“You’re a mother, aren’t you? There’s kindness in your eyes. And sadness. But a ferocity too.” ~ Dr. Who, from “A Town Called Mercy” (7.3)

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you out there!

                   

Typewriter Series #411 by Tyler Knott Gregson

this is to the others

Music by Esthero, “Over”

“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.” ~ David Foster Wallace, from The Pale King

bird and owl

                   

Saturday weirdness . . .

A flaky end to an off-kilter week. Corey came home yesterday. Had Olivia on Wednesday and Thursday. Kept thinking yesterday was Saturday, so today is Friday? Didn’t check my e-mail for two days, so missed the one from Corey saying he would be in port on Friday. Kept thinking he would be here Sunday. Mother’s Day and anniversary quickly approaching and haven’t gotten cards. Very, very weird dreams about a plague outbreak in Corey’s hometown which turned into a cruise ship. Got kicked off the cruise ship because the captain didn’t like us. Woke up coughing. Couldn’t find my regular green tea mochi at the international market. Think I have an off-batch of Corona; that ever happen to you that the beer tastes slightly off? Olivia’s first tooth is almost through, and she pulled herself to a stand this morning, which means everything on tables is now up for grabs. One of Brett’s best friends is graduating college today, and I’ve known this kid since he was born, so I’m feeling incredibly old. Got a letter from health insurance that they consider trigger shots experimental. What the? I’ve been getting trigger shots for almost a decade to great positive effect. Hate health insurance. Neither of my sons will be home for Mother’s Day. What did I expect?  Anyway, here’s a little collection of weirdness from me to you:

First, Jimmy Fallon and John Krasinski have a lip-sync competition, and the results are epic.

Robin Williams still rocks . . .

BBC show “Vicious”

Banana bunkers?
banana bunkers
Remember this?

A little Fry

and finally . . . time for a nap . . .

                   

The Bouquet

Between me and the world
you are a bay, a sail
the faithful ends of a rope
you are a fountain, a wind,
a shrill childhood cry.

Between me and the world
you are a picture frame, a window
a field covered in wildflowers
you are a breath, a bed,
a night that keeps the stars company.

Between me and the world,
you are a calendar, a compass
a ray of light that slips through the gloom
you are a biographical sketch, a book mark
a preface that comes at the end.

between me and the world
you are a gauze curtain, a mist
a lamp shining in my dreams
you are a bamboo flute, a song without words
a closed eyelid carved in stone.

Between me and the world
you are a chasm, a pool
an abyss plunging down
you are a balustrade, a wall
a shield’s eternal pattern.

~ Bei Dao

“Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.” ~ Bertrand Russell

Sunset in Antigua by AvidlyAbide (FCC)
Hawksbill to the Left

                   

“With looks that lose themselves in cherished looks;
The hour of steaming tea and banished books;
The sweetness of the evening at an end . . .” ~ Paul Verlaine, from “The Rosy Hearth

Saturday, late afternoon. Sunny and mild, 76° F.

Well  . . where to begin?

Corey got under way yesterday afternoon (I remember my AP Style Manual was very specific that under way is two words when referring to nautical movement). I drove him to the ship at 3:30 in the morning, and that was that. They took the ship out to test the radar, made a few tweaks, and left for Antigua. That’s right, Antigua. Did you know that there are 365 beaches on Antigua? I didn’t. He has tried to take the sting out of that by assuring me that they won’t spend any time in port, to which I reminded him that at least he’ll see the incredible blue waters, the azure blue, the Caribbean blue.

Lord How Island, Barbuda and Antigua (Globe Images)

And then there was that mention of the Virgin Islands . . .

They should have good weather going down, which is good, as he had terrible weather off Dover, which is not surprising. He was actually seasick, something that is not par for him.

