“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.” ~ Norman MacLean

  

           

“Many a time have I merely closed my eyes at the end of yet another troublesome day and soaked my bruised psyche in wild water, rivers remembered and rivers imagined. Rivers course through my dreams, rivers cold and fast, rivers well-known and rivers nameless, rivers that seem like ribbons of blue water twisting through wide valleys, narrow rivers folded in layers of darkening shadows, rivers that have eroded down deep into the mountain’s belly, sculpted the land, peeled back the planet’s history exposing the texture of time itself.” ~ Harry Middleton
Currituck Sound, NC

Sounds of soft rain outside the window, punctuated occasionally by quiet birdsong. Much cooler temperatures. The perfect day to read a book . . . or perhaps not. 

I have been thinking about water—rivers, lakes, oceans. I was reading Janson’s blog today, and he was talking about his affinity for the Atlantic Ocean, how it is so much a part of him. I can relate to that. The Atlantic is my ocean. I have lived on both sides of it. I have seen its brown-green hues to the north and its amazing blues to the south. I have swum in it, floated in it, dived beneath its waves, and traversed it in different crafts. 

I have sat on the shoreline and let the waves roll over my feet, tickled by the froth of receding water. I have watched fiddler crabs scurry away from the waves, and open-beaked pelicans dip below its surface to catch food. 

No matter where I go, I always feel that I am home when I exit the Hampton Tunnel and see the Chesapeake Bay spreading out before me. No other air smells like sea air; no other air feels like the salt-infused spray of sea air. 

“Rivers are magnets for the imagination, for conscious pondering and subconscious dreams, thrills, fears. People stare into the moving water, captivated, as they are when gazing into a fire. What is it that draws and holds us? The rivers’ reflections of our lives and experiences are endless.” ~ Tim Palmer
Dark Hollow Falls, Skyline Drive, Virginia

It is no coincidence that when I choose to go somewhere for vacation, it is almost always to a destination that is near water. Even in the foothills of Virginia, I can get the two things I love to see the most: water and mountains. Peaks of Otter in Bedford, Virginia overlooks Abbott Lake. This mountain retreat is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Guests can sit on their porches at sunset and look out on the beauty of the lake and the surrounding mountains. 

When we go to Skyline Drive, I love most those paths that lead to water, like Dark Hollow Falls, a small natural waterfall. Chincoteague is an island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where Corey and I have spent a few long weekends. A short drive to the south is the Outer Banks, a favorite day-trip to see the dunes of Kitty Hawk where hang gliders try their skills. 

I know that I get my love of the water from my father, whose hometown in the Philippines bordered on a powerful river. My mother is terrified of the water and cannot abide boats. Yet one more way in which they were opposites. 

My father taught me to swim in the Chesapeake Bay. My mother would always worry that I would fall into a sinkhole and drown, which actually does happen. 

But it’s more than just bodies of water. I love rainstorms, thunderstorms. One of my favorite memories of my father was sitting on my parents’ back porch with my dad, both of us silent, just watching the lightning and listening to the rain and thunder.  There is something mystical and magical about water. It holds the power to create and the power to destroy. It nurtures, and it kills. 

“But I also know that in places, the river still runs deep, and though I’ve floated it in these places, it hasn’t revealed itself in such obvious ways. I know that it might be months—years, even—before I understand what it has to teach me. I still need to give myself over to the flow and pattern and rhythm of it to learn its lessons and hear its messages. The river is inside me now, I know, and I need only wait and see where the current takes me, and what lies beneath it.” ~ Jeff Wallach
Mountain Swimming Hole Similar to St. Mary's

I know that I’ve mentioned diving naked into a deep pool of mountain water while hiking on St. Mary’s trail near Steele’s Tavern, Virginia. It was probably one of the most sensuous moments of my life—sensuous, not sensual. All of my senses were heightened: the feel of the cool, clear water on my skin, the way that mountain water has a smell like no other water. It was like being bathed in the water of life. I mean, who knows how old that body of water actually is, when it was formed. 

Water is timeless, which is what is meant by the saying that you can never step into the exact same body of water in the same way because the water has moved, shifted, traveled, and so have you. Neither is the same as at the first meeting. Still, water never seems to forget those who are at home in it. Slipping into a pool of water is completely natural to me; for me, there is nothing to fear. 

The human body is between 55 to 78 percent water. Almost 71 percent of the earth is covered by water. The human brain is 70 percent water, and the lungs are almost 90 percent water. 

Water of life. Water is life. The two are inextricably intertwined. 

“No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath . . .We get one story, you and I, and one story alone.” ~ Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts
Cascades, Virginia

Water has been the source of inspiration for writers, painters, and poets since time began. Claude Monet devoted years of his life to the water and water lilies surrounding his home in Giverny. His water lilies paintings ranged from small to room-sized. The hues and shading in this series are so deep and luminous that it is not hard to imagine seeing what Monet saw. 

