“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Loch Maree, UKby Tobias Richter
Loch Maree, UK
by Tobias Richter

                   

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 44 degrees.

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, technology allows us to connect with people all over the world at any given our of any given day. We can share what is going on in a country at war with itself in real time. Consider the Arab Spring. We cam share a sunrise on the other side of the world via real-time posts of photographs on networks like tumblr or Facebook or Twitter.

Isle of Skye: Talisker Bayby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Talisker Bay
by Tobias Richter

Yet for all of its benefits, technology also serves to isolate us. I am speaking, of course, from personal experience.

It is so much easier for me to correspond with people in the various circle of my life via text or e-mail or comments sections than it is to get in the car, drive, and visit someone in person. For isolationists such as myself, this is not a boon. By making it so easy to maintain virtual relationships it has also become so easy to abandon real-life relationships.

What I am contending is not anything new or groundbreaking, but it does help to answer some questions that I’ve been pondering, namely, how is it easy for me to stay in the house for weeks at a time? That, and have I become boring?

Technology answers the first, and probably the second.

“I am infinitely strange to myself.” ~ John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Bollhagen, Germanyby Tobias Richter
Bollhagen, Germany
by Tobias Richter

Perhaps I should have prefaced the former by saying that today is a bad day. I am now officially out of my antidepressant; my health insurance is in limbo awaiting reinstatement after we catch up on premiums; Corey is becoming more sullen with each passing day that he is not working or hearing from prospective employers. Granted, he is still officially employed, but he so wants to move to a position that does not take him away for 90 days at a time, so this time his hiatus is quite different from the last time.

Nevertheless, he worries, as do I, and both of us fretting makes for tension. Between my health insurance, the mortgage, and the utilities, our income is being eaten before it materializes. Neither of us wanted to be back in this position. It is far too stress-inducing. The term “financial cliff” is more than a metaphor for the nation’s current solvency, and that is unfortunate. At least we don’t have to have a super majority vote to rectify our personal cliff, which, I suppose, is somewhat of a comfort.

So yes, today is prickly. I’ve had Patty Griffin’s playlist running for the past couple hours, prompted in part by Izaak Mak’s posting of the song on NCIS last night (see below). I love her voice, but granted, her songs are not exactly happy feet music. Of course, I don’t really like happy feet music, do I?

“The unknown is an abstraction; the known, a desert; but what is half-known, half-seen, is the perfect breeding ground for desire and hallucination.” ~ Juan José Saer, from The Witness

I had my military dream last night; the difference was that I was not in the military, but I had been chosen to teach a class to a group of soldiers, all female. The strangeness began when we boarded a bus that then became a boat of sorts. It took us down this waterway that was a graveyard for vessels of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. I was wondering how the bus was maneuvering through all of this without hitting anything when I suddenly saw a pile of skulls out the bus window. The skulls were bleached white from the sun.

Cuckmere Bay, Seven Sisters, UKby Tobias Richter
Cuckmere Bay, Seven Sisters, UK
by Tobias Richter

As the bus continued through the water I saw more piles of skulls, some small and some so massive that they were cascading. I wondered how the military could allow its soldiers to come to their final resting place in wreckage, and it bothered me tremendously.

I realized that I had never seen a real human skull up close, only in film, and the starkness of the piles tore at me, but I could not show weakness in front of these female soldiers. I asked for a cup of strong coffee and tried to shake it off.

I awoke with a massive headache.

“To find is the thing.” ~ Pablo Picasso

So back to my opening statement.

My world has extended far beyond the borders of this house or this yard or this neighborhood. Beyond this city or this region or this country, and that is something I have always sought—to be a child of the universe, per se.

Each day I peruse pictures of nebulae, coastlines, ruins, architecture, pictures taken with satellites and phones. I see things that I wouldn’t have had easy access to even 20 years ago. I find this miraculous really. I mean, I know what’s going on in Namibia, Queensland, and Reykjavik. And if I am honest, I must admit that by expanding my horizons in this way I have also expanded my empathic circle.

Isle of Skye: Neist Pointby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Neist Point
by Tobias Richter

By that I mean, I care so much more. Let me back up for a moment. When I was young, a child only, I saw pictures of the war on the news and in newspapers. I saw suffering as it was presented to me through the filter of editors, publishers and producers. My first glimpse of a crystal blue sea was in a book.

