“I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness.” ~ Angela Carter, from “The Lady of the House of Love”

411211-12
Winter Landscape (no title, no date)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

                    

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” ~ Lawrence Durrell, from Justine

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy, and much warmer, 62 degrees.

I have been so cold for days now; thankfully the temperatures today are milder, but a cold front is expected to move through the area soon.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown winter landscape
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Let’s see, things have been taxing. On Friday, I was driving to my much-needed doctor’s appointment with the pain management group when the Rodeo overheated. I drove just a little bit more after the gauge shot up, and I was in the turn lane to get off the main boulevard when the car just died. I added water/coolant to the overflow and put the hood up. Of course it was the coldest day of winter so far, absolutely frigid temps. I’m glad that I rethought my outerwear when leaving the house and exchanged a long sweater for a wool coat and gloves. The only smart thing I did that day.

Would you believe that even with the hood up and the emergency flashers on, people still beeped their horns at me? People are completely stupid sometimes. And the only person who offered to help was a woman, and I politely thanked her, but truthfully, I needed someone to give me a push off the boulevard. Finally a cop showed up, and he pushed me off and into a parking lot, but I had to get out and help him push it into a space so that it wouldn’t roll backwards. Not the best thing for my back, undoubtedly. And of course while I was sitting there I became overwhelmed and texted Corey; I’m sure I worried him by asking him to call me asap.

Add to this that Corey’s check was supposed to show up in the mail on Friday, and it didn’t, so I have a broken vehicle and no money.

Perfect.

“Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
. . . Here is unfenced existence;
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

My doctor’s office was very understanding, though. I had called when the car stopped and told them that I was only a few minutes away. They said they would hold the appointment, but then when it was obvious that I wasn’t moving, they offered me a slot on Monday. I suppose I’ll have to drive Brett’s car on Monday, you know, the Honda that he still hasn’t registered. It’s legal to switch plates temporarily in Virginia in situations like this, though.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

The other wonderful news I got this week was that Corey will indeed not be home until after the 16th of January. Because he has the necessary license, they are keeping him on the ship until it gets back in port in Louisiana, and they are not leaving Nicaragua until January 10th because of some port inspection. Further, they are talking about putting him in for his remaining training immediately after he gets back in port, so he may not be home until right before my birthday on the 23rd.

I have to tell you that this was most unwelcome news. I found this out on New Year’s Eve, of all times, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I had been alone in the house for days as Brett was out and about, and then I was hit with this. I had never felt so all alone as I did that night, even though I had Olivia with me.

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.” ~ Toni Morrison, from Beloved

I mean, I know that Corey isn’t happy about the change, but we really don’t have a choice in this. The company needs him for this, and he isn’t exactly in a position to say no. We both know that it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean that we like it. He sent me a text later to try to cheer me up, and for his sake, I am trying very hard not to be transparent about my sadness.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Winter gouache on cardboard
“Winter” (nd, gouache on cardboard)
by Stepan Kolesnikof

I will admit though that I was brought to tears after hanging up the phone. Here I was on New Year’s Eve, just me, the dogs, and a sleeping baby. Outside, all kinds of celebrations were going on, and people were setting off fireworks in the park. It wasn’t that I wanted to be out in the midst of the celebrations, but more that the celebrations were just a painful reminder of my solitude. The noise made the dogs restless, which only added to my own feelings of restlessness and loneliness.

I am glad that I had Olivia for the night, though, as she provided a much-needed distraction from my pity party. On New Year’s day I made her a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast as she is exploring finger foods, and tried to find comfort in her smile, which is not hard to do.

“If you want to become more than a shadow
Among shadows, you must carry back the memory
Of your father disintegrating in your arms,You must bring words that will console others,
You must believe in stairs leading upward
To summer’s resplendent, celestial blues.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Sortes Virgilianae (The Fortuneteller’s Words to the Poet)”

So there’s Corey, and there is the Rodeo, and then there is my mother. My mom has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning as a follow-up to her hospitalization. It’s a check-up, and they aren’t doing any procedures, but she had wanted me to take here, which wasn’t a problem until my rescheduled appointment also fell on Monday late morning.

I had called Alexis to see if she might be able to take mom to the appointment so that I could go to mine, but Alexis didn’t seem that willing to help. I know that she’s kind of caught as she has no drivable car at the moment (runs in the family), but she could take my mother’s car. Anyway, I told my mom that one of use would take her to the doctor.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Derevya aka Trees
“Derevya” (Trees, nd)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Now get this—I had told mom about my vehicle and about my rescheduled appointment, and she had no issue with me taking her and then rushing to get to my appointment, but when I mentioned bringing Alexis into the mix, suddenly my mother is fine in going to the appointment on her own so as not to inconvenience Alexis.

