to see exactly what was going on. I was sent to another waiting room where I began to text everyone to let them know what was going on. Eamonn showed up, and we waited together for some word.

The cardiologist came out and said that they were setting up transport for my mother to the Heart Hospital in Norfolk. He was unable to do any angioplasty as she had too many arterial blockages. They inserted a balloon to try to relieve some of the pain. At this point, I was completely on autopilot, taking in information and disseminating it to everyone as clearly as possible.

Crash Down by Mooganic fcc
Crash Down by Mooganic (FCC)

I got back in the car, realized I had no gas, and went to Costco to get gas. Another pause here: This was the day that the massive winter storm was supposed to hit, and in this area, any talk of snow immediately sends everyone into a panic, so I waited fifteen minutes to get gas, then drove to the Heart Hospital only to find that my mother still hadn’t arrived.

Another waiting room, another wait. Luckily, they had a canteen where I could get coffee that looked like it was pure bitterness, or use the hot water dispenser to make tea. I chose the latter, found an empty computer, and played spider solitaire.

“Melancholy, being a kind of vacatio, separation of soul from body, bestowed the gift of clairvoyance and premonition. In the classifications of the Middle Ages, melancholy was included among the seven forms of vacatio, along with sleep, fainting, and solitude.” ~ Ioan P. Couliano, from Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

At some point during all of this I was finally able to talk to Corey, who then had the decision to make as to whether or not to cancel his training and come home early. We put that decision on hold until we knew more about the situation.

I spent the day in the hospital room with my mother, who was obviously exhausted, waiting for one of the heart surgeons to come and talk to us about options. Around 5, one of them showed up. He had an Eastern European accent, and I could tell that my mother didn’t understand him. He told us that mom was not a candidate for bypass surgery because the damage to her heart was too extensive; also, that she had an aneurysm sitting on top of her heart.

When he left, my mother was extremely upset. She wanted to talk to other surgeons because she was certain someone else would operate. In all, we spoke with three different surgeons, and they all said the same thing: she would not survive the surgery—mitigating factors included her age, how very damaged her heart was, and the location of the aneurysm.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 fcc
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 (FCC)

That evening, Alexis, Brett, and Olivia came to visit, and that really made my mom’s day. She told everyone within hearing distance that her great-granddaughter danced, and Olivia obliged. Brett rode home with me, and we stopped by my mother’s house on the way to take care of the cat. Another aside: I locked the keys in the car, which contained my phone, my purse, and the fast food we had gotten at Wendy’s.

Brett has no spare key to his Honda. Two hours later roadside service finally arrived to unlock the car. I decided to drive my mother’s Honda home because it was higher than Brett’s old one. Turns out it drives really, really well on snow and ice.

What else could possibly go wrong? I should not have asked. By the time I got home that night I was emotionally and physically spent. I fell asleep with the television on.

“Because we are not the owners of anything,
not even of our own pain
at which we have looked with awe so many times.
……….

We are the owners of wishing everything: what sadness.
We are the owners of fear, dust, smoke, the wind. ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “The Owners”

The storm hit as we were leaving the hospital, and it did indeed snow for more than 12 hours. When I awoke, I called Mom, who was resting comfortably. I told her I would be there as soon as I could. That turned out to be hours later.

When I tried to back the car out of the driveway, I immediately got stuck. Brett did some digging, but it was really deep. I took Corey’s truck, which has two bald tires and no brakes and skated to the nearby Taylor’s to get a snow shovel and some salt. I skated back on the icy roads, and Brett got me unstuck. I made it to the hospital around four, and by that time, there were no doctors available for me to talk to. Mom said that they had told her she would be going home on the weekend. I left word that I really needed to speak to the doctors about her treatment plan, and I left around six.

Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous fcc
Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous (FCC)

It was a helluva of a day, but Mom seemed better. I mean, she felt well enough to criticize me over some minor things, so that was a good sign, and I was really starting to believe that this was yet another in a long line of her being really sick but then getting back to her old self. Part of me now thinks that she really did know that something inside was very wrong.

On Thursday, I met Mike over at Mom’s house because he was going to fix the faucet. He did that and shoveled her sidewalk and said that he would clear the driveway before she came home. Then Brett and I went to the hospital. When we arrived, Mom was wide awake and alert. She had gotten out of bed, and they had disconnected everything except for the oxygen cannula. Mom sniped at me about everything, and I could tell that she was getting antsy and wanted to come home. She was talking about just living her life, going to bingo, doing what she wanted to do.

I spoke with her cardiologist, who said that she would probably be released on Saturday. I spoke with the home health coordinator, and mom got mad over that as she didn’t want anyone coming into her home. She insisted that she took her medicine just as she was supposed to and didn’t need anyone’s help. When we left, she was talking the ear off a nurse. I felt more relaxed than I had in days. On the way home Alexis and I made plans to clean mom’s house on Friday so that she would stop worrying about it.

