“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me—shapes and ideas so near to me—so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Iron-Rich Creek Bed
by Michael Melford, National Geographic*

                   

“The ear can detect a whole apocalypse in the starry night of the human body.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from “Opium: The Illustrated Diary of His Cure”

Sunday, late afternoon. Stormy and cool, high 50’s.

Random thoughts:

  • I make telephone calls to strangers at 3 a.m. (line from unfinished poem).
  • In the shower I realized that I do not use the word sardonic enough. Great word.

    Yellow Birch, Adirondacks
    by Michael Melford, National Geographic
  • I am wearing socks with penguins on them.
  • One pitfall to cooler weather is that my bones ache, especially the bones in my back and the base of my neck.
  • Remembered line, possibly from another unfinished poem: I am not your faithless remembrance.
  • Tillie the Lab does not understand why we cannot play outside in the rain and mud.
  • Jif peanut butter is like crack cocaine for my dogs. They know when I unscrew the lid.
  • I ran out of hot water in the shower today, which is particularly ironic as I told myself that I was going to take the hottest shower possible to try to help my back. Figures.
  • I ache—literally and figuratively—to take a long hot bath that smells of lavender or verbena.
  • Why did I not know about the television show “Haven” on the Sci Fy channel?
  • There was another line that came to me in the shower, but I waited too long to put it down, and now it has escaped into the ether, probably forever.
  • I have realized that I use the pause comma quite a lot.

“I’ve stepped onto the front porch to see
the stars perforating the milky black clouds

and the moon staring coldly through the trees,
but this negative I’m carrying inside me.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “More than Halfway”

Serious thoughts:

  • My dog Shakes is getting worse, but he still has an appetite. When he stops eating, I’ll know, and I hope that I won’t be alone.

    Stream Reflection, South Africa
    by Maurits Van Wyk, Your Shot, National Geographic
  • In my dreams, I am visited by my father and my uncle, but not by Caitlin.
  • I worry that I am becoming obsessive in my love for Olivia.
  • In retrospect, I wish that my wedding bouquet had been a small spray of fresh lavender and herbs rather than the humongous white rose thing that I carried. That this still bothers me is problematic, for me only.
  • I feel Mari’s distance too keenly in October; her birthday was the 1st of the month; we did not speak.
  • Mari was the one person to whom I could say absolutely anything, or so I thought.
  • I miss friendship on a daily basis, comforting, like a mug of hot tea.
  • Am I too old now to still do the things that I long to do? When is it too late? When are we too old? When do we accept the halfway mark?

“hushed, hushed, the mountain
hidden deer, distant, calling
leaves falling, falling
I have no friend to see
and my heart grows cold” ~ Sugawara no Michizane, rewriting an anonymous Japanese tanka

Difficult thoughts:

  • The Eagles’ song “Wasted Time” hits too close to home.
  • I do not speak to my mother enough. I find it taxing, especially in this state of mind. Another check in the guilt column.

    Autumn Brook
    by Olegas Kurasovas, My Shot, National Geographic
  • I do not want to spend my entire life in this house in this city in this state, but I’m afraid that I may do so.
  • My life has become a series of milestones, good and bad, in other people’s lives, and that I have no control over this hangs heavy about my heart.
  • I am positive that when I spoke the the former chair of my department at the reading the other day, he had no idea as to who I was. I could see his eyes darting back and forth as if to try to grasp that thread, but it never came.
  • Am I the kind of person that is easily forgotten, and if so, why didn’t I know that before now?
  • I do not want to become bitter. I really, really do not want to become bitter, and I know that this is one reason that I do not spend more time with my mother.
  • I wonder sometime if anyone will leave stones at my grave, and then I remember that I want to be cremated.

“Tenderness does not choose its own uses.
It goes out to everything equally,
circling rabbit and hawk.
Look: in the iron bucket,
a single nail, a single ruby—
all the heavens and hells.
They rattle in the heart and make one sound.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, “Late Prayer”

Other thoughts:

  • I do not make these lists because I am lazy. That’s just how my mind works on some days—linear progression, one step at a time—and then in prose on other days.

