“I’ve been rereading your story. I think it’s about me in a way that might not be flattering, but that’s okay. We dream and dream of being seen as we really are and then finally someone looks at us and sees us truly and we fail to measure up.” ~ Richard Siken

                   

“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, ‘I am falling to the floor crying,’ but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.” ~ Richard Siken

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and a bit warmer, 52 degrees.

I love the above quote by Richard Siken because I an relate to it so completely—the absurd nature of grief, the contradictory ways in which your mind works when it is hurting most. You feel the pain in your chest, the symbolic breaking of your heart, and yet you notice the dust on the television screen. You weep, nay, you keen, and even as you are doing so, you wonder where the cobweb in the corner of the living room came from.

If we know ourselves, truly know ourselves, then we can anticipate the way in which we will react in certain situations. What is really interesting is the mind of a psychopath—they do not feel regular emotions, so they learn to act emotions, as in, “Oh, I should be sad, so I will put on a sad face,” and they do, but sometimes their sad face isn’t quite right because there is the hint of a smile on the corner of one side of their mouth, and that is when so-called normal people notice the mask slip.

What do I mean by all of this? Who the hell knows. Only that I have found myself reacting as I knew I would react to something major, something life-changing, and even as I did so, I split off and wondered if I was getting mud on my hem.

We are such strange beings . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Nils Lofgren, “Why Me”

                   

Snow and Dirty Rain

Close your eyes. A lover is standing too close
to focus on. Leave me blurry and fall toward me
with your entire body. Lie under the covers, pretending
to sleep, while I’m in the other room. Imagine
my legs crossed, my hair combed, the shine of my boots
in the slatted light. I’m thinking My plant, his chair,
the ashtray that we bought together.
I’m thinking This is where
we live.
When we were little we made houses out of
cardboard boxes. We can do anything. It’s not because
our hearts are large, they’re not, it’s what we
struggle with. The attempt to say Come over. Bring
your friends. It’s a potluck, I’m making pork chops, I’m making
those long noodles you love so much.
My dragonfly,
my black-eyed fire, the knives in the kitchen are singing
for blood, but we are the crossroads, my little outlaw,
and this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold.
We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero’s shoulders and the gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it. The lawn drowned, the sky on fire,
the gold light falling backward through the glass
of every room. I’ll give you my heart to make a place
for it to happen, evidence of a love that transcends hunger.
Is that too much to expect? That I would name the stars
for you? That I would take you there? The splash
of my tongue melting you like a sugar cube? We’ve read
the back of the book, we know what’s going to happen.
The fields burned, the land destroyed, the lovers left
broken in the brown dirt. And then’s it’s gone.
Makes you sad. All your friends are gone. Goodbye
Goodbye. No more tears. I would like to meet you all
in Heaven. But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores. Moonlight making crosses
on your body, and me putting my mouth on every one.
We have been very brave, we have wanted to know
the worst, wanted the curtain to be lifted from our eyes.
This dream going on with all of us in it. Penciling in
the bighearted slob. Penciling in his outstretched arms.
Our father who art in Heaven. Our father who art buried
in the yard.
Someone is digging your grave right now.
Someone is drawing a bath to wash you clean, he said,
so think of the wind, so happy, so warm. It’s a fairy tale,
the story underneath the story, sliding down the polished
halls, lightning here and gone. We make these
ridiculous idols so we can to what’s behind them,
but what happens after we get up the ladder?
Do we simply stare at what’s horrible and forgive it?
Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are
the monsters we put in the box to test our strength
against. Here is the cake, and here is the fork, and here’s
the desire to put it inside us, and then the question
behind every question: What happens next?
The way you slam your body into mine reminds me
I’m alive, but monsters are always hungry, darling,
and they’re only a few steps behind you, finding
the flaw, the poor weld, the place where we weren’t
stitched up quite right, the place they could almost
slip right into through if the skin wasn’t trying to
keep them out, to keep them here, on the other side
of the theater where the curtain keeps rising.
I crawled out the window and ran into the woods.
I had to make up all the words myself. The way
they taste, the way they sound in the air. I passed
through the narrow gate, stumbled in, stumbled
around for a while, and stumbled back out. I made
this place for you. A place for to love me.
If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up,
they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light
and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube…
We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart?
and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.

~ Richard Siken

 

 

Advertisements

“Sometimes I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

Lin Fengmian Autumn Twilight in a Forest
“Autumn Twilight in a Forest” (1960, ink and colour on paper mounted on paper board)
by Lin Fengmian

“we all stare out the window into the dark where the stars continue
to survive like syllables of an extinct but beautiful language.” ~ Philip Schultz, from “Personal History”

Late Thursday afternoon. Sunny and a bit too warm, 75 degrees.

Last night on my way back from Lex’s house I saw the moon as it was just on the horizon, and it was huge and orange, and if I had the right kind of camera, I probably would have stopped right there in the middle of the road for a picture . . . Of course, I missed the eclipse . . .

My dream: Corey and I are in London, and I’m showing him where I used to live. He is unimpressed. Someone has told him that buying property in the UK is different from buying property in the US, so he’s uninterested in any of the places that I am showing him. We are standing on the edge of a rocky precipice, and another couple is next to us. I say that I can climb down and over to get to the other side. The woman next to us scoffs audibly, so I climb over the side, only to realize that it is slippery shale rock. The man with the woman climbs over after I do. Corey is just standing there. As we are climbing we find out that the man is a millionaire. The four of us are making are way crablike along the rim of this mountainside, and with each step, rocks slide loose, but none of us seem afraid. Suddenly, a man in a uniform comes at us from the opposite side to tell us that we cannot climb there because it is dangerous. We all look at each other and begin to laugh. The tension is cut by the absurdity of what the man is telling us as we are clearly almost to the other side.

Vincent van Gogh Willows at Sunset
“Willows at Sunset” (1888, oil on board)
by Vincent van Gogh

We stand on this narrow shelf and discuss what we should do. Having decided that we’ve made our point, we turn to go back to where we began. The millionaire man goes first. His girlfriend is still snide with me as she believes I am trying to steal her boyfriend. Once we get back and climb over the wall to land on the sidewalk I ask her if she has any children. She begins to show me pictures. This is all that it takes to reassure her. Corey and I leave them, but while I am a few steps ahead of Corey I run into my ex and ask him what he is doing in London. He says he is there for work. Corey and I keep walking as the day turns into night. We go into a park and find people sleeping on benches and hilltops. We keep walking and find an open arena where U2 are performing. I tell Corey that real estate outside of the city is not nearly as expensive. I mention Scotland, Wales. He proposes Australia. I tell him I had wanted Australia years ago but no longer. Oh, and there was cake, really delicious cake that I was eating with my fingers . . .

I wake up to the phone ringing . . .

“days decrease,
And autumn grows, autumn in everything” ~ Robert Browning, from “XXV. Andrea del Sarto”

Gustaf Ankarcrona September sun, Leksand 1908
“September Sun, Leksand” (1908)
by Gustaf Ankarcrona

Perhaps if I post things related to Autumn, the air will shift, and the scent of loam will begin to dominate the evenings, and the sky will begin to seem crystalline without the haze of heat. Perhaps.

Here. Have some Longfellow from his work The Blank Book of a Country Schoolmaster (1834-35):

VXII

Emily Carr Autumn in France 1911
“Autumn in France” (1911, oil on board)
by Emily Carr

Magnificent is the Autumn of our fatherland ! By what a subtle alchemy the green leaves are transmuted into gold, as if molten by the fiery blaze of the hot sun ! A magic covering spreads over the whole forest, and brightens into more gorgeous hues. The tree-tops seem bathed with the gold and crimson of an Italian sunset. Here and there a shade of green, here and there a tinge of purple, and a stain of scarlet so deep and rich, that the most cunning artifice of man is pale beside it. A thousand delicate shades melt into each other. They blend fantastically into one deep mass. They spread over the forest like a tapestry woven with a
thousand hues.

Magnificent Autumn ! He comes not like a pilgrim, clad in russet weeds. He comes not like a hermit, clad in gray. But he comes like a warrior, with the stain of blood upon his brazen mail. His crimson scarf is rent. His scarlet banner drips with gore. His step is like a flail upon the threshing floor.

The scene changes.

It is the Indian Summer. The rising sun blazes through the misty air like a conflagration. A yellowish, smoky haze fills the atmosphere ; and

—a filmy mist,
Lies like a silver lining on the sky.

Paul Gauguin By the Stream, Autumn 1885 oil on canvas
“By the Stream, Autumn” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

The wind is soft and low. It wafts to us the odor of forest leaves, that hang wilted on the dripping branches, or drop into the stream. Their gorgeous tints are gone, as if the autumnal rains had washed them out. Orange, yellow, and scarlet, all are changed to one melancholy russet hue. The birds, too, have taken wing, and have left their roofless dwellings. Not the whistle of a robin, not the twitter of an eavesdropping swallow, not the carol of one sweet, familiar voice ! All gone. Only the dismal cawing of a crow, as he sits and curses, that the harvest is over, or the chit-chat of an idle squirrel, the noisy denizen of a hollow tree, the mendicant friar of a large parish, the absolute monarch of a dozen acorns !

Another change.

The wind sweeps through the forest with a sound like the blast of a trumpet. The dry leaves whirl in eddies through the air. A fret-work of hoar-frost covers the plain. The stagnant water in the pools and ditches is frozen into fantastic figures. Nature ceases from her labors, and prepares for the great change. In the low-hanging clouds, the sharp air, like a busy shuttle, weaves her shroud of snow. There is a melancholy and continual roar in the tops of the tall pines, like the roar of a cataract It is the funeral anthem of the dying year.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

                   

Music by J. R. Richards, “Precious Stone”

                   

Music Maybe

Too many elegies elevating sadness
to a kind of sad religion:

one wants in the end just once to befriend
one’s own loneliness,

to make of the ache of inwardness—

something,
music maybe,

or even just believing in it,
and summer,

and the long room alone
where the child

chances on a bee
banging against the glass

like an attack of happiness.

~ Christian Wiman

“from what we cannot hold the stars are made” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Youth”

Joan Snyder Women Make Lists
“Women Make Lists” (nd)
by Joan Snyder

                   

Two for Tuesday: Thinking about getting older

Paul Gauguin two-women-flowered-hair-1902 oil on canvas
“Two Women (Flowered Hair)” (1920, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

Grandmother

old crow of a woman in bonnet, sifting through the dump
salvaging those parts of the world
neither useless nor useful

she would be hours in the sweatlodge
come out naked and brilliant in the sun
steam rising off her body in winter
like slow explosion of horses

she braided my sister’s hair with hands that smelled of deep
roots buried in the earth
she told me old stories

how time never mattered
when she died
they gave me her clock

~ Sherman Alexie

                   

Augustus John Washing Day 1915
“Washing Day” (1915)
by August John

The good old days at home sweet home

On Monday my mother washed.
It was the way of the world,
all those lines of sheets flapping
in the narrow yards of the neighborhood,
the pulleys stretching out second
and third floor windows.

Down in the dank steamy basement,
wash tubs vast and grey, the wringer
sliding between the washer
and each tub. At least every
year she or I caught
a hand in it.

Tuesday my mother ironed.
One iron was the mangle.
She sat at it feeding in towels,
sheets, pillow cases.
The hand ironing began
with my father’s underwear.

She ironed his shorts.
She ironed his socks.
She ironed his undershirts.
Then came the shirts,
a half hour to each, the starch
boiling on the stove.

I forgot bluing. I forgot
the props that held up the line
clattering down. I forgot
chasing the pigeons that shat
on her billowing housedresses.
I forgot clothespins in the teeth.

Tuesday my mother ironed my
father’s underwear. Wednesday
she mended, darned socks on
a wooden egg. Shined shoes.
Thursday she scrubbed floors.
Put down newspapers to keep

them clean. Friday she
vacuumed, dusted, polished,
scraped, waxed, pummeled.
How did you become a feminist
interviewers always ask,
as if to say, when did this

rare virus attack your brain?
It could have been Sunday
when she washed the windows,
Thursday when she burned
the trash, bought groceries
hauling the heavy bags home.

It could have been any day
she did again and again what
time and dust obliterated
at once until stroke broke
her open. I think it was Tuesday
when she ironed my father’s shorts.

~ Marge Piercy

*****

Rest in Peace Gerald D. Fickel (October 6, 1916 – September 14, 2013)

                   

Music by First Aid Kit, “Ghost Town”

When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?” ~ Virginia Woolf

“Lake George, Autumn” (nd)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

                   

“The human heart is a lonely hunter—but the search for us southerners is more anguished . . .” ~ Carson McCullers

Monday afternoon. Overcast and humid, Temperatures creeping back to the 80’s.

Have I ever mentioned how very much I love the author Carson McCullers, so much so that I have always held Carson in reserve as a girl child’s name, not that I ever got to use it. I used to teach Heart is a Lonely Hunter to my American literature classes. It’s a stunning book, so well written and so tragic. The 1968 movie starred Alan Arkin as Singer, a deaf-mute, and a very young Sondra Locke as the teenage girl Mick. The movie is a wonderful adaptation of McCullers’s book, and I would show it to my class after we finished the novel. It’s one of those movies that holds up after time, mostly because of Arkin’s portrayal of Singer.

“The Autumn View from the Balcony” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Yuon

I once read a biography by Virginia Spencer Carr about Carson McCullers called The Lonely Hunter. Born Lula Carson, McCullers preferred her middle moniker and legally changed her name to Carson when she was 30. The biography by was an in-depth look at the life of the troubled writer, who suffered from alcoholism and had rheumatic fever at a young age, which led to a series of strokes. She died in 1967 at the age of 50 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. (I’ve included Charles Bukowski’s poem about the writer, can’t remember if I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth seeing again.)

A contemporary of Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams, McCullers is considered to be a prominent writer in Southern Gothic fiction. In fact, Williams once called her the greatest living writer of our country, if not the world. Her characters suffer from acute loneliness and a feeling of displacement.

Just writing this makes me want to reread the novel and the biography, but that would mean that I would have to find them first.

“We are hurt into beauty.
And you, up in the balcony, rising
to your feet, applauding fiercely, look
down at what your own hands are doing.” ~ Paul Hostovsky, from “The Violence of Violins

Wednesday morning. Cloudy and high 60’s.

I couldn’t finish this post on Monday. Too much happened.

“Hemlock Pool” (aka “Autumn”, 1894, oil on canvas)
by John Henry Twachtman

When I got home from Lex’s, I took Tillie the lab outside to play stick. About half an hour later, she started to have seizures, and this continued for over an hour. I really thought that I was going to lose her. Brett and I did all of the things that you are supposed to do: kept talking to her calmly, kept her cool, even offered her peanut butter, which I’m not sure why this is a thing to do, but apparently it is. I also gave her a sedative, which eventually calmed her.

The entire time, all I could think was that it would kill Corey if Tillie died while he was not at home, and I was overcome with such feelings of guilt.

It was such an ordeal, but we are very lucky that she came out of it okay with no apparent damage. I’ve never had to handle it when she’s had a really bad seizure, let alone multiple ones. I have to say, just for the record, I really, really hate this, all of it, everything. It’s all just too much. I feel spread so thin, and there doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around for everyone.

Truthfully, I want to run and hide. I want to go back to being a hermit. I want to retreat to the days in which I never left the house. If you don’t leave, nothing can happen, right?