Thursday night Corey came home.

“I’ve become someone’s idea of me.
You can no longer read the wax seal of the sun.
The trees no longer mention anything about the wind.
I don’t see who could play me later on.
It turns out I am buried myself.
It turns out we are all buried alive
in the chamber of someone else’s heart.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Antigone Today”

I should have known, but I didn’t, didn’t have a clue. It really did not cross my mind after Thursday’s visit that she wouldn’t be coming home. I mean, when she first went into the hospital, while she was till in CICU, I had that talk with the doctors, you know the one: to call a code or not to, a DNR order, morphine for comfort. That talk.

But by Thursday night I told Corey that I was almost sorry that I had asked him to come home because she was doing so well.

Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA 19 Jan 2010
Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA by Mike Baird (FCC)

I should have known. But I didn’t.

Friday morning at 9:15 a nurse from the hospital called. My mother had died.

They had taken in her breakfast tray. She was fine. Then a short time later alerts went off. She had just died. They think it might have been the aneurysm. She was gone and now I am left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep the family together, to find a home for her cat, to cull through over 46 years of stuff. I’m trying to plan an informal memorial service. She didn’t want to be buried, didn’t want a viewing, didn’t want a funeral, so she’s being cremated.

That last day, when we got to the hospital, I sat on her bed and looked at her, really looked at her. That saying, “looks just like she’s sleeping”? Bullshit. She didn’t look like she was sleeping. Then I did something odd: I opened her eyelids and looked into her eyes. They weren’t cloudy. It was the first time I had looked into my mother’s eyes in years and years and years. It was the closest the two of us had been physically since I don’t even remember when. I held her hand, touched her cheek, and apologized for not being who she wanted me to be.

And then I left.

Music by Rose Cousins, “Go First”

                   

The Oracle

You have gone once more to the seashore
and this time you have looked at the horizon
with a fugitive’s lust.
You have asked yourself with sadness
who in Ithaca would notice your absence:
the sea toward which you always look,
the heavens you never question,
the land that waits for you assuredly.
Your bonds are of an impassive nature.
Are you thinking of destroying them,
are you thinking of escaping by denying
that pathway your feet have made?
You feel it, you don’t think about it;
one cannot ponder devastation.
You look at the water with haste:
with tired haste.

You are like an oracle that does not believe in the future.

~ Francisca Aguirre

My Life as a Mandarin Duck Mother

These images seem so totally appropriate for today: leaping from the nest, falling into the unknown, having faith that you will land softly, and finally, having mom lead you into the world . . .

**********
Mandarin Ducks nest in tree holes. When the ducklings are only 24 hours old, they follow their mother and leave the nest.
They can’t fly yet, but luckily the long drop does not harm them. (Planet Earth, BBC)

“My thoughts are an ocean, they wash woefully up against their limits.” ~ Nescio, Amsterdam Stories

Hot Air Balloon Sunset by alwyncooper (FCC)

                   

“The earth splits open under our feet, and above our heads there is an infinite abyss. I no longer know who we are, nor what awaits us.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, from The Mandarins

Wednesday evening. Overcast, pending storms, dropping temperatures.

Well, I finally got the invitations printed and mailed. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Setting up the invitations was easy as they came with an online template; however, there was no template for the envelope, so that was a bit of trial and error. Still, no worries . . . right?

Wrong.

Hot Air Balloon, Utah, by ricketyus (FCC)

Print cartridges arrived on Friday evening. Test envelopes printed just fine. Real envelopes, not so much. Paper jam. And with this printer a paper jam can only be cleared by unplugging, deleting the printer, reinstalling . . . Who knew? Certainly not me? I never dreamt that there wasn’t a reset button on the printer. This was Saturday.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, my day of planned reading and resting? Decided to try again. More begging and pleading of the inanimate object that was ruling my life. Finally decided to print addresses on clear mailing labels and skip trying to send the envelopes through the printer, especially as I had no extras.

On Monday everything looked like a go. Print properties set up correctly. Just a matter of feeding the invitations into the printer. Then the printer decided to stop accepting the invitation stock. This after it had printed about eight of them. Then no more. Not. Another. One. Reset, reboot, begging and pleading, all to no avail. I walked away. Played a little Spider Solitaire. Then got a brainstorm: Why not use the extra printer that Brett’s dad had given him. Got ready to go, only to discover that a) could not download drivers, and b) it’s a photo printer.

Finally I decided to use the copy function to get the text onto the invitations, which didn’t need any drivers. Luckily I had a good template from my test runs. Situated it on the scanner bed, and ran color copies. Unfortunately, as I was home by myself I had to get on my hands and knees to unplug old dysfunctional printer to plug in new/used photo printer. Nothing should be this hard.