Water is infused into every part of our lives: songs (“Cry Me a River”), books (Peace Like a River), poems (“At Blackwater Pond”), movies (Titanic). One of the books that I used to teach in my literature classes was Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. It’s a lovely little book about one woman, Edna Pontellier, and her gradual awakening to life and its possibilities. Throughout the book, Edna undergoes a series of encounters with water that leave her both enervated and rejuvenated. Water and Edna’s relationship to it is the primary liet motif of the novel. 

In one of my favorite movies and books, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, the two main characters are destroyed by their all-consuming love. Katherine dies in the desert, but in the last lines that she writes, Katherine speaks of life and death in terms of the senses: “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.” 

That description has stayed with me for years. The people who have come into and left our lives throughout the years are like rivers of wisdom, each of them teaching us something, not necessarily something we wanted to learn or to face, but some piece of knowledge nevertheless. We swim through the waters of our own experiences, each day, each month, each year, moving with the flow of time, not smoothly but like water over rocks. A force that cannot be stopped.  

“I am one of the searchers . . . We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know—unless it be to share our laughter.” ~ James Kavanaugh 
 
 

Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay 

In my life, I have walked beside many waters, tasted the brine and the sweetness. I have sailed atop the water in small 16-foot sailboats and aboard huge ships. I have dived in fearlessly, and I have stood back, content to watch the ebb and flow of the water in its endless movement.  I have decided that when I die, I want to be cremated and to have half of my ashes spread on the Atlantic Ocean, and the other half spread on the foothills of Virginia, the places I have loved the most. 

I do not desire to be planted in the earth, to take up space in some container. I wish to return to the soul of the earth, to the very hollow of existence, to become part of the ever-changing beauty, the evolving mysteries, the eternal rhythm that is the essence of nature, this life, this world. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Great Lake Swimmers, “Mariner’s Song” 

                                                                                                          
At Blackwater Pond
  
At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
 
~ Mary Oliver

  

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” ~ Albert Einstein

Lake scene 

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” ~ Albert Einstein 

“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” ~ Albert Einstein

It has been overcast here for days, which is not exactly helping my spirits. On days like today, I wish that I were at Peaks of Otter, sitting by the lake, looking out across the mountains, sipping a cup of tea as the day moves into the gloaming. Ah well, another day.

Cluttered Office Desk
My Last Office Desk at GWU

I’m sitting here at my desk, and to the left of me, there is a stack of papers about eight inches high on my printer. I’ve just grabbed everything that was scattered across my desk and moved it to the left.  Of course, if I were to be completely truthful, I would have to admit that I have always had a cluttered desk, in every job that I have ever had. In fact, someone once bought me a desk sign that read “A Cluttered Desk is a Sign of Genius.” I wish that I knew what happened to that sign, probably lost in some clutter . . . But this is not clutter: This is mess.

To the right of my chair is the stack of shoes that I commented about last night. I’m still pondering them. To the right of the shoes are two baskets of clean clothes that Alfie has been nesting in, thereby making the top layer no longer clean and in need of a rewash. Behind the two baskets of clothes are things. I can’t be more specific because I cannot get behind the two baskets without killing myself by falling. I see a cardboard box, some bubble wrap, a bag from Target, a belt, and a shoe (which probably belongs to the pile by my feet).

Why such disarray? I don’t know about you people, but when I’m sick, as in bedridden sick, I simply cannot be bothered with the minutiae of hangers, closets, and file folders. Granted, even at the best of times, I have become very lax about such things, but the current situation has reached new heights in combustible clutter.

An upcoming trip to Ohio necessitates that I make my way through the clutter to find presents for Corey’s mom and dad that never made it into the mail. Don’t ask me when these presents were purchased because I really don’t remember. I only know that they are inside the right side of my closet, which is currently completely cutoff from human accessibility.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein 

csi-gil-grissom
"I don't know what it is. We found it under a two-foot pile of shoes."

Now this is the bizarre way in which my mind works: What if something happened to me, say I died in my sleep or choked on a cashew, and the crime scene techs had to go through my bedroom?

I would be mortified. Of course, I would be dead, so I couldn’t actually be mortified, but I know that I’m too damned nosey to leave immediately, so I’d be hanging around in some non-corporeal form looking down at the strangers in my bedroom who would be commenting on how messy and cluttered my house is.

Just imagine for a moment:

CSI Tech 1: Omigawd. Something truly horrible must have happened in this room.

CSI Tech 2: You think?

CSI Tech 1: Well just look. Everything is torn apart, clothes everywhere, shoes! Shoes and more shoes! Do you think she may have been killed by these stilletos?

CSI Tech 2: I’m not sure. But that’s not blood. That’s red nail polish.

