“That’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. No one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness.” ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Sister of My Heart

Emil Nolde, “Das Gehoft Seebüll” (c1940, watercoloron Japan Paper)*

“That is how always, you lost:
never as one who possesses, but like someone dying
who bending into the moist breeze of an evening in March,
loses the springtime, alas, in the throats of the birds.
Far too much you belong to grief.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Original Version of the Tenth Elegy” (Trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Thursday afternoon, overcast with drizzle, 43 degrees.

Hello. Very long time no write. I’ve missed you. Last night, in the wee hours, I tried to remember the last time that I had actually written a real post, you know, one with quotes, music, images. I couldn’t recall, couldn’t even remember the month.

Emil Nolde, “Williows in the Snow” (1908, watercolor)

I suppose that it all began with the computer problems, which proved to be such an impediment to the flow of writing, and then the huge passel of puppies that entered our lives before Christmas, and then the goat births, one after another. The next thing that I knew, it was 2020, and I was completely lost beneath a veritable mountain of what can only be termed as ca ca, to be polite. I mean, I woke up on my birthday with Corey holding my favorite puppy and the news that we might be facing Parvo or some other devastating illness. Since that morning, we have been aggressively nursing and isolating first one and then another puppy.

We lost two, two of my favorites actually. It was devastating, but I did not allow myself to break down at the time because, frankly, we did not have time for grief. There was just too much to face. Thankfully, it’s been over a week since the last one showed any signs of illness, but we must continue to care for all of them for at least another week until any rescue group will even consider taking them, mostly because of the possibility of Parvo. I suppose that if I were in their shoes that I would be just as reticent.

In between, Corey’s truck died completely, the transmission, and my car isn’t operable because the tires are bad, and it isn’t legal (registration and inspection), and wouldn’t you know, that state cop that harasses Corey stopped and cited him a few weeks ago. We had put off taking care of my vehicle until this year, but now………it’s this year.

“I guess that’s what people don’t understand, can’t understand, about grief. You can’t assign it. It’s just assigned.” ~ Dalton Day, from “Beware of Falling Deer”

You see, we had really hoped that 2020 would be a better year in many ways, but especially as regards the animals. In 2019, we lost my horse Petra, who Dallas took back, ostensibly to nurse, but then we never saw her again, and when he died, Petra was nowhere to be found; Annie, the colt that Sassy gave birth to on our anniversary, died after only a few days. We also lost our first two goats, Max and Ruby (who I had named after two of Olivia’s favorite book and television characters), as well as the death of a days-old kid born in December. Corey had named him Gizmo, and he was so precious. This time when the kids were born, Corey was unwilling to name them for the first week, not wanting to invest even that small, personal touch before we could be somewhat certain of their survival.

Emil Nolde, “Wet Day” (1918, oil on canvas)

I don’t know why we seem to have female goats and horses who lack any kind of mothering sensibilities, but Gizmo’s mother had birthed him, cleaned him, and then left him in the field. We were uncertain as to exactly how old he was when Corey found him. We think the lack of colostrum from nursing in those first hours doomed him before he could become strong.

Then in quick succession in mid January, Bobby, Blue, and Penny all gave birth, and none of them seemed interested in caring for their kids beyond cleaning them immediately after birth, and one failed to do even that; unfortunately, one of the female babies didn’t make it, so we were left with five males and one male, but we were on high alert for their births, which made a difference in their survival. If you’ve never had to clean a newborn animal, then you can’t even imagine how stressful that can be, trying to be careful but thorough simultaneously. Anyway, that’s six goats that we had to bottle feed on top of three litters of puppies, all in our very small house.

The night that we lost the first puppy, Patches, I held him in my arms as he whimpered in pain and then finally took his last breath. The following night, Corey held Brinn as he died. Yes, they were puppies, dogs, not human, but sentient beings nonetheless, ones that breathed and felt and suffered. If you are not an animal lover in the same vein that we are, perhaps you might not understand the pain that we have felt these last days and weeks. Let me just tell you that if your soul is already one that is tender as regards the foibles and failures of the universe, then personal losses can seem breathtakingly overwhelming. And all of these have; add to that the guilt over the lack of vehicle or funds to seek veterinary care.

My penchant for swimming in a sea of guilt even in the best of times has been increased exponentially of late.

“We inhale the moon,
suck in the clouds, try to satiate the desert
of our bodies that are always fumbling
at loss. Like Brother stars are such distant
luminous spheres.” ~ Casandra López, from “Midnight Memorial”

Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken with three different rescue groups in an attempt to get the puppies placed. The first group was a big disappointment; ultimately, they wanted $500. One group was out of Pennsylvania and one out of West Virginia. The most promising one is the one out of West Virginia, but now we are on hold because of the possibility of Parvo. If you didn’t already know, Parvo isn’t the automatic death sentence for dogs that it used to be, but it is still quite serious; it’s also very easy to transmit. The rescue people want to be certain that if the puppies were indeed infected with Parvo, that there isn’t a possibility that they can infect any other dogs in their care.

It’s understandable, but disappointing nevertheless. When I spoke to the coordinator today, she asked for my thoughts. I was honest: I told her that we are pretty much desperate to place these puppies. The house smells worse than a kennel; I told Corey that if I came to the door of a house that looked like ours in its current state, I wouldn’t go inside. I was not exaggerating.

Emil Nolde, “Rain over a Marsh” (c1938, watercolor on rice paper)

Fortunately, four of the goat babies are gone. Corey set up a trade with a guy that he knows who also breeds goats. In exchange for the kids, we’ll get a grown Kiko Boer nanny goat who has already been bred. We just can’t pick her up until we have some kind of transportation. At least with four of the goats gone, it’s a bit quieter in the house. We’ve kept the one female and the one male who has completely different coloring from any of the ones we currently have.

This same guy put Corey in touch with someone he knows who is selling a truck. It sounds like a good deal, not bad shape, but we have to wait until tomorrow to see if it’s still available as the seller had promised some other guy that he had dibs. Nothing is ever frigging easy.

You know how some people seem to move through life charmed? Everything seems to go their way, and things fall easily into their laps. Hardships are infrequent and/or minor. That’s not us. I’m always reminded of that old “Hee Haw” song, “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me,” that has the applicable line—”If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Yep. Totally.

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

So is it any wonder that I have absented myself from here? I’m actually surprised that I’ve been able to string together this many words cogently. Each time in the last weeks that I’ve sat down to try to write something, I find myself instead listening to YouTube videos and playing Spider Solitaire because that requires nothing of my brain. Neither thing requires my engagement or my investment.

Emil Nolde, “Winter Landscape” (c1907, watercolor)

The impeachment and sham of a trial helped to keep me distracted for many weeks, and there was even a tiny kernel of hope that something, anything might happen to slow the ever-eroding state of our democracy. I will admit to being completely shocked that that small kernel came in the form of Mitt Romney, but it was far too little far too late, and so outside of this bubble in which I live, things continue to deteriorate, but I cannot even raise a modicum of my usual righteous indignation at that country’s state of affairs. I have to choose my battles at this point, and those battles are decidedly the ongoing ones on the personal home front.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are more days than not in which I truly wonder if we made the right decision in coming here with so little capital. But unless you are wealthy or lucky, when is it ever the right time to undertake a major life upheaval? We got all of this acreage for a song, but the available capital all went into the down payment. There was none leftover for repairs or renovations. And too, I miss Norfolk. I miss going to the movies. I miss going to our favorite sushi restaurant. I miss jumping in my car and going anywhere I wanted and knowing that I didn’t have to travel more than 15 or 20 minutes at the most to have access to . . . well, anything.

The city offers convenience. The country offers quiet. Does such a place exist in which both are relatively available? Who knows. Certainly not I.

“Time itself does not ‘console,’ as people say superficially; at best it assigns things to their proper place and creates an order.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, January 6, 1923
Emil Nolde, “Inundation” (nd, watercolor on paper)

I do not kid myself that if I ever returned to Norfolk that my life would improve. My relationship with my children remains fractured, and I don’t know how or if I can ever fix that. I miss my granddaughter so much that it is an actual physical ache at times, but she is states away, living with her father and his family, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, this after being a daily part of her life since birth. I don’t even know what books she is reading, which I realized when I tried to find some books to send her for Christmas. All I know is that she is healthy and doing very well in school.

That’s not enough. Just as it’s not enough that I know that Alexis is working and has a new person in her life. I know nothing about either of my sons’ lives, only what my daughter tells me. How does this happen? My eldest son texted me for my birthday, but again, I heard nothing from my youngest. I used to think that the worst thing about my birthday was when my mother forgot. I was so wrong.

I’ve been more wrong than right about so many things in the last few years; it’s hard to discern when the shift actually began. I liked the woman that I used to be: powerful, strong, confident, so certain of so many things. This half person is a stranger to me, a stranger that I would prefer not to know at all.

I apologize for the length, but apparently I had much to say. More later, with any luck. Peace.

*I’m bringing back one of my favorite artists, the German Expressionist Emil Nolde; In the past I have posted many of his seascapes, so today I thought I’d do a few landscapes instead. Until recently, I really was unaware of his Nazi past. If you are interested in learning more, ARTnews has a really good article here.

Music by Alison Luff, “She Used to be Mine” (Sara Bareilles cover)


Clown in the Moon

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

~ Dylan Thomas

“Everything we care about lies somewhere in the middle, where pattern and randomness interlace.” ~ James Gleick, from The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood


“Anxious, we keep longing for a foothold-
we, at times too young for what is old
and too old for what has never been;
doing justice only where we praise,
because we are the branch, the iron blade,
and sweet danger, ripening from within.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Sonnets to Orpheus: XXIII” (Trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Monday afternoon, storms and dropping temps, 84 degrees.

About half an hour ago, a line of thunderstorms whipped through here, and it was pretty wild. The girl goats and Sassy (the horse) were all clustered on the porch for shelter from the fierce wind, and Tillie was hiding in the bathroom. Fortunately, it was a quick storm, but more are looming on the horizon.

Speaking of the bathroom, last night I had a major scare: I was switching out laundry when I heard a rattle. A large (in my mind) black snake was hanging out on the corner of the work table on which I stack the folded laundry. I made some kind of weird noise and hightailed it out of there. Corey was standing in the hall when this happened, and as he’s asking me, “What? What?” I’m trying to say the word snake, but honestly, I’m not sure if any real words came out of my mouth.

My deep, abiding phobia about snakes has not lessened with time. If anything I think that it might be worse.

So Corey goes on snake patrol only to tell me that everything is fine because the snake had gone back under the house. I did not find this statement nearly as comforting as he would have thought because my first thought was how in the hell did it go back under the house from the bathroom?

Apparently, there is a hole beneath the pipes. Great. Just g-r-e-a-t……..

“Today my grief abated like water soaking
underground, its scar a little path
of twigs and needles winding ahead of me
downhill to the next bend. Today I let
the rain soak through my shirt and was unharmed.” ~ David Mason, from “In the Mushroom Summer”

When I told Corey that I was afraid to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because of what might be lurking (I don’t usually turn on the light), he laughed, but I reminded him that I knew of a real incident in which a snake was in the toilet: one of my parents’ neighbors across the back fence once found out the hard way that a snake was in his toilet.

I will never forget that story. Is it any wonder that I am terrified of snakes?

I realized that moving to the country meant that I would encounter more wildlife, and I’m okay with that—mostly—but that doesn’t mean that I’m okay with snakes in the house. I remember when Brett’s partner lived in our house, and she had a pet snake; I could only go in their room if I kept my eyes averted. Granted it was a small snake, but it was still a snake, in the house, in my house.

Full body shudders.

(Note: I had to leave this post on Monday so that we could go see Dallas. Ended up being caught in a downpour. More on this later)

“A burning sense of injustice, sobs, sorrow: desire to fight back, and no time or energy to do so,” ~ Sylvia Plath, from a journal entry, April 22, 1958

Wednesday afternoon, more storms, warm and humid, 84 degrees.

Corey and I made the trip to see Dallas because we had a proposition: We would trade him Beric the goat to get Napoleon back; however, when we got to his house, he was nowhere to be found. He’s taken to hiding in his house because animal control has been called on him. So we searched everywhere, and then a big storm hit. As we were waiting for the storm to pass, Dallas’s nephew drove up with Dallas in the truck.

The attempts at conversation were futile as Dallas was drunk, and there’s just no talking to him when he’s like that. I don’t particularly want Dallas to have Beric, but I’m desperate to get Napoleon back over here. The long and short of it, though, is that I don’t think that he’s ever going to bring Napoleon back, and truly, that breaks my heart. Dallas is known for giving and then taking back when he gets mad. We’ve heard stories of such from several people and from Dallas himself. I really wish that I had known this before he ever brought the horses over here, before I became too attached.

You just shouldn’t tell a person that you’re giving them something, when in fact you don’t mean give at all. Quite frankly, I’m sick to death of the man and his constant stream of lies and tall tales. So I just need to resign myself to this reality. If only I had the money to offer to buy Napoleon and bring him home.

“We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.” ~ Tony Hoagland, from “Jet”

So more snake news: last night I started to go into the bathroom only to find Ash staring intently at something near the toilet. I backed out, and Corey went in and wrangled the snake again. He’s fairly certain that it’s the same snake. I did not look closely enough to notice. Thank god Ash was on high alert as I probably wouldn’t have noticed or been able to see the damned thing as my eyesight is getting worse.

Funnily enough, earlier in the day Corey had pointed out that a snake was wrapped around one of the fence posts, and he thought that it was probably the same snake. He asked me if he should kill it, and even though I hate, hate, hate it, there’s no good reason for killing a black snake as they are harmless. Well, almost harmless. A couple of weeks ago Corey found a black snake in the chicken coop, and it was trying to eat one of the chickens. So there’s that . . .

