“I realize in the end that I am probably powerless to affect the outcome of even the least thing that happens, but nevertheless, and in spite of myself, as if in an act of blind faith, I want to assume full responsibility . . .” ~ Paul Auster from Disappearances – Selected Poems

Blacksburg, VA, by zachstern (FCC)

                   

“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” ~ Aristotle

Late Saturday afternoon. Overcast, low 50’s.

Second day on antibiotics. My chest still feels as if it’s in a vise, though. The cough is more painful today than anytime in the last week. Go figure. Still, I thought that I would try to bang out a post. We’ll see how far this goes.

Winter in Blacksburg, VA, by bwhistler (FCC)

By the way, do you like the new header? It’s from a photograph that I took last February when Brett and I were wandering around Forest Lawn Cemetery. Let me know.

I’ve had to restart the computer twice so far today. Perhaps computers are like people in that as they get older, they are more affected by the weather: cold and damp, hard to move . . . Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing again. Probably the latter.

I woke up to migraines today and yesterday, or it might be more accurate to say that the migraines awakened me. I don’t know if the Botox is already wearing off or if the bronchitis cough is the cause. I’m really hoping that I have at least another month on the Botox. It would really suck if the shots only lasted for less than six weeks.

I had planned to decorate the house this weekend, but that’s going to have to wait. Maybe sometime this week, but Corey has to work the next five days in a row, so I’m not sure if decorating will happen. More of the wait and see mode. He also has his biology final this Thursday, so it will be a very busy week for him.

ODU finals start next week and then break. Eamonn already had his final in medical terminology. I’m so glad that he finished at least one of the classes; of course, both would have been nice, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

“Out of my wounds they have made stars:
Each is an eye that looks on you” ~ James K. Baxter, from Howrah Bridge

I’ve been thinking about stars. I’ve had a lot of sky pictures show up on my tumblr dash recently, some really beautiful shots of galaxies, nebulas, night skies. I want to live somewhere that in which I can look up and see a myriad of stars and galaxies, unpolluted by lights from the city and the suburbs. I want to be able to drink in the heavens, the boundless beauty of light and color.

Grand Canyon Night Sky by kern.justin (FCC)

I remember when I was in graduate school in Blacksburg, we lived in an apartment on a hill, and the night view seemed to stretch on forever. I remember the sound of the train horn echoing in the middle of the night. Sounds from sirens were few and far between. Life was so completely effortless then: school, studies, friends. Open spaces and cold mountain air. We lived on $7500 a year, and that was probably the best year in my marriage to my ex.

After that, life intervened. Obligations to people and things mounted. Possessions grew. Simplicity faded away and never returned. When we are in the midst of happiness, we never realize it. Few of us are in touch with ourselves enough to know that this moment here, this experience, is perfection, that this slice of life will never be replicated, can never again come close to the periphery of our existence.

Retrospect alone offers us truth and perspective. The now slips away, eludes us—we are such transient creatures, appreciating more that which we have already lived.

“We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.” ~ Paul Tillich

Duck Pond at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA (WC)

A few memories of that time:

  • Eating homemade Brunswick stew by an open fire with other graduate students from the department
  • Crying as I walked through a snowfall after learning that John Lennon had been killed
  • Making a bottle of wine last longer than possible
  • Driving my car into a vast countryside, completely undeveloped, almost getting lost

Don’t misunderstand. I do not long for the relationship with my ex, but I do long for that simplicity. I long for the hunger I had back then, a constant hunger for new things, new tastes, new smells, new people.

I approached life so differently then. It’s not the youth that I long for, but perhaps the openness of youth. Not to be so jaded. Not to be so cynical. Not to be completely inured to life’s foibles.

I don’t know. I seem to be rambling. I cannot quite grasp the words to describe what it is that I am thinking. Sorry. I’m not sure if I can finish this post. I had thought that I knew what I wanted to say, but . . .

I’ll try again tomorrow. I know the poem is long, but it seemed appropriate.

More later. Peace.