Now, I access such information without anyone on the other side deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to put this image or that story out there for consumption. This is both good and bad. It is good as it allows us—all of us who care to—allows us to see what’s happening, but without the filter of an editor or a producer, we very often encounter those things that are extremely disturbing.

Without an authority figure out there to decide what is best for us, we can literally see everything. Is it too much?

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods.” ~ Lord Byron, from poem of same name (correction; previously attributed to Jon Krakauer)

I don’t think that this is the kind of discovery that Thoreau had in mind, and part of me yearns for simpler times, but isn’t that always the way that it is?

Regardless of how misguided you think Christopher McCandless was when he went into the wilds of Alaska, there is still something admirable about his vision quest when looked at simply: He wanted to be able to find his own truth without outside influences telling him what he should do or how he should think.

Isle of Skye: Trotternish Highlandsby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Trotternish Highlands
by Tobias Richter

I know that in many, many ways, that is the same thing that I have always wanted. Yet here I sit, allowing so very many outside influences into my life, pouring into my brain images of this or that or the other. I seek this deliberately, and in so doing, I contradict myself.

My friend on Titirangi Storyteller posted a beautiful image of a lighthouse on a craggy island. I was immediately drawn to this image much like the image in the section above, immediately understood what she meant about wanting to live there. But to live there would be, essentially, to live without all of the accoutrement of today’s technology. I am certain there is no wi-fi on that island, no cable, no BBC America, no tumblr, no Internet.

It’s starkness appeals to me, but could I do it? Could I abandon these tethers for that kind of freedom? And if I did something like this, would it actually be freedom?

I have no answers, only more questions.

More later. Peace.

(All images by Tobias Richter, used with permission.)

Music by Patty Griffin, “Not Alone” (from last night’s episode of NCIS)

youtube=http://youtu.be/chU5b7bgls4

                   

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

~ Margaret Atwood

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“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.

 

“Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

Key West Sunset by Janson Jones

“A person has three choices in life. You can swim against the tide and get exhausted, or you can tread water and let the tide sweep you away, or you can swim with the tide, and let it take you where it wants you to go.” ~ Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure

Wow. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. My head is ringing. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . . 

I sat down to post yesterday and realized that I didn’t have anything to say. I hate it when that happens. I will be so glad when this latest bout of whatever finally passes. It’s hard to label it as I don’t really know what it is. Not the blues. More a total lack of energy and constant head pressure. I have been good for absolutely nothing, and it grows weary. 

My cohort Janson Jones in Alaska has been posting some beautiful pictures of Florida on his blog Floridana v3.0, so I thought that I’d share a few with you. Lovely Florida Keys skies. Wish I was there. Actually, I really do wish that I was there as I’ve never been to the Florida Keys but have loved looking at pictures of that area for years. Warm weather, beautiful skies, umbrella drinks—I could do with a little of that right now. 

 

Neonic Blue by Janson Jones

“The journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.” ~ Barbara De Angelis 

Let’s see. On the home front, Corey has applied for a few port security positions. His Coast Guard training makes him qualified to do that, so maybe he can pick up a job in port security until the tugboat industry gets back on its feet. Who knows when that will be. He hasn’t given up on Vane Brothers, but delivery of their new boat seems to be open-ended at this point. Unfortunately, bills are not open-ended. Hence, the temporary change in focus. 

Haven’t seen much of Alexis lately. I don’t really know what’s up with her. She could be in another one of her moods, or she could just be terribly busy with her life. I try not to read too much into it, having grown accustomed to my daughter’s mood swings. 

I do wish that things would even out for Brett, though. He is on new medication, and seems to be a bit better, but high school has become such an albatross for him that at this point, we are just counting down until graduation. It’s weird, really, how high school can be such a defining experience for some people and not others.  For Brett, it is nothing but something to be endured. For Eamonn, everyday was a party. My sons are so different in so many ways. I try to remind Brett that high school is really very small in the big scheme of things, just a blip on the radar, so to speak. But I know that it’s hard for him to see it that way until he has some distance. 

I’m still not sure if he is going to be ready to tackle college in the fall, but I’m thinking that maybe a bit of time off from academics might be what he needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life. No one ever tells you about this part of parenthood: having to stand by helpless while one of your children is suffering and being able to do little to nothing to make it better. Such a horrible feeling but nothing compared to what he is feeling. 

I just wish that it were somehow possible to absorb other’s pain, to take away the hurts and replace them with a sense of calm. If wishes were fishes . . . 

Dawn, Long Key State Park, Janson Jones

“I sleep and I unsleep. On the other side of me, beyond where I lie down, the silence of the house touches infinity. I hear time falling, drop by drop, and no falling drop is heard falling.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, A Factless Autobiography

I’m back to having violent dreams again. A couple of nights ago, my dream involved knives, lots of sharp knives, and trying to escape from someone in a tunnel that was filling with water. Before that I had a dream with guns again. Maybe it’s too much NCIS. I only know that I wake up exhausted from fighting bad guys. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m sleeping, given the alternative, but is it too much to ask for sleep with restful, pleasant dreams? Probably. 

The songbirds are beginning their pre-dawn canticles, so spring cannot be too far. Each morning around 4 a.m., if the house is silent, I can hear them. It’s such a lovely sound, yet I wish that I were actually sleeping rather than listening to them sing. 

I will be glad for spring, though. Using space heaters makes the house very, very dry, which I’m sure does not help the sinuses. And the space heaters, along with the electric water heater and all of the other electrical appliances are killing the power bill. At the moment, it’s more than a car payment, and if you’ve made a car payment in the last few years, you know how high that can be. 

Someday we’ll be able to install the whole-house gas-on-demand hot water heater that we have; it’s currently sitting in the box it came in, in the storage shed in the back yard. I hate the electric water heater. It’s not power efficient, and it’s small, which means no long showers unless your preference is for cold showers. But it was an electric water heater or no hot water at all until we make friends with Virginia Natural Gas again. 

Power companies are such ripoffs. In our area, Virginia Power and Virginia Natural Gas are monopolies. We have no alternative sources for electricity or natural gas. Bah. 

That’s just about all for now. I’ll leave you with this quote by Alexander Woollcott, which seems quite fitting since I’ve done a whole lot of wishing in this post: “Many of us spend half our time wishing for things we could have if we didn’t spend half our time wishing.” 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Australian trio Sick Puppies, “That Time of Year” (heard on an NCIS episode) 

 

  

  

That Time of Year 

Another Year
Has Come and Gone again
Look around
And think where have you been
Trace the Lines
On your face tonight
And don’t forget
That this will pass in time
It’s cold out this morning
You should be getting into bed
Can’t believe its that time
Of year again

  

Curled up tight
A darker shade of white
Thinking Back could be here for a while 
Its cold out this morning
And it’s getting harder to pretend
Can’t believe it’s that time of year again 
Can you believe the life you led?
Did you achieve the goals you set?
Did you lose your mind?
Well and then 
Is there a reason you own them
It is a season that won’t end
Can’t believe it That time of year again 

Another year
Has come and gone again
Look around
and wonder what happened 

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.” ~ Ayn Rand

I miss Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes

 “Were you born this infuriating?”
“It’s taken me years of practice.” ~ Misty Massey from Mad Kestrel

A bit better today. It’s still bone-chillingly cold outside, and pretty chilly inside, but at least I feel able to get out of bed for a bit. You know that you are truly sick when you take a shower and then have to get back into bed to recover from the exertion.

Last night Corey and I watched more of the NCIS backlog on the DVR. One of the best aspects of our cable company is that they supply a DVR with the cable bundle service to which we subscribe. This means that I have the poor man’s version of TiVo, but it works really well. I have all of my favorite shows set up to tape, and I can rank them so that if there happens to be a conflict, the higher-ranked shows will tape.

Anyway, I have this incredible backlog of NCIS (my very favorite show) because Corey asked me to tape it for him, but it’s hard to get him to watch them. So we’ve been making a concerted effort to get caught up. I’ve been picking out the most important story arcs, but there is one problem with that: When a show is a repeat, it does not necessarily have the same name as the original. As a result, we’ve watched some shows out of order, and we are missing a few key shows.

Corey thinks that it’s a subversive plot on my part to drive him crazy: Let’s watch the shows about La Grenouile . . . Oh wait, that one is missing. Only to find the show under a different name later. Personally, the back and forth doesn’t bother me at all as that is the way in which my mind works—all over the place at once—and even though it isn’t a conscience plot, perhaps I am trying to make Corey less rigid in wanting things to be linear . . .

Oh well. At least it sort of sounded good.

“One of ennui’s most terrible components is the overwhelming feeling of ennui that comes over you whenever you try to explain it.” ~ Ingmar Bergman

We’re back to the very strange dreams again. Apparently, I’m waking up not screaming, but arguing, and then when Corey tries to calm me, I get angry with him, and I am so loud that Brett hears me from the other room. I hate that because when I wake up for good, I’m in a foul mood, which makes absolutely no sense. How very strange.

The dreams that I remember are strange as well. In one of them, I found out that Brett had shot someone, but my mother told everyone to lie to me about it. Obviously, I was distressed by this news, and then my dad (always disconcerting when dad appears) told me that he would take care of it and talk to my mom and Brett. The strangest part about this dream was that after the main dream, I then dreamed that I was awake and that I was going to write a book about what had happened. I even came up with the title of the book and the first chapter. Of course when I actually awoke, there was no book, and the title made no sense at all. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I did that automatic writing thing in my sleep and woke up to find a chapter written?

In another one, I someone was shooting me, not near me but at me. I don’t remember a lot about this one except for the fact that I was being shot and that I was screaming at the person who was shooting me. Last night, I had a very, very weird dream in which there was some small-town high school event, and I was going to disrupt it somehow.

I know. Weird. Why can’t I have dreams about lying on a white sandy beach with an umbrella drink in my hands? Just that, nothing else, no confrontations, no conflict, just the ocean, the sand, blue skies. Probably too much to expect of a dream.

“Give me detached existentialist ennui . . . Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Flash.”

Okay, so the quotes about ennui? The word popped into my head while I was sitting here trying to figure out the best way to describe the past few days. Ennui: a feeling of listlessness for lack of activity or excitement . . . voila! My past few days. I have been so listless that I cannot even read, which is a very big deal, especially as I am in the middle of a book, but as I said, I am starting to feel a bit better, a little more energy.

I have an embarrassing story to tell about the word ennui: Many years ago I was playing Scrabble with my ex and some friends (for some reason, my ex always won when we played together, which really pissed me off as he was the scientist and I was the lit major). Someone put down the word ennui. Now, I should have recognized the word, but to give me credit, her pronunciation really threw me. She said en-noo-ee, not on-we, so I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, and I challenged her. Of course, I was wrong, but shouldn’t she have lost points for her dreadful mispronunciation?

I know. Poor sport. But I hate to lose at Scrabble, which is probably why no one will play with me any more. I think that it has something to do with my rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism . . .

“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure.” ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

I do miss Calvin and Hobbes, as witnessed by today’s images. It was a genius comic strip, written for both the child and adult from a child’s point of view but with infusions of adult wisdom from the stuffed tiger Hobbes. I always viewed Calvin’s perpetual energy, zeal for life, and unabashed talent for reducing things to bare bones as being such a refreshing commentary on life. Watterson did with his strip what Shulz had done with Peanuts years before: used a popular medium to entertain on the one level and enlighten on a more subliminal level. I’m hoping that I can get the collection that hit the market a few months ago, perhaps for my birthday.

I want to share with you a wonderful passage I recently came across. It’s from Simon Rich’s Ant Farm: and Other Desperate Situations, and I think that it is absolutely priceless in summing up frustration:

“I still remember the day I got my first calculator

Teacher: All right, children, welcome to fourth grade math. Everyone take a calculator out of the bin.
Me: What are these?
Teacher: From now on we’ll be using calculators.
Me: What do these things do?
Teacher: Simple operations, like multiplication and division.
Me: You mean this device just…does them? By itself?
Teacher: Yes. You enter in the problem and press equal.
Me: You…you knew about this machine all along, didn’t you? This whole time, while we were going through this…this charade with the pencils and the line paper and the stupid multiplication tables!…I’m sorry for shouting…It’s just…I’m a little blown away.
Teacher: Okay, everyone, today we’re going to go over some word problems.
Me: What the hell else do you have back there? A magical pen that writes book reports by itself? Some kind of automatic social studies worksheet that…that fills itself out? What the hell is going on?
Teacher: If a farmer farms five acres of land a day–
Me: So that’s it, then. The past three years have been a total farce. All this time I’ve been thinking, “Well, this is pretty hard and frustrating but I guess these are useful skills to have.” Meanwhile, there was a whole bin of these things in your desk. We could have jumped straight to graphing. Unless, of course, there’s some kind of graphing calculator!
Teacher: There is. You get one in ninth grade.
Me: Is this…Am I on TV? Is this a prank show?
Teacher: No.”

More later. Peace.

Moby’s “One of these Mornings,” just because it is so beautiful. Actually, couldn’t decide between two videos, so posting both. Let me know if you have a preference . . .

 

 



“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

“Rose Pastor Stokes,” by Clarence H. White (1909)

 

“Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

I found a new blog last night called Crashingly Beautiful. It’s the kind of blog that I might create myself, filled with quotes, poems, music links, passages, Zen stories, photographs, and other artwork. Lovely, just lovely. I found several quotes there that are new to me, and I liked them so much that I am using in tonight’s post. I am also borrowing some images that were posted on the site. Many thanks to Luke Storms for offering such inspiring material.

 If you get a chance, check out the site, along with the companion blog Intense City, also by Luke Storms.

“if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves . . . ” ~ Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet”

"Autumn Trees," Egon Schiele (1912)

Aside from finding new blogs to read and achieving high levels in online Bookworm, not much new to report. Corey’s burn on his arm is healing nicely, just a little sore and no infection on the part that blistered. It’s getting ready to rain again because we so obviously need more rain. Tillie has been hanging out on the platform of the pool’s ladder, almost as if she expects to go swimming at any moment. I had to inform her that regretfully, November is not swimming weather, even for a Labrador Retriever.

I am feeling a bit better emotionally. No big changes, just a slight upswing. I’ll take anything that I can get. Perhaps I am feeling a bit better because I have printed out pages and pages of forms to have my PCP sign and then send on to various pharmaceutical companies (five total). I decided finally that being without my medication has gone on long enough, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t apply for patient assistance directly with the companies.

Happily, I found that I can get almost all of my medications through the companies, with the exception, of course, of the ones that now have generic formulas. Nexium will probably be the hardest one to obtain, mostly because they want my entire life history to prove that I am worthy of receiving assistance from Astra Zeneca. AZ recently received the right to retain their formula for the purple pill, so no generics anytime soon on that front.

If anyone else is having problems with affording his/her prescription medications, look up the name of the company that manufactures the medication, and then enter patient assistance into the site’s search. Almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies have some sort of patient assistance program. I really wish that I had thought of this three months ago.

“Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty, even for a moment, it is enough.” ~ Jeannette Winterson

"Four Trees," Egon Schiele (1917)

Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away, and already the drama has begun in my family. Incredibly important issues such as who is going to cook what dish are on the forefront of family discussions. Three vegetables or two? Really?

I made a passing comment to my mother about butter, and her response, verbatim, was this: “I can’t get you to lose weight for anything.” Ummmm, alrighty then. I have real butter on my bread maybe three times a year. I’ve gotten comments like these my entire life. Now do you see why my self-esteem is so low?

Brett and I stopped by my mother’s house the other day on the way home from school. Brett had his sketch pad with him, and I thought that it would be nice to show my mom some of his recent work. Big mistake. Brett is really good at pencil sketches, and his latest was done during the nor’easter. It’s a dark self-portrait, done in sort of an anime style. For those of you who may not be familiar with this style, anime (アニメ) is short for Japanese animation. Anime, like manga (Japanese comics) is considered to be a non-traditional but pervasive art form.

The facial characteristics in anime can be exaggerated or muted (e.g., very large eyes and head, or simple lines for eyes), depending upon the artist. Coloring the cornea to indicate depth is sometimes employed. Some anime (sometimes spelled animé with final acute accent) attempts to draw characters whose nationalities cannot be discerned (e.g., Pokemon). The sketch that Brett showed my mother had very exotic, piercing eyes. The first time I saw it I was amazed by the detail that he had included, and I think that it is one of his better sketches.

After I got home, my mother called me to tell me that she’s worried about Brett. Specifically, she’s worried about what’s in his mind, “all of these dark pictures.” She asked why he doesn’t paint geese. I tried to explain to her that Brett doesn’t like to paint, that he likes charcoal and pencil. I noted that not all art is mountains and fruit, but it really didn’t matter what I said because now my mother has decided that Brett’s art is cause for concern.

I made a point of telling Brett how much I like his work, and I told him to take what his Oma says with a grain of salt as she doesn’t realize how much her words can hurt. She really doesn’t realize this, which is something that it took me many years to realize myself. My mother has good intentions, but she has no sense of self-censorship: whatever she thinks comes out of her mouth without any consideration of the hearer’s feelings or reaction.

I hate to have to say this about my mother, but it’s true. It’s also something that I have learned to live with, although not without its consequences, so I want to ensure that her remarks do not affect Brett’s already fragile self-esteem.