Enough on my ophidiaphobia; I wouldn’t say herpetophobia as I’m not afraid of all reptiles, only snakes.

“I know I am restless and make others so,
I know my words are weapons full of danger, full of death ~ Walt Whitman, from “As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado”

I had originally planned to post pictures of all the goats for Wordless Wednesday, but I really wanted to finish this post as the longer that it remains unfinished, the more I stress over it, and one of the main reasons I keep this blog is to write away my stress, not compound it.

Anyway, here’s the current goat status: four females, three males. The Nubians are Sylvia,  Bobby, Roland, and the new baby Zeke. Ruby is a Miniature Nubian. Daisy is a pygmy, and Beric is a Nigerian Dwarf. Corey’s plan is to breed and sell registered Nubians and Miniature Nubians. Bobby gave birth to Zeke a week ago, but she had no interest in nursing him, so both he and Roland are currently in the house being bottle fed, but Roland is almost ready to be weaned (even though he probably doesn’t think so).

I find it more than a little amusing that Corey has managed to spoil the two goat babies in the same way that I spoil dogs and cats. It’s so bad that Roland cries at night if Corey leaves the kitchen, which is where we have the crates for both of them. Corey puts Roland in his crate for the night, and then he has to wait for Roland to fall asleep; otherwise, his cries get progressively louder and more anxious, and I swear that it’s as unnerving as listening to a baby cry.

Well, that’s all for now, folks. More later. Peace.


Music by Wafia (featuring Finneas), “The Ending”


[from the sustaining air]
from the sustaining air
fresh air
There is the clarity of a shore
And shadow,   mostly,   brilliance
summer
                the billows of August
When, wandering, I look from my page
I say nothing
      when asked
I am, finally, an incompetent, after all
~ Larry Eigner (found on Poetry Foundation)

 

 

Sunday afternoon saudade . . .

“The longer I live, the more urgent it seems to me to endure and transcribe the whole dictation of existence up to its end, for it might just be the case that only the very last sentence contains that small and possibly inconspicuous word through which everything we had struggled to learn and everything we had failed to understand will be transformed suddenly into magnificent sense.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Ilse Erdmann, 21 December 1913

“. . . there was a sharp distinction between what was remembered, what was told, and what was true.” ~ Kevin Powers, from The Yellow Birds

Robert Julian Onderdonk, “Bluebonnets in Texas” (1915, oil on canvas)

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Name of the Wind

Sunday afternoon, cloudy, cooler temperatures, 46 degrees.

It was cold yesterday, so cold that we actually had to turn on a few space heaters. In fact, the forecast actually called for snow flurries. All I can say is that the weather in this locale is well and truly whhackkk. Yes, that’s a word.

Frederic Matys Thursz, Untitled (Blue Field, 1961, oil and paper collaged on board)

Yep.

I’ve been on a “Game of Thrones” binge lately, watching all of the back seasons before this final season. I’ve done this before, but what I always find phenomenal about this show is how much you can miss on a first viewing, especially all of the foreshadowing. The writers are very, very good in maintaining continuity from season to season.

I came to the show after reading the first three books, so I was fully prepared to be disappointed because the move from novel to screen is haphazard at best. Stephen King is said to be disappointed with almost every screen adaptation of his work, and George R. R. Martin’s writing is particularly dense with characters, locations, languages, plots and subplots. However, the HBO series has become its own phenomenon: It’s one of those rare shows in which the casting and the execution have melded well, and in that sense, it reminds me of “The Sopranos” and “Orphan Black.”

And as most people know, the show ends with this season, but the novels continue . . . at least that’s what everyone thinks. Martin is a methodical writer, and readers are still impatiently awaiting the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter. No publication date has been set yet as Martin has admitted that the writing has been hard.

I can sympathize, George, and I only shoot for about 1200 words a day.

“you know how deceptive memory is and how coarse the real world.
Nostalgia amplifies things. The memory preserves tastes and smells and images that are of its own making, or that are not as they were in reality.” ~ Amjad Nasser, from Land of No Rain

I actually enjoyed doing Thursday’s update; it was a good writing exercise. I’m still floundering, though, attempting to find that rhythm that I’ve lost as it continues to elude me. It’s hard to explain this to people who do not like to write or for whom words are not foremost in their lives.

Paul Jenkins, “Phenomena Astral Blue (1968, oil on canvas)

That’s not a slur in any way, only an attempt to explain why my recent posts seem to be preponderantly superficial. I have so much roiling inside, so many things that I want to say, but when I start, the words sound hollow, so I stop and try to find other way to keep this blog going.