CSI Tech 1: I think I found something here, under this pile of jeans. It looks like a leg.

CSI Tech 2: Dear god. She was killed by denim. But it will take weeks to determine which pair of jeans actually smothered her.

CSI Tech 1: You’re forgetting the stuffed animals. It looks like they made a run for it, and she may have been caught in the stampede.

CSI Tech 2: This is definitely one for the record books: Death by denim and a large stuffed black bear. Poor woman.

CSI Tech 1: But why is she grinning?

I have actually had this conversation with Corey:

Me: If there were ever a crime committed in this house, the CSI techs would never be able to find any evidence, and they would think that I’m a really bad housekeeper.

Corey: You’d be dead. It wouldn’t matter.

Trust me when I tell you that this is not the first time that I have used that scenario as a motivator to clean my bedroom. But it is rather sad, isn’t it, that I resort to non-existent crime scene techs entering my home to make myself clean up some of the clutter?

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ~ Albert Einstein 

I comfort myself with the fact that at some point, Corey will be able to go back to work, and my bedroom will get painted, and I will be able to move the new bedroom furniture into the bedroom and out of the living room, thereby creating more drawer space for the clothes that are currently in baskets on the floor.

Truth be told, drawer and closet space does actually exist for these clothes, but it is at a premium. I long for the day when this house will finally be finished, as in, all of the renovations have been done, and then we can put it on the market and buy a home into which we can actually fit.

This was a great starter home: a three bedroom, one-bath brick ranch with a small eat-in kitchen and a nice lot. Three kids and several dogs later, the attraction has dimmed considerably, although, I still love the fact that it’s a real brick home with a yard that’s big enough so that we don’t see into our neighbor’s bedroom.

New-housing-development-774279When I was working for the real estate firm as a marketing director, I couldn’t get over the way new homes were built: brick fronts, siding around the rest, almost abutting the homes next door. Yards were non-existent.  These homes always looked unfinished somehow. And to upgrade to all brick usually meant a hefty premium of somewhere around $40k. Blew my mind, but then I got used to these new versions of the American dream and the incredibly high asking prices that people were fighting to pay.

Now, as we come out of the eastbound Hampton Tunnel, a huge billboard advertises a homesite that was initially being marketed as upscale condos in a pristine environment. The asking price for the smallest units was about $425k when the company first began to take reservations. The prices went as high as $1.2 million, depending upon view, size, etc. The billboard is advertising the units from $350k, which means that a bunch of people lost their shirts on this premium property.

I am so glad that I’m no longer trying to market new homes in this economy. I imagine that it would be tantamount to trying to sell dead people dirt, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I have no idea how much our own home’s value has decreased, but in this particular neighborhood of old brick ranches with the same basic layout, I don’t imagine that it has dropped that much. After all, our neighborhood isn’t considered up and coming, as it were.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein 

Have no idea how I even got onto that subject. Moving along . . .

I could have started on the piles of clothes before sitting down to write, but somehow, that didn’t seem quite as appealing. I mean, use my energy to clean? Use my energy to write? Writing wins, hands down. I’ll find my brown bra later. Not going anywhere.

So I’ve also been thinking about that long post that I lost that began my tailspin into non-productivity, which, of course, was coupled with my recent bout of illness. Upon reflection, I’m kind of glad that the post didn’t make it  onto my blog. I had spent a great deal of energy and emotion taking to task someone who had made a horribly vitriolic comment on another blog. The writer’s comment truly upset me and had me feeling dirty all over, if that makes any sense.

he man woman haters club b&wIt was the kind of comment that was so full of hatred and venom, that just the reading of it left me feeling as if I had been accosted. I penned a long, thoughtful response to this person’s comment as I believed that I needed to respond, not in kind, but with logic and facts.

And then the entire post disappeared, which has happened to me two other times. But this time, I’m glad that it disappeared because I’ve had some time to think about the situation, and I realize that by giving a forum to such bile, I was only allowing the writer to continue to have an effect on me. I realize that I tend to do that—dwell on the negative.

For example, when I used to teach at ODU and end of the semester student evaluations came in, I would always dwell on the one or two negative ones, rather than savoring the positive ones. But when I left teaching, it was the folder full of positive comments, cards, and letters from students thanking me that I took with me, so I suppose that I do eventually let go of the negative. It just takes too much time.

But getting back to the blog comment, I’m pretty happy with myself for letting it go now. That’s a good thing. Granted, I hadn’t planned to let it go, but fate stepped in, and obliterated that righteous indignation with which I often find myself coasting along. Of course, that’s not to say that I won’t want to strike back again at some time in the future because I probably will. My righteous indignation at social injustices, political deception, pretentious moral superiority, to name but a few, is not going to fade away. I would not be the person that I am if I did not stand up for that in which I believe.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

Yet sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor, or at least, the road best taken. If I had posted my response, I would have been allowing an individual to continue to hold sway on my emotions, and trust me when I say that this particular individual did not deserve such power.

So, for now, I will wax about nothing in particular until the next time my ire is affronted. And maybe I’ll even put away the clean laundry so that I can get a clear path to my closet. Or perhaps, I’ll just watch NCIS or CSI, drink some tea, and ponder more of life’s minutiae.

More later. Peace.

Photographs as Amaranthine Tranche de Vie

 limda-river-film-grain3

 Ottawa River, Ohio (with film grain effect), L. Liwag

 Through My Lens Cap

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”  ~ Dorothea Lange

Quite accidentally, I stumbled upon a gem of a site today: “The Absolutely Innovative Photography of Glenn Losack” (click this link to go to the site: http://www.glennlosackmd.com/-/glennlosackmd/default.asp).  Dr. Losack’s photographs have appeared in National Geographic, and it’s easy to see why. His images are amazing and moving. I would include one here, but they are copyrighted, so if you have an interest in really amazing photography, visit his site. He manages to capture emotion and pain in his subjects’ eyes without being exploitative.

bw-cemetery-cropped1
Old Cemetery, L. Liwag

Just as with the piano, I have never considered myself to be an artist with the camera. However, I do think that I’m a better photographer than piano player. I find things with my lens that I never found with the keyboard. I do own a digital camera now, a very nice one, but I still have the 35mm camera that I obtained while working at the newspaper years ago. It needs a new spring, but I have no intentions of letting go of this cherished possession. I have taken some of my favorite photos with it. I also have my father’s old 35mm camera. It too needs some TLC, but I have kept it.

My father shared my love of photography. He used to buy used cameras from pawn shops and have them cleaned. The same with a lens. He had an ability to find a good lens at a pawn shop, and get a great deal on it. I think that it was because of his accent. The people in the pawn shop used to think that he didn’t have any idea what he was doing, and they would try to sell him crap, and then he would surprise them by pointing to the classic Konica or Pentax and looking it over with a jeweler’s glass. No fool, my father.

Unfortunately, I have never had enough room in my house for my own darkroom, but there is a very good local developer here.  One day, if I get a big old house in the mountains, I’ll have a dark room in the basement. I’ll have to reteach myself how to develop, but that will be a good thing.

Like many creative things in my life, I don’t shoot much black and white film any more. When I was younger, I never went anywhere without a camera, just in case I came across something worth shooting. Then when the children were born, it became more about taking family pictures. I would still go out once in a while, just me and my camera and shoot a couple of rolls of film.

“Your photography is a record of your living.” ~ Paul Strand

cropped-snow-day
Snowfall on Firewood, L. Liwag

If you’ve never seen the foothills of Virginia, you should. Granted, they aren’t like the Colorado Rockies, but they have a beauty all their own. Skyline Drive was created as one of Roosevelt’s WPA projects. Skyline Drive is 105 miles long if you drive the whole thing; it runs through Shenandoah National Park through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We usually get on at Rockfish Gap in the south, which is just past Charlottesville. The speed limit is only 35 miles an hour because the whole point is to take your time and see the sites. There are 75 scenic overlooks, some much better than others, and if you begin the drive in the early morning, you’ll see lots of natural wildlife, everything from deer to bobcats. At some point about two thirds on the drive, I think, is a man made tunnel, cut through the rock, very cool. If you go all the way to the end of Skyline Drive, you’ll end up in Front Royal, which is closer to Northern Virginia.

At Rockfish Gap, you can also get on the Blue Ridge Parkway if you turn right instead of left. But again, driving on either of these roads is dependent upon weather. It can be treacherous if there is snow and impossible if there is ice. The best time to do Skyline Drive is during the fall when the leaves are turning, and then you can stay at the Skyland Lodge, which is still open. The lodge closes at the end of November. If you go on the Blue Ridge Parkway, there is a beautiful place to stay called Peaks of Otter which is on a lake, and there are also hiking trails. We went there when I was pregnant with Brett, so I wasn’t able to do much hiking, but sitting out by the lake in the early morning, watching the mist on the lake was incredible.

I really miss our annual trips to the mountains, for many reasons, not the least of which is the film that I brought home with me. I’m hoping that once I get this whole back situation straightened out or at least made better, I will at least be able to do day hikes. I know that Tillie the Labrador will enjoy that. And now that the price of gasoline has become reasonable again, a trip to the mountains might be feasible next year. I suppose I had better get to work on the old 35mm cameras. My Dad would not appreciate the disrepair into which I have let them fall.

And like my feelings about older cameras, my feelings about photography tend  to fall in line with those of the originators of the medium:

 “Photography is not documentary, but intuition, a poetic experience”

~ Henri Cartier Bresson

 More later. Peace.