Anyway, I came home from leaving him at the ship, crawled back into bed, and awoke around 9 a.m. with a killer migraine. To say that I was not surprised is an understatement.  However, I was surprised by the duration—all day. As a result, I did nothing all day, but I was able to read last night. I conquered about 400 pages of the third book in the Game of Thrones series, read until I was exhausted, and then prayed for sleep.

When it came, it brought nightmares that had me screaming in my sleep again. I remember Jews being marched off to ovens next to a garden party, but there was more, so much more, including my father taking a shower and telling me good night, and my mother tearing apart her kitchen. Then I was at a corporate Christmas party with the builders I used to know, and there was a wedding, and I wanted good bourbon, but the bar only had cheap stuff, and then I was teaching again . . . too much, too much . . .

“I do not know myself sometimes, or how to measure and name and count out the grains that make me what I am.” ~  Virginia Woolf,  from The Waves

So today I awoke with . . . wait for it . . . another migraine. I’ve been stuffing my meds in all day, and I decided that nothing was going to get better (as regards my back), so I went ahead and bathed the dogs. They really needed their flea medicine, and I always like to give them a bath beforehand. The dog baths led to scrubbing the bathroom, which led to cleaning the bathroom floor, which led to cleaning the hardwood floors, which led to stripping the beds, and in between, starting laundry. My hands smell of bleach and aloe, and are tight and achy.

Turner Beach, Antigua (Globe Images)

I’m sitting here in a daze. My back is on fire, right below my neck, between my shoulder blades. I’m writing blind again, with my eyes squinting against the sun coming through Eamonn’s window, and yes, I’m back on this POS computer. The squinting is definitely not forestalling the headache that is seeping back in at the left corner of my forehead.

Of the three dogs, Shakes was actually the best this time, and Tillie was the worst. She does not like baths, but she loves the pool, such a silly dog. Alfie tried to bite me when I tried to clean out his ongoing wound below his right eye, but I fought and won. He has this, for lack of a better word, hole directly below his eye where he had a cyst. We cannot get it to heal because he always ends up scratching it. I cannot put a cone on him because, well, he’s a wee bit insane, and a cone would drive him over the edge, so we clean it and medicate it, and he walks around with a hole in his face the size of a very small pea.

Don’t judge. Our dogs are spoiled and healthy, and now they smell clean, my back be damned.

(Informational aside: While the Wal Mart flea medicine claims to be as good as Frontline, I have found that it just doesn’t seem to last as long, so I went back to Frontline.)

“There is almost nothing that does not signal loneliness,
then loveliness, then something connecting all we will become.” ~  Stanley Plumley, from “In Passing”

Corey will be crossing the equator this trip, something he’s never done before. That’s a milestone for a seaman, and he’s supposed to get a turtle tattoo, according to traditional lore. His Atlantic crossing means that he can wear an anchor tattoo, which is something that he’s been wanting for several years, and if he crosses the International Date Line, he can get a dragon.

Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (Globe Images)

I don’t think the International Date Line will be happening anytime soon, especially since the company has sold their Pacific ship.  But at least he’s going to be able to finish this hitch, which is going to earn him more deap-sea time, and just a few days ago, we weren’t even certain about that. After that, who knows?

I miss him already, miss sleeping next to him, miss reaching out in the middle of the night to touch his arm. Even though he was working most of the time that he was in port, it was simply reassuring to know that he was just a few miles from home. I’m trying not to think too much about the upcoming weeks. At least with Brett starting summer school on Monday, I’ll have some distractions.

“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.” ~ Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

So this weekend I need to print and mail the shower invitations. However, there’s just one problem: The ink cartridges that I ordered, which were supposed to arrive yesterday, have not yet appeared. I really did not want to pay full price for ink cartridges; they’re just too blasted expensive in a store, but I also need to get these invitations in the mail.

U.S. Virgin Islands by yawper (FCC)

I also have Corey’s Mom’s Mother’s Day card and present to mail. Have I done that yet? Nope. Sorry. I just realized that it’s Saturday and that the post office closed about five hours ago. I’m hopeless. But my dogs are clean . . .

