“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, December 25, 1856

"Fresh Snow, Yosemite Valley, California," by Ansel Adams (c. 1947)

                   

“I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don’t have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along.” ~ William Stafford

Wednesday, late afternoon. Rainy, mid 50’s.

"Cedar Tree, Winter, Yosemite Valley," by Ansel Adams (c. 1935)

Listening to Vienna Teng in the background. She’s a recent discovery. Voice like silk, beautiful lyrics. The perfect backdrop. I’ve been adding her songs here and there to my other playlists, but I decided to save the entire playlist; she’s that good. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

So, three days later, four days of antibiotics . . . how do I feel? Badly wrung and hung out to dry in the rain. The only way to describe my chest is wet. Coughing is still quite painful. Luckily, I’m not coughing as much, but when I do, my whole body feels wracked. Monday, I had a little burst of energy, felt better than I had in days, so what did I do? Act sensibly? Of course not. I did laundry, the dishes, and wiped down the bathroom. Consequently, I felt worse.

I always do that when I’ve been really sick—the first little glimmer of recovery, and I go overboard, attempting to cram in as much as possible during the energy spurt. You would think that after all of these years that I would know better. Of course, the operative word here is think . . .

Unfortunately, Corey seems to have a chest cold now. He insists that it is not bronchitis, but it sure sounds like it. Of course, his ability to rebound from such things is much better than mine. Here’s hoping that the cold/not bronchitis has resolved itself before he has to go to the colds of Europe.

“Even as a child, she had preferred night to day, had enjoyed sitting out in the yard after sunset, under the star-speckled sky listening to frogs and crickets. Darkness soothed. It softened the sharp edges of the world, toned down the too-harsh colors. With the coming of twilight, the sky seemed to recede; the universe expanded. The night was bigger than the day, and in its realm, life seemed to have more possibilities.” ~ Dean Koontz, Midnight

I have spent some of my down time reading. Corey bought me the Stieg Larsson Milennium Trilogy as an early birthday present. I’ve been wanting to read this series for quite a while. I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Monday evening and handed it over to Eamonn, who also wants to read the series because he saw the movie.

"Locust Strees in Snow, Yosemite Valley," by Ansel Adams (1929)

It’s intense reading, lots of characters, densely written, but most excellent. I read that Larsson, a Swedish journalist, signed a contract for three books, a rare opportunity for an unpublished writer. Unfortunately, Larsson died right before the first book in the series was published. He had written books one and two before trying to find a publisher, and had apparently had conceived of ten books.

I know that I’m coming to the series late, but I’m so glad that I’m finally reading the books contain one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across in a long time in crime/mystery novels, Lisbeth Salander. The other really great thing for me was that I did not figure out the plot halfway through, which, unfortunately, is usually the case.

Now that I’ve read book one, I can see the movie, which is the good side. The bad side is that there are only three books to read. How cool it would have been to read ten of these.

“The misery and greatness of this world: it offers no truths, but only objects for love. Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it.” ~  Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942

So in just the past few days I’ve found a new singer/songwriter and a new author. At least the days haven’t been a total wash.

Yesterday I sat down and collected quotes for a post, but that was as far as I got. I just didn’t have it in me to think, actually think about anything more than staring at the screen. Tumblr is good for situations such as that, when the main function is looking and not necessarily discerning. So I ran through a couple of days of my dashboard and then went back to bed.

"Winter--Yosemite Valley, California," by Ansel Adams (1951)

ODU spring semester began on Monday and Brett and Em went back to class. Eamonn is not going to college this semester. He has submitted an application to the shipyard’s apprenticeship program, the same program that Corey applied to a couple of years ago. Corey didn’t qualify because his high school curriculum did not include advanced math classes. Luckily, Eamonn did take Algebra and Geometry in high school, as well as technology and computer science. Applicants must have four out of six or seven required classes.

Here’s hoping it works out for him.

Brett is still fine-tuning his schedule, which is unfortunate. It just turned into one of those last-minute things because he is still undecided as to what he wants to do. His first love is astronomy, which means that he will need to get his bachelor’s in physics and then do his graduate work at another university that offers astronomy.

