“We don’t understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

Bateau Acadien*

“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” ~ Henry James

Dried Fishing Boat at Udaipur Sea Beach in West Bengal

Well, Corey finally got a telephone call from the security people. He goes in tonight to fill out his paper work and to attend an orientation. It’s so funny because not even an hour ago, he was bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t received a phone call yet, and it was really worrying him. Now he is worried about going to work. As he puts it, he hasn’t worked in so long that he has no idea what to expect. I told him that I was certain he would be fine.

The company representative reiterated that they think that Corey is overqualified for this particular position, and that they will not hold it against him if he finds a better job. He said that Corey should look on this as a stepping stone.

I am so happy for him. I have a feeling that once he begins working, everything will fall into place. For now, I will have to drive Corey to work on those days that conflict with Brett’s school schedule or other appointments, but it will be so worth it.

“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet . . . maybe we could understand something.” ~ Frederico Fellini

Abandoned Fishing Boat, Threipmuir, Edinburgh, Scotland

More very strange dreams last night, very intricate. I do remember that I was doing a lot of walking to and from place to place and that I felt really good about myself for doing so much walking. Must have something to do with the fact that I planned to start walking today, but of course, I awoke to rain.

In parts of my dream, my father was going to divorce my mother; someone killed chickens in the kitchen; a man and woman moved into the townhouse next door to mine and tried to take my family and me captive; the boys were very young again; Corey and I decided to just pack what we really wanted and to leave everything else behind so that we could start over, and I was packing backpacks for all of us.

Why does the mind work in the way that it does during dreams? Whenever my father comes to me in dreams, it is almost always in some kind of bizarre form with a little bit of truth behind it. I understand that dreaming about my sons’ younger versions is my own sense of wishing that they were younger and still needed me as they did then, but why do I always dream about conflict?

I heard somewhere that every person in your dreams actually represents yourself. I don’t really think that is true because so many people in my dreams act in ways that are totally alien to me.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton

The family got together on Sunday for lunch to celebrate the three birthdays. Alexis planned everything. It was very nice, and even my mother seemed to enjoy herself—such a rarity. My s-i-l Ann and I decided that we are quite content to pass the baton for planning family gatherings to Alexis since she seems to have such a knack for it. We haven’t informed her of this yet. I’m sure she will be pleased . . . not.

Old Boat Returning to Nature

For some very strange reason, I have been craving lobster. Now if you knew me, you would know what an aberration this is. I don’t believe in eating lobsters as they can live to be incredibly old if left alone. I think that there is something very elegant about these creatures that live in the bottom of the sea, just meandering along, bothering no one. In fact, I make it well nigh impossible for anyone who is dining on lobster to enjoy their meal as I put my fingers together and say “Help me” in a squeaky voice.

So bearing that in mind, why would I be craving something I don’t believe in eating? This, too, makes no sense to me. It would be akin to my craving lamb or veal, neither of which I will eat. Is this my own version of pica, that eating disorder that occurs in very young children in which they eat non-nutrive substances for no apparent reason? Geez.

“Do you find coming to terms with the mindless tedium of it all presents an interesting challenge?” ~ Douglas Adams, The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy

Old Boat on Càrna Overlooking Caol Chàrna, Scotland

My word for the day is tedium, from the Latin taedium, which means irksomeness. I mean, that is what most days are, really. The tedium, the unending parade of washing machine commercials, telephone calls that result in no forward progress, mail from companies wanting more and more when there is less and less, the stream of cars lined up at stop lights, each individual wrapped up in his or her own world, just waiting for the light to turn green.

Life being dealt out in seconds and minutes of rushing to where exactly? Our own mortality? People going to jobs they hate but saying nothing because having any job is better than no job. Mothers and fathers waiting after school for their children to be released from school only to spend the next two to three hours shuffling them from one extra-curricular activity to another, but is there any interaction going on in the car, the minivan, the SUV between parent and child while on the way to somewhere?

