“Most people are on the world, not in it—have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching, but separate.” ~ John Muir

Canyon of Sumidero, Chiapa de Corzo, by Sectur

“A kiss on the forehead—erases misery.
I kiss your forehead.” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, (trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine)

Sunday early evening. Mild, 60°.

So it’s been two days since Corey boarded the plane that took him to Dulles, and then on to Copenhagen, then to Lithuania. Apparently he was late arriving in Lithuania because of fog. The plan made three attempts to land and then had to return to Copenhagen to refuel. Thankfully, he slept through most of it, and also thankfully, I did not know about it until it was over, and he was safe on the ground.

Kravice Waterfalls, Trebižat in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow I have to send him an express package with the things that he forgot, two of which are essential, and I don’t know how—between the two of us—we forgot to pack them: his merchant mariner document and his USB for his laptop.

We don’t know how long he will be in Lithuania yet, still waiting for a decision on where the rest of the repairs will be made. He said that there is a crew of about 16 on board for now.

The last two nights have been as restless as expected. Friday, Tillie was obviously upset and wouldn’t eat. I pulled a dirty t-shirt from the hamper and put it with her, and she settled a bit. Yesterday and today I’ve tried to play with her outside for a bit, and my plan it to begin walking with her tomorrow. I hope that between the physical activity and the extra attention, she won’t go into full grieving mode, leaving me with one less thing to contend with so that I can get about the business of being miserable.

“And this is one of the mysteries, that the mind can speak, and knows nothing;
and the heart knows everything, and cannot speak.” ~ Osho

The other two dogs are fine; the fat one never leaves my side long enough to pay attention to anyone else, and while Alfie knows that something is up, he seems fine as long as I let him nuzzle and sleep at my feet.

Irenggolo Waterfall, Indonesia (Wikimedia Commons)

It really hasn’t hit me yet. I mean, right now it’s just as if he’s away for a transport. We’ll revisit the issue in a week and see how I’m doing.

I took the time yesterday to catch up on my blog reading, something I have been remiss in doing. One of my blogger compatriots gave me a suggestion for a post that I think I’ll tackle soon: the virtual hoarding that I do on Tumblr. I hadn’t really thought about it until recently, but I realize that Tumblr lets me amass lots and lots of things, but in a good way: I don’t have to dust, and I don’t have to make room. Anyway, I’m pondering that for now . . .

Last night, this morning, really, the moon was still big and bright in the sky at 6 a.m. or so. This whole spring forward thing on the time always screws me up; although, I’m not really certain as to why since my nights are my days and vice versa. I mean, I don’t even know the date unless I look at my cell phone or one of the calendars hanging throughout the house.

“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” ~ George Eliot

Anyway, I’ve been trying to stay busy the past few days, catching up on reading blogs and Tumblr, and starting the Game of Thrones series of books. It’s hard reading, and I can’t do my usual speed reading as there are so many new names of places and characters, something inherent in fantasies. But I read until 4 this morning, and then made myself stop so that I could attempt to sleep.

Right. That really worked.

Triberg Waterfalls on Gutach River, Black Forest, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

Before Corey left, the boys sat down with us, and we came up with a family game plan for chores and tasks. Not too many changes really, just reminders that I can do laundry, but I cannot lift the baskets. I can do the shopping, but I need someone to come with me to carry. Eamonn is taking on the yard mowing, which is good as I can’t do it, and Brett hates to do it.

But we have a plan, and my hope is that I don’t get too much grief when I do eventually ask for help and that I don’t have to be in constant mom-reminder-mode. Such a pain, especially with grown/almost grown offspring. But we’re hoping that the plan will help the three of us settle into a somewhat comfortable existence in Corey’s absence. We’re shooting for a new kind of normalcy.

I remember when Corey worked on tugs and was two weeks on/one week off—it was hard going in a lot of ways. I was still working full time, and the boys were in high school, and Eamonn was at the height of his difficult years and Brett was having so many problems. Some days, I just wanted to hide in my bedroom with the dogs. But there were dishes to do, and laundry, and all of the rest, not to mention I was going to school in DC two nights a week. I really don’t know how I survived that, but I did. I suppose we all do what we have to do when we have to do it.

It’s better if you don’t think too much about things, I suppose.

“The blue river is gray at morning
and evening. There is twilight
at dawn and dusk. I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.” ~ Jack Gilbert, “Waking at Night”

In this most recent mode of no-sleep, I find myself attuned to every little noise. More birds are starting their morning song, so the middle of the night is actually not very quiet.