He was seriously considering going into nursing with a goal towards becoming a nurse practitioner. Things are so unsettled in so many ways right now that I know that he is anxious and stressed, and this is not the best way in which to begin a new semester. I’ll just be glad when tomorrow is over, and we can all settle down. I can’t write about tomorrow’s anticipated drama, but will write when it’s all over.

“I saw but was not seen. I walked unshadowed; I came unheralded.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

I had asked Corey to take a picture of me in front of the Christmas tree before we took it down. You must understand, I do not often seek for anyone to take my picture, so this was an unusual request. The entire thing became kind of farcical: I would pose while trying to look as if I weren’t posing. Corey would push the button, and nothing would happen. I would turn my head, and then the camera would click. Or, right as the shutter closed, one of the dogs would nose their way into the frame.

"Oak Tree, Snow Storm, Yosemite," by Ansel Adams from Portfolio One: Twelve Photographic Prints (1948)

Consequently, there really weren’t any good shots. Corey liked a few. I hated all of them. I have a very weird hang-up about my body (other than all of the other ones that I’ve mentioned): I hate my neck. I always envied those women with swan necks—long and elegant, but I could accept that I did not have the neck of a ballet dancer, that is until my neck became flabby.

When I lose weight, I lose it in my face and belly. But how does one go about losing weight in the neck? I mean really . . . think about it. So I have these extra chins, or whatever, and along with everything else, I am terribly self-conscious about it, which means that in each photo that Corey took, I could only see this part and nothing else.

Gawd I hate my self-image, and I hate that I have such a bad one, and I hate that I bought into the commercial hype of beauty, and I hate that I cannot rise above that which I know is crippling me.

“I think I still have rain somewhere in my heart.” ~ Kelwyn Sole, from “Near Brandvlei

Anyway, I still haven’t had the strength to take down Christmas, and it doesn’t appear that anyone else is going to take the initiative since Christmas around here is a mom thing . . . Funny how that works. Brett did take down the outside lights, so at least we’re not the only family in the neighborhood to have decorations still up on our house.

"Pine Forest in Snow," by Ansel Adams (1932)

Since I first began this post, the sky has darkened, and the temperature has increased by two degrees. Go figure.

The atmosphere in the house at the moment is tense and prickly. It’s as if we’re all sitting on an unexploded bomb. Truly, I resent this intrusion into our lives. I have no doubts that the stress of this outside situation has contributed adversely to my health. I just want it all to be over so that I can go back to the normal insanity of our lives without others’ insanity stalking the periphery of what we call normalcy.

I wish at this moment that I could just enjoy the sound of the rain outside my window. Perhaps the soup that Corey is making for dinner will sweeten my disposition. It’s an old family Filipino recipe for chicken and rice soup, Arriz Caldo. It’s Corey’s first time making it, but it’s fairly simple. The key is using fresh ginger, and everyone knows that ginger is always good for what ails you.

More later (I hope). Peace.

Music by Vienna Teng, “Transcontinental, 1:30 AM”

                   

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

~ W. S. Merwin

“Take Care of All Your Memories For You Cannot Relive Them” ~ Bob Dylan

summer-08-cousin-shot

Summer 08 Sutcliffe Cousins: Phillip, Eamonn, Brett, Hannah, Alexis, Rebecca, Mallory

“Memory is the primary and fundamental power, without which there could be no other intellectual operation” ~ Samuel Johnson

I cannot write tonight. There is just too much pressing on my mind. I am waiting to hear about my brother-in-law in Germany. He is in the hospital with pneumonia and is on a respirator.

Maybe if I tell you about him that will help. Patrick is my ex’s older brother. He has always been the serious, intellectual one. Patrick was in the R.O.T.C. in college, and then he went into the army after graduation. Patrick was stationed in Germany where he met Helma, the woman he married. After a couple of years, they were transferred back to the states, somewhere in Tennessee.

