“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” ~ Gary Zukav

Gate of Wishes, Mrtivica Canyon, Montenegro (Pixdaus)

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” ~ John Lennon

Saturday afternoon. Temperatures hovering above 100° F. Thunderstorms.

Keyhole Arch in Monument Valley

I awoke with another headache, nothing new. Not too bad, but lots and lots of pressure in my forehead and behind my eyes. Probably due to the barometric pressure and the heat.

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in years: I went outside during a rain shower and got in the pool. It was so refreshing. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the water cooled. The dogs joined me for a few minutes, but Shakes doesn’t much care for rain. Tillie stayed out with me for the duration. It didn’t rain long, but I enjoyed myself while it did.

I was hoping to do the same again today, but unfortunately the rain is accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even I have enough sense not to get in a metal-clad pool in the middle of a thunderstorm.

I just glanced at my weather icon, and the temperature has dropped 8 degrees in the last fifteen minutes. Now that’s change I can live with . . .

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

Monday afternoon. Not nearly as hot.

Kicking Horse River through Natural Bridge, Canada

So I got distracted . . . where was I? Oh yes, drama.

Woke up this morning to lovely news: we should expect a drop-in visit from Adult Protective Services. Whatever . . .

The ongoing drama at our house had been calm for far too long. I knew to expect something soon, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apparently, the pest (nicest word I can think to use for this person), reported Em’s case worker and our home as being  . . . shall we say, unfit? Charges include holding her against her will, all of us being insane (I told you this person wasn’t wrapped too tight), beating her down continually (not sure if that was meant to be literal or metaphorical), ya da ya da ya da . . .

In the inestimable words of W: Bring. It. On.

I mean, we have absolutely nothing to hide here. We are exactly as we purport ourselves to be: a middle class family in the burbs that is making ends meet. We have a home, food in our pantry, all of the accoutrements, as it were. We do not claim to be wealthy because we are not. We do not claim to have all of the answers because we do not. We do claim to have a healthy living environment for our family because we do. We do claim to know a few things about people who face challenges in life because we do. We do claim to be good parents because we are.

So when I heard that APS was going to come by, my response was what it only could be: Okay. Whatever. Tell them to drop by as they like because we have nothing to hide.

So they did. Today. A very nice woman who sat down with Em and asked her basic (and I mean basic) questions: Are you able to dress yourself? Yes. Do you take care of your own physical hygiene? Yes. Do you know how to do things around the house? Yes (she does now). Can you get your own food or does someone have to do it for you? Get it myself and can cook a little . . . and lots more in that vein, and then . . . Are you happy? I am now.

We left Em alone with the case worker so that the woman wouldn’t think that we were trying to sway her answers or to influence her unduly (because that’s what I do, you know. I beat people down until they are simpering idiots who have no will of their own . . . right.) The case worker asked her more questions that I didn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. Then I invited her to look through our house, as it were.

Dreaded visit over, and everyone survived. And the case worker didn’t even flinch over Em’s shaved head, which she is loving, by the way, especially since no one has asked her to wear a hat to hide her ears. Of course, after the case worker left I took all of the illegal drugs out of the hall closet, and I let the dozen or so illegal aliens out of the bathroom, and I got back to making the homemade meth that I was cooking up in the kitchen along with barbecued ribs.

It’s a joke, people. Of course, I know that sentence will come back in another form somewhere, but at this point, I am so over it.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Keyhole Arch, Apostle Islands (National Park Service)

You might think that such a visit and the results would put a normal person’s mind at ease, that the news that a completely unbiased third party witnessed the supposedly downtrodden young woman healthy and happy would be welcome news. You would think, but the key word here is normal. I know that this saga isn’t over. There will be more frantic telephone calls to whoever will listen. There will be more tossing about of the family name in an attempt to curry favor. There will be more stealing of passages of my blog to try to show how insane I am. There will be more disparaging remarks regarding my character, the character of my family.

As I’ve said before, when I need to, I can have the patience of Job. The more chest-banging this other person does, the less I need to justify myself. And dare I say it? I don’t really have anything to justify. I took in a young woman who felt trapped and mentally abused. I offered a safe haven to a person who did not feel safe, for various reasons. She is healthy. She is happy. She is safe.

I can do no more than what I have already done and what I continue to do—be myself—be patient, be sympathetic and empathetic, be a sounding board when needed.

Oh, and by the way, the illegal things? Puleez. But the part about Em’s shaved head is true; she just hasn’t died it blue yet . . .

“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Keyhold Arch, Antelope Canyon

Even though I’m spending a lot of effort here bitching, I’m actually not at all peeved. Instead, what I really feel is a deep sense of pity. You might think that I’m a sap for feeling pity for an individual who is set upon my ruin, for the person who does not hesitate to disparage me to anyone who will listen, but that is indeed what I feel.

I cannot say that I have ever encountered anyone exactly like this particular individual before, but I have encountered people who are filled with such a determined sense of entitlement and righteousness: They are the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. They are entitled to have this or to be given that because of a skewed sense of self-importance.

Unfortunately, my encounters with this personality type most often have occurred when dealing with members of boards of directors, especially in the arts. I cannot tell you how many people, women especially, who banked everything on their last names. They would meet me, hear my unusual, distinctly not patronage-linked last name, and immediately make assumptions about my value to them. If I could, in fact, give them something they needed or desired, then they would deign to be polite to me, but if my existence did not in any way benefit them, then I simply ceased to matter.

The first time that this happened, I was highly affronted, and my alpha side reared its head: You will listen to me because I do know exactly what I am talking about . . . I may as well have been barking at the moon for all of the good that it did me. This personality type is impermeable to reality, well, at least the reality in which so many of us exist. I took a lesson from my director, who was a very soft-spoken, wise man when he told me that I simply could not treat these people using logic because in their worlds, Copernicus was wrong, and the universe did indeed revolve around their spheres.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ~ Ansel Adams

Keyhole Tree, Broome, Australia

I have written about self-entitlement before, but usually as it pertains to teenagers and how we have an entire generation of people who think that they deserve whatever they want simply because. It’s not often that I encounter someone from my own generation who operates with this same sense of entitlement. People within my age group have usually worked hard to get to the points in our lives at which we find ourselves. Many of us our self-made, and many people I know are second generation to this country.