Kjerag Waterfalls, Rogaland County, Norway (Wikimedia Commons)

I remember that when I lived in the mountains the sounds of sirens were rarely heard in the middle of the night. When I lived in northern Virginia, it was the opposite, city sounds all night long. I don’t think that I really notice the sirens around here unless I’m trying to quiet my thoughts, but sometimes in the still of the night I can still hear the train whistle, and when there’s fog, I can hear the foghorns on the bay.

I know that I would be able to quiet my thoughts better if I had the sound of waves or rippling water within earshot. Perhaps, once I get my computer fixed and set up on my new desk, I’ll go back to my old habit of listening to my Sounds of Nature CD collection: thunderstorms, waves, whale songs, even rainforests. It’s a toss up between thunderstorms and waves, pretty much.

Last summer, we didn’t have much tree frog action, and I missed that. Just as I miss the pond outside the bedroom window with the frogs singing. Anyway, with water on the brain, you can see why I chose today’s images.

“That was the strange thing, that one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted, and followed blindly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepared and amazed and knowing nothing; but one thing led to another and by degrees something had formed itself out of nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, this quiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

So that’s what life has been like in the past few days. I had toyed with writing an analysis of the Kony 2012 fray, even composed some of it in my brain, but then  I just didn’t have it in me to delve into such deep political waters. It would take maximal brain cells and concentration.

Waterfall, Location Unknown (?)

I suppose I’m keeping my brain on a short-leash at the moment. Subsuming the need to think too much or ponder too deeply. Introspection poses too many problems. It’s that nagging awareness that I’m holding things at bay, not allowing any tears in front of Corey before he left, for example. If I don’t allow myself to think past the surface, if I don’t move past the dust bunnies and the dirty clothes, if I don’t sit alone with my thoughts, then perhaps this ache that is creeping into my heart can be assuaged.

I’m okay, really. I mean, more okay than I expected to be, which is what worries me. I have this tendency to build walls inside without realizing it. I mean, I admit that I exist in a constant state of grief and loss. I would be lying if I claimed anything else. That loss exists in the background of my reality—a thin membrane that cloaks everything without suffocating it. If I allow it to come to the forefront, it can be all-consuming, which is why I usually just feel the subtle vibrations of its existence.

I have taught myself postpone my confrontations with that aspect of myself, to walk carefully on the surface. At least, that is what I tell myself, and sometimes saying things silently over and over does make it so. Sometimes.

More later. Peace.

Music by Shuyler Fisk, “Waking Life”

                   

You Reading This: Stop

Don’t just stay tangled up in your life.
Out there in some river or cave where you
could have been, some absolute, lonely
dawn may arrive and begin the story
that means what everything is about.

So don’t just look, either:
let your whole self drift like a breath and learn
its way down through the trees.  Let that fine
waterfall-smoke filter its gone, magnified presence
all through the forest.  Stand here till all that
you were can wander away and come back slowly,
carrying a strange new flavor into your life.
Feel it?  That’s what we mean.  So don’t just
read this—rub your thought over it.

Now you can go on.

~ William Stafford, from The Methow River Poems in Even in Quiet Places


“That time was like never, and like always.” ~ Pablo Neruda

Anchorage Alaska by Janson Jones

Blue Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

Ode To Enchanted Light by Pablo Neruda

Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,

 
Van Gogh The Starry Night 1889.
"The Starry Night," Van Gogh (1889)

Outside, the tree frogs are chirruping loudly. The crickets are singing, but it’s too early in the evening for the cicadas.

Inside, silence. For the first time in it seems forever, I am totally and completely alone in the house, well, aside from the dogs. Eamonn is out with friends. Brett’s good buddy Gordon came by and picked him up, and Corey is still in Ohio. Hence, the silence.

I have plenty of things that I could watch on the DVR, episodes of NCIS and Law & Order, and a few movies that might make for a good night, although, no Asia Extreme while I am completely alone. Sleep would be impossible if I did that.

I have very mixed feelings about being alone. By nature, I love solitude. I love time to myself to do what I want when I want to do it. But when the middle of the night comes, I like at least one other person to be in the house with me. It’s not that I am afraid to be alone, per se, but rather, that I prefer to know that someone is nearby in the night.

