“I can’t exactly describe how I feel but it’s not quite right. And it leaves me cold.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “The Love of the Last Tycoon”

Dark Night of the Soul
by David Hepworth (FCC)

                    

“He is like an old ferry dragged on to the shore,
a home in its smashed grandeur, with the giant beams
and joists. Like a wooden ocean out of control.
A beached heart. A cauldron of cooling melt.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Refusing Heaven”

Very early Friday morning. Cloudy and cold. 2:30 a.m.

I had thought that after I wrote the last post I might be able to find sleep. I was wrong. Apparently my attempts to purge my grief did not succeed. Each time I laid back and tried to close my eyes, my mind began that headlong rush into a miasma of thoughts, thoughts that I cannot control, so here I am. I can change the channel on the television, or play another hand of spider solitaire, or walk out to the kitchen. But I know what is wrong, why sleep eludes me: There is no warm snoring body curled into the crook of my knee.

Twisted Tree in Mist, Stanmer Park Great Wood, UK
by dominic’s pics (FCC)

Oh, he was smelly, between the ongoing crud in his ear and his perpetual halitosis, Shakes was a smelly dog. But I knew that smell. That smell followed me from room to room, sat patiently as I washed dishes. Daily spritzing with Febreze helped, but the smell persisted. Now that smell is gone.

You might find this an odd thing to think about, but smell does that to me. After Caitlin died I carried the outfit she had worn to the hospital in a plastic bag. I took that bag everywhere with me, and once in a while, when I felt the need to torment myself, I would unseal the bag and inhale deeply. It took a long time for her smell to fade.

“My brother once showed me a piece of quartz that contained, he said, some trapped water older than all the seas in our world. He held it up to my ear.

‘Listen,’ he said, ‘life and no escape.’” ~ Anne Carson, from  Plainwater

Shakes could also be mean. He hated to have his nails cut, and his ear problem never fully resolved because he fought attempts at cleaning and medicating. I bear a few scars from when he bit me. In fact, on my right arm, I have a c-shaped scar that I have seriously contemplated having a crescent moon drawn around. Turning a scar into a badge, if you will.

Forest after Fire
by Steve Slater (Wildlife Encounters) (FCC)

So he could be mean, and he smelled. But he was also fiercely loyal, very jealous, and quite funny. I know that I’ve posted pictures of him as he lay with his head upon my pillow, or tented beneath the quilt, or sitting by the window.

In these last few months, I tried to take him on car rides when I could, and I didn’t scold him when he stole a piece of French bread. He knew that he was being spoiled, and he probably took advantage of it. Who cares. I just hope that he had a good life, one filled with memories of cookies and treats, doing army crawl across the grass to scratch his belly, playing games of tennis ball and jumping into the pool. I hope he knew how much he was loved, in spite of his grouchy old man demeanor. I hope that I did right by him.

“There are still days you can catch me
tape recording eternal silence
and playing it backwards for an empty room” ~ Buddy Wakefield, from “Human the Death Dance”

I suppose I am trying to write myself into oblivion. If I type enough words, if I confess enough, if I reveal everything—bad and good and in between—if I do all of these things, perhaps then my soul may find some rest.

Winter Trees in Mist at Dawn, Stamner Park Great Wood, UK
by dominic’s pics (FCC)

Perhaps.

Or perhaps I’ll just keep writing and keep feeling and keep scratching off that thin veneer of a scab that is only just forming, worry it in that way that I do, pull on it until the wound that is bared is deeper than it originally began. If you tear at something long enough, it will fray. Mess with it long enough, the fabric will wear, erode, crumble. Perhaps I will do all of these things enough times that when I finally lay back and close my eyes, I will see . . . nothing. And (one can only hope) be blessed with dreamless sleep.

Too bad the waters of Lethe are not accessible in this sphere. Forgetfulness would be a good thing.

“Even in a place you know intimately,
each night’s darkness is different.” ~ Anne Michaels, from Miner’s Pond

Friday afternoon. Cloudy and cool, 50’s.

So I eventually found sleep around 4 a.m. Awoke around 7 with another headache. Actually, Tillie woke me at 7, then again at 9:30. At 7 she wanted out, but at 9:30 she wanted to play. I asked Corey to wake me no later than 11 so that I could try to sleep tonight.

Blandford Nature Center
by mikemol (FCC)

The headache is gone for now, but my back muscles are like a basket of walnuts—all crammed up against one another and compressed into a space that is too small to accommodate them. In spite of the pain, I feel a bit better emotionally. I haven’t cried once since waking, and I don’t appear to be leaking incessantly. My chest also seems to have loosened, as in it doesn’t feel so constricted and painful. I suppose I have begun the long process of healing yet again.

But we all know not to expect too much of that. Right?