Being second generation (even on one side) imbues those of us like this with a strong work ethic because the desire not to fail our parents is extremely important. Being second generation also means that few of us have family names on which to fall back. We have made our own names, and we don’t depend upon our ancestors to define us. I cannot imagine being the kind of person to make requests simply because of what my name happens to be, but I have met people like this, and they have no qualms about throwing around that name as if it we still lived in a system with peers and nobles.

I think that part of what makes me strong is the fact that I have worked for everything that I have, that my parents came from humble beginnings and worked and saved for everything that they had. I’m proud to come from working-class stock. I was taught the value of a dollar, and I was taught that respect is something to be earned, not something to be bestowed upon someone simply because of who they are.

So what it boils down to is that in the midst of all of this, I try to retain my patience, and I try to retain my sense of humor, much taxed though they may be. And when in doubt, I remember the rule of three: that what we send out into the world comes back to us threefold.

Karma. It’s a bitch.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Morning After Girls, “Hidden Spaces”

                   

Picture of the Author with Vice President

That’s me on his left. If neither one of us
looks comfortable, it’s because I said
I’m sorry to hear about his heart.
A small machine, he says, sends tiny sparks
in there, to pace the flow of blood.
Some people will dispute this photo; his office
has denied it’s me; but I have to believe
I am in the picture. It’s awkward, yes,
for we don’t know each other;
and if he’s known as a man who keeps
public secrets, I’m not known at all.
Even so, he and I share something
that we cherish, deeply, which is our love

of trout. On his Wyoming ranch, he owns
a trout stream for himself. When I raise
the question—How’s the fishing?—he will rise
to the subject, and we will have grown
a little closer, having now disclosed
a passion no one, having known, lets go.
And he, too, is a man who knows cold blood
of trout cares nothing for who you are.
Nor do they care who owns the land
their water flows within: So long
as land and stream stay clean, they live.
Because I must rely on public lands
to find—weighed out in the flash
of a trout’s brilliant scales—that cleanly order,
I’m concerned about his sympathy
with those who call such places “undeveloped.”

But I know better than to say as much
to a man who’s so well versed
in the rhyming of ecology with economy
abstract nets that hold so many tangibles,
such as meadow grass that filters silt
so cutthroat trout may have clean beds
of gravel for their spawning redds;
or the English teacher whose hopes
for a pay raise float on the promise
of a growing tax base—in other words,
the new sport coat I’m wearing
in the photo, bought for this occasion.
Still, I want to believe in the heart
of a man who would fish a barbless fly
for a trout, and let it go; who would spend
that much time to be where trout live, to step
so softly in their stream, they do not frighten.

So I am going to tell him a story
about the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico,
and a man who lived there. By all accounts,
William Myers knew the land, but owned
none of it. Had no money, so in order to live
in the mountains, he bartered work
for the privilege of staying in
other people’s second homes.
One day, he drove his ATV up a ridge
to scout the most likely route to run a pipe
to his friend’s house. He lit a cigarette,
studied the forest floor, as he’d often done
for fresh deer lies, bear scat, a crop of mast
that might draw wild turkeys in.
Whether it was a spark from the ATV
or the cigarette, he didn’t know; but he was sure,
he told police, that it was he who caused the fire.
That night, a glowing orange blemish on the sky;
by next day, a dry mist with a taste
of wet paper. Nine thousand acres
of forest he had hunted, ponds and creeks
he’d fished—the bell-note of hummingbird wings,
the raccoon crooning to her pups—gone up
in a surf of flame; sap-laden pines burst
like the improvised gas-and-bottle bombs
he’d learned to make in the army. Helicopters
dropped fire-retardant chemicals on a woods
he’d loved but never owned, and never meant

to burn. They fell in scarlet plumes, like blood
that must have sprayed from his skull
when he stood in front of the gun
he held in his own hand, and fired.
—Well, it may have been the words
like blood, and skull, and gun,
that made the men in sunglasses bring
our conversation to a polite, efficient end.
Or it could have been my agitation
over a man who took responsibility—
who, as his scribbled farewell letter read,
could never live with what he had destroyed.

~ William Wenthe (as found in The Paris Review)

“Everything that I write is a kind of battle won—or lost—against silence and incoherence.” ~ Geoffrey Hill

Sailing on my mind . . .

                   

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid.

Sailing found on Pinterest

Long time no write, eh? Well we were in Ohio for Corey’s brother’s wedding. We left last Wednesday and got home in the wee hours of Monday morning. I’m happy to say that the road trip was incredibly uneventful, no car trouble, no flat tires, no engines blowing up on the side of a mountain. This time we did the smart thing and rented a car, thanks to Corey’s Aunt Judy who funded the trip. And it’s a good thing, too, that we didn’t take the Rodeo as it broke down last night in the Wal-Mart parking lot; the battery light had been coming on, so we had to buy a battery, and a hose burst. So glad that happened here and not on the road.

It was a Nissan Altima. Very nice, comfortable, and incredibly smooth ride, not to mention good on gas. We made it up and back in record time, too—about 11 hours, which is a nice change from our last trip which was 26 hours during a blizzard. The Tom Tom that Corey’s parents gave him for his birthday last year helped with the timing as it plotted the shortest route (time-wise). Technology can be a wonderful thing.

We took Tillie with us this time. We actually hadn’t planned to take her, but when we were loading the car, she jumped into the back seat and looked at us like “Well?” Very unusual for her as she is not a car dog. She was a bit restless on the way up, but slept soundly on the way home.

Anyway, the visit was very nice. Corey’s sister gave me a much needed hair cut, long layers everywhere, and about three inches off the length. We saw a lot of the family at the wedding, which was a casual outdoor affair, quite lovely really. I am so happy for Chad that he has found a very sweet woman and that their extended family gets along well. All of the nieces and nephews have grown so much. No one is little anymore. I know that Corey really enjoyed himself, so all in all, I would have to say successful road trip.

“I saw myself, heard myself, felt myself, not write—and yet even then knew perfectly both that I should be writing now and that I should now be sorrier than ever for my not writing then.” ~ Henry James, letter to Charles Eliot Norton, December 26, 1898

Head Sail Sun by russteaches (FCC)

I had thought about writing a few posts while I was in Ohio, but I just wasn’t up to it. I was saving my energy so that I wouldn’t be a blob at the wedding and when we went visiting. But that meant no writing, which made me a bit antsy. Maybe one day we’ll have a laptop again, and I’ll be able to write on the road.

My fluffy boy Shakes was happy to see me. He hasn’t left my side since we got home. Eamonn slept in our bed while we were gone, so the Jack Russells weren’t too lonely.