The irony here is that I have always thought that I would dearly love to live somewhere in the country, away from everything. No distractions, just me and nature and the opportunity to write. But truth be told, I don’t know that I would actually want to live isolated, down some dark stretch of country road, no neighbors around for miles. I could really talk myself into being a nervous wreck in a situation like that.

But I don’t like cities much, any more. Who knows? An island? The tropics? Australia? Alaska? France? All have their special appeal and for such very different reasons. 

light
like a green
latticework of branches, 

Something fairly outrageous along the lines of my true nature: On Facebook, I took one of those damned quizzes that are a waste of time. This one was about which Disney character you are most like. My answer: Cinderella.

My friend Rebecca got a huge guffaw out of that one, as did I. Fairy tales and and fairy princesses and prince charming. That would be a big no. I honestly thought that the results would be Cruella da Ville or someone like that. Although I do have to admit that Disney’s Cinderella is actually one of my favorite movies: I love the singing and sewing animals. Alexis and I would watch that particular movie frequently when she was young.

But my versions of fairy tales always ended with a caveat: They didn’t live happily ever after. They had to get jobs to pay the mortgage on the castle. I suppose I felt the need to include that part mostly because of what my own parents drilled into my head as I was growing up: Always make sure that you can take care of yourself. Get a good education so that you don’t have to be dependent upon any man.

shining
on every leaf,

Van Gogh The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum Arles at night 1888
"The Cafe Terrace on the Place de Forum, Arles, at Night, Van Gogh (1888)

Odd advice from a couple in which one person was the primary breadwinner (my dad), and neither of whom were college graduates. But my dad new the importance of a good education, and my mother knew the consequences of being dependent upon someone else to take care of you.

So in that way, I suppose it makes sense.

At least there was never any question about whether or not I would go to college, and I know that I was luckier than most because my parents paid for both my undergraduate and first graduate degrees. One of the benefits of being an only child and going to an in-state public university. I do wish, though, that I had ventured beyond the borders of my home state, gone to a liberal arts college somewhere out west, maybe. Or perhaps, studied abroad for a few semesters. Something different. But it didn’t happen. For a while, I actually toyed with the idea of pursuing my music, the piano, and I also gave serious thought to going to a school for the arts to pursue acting. But I did neither.

Even without the drama degree I have always managed to keep too much drama going on in my life. My internal monologues and external diatribes never really needed honing in a classroom. And I realized that while I enjoyed the piano, it wasn’t my calling. I was good, but I wasn’t excellent, and just being good allows you to teach but not to play with a symphony.

Little realities that I am awfully glad that I realized in time. 

drifting down like clean
white sand.

Unfortunately, the night sounds outside have turned into the sound of an engine revving repeatedly across the street. One of our neighbors works on cars at all hours of the day and night. Most of the time, I don’t notice the sounds. But it is so quiet tonight that that’s all that I can hear.

And of course, the dogs have to bark at the neighbor—a man who has lived across the street since before we moved here—because they’ve never seen him before ever in their lives. He is an alien and therefore worthy of a three-part concerto: Alfie’s high-pitched yips, Shakes’s midtone arfs, and then Tillie’s deeper, more ominous sounding barks.

That’s what I love about Labs. To hear them, they sound like big, mean dogs. But if someone were actually to come into the house, Tillie would wiggle her butt and roll over to have her belly rubbed. You only buy a Labrador for protection if you want to trip someone in the dark.

A cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air.

Van Gogh Starry Night Over the Rhone 1888
"Starry Night Over the Rhone," Van Gogh (1888)

Originally, Corey was supposed to come home today from Ohio with the new/used van. Plans changed, and now I’m not sure as to when he will be home.

I’m trying very hard not to become too anxious about his job prospects, but it’s difficult. Part of me wishes that we lived in a small college town so that I could apply for a teaching position with a college or university. But other than doing something like that, with the flexible hours that such a position affords, I really cannot think of anything that I can do, not with the limitations that I have.

And besides, there aren’t many employers who would be willing to take me on, not knowing my health background. So ironically, I have ended up in a situation very much like the one my parents cautioned me against: being dependent upon others. In this case, dependent upon my disability insurance coverage and dependent upon Corey. Odd how things work out.

If I dwell on it too much, then I start to become maudlin, pondering the what ifs and whys. Worrying about not carrying my weight in this relationship, fixating on what kind of message it sends my children.

The world is
a glass overflowing
with water.

See, this post has become dreary, aside from the Neruda, that is. I started out well enough, talking about being alone but not being lonely, and somehow, I ended up in the same place that I too often find myself: feeling sorry for myself. My life is just a sad, country song—one of the old-fashioned kind full of heartache and lost dreams and empty whiskey bottles (where in the hell did the whiskey bottles come from?) . . .

Patsy Cline has nothing on me, well, except for that voice. It seems to me that if you are going to have the life of a sad country song, then you should have the voice to go with it.

Oh well. The car engine has finally stopped. Midnight is almost upon me. The frogs are back. And it’s time to watch some crime drama, especially since I don’t have a new book to read. Speaking of which, I want to read Atlas Shrugged, don’t know why that’s been on my mind, but it has. As has Alice B. Toklas. I woke up a couple of mornings ago and said aloud “Alice B. Toklas” and then spent hours trying to figure out why her name greeted my morning.

Aside from knowing that Toklas was Gertrude Stein’s amour for many, many years, and that Toklas published a very famous cookbook, I have never had any interest in the woman.

Don’t you just hate it when something like that happens and you cannot discern why? Well, I hate it. Bothers the daylights out of me.

I’ll probably awaken tomorrow from a dream filled with frogs that sound like cars, my mother singing Patsy Cline, and memories of trying to fit a glass stiletto onto my foot. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll be able to fall asleep to choruses of cicadas at 3 in the morning—just me, my dogs, and the echoes of night sounds.

Infrared Stars
Infrared Stars (Spitzer)

More later. Peace.

 

Grace in Small Things (continued)

Tillie Close Up Smaller

Princess Tillie Posing for a Picture

 

“As you wish . . .” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride 

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” ~ Miracle Max from The Princess Bride

Miracle Max and Valerie The Princess Bride
Miracle Max & Valeria in The Princess Bride

I haven’t done a Grace in Small Things post in quite a while, so I thought that I might do one tonight. I’m slightly regretting something that I said in my post about emotions: I said that I do not get elated easily. That part is true, but when I began to consider elation in my life, I realized that even though it is not an emotion that comes to me easily, I still find happiness in even the smallest of things—hence, the subject of tonight’s post.

After some pondering, I’ve decided to highlight the following five things that bring me joy:

Vizzini: Jump in after her! 
Inigo Montoya: I can’t swim 
Fezzik: I only dog paddle. 
Vizzini: AGGHH  ~ from The Princess Bride

Shakes Fast Asleep
Shakes Fast Asleep

Number 1:  My dogs’ personalities. Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals can have distinct personalities has never paid much attention to a dog. My Jack Russells have always been full of themselves, but ever since we adopted Tillie the Lab, I’ve noticed even more how much all three dogs differ. For example, Shakes, the mama’s boy, is easily lulled. He insinuates himself as close to my torso as he can get and then turns over on his back. This is a signal that the stomach rubbing should begin. I can put Shakes to sleep in under three minutes if I rub his tummy steadily. Once he falls asleep, his mouth gapes ever so slightly, showing his bottom teeth as he has a distinct underbite. Shakes would be a good candidate for dog braces if there were such a thing. Regardless, once Shakes has fallen asleep, I can stop rubbing his belly, but if he is disturbed, I have to begin the process again. If I do not, I get a head butt to my elbow, which is what happened this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee, which I always have while I am still in bed. Needless to say, the butt to my elbow caused coffee to spill on my nightshirt and on the sheets. I was not amused.

King Alfie
King Alfie Atop the Pillows

Alfie is much harder to read. He likes to sleep atop the pillows, more often than not, above Corey’s head. Alfie can be very, very sweet and loving, and then he can turn on a dime and begin to growl. He doesn’ t like to be dried when he comes in from the rain, so I have to coax him by speaking very quietly while simultaneously drying him very quickly. Another of Alfie’s quirks is that if given a treat such as a chewie, he will immediately try to bury it, even if he is in the house. We have found chewies between the couch cushions, under the piano pedals, even in a storage tub. If Alfie buries his treats outside, Shakes will watch him, and then at the first chance, he will unbury Alfie’s treat and claim it as his own.

Tillie is a prima donna. She is quite vocal about many things, and if she is not being paid the attention she feels she deserves, we’ll get a good telling off until someone, usually Corey, stops whatever he is doing and gives her a big hug. Tillie is also very jealous. If Corey comes into the room and begins a conversation with me, Tillie will interrupt. If we happen to be embracing one another, Tillie will bark. However, Tillie is not the least bit aggressive. She is all talk. Tillie also likes to make the bed. If the bed covers are flat, she will stand in the middle of the bed and rake the covers with her paws until they are in the desired shape, and then she will promptly flop down on them. This is why we have removed the hand-stitched quilt that my mother gave us and replaced it with a cheaper, machine-sewn quilt.

I know, we spoil our dogs as much as we do our children, but it’s hard not to as they have such human characteristics.

“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?” ~ Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

Number 2:  Nail polish. Granted, nail polish is not a terribly important thing in the grand scheme of things; however, I love all of the different shades of nail polish. Did you know that there are probably 50 different shades of red, if not more? Some of my favorite reds include Cherry Crush, Woman in Love, I Am Not a Waitress, To Eros is Human, and Bogata Blackberry. Aren’t those names wild?

I wonder who has the job of naming colors . . . That’s something that I think I could do: create catchy names for red nail polish. How about Molten Lava? Or Chili Pepper Passion? Or maybe Devilicious? Scarlet Woman? Okay, so maybe I need to work on it.

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride

Westley and Buttercup TPB
Westley & Buttercup in The Princess Bride

Number 3: The poetry of Pablo Neruda. I have to admit that I discovered Neruda later in the game, but I am so glad that I found him. Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Chile in 1904 and had his first poem published when he was only 13. Neruda was a prolific writer, and almost all of his work is political in nature.  Neruda, an avowed communist, was almost denied the Nobel Prize because of his political beliefs. However, he also wrote some incredibly moving love poems, and it is those of which I am most fond. Regardless of his subject matter, Neruda’s poems are filled with strong images and fine craftsmanship.

From “Lost in the Forest”—

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva  . . . ” ~ The Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride

Cicada
Cicada on Tree Branch

Number 4: Night Sounds. As I have mentioned, I have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which means that I am awake at very odd hours. But one of the better things about my odd sleeping habits is that I am often awake to hear all of the sounds in the night. We live fairly close to a marsh, so the sounds of the various inhabitants of the marsh are easy to hear in the nighttime stillness. 

I enjoy hearing the tree frogs chirruping in the evening and early morning, and the toads with their lower pitched chirps are often interspersed, creating an harmonious din. The crickets’ songs are not annoying to me; instead, their sounds right outside my bedroom window are full of life. Occasionally, the sound of cicadas with their incremental buzzing and clicking resonates among the trees. And by 3 a.m., all of the birds begin to awaken: First, the mourning doves with their coos, and then the mocking birds with their various melodies, and sometimes there is even the knocking of a wood pecker, which echoes into the coming dawn.

“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles . . . ” ~ Grandpa from The Princess Bride 

Number 5: Fairy Tales and Fantasies. It probably comes as no surprise that I love fairy tales, especially since I frequently take my own flights of fancy. But it’s the uncommon fairy tales that enchant me. Disney’s tales of fair maidens being rescued by handsome princes always bothered me. It’s that whole helpless female thing, you know? It wasn’t until Beauty and the Beast that the people at Disney finally came up with a female who was determined and headstrong.

But for me, the best fairy tales are the ones that involve magic and battles and odd creatures, with a pinch of tongue in cheek humor. For example, my favorite fairy tale in movie form is The Princess Bride, hands down. The stable boy turned pirate, André the Giant as Fezzik, Inigo Montoya on his single-minded quest to avenge his father, and Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), whose inclusion among the characters makes a wonderful story into a truly memorable story. Yes, Buttercup needs rescuing, but her captors turned rescuers are anything but stock characters.

Robert DeNiro in Stardust
Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare

And then recently, Corey and I watched Stardust, which I also found immensely enjoyable. Not as good as The Princess Bride, but a good fairy tale nonetheless. Robert DeNiro plays Captain Shakespeare, an in-the-closet pirate who dances the Cancan. Ricky Gervais is a trader in lightning and other dodgy goods; Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ugly old witch (if you can believe that), and Rupert Everett does a turn as one of the dead king’s sons, Secundus. The two lovers are played by Claire Danes and Charlie Cox. The story is based on a Neil Gaiman book (really must read this).

Among the movie’s enticements are magic, treachery, true love, two goats, a glass flower, and a fallen star. And this time, it’s the prince who doesn’t know that he’s a prince who is the clueless one. And bonus points for having Ian McKellan’s sonorous voice as the narrator:

“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now that’s a question.”

And now, I will leave you with the most hilarious scene from Stardust: Captain Shakespeare as a whoopsie:

 

More later. Peace.