Consider: If you were an expert at landscaping, and you took your tools to a piece of land, fully prepared to create something beautiful, but once you arrived, you couldn’t remember the purpose of any tool. Or let’s say that you were a proficient bookkeeper, and you sat down with some raw data, and your computer, and you couldn’t remember how to reconcile a spreadsheet. Or what if you were a wonderful tailor, and you had a bolt of cloth and measurements, but you suddenly forgot how to pattern.

I deliberately didn’t choose painting or sculpting or composing music or any of the other traditional categories of art as anyone who dabbles in those or for whom those are a way of life already is all too familiar with the terrible periods of being unable to create. Rather, I am attempting to explain my problem to those of you for whom life is more structure and traditional, but I don’t know if my explanation only adds to the confusion.

“The years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels but cannot express, the intense desire and the alternations of confidence and misgiving . . . are known only to him who has experienced them himself.” ~ Albert Einstein, from the Gibson Foundation Lecture, 1933

One of the reasons that I do not sleep well is that I have a very hard time turning off my brain. It’s not just mulling over the day or worrying about bills or money or the house or whatever. It’s also that I start to think about things that I want to say. More times than I can count I think that I should just get out of bed and sit down and write, but then I tell myself that if I did so, I would be useless the next day.

James McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne: Blue and Silver—Chelsea” (1871, oil on wood)

But would being useless the next day really matter in the grand scheme of things? I feel as if I’m doing myself a disservice by not writing when the so-called spirit moves me. Yet at the same time I feel guilty for wanting to eschew traditional sleep and approaches to time because there is so much of daily life with which to contend. Honestly, though, my days are still not productive in that all of my to-do list goes unattended, so the guilt and feelings of worthlessness are there no matter which path I choose.

Consider: Parkinson’s law commonly states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. But Asimov’s corollary to Parkinson states that in ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day. A la Parkinson, I manage to fill my days with mostly nonproductive actions, and a la Asimov’s corollary, I fall twice as far behind.

“Everything about me is unfinished, insufficient.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Lou Salomé written c. December 1905

In doing a big of reading about eponymous laws, I came across the intriguing idea of the centipede principle, which I chose deliberately because of my great fear of those multi-legged creatures; in essence, this principle addresses overthinking, as in if a person thinks too much about something that comes naturally, then that action can be impaired.

Martiros Sarian, “Blue Flowers” (1914, oil on canvas)

The centipede principle or effect supposedly is based on a short poem written in 1871 by the Katherine Craster (go here to see the original poem), in which the centipede is asked which leg moves first and then next when he walks, and then because he is asked, he cannot walk.

English psychologist George Humphrey propounded his eponymous law about hyper-reflection in 1923, referencing the centipede tale. I also came across another reference to this centipede effect in the work of Karl Popper, who states that “if we have learnt certain movements so that they have sunk below the level of conscious control, then if we try to follow them consciously we very often interfere with them so badly that we stop them.”

In other words, do I set myself up to be unable to write because I think too much about being unable to write? Am I unable to begin the projects that I have set for myself because I think too much about whether or not I can actually accomplish these projects? I was once told that I live my life as a self-fulfilling prophecy: my behavior directly causes my predicted outcome; i.e., I don’t send my work out for publication, so I am never published.

“People who are burdened by acute misgivings about their coping capabilities suffer much distress and expend much effort in defensive action . . . they cannot get themselves to do things they find subjectively threatening even though they are objectively safe. ” ~ Albert Bandura, from Social Foundations of Thought and Action
Thomas Downing, “Blue Space” (c1954, acrylic on cotton)

I realize that this post took a turn towards psychoanalysis, but what of it? Years of therapy have conditioned me to ponder such questions about the self. That, and I have a particular penchant for eponymous laws; I find them fascinating. (If you happen to be interested in such things, Wikipedia happens to have a good listing of them from A to Z here.)

Anyway, I think that most people could do with more introspection about their thoughts and actions. Too few people today actually give deep thought to things beyond the surface (how many likes did my picture get? was I reblogged? etc.). Yet I know that I am the opposite: I think too much. I consider too much. And in so doing, I paralyze myself. I wish that I could say that I am motivated by strength, but the truth is that I am motivated by fear. And truly, I hate that most about myself.

But unlike many who are motivated by fear, I do not cloak that fear with bombast or sanctimony, only to project that fear outward and punish those who seem weaker or more vulnerable. Instead, I project inward, causing harm mostly to my psyche. Regardless, someone is always damaged in the end.

More later. Peace.


