“Write what should not be forgotten.” ~ Isabel Allende


“Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from Every Last One

Monday afternoon. Wispy clouds and lovely, 64 degrees.

I don’t know if it’s apparent, but I’m making an effort to write as much as possible lately, here and elsewhere. Part of the reason for my being so prolific is that my computer truly is on its last legs. I often get black screen in the middle of trying to do something, that or everything freezes as the fan makes this very loud sound. Perhaps the fear of this loss is also what is driving the poems that keep coming. I’m not complaining about the result, just the impetus driving it.

"Möwenschwarm an der Ostee" (1914, oil on masonite)
“Möwenschwarm an der Ostee” (1914, oil on masonite)

Brett has priced building a CPU for me with lots of memory and speed, to allow me to continue in my habits of having five to ten tabs open at any given time—mail, a couple of Word Press tabs, at least one tumblr tab, and then usually one or two art-related tabs, YouTube, and my MP3 converter. Yes, I know, I have probably hastened my computer’s demise, but I want and need a workhorse, even though the work is only for me.

So anyway, Santa, if you’re listening? A new ‘puter for Christmas would be nice . . .

“where is that voice from nowhere to remind us
that the holy ground we walk on, purified by native blood has rooted trees
whose fallen leaves now colour code a sacred list of demands?

who among us can give translation of autumn’s hues to morning news?” ~ Saul Williams, from “Bloodletting”

I don’t remember last night’s dreams, oddly enough. I can’t recall a single second. How strange . . . I watched “Walking Dead” last night, so maybe I dreamed of zombies . . . whatever . . .

Karl Hagemeister Wildpark bei Geltow 1933
“Wildpark be Beltow” (1933)

I have Olivia today and Wednesday, and Corey flies home Wednesday evening. He will be home for Thanksgiving, and so we must plan the family dinner, and it will be my first without either of my parents, and would that I could just lie in bed all day, beneath a tumble of blankets, and immerse myself in a book. I really have no idea how I will do it, or if I will actually be able. I only know that I must try, even though I really do not want to.

Life goes on for everyone else, regardless of what I am feeling or how much pain I am in. That is just the way of the world. And so I will probably make my mother’s recipe for cranberry relish, and drink wine as I prepare everything, and just wait for the time after dinner when I can become silent once again.

“Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn—and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.” ~ Muriel Barbery, from The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Karl Hagemeister Verschneites Gehölz am Ufer des Schwielowsees 1905 pastel on canvas
“Verschneites Gehölz am Ufer des Schwielowsees” (1905, pastel on canvas)

Here is what I have written so far today:

Olivia at Two

Did I ever
walk through the days as she does,
completely unfettered,
keen to commune with whatever comes,
barred by none of life’s lessons—
actions and consequences
absent from her tableau,
and without them,
no hesitation or trepidation
about how fate
can amass repercussions
without regard.
So I will grip fear for her,
tight in my fist, always aware
of destiny’s cruel dead reckoning.

Is it innocence or inexperience
that lets her grab the wet mass
of mud and grass,
examine the detached cricket’s legs
deposited on the porch,
by some nocturnal scavenger?
And what of her fierce pride
in sharing the rusty screw
she has somehow removed
from the old back door?
How curious I am
to see if I can relearn
this remarkable state
of permanent grace,
to see as she sees,
to feel without hindrance
before we teach her
to stay within the lines,
and put away her childish things
because life demands it of us all.

L. Liwag
November 10, 2014

Oh well. Hope your week is starting out on a mellow note . . .

All images are by German artist Karl Hagemeister (1848-1933). I really like his trees.

Music by Anadel, “Remember Me”

                   

What We Need

The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen
terrorize the world
every day,

which is why
every day

we need

a little poem
of kindness,

a small song
of peace

a brief moment
of joy.

~ David Budbill

“How mysterious this life was, how deep and muddy its waters ran, yet how clear and noble what emerged from them.” ~ Herman Hesse, from Narcissus and Goldmund

Antennae Galaxies (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)*

                   

“The things that existed were so immense and so desolate. She continued to be conscious of these vast masses of substance for a long stretch of time, the clock still ticking in the midst of the universal silence.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

Friday afternoon. Beautiful blue skies and cool. Autumn temperatures.