In the meantime, Paul’s younger sister Ann was engaged to be married in the spring. Patrick and Helma were going to drive to Virginia on President’s Day weekend for a visit and for a fitting of brides maids dresses as Helma and I were both going to be in the wedding. Then the unthinkable happened. Helma fell asleep at the wheel, and Patrick, who had been asleep in the back seat was wedged in the seat when the car stopped. Helma had a broken nose and lost some teeth. Patrick had been deprived of oxygen and had spinal cord damage.

After all of the operations, Patrick was left a paraplegic, but he still retained his mind, his long-term memory, his wit. The army retired Patrick as a full Captain. He was unable to speak, but they worked out a communication system using arm movements and eye blinks and mouth openings and closings. Patrick was quick-tempered and impatient before the accident, and he was just the same after the accident, but never with me.

Whenever I tried to spell with him (which is what we call talking), I would tell him quite plainly that if he started to get all mean with me, I would stop and walk away, which would usually make him laugh, and then he would be patient with me as I tried my best to get things right the first time.

Just to show you how smart he remained, while they still lived here, we used to play games, like Trivial Pursuit, usually men against the women, and it would usually come down to Patrick against me. He loved to kick my ass with history questions, but I could usually get him on literature.

Eventually, he and Helma were able to have two children of their own: Phillip and Hannah. Helma’s sister Kerstin lived here in the states for a while, and she was married, and members of her family would visit, but Helma was always lonely for home, and it was very hard for her. Patrick had a physical therapist who came to the home, and Helma took really good care of him. But finally, they made the decision to move to Germany so that Helma could be closer to her family.

It was hard on everyone, especially on Paul’s mom, but Helma promised to come over every year for a visit, and for a while it was every year, but then the dollar dropped, and then after 9/11, everyone was afraid to fly for a while. They had just started coming back over a few years ago. Patrick had a big 50th birthday party in Germany, and several of his best friends with whom he has stayed in contact flew to Germany to celebrate with him, as did his mother, who hadn’t been to Germany since right after Patrick and Helma were first married.

That he has stayed so healthy for so long is directly tied to Helma’s dedication to keeping him that way. He has had two major health scares. And we have spent our time making visits to VA hospitals, which are incredibly depressing places. But overall, he has been incredibly lucky. They have made trips all over Europe, and when they have been here, Helma has taken Patrick to just about every Revolutionary battleground in the area.

With Helma’s assistance, Patrick has kept up his massive stamp collection, his alphabetized CD and LP collection, including anything ever put out by the Beatles. He reads constantly (books on tape have been a wonderful development for him because before that, it was books by whoever was designated reader). In other words, Because of Helma, Patrick’s hobbies have all been attended to, and his life, although far from normal, has been turned into the closest semblance of normal that it could be.

He has a computer that he can control to write letters to his friends. His children may have had times that they were embarassed by their father, but I think not any more than any teenager is embarassed by a parent. Just ask my sons.

The last time they were here, I noticed how tired Helma looked, and I was actually surprised, because she really takes care of herself. She is a championship swimmer. She coaches swimming. That is her time for herself. She is in very good physical shape, but she really looked thin this time. Not thin as in skinny, but thin as in worn thin. I wrote her an e-mail about it, but she never really responded, which I did not expect that she would. She is just not that way.

She had told me before coming that this time she was not running around to see everyone the way that they usually do. She was just going to take it easy. Normally when they visit, they are on the go from the moment they arrive until the moment that they leave. But this time, she really didn’t go very many places. Even when she went to Busch Gardens, she didn’t close the place the way that she usually did.

I’m waiting until it’s 2 a.m. here so that it will be 8 a.m. there so that I can call. I always forget about the six hour time difference. I’m hoping that the news is good, that they have turned down the ventilator and that the pneumonia is clearing. That’s the news that I am hoping for. After all, Patrick’s grandmother just died last week. I’m not sure how he took the news I don’t know the last time that he saw her. But he does get very emotional.

His mother, my other mother-in-law, is noticeably worsening with her own health problem. Parkinson’s does not respond well to stress. So I’m just hoping that she holds up well for the next few days.

I suppose for someone who said that she didn’t have anything to say tonight, I managed to run on in my usual way.

That’s all for now. More later. Peace.