“We share all these disappointments of failing
autumn a thousand miles apart. This is where
autumn wind easily plunders courtyard trees,
but the sorrows of distance never scatter away.” ~ Po Chü-i

Corey is due in port sometime tomorrow. Still don’t know if he’s going to get off the ship or finish this hitch. So many different factors, not the least of which is money, but I hate that, hate that our fate is controlled by money. I long for the time in which we no longer owe everyone a piece of us, but I have to wonder if we will ever reach that point? Does anyone really? Another thing that I really hate is that so much of our debt is medical, my medical debt, which just leads me to hating the system, and on and on and one ad infinitum.

“By the Stream, Autumn” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

At the moment, the dogs are all napping peacefully. Outside it’s relatively quiet, and I’m sitting here trying to concentrate on writing, but a million different things are going through my mind: I need to call this person, and I need to make this payment, and I need to take a shower, and should I do a load of laundry, and yes, there are dirty dishes in the kitchen. Last night Brett walked into my bedroom and asked me why I was polishing the furniture at 9 o’clock in the evening. No good answer for that, really.

I have an appointment this afternoon with my prescribing psychiatrist. Is there a drug that acts like the waters of Lethe, inducing forgetfulness? Would that it were possible truly to cast one’s trouble on the winds. I have this sudden mental image of a wet newspaper being beaten about by the wind only to land on my face. Almost comical.

“This is the sadness of the sea—waves like words, all broken—a sameness of lifting and falling mood.” ~ William Carlos Williams, “The Descent of Winter”

I did not post any Kate Daniels poems yesterday. Perhaps I’ll get to it later in the week. Who knows . . .

I do want to thank the newest followers tho commented recently. It’s always nice to hear from new voices. I would promise that this blog isn’t always this depressing, but that might be a stretch. No, not always depressing, I suppose. Sometimes a bit off-kilter, sometimes politically far left of center, sometimes wacky. It depends upon the moon, the barometric pressure, the dogs, the kids, the color of the water in the pool, the number of spider webs . . .

“Autumn Sea VII” (nd)
by Emil Nolde

Anyway, so this morning I awoke from a hellacious nightmare, one that featured a home invasion scenario. In it, I was both brave and cowardly, in one scene confronting the invaders, and in another cowering against the wall beneath a sheet. At one point, the bad people were gathering up the individuals in the room across from mine, and I was saying goodbye, knowing what was in store for them. The graphic designer with whom I used to work at the museum was going to be taken, and I was telling her over and over again how sorry I was for everything.

Now this is the point to all of this: Why do I apologize for things over which I have no control even in my dreams? Where does this come from? I could no more control the behaviors of the villains than I can control the weather, but I felt the need to say that I was so sorry, as if I had somehow willed the situation.

I wonder if I do that in real life . . .   

“Lotuses have withered, they put up no umbrella to the rain;
one branch of chrysanthemum holds out against frost.
Good sights of all the year I’d have you remember,
but especially now, with citrons yellow and tangerines still green.” ~ Su Tung-p’o (trans. by Burton Watson)

Let’s see, what else?

When I was dusting last night, I rearranged my stack of books to read, and I don’t know when that stack got so big. I have, I believe, four books just by Ian Rankin from the Inspector Rebus series. I also have Kafka by the Shore, one that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but never remembered to order. The truth is that I just haven’t been reading much in the past few months.

“Autumn Song” (1905, pastel on paper)
by Victor Borisov-Musatov

My free time (free?) is spent with Olivia, and then my leisure time (is there such a thing?) is spent cramming everything else into a day. I know that at some point I will need to wean myself from the habit of seeing le bébé almost every day, but I have become as dependent as Lex. Yesterday, I just spent time holding her, which really helped to calm me, especially after I got a call from the pain management center saying that they were cancelling my appointment for today because I hadn’t made a payment in a few months. I asked, without really expecting an answer, what I was supposed to do about my left hand. I hung up the phone and just wanted to cry.