Pain scale: Head 6, back 8.

So I had my first migraine since the Botox shots, and I have to say that if this is the results, then it’s well worth having someone stick a needle in my face. I took a Relpax when it hit, and within a few hours, I was already feeling better. About six hours later, I was a bit weak, but no more migraine. It’s been so long since once onset med did the trick that I just didn’t even know how to react.

Tadpole Galaxy (Arp188): Tidal Tail (NASA)

The headache I’m currently dealing with isn’t a migraine, more of a stress/sinus combo, so I’m trying to take just ibuprofen for these types to see if that will do the trick. It would be wonderful to be able to give up at least one pain medication. Just have to wait and see.

As for the back pain, well, nothing new there. Omnipresent, just manageable on some days, and then on days such as today, almost debilitating, as in turning over in bed is painful. As in trying to do one of those wake-up body stretches, arms above the head kind of thing is impossible. Consequently, I was unable do drive the kids to school this morning, and Corey had to do it. I know that sometimes he thinks that I just don’t want to get out of bed, but as I had been awake since 7, that wasn’t the case this morning.

I dreamed of candles within rocks, natural candles formed by pouring the wax into the hollows of rocks, and a quilt. I was making a quilt for my mother, and somehow I knew how to do this even though I do not sew, and I was looking for the perfect centerpiece for the quilt, something with eyelets, but the fabric store was closing. And somehow I had to include grosgrain ribbon on the quilt. It was an assignment for some class, and I wasn’t in the least disturbed by the incongruity of it all.

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” ~ Cormac McCarthy

I have realized why some parts of Europe like Ireland and Wales seem to call to me: It is the commingling of the ancient with the now, being able to live in a country that is thousands of years old, that has structures that have weathered centuries, sometimes millenia, to live near these, to feel the history even as life progresses ever onwards into the future. That is what I want because that is what I feel inside—that I am a mix of the old and the new, the ancient and the present. I have always felt that I was this way. I have no explanation for it.

Messier Galaxy (M81) Hubble and Spitzer Composite Image (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA Harvard-Smithsonian)

Corey and I watched Valhalla Rising, a movie with little dialogue and a lot of mist. I alit on this movie in the middle of the night mostly because it starred Mads Mikkelsen, who played Tristram in King Arthur, which is enough for me but not quite enough for this movie. It is set at some point in the Dark Ages of Europe, and the plot, what little plot there was, involves a warrior who had been held captive but gains his freedom only to go on a journey into a hellish unknown. I only mention this for two reasons: Don’t watch it unless you need a soporific; conversely, watch if you are interested in a lot of landscape.

The weather is harsh, the mountains forbidding, and the conditions, unforgiving. But I still found something hauntingly beautiful about the landscape, the wide open unpopulated spaces. The movie is not an action film, but I think that it’s supposed to be some kind of extended metaphor for about what awaits us in the unknown.

The movie’s title references Norse mythology, Valhalla being that great hall for the chosen dead. Odin, who rules Valhalla, chooses those warriors who will come to him after death. And perhaps the visions that One-eye (Mikkelsen’s character) has reference the Medieval literature, most of which includes visions of Valhalla, blood, and battle. Or perhaps I’m overthinking, which I have been known to do.

“Beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It’s the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you see both their beauty and their death . . . Does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance? Maybe that’s what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying.” ~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (tran. A. Anderson)

So today is 11/11/11. I’ve never paid much attention to these significant dates. I mean, I didn’t notice when it was 10/10/10 or 9/9/9, etc. But something about the 11 sequence is intriguing. Eleven has always been one of those numbers for me, like 3 and 7. Prime numbers. I don’t mean to imply that I’m deeply into numerology or anything like that, but there is a certain elegance in numbers, one that has always eluded my right-brained thinking.