“nothing can be taken back,
not the leaves by the trees, the rain
by the clouds.” ~ Dean Young, from “Poem Without Forgiveness”

Hot Air Balloon, Latvia, by Dainis Matisons (FCC)

Took those suckers to the post office yesterday and sent them off. I never even made it out of my pajamas yesterday. Good thing I didn’t get stopped on the way to the post office, but at that point, I did not care. I just wanted the invitations out of my house, out of my sight. (By the way, the poets stamps that I had wanted to use? No one has them. Apparently, they did not sell well in this area. Phht. Talk about your unwashed masses.)

So today Brett and I helped Alexis to transport the gifts that she received from her first shower to my mother’s house as Alexis has no storage space. I threw on some shorts and a workout top, put my hair in a ponytail, didn’t take a shower as I knew that I would be grungy by the time we finished. The first thing my mother says when I get out of the car? “What in the world is she wearing? What in the world is that?” (My mom’s a what-in-the-world person. Uses it as her standby modifier)

Sorry. Didn’t know that I needed real clothes to move stuff. Next time I’ll remember . . .

And you wonder why I have such a crappy self-image . Again with the phht.

“I hadn’t gotten old enough yet to realize that living sends a person not into the future but back into the past, to childhood and before birth, finally, to commune with the dead. You get older . . . and then before you know it you’re time-traveling. In this life we grow backwards.” ~ Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

The stress from four days of trying to execute a project that should have taken a couple of hours at the most has taken its toll. The night before last I didn’t get to sleep until 4 a.m., and last night was 2 a.m., which means backsliding on my goal of 1 a.m. at the latest. Oh well. Couldn’t be helped. We won’t discuss the massive muscle knot between my shoulder blades. What’s the point?

16th Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta by ricky_artigas (FCC)

So I brought home the newborn and three-month sizes of clothes to wash for Alexis. She really got some cute clothes, and probably enough so that le bébé can wear a different outfit each day for the next six months. I remember with Alexis that I didn’t buy her any clothes for the first year. I never had to, between my mom and my m-in-law, she was outfitted quite well. In fact, the woman who watched her while I was at work asked me if I could please not dress Alexis in such nice clothes when I brought her for the day. I had to explain that all she had were nice clothes.

Of course my mom had to comment that Alexis got entirely too many clothes for the baby, and that it was “ridiculous.” It’s not like the clothes are going to waste, and I’m certain that they’ll be recycled along the way among all of the friends that she has.

It was funny though, while we were at my mom’s house, Alexis said under her breath, “Boy, she doesn’t even give you room to breathe, does she?” Which is so true. I knew that mom would have to pick up each item of clothing and comment on it, so we went over there with a schedule—I couldn’t stay for hours and hours because I needed to take Brett to school. Still, I know that in spite of her running commentary that my mom is just excited. Don’t think that I don’t understand, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t bitch about it any more than my mother wouldn’t be herself if she didn’t have several negative things to say.

Family dynamics . . . oi.

“The medicine of words—medicina verbi. ~ Anna Kamienska, from “A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook”

Hot Air Balloon, Wyoming, by carolynconner (FCC)

Since I first began this post, two storms have rolled through, which has really helped the humidity. I feel as though I spend half of my day wiping my face—things you don’t realize about getting older. I mean, I never used to sweat. Just didn’t do it. Never had to worry about my makeup running (when I wore it on a regular basis), never really worried about wet underarms (well, that still is true).

But this constant facial sweat? What is this? Where did it come from? I wonder if this happens to all Filipina women as they get older. These days I’m not around any so that I can ask.

But all of these things you really don’t think about when you’re in your twenties or even thirties: inconvenient sweating, putting on moisturizer only to have it run in your eyes, being unable to find your glasses without your glasses (actually, that’s always been true for very nearsighted me). This aging crap is, well, crap. I don’t want to be the person that I was along with all of the incumbent short-sightedness (not vision), but then again, I’m not entirely certain that I want to be this person either.

“It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.” ~ Billy Collins, from “Litany”

So all is quiet. Eamonn is at his girlfriend’s house. Brett is at school until 9 p.m. (summer school started this week). The dogs are asleep. The laundry is going.

Hot Air Balloons, Arizona, by D Guisinger (FCC)

I cannot believe that it’s midweek already. The past few days have really run together because of the invitation fiasco. I hate it when that happens, when I just lose days. I mean, I have a hard enough time keeping my tenuous grip on reality without brutal reality rearing its ugly head.

I’ll tell you what, though. I’m finding comfort in the following: Milkshakes are half price at Sonic after 8 p.m.