Time out to make sun-dried tomato wraps for Brett and myself: Honey-baked turkey, guacamole (for me), Muenster (again, for me), tomato slices, sea salt, lettuce, and Vidalia onion dressing. Quite yummy, actually. Speaking of fresh, I wonder if we’ll get a garden in this year. Because of the climate around here, we can still put things in the ground in July and harvest in September, one of the better aspects of living where we live.

I would love some fresh garden tomatoes as store-bought ones have no flavor, that is unless I splurge and buy the vine-ripened ones. And nothing beats fresh cucumbers.

“There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.” ~ T.S. Eliot, from “East Coker” from Four Quartets

Well, as to Mother’s Day tomorrow, I hope that all of you out there in the ether have a lovely day. I plan to do a whole lot of nothing. Preferably, reading for hours and hours.

Tomorrow is also our wedding anniversary: Eleven years ago tomorrow, Corey and I married on a lovely Sunday afternoon in an old house in Ghent, surrounded by family and friends.  The night before was pure hell as we were having everyone over for dinner. I was making table arrangements and the bridesmaids’ bouquets, and that overall sense of panic was consuming me.

Antigua Sunset

But Sunday? That was good, in spite of the table arrangements tipping over in the car, trying to decorate the house hours before the wedding, having to clean up afterwards, not having all of the food that we had ordered (yes, I noticed), being surprised by the condition of the rental chairs, having my hair ruined by my mother’s friend, taking my hair down and completely redoing it one hour before the wedding, having the groomsmen refuse to wear the ties for the tuxedo European style, and just a few other things. In spite of all of that, it was one of the best days of my life, certainly one of the happiest.

The years since have been filled with highs and lows, but through it all I have never regretted marrying a much younger man who has come to be my best friend and true companion, a man who knows me far better than I know myself sometimes.

Years are meaningless to the heart.

Joyeux anniversaire, mon amour, où que vous soyez . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Lonestar, “I’m Already There”

                   

Passage

More than air
More than water
More than lips
Light light

Your body is the trace of your body

~ Octavio Paz

“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is . . . at last, to love it for what it is.” ~Virginia Woolf

Carnations by Zengame (FCC)

                   

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” ~ Honoré de Balzac

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you out there.

My youngest son Brett informed me today that he believes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to be stupid holidays as they are all about making people spend money . . . Okay . . .

I told him that I agreed that most holidays are greeting card conspiracies for commercialization, but that I was pretty certain that Mother’s Day did not begin that way. And guess what? I was right.

After doing a bit of quick Internet research, this is what I learned about the holiday:

After the Civil War, some attempts were made by women’s peace groups who held meetings attended by mothers whose sons had fought or died in the Civil War. The practice did not extend beyond local level. In 1868, Ann Jarvis (mother of Anna Marie) “created a committee to establish a ‘Mother’s Friendship Day’  to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.” Mother Jarvis had plans to expand the Friendship Day into an annual celebration for mothers, but her death in 1905 prevented her from seeing her dream realized.

Others who were involved in the creation of Mother’s Day include Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day proclamation in 1872, as well as Juliet Calhoun Blakely and her two traveling salesmen sons in 1877. Frank Hering called for a “national day to honor our mothers in 1904.” However, the elder Jarvis’s daughter Anna Marie took up her mother’s cause and is recognized as the creator of the holiday that became national and then international.

Jarvis came up with the idea for a day to honor mothers on the second Sunday in May 1907, which was the first anniversary of her mother’s death. Supposedly, Jarvis persuaded a Philadelphia church to hold a special service for her mother. Subsequently, every church in the country was holding special services. Jarvis even obtained a copyright on the phrase “Mother’s Day” from the Patent Office.