    Leaves, Cascade Lake
    by Michael Melford, National Geographic
  • I learned to cook spaghetti when I was 14 from a recipe on a tomato sauce can. It’s gotten better since then.
  • I remember the name of the first boy on whom I had a crush, the name of the first boy I kissed, the name of my first love, but not their faces, well, except one, and he will forever be young and that summer color of milky coffee in my mind.
  • For a time I kept my journal on yellow legal pads. I have no idea what happened to them.
  • I have had an obsession with writing implements ever since I worked at the newspaper, a lifetime ago. I ordered the office supplies, and I kept a secret stash of pens in my bottom drawer.
  • Why did I remember that?
  • I once set out in the rain to walk to the cemetery from my house. I found a dog and brought him home. The other dogs were not amused.

“How invisibly
it changes color
in this world,
the flower
of the human heart.” ~ Ono no Komachi (trans. Jane Hirshfield)

Final thoughts:

  • The theme in today’s quotes happened quite by accident.

    Autumn Leaves, Japan
    by Michael Yamashita, National Geographic
  • On a show that I was watching on Discover ID, a woman was talking about how, when she learned that her sister had been murdered, how she felt her heart break. She said that she had heard this term many times, but never really knew that it was a physical thing. I knew exactly what she was talking about.
  • The human heart is such a powerful organ and such a tender vessel, a working muscle, yet the imagined seat of the soul. And in the middle of the night sometimes, I like to place my hand on Corey’s chest to feel the strong beats of his heart as he sleeps.
  • For some reason, I always think of two places when it rains: the mountains and London.
  • This is a very telling memory: Out of all of the songs in Mary Poppins, my favorite, even as a young girl, was “Feed the Birds.” It still makes me cry.
  • I’m thinking that I have no more thoughts.

More later. Peace.

*I probably spent more time looking for images than I did writing today. I just couldn’t pinpoint what I was trying to achieve with the images, went from paintings to black and white photography, finally landed on a combination of color and water, found everything on the National Geographic photography site.

Incredibly beautiful music by Martha Wainwright, “Prosperina” (her mother’s last song, can’t believe I’ve never heard of her)

                   

Tear It Down

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.

~ Jack Gilbert (Found this on Dragonfly’s Poetry & Prolixity)

“What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it . . . Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams . . .” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Letters

Great Dixter Garden, England (travel.ezinemark.com)


“I would never be part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care.” ~ Jean Rhys, Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography

Friday evening. Blue skies, low 60’s.

Random thoughts for Friday’s leftovers:

  1. I met poet Christopher Buckley once. He was charming, and he loved his bourbon.
  2. Tillie the lab thinks she is a lap dog, which is funny until she tries to climb into my lap over my shoulder.

    Gardens of the Château de Chaumont, France
  3. An old lover once referred to my cherubic countenance. What an odd thing to say.
  4. This spring I am going to fill my flowerpots with multicolored annuals—begonias, vinca, lantana, lobelia. I never have luck with impatiens.
  5. I wish that we still had a hammock.
  6. I miss my Carolina Jasmine vine. The smell on summer evenings was unbelievable.
  7. I miss Mari.
  8. Friendship on a daily basis, true friendship, is a rare thing.
  9. Tom Waits sounds as if he’s been gargling with gravel; it’s a voice filled with loss and sadness. No wonder I love it.
  10. I dreamed about seeing two bodies wrapped in white sheets, and somewhere a clock was ticking.

“And each year now
we know more, but we know no better —
what we see in the sky is simply
the softened gloss of the past sifting
back to us, and likewise, every atom
down the body’s shining length
was inside a star, and will be again.” ~ Christopher Buckley, from Apologues of Winter Light

More . . .

  1. I have a three-inch wide ridge on the back of my head, near the base of my skull. I wonder if everyone has one of those. It’s tender if I mess with it.
  2. One night I dreamed that I took a severe blow to my head, at least I think that it was a dream.
  3. Recently I watched a Masterpiece Classic production of Great Expectations with Gillian Anderson. She was quite good as Miss Haversham.
  4. If I had a cat, I would name her Miss Haversham as cats are all about being egocentric and expecting everything to go their way.

    Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew England (travel.ezinemark.com)
  5. I did not read Great Expectations and David Copperfield until I was pregnant with Alexis.
  6. My mother owns a very old copy of The Pickwick Papers, which she purchased in an antique shop in London.
  7. My father bought me these character head statues when he was doing his Rotterdam run; they are all Dickens’ characters. They used to hang along the staircase in our townhouse in Alexandria.
  8. Not sure what got me started on Charles Dickens.
  9. I have a strong urge to correct grammatical and spelling errors on comments in YouTube threads; if I started doing so, I would never finish as it seems that most people who comment on YouTube videos never learned basic grammar or spelling.
  10. I had my Technical Editing students keep an Anguished English journal, filled with instances of bad sentence structure and grammatical faux pas. This was before the prevalence of the Internet. Now, such a journal would be far too easy to fill.

Don’t tell them too much about your soul. They’re waiting for just that. ~ Jack Kerouac, Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954

And just a little more . . .

  1. As I’m trying to write this post, Shakes is hovering near my ankles, hiding from a fly, and Tillie is sitting on Eamonn’s bed really giving me a good talking to. Apparently, she thinks that we should be playing, even though we have already gone out front for today’s stick game.
  2. I have been quite teary lately. Not weeping, but getting teary-eyed at seemingly nothing: the cedar bird feeders in Wal Mart reminded me of Mari; who cries in Wal Mart?

    Monet's Garden at Giverny, France
  3. I have not had a Pepsi in almost two weeks. I have given up soda, and my attempts to give up sugar are going fairly well. I’m also trying to avoid chocolate, except for the Russell Stover caramel and marshmallow egg that I ate last night. My jeans are getting too big.
  4. To help me in this attempt to eschew sweets, my mother has delivered bags of Riesen, banana nut bread, peanut butter eggs, and jellybeans.
  5. My mother, queen of the grudges, actually said to me the other day, “Aw, you shouldn’t hold a grudge.” I did not reply as I thought that I could not contain myself if I did. My mother once did not speak to me for almost three months because of something that Eamonn said. No. No grudges in this family.
  6. In another part of my dream last night, I was unlocking these old steel doors that had bolt locks. I went through three of them, and then I got on an elevator and pushed 3. The elevator bypassed all of the floors, and I ended up on an interstate.
  7. I think I’ve run out of things to say, but I hate to end on an uneven number.
  8. I’m craving Chinese food.
  9. I think that I’ll treat myself tonight to a movie from pay-per-view, or maybe I’ll just go to sleep, or read . . .
  10. I should have stopped four entries ago . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by The Fray, “Be Still”

                   

Three Ways of Transcribing Poems

1.

I wish to write
in clear letters
on a dry riverbed
a white ribbon of pebbles
seen from afar
or a scree slope
rubble
sliding under my lines
slipping away
so that the however
of the thorny life of my words
be the however of each letter.

2.

Little letters
precise ones
so that the words come quietly
so that the words sneak in
so that you have to go there
towards the words
to look for them in the white
paper
quietly
you don’t notice them entering
through the pores
sweat that runs inwards

Fear
mine
ours
and the however of each letter

3.

I want a strip of paper
as big as me
one metre sixty
on it a poem
that screams
when someone passes by
screams in black letters
demands the impossible
moral courage for example
that bravery which no animal has
fellow suffering for example
solidarity rather than being herded
foreign-words
made at home in deed

Human
animal with moral courage
human
animal that knows fellow suffering
human foreignword-animal word-animal
animal
that writes poems
poem
that demands the impossible
of everyone who passes by
urgently
peremptorily
as if it’s yelling
“drink Coca-Cola”

~ Hilde Domin (trans. Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel)

“Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, lost souls mourn beauty, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea. Silence descends, one hears the wind outside, autumn leaves rustle and take flight, the cat sleeps in a warm pool of light. And, with each swallow, time is sublimed.” ~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Honister Pass Stone Bridge, Cumbria, UK (WC)

                   

“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.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from “Clown in the Moon”

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 60’s.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my daughter Caitlin’s death. The weather this week is very much as it was 23 years ago: sunny and mild, and the entire time I thought that there should be storms, massive gales and torrential downpours. But no, sun. I remember standing at the cemetery after the service in just my long-sleeved dress, thinking that it should be cold, but it wasn’t.