Yep. I’m going there, figuratively and literally. After all of this crap, and especially after my mother’s assessment of my wardrobe, I’m going to have a milkshake. I figure if that’s my dinner, then it’s a fair calorie exchange. No, it’s not healthy. No, it goes against my whole no sugar regimen. But I’m not telling anyone, and neither are you.

More later. Peace.

Music by Dum Dum Girls, “Coming Down”

                   

Tag (part one)

THIS

Insatiable April, trees in place,
in their scraped-out place,
their standing.
Standing way.
Their red branch areas,
green shoot areas (shock),
river, that one.
I surprised a goose and she hissed.
I walk and walk with cold hands.
Back at the house it is filled with longing,
nothing to carry longing away.
I look back over my life.
I try to find analogies.
There are none.
I have longed for people before, I have loved people before.
Not like this.
It was not this.

Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.

~ Anne Carson

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~ Carl Jung

                   

“The universe is like a dome; it vibrates to that which you say in it, and answers the same back to you; so also is the law of action; we reap what we sow.” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, mid 60’s. Absolutely beautiful outside.

Well, yesterday I sat down to post, but then I got distracted by a phone call from my mother, and as a result, I was never able to regain my concentration long enough to post. My mother has that effect on me: She is able to completely disconcert me with just a conversation. What happens, actually, is that she starts to use that unassailable logic that is hers alone, and I usually lose my temper, and everything just degenerates.

Yesterday was so bad that I actually considered banging my head on my desk while she was talking to see if I could make my head feel better . . .

I know that I should be more patient with her, and I realize that age is taking its toll. She forgets more than she remembers, and I suppose if I were a good daughter, I would take all of this in stride, but I just can’t. I really can’t. The things that she says just blow my mind as they are so bizarre. For example, because she has decided that she will have no pets once her cat and dog die, then that means that I cannot have any more pets. When I tell her that I will always have at least one dog, she says things like, “Well, that just doesn’t make any sense,” and then I feel like an idiot for trying to justify something that really needs no justification.

This dance between mothers and daughters—does it ever end?

“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner  solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is  what you must be able to attain.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a young poet

For the last two nights, I’ve gone up to the prescribed dosage on my Seroquel. I had hesitated to do this because taking 75 mg in the past left me feeling so tired the next day, but I couldn’t take this not sleeping, and obviously the 50 mg wasn’t doing it for me. Each night, I’ve gone to sleep one hour earlier than the night before, which is progress. Last night, I actually fell asleep at 2 a.m., only to be awakened by Alfie who wanted to go out.

I swear that I think the dogs wait for my breathing patterns to change, and then make noise to wake me up . . . Breathing evenly? Yep? Okay, it’s time! And then they take turns waking me as going out together in the wee hours of the morning must be too taxing or something. I love my dogs, but by 5 a.m. I was having irate conversations with them.

Then I had to get up to drive Corey to work at 7. He’s working a 13 hour shift today, and boy was he surly. He’s so put out that he has to go back on the security schedule as there is no definite away date yet. I understand as he had already reconciled his mindset to being finished with that job. Going back on shifts must seem like a giant step backwards, even though it’s only a delay.

Anyway, I took him to work, came back home and slept for a few hours, took Eamonn to work, came home and slept for a few hours, and then took Brett to school and came home and slept for a few hours. Not ideal, but I did sleep, only to be awakened this afternoon by . . . you got it, a telephone call from my mother.

Geez. It just makes me want to go somewhere where there are no phones. I know. That’s selfish. Blame it on the sleep deprivation.

“Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.” ~ W.S. Merwin from Houses and Travellers

So yesterday, I had my telephone interview with my long-term disability provider. They are refiling my Social Security claim. The interesting thing is that since I was denied, my new date of disability becomes the date of my previous denial. Such a crock.

So we went over my medications, the doctors that I’m seeing, my conditions. Nothing new, really. Now they’ll file a claim, and then we do a lot of waiting only to be denied on the first round. Then we appeal again, and I get assigned a hearing date. I’m looking at about 12 months minimum to go through this process once again. Denial in the first phase is almost automatic. It’s as if this bureaucracy deliberately creates more work for itself and everyone else.

Let’s see, she has headaches everyday, debilitating migraines that she sees a neurologist for, chronic back pain, this, that, and the other . . . Denied.

I really don’t know how some people manage to go through the whole process and come out with benefits. I know of a couple of people who have actually been approved, and quite frankly, I am more disabled than they are. It’s not a bragging contest. Just a fact. But as with my mother, I am looking for inherent logic, and the fact is that there is none. There is nothing logical or efficient about the Social Security Administration.