Finally, on On May 9, 1914 after years of letter writing and campaigning by the younger Jarvis, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued the official proclamation declaring the first Mother’s Day as a day for citizens to show the American flag in honor of sons who had died in war.

In an article in Time magazine in 1938, Anna Marie Jarvis is indeed recognized as the creator of the holiday; however, by the time of the article, Jarvis declared that “whenever she thinks of what the flower shops, the candy stores, the telegraph companies have done with her idea, she is disgusted.” (Brett would have probably liked Anna Jarvis.) Jarvis spent most of her remaining money in her continued efforts to fight to keep Mother’s Day from being promoted as nothing more than another occasion for people to buy expensive gifts, and as we now know, she didn’t succeed.

Border Carnation

Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt is pointed out in the same article as saying that flowers are “sweet and nice” but that something “ought to be done for the 14,000 mothers who die every year from childbirth.” I think that many of us have forgotten just how dangerous the entire act of becoming a mother used to be. According to Wikipedia (yes, I used Wikipedia; it’s not a thesis for god’s sake), “global maternal mortality in 2008 at 342,900 (down from 526,300 in 1980), of which less than 1 percent occurred in the developed world.”

As a side note, carnations are considered the official flower of the holiday. The younger Jarvis delivered 500 of them in 1908 as carnations had been her mother’s favorite flower. Today, of course, florists push any flower available, and it was florists in the early part of the century who pushed red carnations for women whose mother’s were still living, and white carnations for women who had lost their mothers.

Now, armed with this information, go buy a single carnation for your mother, and instead of candy or perfume, wash her car or her windows. She’ll thank you for it.

More later. Peace.

P.S. Brett, in the end, every celebration becomes a mere bastardized version of its former self. It is up to you to interpret holidays as you wish, not to follow the prescribed path of those who have trodden before you. You will find that when you attach your own meaning and your own memories to something, in the end, what is precious belongs to you. What Mother’s Day means to me is not what is means to you, and it shouldn’t be. For me, it is a bittersweet day fraught with love and sadness. That is mine. What it becomes for you only time will reveal.

Music by Ronan Keating, “This Is Your Song”

                   

Cradle Song

Her grandfather
had crafted the bed from the hardwood trees
in the dense woods behind the house.
Her mother had lain securely in its curves,
and she, too, had been comforted by its gentle sway.
Years later, spring brought her own girl child.
Each night, she would lay the baby in the cradle,
cover her with a soft blanket,
and soothe her with hushed lullabies
whispered in the summer twilight.

With her hand on the knotted wood
worn smooth by time and love,
the woman would rock the bed gently,
and guide her babe into untroubled slumber.
The tranquility of this evening ritual
became the woman’s talisman for her babe
against the dark and unknown.
Until the day arrived
when the girl-child became ill,
and was taken away
to be succored by strangers.
never to return to the enfolding arms
of the woman or the idle cradle.

After that,
the woman would stand by the cradle in the evening,
and sing quiet songs to the air made silent by her loss.
Alone in the terrible stillness,
she would gather the blanket in her arms,
and inhale deeply—searching for the essence
that might still cling to the barren cloth.
Sometimes, she would stroke the sheets,
her hands seeking warmth
from the hollow where the baby’s head had lain.
Once, she found a single, dark hair,
She wrapped it in white tissue and placed it in a box,
along with a small, cloth doll
and a faded red bow she had tied in her daughter’s hair
one fall morning.

Her husband never understood
her need to find solace from things no longer used.
He wanted to remove the cradle,
the source of her pain.
But she asked him to leave it
until the trees were heavy again with spring blooms,
until she could imprint all that the child had been,
before time began to fade the image,
and she would be left alone,
with nothing but remembrance, an empty cradle
and echoes of soft night songs of love.