So my dog Shakes was smelly and temperamental and funny and loyal and fluffy in spots where dogs shouldn’t be fluffy, and his mouth looked like it had been lined with black eyeliner, giving him perpetual lipstick. He would do spite pees in the house, as in if I left him for too long alone, he would mark something, usually the end of my iron bed. He was a Jack Russell without spots and with long legs. For some reason, I remember the sire’s name was Simon, from the litter into which both Shakes and Alfie were born. They were the last two pups left, and the woman sold both of them to my mother for the price of one pup, which is how I came to own two male dogs.

“And he told stories about the stars above, about the earth below. He told them to make the night pass, and also because his heart was all reflections in which the soul of the world moved.” ~ Jean Giono, from The Serpent of Stars

I think that when I’m finished here, I’ll curl up beneath a blanket and read. I’ve abandoned NaNoWriMo mostly because I’m so far behind that I know I cannot catch up, especially as it is past the mid-point of the month. However, I have not abandoned the story. As I mentioned, I like my protagonist, and I like the sketchy plot that I have so far. I just know that I’m not in the frame of mind in which to flesh out characters and plot lines.

Macclesfield Forest in Winter, UK
(Wikimedia Commons)

I need to spend the weekend cleaning and polishing silver, getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I think because we’re going to have so many people that we’re going to cook a turkey and a ham, at least that’s the plan for now. When I first began planning the meal in my head, I had considered trying to bake a special cake. Not going to happen now. Apple and pumpkin pies from Costco—always a good plan.

Look. I’m just holding on at the moment. I’m better, but not there yet. I’ll spend my time this weekend doing mindless chores, and with any luck, I can burn away the pain. I don’t want to be a complete emotional wreck when Corey’s parents get here.

For now, we’ll just see how the days unfold.

More later. Peace.

Music by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, “Sophie”

                   

A Journal of the Year of the Ox (excerpt)

It is as though, sitting out here in the dwarf orchard,
The soul has come to rest at the edge of the body,
A vacancy, a small ache,
the soul had come to rest
After a long passage over the wasteland and damp season.
It is as though a tree had been taken out of the landscape.
It is as though a tree had been taken out
and moved to one side
And the wind blew where the tree had been
As though it had never blown there before,
or that hard.

~ Charles Wright

“I am in the mood to dissolve into the sky.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Purple Portal to Narnia (photographer unknown)*

                   

“On a small planet, where minute follows minute, day follows day, year follows year, where tradition marches on with a deafening, orderly beat—sometimes the order is disturbed by a dreamer, an artist, a scribbler — sometimes the beat is changed one person at a time.” ~ Mary E. Pearson, from Scribbler of Dreams

Saturday afternoon. Sunny and mild, mid 60’s.

Well, it’s been an eventful week. The dems won Virginia and Ohio. Obama won reelection, and Corey came home. This is good news for you also as it means that my political posts will go back to almost nothing for a while.

Narnia Portal, Sintra, Portugal (photographer unknown)

The ship pulled in Thursday night, and Corey was officially signed off yesterday afternoon. So he’s home for a bit, which is really nice. They hit some rough weather off the Outer Banks, which delayed them a bit, but not too much. I’m hoping that now that he’s home safely and now that the election is finally over and I can rest easy because no politicians are going to interfere with my personal health issues that I can regain the focus that I lost at the beginning of the week.

When I changed the direction of my story on NaNoWriMo, I was full of words, and they came pouring out unimpeded, and then I hit that wall, the one that always does me in. Since Monday, I’ve only written about 600 new words, which puts me sorely behind in my word count and my month’s goals. My plan is to try to get a lot written this weekend, but I really wanted to do a real post for today before going back to the novel project.

“Night is longing, longing, longing, beyond all endurance.” ~ Henry Miller, from Sexus

The other night I had the strangest dream: I was crippled, as in my legs weren’t functioning. I was attending a wedding for my friend Rebecca; she was remarrying her ex-husband, something that would never happen. For the first dance, her ex offered to dance with me, but I wasn’t really sure this would work as I couldn’t walk or stand on my own, and then someone brought in a walker for me. Very, very strange.

Narnia: Tree Portal, Ireland (photographer unknown)

I haven’t heard from Rebecca in a while. She moved out of Hampton Roads this past August, not too far away. I’m terrible at maintaining friendships these days.

Anyway, this past week also saw yet another bad anniversary for me: Caitlin’s death on November 7th. Honestly, I was more upset on Monday than on Wednesday, though. She died on a Monday afternoon, and all day on Monday I was in a fairly deep funk. I never know from one year to the next how this date will affect me, if it will affect me, how bad or not so bad things will be. My reaction is as unpredictable as the days. I suppose I should just be thankful that I am no longer completely paralyzed by the anniversary in the same way that I was in the first decade after her death.

For those of you who are wondering if I really meant to say decade, yes, a decade.