This morning on the way to school Brett and I touched on a few political topics, and he told me that quite frankly, he doesn’t want to get distracted by political activism at the moment because he needs to concentrate on school. I understand, I really do. To give in to the desire to fight the system takes a lot of time and energy, and I just cannot go around mad at the things that Rick Santorum says 24 hours a day, or it would only add to my pain—physical, emotional, psychological. As it is, I’m sitting on a heating pad as I type this.

“I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum. I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgment about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions—not about anything, really. I know only that I was born and exist, and it seems to me that I have been carried along. I exist on the foundation of something I do not know.” ~ Carl Jung, near the end of his life, in Memories, Dreams

Yes, two Jung quotes in the same post. Unusual for me, but they both seemed to fit, and I couldn’t choose one over the other.

I’ve never really studied Jung as I came of age at a time when Freud still held sway, all of that oral, anal fixation stuff. Oedipal and Electra complexes. Id, ego, and superego. My first psychology teacher was a kook. She would mention oral fixations and then make sucking motions with her mouth like she was sucking on a pacifier. Strange the things you remember. But I find now that I really appreciate Jung more, especially after I learned what a misogynist Freud was.

By the way, just as an aside, orange slices (the candy) and Pepsi really do not go well together. Just found that out.

So, where am I? Corey is unsettled. Politics is the same old bullshit. I’m getting ready to take on another battle with the SSA. I still need to do taxes and the FAFSA forms for Brett and Corey. My computer is still dead. My dogs both delight and aggravate me. My mother . . . well, nothing new there either.

As for myself: I really cannot “add up the sum,” as the quote says. I have ideas constantly about plots for stories, literally, all the time. I wonder if I get my hands on an IBM Selectric what excuse I’ll use after that. I could do this, you know? I really could, but I am so caught up in defining my worth, in trying to define my convictions that I never seem to stop long enough to get anything done.

So what kind of person am I? I was born, and now, I exist, simply exist. Still waiting to start living.

More later. Peace.

                   

Today’s post features real ads for medicines/curatives that contained cocaine, amphetamines, and other interesting ingredients (such as heroin, cannabis, and morphine). Here is my favorite: Mabel is Unstable . . . so let’s tranquilize her with butabarbital . . .

                   

Music by Charlie Winston, “She Went Quietly”

                    

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you
and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
Robert Hass, from Praise

“And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life.” ~ Hermann Hesse

F. Scott Fitzgerald Handwritten Passage of The Great Gatsby

“The dream is too often about myself. To correct this; and to forget one’s own sharp absurd little personality, reputation and the rest of it, one should read; see outsiders; think more; write more logically; above all be full of work; and practise anonymity. Silence in company . . .” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 22 December 1927

Original Manuscript of Einstein's General Relativity

Well, it’s been a hell of a week. Nothing really specific. No, wait. That’s not true. Alexis. There was Alexis.

In July, we have two family birthdays here: Alexis on the 7th, and Brett on the 10th. So Alexis’s birthday was Thursday. Coincidentally, I also needed a ride to a doctor’s appointment because Corey had to work second shift. I texted Alexis on Wednesday evening to see if she could give me a ride. She got back to me a few hours later and said that she could.

She showed up with only 12 minutes to spare before my appointment time. I was already antsy by the time she arrived because I really wasn’t certain that she would show, which would have meant a $50 no-show appointment fee that I really cannot afford. On the way to the doctor, I tried to broach the subject of our relationship, or lack thereof. She wasn’t having it. I backed off as it was the only option available to me, but I have to admit that it left me stinging. Consequently, my appointment with my therapist was a crying appointment.

Dr. K. said that obviously Alexis is in a deep hole and that there really isn’t anything that I can do about it. She suggested that I propose to Alexis that we try to meet regularly for coffee or something, and I would agree that we didn’t have to talk of anything of consequence.

After the appointment when I got back in the car, that’s exactly what I proposed. Alexis wasn’t too interested in doing that either. I let it go, just let it go. I have to admit that this letting go stuff is getting easier, and I wonder if it’s a factor of age, experience, self-preservation, or perhaps, a little of all three.

“We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seeded refusal of that which others have made of us.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

W. B. Yeats, "Wild Swans at Coole" Manuscript

Other annoyances this week include a new pain in both of my hands (no idea what’s going on there), ongoing computer problems (lots of freezing, which makes writing agonizingly slow), a house that really needs to be cleaned, and personal administrative stuff, like getting health claims refiled that were originally denied because of my continual problems with health insurance.

I love dealing with billing offices . . .

Also on the table for this week were extended errands of the bureaucratic kind: social security administration, banking, other stuff. I am doing these things with/for the young woman who has come under our care.

What absolutely stymies the imagination is that I have been told that this young woman used to be unable to make eye contact, never spoke above a mumble, and was completely incapable of taking care of herself.