Lolita Liwag

“By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent. We will no longer sleepwalk through our life.” ~ William B. Irvine


Freshly Cut Pink Peonies
                   

“And the hands pick flowers
And the soul takes no notice.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Peony Rose by MinimialistPhotography101.com (Flckr creative commons)

Saturday, early evening. Sunny and mild, 71° F

What a long strange week it’s been. Corey worked two double shifts, and as a result, is dead tired. Brett finished his exams for spring semester and is now preparing to take the summer off from studies. He finished the year with a 3.5 GPA, an A-/B+, which I think is terribly impressive.

Eamonn did not do as well, although he did do better than he has been doing. I’m not sure if his GPA will be strong enough for him to transfer to ODU this semester, but we are going to apply in the hopes that he can get in. I really think that he would like ODU better than community college as it will feel more like he is in college than continuing high school.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the U.S., and I am really not looking forward to it, mostly for reasons that I will elaborate on further later. I was hoping that we would have the pool open for Mother’s Day, but it doesn’t look as if that’s going to be possible. We had to order a part for the filter (luckily under $10), and that hasn’t arrived yet. Of course, not having the pool cleaned hasn’t stopped Tillie from accidentally/on purpose jumping into the pool and making big splashes. She is growing impatient with us as she is obviously ready for swimming season.

“The temple bell stops.
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.” ~ Basso

Mobara Peony Garden Mobara-shi (city), Chiba-ken,(Prefecture), Japan by TANAKA Juuyoh FCC

On Friday, I went to see my other m-in-law at the rehab center. Ann, my sister-in-law told me on Wednesday that Yvonne will not be coming home. She has stopped trying to feed herself, and she won’t do physical therapy. She has also been having problems with swallowing. I had planned to visit on Thursday with Ann, but unfortunately, I had one of my sleepless nights and was completely out of it Thursday morning. Amazingly, Alexis went with her Aunt Ann to visit.

Since I wasn’t sleeping, I called our s-in-law in Germany at 2:30 a.m. (8:30 their time). Ann had called last time, so I told her I would do it this time. She seem prepared for the news. Her own mother had died of Parkinson’s about five years ago, and Helma had been the primary caretaker. The plans are for the Germans to come at the end of July; we’re all hoping that they will not have to come sooner.

I cut some fresh peonies from the front yard and took them with me when I visited. Yvonne has always loved peonies. When I arrived at 11:30, my m-in-law was still asleep in bed. Her nurse came in and asked me if I would mind leaving the room for a bit as she was going to get her up and dressed so that she could go to speech therapy for lunch.

We went to the speech therapy room on the first floor, and the therapist put my m-in-law’s food tray in front of her. She reached for the fork and began to feed herself. I have never been so glad to see such a small victory in my life. She did really well, but got tired about half way through, so I fed her the rest of her lunch. She had no problems in swallowing anything.

After her meal, of which she ate almost all, I took her back to the room, and we talked. She was very coherent and not her usually mumbling self. I told her about all of the outrageous hats at the royal wedding, and she laughed. We talked about the flowers that are in bloom, and a few other things, and for the most part, she was with me.

It’s probably one of the best conversations that I’ve had with her in a while.

“I don’t trust the truth of memories
because what leaves us
departs
forever ” ~ Anna Kamienska, from “A Path in the Woods”

Peonies at Window by Muffet (FCC)

Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to leave, I leaned in to hug and kiss her, and she jumped. I had scared her; then she told me something that really bothered me. I won’t go into the details because it’s private, but the gist is that she thinks someone is coming into her room at night.

Now ordinarily I might say that it’s the dementia that was talking, but I don’t think so. She was completely coherent and cogent the entire time we were together. She remembered names, and she even asked how her old house was doing without her.

I had to stop myself from marching down to the administrator’s office and raising hell as it isn’t my place to do so. But I didn’t want to leave her alone. These are the very reasons that so many people do not feel comfortable in placing their elderly and disabled relatives in homes. What goes on when you aren’t there?

The population in rehabilitative facilities is completely at risk in so many ways: fires, natural disasters, caregivers who do not care, and caregivers who abuse.