Truly, I feel like I have a “kick me” sign on my back that is visible only to others. How pathetic. I do not like being a victim. If I were smart, I would wash this entire post as it is just one big roll in the self-pity pile. But I won’t do that because it goes against my belief that writing anything is better than writing nothing, which is not to say that it’s a particularly good mantra. And besides, I can’t go take a shower because eldest son just jumped in the shower before me, and there won’t be hot water or a while.

My life, so ordinary, so mundane, so tragicomical. Bee-zar. Truly.

More later. Peace.

All autumnal images found on Wiki Paintings.

Music by My Name is You, “Come Back”

                   

Carson McCullers

she died of alcoholism
wrapped in a blanket
on a deck chair
on an ocean
steamer.

all her books of
terrified loneliness

all her books about
the cruelty
of loveless love

were all that was left
of her

as the strolling vacationer
discovered her body

notified the captain

and she was quickly dispatched
to somewhere else
on the ship

as everything
continued just
as
she had written it

~ Charles Bukowski

“Dum spiro, spero” (Latin, ‘While I breathe, I hope’)

“Snow at Montmartre,” by Hippolyte-Camille Delpy (1869, oil on canvas)

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius

Well, the clock is ticking down (not that clocks tick any more), and the end of 2009 is upon us. I have so many things going on in my head, so many thoughts about this past year that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, so I thought that I would begin with the following quote by Frederick Buechner as it seems so appropriate:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”

I imagine that many of you out there are thinking about this past year and the new year that is only hours away. For our family, 2009 has been a year of extremes. The things that have happened have all been intense and for the most part, not positive. I lost a favorite uncle and an aunt who had been like a grandmother to me. Corey spent another year without being able to find a job, but not for lack of trying. Eamonn graduated from high school and seemed to become even more distant emotionally. Brett had a very rough year in the beginning, but it has seemed to get better for him. Alexis, too, has had a hard year, and I’m not sure exactly what changes she needs to make so that she can find some happiness.

"Rooftops Under Snow," Gustave Caillebotte (1878, oil on canvas)

Our financial situation is no better, and after Corey’s unemployment ran out in September, things got much worse. We are still renegotiating the mortgage, and don’t know when to expect any word, especially since they have lost the paperwork twice. I am on my third appeal to the Social Security administration regarding my disability.

My other mother-in-law, Yvonne, seems to be getting much worse with her Parkinson’s disease, and my other father-in-law was admitted to ICU two days ago with pneumonia. My mother took a tumble down the stairs right before Christmas, but she seems to be doing better. Watching those you love age before your eyes is more painful that I ever could have anticipated.

Friends have fallen by the wayside. I don’t hear much from Jammi, and Rebecca has a new man in her life, so I haven’t heard from her in ages. Mari is still living in Massachusetts, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her again. My friend Sarah has been going through terrible times with her own family. I don’t remember the last time I actually spoke with Kathleen.

Tillie had a couple of seizures, a new development. Alfie escaped from the yard and was picked up by Animal Control. As a result, he had to spend the night in doggie jail, but we were glad that he was safe. Shakes developed some kind of skin rash that makes him chew at himself all of the time, but otherwise, he is still fat and happy.

Corey’s truck died this past summer, and we know that it needs a new transmission. The Trooper died on the side of a mountain on the way to Ohio in July. We still don’t have the gas turned back on, and our credit rating is completely in the toilet.

“And if you ask me whether I regret starting out
my voice rises like flocks of finches at dawn
and blows across the deep blue sky.” ~ from St. Nadie In Winter by Terrance Keenan

"Morning Light," Walter Elmer Schofield (1922, oil on canvas)

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad. Corey’s parents really came through for us this past year. They supplied us with a Ford Windstar van and paid for repairs. They have sent us money for gas and supplied us with food from Angel Food Ministries. Corey’s brothers rescued us when the Trooper broke down in Maryland, drove six hours one-way to get us, and then drove us back to Lima with the Trooper in tow. Their generosity has been overwhelming and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal year.