Old Stone Bridge at Twizell, UK (WC)

The little things that come back to you.

I had very intense dreams last night, quite a detailed one in which I was having a conversation with my deceased m-in-law in her dining room, and she was talking about the treatment that she had received in the first long-term facility, and she commented that they managed to neglect her until it was too late. I told her that I had tried to help, but I knew that I hadn’t done enough.

Then she told me that she had an envelope full of checks for $10 each, all made out to the grandchildren for when they won things at school or had recitals. But she couldn’t remember where she had put them, and asked me to find them for her.

At some point I got in Corey’s truck to drive to school to  take an exam, but I couldn’t see over the dash.

The dream switched, and I was in a big room that turned into a nursery, and I was showing the babies to my friend Sarah, and I pointed out a little girl, and I told Sarah that no one had been in to feed the baby girl all day, and I just didn’t understand how people could act that way. Then I was showing Sarah pictures of the kids, and there was one of me standing in front of my m-in-law’s house, which was decorated for Christmas, and I was holding a baby. Then the nursery turned into one of my old offices, and I was alone, but I was supposed to be at the other location.

I hadn’t called in, and it was 2:30 in the afternoon, and I knew that I was in trouble, but my speech kept coming out garbled. I had a meeting with someone from a company that I was supposed to be reviewing a proposal for, and she pulled away from me even though I told her that I wasn’t contagious, but I couldn’t get my words out straight, and I’m certain that she thought that I was drunk.

Then a runner from the newspaper brought me proof pages for a Christmas ad, and I knew that he had been looking for me earlier in the day.

“I am a part of all whom I have met.” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson, from “Ulysses”

So much of my past in these dreams, so many people, too many to name. So many things left undone, responsibilities that I had shirked, that I knew that I had shirked. So much like life itself.

Old Stone Bridge over the Allt Shuas in Fin Glen, UK, (WC)

I had very much wanted to write yesterday, but Eamonn came home and wanted his room. C’est la vie, I suppose. So I read instead, Stephen King’s The Shining, a book that I read a lifetime ago. It holds up fairly well, one of his better books, before he began churning them out like cookies. But I didn’t really find it scar.y. Perhaps I’ve read so much true crime in the years between that the tale of a man possessed by a hotel full of ghosts pales somewhat in comparison.

Or perhaps there is no going back. More likely, the latter.

I did not make it to the floral warehouse to buy new silk flowers, nor did I make it to the cemetery as I had no vehicle. Perhaps that’s why I was trying so earnestly to drive a vehicle in my dreams.

As I sit here, I have a huge pile of dishes awaiting me in the kitchen. But the smell of last night’s scrapings is making me feel rather ill. I haven’t had a migraine since the botox, but I awoke with a killer sinus headache today. You know the kind: when you touch your eyeballs, they sound crunchy from all of the built-up fluid. I’m telling myself that I’m waiting for the Sudafed and Ibuprofen to kick in before I tackle the kitchen, but the truth is that I simply do not want to do it.

I’ve gone out to the kitchen three times to survey the wreck, if you will, and each time, I walk out and come back here.

