“He no longer trusted words.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from Divisadero


“Maybe I have written to see; to have what I never would have had . . . from the tips of the fingers that transcribe by the sweet dictates of vision. From the point of view of the soul’s eye: the eye of a womansoul. From the point of view of the Absolute, in the proper sense of the word: Separation.” ~ Hélène Cixous, from “Coming to Writing”

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warmer, 45 degrees.

Not really certain as to what I want to say today. I took a little time out to put on some makeup. Don’t ask me why. I mean, for the dogs? I suppose for myself more than anything. Sometimes I just feel so dowdy, and then I turn to my vast collection of makeup that goes unused day after day. I never used to feel like that—dowdy. Of course, I had a job to go to, people to meet. I dressed in more than yoga pants and t-shirts. I fixed my hair and my face. It seems like a lifetime ago, and actually it was—a decade this past October.

I cannot believe that it’s been that long, and at the same time, I cannot remember what it was really like, only the idea of what it was like. Does that make sense?

Who was I then? I had a full-time job, career, and my sons still lived at home, were still in school. My house was crowded with people and things, and it was a good time. I was in graduate school again getting my publishing degree. Corey was going to sea and enjoying his career. We took vacations as a family and as a couple. Things were so different. I’m not really sure what I miss the most. All of it? Some of it? Who knows . . .

“Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters.” ~ Gabriel García Márquez, from One Hundred Years of Solitude

I can honestly say, though, that I didn’t get back to my writing in any kind of regular way until I was forced to go on disability in 2008. Between approximately 1999 to 2008, I wrote only sporadically. I worked, a lot. Writing didn’t really fit into that schedule, but then I met Corey, and I wrote during the beginnings of our relationship, and then, not so much. Well, that’s not exactly true; when Corey started going to sea, we both started journaling, and then we would exchange journals for his next trip. That was very meaningful for both of us, I believe.

But after the back operation and the disability decision? I mean, it was a matter of write or go crazy, and so this little blog that I had begun as part of a project for a publishing class began to take on more shape, began to turn into something regular and predictable in my life, and that, too, was good.

I don’t know why I never wrote my book, books. There were so many starts and stops, and I kept telling myself that I had time, that May Sarton didn’t even get published until she was in her 50’s. I had time, I kept telling myself. The irony is not lost on me.

And now I feel as though I’m out of time, out of time to write that book, that is. God. So many plots, so many characters, so many spurts of dialogue and settings. So many pieces, so disparate and so cohesive at the same time. It was going to be a mystery, a memoir, a biography, a history, a thriller. It was going to be a confessional with poetry, essays and photographs. It was going to be . . . so many things.

You can begin to see my problem. It’s nothing new. It’s a matter of having too many words and too few words simultaneously. It’s also a matter of a seeming lack of discipline.

“You are looking
for mountains to climb.
I am looking
for the words to a poem
I can’t remember.” ~ Sarah Kay, from “A Place to Put Our Hands”

Other people write books all of the time, and other people who write books go on to be not famous, end up working in tech or a grocery store, but dammit, they tried, at least. I never wanted to write to be famous or rich. I wanted to write for validation, to prove that I could, to show that my words could mean something, could touch someone besides me.

My first husband, I’ll give him credit, used to read my poems and try oh so hard to be nice. He would say things like, “I understand this, but maybe not everyone would.” It was so frustrating and yet, comforting. I knew that he was trying to be kind; that was when we were still kind to one another. And then he left, and I wrote and wrote and wrote, so many words that so many women who had gone through the same thing could understand. I wrote for days on end. I still remember the words just flying from my fingers, unabated by anything. Yet still, I never sent out my poems. Never tried for publication.

Look. It’s not that I don’t think that I could get published. I’ve sent out three poems in my life, and one was published. I entered two writing contests, and placed third my first time. So I know that there is a grain of talent here. And yes, I know that self-publishing is a thing now. People on tumblr seem to do it successfully all of the time . . .

Maybe I’m just lazy. Or maybe, I’m so fricking insecure and so very afraid of criticism that I continue to try to protect myself by not even trying. Maybe . . .

“The world seethes with words. Forgive me.” ~ Paul Bowles, from “Next to Nothing”

Okay. All of that is all well and good. So what about here? What about this blog? This blog takes discipline, work, and dedication. I mean, 90 percent of the time I put my words down here. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes informative, and sometimes they even speak to the heart. More often than not, they are nothing more than a journal like Samuel Pepys, who recorded daily life in London from 1660 to 1669. The ironic thing is that his diary turned out to be a very informative document that included entries on the great plague and the great fire of London.

Will my blog be famous 50 years from now because I talked about horses and dogs and trees? Or because I talked about the heartbreak of losing a child in infancy and then losing children in a different way in adulthood? Or because I bemoaned the loss of friends over the years, mostly due to my own consistent inattention. Yes, a lot of what I say is relatable to a lot of people, and a lot that I say is not relatable at all. So will this blog become some kind of marker of life here in the mountains, or in a small town, or life during this turbulent political time? Doubtful.

I mostly write these words to try to keep my brain and my spirit nimble, and if someone in the ether reads what I have to say, that’s wonderful, but I cannot count on that. Writing my way through is what I’ve always done, and it’s what I’ll always do, in one way or another. I know that I’m self-absorbed; I’ve never claimed otherwise. But then, I am simultaneously too empathetic to the plights of those around me. Other’s pain affects me more than I care to admit. A dichotomy. Again, nothing new. But these aspects of my personality feed into my creative side, at least.

“Words, I think, are such unpredictable creatures. No gun, no sword, no army or king will ever be more powerful than a sentence. Swords may cut and kill, but words will stab and stay, burying themselves in our bones to become corpses we carry into the future, all the time digging and failing to rip their skeletons from our flesh.” ~ Tahereh Mafi, from Shatter Me

I have another admission: I always imagined that living in the mountains in the midst of such natural beauty would offer a wellspring of creative drive, that I would be like Thoreau and suck that frigging marrow out of life, etc. But one reality is that creative people, while they like to work in solitude, often feed off other creative people, and I just don’t think that I’m going to find a writing group anywhere around here, especially as I cannot even find a decent doctor.

But technology has fixed that. There are countless writing groups and communities online Diana Gabaldon, creator of the Outlander series, began her writing career as an exercise on a forum, and now look at her, how many books later? Other people began their writing careers while they were working full-time jobs as lawyers, publishers, university professors, coroners, whatever, and they passed their writing around to colleagues, friends, for feedback, criticism.

So why can’t I get it together enough to put one word after another into some semblance of a manuscript? Why? Nothing? Several years ago I promised myself that I would look for an agent. Did that happen? Need you ask? Did I complete NaNoWriMo? Nope.

I know that I’m spitting into the wind (such a lovely turn of phrase that), but I am genuinely searching for an answer here. I want to know why I cannot move from the safety of this screen beyond, into . . . into whatever is out there. Why am I so freaking scared? What is it in me that is so fragile that causes me to shy away from what I want the most for myself?

I have no answers. I seem to type that a lot lately, but it’s true. I have absolutely no answers. The only thing that I can say is that I’ll keep looking. I owe myself that much at least. And as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) said in Dead Poets, “and the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

I have no idea. Yet.

More later. Peace.

All images are taken from Wordstuck, which is currently dormant, but you can find it here.

Music by Sleeping at Last, “Saturn”


I Want to Write Different Words for You

I want to write different words for you
To invent a language for you alone
To fit the size of your body
And the size of my love.

I want to travel away from the dictionary
And to leave my lips
I am tired of my mouth
I want a different one
Which can change
Into a cherry tree or a match box,
A mouth from which words can emerge
Like nymphs from the sea,
Like white chicks jumping from the magician’s hat.

~ Nizar Qabbani (Trans. Bassam K. Frangieh and Clementina R. Brown)

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“It began as research. I wrote of silences, of nights, I scribbled the indescribable. I tied down the vertigo.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, from “Alchemy of the Word”

Still Life under the Sea 1960 by Mary Kessell 1914-1977
“Still Life under the Sea” (1960, oil and pastel on canvas)
by Mary Kessell

“a taste which I have in my soul depresses me.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Dream Horse” 

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not too hot, 83 degrees.