Kindness has come from unexpected places, as well. Sarah’s church donated some gift cards and a bit of cash, which came at a moment when we really needed it. My mother helped out as much as she was able.

Alexis did manage to find a job after being out of work for quite a while. Eamonn did manage to graduate even after missing way too many days of school and was accepted to the local community college. Brett did survive his junior of high school even though his mental state was precarious. Corey and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. In other words, we all had our personal victories, some smaller than others, others more significant.

But probably one of the best sources of support has been from the readers of my blog, who write me constantly, support me, and help me to keep things in perspective.

So it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, far from it. Sometimes, it takes putting things down on paper (screens) to be able to weigh the past more accurately, assess issues more clearly.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot

So that leaves 2010. Wow. It’s weird just typing that number. I remember in 1999 being completely overwhelmed at the thought of a new century, a new millenium. I never thought that the end of the world was going to come or even that my computer was going to explode. But 2000 seemed like such a milestone.

"Winter Twilight Along Central Park," Paul Cornoyer (1900, oil on canvas)

I rang in that new year on a friend’s boat, docked in the harbor of downtown Norfolk. There was a whole group of us who were celebrating together, and I had a great time because I parked my car in the garage, left it, and slept on the boat. We watched the fireworks, which were more amazing than any I had ever seen, and I went to sleep wondering what 2000 would bring.

Well, 2000 brought me Corey at a time when I was looking for no one. It brought me a change in jobs, also something for which I was not looking but should have been seeking. It was a year of many, many changes, and the past decade has brought more changes than I can possibly list.

Honestly, though, I have a good feeling about 2010. I’m not sure why, and if you pressed me, I couldn’t substantiate it with anything more than a feeling in my gut. I mean, our luck has been so bad for so long that we must be due for a change. If Karma works in the way in which it is supposed to, then our family should be about to move into a new, more peaceful, less tumultuous period. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

I feel re-energized about my writing. Eamonn is about to begin college. Brett is entering the second half of his senior year. Alexis, well, I don’t know what changes are in store for her, but I hope that they are good. And Corey? Well, his new job was supposed to start at the beginning of the new year, but his last conversation with the man from Van Brothers was a bit more vague, as in sometime in February. But we’re not giving up hope.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde Hope.

"Garden Under Snow," Paul Gauguin (1879, oil on canvas)

Hope—that small word that carries within it so much weight. Hope helps to bring the soldier through the battle. Hope wends its way through the heart looking for love. Hope is the wisp of smoke that eludes the individual keeping watch over a loved one who is gravely ill. Hope is the reflection of the stars in the night sky when everything seems without light. Hope is the sound of the wind and the rain, the birds and the ocean, affirming that life does indeed go on beyond the realm of our lives. Hope is the northern star that guides us when the path is unclear, and the anchor for our ships when we feel adrift at sea.

It would be so easy to give up, to say no more. It would be a relief not to fight against the machinations of the bureaucracies that threaten to overpower us. It would be less taxing to just sit back and say whatever, do your worst. And I admit that there have been times when these options have floated through my mind. But I do not succumb. I have a good man who loves me, cherishes me, respects me. I have three tremendously talented, intelligent children who are just beginning to find their way in the world. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. And I have the love and support of family and friends who never let me forget just how much they care.

Whatever 2010 decides to throw my way, I will face it, whether or not I am ready, whether or not I feel able, whether or not I feel beaten down. I have no choice because hope does not abandon the individual, rather, the individual who abandons hope gives in to hope’s fouler relative—despair. And my friends, I refuse to give in to despair.

May you stay safe on this New Year’s Eve. Remember to be smart out there because not everyone else will be. My very best to you and yours for a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

More later. Peace.

From “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou

. . . Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

“Same Old Lang Syne,” by the late, greatly underrated Dan Fogelberg . . .