“And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds.
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself—

Surely you see that.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “And I Always Thought”

Random thoughts:

  • I should have used yesterday afternoon to write a few cards, but it seemed too hard.
  • I greatly fear for the future of this country, that we will see more of the bad times before it gets better.
  • I need a haircut.
  • We will probably not make a trip to the mountains again this fall.
  • The spider in the corner of the bathroom is still there, and I have decided to see just how long he survives if left alone.
  • I can go an entire day without speaking to another human being as long as the dogs are around to listen to me babble.
Stone Bridge at Wycoller, Lancashire, UK (WC)
  • I’m moving towards another birthday, and I have yet to do anything substantial with my life.
  • I do not want to die without having lived, as Thoreau said, but the marrow of life eludes me.
  • I miss friendship on a daily basis.
  • Oreos are actually soul food.
  • Tillie thinks that peanut butter is doggie crack, and it probably is.
  • I have to stop snacking in the middle of the night when the dogs awaken me.
  • It would be nice if the dogs did not awaken me in the middle of the night.
  • I wonder if I could be one of those women who looks stylish with grey hair . . .
  • I’ve decided to name my fancy-tailed Beta (if I ever get him) Captain Jack after Captain Jack Harkness from “Torchwood,” not Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, although either captain would do.

“Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human’s life is a beautiful mess.” ~ Gabrielle Zevin from Elsewhere

More random thoughts:

  • Some of my personalized ringtones include “No one said it would be easy,” “Wreck of the day,” and “Why?” Do you sense a theme?
  • When I lived in my small apartment near ODU, I would put Janis Ian on my record player, and sing “Seventeen” at the top of my voice without any inhibitions.
  • I just remembered that both my dad and my Uncle Nick were in my dreams last night.
  • I wish that I knew someone who had all of the answers because I would go up to that person and say, “Get over it. No one has all of the answers.”
  • Not really.
Stone Bridge at Low Crag, UK (WC)
  • I stack the dishes at our table when we eat in a restaurant. I’ve always done this.
  • Eldest son is taking dance lessons. I’ve always wanted to take dance lessons, to dance a real waltz at a real ball.
  • My bucket list is overflowing.
  • I want so much and so little.
  • Are my expectations too high?
  • I had a strand of purple love beads that are long since lost. I loved them because everyone else had grey love beads.
  • I used to climb trees every chance that I got.
  • The more stories I read on the 99 percent, the luckier I feel.
  • I shouldn’t have to feel lucky because I have healthcare and a house.
  • My father, who traveled the world, never go to see the Great Wall of China.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere—on water and land.” ~ Walt Whitman,  from Leaves of Grass

Just a few more:

Stone Bridge, Clare Glen, Tanderagee, Ireland, UK (WC)
  • I wonder how many times I have chosen the wrong side of the fork in the road . . .
  • I wonder how many times I have chosen the right side . . .
  • How can you ever know?
  • I once had an English professor tell me that Emily Dickinson was the only female poet worth anything.
  • He pronounced the w in my last name as a Germanic v, and I despised him.
  • I once had an English teacher tell me that my poem wasn’t a poem because it didn’t have a da-duh da-duh da-duh rhythm.
  • He had dandruff and smelled.
  • If I had listened to every man who ever told me that I couldn’t, I would have never.
  • What happened to that fortitude that I used to possess?
  • I should have bought that catamaran when I had the chance.
  • Few of us realize how much our lives shift permanently because of the decisions we make between 18 and 22.
  • I was never 18 mentally or emotionally.
  • Exactly what constitutes a marketable degree any more when no one is hiring in any field?
  • Four o’clock in the morning is a very lonely hour.
  • Some people are born evil, others good, and then the rest of us struggle to figure out the difference.
  • I’m afraid it’s all been wasted time.

Enough navel-gazing for today. Dirty dishes await, and the sky has turned white.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Gabriel, “I Grieve” from City of Angels OST

                   

Solitude

The changing seasons, sunlight and darkness,
alter the world, which, in its sunny aspect
comforts us, and with its clouds brings sadness.

And I, who have looked with infinite
tenderness at so many of its guises,
don’t know whether I ought to be sad today

or gladly go on as if a test had been passed;
I’m sad, and yet the day is so beautiful;
only in my heart is there sun and rain.

I can transform a long winter into spring;
where the pathway in the sun is a ribbon
of gold, I bid myself  ”good evening.”

In me alone are my mists and fine weather,
as in me alone is that perfect love
for which I suffered so much and no longer mourn,

let my eyes suffice me, and my heart.

~ Umberto Saba, (Trans. by George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan)