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

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

                   

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

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 41 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is quite literally tearing my heart into small pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no one else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music by Joe Cocker, “Heart Full of Rain”


Cathedral

The ugliest thing in the world
is the truth.

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

Only fanatics don’t know
that they know this.

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

Never have I seen
never so clearly.

~ Henrik Nordbrandt, trans. Patrick Phillips

“He spoke of human solitude, of the intrinsic loneliness of a sophisticated mind, one that’s capable of reason and poetry, but which grasps at straws when it comes to understanding another, A mind aware of the impossibility of absolute understanding . . . The difficulty of having a mind that understands that it’ll never be understood.” ~ Nicole Krauss

Balthus Window, Cour de Rohan 1951
“Window, Cour de Rohan” (1951, oil on canvas)
by Balthus

                   

I hate when I do this. I had set this up for a Friday Leftovers post, and forgot to post. It was supposed to be for May 10. Sorry . . .

Much that may one day be possible can already be prepared by the solitary individual, and built with his own hands which make fewer mistakes. Therefore love your solitude and bear the pain of it without self-pity. The distance you feel from those around you should trouble you no more than your distance from the farthest stars. Be glad that you are growing, and realize that you cannot take anyone with you; be gentle with those who stay behind. Be confident and calm before them, and don’t torment them with your doubts or distress them with your ambitions which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Find in a true and simple way what you have in common with them, which does not need to change when you yourself change and change again. When you see them, love life in a form that is not your own, and be kind to all the people who are afraid of their aloneness.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Worpswede, July 16, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet
                   

Music by Bootstraps, “Guiltfree”

 

“It’s a most distressing affliction to have a sentimental heart and a skeptical mind.” ~ Naguib Mahfouz

Pierre de Clausade Pont Neuf, Neige sur Paris, 1959
Pont Neuf, Neige Sur Paris (1959, oil on canvas)
by Pierre de Clausade

                   

The slow mornings of coffee and newspapers
and evenings of music and scattered bits
of talk like leaves suddenly fallen before
one notices the new season.” ~ B. H. Fairchild, from “The Dumka”

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and mild, 54 degrees.

Well, it’s been a wild week so far. Where do I start?

Pierre de Clausade, The Seine
“Quai des Orfèvres” (1974, oil on canvas)
by Pierre de Clausade

Dreams first: Last night, I had this very strange dream in which Corey and I were at his parents’ house in Ohio, and I had gotten up late, and there was no coffee left. I got so upset that there wasn’t any coffee. I took it personally—they had drunk all of the coffee before I woke up to punish me, but then I realized that Corey hadn’t had any coffee either, so it was okay . . .

No snow here. In fact, it’s absolutely beautiful today, big change from last night. The winds were absolutely wicked: one panel of our fence was blown off. It was part of the old fence on the side of the house. And on my way to pick up Brett at school, the major artery to campus was flooded, really flooded. People were acting crazy, and I just kept thanking the stars that I had relatively new brakes and tires. I made it to campus through the water, but the way home was a nightmare as the cops had closed off the boulevard by then, and everyone was trying back roads. I was so tense that I arrived home with a headache.

No surprise there.

“To touch and feel each thing in the world, to know it by sight and by name, and then to know it with your eyes closed so that when something is gone, it can be recognized by the shape of its absence. So that you can continue to possess the lost, because absence is the only constant thing. Because you can get free of everything except the space where things have been.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from “Man Walks Into a Room”

So Corey left Sunday. Everything happened quite fast. The ship got into port on Saturday afternoon. Corey and I had both thought that the ship/he would probably be in port for several days, maybe even a week as that’s usually the case.

Pierre de Clausade Neige Sure La Rive oil on canvas
“Neige Sur La Rive” (1964, oil on canvas)
by Pierre de Clausade

Not so much.

He drove to the ship around 3 in the afternoon and was back home by 6 that same evening. Seems they were planning to leave port at midnight. We had to get everything packed and ready in a matter of hours. The good news is that he’ll only be gone about two weeks. They are only doing a run to Ascension and back. Not sure how many runs they’ll be doing, but he’ll be back and forth every two weeks or so, maybe three times.

Because of the quick turnaround, I didn’t really have time to prepare myself emotionally for what was happening, which meant that by Monday, I was kind of paralyzed emotionally. By that I mean that just the effort to get out of my pajamas and drive Brett to school was more than I was prepared to do, so posting was out of the question. I was in a mild stupor, just wandering through the empty house. Between Tillie and myself, I don’t know who was more downtrodden.

“I say: let the trifles that strangle us be seen merely as
trifles, remediable inequities.  Then when the wind has had its way with us
we can see ourselves as we are, face to face with the invisible.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “A Heavy Surf”

Pierre de Clausade Neige au Pont Neuf
“Neige au Pont Neuf” (1959, oil on canvas)
by Pierre de Clausade

The house has been so quiet during the day, just the dogs and me. Yesterday I took my mother to the orthopedic group to get a cortisone shot in her knee. She had been saying that the pain was excruciating, but when I told her that she should get a shot, she freaked, saying that the shots were too painful, that I had no idea how painful they were. I explained to her that I’ve had cortisone shots pretty much all over my body. I wanted to tell her not to be such a big baby, but I didn’t. Anyway, took her, she got the shot, everything was fine.

Speaking of pain, these patches that the new doctor prescribed seem to be helping with the overall pain, but they aren’t lasting a week like they’re supposed to. Month two doubles the dose, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m scheduled for the migraine Botox shots at the end of the month. Wouldn’t it be something if I manage to get to a place in which I am no longer coasting along between a 3 and 5 on the pain scale, that I actually hover more at 1 or even zero?

I can’t even begin to conceive of such a thing.

“I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.” ~ J. M. Barrie, from Peter Pan

I just took a break to drop off prescriptions and to have a quick game of stick with Tillie, who has been soooo restless these past few days. Her sad face absolutely wounds me to the quick.

Okay, must pause here. What exactly does the quick mean? A quick (sorry, groan) search yields the following: the living flesh (as in the flesh beneath the finger nail). But cutting to the quick means to get to the point, or the heart of the matter. The quick and the dead—the living and the dead. Language is amazing.

Pierre de Clausade Mer du Nord oil on canvas
“Mer du Nord” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Pierre de Clausade

What else is new?

Yesterday I had to do a complete scan on my computer and redo my Mozilla Firefox profile because everything was acting wonky. I could only open one window of Firefox at a time, which is problematic when I’m doing searches on images as I rely on the drag and drop from one window to the next (for example, from Tumblr to Google images). Apparently, I didn’t have any viruses, but I cleaned out all of the extraneous files, shredded my recycle bin and restarted a couple of time. Everything seems to be back to normal.

Thank the gods for discussion boards. You can put even the most obscure phrase in Google regarding a computer problem, and you’re bound to get at least five hits on discussion boards dealing with the same problem. It’s just a matter of reading carefully and being selective. I have come so far when it comes to figuring out computer issues, a far cry from the woman who got her first PC back in the 90’s and found the whole concept of screen savers amazing. As I was saying to Brett, it’s amazing how much has changed: my first computer measured memory in megabytes, and now his phone has more memory than I had on a PC.

“Here is a handful
of shadow I have brought back to you:
this decay, this hope, this mouth-
ful of dirt, this poetry.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Mushrooms”

In other news, I finished another Ian Rankin novel last night. I’ve read four in the past two weeks. The main character is Scottish CID officer John Rebus, who is quite the curmudgeon. Any wonder I love his character? I’ve read just about every book in the series; I think there are 12 total. I need to figure out which ones I have left and add them to my book wish list.

Pierre de Clausade Notre Dame in Winter
“Notre Dame in Winter” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Pierre de Clausade

Brett is going to NYC this weekend on a school trip. The art department at ODU is sponsoring a weekend trip for students to visit museums. I am so envious. It’s been years since I was last in New York. I want to take Corey for a long weekend, just meander through the museums. I know that he would love it.

Next week is birthday week for Eamonn and my mother. Have no idea what I’m going to do yet. My other m-in-law’s birthday was on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never been a big Saint Paddy’s day celebrant. The idea of drinking green beer just appalls me. Around here there is parade in Ocean View that has become quite a tradition. What is probably the bigger tradition is being drunk before noon. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that even when I was young enough.

Whatever.  I’ll close for now.

More later. Peace.

(All images by French painter Pierre de Clausade. I was unable to find dates for all works shown.)

Music by Taylor Swift, featuring The Civil Wars, “Safe and Sound” (not normally a Taylor Swift fan, but I love this song)

                   

The Afterlife

They’re moving off in all imaginable directions,
each according to his own private belief,
and this is the secret that silent Lazarus would not reveal:
that everyone is right, as it turns out.
you go to the place you always thought you would go,
the place you kept lit in an alcove in your head.

Some are being shot into a funnel of flashing colors
into a zone of light, white as a January sun.
Others are standing naked before a forbidding judge who sits
with a golden ladder on one side, a coal chute on the other.

Some have already joined the celestial choir
and are singing as if they have been doing this forever,
while the less inventive find themselves stuck
in a big air conditioned room full of food and chorus girls.

Some are approaching the apartment of the female God,
a woman in her forties with short wiry hair
and glasses hanging from her neck by a string.
With one eye she regards the dead through a hole in her door.

There are those who are squeezing into the bodies
of animals – eagles and leopards – and one trying on
the skin of a monkey like a tight suit,
ready to begin another life in a more simple key,

while others float off into some benign vagueness,
little units of energy heading for the ultimate elsewhere.

There are even a few classicists being led to an underworld
by a mythological creature with a beard and hooves.
He will bring them to the mouth of the furious cave
guarded over by Edith Hamilton and her three-headed dog.

The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins
wishing they could return so they could learn Italian
or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain.
They wish they could wake in the morning like you
and stand at a window examining the winter trees,
every branch traced with the ghost writing of snow.

~ Billy Collins

“We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it’s there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from “Great House”

Snowy, Snowy Night by Miranda Wildman (mirandawildmanart.com) 

                   

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Snow Glow by John Rawlinson (Flckr creative commons)

Sunday afternoon. Cold and cloudy.

It snowed last night for several hours. Snow in early December—not normal for this area. Of course all of the snow was gone this morning, but it was pretty while it lasted.

I’ve been on a cleaning binge for the past two days. It takes so much longer to do what I used to do in one Saturday afternoon. I have to clean a little and then take a break, so I usually visit my tumblr during breaks to see what has been posted most recently on the dashboard. I find that I really enjoy tumblr; I read somewhere that tumblr is the in-depth equivalent of Facebook, which makes sense to me. I mean, FB is nice for finding out how your friends in other places are doing, but the same can be accomplished with a phone call or e-mail.

Very often on tumblr, a predominant theme will show up on the dash quite by accident (e.g., book burning, war, silence). One individual starts with a few posts, and then other like-minded individuals join the thread. It’s a different kind of social networking. The most important thing is not the statement on how you are feeling, but the posts that reflect how you are feeling, or what you are doing, or what you are thinking.

For someone like me who loves quotes, photography, and art, it’s a treasure chest, and with each visit I find something new. The only problem is that as tumblr become more popular, the site’s servers are having a hard time keeping up with the traffic.

“True alchemy lies in this formula: ‘Your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse.’” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations

Fall Snow (Pixdaus)

So aside from Eamonn’s room, the house is clean. My intent is to decorate sometime this week so that I’m not doing everything at the last minute again this year. I have the wreath on the front door, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I did spend some time on YouTube yesterday creating my country/folk playlist. A few nights ago I watched CMT’s songs of the decade special, which reminded me of how much I actually like country music, something I would not have said a decade ago. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of traditional country, with the twang and such; I’m more of a crossover fan, heartache, love, and betrayal Keith Urban, Rascall Flatts, and Sugarland style.

I remember watching a CMT special on the best 100 country love songs several years ago. Corey was out on the boat, and by the time the show was over I was a blubbery mess. I called Corey, and when I told him what I had watched, he understood perfectly why I was crying. Country music has a way of doing that to me.

I amassed a playlist of 86 songs in just a few hours. Who knew I knew that many country and folk songs . . .

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~ Ken Kesey 

Snowstorm (Pixdaus)

Corey is at work. He got off at 11 p.m. last night and had to go back in at 7 this morning; he works until 8 tonight. Getting hours is great, but I have to say that the scheduling lacks forethought. I know that scheduling people is hard; I had to schedule 50 people at a time, and it’s a great big headache. But this sergeant doesn’t even allow Corey to get a good night’s sleep before asking him to work 13 hours.

I know that he’s really tired of port security, and I don’t envy him having to stand watch on a ship for 8 hours in the freezing cold. As he said, at least when he’s on a tugboat, he’s never outside for eight hours at a time.

Here’s hoping that with 2011 we get to start the year on a new path. It seems that I’ve said that so many times in the past few years. I just don’t really know what to think any more, and I certainly don’t know what I should hope for

“The books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation—a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.” ~ Franz Kafka

Snow on Rose by Russell.Tomlin

I am very behind in my reading and reviewing. I have received a few advanced reader’s copies that I need to read and review before the end of the year. And since I hope to get some books for Christmas, I really need to finish at least two of the books that I am currently reading. One is by Elizabeth George, and the other is by P. D. James—two of my very favorite authors.

I’ve been reading about the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and I think that that’s the next series that I want to tackle. We got a Costco flyer in the mail, and the entire set in hardback is available online, so maybe if I get a little cash sometime soon, I might be able to order it.

I also want to read Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. I’ve read a lot of Sylvia Plath, but not much of Ted Hughes. I think that I, like many people, blame Hughes for Plath’s death, which is not really fair. The reality is that Plath would have committed suicide at one point or another in her life, and if she had been found in time on the day she stuck her head in the oven, then she most likely would have tried again. Certainly no one can say for sure.

“There comes a time in every life when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn to know the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” ~ Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

Tree Branches in Snow by D. Sharon Pruitt (Flckr creative commons)

Tortured souls who make up their minds to commit suicide most often do so eventually unless they have some kind of major change or epiphany.

Life is hard, harder for some than others. Some people move through their days as if covered in teflon, nothing penetrating or touching. But if nothing bad can touch them, then neither can anything good get through the protective armor. Other people walk through life with their hearts, souls, and psyches on the outside—the walking wounded who never seem to heal.

And then there is the space between through which most of us move. We suffer storms and sometimes find ourselves blinded by relentless deluges. And then we take a few more steps and move into the clear, sometimes even stumbling into brilliance.

I have no way of foretelling what the coming days and months have waiting in store for me and those I love. I know what we need and what I wish, but life’s patterns are only discernible in retrospect. I only know that asking why some things work and others go terribly wrong is akin to spitting into the wind.

Reasons get tangled like briars, and sometimes thoughts are so black that no light can illuminate the darkness surrounding them. But sometimes just waiting for the bitter wind to stop howling is enough to get through the night.  

The heart, as Ondaatje describes it, it an organ of fire, moving through joy and sorrow alike in search of what it needs to survive. It’s all that we can do.

More later. Peace. 

One of the saddest songs ever, “Whiskey Lullabye,” by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss

                   

Waking at 3 a.m.

Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

~ William Stafford