“. . . 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”