Am I being prickly because I find that bizarre? It’s okay if I rush around to take her and try to fit my appointment in, but not so much for my daughter?

Geez.

Of course I feel guilty because . . . whatever . . . guilt is my middle name.

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.” ~ Derrick Jensen, from A Language Older Than Words

Add to this that Corey has asked me to keep the tree up until he gets home. That’s not an issue because it is a fake tree. What is an issue is that my house is cluttered with Christmas decorations, and I’m starting to feel antsy, as in I need to get things back in order. I had Brett take down the outside lights, and I think that this week I’ll take down most of the decorations but leave the tree for him.

This Wednesday we’re going to go ahead and open most of the kids’ presents, rather than have them wait another three weeks. Brett says he doesn’t mind waiting, but I’m leaving it up to Eamonn and Alexis as to what they want to open now. Corey said to leave it up to the kids as to what they want to do. I know that Brett doesn’t feel like celebrating without Corey, and neither do I. Lex and Eamonn are different—not a criticism, just an observation.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Wolf in a Winter Landscape tempera on paper
“Wolf in a Winter Landscape” (nd, tempera on paper)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

And have I mentioned the ongoing migraine?

So once again I find myself physically hurting and emotionally bereft. I know I wouldn’t have made it as a Navy wife, those six-month long cruises? Never. That’s why I never dated a sailor. It has to be hard on everyone in the family, but they get through, and so will I. I need to stop being so damned pitiful and try to pull myself together. Yep. Going to work on that. Meanwhile, I’ll order some more makeup.

Geez, Louise. Where did that saying come from, I wonder . . .

Oh well, I need to do some laundry and dishes and other exciting things, but I am going to try to read another book this evening, try to get back into my reading groove.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Russian artist Stepan Fedorovich Kolesnikoff (1879 — 1955), also known as Stepan Kolesnikov. It was hard to find titles and dates for most of the works I wanted to include. If you know of any, please pass along the information. Thanks.

Music by Wilco, “Far, Far Away”

                   

Drink

When I woke up this morning
the lark was full of tears.
White, bright hail was frying
on the grass.
Now up against the wire
the falcon wrecks the hen
and carries her gray heart
over the redwoods while the new
sun burns on the former rain.
Crossed by her shadow, my hand
cupped beneath the spigot,
I am drinking last year’s snow.
How bad it hurts
that the mountains ascend
to their ghost-deals white
with the wine of next summer.

~ Denis Johnson

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“Many many deep thoughts have visited me. And fled. The pen puts salt on their tails; they see the shadow and fly. Life ideas—that’s a bit thick. We’ve exchanged the clever for the simple. The simple envy us our life.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 29 November 1940

Federica Galli 1996 Pian delle Betulle acquaforte su zinco
“Pian delle Betulle” (1996, etching on zinc)
by Federica Galli

                   

“And that time, once so speedy and impatient, is now extremely slow in passing in certain hours of the afternoon, especially at the onset of winter, after the equinox when evening falls treacherously and the lights you weren’t expecting are switched on in the village . . .” ~ Antonio Tabucchi

Saturday, early evening. Rainy and cold, 38 degrees.

I’m baaaaack . . . Did you miss me?

So snow is in the forecast around here. Yesterday it was 60 degrees and beautiful. Of course it’s going to snow. What else would it do here? Secretly, Tillie and I are hoping for snow so that she can go galumphing, and I can take some pictures.

Federica Galli, Cascina Belluria, 1985, etching on zinc
“Cascina Bellaria” (1985, etching on zinc)
by Federica Galli

I know that I copped out this past week, but truly, I just couldn’t do it. I hope that I gave you a few chuckles and a bit of food for thought in my interim posts. I don’t know if I had a mild case of the flu (I did get my flu shot this year), or if it was an episode of fibromyalgia, but I was completely out of it, stuck in bed, no energy, alternating between chills and being too warm, an overall ague (love that word). Anyway, I’m on the mend, as if Brett, who was prescribed Tamiflu, and Corey and Eamonn seem to have escaped.