Rose of Galaxies (Arp273) (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team)

I’ve never had a deep affinity for math, except for geometry, which I love to this day, but the idea of trying to determine the next number in the sequence of pi does not fascinate me; just as I’m certain that people interested in calculating pi are not necessarily interested in words in the same way that I am. Nevertheless, I respect numbers, am intrigued by sequences, find the complexity of it all rather mysterious.

Take the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.), which intrigued me before Dan Brown employed it. I wrote a post about the Golden Mean a couple of years ago. What I find most fascinating about the Fibonacci sequence is its appearance in nature: the perfect blending of science and art, the means and the method. Am I rambling? Probably.

I suppose it boils down to this: The mysterious, the truly mysterious has an explanation on one level, but remains mysterious on the other level. Consider the sunflower . . . Fibonacci. An aloe plant . . . Fibonacci. An artichoke . . . Fibonacci. Larger? Spiral galaxies.

Yes, the mind is zooming today, from one thing to another, no apparent connections. The only link is the mystery.

“Suddenly I began to find a strange meaning in old fairy-tales. Woods, rivers, mountains, became living beings. Mysterious life filled the night. With new interests and new expectations I began to dream again of distant travels” ~ P. D. Ouspensky

Actually, these things of which I am speaking are not so unrelated. Consider, I made the mistake of assigning Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to a class of freshmen. Ah, the follies of youth. I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech at the time. Now, of course, I realize that very few 18-year-olds know anything of the darkness that can lie at the heart, know little to nothing of the journeys we make into the unknown with little to guide us besides some vague idea of a mission.

Messier Galaxy (M101) Composite Hubble Image (NASA and ESA)

Consider the artichoke heart: My friend Mari once wrote of how her father would steal the heart of the artichokes from his daughters, saying to them that they would not like the heart, when of course, the heart is the tastiest part. When eating a fresh artichoke, something I did not do until I was 18, we peel away the leaves, each one subsequently smaller than the previous, and we arrive at this heart, covered with a protective layer of fibers.

To get to the heart, we reveal a natural Fibonacci sequence, but how many of us are aware of that? And then the heart, it is covered, and if this is our first time, we know nothing of its substance, so we can be convinced that we won’t like it.

And One-eye, knowing nothing of the journey he makes with the Christian Vikings, arrives in a New World that is completely foreign to him, and at the heart of his journey is only more darkness. And Marlow, who journeys into the unknown of Africa, finds at the end a darkness that is almost unfathomable.

“Ishmael gave himself to the writing of it, and as he did so he understood this, too: that accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Coiled Galaxy (NGC 1097) Spitzer (NASA JPL-Caltech)

We all make our own journeys near and far, figuratively and literally, and some of us arrive at something that is unknown yet sweet and delectable nonetheless, and some of us arrive only to find that we have not found that for which we thought we were searching, that we have found instead something quite different, something dark and forbidding.

And then some of us, never make the journey at all, remaining stagnant at the first 1 of the sequence, unable to build upon what came before, either from fear or ignorance, or a combination of both, and because of this, we are never able to finish the quilts that represent out lives even though we thought that we knew how.

Our personal histories guide us, but they do not necessarily define us. The smoke from the bridges that we have burned can leave us with the most bitter of tastes. But fire also cleanses and renews. And I am reminded of my favorite line from Michael Ondaatje: “The heart is an organ of fire.”

More later. Peace.

*All images are from the NASA Galleries found here.

Music by Brooke Waggoner (just discovered her), “Come Love, See My Hands”

                   

Usk

So we’ve moved out of the years.
I am finally back upstream
and, but for their holiday grins
on every bookcase, the boys
were never born, it was a dream.
Here is where my past begins

in a garret beside a bridge,
woken by birds pecking moss
from the dark. The river’s clear.
It will not turn to sludge
till it reaches you and the mess
of streets I hated, endured

only because you were there.
My windows are full of leaves.
There are mountains in my skylight.
Perhaps you would like it here.
It is the same river—it moves,
perhaps, towards the same light.