Corey’s boss had scheduled him for a first shift on Monday, which simply wasn’t possible, so he lost that one. But then his boss turned around and gave him two shifts today, first and third, which makes up for the lost shift, but such a full day for him as he also has class tonight. He’s signed up for two classes this fall, and I think that we’ve done all of his paper work, so he and Brett are good to go, that is until I have to buy books, which means lots of Internet searching for the best prices.

Eamonn is another story. He’ going to do two classes this fall, but he lost his financial aid for a semester because of his GPA. I’ve told him that we’ll pay for these two classes, but he must do well. He wants to get into the radiation technology program, and the application must be submitted by December. He really needs to get at least B’s, preferably A’s to get his GPA back up. It would really be a shame if he didn’t get into this program, especially since his dad knows the person in charge. I told Eamonn that this program would be his ticket to independence: There is always a need for radiation technicians in hospitals and doctors’ offices. If he’s serious about getting his own place and being independent, then he needs to be practical.

Here’s hoping . . .

“Maybe the fear is that
we are less than
we think we are,
when the
actuality of it
is that we are much much more.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness

Sailing in Roatan, Honduras

So aside from our travels, life is much the same. The kiddies all survived just fine while we were gone, although there were a few hiccups over food. I told them that’s what it’s like to have a roommate. To be fair, Eamonn was unaware that Brett and Em had bought certain food, and we weren’t able to tell him before we left. Eamonn is Eamonn.

Nothing new on the Alexis front. Haven’t seen or talked to her since the day she took me to the doctor. Last night when the car broke down, Corey called Mike to see if he could help. Alexis answered the phone and told Corey that she was eating dinner. Hmm . . . the number of times we’ve been busy but have dropped everything to accommodate her? Can’t even count.

I never thought that nearly grown/grown children would be more difficult than toddler children or more trying than teenager children. I was wrong. I love all of my children, but sometimes I just don’t understand where their heads are . . .

I can sit here and wish with all of my heart that life for my children would unfold without complications, but we all know that such things don’t happen in reality. Motherhood is fraught with potholes and the potential for pain, and nothing can change that. But how I wish that life was still so simple that mere mommy kisses could make things better. How I wish that hugs could heal . . . but if wishes were fishes . . .

“There are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.”  ~ Oscar Wilde

Sailing Yachts

I’m cancelling all upcoming doctors’ appointments for the time being because once again, my health insurance coverage is messed up. Apparently, the payment that we sent at the end of June was never credited, and we have no idea where it is. This is not the first time that the payment processing center has lost a payment. But as a result, none of my doctor’s visits in May have been paid for, and I’m getting nasty calls from billing offices.

This I don’t need. Obviously. I mean it’s one thing when I know that I haven’t paid a bill, or that I’ve paid a bill late, but when the bill has been paid on time, and the phone calls still come—it’s just too much.

I told Corey that I’d like to move to Vermont, the one state that provides healthcare coverage for its citizens. It’s not that I’m in love with Vermont, just the idea of having healthcare. Corey says that Vermont is too damned cold.

Of course, if my Social Security disability would be approved, then I’d be relieved of this huge insurance payment each month. Every time that I think about that stupid judge who said that I had no disabilities I get angry. Every time I have a headache that lasts for days I think of that judge, and I want to call him. Each time I have to spend the day in bed recuperating because my body is just worn out, I think of that judge in not too kindly terms.

I hate having my future in someone else’s hands. I hate that loss of control. I hate bureaucrats. Sometimes, I wish that I had gone to law school when I had the chance, but then I come to my senses. Oh, who knows . . . all of the what ifs, should haves, maybes, whys—it’s enough to drive a person crazy, but then, we all know already how crazy I am . . .

(I sure am using a lot of ellipses in this post. Maybe it’s because my thoughts keep trailing off, or maybe it’s because it’s more of a stream of consciousness post: here, there, everywhere.)

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.” ~ Jack Gilbert 

Sailing by Troy Li (Pixdaus)

I had a lovely surprise waiting for me when I got home: one of my regular readers wrote me a letter, a real letter on stationary. I gobbled up the words and enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course, now I must make the time to write her back, which will be good for me. Years ago, I used to keep a stock of stationary, lovely cream-colored linen. In this day of printers and computers, who has stationary any more?

I managed to read two and a half books while we were gone. I finally read The Book Thief, which I will admit was hard to get into, but once I did, I loved it. It’s set during Nazi Germany, but the story isn’t anything that you might think. I would highly recommend it. I also devoured a Lee Child book, 61 Hours, which is more fluff reading, but enjoyable nonetheless. And then last night I finished Life of Pi, which I had started while we were still in Ohio. I had heard about this book and read reviews, but had never gotten around to reading it. It’s an improbable story, bittersweet and touching. I loved the main character.

I have a stack of books in my to-read pile. I don’t like to read while I’m floating in the pool any more, not since I dropped Gargoyle into the pool and ruined it.

Speaking of the pool, the water is finally clear. Corey had a heck of a time getting the water to clear this season. Even though it’s just an above-ground pool, it still takes a lot of work to keep it in good shape. I deliberately did not go outside today as the pool would have been too tempting, and I really wanted to get a post up. Tomorrow though—floating and perhaps a new book.

That’s about all for now. I promised Brett that I would give him a haircut today, so he’s waiting.

More later. Peace.

Music by the Editors, “No Sound but the Wind” (just discovered this wonderful group)

                   

Too Many Names

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

~ Pablo Neruda

“Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside.” ~ Egon Schiele

Fire in the Sky (NOAA Corps Collection)

                   

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, hot and very humid. 

The house is quiet. The dogs are all hiding in cool spots, so it’s just Brett and me. Corey had a medical transport today, which means a road trip to Dulles Airport and back, long day, but good hours for him.

Some welcome news for a change: After my, shall we say, less-than-friendly letter to the president of the Ford dealership, we have resolution at last. The dealer is going to honor the buy-back and try to recoup the money from Ford Motor Company, which will pull us out of the dispute. I mailed the letter on Monday and received a call from a vice president on Tuesday. We’re set to turn in the rental and pick up the check this coming Tuesday, so after seven months, resolution in two days.

Isn’t it amazing what carefully chosen words can do? My friend Mari once suggested that I go into business writing letters of complaint for people.

Another avenue unexplored . . .