Music by J. S. Bach, “Cello Suite No. 1, i, Prelude, performed by Mischa Maisky

                   

Finding the Space in the Heart

I first saw it in the sixties,
driving a Volkswagen camper
with a fierce gay poet and a
lovely but dangerous girl with a husky voice,
we came down from Canada
on the dry east side of the ranges. Grand Coulee, Blue
Mountains, lava flow caves,
the Alvord desert—pronghorn ranges—
and the glittering obsidian-paved
dirt track toward Vya,
seldom-seen roads late September and
thick frost at dawn; then
follow a canyon and suddenly open to
          silvery flats that curved over the edge
          O, ah! The
          awareness of emptiness
          brings forth a heart of compassion!
We followed the rim of the playa
to a bar where the roads end
and over a pass into Pyramid Lake
from the Smoke Creek side,
by the ranches of wizards
who follow the tipi path.
The next day we reached San Francisco
in a time when it seemed
the world might head a new way.
And again, in the seventies, back from
Montana, I recklessly pulled off the highway
took a dirt track onto the flats,
got stuck—scared the kids—slept the night,
and the next day sucked free and went on.
Fifteen years passed. In the eighties
With my lover I went where the roads end.
Walked the hills for a day,
looked out where it all drops away,
discovered a path
of carved stone inscriptions tucked into the sagebrush
          “Stomp out greed”
          “The best things in life are not things”
words placed by an old desert sage.
Faint shorelines seen high on these slopes,
long gone Lake Lahontan,
cutthroat trout spirit in silt—
Columbian Mammoth bones
four hundred feet up on the wave-etched
          beach ledge; curly-horned
                    desert sheep outlines pecked into the rock,
and turned the truck onto the playa
heading for know-not,
bone-gray dust boiling and billowing,
mile after mile, trackless and featureless,
let the car coast to a halt
on the crazed cracked
flat hard face where
winter snow spirals, and
summer sun bakes like a kiln.
Off nowhere, to be or not be,
          all equal, far reaches, no bounds.
          Sound swallowed away
          no waters, no mountains, no
          bush no grass and
                    because no grass
          no shade but your shadow.
          No flatness because no not-flatness.
          No loss, no gain. So—
          nothing in the way!
          —the ground is the sky
          the sky is the ground,
          no place between, just
 
          wind-whip breeze,
          tent-mouth leeward,
          time being here.
          We meet heart to heart,
          leg hard-twined to leg,
                    with a kiss that goes to the bone.
          Dawn sun comes straight in the eye. The tooth
          of a far peak called King Lear.
 
Now in the nineties desert night
          —my lover’s my wife—
old friends, old trucks, drawn around;
great arcs of kids on bikes out there in darkness
          no lights—just planet Venus glinting
by the calyx crescent moon,
and tasting grasshoppers roasted in a pan.
 
          They all somehow swarm down here—
          sons and daughters in the circle
          eating grasshoppers grimacing,
 
singing sūtras for the insects in the wilderness,
 
—the wideness, the
foolish loving spaces
 
full of heart.
 
          Walking on walking,
                    under foot   earth turns
 
          Streams and mountains never stay the same.
 
 
 
 
                              The space goes on.
                              But the wet black brush
                              tip drawn to a point,
                                       lifts away.

“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Bamburgh Castle in the Clouds (Pixdaus)

                   

“You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it . . .We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Where the Sea Meets the Sky, by Tristan Campbell (Pixdaus)

When we are children, we have such dreams, dreams of who we’ll be, where we’ll go, who we’ll meet, things we will accomplish. We see possibilities everywhere, and it doesn’t occur to us not to think these things.

I remember thinking that I could live in a castle, that I could live on a farm, that I could swing on a trapeze and fly through the air, that I could be president of the United States. I dreamed of being an actor, a singer, a writer. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins and dreamed of living on an island and fending for myself in much the same way as the book’s main character. I read fables and tales of imaginary places and wondered what it would be like to live in such ethereal places.

And then I remember the first time an adult quashed my dreams: I wrote a poem in the 7th grade, and the teacher—a humorless man with dandruff on his shoulders—told me quite frankly that it wasn’t a poem because it did not rhyme and because it didn’t have the correct rhythm, which he proceeded to recite for me: da duh da duh da duh da duh. I looked at him in horror and walked away. I dropped the poem in the wastebasket on my way out the classroom.

Adults forget how to dream, and they very often forget that children still possess that ability.

“Her father’s well-remembered voice came to save her. ‘When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.’” ~ Eva Ibbotson, The Countess Below the Stairs

Night Sky (Pixdaus)

Do I still dream?

I e-mailed a former colleague today and made the statement that I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be when I grow up; there is more than a gram of truth in those words.