“I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature. I discovered that I am not disciplined out of virtue but as a reaction to my negligence . . .” ~ Gabriel García Márquez

So getting back to the whole writing thing . . . I really like my protagonist, probably because I have her doing a lot of stream of consciousness/internal monologue stuff, but I’m wondering if it’s sustainable. As in, can I keep this going for a couple of hundred pages? And I finally got clarification from the NaNoWriMo people: I keep my existing word count even though I switched subjects, so I’m not as behind as I thought, but the four-day lapse really didn’t help.

Gateway to Narnia? (location and photographer unknown)

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 70’s

Yep. I packed it in yesterday. Just couldn’t think of anything to write here. Nothing to write on the novel. Nothing to write anywhere except bills, which is what caused the complete cessation of anything creative. I found out that in my attempt to pay some bills, I overdrew the joint checking account, which caused one of those domino effects. I really hate that. I really hate taking care of the finances, even though I managed to do it fairly well while Corey was gone. Money management just isn’t my thing. I mean, even when I attempt to do the right thing, pay down some past due balances, I manage to screw it up.

WHY??? (That’s the sound of me shrieking.)

“Everyone carries a room about inside him. This fact can even be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears and listens, say in the night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks

Corey has begun the arduous task of cleaning out the garage, which in the past few years has become that place where just about everything has gone to rest: Christmas decorations, boxes of books, boxes of other stuff, whatever. If you can think of it, it’s probably residing somewhere in our garage. Just to attempt to breech it is akin to preparing for battle. Boxes placed precariously atop one another. Picture frames from which the glass has fallen and broken on the floor. Loose nails and wires. It is a room filled with traps, and many times I have stood before it and wanted to tackle the mess, but I know that what I once could have knocked out in a weekend would knock me flat, so I’ve left it, and now, it’s Corey’s.

Narnia Gateway (location and photographer unknown)

We’re going to rent a storage space so that the garage and shed can be emptied of all of the stuff (all-encompassing term, stuff), and the goal is that Corey can get back to his renovation projects next year.

T’would be wonderful, indeed.

The plan is for the garage to become a small den, and for the part of the garage that abuts the kitchen wall to become a small second bath and pantry. I would love to knock out the end wall of the kitchen to expand that by six feet, but we’re talking major reno there. Actually, it’s all major reno. And each project is dependent upon another project. I keep telling myself that it will be worth it as we will add value to the house for resale. I’m just glad that we’re not trying to sell anytime soon. It will be far better to wait for the market to continue in its rebound, which it will, although I seriously doubt that it will rebound to the unrealistic market of 2004 or so, during which anything that went on the market sold for well above asking price.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

“I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of. Everything passes into it now. I don’t know what happens there.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

So I’m hoping that today after I post this I can knock out a couple of book reviews and then perhaps attempt to get back to the writing project, although to be truthful, I’m still not feeling it. I know that there are scads of writers out there who contend that there is no such thing as writer’s block, that it’s just an excuse. To whom I say beh. I know writer’s block, just as I know reader’s block. My mind shuts down, or it becomes selective in what it will process and how.

Narnia: Laurel Hill Cemetery

When I finished a book last night, I was overjoyed. I am used to knocking out a couple of books a week, at a minimum. When I go through these reading blocks, I really feel the loss acutely. I love everything about books. I would love to be able to say that I’ve written one, a real one, not just one I’ve been hired to write about a man I didn’t particularly like. That wasn’t writing; it was regurgitating.

So why am I not writing? Why am I letting the days slide by me like shifting sand? I have no answers except that November is not a particularly propitious month for me under the best of circumstances. A month-long writing project would serve me much better in, say, January. Who chose November? Why? Again, no real answers.

Are my words lame excuses? Probably. Will I try again? Definitely? Will I succeed? Who knows.

More later. Peace.

(*All images were found on “20 Entrances That Are Clearly Gateways to Narnia.” I tried to track down original sources, but was not very successful.)

Music by Eliza Rickman, “Cinnamon Bone”


Finding the Scarf

The woods are the book
we read over and over as children.
Now trees lie at angles, felled
by lightning, torn by tornados,
silvered trunks turning back

to earth. Late November light
slants through the oaks
as our small parade, father, mother, child,
shushes along, the wind searching treetops
for the last leaf. Childhood lies

on the forest floor, not evergreen
but oaken, its branches latched
to a graying sky. Here is the scarf
we left years ago like a bookmark,

meaning to return the next day,
having just turned our heads
toward a noise in the bushes,
toward the dinnerbell in the distance,

toward what we knew and did not know
we knew, in the spreading twilight
that returns changed to a changed place.