No rental means we go back to one vehicle temporarily, but with the check from the dealer, we can finally get Corey’s truck fixed (transmission, transfer case, etc.). I know that he’ll be glad to have his truck working again; the only drawback is what it will cost to fill the truck with gas versus what we’ve been paying to fill these little economy-class cars from the rental company. Big difference there.

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Sailboat at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Well, I had my lumbar puncture on Thursday, which brought on an instantaneous migraine and laid me low all day Friday and partially yesterday. Hence, no post. I did try to write last night, but my wrists and hands were still tingling. Don’t ask me why . . .

The procedure itself is uncomfortable, mostly because of the position in which I had to place my body. The only thing that I felt at the puncture site was some pressure. So glad that LPs have come a long way from the frightful spinal taps of the past. I cannot imagine having the puncture done without numbing medicine first. However, because the doctor had to go through scar tissue from my operation, it took a few tries before she was in, which produced a bonus sensation: a shooting pain from my back all the way down my right leg.

Nothing is ever easy or straightforward when it comes to my body and doctors.

It would be nice if she actually gets some kind of results from the tests, if only because it will help to explain some of the constant headaches. They are such a part of my life now that I only notice when I don’t have a headache.

“There is a place where time stands still . . . illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.” ~ Alan Lightman

Sunset at Samurai Beach, NSW, Australia (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about people again, in the general sense. Remember I had mentioned people who are cheerful, who smile easily and how I am not one of those kinds of people? Well, what about those individuals in whom you can sense a burning, an internal fire?

These are the people who will not be bound by the shackles of an ordinary life. I’m not talking about the Donald Trumps of the world; those are the people who climb upon the backs of others to get what they want (no idea what made me think of Trump, who I truly despise). I’m talking about people like Beethoven, van Gogh, Emily Dickinson—the ones in whom the passion inside was so great that they just had to find a way to release it.

Beethoven composed, created great beauty that he could not hear. When his hearing began to fail, he did not stop composing; rather, he composed more fervently. The music that he heard inside was such a primal force that the composer put his ear to the floor to feel the vibrations. I don’t know that I believe that Beethoven was writing for the world. Instead, I think that he was writing to set himself free. Unless he made the notes real, they would haunt him.

Vincent van Gogh was mad and brilliant, and that combination brought forth yellow stars that are instantly recognizable throughout the world. The artist had so much to say, even if no one around him wanted to hear the words. Imagine what it must have felt like for van Gogh, alone with only his mind, never quite knowing what was real, and then transferring those emotions into vivid swirls in hues brilliant to behold. Imagine the force that drove van Gogh to paint himself over and over—his attempt to make himself real? Solid?

The reclusive Emily Dickinson alone, fragile, writing page after page of verse that the world would know nothing of until after her death. Dickinson dared to stray from the conventions of her time—no titles, extensive use of dashes, odd capitalization, short lines with internal rhyme— and wrote instead what her heart spoke to her. I wonder if she had any inkling of how much her writing would change the landscape of poetry.

“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.” ~ Patti Smith

Caribbean Sunset by photon y (FCC)

I suppose what I am pondering is how each of these creative individuals possessed a spark that urged them onward, regardless of circumstances. Each burned within, consumed with passion and desire. Each garnered more attention after death than during life. Did each die thinking him or herself a failure?

How we judge ourselves is very telling indeed.

Burning desire. Creative passion. clichés? Perhaps, but that fire does exist, and it does not exist in everyone. This I know for certain. But is this internal fire a partner to madness, the madness that comes from wanting something so much that everything else is left by the wayside? What else but mad desire would have driven Michelangelo to lie on his back for four years to paint the Sistine Chapel?

To be clear, I know the difference between mad desire and psychotic desire: The first gives the world Michelangelo’s frescoes; the second gives the world Hitler’s death camps. Creative madness eats at the soul of the individual who harbors it; it does not harbor a desire to destroy those who look on. That is not to say that the person who gives rise to such passion does not take prisoners along the way. Just consider the siblings and spouses left behind to pick up the pieces. Ted Hughes was still trying to come to terms with Sylvia Plath in his last published work, in spite of his own poetic genius.

Perhaps what I am really contemplating is whether or not that spark still resides somewhere in my soul. Do I still possess the same passion for words that I once felt, or worse, did I never really feel it? No, I should not dissemble: I have felt it all my life—the it that separates those of us who are different, not of the mainstream. And I know the price that we pay, know how many will subsume the desire in order to fit in, to be like everyone else.

It’s like walking a tightrope backwards: a constant balancing act without any clear idea of where it’s all going. It’s as if we are constantly moving into the sunset, blinded by the fire in the sky, but unwilling to give up the quest beyond the horizon because to attain it, the elusive it, would mean peace at last, at least, that’s what we convince ourselves. As Henry James once said, “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.”

Music by Right the Stars, “You Know the Way to Go”

                   

Flame

the breath               the trees               the bridge
the road                  the rain                the sheen
the breath              the line                  the skin
the vineyard          the fences             the leg
the water               the breath             the shift
the hair                  the wheels            the shoulder
the breath              the lane                the streak
the lining               the hour                the reasons
the name                the distance          the breath
the scent                the dogs                the blear
the lungs                the breath             the glove
the signal               the turn                  the need
the steps                the lights               the door
the mouth             the tongue             the eyes
the burn                the burned            the burning

~ C. D. Wright

“Wound me . . . I can only feed on my humiliated blood.” ~ Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions: Vol. I

Budapest Chain Bridge by Széchenyi Lánchíd (Pixdaus)

                   

“Longing is the agony of the nearness of the distant.” ~ Martin Heidegger, Who is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra?, tr. by Bernd Magnus

Wednesday afternoon. Warm and humid.

Mist, by Alexandra X (500px.com)

It’s an unseasonable 69° F here; elsewhere, in the north, people are experiencing blizzards and traffic-stopping white-out conditions. This time we were spared the snow and were given warmth. Never fear, though. The temperatures here are supposed to plummet to the low 30’s by tonight.

And people wonder why so many people in this area suffer from sinus problems and allergies.

So I’m having a pretty bad day in spite of the fact that I have confirmation that I have health insurance. Waiting for the new cards to come in the mail so that I can make those appointments I was talking about previously. In spite of this very good news, I feel wretched.

Yesterday, I took the now dry, previously water-logged pages of my poem’s draft and tried to type them into Word. Aside from the fact that this computer only has Works on it (what a crap program) because we’re not loading anything on it until we can do a complete reload (another story), I realized while typing that what I had been so impressed with only days before was pure and total crap. Drivel. Snot. Yuck out loud.