I am sick with anger, sick with guilt over my helplessness in this situation. This is not how I want this woman to spend her final days. No one deserves to be helpless, at the mercy of people who ignore their plights, or worse, who take advantage of such helplessness. I debated whether to call Ann, who was on her way to Blacksburg to pick up my niece from Virginia Tech. Finally, I called. At the very least, she could make a telephone call and request that her mother not have a male nurse.

I mean, if it is dementia, which is what abusers hope such things will be chalked up to, and it is merely a male nurse who is getting her ready for bed, then if she doesn’t have a male nurse, then she won’t misconstrue the situation. But if it’s something else, it is going to be damned hard to prove.

“At the doorstep you will know
the moment we have
 left to live.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from “The Stranger”

Peonies by Narith5 (FCC)

I just don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to call my ex, but I know that he will not react well, and I don’t know if that would upset my sister-in-law. The family dynamics are so touchy. Ann has been in charge of making all of the decisions as she is the one who has been there full-time caring for her mother.

None of us can be at the facility all of the time. If she really isn’t coming home again, then what is the best thing to do? I cannot stand the thoughts of anyone trespassing on this woman’s privacy, and she has always been a very private, proper woman. At the same time, she was always a woman who took no gruff from anyone.

So you see why Mother’s Day does not really feel like a time to celebrate for me. Eamonn asked me to take him to see his grandmother on Mother’s Day as he was supposed to go with Alexis on Friday morning before he had to go to work, but surprise! She didn’t wake up. I told him that I would take him. Brett is still grappling over whether or not he wants to go. He knows that he should go, but doesn’t know if he is able after how traumatized he was last time.

I cannot really help with this as there is absolutely no way of predicting what shape she will be in on any given day. She could be having a great day, like she did with me, or she could be having a terrible day, like she was earlier in the week. I know that it had to be bad for Ann to go ahead and sign the papers committing her to long-term care, which, by the way, will cost $7,000 a month.

A month. That’s horrible. As long as she still owns half of her house, then Medicaid will consider that an asset. So now the decision over what to do with the house arises: Let my father-in-law have it completely . . . The thought of that really irks me.

“No, none of us seem so very real.
We’re only supporting characters in the lives of each other.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Pink Peonies in Mason Jar

I haven’t really spoken of my other father-in-law in this blog, and that’s because I lost tremendous respect for him when he walked out on my m-in-law in 1992 for a younger woman with whom he had been having an affair.

He now lives in a big house on the water thanks to the other woman’s money (which she inherited from her dead ex-husband, whom she left for my f-in-law, as well as some money from relatives). This is the same woman (who looks remarkably like Camilla Parker Bowles, I kid you not), who uninvited me from the family party last summer, so definitely no love lost between us.

Anyway, my ex-f-in-law doesn’t need the money from the house my m-in-law was living in as he is taken care of quite well. He has half of his Navy retirement, half of his school retirement, and all that he does any more is hang out on the back porch and smoke (his health has declined badly, as well).

I don’t hate the man; I loved and admired him greatly at one time. But I have never forgiven him for what he did to my m-in-law. It’s that blind loyalty thing of mine kicking in once again. That and the fact that he completely lost contact with his grandchildren when he left. At the time, the boys were babies, but Alexis was used to spending time with her grandfather, and he made no effort to do anything with her, not until years later after he married his true love and they set up in the big house.

Bitter? A wee bit.

” . . . the old heart

In which I sleep, in which my sleep increases, in which
My grief is ponderous, in which the leaves are falling,
In which the streets are long, in
which the night

Is dark, in which the sky is great, the old heart
That murmurs to me of
what cannot go on,
Of the dancing, of the inmost dancing.”  ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor: A Poem”

Pale Pink Peony in Bloom by Muffet (FCC)

Family dynamics are so hard and so complicated, a bit like eggs really. Eggs in the wild bring new life, but cracked, the process of development stops abruptly. Conversely, the eggs that we eat become stronger when immersed in hot water, as if the very process of being exposed to harsh elements toughens both the outside and the inside.