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” ~ Erich Fromm

Untitled by Maurice Tabard (1932)

Anyway, that’s about all for now. I must pause here, though, to express my incredible gratitude to all of you who took the time to send me very special comments in response to my last post. Maureen, Kelly, and Andrew sent very lovely expressions of support, and no matter how many times I say it, being on the receiving end of such generous statements always makes me feel better and helps more than I can say.

Even though I have not been as focused lately as I would like to be, this blog continues to be incredibly important to me. It allows me to vent, to bemoan, to rejoice, and to share with a wonderful community of people.

NCIS this past Tuesday night featured a major power outage in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area as a backdrop to the crime. The investigators had to do things the old-fashioned way—by hand—and they were all complaining about how hard life is without computers, without mobile telephones, without PDA’s. I know that when we lose electricity around here because of a storm (which happens more than you might think), I always enjoy the quiet; no sounds of air conditioners or televisions permeate the neighborhood, and the streets are so dark.

Having said that, I do have to admit that as much as I like the simplicity when the lights go out, I do love the convenience of a lightning-fast search engine and the fact that the Internet and the web keep us connected all over the world. Just a decade ago I was still struggling with dial-up and having to wait to get online. Now I am so completely spoiled by our high-speed connection that I cannot imagine living without this convenience in my life, although I’m sure that I could if I had to.

I suppose that all of that was a very roundabout way of saying that yes, I am able to appreciate the small things, but especially how technology has afforded me new avenues to friendship and support.

YouTube video courtesy of Kelly. I’m including a poem by Mary Oliver, and I apologize in advance if I’ve already included this one, but it seems very fitting.

 

 

More later. Peace.

                                                                                                                                     

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

“The hour with its face in its hands . . .” ~ Edward Hirsch

Heart Petals by L

Heart Petals by L. Liwag 

 

“You are the watcher; the mind is the watched. It is a beautiful mechanism, one of the most beautiful mechanisms that nature has given to you . . . Even while you are sleeping, it is sitting on your chest torturing you, giving you nightmares. All kind of relevant and irrelevant thoughts go on and on.” ~ Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh 

Very, very strange dreams last night: sharks, guns, school, cooked apples, and a house with many, many short levels and stairs. To top it off, I kept thinking that it was Monday.

Beneath the Surface by L Liwag
Beneath the Surface, by L. Liwag (2009)

Okay. The shark dream: I was swimming in a small inlet behind the neighborhood (doesn’t exist) with my two sons, who are younger in this dream. Something touches my leg. At first, I convince myself that it is probably just a fish. Then I realize that it is too long to be a fish. Then I realize that it is a shark. I yell to the boys to get to the ladders. The shark begins to swim after me, but not too aggressively. I begin to climb the short ladder, and the shark throws his front half on the dock, kind of like the great white in Jaws. I get out of the water, run to the adjacent ladder, and pull Brett up the rest of the way. Eamonn is dawdling because he doesn’t believe that it’s a shark, but he comes up the ladder.

Soon, I notice that there are four sharks in the water, and a female shark giving birth (very odd, that part). The neighborhood teenagers decide that it would be cool to go back in the water on floats and try to dodge the sharks. I yell at them and forbid Eamonn to get back in the water. I watch the sharks moving through the water and wonder where they came from . . .

Segue into dream about house. We are living in a new house. It has many unexplored rooms. I wake up and go downstairs because I hear voices. There is a group of people in the living room having a meeting. I ask them what they are doing there. They say that Ann (my s-i-l) said that they could hold their meeting there. I tell them that it’s Sunday morning and that they cannot have their meeting in my living room.

They leave, but other people appear, neighbors at first. House changes into open interior with many short levels, short staircases to different rooms. One female neighbor says, “We just have so much money. We really don’t know how to spend all of it.” Another woman whispers to me to ignore the woman talking. I have already decided that this is a neighbor that I can do without.

Then house begins to fill with people from my high school reunion. I recognize most of them but don’t remember their names. One guy starts to sing like Elvis. There are the usual cliques. I try to make my way through all of the people to say hello since this is my house, and I must be the host. I hear a lot of people commenting about how strange the house is. I declare that I like it, although I don’t know where the bathroom is.