I really hate it when that happens. I tried working and reworking and finally stopped myself because the more I did, the more that it read as being overworked and perfunctory, and the spark that generated the idea for the poem had been completely lost beneath forced wordsmithing. The deadline has been extended, which is good, I think, but now I don’t know if I have it in me to enter the contest. (Correction note: First prize is book of poems by Pablo Neruda, not Pessoa; don’t know what I was thinking.)

Of course, all of this mulling is giving me a low-grade headache, one of those tension bands around my entire skill. Love it.

“Sharp like a razor’s edge, the sages say,
Is the path, difficult to traverse.” ~ Katha Upanishad

Foggy Night #89, by Dimitri Bogachuk

Outside I hear the rumblings of a storm approaching. Meanwhile, Tillie the Lab has nested on the old futon in here and is currently telling me off for not paying much attention to her. She has this thing that she does whenever she feels neglected: She puts her head down and grumbles just once, a single quiet protest. She’ll repeat this little nudge until someone stops whatever they are doing and plays with her for a few minutes. Have I mentioned lately how much I think that dogs are wonderfully sentient beings? She seems to know that I’m struggling as she is pacing her grunts to meet the pauses in my typing.

Yesterday I was working on a post about HR3, that infuriating bill supposedly about abortion being proposed by a bunch of neanderthals, most of whom have male genitalia. I became so incensed over their new definitions of rape that most of the post was pure rant, so I stopped that too. Maybe I’ll go back to it later today, depends on what my mind does, where it goes in the next few hours.

Speaking of hours, I had very few consisting of real sleep last night/this morning. I fear that the insomnia is rearing its ugly head again. The alarm beeped at 5 a.m. for Corey to get for watch, and I was still awake, watching some movie that I had seen before. I had deliberately chosen the movie because I thought that it would put me to sleep.

No joy.

I think that I fell asleep around 6 a.m., only to awaken after 11. I poured coffee down my throat and drove Brett to his afternoon classes. Perhaps the sleep deprivation is a contributing factor to the headache.

“If I stare into it long enough, the point comes when I don’t know what it’s called, a condition in which lacerations are liable to occur, like a slip of the tongue; when a drop of blood might billow in a glass of water, blooming in velvet detonation and imparting to it the colorless, tasteless and originless fear in which I wake. ” ~ Franz Wright, Blade  

Red in the Mist by Viktor Minchenko (Pixdaus)

A few nights ago Corey had to waken me from a nightmare. I awoke screaming, “I hate you. I hate you.” and slapping at his hands as he tried to calm me. I had dreamt that Corey told me quite matter-of-factly that he had picked up and had sex with (and this part was very specific) 32 women.

Thirty-two? Where did that come from? How can I be my own worst enemy in my dreams too? I don’t remember much else about the dream, even though I recounted it for Corey when I was awake. Numbers in dreams always unnerve me a bit, and I don’t really know why; perhaps it’s because they are so arbitrary. I mean, if dreaming is the brain’s way of sifting through the detritus of the day, where do these numbers come from if not life?

Thirty two. Hmm. Things that make you go hmm . . .

I have been having very vivid dreams again, lots of people from my past popping up and intruding into my subconscious. Have you ever had a past dream intrude into a current dream? That happened to me. Don’t remember the exact circumstances, but a scene that happened in a former dream involving my ex unpacking dishes in the kitchen recurred in a more recent dream. The actual event never occurred in real life.

I wonder if this could be considered a rerun dream . . . Does this mean that my lack of originality has crept into my dreams, as well? Well crap.

“And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened.” ~ Douglas Coupland

Crook in the Mist by Basil G (Pixdaus)

I find myself missing my dad a lot these days, probably because he is one of those people who keeps popping in and out of dreams lately. I wonder if he ended his life filled with regret over things he  hadn’t yet done. I wonder if he realized how close he was to his death and if he was filled with fear. I wonder how many dreams he had fulfilled and how many he still hadn’t achieved.

Last night Corey said that he hated that his life was mediocre, and I said that his life wasn’t mediocre, but perhaps his current state was mediocre because he felt stuck. But truthfully, I understand exactly what he meant. It goes back to my “I hate my life” statement of before.

Sometimes it all just seems so pointless. I mean, what are we really doing here? Are we making any forward progress? We as in individuals, we as in this country, we as in this world. Everywhere I turn I hear hateful things and see so much pain, and then if I narrow my vision just a bit, I see glimpses of beauty and grace, which reminds me that it isn’t pointless.

Yes, yes. I know. It’s February, the longest month of the year for my psyche, but as with my current contradictory state, it’s February, and it feels like spring, but it smells like winter. Is it any wonder that I’m conflicted?

Truth time: the poem is supposed to be about preferences, as in what do you prefer, coffee or tea, only not that simple. But maybe it is that simple and like everything else, I have made it too complicated. Preferences. For me, that is such a loaded word. The answer is that what I prefer depends on the day, the weather, my weight, whether or not my face has broken out in adult acne, how bad my headache is, if the dogs have decided to go dumpster diving in the kitchen trash, how overwhelmed I feel when I go through the mail and realize that the “to be paid” pile is seemingly insurmountable.

Preferences? I would prefer to be working as opposed to not working. I would prefer to be pain-free as opposed to pain-laden. I would prefer not to owe so much overdue money to so many people as opposed to owing my soul. I would prefer that the sliding glass door did not have spiderweb cracks in it from where Tillie hit it head on, and I would prefer that we could install our good water heater so that taking a shower did not have to be timed to coincide with the availability of hot water.

Preferences? Yes, I have a few. Most aren’t even noteworthy, but perhaps a few are worth a word or two: I prefer moonlight and water. I prefer the smell of fresh herbs and flowers. I prefer paper books to their bastardization. I prefer long hot baths at the end of the day with candles lit, casting orange and red glows on the tiles. I prefer songs that touch my heart rather than rattle my brain. I prefer to live a full life rather than merely exist.

How do you know if you are broken? I suppose it’s the same way that you know if you are insane. You don’t.

More later. Peace.

Music by Butterfly Boucher, “A Bitter Song”

                   

on Joy & Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

~ Kahlil Gibran

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” ~ Lewis Carroll

White Wing Blue Water (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)

                     

“What is the meaning of life? That was all—a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.” ~ Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse 

Zen Blue by Gordon McBryde (Pixdaus)

Monday evening. Bitterly cold

Shall I share something with you? I have been pondering whether or not I should put this out for public consumption. Oh. Nothing like that. I mean, I haven’t won the lottery or suddenly become famous. Totally not where I was going with this.