 ~ Paul Henry

“Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, lost souls mourn beauty, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea. Silence descends, one hears the wind outside, autumn leaves rustle and take flight, the cat sleeps in a warm pool of light. And, with each swallow, time is sublimed.” ~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Honister Pass Stone Bridge, Cumbria, UK (WC)

                   

“My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from “Clown in the Moon”

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 60’s.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my daughter Caitlin’s death. The weather this week is very much as it was 23 years ago: sunny and mild, and the entire time I thought that there should be storms, massive gales and torrential downpours. But no, sun. I remember standing at the cemetery after the service in just my long-sleeved dress, thinking that it should be cold, but it wasn’t.

Old Stone Bridge at Twizell, UK (WC)

The little things that come back to you.

I had very intense dreams last night, quite a detailed one in which I was having a conversation with my deceased m-in-law in her dining room, and she was talking about the treatment that she had received in the first long-term facility, and she commented that they managed to neglect her until it was too late. I told her that I had tried to help, but I knew that I hadn’t done enough.

Then she told me that she had an envelope full of checks for $10 each, all made out to the grandchildren for when they won things at school or had recitals. But she couldn’t remember where she had put them, and asked me to find them for her.

At some point I got in Corey’s truck to drive to school to  take an exam, but I couldn’t see over the dash.

The dream switched, and I was in a big room that turned into a nursery, and I was showing the babies to my friend Sarah, and I pointed out a little girl, and I told Sarah that no one had been in to feed the baby girl all day, and I just didn’t understand how people could act that way. Then I was showing Sarah pictures of the kids, and there was one of me standing in front of my m-in-law’s house, which was decorated for Christmas, and I was holding a baby. Then the nursery turned into one of my old offices, and I was alone, but I was supposed to be at the other location.

I hadn’t called in, and it was 2:30 in the afternoon, and I knew that I was in trouble, but my speech kept coming out garbled. I had a meeting with someone from a company that I was supposed to be reviewing a proposal for, and she pulled away from me even though I told her that I wasn’t contagious, but I couldn’t get my words out straight, and I’m certain that she thought that I was drunk.

Then a runner from the newspaper brought me proof pages for a Christmas ad, and I knew that he had been looking for me earlier in the day.

“I am a part of all whom I have met.” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson, from “Ulysses”

So much of my past in these dreams, so many people, too many to name. So many things left undone, responsibilities that I had shirked, that I knew that I had shirked. So much like life itself.

Old Stone Bridge over the Allt Shuas in Fin Glen, UK, (WC)

I had very much wanted to write yesterday, but Eamonn came home and wanted his room. C’est la vie, I suppose. So I read instead, Stephen King’s The Shining, a book that I read a lifetime ago. It holds up fairly well, one of his better books, before he began churning them out like cookies. But I didn’t really find it scar.y. Perhaps I’ve read so much true crime in the years between that the tale of a man possessed by a hotel full of ghosts pales somewhat in comparison.

Or perhaps there is no going back. More likely, the latter.

I did not make it to the floral warehouse to buy new silk flowers, nor did I make it to the cemetery as I had no vehicle. Perhaps that’s why I was trying so earnestly to drive a vehicle in my dreams.

As I sit here, I have a huge pile of dishes awaiting me in the kitchen. But the smell of last night’s scrapings is making me feel rather ill. I haven’t had a migraine since the botox, but I awoke with a killer sinus headache today. You know the kind: when you touch your eyeballs, they sound crunchy from all of the built-up fluid. I’m telling myself that I’m waiting for the Sudafed and Ibuprofen to kick in before I tackle the kitchen, but the truth is that I simply do not want to do it.

I’ve gone out to the kitchen three times to survey the wreck, if you will, and each time, I walk out and come back here.