To the contrary, the young woman who I see laughs easily and frequently, loves to engage in thoughtful conversation, and is eager to do things for herself. Would I be too clichéd in comparing her to a moth in a cocoon who is finally emerging? Left to her own devices and desires, she is in the process of becoming.

As to my role in this, it is minimal. I am merely standing back and watching her grow. That I am being allowed to participate even passively is an affirming experience.

“All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.” ~ George Bataille

T. S. Eliot's Book Signing to Virginia Woolf

So with all of the different things going on in my life right now, I have been thinking about Ariadne’s Thread (quick mythology summary): You may recall that Daedalus (wing-man) built a labyrinth to house the Minotaur (bull-man). According to a summary on the Georgetown University site, “Theseus, an Athenian, volunteered to accompany one of these groups of victims to deliver his country from the tribute to Minos. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and gave him a thread which he let unwind through the Labyrinth so that he was able to kill the Minotaur and find his way back out again.”

On the web, The Labyrinth project allows users to make an Ariadne’s thread through the maze of information available on the Internet. Users can find their way back by choosing the “Return to Labyrinth Home Page” link at the end of each Labyrinth document.

In logic, Ariadne’s Thread is not, as many believe, trial and error because trial and error implies attempts to find the one true solution. Rather Ariadne’s Thread works more like a flow chart with decision points: if a choice needs to be made, make one arbitrarily from those not marked as failures, and follow it logically as far as possible. If a contradiction results, back up to the last decision made, mark it as a failure, and try another decision at the same point. Repeat until a solution can be found or no solution can be found, which means that no solution exists. Conversely, multiple solutions may be sought by returning to successful decision points and attempting other solutions.

The main things to remember in an Ariadne’s Thread are that records must be kept and more than one solution can be sought and found. So what does this mean in the real world?

“In the cold, damp shelter of our primitive ancestors, lit only by the flickering of a campfire, at day’s end there was a time for recollection and stillness that would help to fuel the next day’s events. Since the beginning of human history, the still point has served as the birthplace of all our activity. Virtually every creature on this great earth practices the backward step of quieting down and entering this still point. Birds, beasts, bugs, and fish all seem to find time in their daily existence to relax and recreate—to bring forth the flower from what Whitman called “the seed of perfection.” ~ John Daido Loori, Editor’s Preface: The Art of Just Sitting

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to His Brother Theo

I have often alluded to my life as a tapestry, one in which different events and different people have contributed various threads to a pattern that has yet to take a final shape. In the tapestry metaphor, it’s all about collecting and assimilating.

In an Ariadne’s Thread approach to life, it’s more about trying and succeeding and trying and failing to reach a goal, and sometimes, even with the perceived failures, a solution is found. By that I mean that sometimes people arrive at ends for which they were not originally aiming, almost as if fate guided them to that point; when in fact, the decisions made took them to that point.

Does fate play a hand?

That’s the big question. In pure logic, the answer is definitely no. But as we all know, life does not work in terms of pure logic, no matter how much we try to make it so.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that we all arrive at certain points in our lives and wonder how we got here. If we were to deliberately trace things back to a certain starting point, I’m sure that the path that we would draw would not resemble anything we expected.  We are constantly reaching decision points in our lives: if yes, go here; if no, go here. But it’s never spelled out, and there are no directional markers.

I could no more trace back my own Ariadne’s Thread than I could unweave and then reweave my life’s tapestry. So many of my decisions have come from my gut, have taken me places I never dreamed of traveling, and when faced with critical life decision points, I have sometimes veered right or left when straight seemed the most logical path to take. But then, emotions are rarely logical.

I do sometimes contemplate how exactly I got to this point, and in so doing, I sometimes discern definite markers that led me. At other times, it’s too convoluted to discern, like a labyrinth. But the things about labyrinths, as I’ve mentioned before, is that there are two ways in and two ways out, which means that there are always possibilities.

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Philosopher

John Keats, First Page of "Lamia" Manuscript

In a larger sense, Ariadne’s Thread could be a logical approach to life in general, as in we should learn from our mistakes (the we being civilizations, governments, countries). But of course, we don’t.

What’s that maxim about those forgetting the past being doomed to repeat it? Well, we keep repeating our mistakes. That Cicero said this over two thousand years ago is telling indeed. Did not our own country’s fall into a great recession occur primarily because of greed, an unflinching belief in getting mine regardless of the fate of others? Is not the current force of the right greatly due to its determination to compel others to believe and live by their ethic?

Even at the most basic levels we are proving Cicero’s assertions to be true: Consider the elimination of cursive writing from many school curricula in favor of keyboarding. Yes, keyboarding skills are essential in any workplace today; however, should we not take a little time to teach our children the basics in communication: putting pen to paper?

I know that when I see script from a bygone era, it makes me heartsick that we do not write in this manner. I remember the beautiful script that even my parents used, the great care they took when signing their names. My sons have no identifiable signature. The letters are merely joined together.