This is the secret that dwells within, the truth that perhaps gives meaning to my existence: I hate my life.

Hmmm . . .

Perhaps I should be a bit more precise: I don’t hate myself. I don’t hate the people in my life. I don’t hate life. I hate my life, the one that I’m living at this moment.

You see, yesterday was my birthday, and yes, every year I go on and on about how much I detest my birthday, and yes, every year I manage to work myself into some kind of snit over the acknowledgement of (or lack thereof) my birthday, so you would probably not be completely misguided in thinking that perhaps my declaration has something to do with my birthday because, well, it does.

“What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior

Last Blue by Bade Babayigit (Pixdaus)

I mean, how did I get to be this old without accomplishing even half of the things that I thought I would have done by now? How does that happen? How does it happen that your body betrays you much too soon and you find yourself spending days at a time in bed? How does it happen that you turn a corner and find a wall instead of a door?

You may be sitting there thinking to yourself ‘How in the hell can she claim to hate her life? What kind of statement is that?’

I won’t argue with you. I won’t even try to persuade you of the validity of my claim. I only know that a few days ago I was sitting in bed holding my head in my hands in an attempt to squeeze the pain away when I suddenly thought, “This sucks. This really, really sucks. I thought that I was getting better . . . I hate my life.”

So you see, that’s how I can make that claim. Am I being melodramatic. Of course I am. Do I mean it? Of course I do, and of course I don’t. (What, you want definitive from me?)

As I was trying to explain to Corey: The first year out on disability was a steady decline; I never knew when I was going to be stuck in bed for days, unable to do even the simplest task. The next year contained intermittent advances. Yes, I still hurt, but I had more energy. Then several months ago, I felt well enough that I toyed with the idea of returning to work. Then BAM! (sorry, don’t usually yell with caps, but felt it apropos here), I’m hit with one of the worst downtimes I’ve had in quite some time.

It’s as if I’m one of those little wind-up toys that advance a few steps each time the spring is wound and the release button is turned. The boys had those when they were toddlers, and my favorite was the penguin, the way that it toddled.

But I digress . . .

Like the toy, I can only go so far, but . . . Not. One. Step. Farther. To try to do so only messes with the spring mechanism and eventually ends up with the toy being broken and completely useless, except to look at, and who wants a wind-up toy that can only be seen and not used?

“His advanced age, his wounds, his chains . . .
‘Albanian,’ he inquired. ‘Why do you fight
when you could live differently?’
‘Because, Padishah,’ replied the prisoner,
‘Every man has a piece of sky in his breast
and in it flies a swallow.’” ~ Fatos Arapi, Sultan Murat and the Albanian

Sapphire and White (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)

Admittedly, this mood more than likely stems from that overwhelming ennui that cloaks me  from November through February. Hence the blue theme, the ice, the stillness in the pictures.

The reality is that only narcissists and psychopaths are able to go through life never questioning their existence, never doubting themselves—the former because perfection is hard to improve upon (in their minds), and the latter because self-doubt requires a conscience. This isn’t the first time that I have felt myself a failure, nor will it be the last.

Although I have to say that the idea that my life is beyond my control really torques me out of shape. The battle rages on between what my mind aspires to and what my body will accede to, and I simply will not, cannot concede, not as long as I can still find the smallest piece of blue sky to which I can cling, not as long as I can strike a match in the night to create enough light on which I can pin my hopes.

“Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen” ~ David Whyte, from “All the True Lies”

Blue Nature by Gerhard Grasinger (Pixdaus)

Okay. So this post is not unfolding as I had envisioned. Perhaps because my declaration in the first section is a few days old, and I was unable to write about it while it was preying on me the strongest—because of the headache that will not end (I kid you not—28 days and counting).

So I should clarify: I hate the circumstances of my life, those factors that keep me down (physically and emotionally), the elements that seem to be so much beyond my control. I mean, even this headache thing—the neurologist to whom my headache doctor referred me does not accept GW’s new insurance plan. Was I surprised? Not at all. Anything else would have been too easy.

But in the end, under the glaring light of introspection and self-analysis, I realize that I am a tortured but fortunate soul. I think that my friend Alan comes to me in my dreams occasionally to remind me of this. His death from cancer at only 39 means that he never saw his son as a teenager; he never hit those major birthday milestones. And if anyone had a legitimate reason to curse fate, it was him.

As I have said many, many times, fate is fickle, and the very fact that I have been around enough years to repeat myself, to bemoan my fate, and to find the light in the darkness is what truly defines me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Brendan James, “The Sun Will Rise” (could not insert YouTube video as content is restricted, but I really wanted this song for this post)

BRENDAN JAMES – THE SUN WILL RISE LYRICS and VIDEO.

                   

The sun will rise, the sun will save me.
The sun will change me, change the way I feel.
The day will make this heart a fortune
From the fruit of a hundred orchards,
From the water rivers bring.

The sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.

I’ve had enough of the hard and harder.
Times are tough. I’ve drifted farther,
Farther from myself.

I won’t dwell, baby, on my failures.
It won’t help, baby. It won’t bring changes.
I won’t run, baby, when all I want is to run.
I won’t forget the morning’s sure to come.

The sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.
The love I want, the love I need is
Sure to come, is sure to lead me,
Lead me home again.

The light is low, the night is burning.
My head is still but my mind is turning,
Turning ’round again.

If only I can make it through this
Lonely night, if I can do this,
If I can drift away,

Then the sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.

“You burn with hunger for food that does not exist.” ~ David Foster Wallace

Fire and Ice: Art of Nature, by Henri Bonnel(Pixdaus)

                      

“I am a jumble of passions, misgivings, and wants. It seems that I am always in a state of wishing and rarely in a state of contentment.” ~ Libba Bray

Colorful Winter's Day (Pixdaus)

Thursday evening. Clear and cold. Third day of this migraine.

Is the knot in my neck causing my migraine, or is my migraine causing the knot in my neck? These are the things that I ponder as 2010 comes to a close. I’ve been working on this particular post for two days, maybe three; it’s hard to remember. You see, I choose the quotes based on my mood, which guides the theme for my quotes, my images, and the accompanying music.

I love the David Foster Wallace quote that I am using as the header for this post. It’s not a new quote for me, but its meaning is  a constant in my life: the search for that which isn’t, the need for that which has yet to appear, the yearning for that which may never exist in this lifetime.