~ Wyatt Townley, from The Afterlives of Trees

“More and more I found myself at a loss for words and didn’t want to hear other people talking either. Their conversations seemed false and empty. I preferred to look at the sea, which said nothing and never made you feel alone.” ~ Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

The Needles, Cannon Beach, Oregon
by Steven Pavlov (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“I am obsessed at nights with the idea of my own worthlessness, and if it were only to turn a light on to save my life I think I would not do it. These are the last footprints of a headache I suppose. Do you ever feel that? — like an old weed in a stream. What do you feel, lying in bed? I daresay you are visited by sublime thoughts. Dearest, do write to me; for I long for your words. Do tell me you wish to see me.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West dated 18 August 1929

Friday afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, low 70’s.

Seaside Beach Oregon Sunset
by The Knowles Gallery (FCC)

It’s been a hellacious few days. My dog Shakes is not doing well. That I am alone in this, or rather, without Corey, is exacerbating the pain. I spent last night intermittently listening to him wheeze, a strange reassurance that he was still breathing. Sleep, when it came, was uneven and troubled.

We humans are a funny lot, what with our emotions, our needs, our desires. But I do not believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence. Each day, science reveals yet another way in which members of non-human species possess the ability to reason, the ability to care, the ability to protect. Sentience, though, is truly a double-edged sword: it makes us aware, even when remaining ignorant would be so much easier, even when an ability to emote sometimes results in feelings akin to being slammed against a cement wall, the wind knocked from our lungs.

Sentience is the price we pay for free will, I suppose, and sometimes, it is an exorbitant price.

I think that I finally understand that line from Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”—”I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” After all, if that were my only lot in life, I would not care about everything happening around me, would not be aware that the world is so much more—bad and good.

What you can’t get over,

You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.” ~ Elton Glaser, from “Downloading the Meltdown”

Of course, because I’m already vulnerable, I came across a Springsteen song that I had completely forgotten about—”If I Should Fall Behind.” Man, what a song. And because I have a very morose personality, such songs pierce my heart quite acutely, make me think about what ifs, whens. hows.

Sunset at Haystack Rock
by Wes Rogers (FCC)

The other day I was trying to tell Brett about the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, what a force he was, how he played the saxophone  like he had a direct pipeline to the gods. How Springsteen and Clemons were an incomparable duo. Man, I miss Clemons.

Music has always been one of my primary ways of reflecting my mood, but of course, this is a trait many humans share. Music has been a part of life far longer than most people realize. In 1995, a Slovenian archaeologist discovered a bone carving with evenly spaced holes. This carving, believed to be about 43,000 years old, was named the Divje Babe flute. Other flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory have been carbon-dated as being approximately the same age.

I find it fascinating that early humans integrated musical sounds into their societies for whatever reasons. It is entirely possible that we have sought sounds to soothe for millennia. And we are not alone. Consider whale songs—those intricate, long underwater melodies.

“What uniform can I wear to hide my heavy heart?
It is too heavy. It will always show.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from The Holy Terrors

Don’t really know how I got off on that particular tangent. My mind is not exactly cohesive of late. More often than not, I realize that I am sitting in front of this computer screen, and nothing is happening—no music, no words, just my wallpaper and icons.

An example of the state of my mind? Yesterday I went to pick up prescriptions. I got home with only one, even though I had paid for four, and didn’t realize it until hours later. I haven’t been back to get the others as that would take so much effort. Just writing about it makes me tired all over.

Haystack Rock Sunset, Oregon
by Gary Halvorson (Wikimedia Commons)

Actually, this post is making me tired all over. I don’t know that I’m getting anywhere, that I’m saying anything. If feels more like an exercise in futility. I’ll leave you with a few things that I’m pondering:

  • When will I be able to read again? I hate it when this happens, when I cannot still my mind enough to become absorbed in someone else’s words.
  • Which plot idea will I actually begin to work on when I start this project?
  • How long before I give up this project, convince myself yet again that I have nothing to say?
  • How will I ever make it through the upcoming holidays? The thought of getting the house ready, preparing the meals—it all makes me so very, very tired.
  • How can October be two-thirds over?
  • How will I ever find the energy to  make Brett’s costume for him?
  • How much of my life has been spent in dwelling on the imponderables?

“I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Ambition Bird

Just a few more . . .

  • I have no idea as to what kind of images I can pair with these words. Nothing fits.

    Oregon Coastal Sunset
    by Malcolm Carlaw (FCC)
  • My words feel hollow. I wonder if they read that way . . .
  • I’m already regretting signing up for NaNoWriMo.
  • At this very second, I have a spot almost in the middle of my scalp that feels like someone is picking at it with a sharp object.
  • I did not realize until now that I am squinting.
  • The last two items mean that a headache is coming.
  • Can I please just hide in my bedroom until the year is over?

(Decided that sunset on the Oregon coast seemed to fit somehow.)

Music from the Boss, “If I Should Fall Behind” (couldn’t pick my favorite version, so I posted both)

                   

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

~ Jack Gilbert