I know. I know. Don’t talk to me about how pressed for time teachers in America already are without adding an additional burden. I’ve been there, and the fact is that teachers today must teach for tests. The whole idea of a classical education is passé. But I remember those sheets of paper with the two solid lines and the dotted lines in between in which my classmates and I practiced assiduously our capital F’s and our lower case z’s. Every perfect curve, every correctly executed loop—milestones for each of us. And then as we got older, we tailored our penmanship to our personalities. But first, we learned how to do it correctly.

I bemoan the death of education and the dearth of desire for betterment, and in this, I know that I am not alone.

More later. Peace.

Music by Grizzly Bear, “Slow Life”

                   

Sylt II

The wind that makes your hair grow faster
opens a child’s mouth full of strawberry and sand.
Slow and sure
on the scales of the ocean
the child’s head outweighs the sun.

Inside of the wind—

a blister of a church,
its walls thicker than the space from wall to wall
where the wind shifts shade and light
like two rival chess pieces
or two unmatched pieces of furniture.
Inside of the church—such a stillness
that when a feather floats down in a fist of dust
it becomes a rock by the time it hits the ground.

Organ pipes glint like a cold radiator,
contained in a case of a carved tree, its branches
tied up with a snake.
Organ pedals, golden and plump, are the tree’s only fruit.

It is all about the release of weight:
the player crushes the pedals like grapes underneath his feet.
My body, like an inaccurate cashier, adds your weight to itself.
Your name, called into the wind,
slows the wind down.

When a body is ripe, it falls and rots from the softest spot.

Only when a child slips and drops off a tree,
the tree suddenly learns that it is barren

~ Valzhyna Mort

“As time goes on, you’ll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Ancient Foot Path, Suffolk, England, via coolpicture
                   

“Sometimes we can choose the paths we follow. Sometimes our choices are made for us. And sometimes we have no choice at all.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Beach Trail, British Columbia, Canada by Kerrythis (FCC)

Saturday evening. Cloudy, hot, and humid.

Well, it has not been the best anniversary weekend in that Corey and I haven’t really seen each other except in passing for the last two days. Yesterday, he was called into work at noon and got home at 7:15 this morning, only to have to go back at 3 this afternoon. He gets off at 11 tonight and has to be back at 7 this morning. All of this means that there has been nothing more than a few minutes in which to speak to one another, that, and he is really tired.

It’s not that we were planning to go out this weekend, but it would have been nice to at least see him . . .

I spent yesterday putting away clean laundry, which is always the worst part of doing laundry. I can hardly contain my excitement. Then I tried to stay awake until Corey got home because the time kept changing (he was waiting for the vessel to get underway), which meant that I was awake until 4 a.m.

I made the mistake of watching Discover ID’s Friday the 13th horror fest. Two serial killer specials later, and of course, bad dreams involving people who were actually creatures who scalped people and wore their hair. I do remember at one point in the dream I was screaming, “I can’t breathe.” I have no idea if I had put a pillow over my face or what, but it felt horrible.

So, no, we didn’t have a lovely romantic evening together on our anniversary.

“Month by month things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through; my spine is soft like wax near the flame of the candle. I dream; I dream.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Garden Path, Giverny, Francy, by Everyday Joys

So, in other news . . . Still have not seen Alexis for Mother’s Day. She called last Sunday evening around 7:20 and said that she didn’t realize how late it was, and would I mind very much if she didn’t come over until tomorrow (Monday). I said no. That was the last time that I heard from her.

Ask me if I’m surprised. That would be a no. I know that something has to be done, but I don’t want to do it over the telephone. I just can’t let this situation continue, even though I honestly don’t know what the situation is. Does that make sense?

My s-in-law Ann found a good home for my m-in-law’s cat Ringo. He is a very sweet cat, and I wouldn’t have minded having him except that he is not used to being around dogs, and I think that Tillie might view him as another toy. Finding a home for the cat makes everything seem so final.

Ann and I had a conversation via text last night in which we both said—with very few words—that things are getting too hard to face, and they are. I hate this more than I can possibly express. I hate that she will never again sleep in her bed in her house, that she will never again hold her cat, that she will never again wander around her yard, pulling the stray weed here and there.

I hate, hate, hate this.

Not so surprisingly, I am finding myself overwhelmed, which has led to my decision to start seeing my old therapist again. I realized that I’m just carrying this heaviness around in my chest, and not really talking about it. And I cannot continue to use Corey as my sounding board for everything as he has just as much roiling around in his brain right now (still haven’t gotten word on if the contract is a go or not).