Music by Sarah McLachlan, “Hold On”


A Secret Life

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you’d most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

~ Stephen Dunn

 

“For to stay is to be nowhere at all.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from Duino Elegies: The First Elegy

Rainer Maria Rilke (Wikimedia Commons)

Two for Tuesday: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 48 degrees.

Not two poems today, but prose by the prolific German-language poets. Rilke was born in Prague in what was at that time called the Austro-Hungarian empire. His earlier work  evokes a sense of romanticism, but after two life-changing trips to Russia, Rilke’s work evolved into what would become his predominant approach to writing: [these trips provided hims with] “poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion” (Poetry Foundation).

Throughout his life, Rilke interacted with key artists of the period, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Rodin, for whom Rilke worked as secretary (1905-06).  Although best known for his German language work, Rilke’s ouevre included 400 poems written in  French. Additionally, he was a prodigious letter writer, especially to the significant women in his life, and many of his letters reflect the poet’s continual search for meaning through art and his desire to determine poet’s overarching role in society.

In 1912, Rilke began writing Duino Elegies, so called because Rilke began the collection while visiting Duino Castle on the Italian Adriatic coast. The collection, considered to be his magnum opus, took him ten years to write. Rilke, who suffered from health problems his entire life, including stifling depression, died of leukemia in 1926.

Go here or here for more information on the poet and his work. The selections below are from Rilke’s only novel, which was considered to be semi-autobiographical, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910).


From “Fears”

All the lost fears are here again.

The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumpbwhich just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one out to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to y door ad finally force it open, the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I drea, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears . . . the fears.

From “For the Sake of a Single Poem”

. . . Ah poems amount to so little when you write then too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,—and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no  longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.


Music by The National, “Heavenfaced”

Two for Tuesday: Remembering


“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from No Exit And Three Other Plays

Tuesday evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 36 degrees.

Yes. It’s 38 degrees outside, and yesterday, it was 73, and my body is rebelling as it only knows how: I hurt all over, from my head to my feet. Last night I fell asleep while Corey and I were watching something on our very long dvr queue, and then I suddenly awoke at 2 a.m. and was unable to find asleep again until sometimes after 5.

"Moon Vase" (detail, c1885, earthenware with glaze)
“Moon Vase” (detail, c1885, earthenware with glaze)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

I ran out of one of the meds that I take at bedtime day before yesterday, but I wasn’t too worried as I didn’t think that missing one or two nights would be that big of a deal. Apparently, my body thought otherwise. I had always believed that RLS (restless leg syndrome) was something made up by pharmaceutical companies to sell one more drug. However, try telling that to your brain when your legs jitter uncontrollably, and when they are not jittering, they are aching.

I had mentioned this to my pain doctor last year, and he said that it was classic symptoms of RLS and that my meds should take care of it. Well, they did, and then, apparently, the one I was without happened to be the one that did the most (does any of that make sense?).

“Then suddenly you’re left all alone
with your body that can’t love you
and your will that can’t save you.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “To the younger brother”

So anyway, spent hours online today trying to find the right part for our shower, something to alleviate the hammering that happens whenever the water is turned to hot. Apparently hammering is the correct term, something I found out after putting lots of different words into the search box to try to pinpoint exactly what was happening. Corey had thought that it was knocking pipes, but not so.

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer Eve 1896 Pastel and gouache with gold
“Eve” (1896, pastel and gouache with gold)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

We should have known that buying a knockoff brand for the shower faucet would come back to bite us in the butt, and it did. So, replacing parts after only a year—such a pain. Add to that the fact that we have to replace parts in my mother’s old shower as Brett says that it leaks like crazy. I’m fairly certain that the faucets in that particular bathroom are original equipment, if you can believe that.

And we are on the downside of November, a few days from a week until Thanksgiving, and holy crap. Where has this year gone. I mean this one, in particular, has completely bypassed weeks at a time, until now I only have one more page left on my calendar, and I find myself completely unprepared for next year.

So what else is new?

More later. Peace.

Today’s images are by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, whose works include paintings, drawings, ceramics, furniture and interior design. I was especially taken with his burnt orange and gold works, brilliant in his paintings and in his ceramics.


Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer La Bourrasque  The Gust of Wind pastel on paper 1897
“La Bourrasque” (1897, pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

The Ruins of Timoleague Abbey

I am gut sad.

I am flirting
with the green waves,
wandering the sand,
feeding reflection
into the seaweed foam.

That Shaker’s moon
is up.
Crested by corn-colored stars
and traced by those witchy scribblers
who read the bone-smoke.

No wind at all —
no flutter
for foxglove or elm.

There is a church door.

In the time
when the people
of  my hut lived,

there was eating and thinking
dished out to the poor
and the soul-sick in this place.

I am in my remembering.

By the frame of  the door
is a crooked black bench.

It is oily with history
of the rumps of sages,
and the foot-sore
who lingered in the storm.

I am bent with weeping.
This blue dream
chucks the salt
from me.

I remember
the walls god-bright
with the king’s theology,

the slow chorus
of  the low bell,
the full hymn
of  the byre and field.

Pathetic hut.
Rain-cracked and wind-straddled.
Your walls bare-nubbed
by chill flagons
of ocean spit.

The saints are scattered.
The high gable
is an ivy tangle.
The stink of fox
is the only swinging incense.

There is no stew
for this arriving prodigal,
no candled bed.

My kin
lie under the ground
of this place.

My shape
is sloughed with grief.
No more red tree
between my thighs.
My eyes are milk.
Rage my pony.

My face has earnt
the grim mask.
My heart a husky gore.

But my hand. My hand
reaches through this sour air
and touches
the splendid darkness
of my deliverer.

~ Seán Ó Coileáin, trans. Tony Hoagland and Martin Shaw

                   

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer La Bourrasque Gust of Wind oil on canvas1896
“La Bourrasque” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

In the Park

This is the life I wanted, and could never see.
For almost twenty years I thought that it was enough:
That real happiness was either unreal, or lost, or endless,
And that remembrance was as close to it as I could ever come.
And I believed that deep in the past, buried in my heart
Beyond the depth of sight, there was a kingdom of peace.
And so I never imagined that when peace would finally come
It would be on a summer evening, a few blocks away from home
In a small suburban park, with some children playing aimlessly
In an endless light, and a lake shining in the distance.

Eventually, sometime around the middle of your life,
There’s a moment when the first imagination begins to wane.
The future that had always seemed so limitless dissolves,
And the dreams that used to seem so real float up and fade.
The years accumulate; but they start to take on a mild,
Human tone beyond imagination, like the sound the heart makes
Pouring into the past its hymns of adoration and regret.
And then gradually the moments quicken into life,
Vibrant with possibility, sovereign, dense, serene;
And then the park is empty and the years are still.

I think the saddest memory is of a kind of light,
A kind of twilight, that seemed to permeate the air
For a few years after I’d grown up and gone away from home.
It was limitless and free. And of course I was going to change,
But freedom means that only aspects ever really change,
And that as the past recedes and the future floats away
You turn into what you are. And so I stayed basically the same
As what I’d always been, while the blond light in the trees
Became part of my memory, and my voice took on the accents
Of a mind infatuated with the rhetoric of farewell.

And now that disembodied grief has gone away.
It was a flickering, literary kind of sadness,
The suspension of a life between two other lives
Of continual remembrance, between two worlds
In which there’s too much solitude, too much disdain.
But the sadness that I felt was real sadness,
And this elation now a real tremor as the deepening
Shadows lengthen upon the lake. This calm is real,
But how much of the real past can it absorb?
How far into the future can this peace extend?

I love the way the light falls over the suburbs
Late on these summer evenings, as the buried minds
Stir in their graves, the hearts swell in the warm earth
And the soul settles from the air into its human home.
This is where the prodigal began, and now his day is ending
In a great dream of contentment, where all night long
The children sleep within tomorrow’s peaceful arms
And the past is still, and suddenly we turn around and smile
At the memory of a vast, inchoate dream of happiness,
Now that we know that none of it is ever going to be.

Don’t you remember how free the future seemed
When it was all imagination? It was a beautiful park
Where the sky was a page of water, and when we looked up,
There were our own faces, shimmering in the clear air.
And I know that this life is the only real form of happiness,
But sometimes in its midst I can hear the dense, stifled sob
Of the unreal one we might have known, and when that ends
And my eyes are filled with tears, time seems to have stopped
And we are alone in the park where it is almost twenty years ago
And the future is still an immense, open dream.

~ John Koethe

                   

Music by Jude Christodal, “Madonna”

“This is what I miss, Cordelia: not something that’s gone, but something that will never happen.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from Cat’s Eye

Theodor Kittelsen, Øde, 1904
“Øde” (1904, illustration)
by Theodor Kittelsen


“And you wait, you wait for that one thing
that will infinitely enlarge your life;
the gigantic, the stupendous,
the awakening of stones,
depths turned round toward you.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Memory,” trans. by Edward Snow

Thursday night. Partly cloudy, 73 degrees.