Speaking of Corey, he won’t be leaving until the end of the month. Apparently, the ship blew something (water pump?) while they were in the Azores, and now everything has been bumped by a couple of weeks. I’m mostly glad because we get to keep Corey a bit longer, but I had already gotten myself mentally prepared for him to leave, so now I need to adjust my thinking. Corey is bummed because he was ready and had set up the finances for the six weeks that he would be gone; now he has to adjust all of those scheduled payments.

Can’t win for losing, I suppose.

“Look / maybe this is the place we’ve been /
waiting for, maybe this place / is the day, inside us, inside each /
corpuscle, the day, that day, everyday is / inside, my body, your body,
everyday is / this thread” ~ Nick Flynn, from “Haiku (Failed)”

Yesterday I had an appointment with the neurologist in the new pain management group. I had told Corey pre-appointment that if this doctor wasn’t any different from the last one I saw in December, that I would have to find a new practice because I was very underwhelmed by doctor a who did nothing more than prescribe things.

Federica Galli 1981 Lanca Gelata, acquaforte su zinco
“Lanca Gelata” (Frozen Oxbow) (1982, engraving on zinc)
by Federica Galli

Turns out doctor b is wonderful, truly wonderful, and I am so glad. I finally have someone who will pay attention to all parts of the equation, who has come up with a plan of action to change my treatment. And most wonderful of all is that he consulted with me instead of talking at me, which is, as you probably already know, a rarity for a physician.

He is tackling my combined chronic pain and migraines in an aggressive way, and I have Botox injections for my migraines scheduled for March. Best of all, I never have to back to doctor a, who had foisted me off on his partners, which means that I never have to go back to the Portsmouth office, another thing for which I am grateful. I really couldn’t tell you just why I am so anti-Portsmouth except that it’s kind of a local thing, which is stupid, so I don’t really have a reason other than I really hate to go through the Portsmouth tunnels (either one) because they are sooo narrow and dark, and my claustrophobia really kicks in.

“Life is the farce we all have to lead.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud

I sat down to write hours ago, but then became distracted in trying to find attributions for my images, which are all by Italian artist Federica Galli, who died in 2009. I was able to find lost of images of her work, but very few had titles or years of creation, both of which I like to include whenever I insert works of art with my posts.

Anyway, hours later, I finally found the information on all of the images that I had chosen, but had found that I had sort of run out of steam, so I decided to have a hot shower and a cup of tea and then to try again. So shower, tea, biscotti (110 calories), not back again. Since I haven’t written anything in several days, I thought that I’d add some random observations from the past few weeks.

Federica Galli il giardino della Villa Reale a Monza 1996-7
“Il Giardino della Villa Reale a Monza” (Garden of the Reale Villa in Monza) (1996-7, etching on zinc)
by Federica Galli

Here they are:

  • Are there actually people out there who still listen to what Dick Cheney has to say? Why?
  • RNC Chair Reince Priebus (what kind of name is that) thinks that Republicans just need to smile more when delivering their message, which he does not believe needs to be changed. Smile? Really? This will fix what ails you?
  • Convicted pedophile and self-proclaimed prophet of the LDS Warren Jeffs just looks like a pedophile, know what I mean?
  • The pope is resigning. Conspiracy buffs proceed to salivate.
  • The people on the ill-fated cruise ship that lost power deserve a lot more than $500 after being given red bags in which to, er, empty their bodily waste. The embarrassment alone is worth at least $1,000.
  • No one remembers what Marco Rubio said in his SoU rebuttal because of the whole sweating thing.
  • The minimum wage should be raised. If you disagree, try to live on $9 an hour for one month, and then get back to me.

“So many things I had thought forgotten
Return to my mind with strange pain:
—Like letters that arrived addressed to someone
Who left the house so many years ago.” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Why Did I Dream of You Last Night”

I’ve decided once again that Valentine’s Day is a stupid holiday, and I kind of wish that I hadn’t bought everyone cards.

Life is too short . . .

  • to drink cheap coffee

    Federica Galli 1996 albero gelato al pian delle betulle
    “Albero Gelato al Piano delle Betulle” (1996, etching on zinc)
    by Federica Galli
  • not to enjoy good chocolate
  • not to have at least five types of tea on the shelf at any given time
  • to wait for the right time to see other parts of the world
  • to hate your hair and not do something about it
  • not to spring for a good cable package, one that includes BBC America, AMC, and Sundance
  • to think that pedicures are luxury and not a necessity
  • to eschew playing in the snow
  • to pretend that cookies aren’t a food staple
  • not to read poetry
  • to spend time with people you don’t really like (this one is from a roommate I had in college, and I appreciate it more as I get older)

“Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling.” ~ Paul Auster

And some random thoughts, just because:

  • Carson and the Dowager Duchess are my favorite characters on “Downton Abbey”

    Federica Galli 1981 La Nevera, Acquaforte su zinco
    “La Nevera” (1981, etching on zinc)
    by Federica Galli
  • I keep telling myself that I could design/sew if I just had a sewing machine. This is nonsense, of course.
  • My dreams never included zombies until I started watching “The Walking Dead.” I blame Corey for this.
  • Apparently many insects are a good source of protein and have no fat. Knowing this still does not make me want to try scorpions on a stick. However, if the zombie apocalypse does rear its ugly head, I promise to rethink this.
  • Costco is selling emergency ration packages, anything from three days worth of food to weeks worth. Are their marketing people watching “The Walking Dead”?
  • Is it weird that I really want to own a good shredder?
  • And a sword?
  • In the last few years, I have reduced my news sources to “The Daily Show” and tumblr, and I am still probably more informed than most people in the U.S.
  • If I subscribe to NetFlix, I may never have to leave the house again . . .

That’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Birdy, “Just a Game”

                   

Oppressive Light

Two trees stand in the snow,
tired of the light, the sky
heads home—nothing nearby
where the gloom makes its abode.

And behind those trees,
houses tower in the dark.
Now you hear someone speak,
now the dogs begin to bark

The round, beloved moonlight
lamp appears in the house.
When again the light goes out
A gaping wound remains in sight.

What a small life to know
and so much nothingness nearby.
Tired of the light, the sky
has given everything to the snow.

The two trees dance with grace,
bend their heads and nod.
Clouds race across the sod
of the world’s silent face.

~ Robert Walser

(Revised version (w. restored rhyme scheme) of Daniele Pantano’s translation)

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“(Art as Idea as Idea) (Water),” (1966)
by Joseph Kosuth

“The heart’s the eye
we cry
the body through.” ~ Graham Foust, from “Poem”

Sunday, early afternoon. Overcast, high 70’s, but still humid.

Let’s subtitle this post, “Cleaning One’s Floors the Hard Way,” or perhaps, “Avoiding the Realization that Your Homeowner’s Insurance Has a Ridiculously High Deductible,” shall we?

“Flood Water” (1896)
by Claude Monet

Yesterday was, well, strange is the only word that fits.

I awoke and looked at the clock, and squinting to decipher the time, thought that I had slept until 3 in the afternoon, which didn’t make any sense. Then I squinted harder and realized that the 3 was a 9 and that when I had reset the clock, I had mixed up the am/pm setting. I felt a bit better that I hadn’t slept so late, and was just relaxing when I heard the unmistakable sound of water suddenly gushing. The sound was coming from the bathroom.

That’s how I began my day.

Oddly enough, the dream that I was having just before I awoke was about Corey’s very old washing machine, the one that he had in his apartment. It was an archaic affair, with a very small bin for washing, and then you had to move the clothes to the other side for the rinse cycle. Anyway, in the dream, this washer is sitting in the middle of the living room, and Corey is mad because he told me not to use it because it would flood. I did, and it did.

Then there was the real flood.

“It always takes a long time
to decipher where you are.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Ottawa River by Night”

It took me few minutes to realize that I wouldn’t be able to recap the water source and that I needed to turn off the main water valve in the front yard post haste. By the time I had done so, water was puddling on the hard wood floor in the hall and running into the master bedroom and under the bed. I grabbed towels from everywhere (fortunately, we keep a large stack of old towels for the dogs), and then I waded towards the water source.

“Finale (Sonata of the Sea)” (1908, tempera on paper)
by Mikalojus Ciurlionis

Apparently, the washer or rubber gasket within the connecting PVC that runs from the water source to the toilet decided to fray, hence allowing the entire assembly to be propelled from the wall with a lot of force.

Ah yes, plumbing on a Saturday morning.

I cursed the fact that I was home alone, and then I called the only person who I knew would be available: Alexis. What could she do? At least she could help me to clean up the sopping towels and vacuum the water. I will admit I got a bit hysterical with her, but she finally made it over, with Olivia in tow, crying loudly at having her routine disturbed, and so began the plumbing repairs and the ensuant clean-up. While waiting for her to arrive, I thought that I should at least make myself some coffee, so I turned on the faucet in the kitchen and got . . . nothing, of course. Thank the gods for bottled water.

All in all, I will admit that it wasn’t pretty, and that it took two trips to the local hardware (which were a complete waste of time as I knew more about plumbing than the supercilious man who attempted to help me), and then two trips to a nearby plumbing supply store that was open until 3 on Saturday (thank goodness as most local business owners close early on Saturday) before I was able to finish the repair. In between were two ill-fated attempts to turn the water main back on and more flooding.

“Loneliness clarifies.  Here silence stands
Like heat.  Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

So six hours later . . .

I was left with two full loads of wet towels, rags and rugs. Alexis used the Shop Vac on as much as possible. The dusty objects beneath my bed were removed to dry.

“Ocean Waves” (nd)
by Katsushika Hokusai

Dryness restored in the bathroom, I set about cleaning the floors, first the tile in the bathroom, and then some Murphy’s Oil Soap on the hardwood. There is no apparent warping or bowing, which I am eternally grateful for as I don’t think that I could take one more thing in this house that is out-of-whack.

Alexis went by Ann’s house, my s-in-law, and borrowed her big Shop Vac, as ours (which I know that we own) is buried somewhere in the garage. This realization led me to a not-so-kind epiphany: When Corey gets home, the first thing on his major list of things to do is to clean out the garage, even if we have to rent a storage space. I cannot take not being able to find anything when I need it. Ever. Not ever. (My dad, who was obsessive about keeping his tools and garage in order, would shudder at the sight.)

So I did laundry until 1 in the morning. In between, I managed to shower and eat some rather bad fast food. I also downed two Coronas. Two! (I do like to drink beer in the summer as I find it very refreshing, but should I be concerned that I drink one a day? Seriously? Is this a sign of some kind?) Of course that was over the span of seven hours, but still I felt somewhat guilty as I took the two empty bottles into the kitchen to rinse for recycling.

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Peter Camenzind

Late last night, as the muscle pain really began to take over, I made the mistake of applying too much topical pain ointment, which resulted in a terrible burning feeling on my neck. I didn’t realize that I had applied too much until I was lying on my bed, which I had stripped of all linens, and I began to feel this horrible sensation. Truly, it felt as if I were on fire. I found the aloe (in the hall closet, the bottom of which is newly cleaned and organized) and applied it liberally, which helped a bit. I probably should have taken another shower, but I was just too damned tired.

“Water” (nd)
by Erte

This morning, I’m sore, but I can move—slowly.

So far, my repairs are holding, no drips, no leaks. So glad that my dad taught me some things about plumbing. Can you imagine if I were some helpless female type?

Nah, I can’t imagine it either, so why bother to go there? Except that too many females still don’t take the initiative to learn as much about as many things as possible, preferring to think that someone will come to their rescue. That bothers me. Knowledge, any kind of knowledge, is power. Who would willingly choose not to have a taste of that? It’s not a mindset to which I can relate at all.

As I was walking back to the main turn-off valve, I thought to myself, “It’s all just a matter of logic, really. If this part does this, then this part does that, and to connect them I need . . . ” No, I don’t have Brett’s mathematical mind, but I can employ linear thought fairly well when I need to. Of course, such intense thinking takes its toll on my brain, and later, all I want to do is find a chocolate source and ingest it quickly, which I did, only to feel first horribly guilty and then smugly satisfied.

“That summer I did not go crazy
but I wore
very close
very close
to the bone.” ~ Dorothy Allison,  from “To the Bone”

“After the Water, the Clouds” (1926)
Rene Magritte

This post has taken a bit longer than normal as I’ve been stopping between sections to search for songs that I’ve heard recently so as to add them to my various playlists. I’ve surprised myself with the realization that I actually like a Carrie Underwood song, “Blown Away,” the subject of which is what led me to post the Patrick Stewart quote about violence against women and girls (there’s a connection there). If I ever get a new-old car, I must be sure that it has auxiliary input so that I can plug in my non-existent MP3 player and listen to all of these playlists that I’ve been compiling over the past few years.

Anyway, today I’m trying to go slowly. I still need to do the kitchen floor and finish cleaning beneath the bed—a chore that will require much bending, hence, the drawing out of the post so as to postpone the last bit of cleaning.

Just realized that my head is actually quite tight, something of which I was unaware until I noticed that I’m squinting terribly at the screen, and I paused to figure out why. Hate that—pain that creeps up like that—but I suppose it signals a good time to wrap this up. I hope to be a bit more regular in posting this week. I actually did have three posts written for this past week, but forgot to set them up to publish—another thing I hate (okay, hate is a strong word, but you know what I mean).