“For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken.
It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, from “Pomegranate”

Fairy Tale Garden, Victoria, Australia, by Bennos Macedon

I had my first session this past week, and it was so comfortable. This is the same woman I saw after Caitlin died, when my relationship with Mari died, when my first marriage died. Talking to her is completely natural. I think that Corey was worried that I was going back into therapy because of him, which is not the case at all. I just realized that I seemed to be holding my breath all of the time.

I mean, I feel as if sometimes I forget to breathe because I am so tightly wound over this situation or that situation. I find myself sometimes having to remind myself to uncoil my shoulders, to unclench my jaw, to take a deep breath. And after three years plus of waiting for things to get better, I realize that I have no idea as to when things will get better, and I just can’t keep waiting, can’t keep postponing whatever it is I’m postponing.

I know that I have so many unresolved issues that need to be faced: going back to work/not being able to go back to work, my relationship with my daughter, my relationship with my mother, watching my m-in-law die, the sadness I still feel over never being able to have a child with Corey, just to mention a few things here and there. And then of course, there’s all of the everyday bullshit: having no money, having a house in suspended animation as far as remodeling, never knowing from one day to the next what bills will show up in the mail. Oh, and let’s throw in the fact that some part of my body hurts all of the time, constantly, unrelentingly.

It’s all just so much. At least, that’s how it feels.

“I began to long, as I had before, for some special smell,  some special music that would fill me, lift me up and carry me away, float me off the rocks of my body and sweep me into some wideness, some vast expanse of  blue-grey nothingness.” ~ Denton Welch, A Voice Through a Cloud

Steps and Flowers

I remember the expression that appeared the most on my dad’s face was a furrowed brow, as if he was pondering the very meaning of existence. Who knows. He might have been thinking about the weeds in the vegetable garden. The expression was the same. As a result, he had a vertical furrow on his forehead next to his eyebrow.

Because of my good genes, I have been spared wrinkles, but I have the furrow. It’s right there in the same spot as my father’s furrow, and I wonder if this is how the world sees me most of the time. Of course, I would have to leave the house for the world to see me literally, and I just don’t do that much. I mentioned that to my therapist, and she got that questioning look on her face. But you know, I really am not that chuffed about it.

I’ve written about my tendency towards being a hermit before, albeit slightly exaggerated, or perhaps not. I think that I deal with people better when I’m not actually around them. It’s a good thing I wasn’t a woman in the 50’s when being a good neighbor was right up there with being a good housewife. That whole idea of belonging to clubs—garden clubs, bridge clubs, women’s circles—yuck. I mean, I can be perfectly sociable, and when I was younger, I was a freaking social butterfly, sort of. I mean, I enjoyed going places with groups of people, belonged to clubs, did lunch like it was an occasion. That whole thing.

But now, forced sociability for me is akin to spending Saturday in Wal Mart: after a few minutes, I think I’m going to break out in hives.

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.” ~ Leonora Carrington

The Garden Path

So I thought that maybe I’d close with a few new revelations (don’t ask me why):

  • I really enjoy arranging flowers, and this is something I think I could have done as a profession. I think that I have a good eye for color and texture combinations.
  • If I knew more about chemistry, I would try to come up with my own peony scent. Apparently, extracting oil from peonies is very hard, which is why there are very few wearable scents that are true peony; most have a rose or bergamot base.
  • I would love to have one of those old wooden potting sheds as my private studio. I would put in a cushiony chair in for reading, a big wooden table on which to put the computer as well as to play with the images and papers that I collect, and a free-standing fireplace.
  • With each passing year, I understand better and better my dad’s love for the sea and his desire to see the world.
  • I have poems running through my head again. After years of not writing poems, I find myself putting together phrases at odd times. However, I still don’t write them down.
  • I love dawn and sunset better than the day or the night. My internal clock is attuned to these times.
  • I am afraid of my 56th birthday. I once had a premonition that I would die when I was 56.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mumford and Sons, “After the Storm”

                   

Man in Stream

You stand in the brook, mud smearing
your forearms, a bloodied mosquito on your brow,
your yellow T-shirt dampened to your chest
as the current flees between your legs,
amber, verdigris, unraveling
today’s story, last night’s travail . . .

You stare at the father beaver, eye to eye,
but he outstares you—you who trespass in his world,
who have, however unwilling, yanked out his fort,
stick by tooth-gnarled, mud-clabbered stick,
though you whistle vespers to the wood thrush
and trace flame-flicker in the grain of yellow birch.

Death outpaces us. Upended roots
of fallen trees still cling to moss-furred granite.
Lichen smolders on wood-rot, fungus trails in wisps.
I wanted a day with cracks, to let the godlight in.
The forest is always a nocturne, but it gleams,
the birch tree tosses its change from palm to palm,

and we who unmake are ourselves unmade
if we know, if only we know
how to give ourselves in this untendered light.

~ Rosanna Warren