People can be fragile, or they can be tough, and sometimes, they can be both at the same time. Put into a basket together, some fare better than others, as is the case in families.

We come together, and at times it can be precarious, and sometimes it seems as if we are safer when we are apart. But who among us does not sigh a bit sadly when coming upon a small blue cracked egg upon the ground beneath a tree because we know that but for the elements or the creatures in the night, a baby robin’s song would have become part of the background music of life.

Sorry, a bit sappy, I know.

More later. Peace.

Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Hope for the Hopeless”

                    

What Kinds of Times are These

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

~ Adrienne Rich

“It is the bruises that allow us to recognize the value of the discovery.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Those Who Dance . . .*

                   

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” ~ Robert Frost

Sunday afternoon. Chilly and cloudy.

Surf Near Eyries on the Beara Peninsula, Ireland

I awoke with a migraine, this after not falling asleep until well after 4 a.m. Not the best night.

I dreamed about a neighbor’s yard sale in which couches of all kinds were spread across the lawn for sale. As I moved among the couches, I began to encounter pianos of all ages and in various states. Most of the couches were ugly, and most of the pianos were beautiful. It was a strange dream.

Corey is just coming off a double shift (16 hours straight), so I imagine that he will be going to bed after spending a little time playing with Tillie. All three dogs had baths yesterday so that we could administer flea medicine before fleas become a problem; living so near a marsh, fleas abound in this area. Shakes always has the worst time with any kind of biting insect, but today he is already noticeably scratching less.

I have two upcoming doctors’ appointments this week, but I will have to postpone both as the input of cash did not stretch far enough for the output demands. Hate it when that happens.

And yes, I will freely admit it: I watched the royal nuptials, and realized a few things: I am old enough to remember the wedding between Diana and Charles (hated that dress), and the princes being born, and the new Duchess’s dress had the same Queen Anne neckline and Chantilly lace that my first wedding dress had. Was she retro, or was I ahead of my time?

“Today I’m mixed up, like someone who thought something and grasped it, then lost  it.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Peak

So I haven’t really moved beyond this downturn in my mood, and the fact that this computer is really acting up today is not helping anything. For example, the poem excerpt that I have included below—I’m searching on key lines to find the title of the poem, not just the title of the book, but I’m getting absolutely nowhere. I hope that I am able to post without going through hours of aggravation. I suppose I will just have to wait and see what happens.

I think that part of it is that I’m having lots of work dreams again, and in these dreams my consciousness always interrupts and says you can’t be working because you’re on disability. I’ve done this again and again in my dreams: gone back to one of my former jobs, not told anyone that I was on disability, lost my benefits. It happened again last night.

And then I remember all of those years while I was working, and I wished so badly that I didn’t have to work so that I would have the time to write. Yep. See how that’s working out for me?

Do I even know what I’m saying? Probably not.

Mother’s day is coming up, and to be truthful, I’m approaching it with a sense of dread, a sense that something is going to happen. You see, several years ago after Alexis graduated and before she was dating Mike, she spent about half a year living with various friends, sometimes sleeping in her car because she didn’t want to have to follow any rules.

Then when Mother’s Day came, and I was certain that I wouldn’t hear from her, I came home and found a long letter from her in which she apologized for how she had been acting. I called her and asked her to come back home. I don’t want one of those letters this year, mostly because I don’t want to have to react, don’t know how I would react.

This whole situation gives me such angst. If I can keep myself from dwelling on it, I find that I am better.