Hoping for an extremely quiet week. I should know better.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from wikipaintings.org, water-related, what else?

Music by Ron Pope, “Reason to Hope”

                   

I Don’t Miss It

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

~ Tracy K. Smith

“I have a sense of melancholy isolation, life rapidly vanishing, all the usual things. It’s very strange how often strong feelings don’t seem to carry any message of action.” ~ Philip Larkin

Arrowtown Mist
by Veronica McLaughlin (Titirangi Storyteller)

                   

“How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?” ~ Albert Garcia, from “August Morning

Friday, late afternoon. Sunny and cool, no humidity, 71°.

I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to figure out exactly what it is I want to say. I just don’t know. Part of me wants to write nonsense, cover subjects that require little thought, and truthfully, little active participation on the part of my little grey cells. But another part of me is quite introspective today, but I’m not entirely sure that I can go there.

Blackbird’s Nest in the Folded Hands of a Graveyard Statue
Berlin, Germany (National Archives, 1932)

Two choices. Two paths. The one less traveled by, and all of that, but I don’t know if I want to go down either. I feel a bit like Alice asking the Cheshire Cat which path to take. He doesn’t really answer her, just tells her that she’ll arrive somewhere.

Today when I was outside with Tillie I found a fallen bird’s nest, and it made me inexplicably sad. I mean, I looked it over, and the craftsmanship was impeccable. I had to hope that the nestlings were already long gone, that the feral cats that live in the bushes in the park next door didn’t find the nest and its inhabitants.  Yes, it’s in a cat’s true nature to hunt, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.

Each year a bird builds a nest in our mailbox. The mail carrier and I have a tacit agreement: I don’t remove the nest, and he puts the mail off to the side away from the nest. But one year we had a substitute carrier, and when I went out to get the mail, I found the nest removed from the mailbox.

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?” ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

My love of songbirds comes from Mari, from whom I learned which birds like which seeds. In the house that she used to share with her ex-husband there was a picture of Mari standing in a rubber rain coat and galoshes in a downpour. She was filling her bird feeders. Nothing deterred her from this daily routine.

Bird Feeder by Trebz (FCC)

Because her house was situated a bit off the beaten path and near water, she had phenomenal luck with hummingbirds. I put up hummingbird feeders but was only successful in creating a habitat for fire ants. I’ve never been able to attract any hummers to my yard; although now that I have so much more shade, perhaps I’d have better luck in growing hardy fuchsia plants, which are like beacons for hummingbirds. They don’t like really hot, humid weather, and every year I would hang several baskets only to have them wilt and die by mid summer.

I used to do so much more in the yard when Mari was around. Her love of gardening and birding was infectious, and we would spend hours roaming around garden centers buying pants and feeders.  Even though I had planned to fill my planters this year with colorful annuals, I never got around to doing so.

My relationship with Mari enriched my life in countless ways. I miss that kind of friendship.

“Today in my heart
a vague trembling of stars
and all roses are
as white as my pain.” ~ Federico García Lorca

You know what else I miss terribly? Teaching literature. It’s been so very long since I stood in front of a class filled with people who were eager to discuss a new poem, a new short story. I feel as if my mind is atrophying from a lack of outside stimulation. The creative mind is emboldened, nurtured by like minds. I remember one student in a section of American literature who began the class very quietly. Within a few weeks, he was volunteering to read poems aloud, and I could always count on him to add something meaningful to the discussion. In my mind, I can still see his face over a decade later.

Conductor Frrederik Magle by magle.dk (FCC)

Should I go back to school? I know. You’re wondering where that came from? To be honest, it has never left. It is always there, right next to the haunting knowledge that I will never have another child. The two things have carved out niches of emptiness in my soul that will never be filled. I can subsume them, and very often I can make it through a few days without thinking of one or the other or both, but never for very long.

It’s my ongoing inability to separate, to forsake that which is no longer a part of my life. I do not carry my heart on my sleeve—I carry my entire soul there, the esse that is me, omnipresent, looming just within reach, a tether that will never be long enough for complete separation.

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I warned you from the outset that this post could go either way, and now it’s obvious as to which path I chose.

In a symphony, the whole truly is the sum of its parts. A viola chord slightly off, or a cymbal a millisecond to soon—this things bear weight. Nothing is innocuous. Consider Mozart or Beethoven, who heard the sounds of these individual instruments within their minds, who heard the collective and the individual, who translated these imaginings into sounds of such pure beauty.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Sheet Music
(source: wikiversity.org)

Now, consider Clarence Clemons and his impeccable saxophone solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” The sound is raw and deep and it cuts straight to the soul.