For the past two nights, I have stayed up quite late and slept into the afternoon, a habit that I thought that I had broken during  my stay with my mother. But it’s so cold everywhere—outside in the brisk air that makes my lungs seize up, and inside my brain, which refuses to thaw long enough to create—so cold that I cannot will myself to face the day. And then there is this days’ old migraine. So very tired of the omnipresent brain constriction; I have to wonder what this is doing to my grey cells in the long-term.

And so contentment, shall we say, continues to elude me on this, the almost eve of a new year.

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ~ Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

Winter Sunset on House (Pixdaus)

By the way, does anyone happen to know a good curse-breaker because there is definitely some bad mojo at work on this family: This morning the police knocked on our door looking for Alexis. Her permanent address is still here. Seems that both of her cars were involved in an accident. Okay, yes, I know. Not the best way to be awakened, but luckily, not bad news in the police-at-your-door vein of bad news.

The good news is that the cars were parked outside her apartment. The bad news is that both cars were totalled by the huge-ass Suburban that slid on the ice and slid into the Civic that my mom just gave to Alexis; said civic was pushed back into the old Civic, which was pushed about 15 feet with the parking brake on. Neither car survived the encounter well.

Oddly enough, that’s how I lost my favorite car, my Oldsmobile Calais, in an encounter with a big-ass Suburban. The right front fender was pushed into an accordion into the passenger seat. The Suburban has a small dent in its bumper. The Calais never recovered.

So I suppose a few lessons can be learned from this experience:

  • Buy an old Suburban if you want a vehicle that is built like a tank.
  • Don’t count on  the fact that you did not slide on the ice as a sign that all is well because other people are out on the ice with bigger vehicles than yours.
  • Always have car insurance (which we do), and always be glad when the other driver also has insurance.

So now Alexis and Mike have the onerous task of dealing with insurance companies, adjusters, and trying to find two new/used vehicles, and Mike is due back on site in Northern Virginia on January 3.

So about that curse-breaker?

“Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
out of the room that lets you feel secure.
Infinity is open to your sight.
Whoever you are.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Entrance”

Winter Sunset through Trees (Pixdaus)

The snow is gradually melting. In the past few nights the temperature has dropped below freezing, which means black ice on the roads, something that Brett and I experienced on our way home on Tuesday evening.

We went out Tuesday afternoon while Corey was trying to sleep before having to go back to work for another 11 hours that night. Brett wanted to look for yet another vintage coat at is now-favorite surplus store. No-joy on the coat, but he did find a great hood that fits on his jacket, and it was $10. Excitement all around. Then we went to another store to exchange a couple of presents, which meant that we found ourselves driving home after dark.

The Rodeo has a winter drive mode the same as my old Trooper Izzie did, and it’s a great feature. Just push that button, and feel the traction increase. We did hit one spot of ice but had minimal slippage. Luckily for us as just a few feet ahead of us was a car that had not made it over the patch quite as well and was in the median, which on that particular stretch of road has a dip. State Police were already on scene, but we didn’t see any injuries.

The best practice this week has been to stay inside and off the roads as much as possible. My mother had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, which I was planning to drive her to, but she canceled it as she was certain that the roads would be horrible. I tried to explain that in the afternoon, things were fairly good, mostly slush, but she wasn’t having it, so she has rescheduled. That being said, she drove herself to bingo this evening. Does anyone else notice the illogic that rules my mother? 

“Chantez, riez; soyez heureux, soyes célèbres;
Chacun de vous sers bientôt dans les ténèbres” ~ Victor Hugo
(Sing, laugh; be happy, be famous;
Each one of you will soon be in the darkness)

Silence (Pixdaus)

It’s now 9 o’clock, and I began this post hours ago. My headache is getting worse, so I need to wrap things up for now.

I just took some more pain medicine for my migraine, which reminds me of a very troubling and infinitely sad story that Corey showed me on The Virginian-Pilot’s website, pilotonline.com. It seems that in February of this year, a marine who served in Afghanistan was admitted to Portsmouth Naval Hospital for chest pains. The marine, who was suffering from PTSD, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a very treatable form of cancer, with a 90 percent five-year survival rate.

Twenty-year-old Lance Cpl. Ezequiel Freire never left the hospital. Instead, he died of a drug overdose, caused by too many doctors prescribing too many medications without taking into consideration what treatment Freire was already receiving. His autopsy showed a high dose of Fentanyl and 10 other narcotics and sedatives. This young man died of a toxic pharmaceutical cocktail, the kind of death that is on the upswing in this country because of the rampant use of prescribed narcotics.

Freire survived over 50 firefights during his six-month deployment only to die because too many doctors who were involved did not pay attention. But no firings will result from this tragedy because it’s a military hospital, and no suits can be brought because of that little thing called the Feres Doctrine, which absolves the military and the U.S. government from liability.

The other really pathetic aspect to this story is that some people used the comments section of the story to try to say that this (Freir’s death) is the kind of thing that will happen under Obamacare because healthcare will be government-run. Seriously? This kid was 20; he served his country; he was traumatized so much that he couldn’t enjoy a meal in a restaurant because of the noise, and he was given a potent mix of drugs: “first morphine, then oxycodone and its time-release variant OxyContin, supplemented by Dilaudid. Simultaneously, he was receiving a series of sedatives for anxiety – first Ativan, then Xanax, and finally Klonopin – plus Ambien and then Lunesta for insomnia.”

And you want to turn this horrible situation into a commentary on government healthcare reform? Have you no shame? You people are barbarians.

Enough. More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “Flowers in December”

                   

Flowers in December
Before I let you down again,
I just want to see you in your eyes.
I wouldn’t have taken everything out on you,
I only thought you could understand.

They say every man goes blind in his heart,
And they say everybody steals somebody’s heart away.
And I got nothing more to say about it
Nothing more than you would me.

Send me your flowers of your december,
Send me your dreams of your candied wine.
I’ve got just one thing I can’t give you…
Just one more thing of mine

They say every man goes blind in his heart
And they say everybody steals somebody’s heart away
And I’ve been wondering why you let me down

And I’ve been taking it all for granted

 

“Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside. I wonder if the snow LOVES the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Bethlehem, Pennslvania by cornersoftheworld

 

“Here
I’m here—
the snow falling.” ~ Kobayashi Issa

Lost in Winder by aL-baum on deviantART

Boxing Day, home, early evening.