The cacophony of reality television in which the people being shown are doing anything but leading real lives. Shows about fat people, famous people, people with huge families, people who are famous because they are famous, people whose vices are held up as virtues because they can win the island, people who wear seven-carat diamond rings and bemoan their inability to have real friendships, people who are hoarders, addicts, moguls, and more.

“Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits.” ~ John O’Donohue

Colbost Jetty, Skye, England, by Bob Jones (used under Creative Commons License)

And then there is me: putting my life on this page for anyone to see. Sharing intimate moments, triumphs and failures. Writing about life, love, loss, and nothing at all. Castigating politicians and talking heads. Caressing words as if they hold all of the power. But they do hold all of the power. Words. Words that pass on knowledge. Words that wound. Words that awaken the soul to beauty. Words that weave stories and morality tales and dreams. Words that are hollow and hard. Words that are sour and somber.

Sometimes, it is all so tedious, this life. One long line of I want, and I don’t have, and Why me, and What will happen? Mortgage restructuring, debt consolidation, loans and repayments. This is civilization and all of its entanglements. Pity the poor fool who yearns for this rough and tumble existence over what she already has.

Tedium. Thoroughly tiresome. Bone-shakingly, soul-achingly stultifying. The alternative? Silence and nothingness.

More later. Peace.

“Your Song,” duet with Elton John and Ronan Keating (what a great name)

*All images found on Wikimedia Commons

“She had the scattered feeling she always got when events conspired to mess things up, and nothing exhausted and frustrated her more than a mess she was incapable of fixing.” ~ J. Robert Lennon, The Light of Falling Stars

Overhanging, Indian Lake, Ohio by L. Liwag©  

“Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or like the like of this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Well, another day, another 57 cents . . . whatever.  

More forms for prescription assistance. This time, I was completely befuddled by the contradictory directions, and of course, trying to get a live human at the contact number was fruitless as I was directed back to the site. I often find myself screaming into the phone at the automated attendant, “Live Human Being!” to no avail.  

I spent hours yesterday editing the photographs that I took while we were in Ohio, and so I am treating (?) you to a few in this post. The top one is my favorite. These pictures were all taken on December 21, 2009 at Indian Lake and along the drive home. It was colder than cold that day, especially with the wind whipping off the lake, but it was worth it to get these shots.     

Blue Ice by L. Liwag©

One of the really interesting things about Indian Lake is the number of islands in the middle of the lake, some with houses. I told Corey that I would love to live in one of those houses, especially in the winter. You know, stock up on supplies, and once the lake freezes, ride in on an ice boat or snowmobile only when necessary. The only problem with that idea is whether there would be access to high speed internet. These are the things that I think about.  

“Only awareness of your shadow qualities can help you to find an appropriate place for your unredeemed darkness and thereby create a more satisfying experience.” ~ Robert Johnson

Indian Lake, OH Wide Vista by L. Liwag ©

More very strange dreams. Do you ever dream something, wake up, then go back to sleep and continue the dream? That happens to me often. Last night/this morning, whenever I finally went to sleep, I had this very strange dream that Dillard’s at MacArthur Center was closing down. My former store manager called several of us together to give us going away presents (believe me, something he would not do). Mine was a set of Ralph Lauren flannel sheets. I was exuberant. Then I woke up because Tillie was punching me in the back of the neck with her paws.  

Went back to sleep, and the dream continued: Turns out, the store wasn’t supposed to close, but the assistant store manager read the e-mail incorrectly, so the store was closed; things were sold at unbelievable prices, and it was all a mistake. Then the dream warped into this crime scenario in which the criminals were turning on other criminals. In one storyline, I was in a truck that rammed the loading dock. A man (who knows who) and I jumped out and  confronted the security guard at the store, then I shot the man. But it was all a ruse as we were filming a movie, but then we weren’t. Then it jumped back to the point at which the store was closing, and I went into the cosmetics department to steal an eyeliner, but I didn’t really steal it, I put poison on it. Someone (again, don’t know who) used the eyeliner and became sick. Then I took the eyeliner, dunked it into some kind of solution, and kept it.  

The main thing that I remember, and this is priceless, is what color lipstick I was wearing, and I said to myself in the dream, “You really need to remember this shade because it is very flattering.”  