The sounds are antithetical, yet not. Clemons’s rendering when he played was filled with the same kind of passion that is often associated with Beethoven’s “Hymn to Joy” from his 9th Symphony. So, too, the individual. We are capable of such beauty, and we are capable of such destruction. We can be rough and raw in our dealings with others, and completely tender in our interactions with a small child. Both the darkness and the light exist, and both carry weight.

“When I think I see clearly and, therefore, think about thinking about,
let me be in the dark, measure and strain . . .
And when I think it’s okay to sleep
or that memory’s a comfort less malicious than
happiness, give me the courage
to deal these cards to the wind
and keep walking.” ~ Ralph Angel, from “At the Seams”

Most of us exist somewhere in the middle, and still fewer dwell at either extreme, but some of us move back and forth like a child’s teeter-totter.

I can only tell you this: If I do not speak about these things, I will break. No, I am not a prodigy like Mozart who heard fully realized pieces of such immense splendor that they needed little rearrangement. But I do bear within myself a constant stream of thoughts and words, and sometimes the weight of these things threatens to drown me.

Tree Still Life in Black & White by dok1 (FCC)

It’s as if somewhere an instrument is slightly out of tune, and I can sense this discord, and when this happens, the melody is simply impossible to realize, but time and life are fickle, always conspiring to steal bits and pieces from our lives unless we grasp what matters most firmly and refuse to relent.

As I sit here with the waning rays of the late afternoon sun bathing my face, I will leave you with this final metaphor, as this post has been rife with bad ones, so why not one more? Wood, specifically a newly felled tree. At first glance something of such mass would appear to bear so much weight that sinking beneath the water seems the only possible action. But when these logs are pushed into the water, they float. They are filled with air pockets. Borne by the current, they travel to their destination. Water, wood, and air come together in a perfect symbiosis.

Yes? See? Well, of course that’s ignoring that the log used to be a tree hanging out with a bunch of other trees before someone with a chainsaw decided its fate. And that bird’s nest used to sit in a tree before a predator knocked it to the ground.

More later. Peace.

Music by Matthew Perryman Jones, “Amelia,” just beautiful


                   

I Like the Wind

We are at or near that approximate line
where a stiff breeze becomes
or lapses from a considerable wind,
and I like it here, the chimney smokes
right-angled from west to east but still
for brief intact stretches
the plush animal tails of their fires.
I like how the stiffness rouses the birds
right up until what’s considerable sends them
to shelter. I like how the morning’s rain,
having wakened the soil’s raw materials, sends
a root smell into the air around us,
which the pine trees sway stately within.
I like how the sun strains not
to go down, how the horizon tugs gently at it,
and how the distant grain elevator’s shadow
ripples over the stubble of the field.
I like the bird feeder’s slant
and the dribble of its seeds. I like the cat’s
sleepiness as the breeze then the wind
then the breeze keeps combing her fur.
I like the body of the mouse at her feet.
I like the way the apple core I tossed away
has browned so quickly. It is much to be admired,
as is the way the doe extends her elegant neck
in its direction, and the workings of her
black nostrils, too.
I like the sound of the southbound truck
blowing by headed east. I like the fact
that the dog is not barking. I like the ark
of the house afloat on the sea of March,
and the swells of the crop hills bedizened
with cedillas of old snow. I like old snow.
I like my lungs and their conversions
to the gospel of spring. I like the wing
of the magpie outheld as he probes beneath it
for fleas or lice. That’s especially nice,
the last sun pinkening his underfeathers
as it also pinks the dark when I close my eyes,
which I like to do, in the face of it,
this stiff breeze that was,
when I closed them, a considerable wind.

~ Robert Wrigley

” . . . When light spreads over the pastures like wings, and fans a secret color into everything, and beats the trees senseless with beauty, so that you can’t tell whether the beauty is in the trees—dazzling in cells like yellow sparks or green flashing waters—or on them . . .” ~ Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

 

Night by Burlacu Lurie (Pixdaus)

                

“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related . . . We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fall (Pixdaus)

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday . . . no wait . . . that’s a song. It’s eleven o’clock on Saturday, no crowd rushing in. My mother’s house is finally, thankfully, quiet. Earlier today when the television was actually turned off, I managed to sit down and actually get a signal. I turned on the music, opened a new page, and just as I prepared to write, my mother awoke on the couch and said, “You don’t mind if I turn on the television, do you?”

What could I say?