I am in a very, very strange place today. Partially depressed, partially heartbroken, partially agitated. I simply cannot pinpoint it, and I hate it. It’s one of those episodes in which so many conflicting emotions are hitting my brain and my heart, leaving me drained and bereft.

Theodore Earl Butler The Epte, Giverny 1908 oil on canvas
“The Epte, Giverny” (1908, oil on canvas)
Theodore Earl Butler

My heart aches for Corey; just his nearness helps, even a bit. I’m sitting here, and I really need to go pick up my prescriptions (which might be part of the problem), but I truly don’t have enough energy to put on clothes and get in the car. Look, I don’t even have enough energy to change into a bathing suit and float in the pool, even though today would be the perfect day to do something like that. I just can’t.

Sitting at the party yesterday, surrounded by so many people, some of whom I know and others I should know and some I’ve never met before—it’s the kind of situation that always makes me anxious. I cannot help but feel that people are judging me. Don’t ask me why I feel this way, but I do. The truth of the matter is that everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives, their children, their next beer, whatever, that I know that I don’t even enter their peripheries, yet I allow myself to feel insecure.

“And isn’t it true, sorrow, I know you;
you are the longing for the good life,
the loneliness of the dark heart,
of the ship drifting beyond disaster or star.” ~ Antonio Machado, from “It is an ashen and musty evening”

What happens is this: I look around at all of the people who seem to be having so much fun, and I think to myself, “why can’t I be like that?” And then I think to myself, “who are you? You never used to be like this.”

Georgia O'Keeffe Blue, Black, and Grey 1960
“Blue, Black, and Grey” (1960, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

I know. I just don’t get out enough, and that’s mostly by choice and partially because of physical conditions, and to some extent because, well, life.

Lately, because of circumstances, I feel my loneliness too keenly. Alone and lonely are two separate things—I know this. But the truth is that it has morphed into acute loneliness.

I have considered going to the karaoke bar that Corey and I used to frequent, just sit there and have my cup of tea and write in my journal like I used to. I was more comfortable in my skin then, I think. No, I know. But I also know that going someplace alone at night is simply not the safest thing for a female, regardless of age, to do anymore.

Last night I dreamed that Corey and I went there, and we knew no one. The entire staff had changed; all of the people we used to know by name were long gone, and the whole place felt foreign, uncomfortable. Then later in the same dream, I fell asleep on the front porch, but it was my mother’s front porch, and when I woke up, the bricks in the steps had started to come loose, like the mortar holding them together was dissolving, so that the very ground beneath me was dissolving, and I couldn’t explain to anyone why I had slept on the porch, and then when I went to make coffee for everyone, the carafe was dirty and stained, so I left the kitchen and walked towards my mother’s bedroom, and the door opened and one of Eamonn’s friends came out, and I didn’t know why he was there or why I was in my mother’s house in the first place.

I don’t need psychoanalysis to know that the ground is shifting beneath my feet, and I’m not where I need to be . . .

“I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser, from “The Speed Of Darkness”

For so long I told myself that once the kids were gone and I had all of this free time, I would use it to be productive. I would write and write and write, and yet, I write nothing at all.

My heart is so heavy with the burdens of motherhood, and they feel like burdens because I am so asea as to how to fix anything for anyone. I look at my daughter, and I know that she is not happy, that it’s all an act. I look at one of my sons and I know that he is lonely and searching for his place in this world, and I look at my other son and know that he is lost within himself and has no idea as to how to break through the waves.

Gustav Klimt Moonlight by the Mediterranean 1892
“Moonlight by the Mediterranean” (1892)
by Edvard Munch

How did I get to such a place, a place in which I find myself to be so wanting as a mother? How did they get to where they are? I talk to their friends and I hear the same stories, different versions. They all seem to be lost and wanting something they cannot find. I don’t remember being so lost in my 20’s. I didn’t have all of the answers, certainly, but I knew exactly what I wanted, or at least, I think that I did. I had goals, and I had dreams.

Time muddles the memories, changes their hues, makes us remember people and situations in ways that may have never existed. Within the chambers of our memory palaces, we pluck days, weeks, in which we remember perfect skies, glorious sunsets, true loves, long embraces, but did any of it really happen?