Another lovely day. The temperatures continue to drop, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Theodor Kittelsen Dragen 1904
“Dragen” (1904, illustration)
by Theodor Kittelsen

So I finally called the repair place that had my phone because Corey hadn’t heard from them. When he took it in for repair, they had said two days for the part to come in and seven days before it would be ready, so I figured yesterday at the latest. I called, and they said that it had been ready for a week and that they had tried to call the number given (Corey’s), but it didn’t work.

Such complete ca ca (one word or two?) . . .

Before I left to get the phone, I looked for the SIM card, which I was pretty sure Corey had said that he put on my dresser. Trouble is that when I dusted the furniture last week, I didn’t think about the SIM card, so it’s probably been dusted into some strange place in my bedroom. I decided to pay the $10 to get a new one and save my back the pain of looking under things for something thinner than a dime.

Anyway, phone is back, but it wasn’t charged when they gave it to me (would that really have been that hard to do?), and I discovered that the USB port I keep in my car is broken. Always something. So glad to have my phone back, though, mostly because I hate being tied to a house phone in one room of the house, in this case, the dining room where I spend very little time. We have other phone connections throughout the house, but it would have meant moving furniture to get to them, and frankly, I just didn’t have that in me.

“On the beach the sadness of gramophones
deepens the ocean’s folding and falling.
It is yesterday. It is still yesterday.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Nostalgia”It is yesterday. It is still yesterday.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Nostalgia”

Last night I had some crazy dreams, or maybe all one dream:

I dreamed that there had been an earthquake in downtown, and the only way to get about was through a chute. I got to the opening of the chute, but I realized immediately that I would never be able to put myself in it without having a complete claustrophobia-induced panic attack, so I walked on the top of it. I got to the center of the city, and it was a mess. There were piles of things everywhere, and there were people looking for their belongings.

Theodor Kittelsen Nøkken_som_hvit_hest The Nix as a white horse 1909
“Nøkken som hvit hest aka The Nix as a White Horse” (1909, illustration)
by Theodor Kittelsen

At first, I kind of randomly looked for my things, first my books, which I was somehow able to summon from the wreckeage by simply saying something like “Shakespeare,” and all of my Shakespeare would stack up in front of me. Of course, it meant that I got everyone else’s Shakespeare as well, which didn’t make me very popular, so I stopped summoning.

Then I began to look for other things, mostly antiques. As order began to be restored, people began to set up impromptu shopping stalls. One of my long-deceased English professors told me that he was only communicating by Twitter these days, but he wanted to give me some old statues of famous writers, like Poe. I found a pair of garnet earrings that were 50 percent off, and Brett found a cool carved pipe.

I happened to run into an old beau of mine, and when I went to introduce him to Corey, Corey refused to shake his hand, claiming that he had just smoked a cigarette. It was very awkward.

I ran into my ex and his sister, and there was a fight about an old turntable and some china.

The dream finished with me trying to find a tire store to replace my tires because I had bought the wrong size, and we needed to drive to Ohio. The whole thing was utterly bizarre. I awoke with a headache . . . as usual.

“It is the finely wrought
detail that captivates us; not
the thing you’ve said, but how you’ve said it.” ~ Amy Glynn Greacen, from “Sword Lily”

Other than the phone fiasco and the mind-blowing dreams, not a lot else going on. I’ve been perusing the web looking for affordable kitchen cabinets and other things. Since we’re preparing the house to sell, I don’t want to install the knotted pine cabinets I had in mind. It would just be a waste.

Theodor Kittelsen Nøkken, 1887–92 aka The Water Spirit
“Nøkken aka The Water Spirit” (1887–92, illustration)
by Theodor Kittelsen

I’ve been reading books by Dominick Dunne in recent days. Not sure how I got on that tangent, but I finished The Two Mrs. Grenvilles last night, based on the 1955 Woodward shooting, and before that I read A Season in Purgatory, An Inconvenient Woman, and Another City, Not My Own.

The thing I like about Dunne’s books is that they are thinly-veiled retellings of famous true events, but he is able to get away with more because he disguises them as fiction. I find Dunne’s handling of these romans à clef (novels in which real characters/situations are disguised) quite skillful, but at times his name-dropping gets a bit tedious, especially with Another City, Not My Own, which has his narrator Gus Bailey covering the O. J. Simpson murder.

Still, it’s enjoyable and fast reading.

Not much else to say. Life goes on . . .

More later. Peace.

All images are by Norwegian artist and illustrator, Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914).

Music by One Two, “Without You”

                   

Canary

for Michael S. Harper

Billie Holiday’s burned voice
had as many shadows as lights,
a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.
(Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,
magic spoon, magic needle.
Take all day if you have to
with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)
Fact is, the invention of women under siege
has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.
If you can’t be free, be a mystery.

~ Rita Dove