She is much better, though. Much more mobile, even took a shower on her own today. I think that we may have conquered the stomach problems (hope beyond hope), and I am preparing to make the gradual move back to my own home. Tonight after I finish this post, I am going to go home to sleep. Corey has a shift, and Brett is away at a conference, so it seems to be perfect timing as far as going home to my own bed.

I know that I am hesitating, and I realize why: Each time I have thought that things may be getting better, getting well enough that I could go home—at least at night—something has happened, so I am reluctant to think that the situation may actually be stable enough for the transition, that, and I would feel horribly guilty should something happen if I were not here.

It’s actually the same logic that kept me at the hospital for 20 hours out of each day when Caitlin was ill. Oddly enough, it was one of the times when I had actually gone home for a nap and a shower when the hospital actually called to ask me to come back as soon as possible.

Such has always been my luck.

“Not yesterday I learned to know
   The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow
But it were vain to tell her so,
   And they are better for her praise.” ~ Robert Frost, “My November Guest”

Autumn in Chairi Lake (Pixdaus)

Many thanks to those of you who have sent well wishes and have asked about my mother. Thanks also for the reminders to take care of myself as I do tend to ignore my own signals when someone close to me is in need.

Sleeping on the couch hasn’t been too bad for my back, but lately I have awoken with a very sore neck. I could sleep in my old bedroom, but it just doesn’t seem right somehow. Since my mother has come home from the rehab facility, she makes her way to the living room couch by 8 a.m., and the television goes on shortly after, so I head to my old bedroom to try to catch a few hours of morning sleep, this after making her coffee, getting her breakfast and meds, and feeding the cat and dog.

I have planned to set the alarm at home so that I can get here in the morning to take care of things and then perhaps play the rest of the day as it comes. As tomorrow is November 7, a particularly painful day of the year for me, I don’t want to set any kind of schedule for myself.

To be honest, the melancholy crept up on me this year. Being so prepossessed with my mother’s health issues, I have had little time for great introspection. Then I found another envelope of photographs containing pictures of all of my children when they were quite young. Within these was a picture of me in the hospital holding a newborn, and I had to think for a moment to identify which birth it was. The telltale sign was the gown that I was wearing—sleeveless, white cotton. Brett was born during a record heat wave, but for just a moment, my heart had tricked my memory into believing that I was holding Caitlin.

That was all that it took: a photograph, one second in time, recovered accidentally while dusting a box on a shelf.

“Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them—
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.” ~ Dorianne Laux, “For the Sake of Strangers”

Autumn Leaves (Pixdaus)

Truthfully, I don’t really know what to call this state of being, how to classify it, how to give it a name. Is something real if it is unnamable? Does something truly exist if it cannot be molded and shaped to fit into a specific niche?

Perhaps, then, this state is the actual grey area, or twilight zone—the fictive terminator between night and day. This state of existence does not bear scrutiny since it does not in fact exist, or it exists only in that nanosecond the comprises the movement from night into day.

Do I even know what I’m saying here?

I only know that a few days ago my mind was wholly unoccupied of anything of consequence, and then today I woke with weight on my chest so heavy that I felt as if rocks were being piled onto my body, like the “wedge-shaped core of darkness” that Virginia Woolf spoke of in To the Lighthouse. It is invisible to everyone else, but it is there, nonetheless.

“Once more
Uncontradicting solitude
Supports me on its giant palm;
And like a sea-anemone
Or simple snail, there cautiously
Unfolds, emerges, what I am.” ~ Philip Larkin, “Best Society”

Solitary Swan on Lake in Autumn (Pixdaus)

I want only solitude and quiet, to be alone and to be left alone, to have no demands made of me so that I do not have to force to the surface the persona of a normal person, do not have to cloak this ache with the mask of normalcy.

I want mountains and trees and the sweet, sweet smell of cold, fresh spring water running over mossy rocks. I want to feel the chill of air on my face and to smell the earth, to inhale the natural descent into decay that is autumn and to walk beneath a tarpaulin of the burnished reds and golds that precede the naked limbs of winter.

I crave a retreat from sound, a respite from the everyday clicks and hums that fill my immediate environs. At this very moment, this is what I hear: the ticking of the living room clock, the annoying click of an anti-bug device in the kitchen, my mother coughing, the gunfire rapidity of the keys on the keyboard, and an insistent, low hum from somewhere indiscernible.

These things I want; these things I need; these things I crave like a balm for my soul. These things will continue to elude me for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Starsailor, “Some of Us”