After having a long talk with one of my son’s friends in which he bemoaned his ability to find the right person to be with, I felt bad that I had no true words of wisdom for him, that he would only learn by doing and by losing and by trying again and again. I wouldn’t want my 20s again for anything, yet so much of what I did to become the person I am now happened then. How do I reconcile that?

“And how do I know what you are to me?
Our theories are untested. You must not laugh.
We thought there were other ways.
Probably there are, but they are hidden
and we shall never find them.” ~ Paul Bowles, from “Next to Nothing”

As I sit here and parse the words and syllables, try to reconcile the immense feelings of loss, I realize that I know next to nothing, truly. I offer these young people advice, but what do I know, really . . . nothing, nothing at all. I am living a life filled with holes, and I know that so much of that comes from not working at all after working my entire life, working at some job or another since I was 14. I hate these circumstances. I peruse the ads on LinkedIn, read the qualifications they are seeking, say to myself, “Oh, I could definitely do that,” and then I close the window because I know that applying is futile. How could I possibly work for anyone when some days I cannot even summon the energy to walk to the kitchen, when some days I must stop and rest after folding laundry.

Emil Nolde Starry Sky 1938-45
“Starry Sky” (1938-45, watercolor)
by Emil Nolde

I hate this more than anyone could possibly know, and I know that I sound like a broken record, but sometimes it just has to come out: all  of the frustrations, all of the losses, all of the days wasted, and I have no one to blame but myself. And I know that I’m in a particularly sensitive spot right now because of things that are going on beyond my control, and perhaps that is what bothers me the most: the lack of control, mostly because I feel that I should be able to control these things, or at least be able to fix them. If not me, then who?

And I walk through the house and notice the mess on the dining room table, notice the cushions on the couch askew, notice the tumbleweeds of Tillie’s hair in the corners of the rooms, I must face that today I can do absolutely nothing about it. I just don’t have the energy. Look, I seriously contemplated skipping the family party yesterday, but I didn’t have enough energy to come up with a convincing excuse, so instead I arrived late, but it took every ounce of wherewithal to put on clothes and leave the house.

“I wrote down silences, nights, I noted the inexpressible. I fixed vertigos.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud cited in Delmore Schwartz’s Rimbaud in Our Time

Listen, I know that I have a good life; I have a spouse who truly loves me, a comfortable but slightly rundown house in a relatively nice neighborhood, two dogs, thousands of books, three children. I know that I have absolutely no right to complain about my life. I know all of these things.

Yet I also know that I ache, a deep abiding ache. I ache for someone to come to my door and say I will be your friend. I will visit you and I will understand your quirks and I will not make you feel less for having them. And I know that I have friends out there who feel this way. I would only have to write or to call. I do know this. But knowledge sometimes is not nearly enough to overcome great sadness. If it were, then I would have no problems at all.

Edvard Munch Starry Night 1893 oil on canvas
“Starry Night” (1893, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

To be able to retreat inside my mind is something I have always been able to do. But sometimes, once inside, all that I truly want is a long, hard hug, a soft whisper in my ear, a gentle touch of my hair. I’m not talking about passion; I’m talking about compassion.

Most of the time I try not to write about these things, mostly so that Corey does not read them and worry about me. I want him to be able to focus on his job when he is away, so I try not to say anything, but sometimes my voice betrays me, and I feel absolutely wretched that he can tell. He reads me so well.

But today, it is all too much, and I am too tired and too lonely, and my heart feels akin to breaking, and not even the soft warmth of my dogs’ bodies lying next to me is enough to calm the pounding in my heart.

I wish for better days. I wish that I knew how to make those better days. I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish…………………………………………

Enough. More later. Peace.

I cannot get this song out of my head today: “My Salvation,” by Gabrielle Aplin

                     

Es Verdad (It’s True)

Ai, what work it costs me,
wanting you like I want you!

All on account of your love
the air
hurts me —
my heart,
even my hat.

Who will buy it for me,
this hatband I’m holding,
and this sorrow of linen,
white to make handkerchiefs?

Ai! what work it costs me,
wanting you like I want you.

~ Federico García Lorca