“The eye sees a thing more cleary in dreams than the imagination awake” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The eyes see in dreams

Dream Visions by L. Liwag

Segue into later dream: NCIS dream, and I am carrying a gun. I think to myself in the dream that I wish that it were a semi-automatic Glock (I’m not a big gun lover, so this is strange). When I finally get into a confrontation with the bad guy (who looks like Tele Savalas from Kojak), my gun jams, then it is out of ammunition. I think to myself that I must not be a very good agent because I let my gun run out of ammunition. I hide behind the car and press the alarm button . . .

Segue into school dream: My worst nightmare—I am teaching sixth grade again in a public school. But I tell myself that this time it will be okay because I have a plan. I see some of my former students. I ask about one of their sister’s. The girl tells me that her sister has 18 children . . .

Segue into my mother and Corey being in the kitchen of our current home. Corey has cooked apples to put in the toilet to help with the drainage. I don’t remember ever hearing about apples being good for pipes. I ask if they need to be peeled. Woke up with a song on my brain, but cannot for the life of me remember what it was now.

Boy, it was a busy night. I’m really exhausted from doing so much.

In between my last dreams, Corey took Brett over to his friend Gordon’s house. On his way home, the gas tank read 0 dte (destination to empty). I’m not sure how he made it home, but he did. Not sure what we are going to do for gas . . . little thing called money. Oh, I also dreamed that gas went up to $6.01 a gallon.

“Nightmare Begins Responsibility” ~ Michael S. Harper 

This is my life: nightmare to reality . . . reality as waking bad dream. I force myself to get out of bed, to try to do something, anything. Write. Remember words from Michael Harper’s “Nightmare Begins Responsibility”:

“………..
say nightmare, say it loud
panebreaking heartmadness:
nightmare begins responsibility.”

I’ll bet that you weren’t expecting that. The phrase “panebreaking heartmadness” has stayed with me ever since I first read this poem. I found it after Caitlin died and I was reading a lot of poets I had never read before. That’s the kind of phrase a poet would kill to create. It reverberates. It conjures. It chills to the bone. And it stays with the reader.

I realize that this post is all over the place, that it began as more of my crazy dreams, but what I didn’t mention was that at some point in one of the dreams, I thought that I would really like to live in this new house because it would be a great place to raise small children. It’s odd how the conscious mind intrudes upon dreams, insinuates itself into what is not real, or rather, not represented as real.

The other day, when I mentioned that my biggest personal regret was that I never got my doctorate in English, I failed to mention what I consider to be my biggest emotional regret: not having another child. So this thought creeps into my dreams quite frequently, and when I wake up, it is still there, haunting me, and no matter how much I try to move past it, the result is that it stays with me for days.

I know. I should be grateful for the children that I have, that they are healthy, safe, relatively happy. Believe me. I am. More than I can express. But I have always wanted to have one more child, and I know that for me personally, it has become a permanent hole in my heart. I think that most women who want a child have that hole. I know that I am more fortunate than most women who want a child because I have children, but that doesn’t make the desire any less tangible for me.

“Fate has led you through it. You do what you have to do.” ~ Sarah Maclachlan, “You Do What You Have To Do”

Blue Dreams by L Liwag 10-4-2009
Blue Dreams by L. Liwag (2009)

I’m writing these words, and I am wondering if I am going to publish them. I wonder if I am going to lay bare more of my soul. I sometimes think that I put too much of myself into this blog, too many hopes and dreams and failures. Allow myself to be seen by virtual strangers. I wonder about the wisdom of such an act. In so doing, do I ravage my spirit more, cause myself more harm?

I really have no answers to my own questions. Perhaps it is just one of those days in which my psyche feels fractured. Perhaps I should not blog on days such as these. But then, there would be no release, and without this release, I wonder if I might not go mad, or at least, a little more insane.

If only there were a pause button to life, one that you could press, put things on hold for just a bit, fast forward through the bad parts that you don’t have the stomach to confront. Kind of like the mute button that I always wish would work when someone is talking but I don’t want to hear what they have to say.  Oh well.

Today would be a good day to be on a sailboat, sun on my face, wind in my hair—a cleansing, if you will. Sail around to nowhere, just be in the moment grace has given you. I really should have bought that Tartan 27′ years ago.

“In the creeping moments before wakefulness” ~ L. Liwag

Maybe for now, I’ll just put it away, like the song that I woke up to:

“put it away and wait till tomorrow
put it away and take care of your heart
of your  heart” ~ from Earlimart, “It’s Okay to Think About Ending” (music from House)

More later. Peace.