Let me back up: I know that the month of November leaves me completely spent emotionally. Even though this year was not terrible, it still affected me in ways that I am only now acknowledging. So I write this post full of pent-up emotions and unfulfilled dreams. I write with a sense of pain that lies always just beneath the surface. At least I am aware of this much.

At one point in my life I thought that I truly had all of the answers. How utterly laughable. I was in my mid-20’s and full of a sense of power and accomplishment that I had neither earned nor deserved. This reality did not keep me from acting as though the world was mine for the taking. I had but to reach out and my just rewards would come to me.

Ah youth. Folly and hubris rule unabated. Unabated, that is, until someone older and perhaps wiser steps in and crushes those dreams.

Is life just one long sequence of dreams followed by crushing realities? Do we ever reach a point at which the cycle stops? Does it take the relinquishing of dreams for this to happen? If so, then I refuse.

“Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark.” ~ Wallace Stevens

Gulls in the Night Sky (Pixdaus)

What do I dream? I dream of lazy afternoons, floating above the earth in a large hammock, a book on my chest, the sun in my eyes. I dream of hiking the Virginia foothills again, no thoughts of pain keeping me from the adventure. I dream of finally seeing the Grand Canyon and walking among the verdant hills of Ireland.

I dream.

I dream of writing the ultimate sentence, the one that makes me pause and say to myself, ‘Damn. That’s good.’ I dream of sitting in a darkened theater and listening to Puccini. And I dream of the day when I can think of those in my life who are no longer here and not feel as if my soul has been cleaved.

Thick cream-colored linen writing paper, hot mugs of strong sweet tea, wines heady with perfect blends of fruit and smoke, and rows upon rows of books. Reading lines of verse that make me wish that they were mine and listening to music that makes me teary-eyed. Walking through Central Park in the fall and smelling fresh cardamom and cinnamon in the markets of some far-away country.

Traveling by rail from Istanbul to anywhere. Seeing the earth below me from a hot air balloon. An afternoon spent on a beach fronting blue waters clear enough to see the bottom. Lying in a clearing at night beneath the open sky, gazing up at stars unobscured by city lights.

“I am the one who splits in the night.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Night Lightning Cleaves the Sky (Pixdaus)

What will I be?

I am old enough to remember “Que Sera,” to remember thinking to myself that it was a song of promises. I am also old enough to know all that I do not know, will never know.

These things I know: I will always be a product of the soil that nurtured me, which means that I will always be part of two worlds. I will be my father’s daughter, the good girl, the girl who could do anything, and I will be my mother’s daughter, the girl who was always reminded of imperfections, the girl who never knew how to do enough.

I have opened my heart to those who have trampled it and tossed it by the wayside carelessly. I have given my heart to those who have cherished it and held onto it with great care. I have learned to love again and again, and continue to be astounded at all that there is to learn about love—still.

I have bared my soul to strangers and friends, and I have found comfort in the arms of the unlikely. I have railed at injustices—real and perceived, and I have keened until I thought that my heart would break. I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and I have experienced bliss that left me breathless and weak.

A self-proclaimed curmudgeon, I am self-aware enough to know that at heart, I am a romantic. The complexity of all that is me still catches me unawares at times, as if this skin that I am in is new and untested, but that is hardly so.

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams.” ~Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

Walking to the Moon (Pixdaus)

What is the point in all of this? Damned if I know. I suppose that once in a while I find it imperative to gaze intently at my belly button to try to discern if some pattern exists, and quite predictably, one never does.

At night, as I seek the comfort of my bed, no great truths come to me. No epiphanies lurk on the periphery of my vision. At least, not usually, and I have become accustomed to that. If asked to identify the meaning of life, I would be just as hard-pressed as the next person. I know only that I still have much to know, that what I know I paid dearly to learn, and that there are things that I would quite willingly unknow if only I could.

I cheat destiny when I can because I know what an exacting master destiny can be. As the song says, “it’s only half past the point of no return.” I have enough fuel left in me to continue this journey, and with luck, I may one day reach the point at which I become what I am supposed to be.

Until then, “the time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings” (Lewis Carroll).

More later. Peace.

Music by Pink, “Glitter in the Air”

                   

Glitter in the Air

Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care”?

It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?

Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You’re whole life waiting on the ring to prove you’re not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?

It’s only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?

La La La La La La La La

There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar

Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?
Tonight?