Is it any wonder that I feel as if my mind is too full most of the time?  

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Snowy Limbs by L. Liwag©

Speaking of my mind, and I was, I am not doing too well in that department. Out of my anti-depressant, you see, so my mood swings are quite intense, which is probably another reason my dreams are dark and wild.  

I keep Corey awake in the middle of the night with my need to talk, especially about things over which I have no control because those are the things that worry me the most. It’s not that I’m a control freak, although I used to be. Rather, I just fret about what might happen, what could happen. I do this when my mood is slipping, and I do it to torture myself. Don’t look for logic here as there is none.  

I told Corey that I really want to go back to work as I feel as if I am stagnating, just sitting here in this room wasting away. It’s a double-edged sword since if I do decide to try to go back to work full time, I will lose my disability, and then I’m not sure if I could get it back if things don’t work out. I cannot work part-time as that would decrease my disability and give them a reason to take away my coverage. Yet I truly believe that if I sit here for another two years without doing something productive, then my mind will turn into mush, porridge, if you will.  

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Frozen Plants by L. Liwag©

Anyway, this is something that I must give serious thought, the benefits and the downsides. Of course, I could spend this time writing my book. Consider: Author J. K. Rowling wrote the seven Harry Potter books in 17 years. That’s pretty amazing. When she began writing, Rowling was out of work and on public assistance; now she is one of the richest people on the face of the earth.  

I don’t begrudge her; I admire her. The Harry Potter series is one of those series of books that will long outlive its author. Its themes of good and evil, compassion and choices will never be outdated. I’m certain that when Rowling first began writing her story she never imagined exactly where it would take her personally. I think of her dedication, her single-mindedness in bringing her story to life, and it makes me feel, well, inferior.  

I never thought that I would get to this point in my life without being published. I mean, I am published—articles, a retrospective for a university, things like that—but not my book, the book that is inside of me, that is probably inside of every English major. I have mulled over plots, titles, characters. I have given so much thought to how I would approach this thing called writing, serious writing, but each time, I step back just before leaping off the cliff into the unknown.  

It’s fear, pure unharnessed fear. I know that. I have the words within me. I think that I have the talent within me as well, but fear keeps me from moving beyond observation and contemplation.  

Sorry, got a bit off track there. You see, if I go back to work, then I have an excuse not to write. Does that make sense? It does to me. If I go back to work, I can become immersed in yet another job that is not my dream job, spend my time doing things for other people, using my creative energies for other purposes.   

It’s not Rowling’s wealth that I want (although I wouldn’t say no), nor is it her fame. It’s her dedication, her willingness to put pen to paper without ever knowing if anyone would read her words, but doing it nevertheless.  

I need to stop fooling around with my life and do something, stop watching movies, reading other people’s words. I need to be true to myself or give up the dream much like giving up the ghost.  

I’ll leave you with a wonderful Basho haiku that I found on Crashingly Beautiful:  

“The Snow we two once
looked at together—has it
fallen again this year?” 
  

More later. Peace.  

Music by Michael Hoppé, “Renouncement” based on the poem by Alice Alice Meynell, with images by E. A. Hoppé:

 

                                                                                                                         

Renouncement

I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight—
The love of thee—and in the blue heaven’s height,
And in the dearest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gather’d to thy heart.
 
 
 
 
 

Alice Alice Meynell

 

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~ Cicero

Male Cardinal in the Snow by synthman19872003

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Blue Jay in the Snow

I’m cold, tired, and my back hurts. What better time and frame of mind to hammer out some new year’s resolutions. Let’s get started then. I resolve to do the following in 2010 (in no particular order, just as they come to me):

  1. Write more—more frequently, more regularly, more faithfully, and with more purpose.
  2. Read more, well, just because it’s something that I love, and it relaxes me.
  3. Try to get along better with eldest son even though his personality is so much like my ex-husband that sometimes the lines blur.
  4. Get back into a regular exercise program. This is one that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but let’s face it: I don’t exercise at home. It’s just not a conducive environment. I need to get back to the gym, a place where I will be shamed into working harder.
  5. Do more with my photography, as in, not just take pictures and leave them on the memory card for months. I love Photoshop, so I should use it more.
  6. In conjunction with Number 5, I would love to get a photo printer, but that’s at te bottom of the priority list.
  7. Get that new Logitech mouse that I’ve been eye-balling for two years. The price has to have come down by now.
  8. Work on our credit score; of course, this one is dependent upon Corey starting a new job and no major problems occurring, but both of us want to accomplish something with this.
  9. Paint my bedroom. No. Still hasn’t been done.
  10. Be a better friend and stay in touch on a more regular basis with everyone who has moved away.
  11. Work on finding a literary agent by the end of 2010. That gives me a year.
  12. Pay back Corey’s parents the money they have loaned us. Must do this.
  13. Try to be more patient with my mother. This is a hard one.
  14. Find the perfect squooshy leather purse so that maybe one day I can purchase it.
  15. Plant flowers in the spring. This used to be so important to me. I need to get back to it.
  16. Go to the Virginia foothills and Skyline Drive. It’s been too many years since we’ve done this, and it doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.
  17. Get a pedicure or two or three. Sweet indulgences are a necessary part of life.
  18. Give up chocolate. Okay, so maybe decrease my chocolate intake. I was able to do this once before, so I have no excuses.
  19. Help to support Corey in his goal to register for college classes. The irony is that if we’d known he be out of work this long, he could have registered a long time ago and already be finished with at least a year of school. Bitter irony.
  20. Female Cardinal in the Snow by Dovey
  21. Get a bird feeder to hang in the back yard where the dogs cannot get to it. I miss my backyard birding.
  22. Be more patient overall. I have gotten more patient and less bitchy in recent years, but I still would like to make fewer assumptions and be less prone to getting upset.
  23. Take my vitamins. No-brainer.
  24. Play the piano more. I am so out of the habit, and this, too, relaxes me. 
  25. Try to get on a regular sleep schedule, you know, like normal people.
  26. Declutter. This is a big one as it means that I have to let go of some things, which I don’t like to do, but the decluttering must be done.
  27. Smile more. I’m not a person who smiles a lot, and it’s not because I’m unhappy or angry, I just don’t smile, so maybe I should make a concerted effort to try more, as long as I don’t end up looking like some kind of idiot.
  28. Give back more. Our trials and tribulations have been heavy, but so many others are facing the same and worse. Giving back is the right thing to do.
  29. Go on a retreat. I promised Brett that we would do that this past summer, but then we didn’t have a vehicle or any cash. This year, for certain.
  30. Read more poetry by new writers. I’ve let myself get behind, and there are so many great poets out there just churning out work that needs to be read and shared.
  31. Finally, continue to work on letting go of things from the past. I’m getting much better at this, but I still need to work on it.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Cedar Waxwing on Icy Branch by johngomes

Admittedly, none of my resolutions are earth-shattering. That’s the whole point. I wanted to create a list of things that are absolutely possible to do within the next year. Nothing on my list involves spending a lot of money; more things involve dedicating time. I have nothing but time, and I need to get back to doing productive things with my time.

Notice that I didn’t put the big one on there about losing weight. I’ve decided that if I start taking better care of myself, stop eating so much chocolate, and get back into exercising, then the weight thing should balance itself. More of that attempt to be realistic.

I wish you luck with whatever resolutions you have made, whether or not you share them. May the coming year be filled with good opportunities, moments of insight and grace, and abundant love and happiness.

More later. Peace

I really wanted to feature Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” but had a hell of a time finding just the right video. I settled on this one with scenes from the movie Wicker Park (which I haven’t seen yet) as it seems to fit the song better than any of the other ones:

 

 

                                                                                                                                       

XVII from Pablo Neruda’s Still Another Day

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.

“We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Marine White Gloves, Sand from Iwo Jima and a Red Rose Atop the Casket of Lt. James Cathy, image by Todd Heisler, Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographer 

“Give me love, give me peace on earth, give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth, give me hope, help me cope, with this heavy load, trying to, touch and reach you with, heart and soul” ~ George Harrison

Well, it’s been over a week since I last blogged, except for my brief Christmas message. In that time so much has happened. I’ll get to the saga of our most recent trip to Ohio in a different post, but today, I wanted to share something with you that happened this morning: 

I was on my way to the bank, and Eamonn was in the car with me. Normally, I cut through a small neighborhood to get to the bank; it’s an old neighborhood, full of smaller houses. I was driving slower as I do on neighborhood streets when I noticed a marine in full dress uniform knocking on a door. Two other marines were sitting in a car parked in front of the house. 

When I saw that young marine, my heart completely sank. I knew what was about to happen. I have seen this scene in countless movies, but never in person. I explained to Eamonn what was about to happen: The day after Christmas a family was going to be notified that someone they loved had been killed. I explained to Eamonn that notifications are always done by someone official. 

The marine on the porch paused to watch us drive past; he was young, and his face was momentarily filled with anguish, and then the façade reappeared just as quickly as it had faded. 

“The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs.  The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists.” ~ William J. Clinton

I cannot tell you that I know how the family that received that notification feels because I cannot. Yes, I have known death, have watched it come, have held it, but I have never faced the death of a loved one in the military, of someone who has been killed in conflict by whatever means. Someone who was close to me has faced the horror of the knock on the door, and the pain that I felt for her was miniscule in comparison to what she felt, still feels to this day. 

But after this morning’s moment of great sadness I felt great anger, incredible indignation at what had brought this man to this family’s door. I am not naive enough to believe that we will ever truly have peace on earth. As long as human beings inhabit this planet, there will be war, conflict, evil. There is something within our species that is never content, something that always wants more—whether it be more land, more oil, more power. No matter how much millions of us clamor for it, rally for it, cry for it, there will never be lasting peace. Humanity is not capable of it. 

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that human beings are inherently evil or bad or malicious. I choose to believe the opposite. But I know that to erase intolerance of other religions, other races, other tribes, other beliefs, to do this is an impossibility because people with intolerance and hatred in their hearts will always exist. People with evil in their souls will always stake claims over the lives of others. This is life. This is the life that we have created over thousands of years, the life that we have accepted, will continue to accept. 

Kindness and generosity should rule, but they do not. Empathy and tolerance should be the way of the world, but it is not. And so, in spite of my great desire—a desire that is shared all over the world—not to send sons and daughters, mother and fathers, brothers and sisters to war, we will continue to do so, and families will continue to receive heart-wrenching news from someone whose unenviable duty it is to carry this message to their doorsteps. 

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” ~ Black Elk

Pulitzer Prize-winning Image of CACO Major Steve Beck, 2005, by Todd Heisler of Rocky Mountain News

I must pause here to acknowledge the marine CACO (Casualty Assistance Call Officer). Notifying a military family of the death of a family member must take immeasurable strength and courage of a different kind. I know that these men and women undergo rigorous training for their jobs, which includes notification, family support and assistance, as well as escort. Being a CACO becomes the primary duty of the service man or woman, and it must be a job fraught with emotional turmoil. 

I don’t think that the memory of the marine’s face will ever completely fade from my memory. If I am to retain my humanity, I pray that it does not 

However, if I am to be completely honest, I must admit that something deep within me was incredibly thankful that Eamonn was with me; perhaps he, too, will remember that moment and understand it for what all that it was: the fragility of life, the real consequences of war, the need for compassion, the ineffable sadness of loss. 

Witness creates impression in a way that all of the words spoken cannot. A hard lesson for the holidays. 

“Namaste. I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides . . . a place of light, of love, of truth, of peace, of wisdom. I honour the place in you where when you are in that place and I am in that place there is only one of us.” ~ Mohandas K. Ghandi

 More later. Peace. 

“Happy Xmas (War is Over),” by John Lennon with incredible images. 

  

 

  

For more information about CACOs and their relationships with military families, see the excellent book Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives, by Jim Sheeler. Click here for The New York Times book review.