It’s 28° F and dropping. This winter, I am perhaps more grateful for one thing above all others: the return of central heat to our house—a luxury too many of us take for granted. My hope for today? That those without, those facing the elements without the warmth of a coat, or hat, or gloves, those without shelter, those without a hot meal—those much less fortunate than we will be able to find a place to sleep tonight that offers some semblance of comfort.

We are currently experiencing one of the worst snowstorms to hit this area in many years. Earlier today conditions were classified as “near-whiteout,” reminding me of our 26-hour road trip to Ohio last  holiday season in which we found ourselves driving through a blizzard with frozen windshield wipers, and eventually, a flat tire. So glad we aren’t on the road today.

That being said, Corey did have to be at work at 7 this morning, and when he finished his shift at 3, it was snowing harder. For some reason, few snow plows are out (actually, not too surprising as Norfolk probably owns maybe two plows for the entire area), which mean that most major roads, let alone backroads in neighborhoods, have yet to be cleared. Right now Corey is scheduled to be back in at 6 a.m.; the forecast is calling for snow throughout the night, wind, and falling temperatures, which means ice.

People in Hampton Roads cannot drive in snow under the best conditions; give them ice, and driving becomes bumper cars. Not pretty.

“Today on the way home, it snows. Big, soft caressing flakes fall onto our skin like cold moths; the air fills with feathers.” ~ Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Winter Morning (Pixdaus)

Originally, Corey had been scheduled to work yesterday morning (Christmas), but fortunately the yard to which he was supposed to report closed in the wee hours, so he was home with the family. Eamonn came over on Christmas Eve to finish his wrapping, and he spent the night here so that he could be home for Christmas morning. It was lovely.

Then yesterday was another day of running around, more so for Alexis, Eamonn, and Brett than Corey and myself. The kids had to go to their dad’s house, and then their grandfather’s house, then to my mom’s for Christmas dinner, then to their other grandmother’s for dessert. Afterwards, Mike and Alexis decided against their final three stops; Eamonn went to a friend’s house for the remainder of the night, and Corey, Brett and I came home and vegged.

Christmas dinner was wonderfully uneventful this year. Last year’s fiasco with the restaurant was not repeated. Instead, we decided collectively to eschew a traditional dinner in favor of Filipino food, so we had pancit, lumpia, rice, and tuppa. The only nod to westernization were the Pillsbury crescent rolls with fresh butter.

Everyone had their fill, and the aftermath of a big holiday dinner was greatly alleviated by fewer large dishes as well as far fewer leftovers. Admittedly, I had a bit of wine to help me get through the stress that arises whenever my mother’s house is filled with people who are all talking at once, something that tends to wreak havoc with my nerves. Of course, my mother had to comment about me being a wino, which is a hoot since I have gotten to the point at which I may drink a glass of something four times a year, two of them being Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Whatever. 

“Only a house, quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Winter-Licht by Michael Jotze (Pixdaus)

Today was blessedly quiet, with a few exceptions. I could not get to sleep last night, so I visited a few fellow bloggers until I felt my eyes getting heavy around 2:30 a.m. I awoke at one point with Shakes sitting on my chest making hacking sounds like he was about to throw up.

Someone (who shall remain nameless) thought that it would be a wonderful idea to buy all three dogs big beef marrow bones as part of their Christmas. All three dogs took turns throwing up yesterday and into last night. Let us just say that this bad decision shall not be repeated next year.

Anyway, Shakes did not throw up on me (thankfully), and he went back to sleep. I did not, so it was another restless night for me. Which means that I was so glad that my mother called at 10 a.m., asked me if I was still asleep, and then tried to have a conversation with me. I did manage to get a few hours of sound sleep between 10:30 and 12:30, so I’m not completely sleep-deprived.

Everything outside looked so beautiful from inside the house that I decided to snap a few pictures from the doorways (hope to post tomorrow). The big Camellia bush directly across from the kitchen window was almost completely covered and resembled an huge snowball. I then opened the front door and stuck my head out to take some shots of that area. Tillie, who had been waiting for someone to take her snowplowing, immediately gamboled out the front door and sank. I wasn’t worried about her running away, and she had a great time as I clicked away.

However . . . the two Jack Russells got wind of the fun being  had without them and came from beneath whatever covers they had been snuggled in and made a mad dash out the door. When they sank up to their bellies, I thought they would turn around and come back in, but nooooo. They made a run for it. It would have been funnier if not for a few things: Brett got really nervous, and I suddenly realized that if they went into the street, no one would be able to see them (good thing few cars were out and about). So I pulled some boots on over my flannel pjs, put on a sweater and coat, and went in search of the bad boys.

Brett pulled on his boots and ran out sans coat or hat and immediately spotted the two dogs that I hadn’t managed to find yet.  It was only amusing in retrospect. 

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” ~ A. A. Milne

Winter Dreams by Mikhail Tkachev (Pixdaus)

All in all, it was a fairly relaxing Christmas. I did start to go into overdrive on Christmas Eve until Corey reminded me that we had actually done pretty much everything that we needed to do. We had a nice meal, a few nice visits, and the kids got some things that they needed and wanted (the wanted was from relatives other than us).

My special present was that Corey picked up the ring that I had taken to the jeweler’s over two years ago and then forgot about; when I did remember that the ring was there, there was no money to pick it up, and then I convinced myself that they no longer had the ring and was too afraid to call them to find out the status.

Let me back up a second, the last Christmas before everything changed in our house Corey and I were both still working. He had bought me a right-hand ring that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, I didn’t really pay attention to the design until the ring broke at a stress point that was pretty obvious after-the-fact. That’s the ring that I finally took to the jeweler and promptly forgot as things like life took over my mind.

But now I have my ring back, and it’s better than new as the jeweler reinforced the stress area. So good times.

I’m going to close with a passage from James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” which comes from his Dubliners collection. I did a Joycean seminar in which we studied Dubliners, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses—all in four weeks. If you know anything about Joyce, then you realize what a grueling proposition this was (I was unaware when I enrolled). At the time, I didn’t have a real appreciation for “The Dead” as I was still trying to come to grips with Joyce’s transitional epiphany style as well as the lack of final literary resolution to which I had become so accustomed at that point.

Years later, I can appreciate much better Gabriel’s epiphany and the overwhelming subtlety of the snow as imagery for both life and death, paralysis and change.

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland . . . It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” ~ James Joyce

More later. Peace.

Music by The Weepies, “All that I Want’