“A room is, after all, a place where you hide from the wolves.  That’s all any room is.” ~ Jean Rhys, from Good Morning, Midnight, 1939

Surf Running: Oregon Coast Storm November 2009

I’ve been thinking about Belgium. Don’t know why really other than it seems that it would be a lovely place to live or at least, to visit, near France without being in France. Of course, I know nothing about Belgium other than what I see in pictures.

Do you know what I really want at this moment? I want windows. How very boring of me, right? You see, our windows are very old storm windows, and most of the screens are gone or torn, which means that opening windows on a day such as today is worthless; the lack of screens means that all kinds of flying critters could come in. Not being able to open the windows means that I cannot sit on my bed and read while enjoying a fresh breeze.

I used to love morning breezes that made the curtains sway ever so slightly, the scents from the roses and the jasmine wafting in subtly on the breeze. I miss that.

It’s such a simple thing; I know, but I miss many simple things. I miss our drives to the Outer Banks when the boys were young, how we would spend Sundays on the beach, climbing the dunes, having dinner and then driving home tired and sandy. Of course, I miss the boys being boys and not the young men they are now, with their own lives, their own favorite things to do that have nothing to do with me or Corey.

I miss so much and so little that it’s hard to discern between the two. Is my longing to be back in front of a classroom a small or a big thing? My dreams of pianos, which I have been having of late, do they signify my longing to get back to playing Chopin and Beethoven, or is it just the idea of sitting at the piano that I miss?

I miss friendship on a daily basis, friendship with Mari, our lunches together at the cafeteria, sitting in her back yard in the Adirondack chairs, drinking tea or Lime Rickeys, talking about everything.

I miss: such a powerful phrase, loaded with meaning and intent.

“And more and more my language appears to me like a veil which  one has to tear apart in order to get to those things (or the nothingness) lying behind it.” ~ Samuel Beckett, The Letters

No Fear

So many words, so many possible interpretations.

When Corey and I first married, we had such plans to do so many things. Some of them we have done, yet so many are yet to be realized. Our tenth anniversary is in two weeks. We’ve been together eleven years. But the reality is that the past three years have been to a great extent years of being on hold, waiting for circumstances to change, to get better, so that we can . . . fill in the blank here.

Life on hold isn’t living, not really. And I fear that both of us have become so used to living this way that we have become gun shy, hesitant to bank on too much for fear of yet again being unable to make the dream a reality. This isn’t living; it’s existing, and that isn’t how it was supposed to be.

So many things beyond our control on which to affix the blame, and then how much of the blame is ours? I fear that we have become inured to hardship, so much so that we have begun to forget how to dream. That saddens me more than I can begin to express.

I know that I wear my heart upon my sleeve; that is quite obvious by the things that I write here, that I put out into the ether for general consumption. I have always been this way, but that’s not to say that it is a good thing as I know that it can be painful, that it can feed that pain. This is why I chose the particular passage that I did to accompany this post: at times, I am like Hamlet: both melancholy and in need of vengeance, the two opposing emotions constantly at battle.

But at times I feel that I am also like Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest, stranded on an island for so long that my vision has become occluded, in the midst of a storm of my own creation, with some of my books and a daughter who longs to know who she is. Past is prologue . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Lizz Wright, “When I Fall”

                   

Do you, like Hamlet, dread the unknown?
But what is known? What do you really
know
Such that you can call anything “unknown”?
Do you, like Falstaff,
love life with all its fat?
If you love it so materially, then love it even
more materially
By becoming a bodily part of the earth and of
things!
Scatter yourself, O physicochemical system
Of nocturnally
conscious cells,
Over the nocturnal consciousness of the unconsciousness of

bodies,
Over the huge blanket of appearances that blankets
nothing,
Over the grass and weeds of proliferating beings,
Over the atomic
fog of things,
Over the whirling walls
Of the dynamic void that’s the
world . . .

~ Fernando Pessoa, from A Little Larger Than the Entire  Universe

                   

*All pictures in this post used with permission from russell.tomlin, whose pictures can also be found on Solitary Vision

“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”