“And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds.
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself—

Surely you see that.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “And I Always Thought”

Random thoughts:

  • I should have used yesterday afternoon to write a few cards, but it seemed too hard.
  • I greatly fear for the future of this country, that we will see more of the bad times before it gets better.
  • I need a haircut.
  • We will probably not make a trip to the mountains again this fall.
  • The spider in the corner of the bathroom is still there, and I have decided to see just how long he survives if left alone.
  • I can go an entire day without speaking to another human being as long as the dogs are around to listen to me babble.
Stone Bridge at Wycoller, Lancashire, UK (WC)
  • I’m moving towards another birthday, and I have yet to do anything substantial with my life.
  • I do not want to die without having lived, as Thoreau said, but the marrow of life eludes me.
  • I miss friendship on a daily basis.
  • Oreos are actually soul food.
  • Tillie thinks that peanut butter is doggie crack, and it probably is.
  • I have to stop snacking in the middle of the night when the dogs awaken me.
  • It would be nice if the dogs did not awaken me in the middle of the night.
  • I wonder if I could be one of those women who looks stylish with grey hair . . .
  • I’ve decided to name my fancy-tailed Beta (if I ever get him) Captain Jack after Captain Jack Harkness from “Torchwood,” not Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, although either captain would do.

“Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human’s life is a beautiful mess.” ~ Gabrielle Zevin from Elsewhere

More random thoughts:

  • Some of my personalized ringtones include “No one said it would be easy,” “Wreck of the day,” and “Why?” Do you sense a theme?
  • When I lived in my small apartment near ODU, I would put Janis Ian on my record player, and sing “Seventeen” at the top of my voice without any inhibitions.
  • I just remembered that both my dad and my Uncle Nick were in my dreams last night.
  • I wish that I knew someone who had all of the answers because I would go up to that person and say, “Get over it. No one has all of the answers.”
  • Not really.
Stone Bridge at Low Crag, UK (WC)
  • I stack the dishes at our table when we eat in a restaurant. I’ve always done this.
  • Eldest son is taking dance lessons. I’ve always wanted to take dance lessons, to dance a real waltz at a real ball.
  • My bucket list is overflowing.
  • I want so much and so little.
  • Are my expectations too high?
  • I had a strand of purple love beads that are long since lost. I loved them because everyone else had grey love beads.
  • I used to climb trees every chance that I got.
  • The more stories I read on the 99 percent, the luckier I feel.
  • I shouldn’t have to feel lucky because I have healthcare and a house.
  • My father, who traveled the world, never go to see the Great Wall of China.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere—on water and land.” ~ Walt Whitman,  from Leaves of Grass

Just a few more:

Stone Bridge, Clare Glen, Tanderagee, Ireland, UK (WC)
  • I wonder how many times I have chosen the wrong side of the fork in the road . . .
  • I wonder how many times I have chosen the right side . . .
  • How can you ever know?
  • I once had an English professor tell me that Emily Dickinson was the only female poet worth anything.
  • He pronounced the w in my last name as a Germanic v, and I despised him.
  • I once had an English teacher tell me that my poem wasn’t a poem because it didn’t have a da-duh da-duh da-duh rhythm.
  • He had dandruff and smelled.
  • If I had listened to every man who ever told me that I couldn’t, I would have never.
  • What happened to that fortitude that I used to possess?
  • I should have bought that catamaran when I had the chance.
  • Few of us realize how much our lives shift permanently because of the decisions we make between 18 and 22.
  • I was never 18 mentally or emotionally.
  • Exactly what constitutes a marketable degree any more when no one is hiring in any field?
  • Four o’clock in the morning is a very lonely hour.
  • Some people are born evil, others good, and then the rest of us struggle to figure out the difference.
  • I’m afraid it’s all been wasted time.

Enough navel-gazing for today. Dirty dishes await, and the sky has turned white.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Gabriel, “I Grieve” from City of Angels OST

                   

Solitude

The changing seasons, sunlight and darkness,
alter the world, which, in its sunny aspect
comforts us, and with its clouds brings sadness.

And I, who have looked with infinite
tenderness at so many of its guises,
don’t know whether I ought to be sad today

or gladly go on as if a test had been passed;
I’m sad, and yet the day is so beautiful;
only in my heart is there sun and rain.

I can transform a long winter into spring;
where the pathway in the sun is a ribbon
of gold, I bid myself  ”good evening.”

In me alone are my mists and fine weather,
as in me alone is that perfect love
for which I suffered so much and no longer mourn,

let my eyes suffice me, and my heart.

~ Umberto Saba, (Trans. by George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan)