“Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Tree”

Neverland by Hannes Flo, (FCC)

“My life is a crystal teardrop. There are snowflakes falling in the teardrop and little figures trudging around in slow motion. If I were to look into the teardrop for the next million years, I might never find out who the people are, and what they are doing.” ~ Joan Baez, as found in Joan Didion’s “Where the Kissing Never Stops”

Friday afternoon, snow and rain, cold, 39 degrees.

During the night when I was letting the dogs out, I looked out to see snow covering the ground, which was a surprise. The weather forecast did not call for snow, only more rain. Corey and I agree that the weather here is actually quite depressing. I can only hope that as the weather gets warmer that we are finally able to dry out around here. The mud is overwhelming, as is the near constant rain.

So we lost internet Wednesday night, right as I was watching that new documentary on HBO about Michael Jackson, Finding Neverland. It’s actually quite disturbing as it features two men who were childhood victims of abuse at Jackson’s hands. Truthfully, I’m surprised that they were able to make it. I know that Jackson’s estate sues people all of the time. Nevertheless, it’s more than time that these victims were able to tell their stories.

Anyway, I can’t believe the nerve of some companies, wanting to be paid for their services as opposed to offering them for free. I remember reading something sometime ago about how Tesla wanted electricity to be free, and someone who wanted the internet to be free. Such radical ideas: actually giving the public something that they can use as opposed to making a profit.

Hmm……..Things that make you go hmm……

“I hear two sibilants—here silk,
the snowstorm outside. Beating soul
and breathing blood. We both got what
we wanted” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, from “Playacting” (Trans. Christopher Whyte)

I decided to be proactive for a change, and rather than wait for the internet to become available again, I decided to go ahead and write some posts on Microsoft Word until we can get it restored on Monday. Then I’ll just post and backdate, which I know is cheating, but hey, when you’re me, and you never know what day it is, does it really matter?

So no podcasts for me for a bit, so I’ve been listening to some of my old music playlists. I made the mistake of putting on an old country playlist while I was taking a bath, and boy, some of those songs are just heartbreaking. For example, there was Blaine Larsen’s, “How Do You Get so Lonely,” which is about a boy who commits suicide, and then there was “Alyssa Lies,” which is about child abuse.

Boy, I know how to put together a playlist that makes you want to cut your wrists with a rusty razor blade—that was a Kathleen saying, or maybe it was a Gail saying. Can’t remember. But those two women were big friends of mine once upon a time.

“I’m tired of my life, my clothes, the things I say. I’m hacking away at the surface, as at some kind of gray ice, trying to break through to what is underneath or I am dead. I can feel the surface trembling—it seems ready to give but it never does..” ~ James Salter, from a letter to Robert Phelps (July 6, 1969-70)

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to another long-time friend of mine, the woman who taught me piano for almost eight years. I always looked up to her, and when she got melanoma years ago, I was so afraid that she would succumb to it, but fortunately, she didn’t, and she went on to have a son by a man who later betrayed her big time.

She was such a classy, talented woman, and oddly enough, she’s the one who made me love Bach, who I had always eschewed before she started teaching me. I was intimidated by Bach—too many notes on the page, as it were, but I learned to master his Two-Part Inventions, and went on to the Three-Part Inventions before I stopped.

I really miss playing, but my piano is in terrible shape. I hope that one day I can find a decent used piano to purchase. Corey’s parents had a beautiful piano in their basement that I always coveted, but then his brother threw out the keys that had come loose, and they got rid of the piano. I miss learning new pieces. I mean, I could teach myself, but there is something special about learning from someone who really knows music. God I loved to play the piano, and I was relatively good at it. I wasn’t one of those naturals who can sit down at a keyboard and just play what they hear in their brains, nor could I ever master changing keys on my own.

I went to school with a couple of people like that, incredibly talented both of them. The one who played the cello died of AIDS during the height of the epidemic, and the other, who played any instrument she touched, ended up having a major tragedy in her life that she never recovered from.

“My wound existed before me;
I was born to embody it.” ~ Joë Bousquet, from “Traduit du silence”

Which just proves that no one is immune from life’s travails, regardless of talent, and here I am still, even when I never imagined being this old, never thought that I would make it this far, and I still feel mediocre every single day of my life. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching for months now, trying to figure out why I can’t be happy. Honestly, I still don’t have an answer, and my inability to find one just makes me madder and madder at myself.

Granted, the last few years have been majorly stressful, and that I even made it out in sort of one piece still amazes me. I remember years ago, after I lost Caitlin, and I went to that first psychiatrist (who I loathed), and he told me that losing a child is ranked as the second or third biggest stressor in life, with being in a concentration camp ranking as first. How did people even survive that when they were finally liberated? How did they not hate everyone and everything?

Anyway, I had a point, which was that other life stressors include moving, starting a new job, and getting married. I got married (the first time), moved to Blacksburg, and started graduate school and teaching composition all within two weeks of each other.
I supposed I’ve never been one to do things half way. It’s all or nothing. Or maybe, it’s everything or nothing. Who knows.

“All I can hear now is the sound of my own heart, opening and closing, opening and closing, opening.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Handmaid’s Tale

But getting back to the idea of being happy: I know that only I can control my happiness. I’m not naïve enough to think that someone else can make me happy. No matter how much Corey loves and cares for me, he cannot control what is inside of me, nor does he try to.

There is such a feeling of deep regret within me, regret, and guilt, and a sense of being incredibly ungrateful.

Let me explain: I have wanted to live in the mountains, on my own property, for as long as I can remember, ever since the first time I drove into Blacksburg to visit Paul. I knew in that instant that my soul belonged in the mountains. So here I am, surrounded by everything I ever wanted, land, an incredible vista, animals, yet somehow, it’s not enough.

No. Let me back that up. It’s not that it’s not enough; it’s that there is such a large hole in my heart that I’m having a hard time allowing myself to be filled with the splendor with which I am surrounded. Aside from the mud, this place is everything. But I don’t have my kids, and I no longer have a home in Norfolk. I wasn’t able to keep my parents’ home in the family, and I know that many people are not able to do this, but I feel like such a failure because of that, and because I wanted my kids to have the opportunity to have it someday. And more than that, I want my kids.

It’s coloring everything, and I hate it more than I can say, so maybe I should stop trying to say anything more at the moment.

More later. Peace.


Music by Ruelle, “Slip Away”

 


Rebus

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.

This rebus—slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life—
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.

As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.

The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.

How can I enter this question the clay has asked?

~ Jane Hirshfield (found on Poetry Foundation)
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“It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.” ~ Anne Sexton, from a journal entry, 1972

Life was never like Andy of Mayberry

Two for Tuesday: Poems about Fathers

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 43 degrees.

The two poems that I’ve chosen for today are both about communicating with fathers. The first, by W. S. Merwin, I used to teach in my literature classes. I always loved this poem because of its deliberate lack of punctuation, which leaves it open to be read in different ways. For example, if Merwin had punctuated the first few lines as follows—My friend says, “I was not a good son, you understand?” I say, “yes, I understand”—then it could be read that the friend is commenting on his own relationship with his father. However, if you read it with the word that omitted, as most people do in speech, then it would be as follows: My friend says [that] I was not a good son—an accusation against the speaker.

My students used to enjoy playing around with this particular poem; I always felt that it was a perfect example of how poetry can be open-ended, meaning dependent upon what we as individuals bring to the text. Either way, though, the poem is about regret.

The second selection is from a longer poem from I poet who I only found recently. The speaker in this one is female, but as soon as I read it, I was reminded of the Merwin poem, which I had to hunt for because I couldn’t remember the title. In this poem as well I sense a great deal of regret for things unspoken on both sides. This one really reminded me of my father, just as the Merwin one used to remind me of the relationship that I had with my father while he was still alive.

Regret can kill you.

More later. Peace.

Note: I didn’t realize until after posting that I had already used this Merwin poem in a previous post, but as I love it so much, I decided not to change it; I just hope that I didn’t make the same comments . . .


Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

~ W. S. Merwin


“father. you always call to say nothing in particular. you
ask what i’m doing or where i am and when the silence
stretches like a lifetime between us i scramble to find
questions to keep the conversation going. what i long to say most is.
i understand this world broke you. it has been so hard on your feet.
i don’t blame you for not knowing how to remain soft with me. sometimes i stay up thinking
of all the places you are hurting which you’ll never care to mention. i come from the same aching blood. from the same bone so desperate for attention i collapse in on myself. i am your daughter. i know the small talk is the only way you know how to tell me you love me. cause it is the only way i know how to tell you.”

~ Rupi Kaur, from “The Hurting,” in Milk and Honey


Music by Gert Taberner, “Fallen”

“Remembrance and reflection how allied. What thin partitions divides sense from thought.” ~ Alexander Pope

Antique Grandfather’s Clock Face

    

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Remembrance, reflection, recrimination, and finally, regret. 

Once upon a time, I had four coffee mugs, each with a different quote by Shakespeare. My favorite mug, the one that I used at work for several different jobs, was the one inscribed with the quote above. That mug is gone now, and I have never been able to find another set of mugs like the first one. 

Odd the things you remember when you least expect it. 

“People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” ~ St. Augustine
Antique Clock Face

I’m in a melancholy place. I realize that this state is due in part to Jennifer’s situation and my inability to separate completely what is happening to her from what happened to Caitlin. Last night when Alexis called me to give me an update, she said that she was afraid to call me because I always seemed to get upset. I told her that I wanted her to call, that I needed to know what was going on. 

Jennifer isn’t Caitlin. I know that. I also know that I harbor knowledge that no one should have to have imprinted on memory but unfortunately, too many people do: the names and categories of brain tumors, what a shunt is and how it works, the questions to ask a neurosurgeon and an oncologist. It’s the kind of knowledge that I wish I did not own, never had to incorporate into my life. 

I also know fear, real, palpable fear, the kind of fear that takes over life and makes every second a study in emotional torture: Fear of the unknown and the known, fear of the uncontrollable, fear of that which is in our control, fear of time passing too quickly, and fear of not having enough time. It is the kind of fear that you can know intimately but be unable to articulate, and it certainly cannot be described adequately to inform someone who is in the midst of it. 

“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.” ~ Léon Bloy
Antique Grandfather's Clock in Antique Store

So many decisions still need to be made, decisions about who will care for Reilly permanently should Jennifer not recover. I remember being Jennifer’s age, remember my own fallibilities at that time, and cannot imagine having to make these decisions with my younger sense of self. 

This is part of the unfairness of fate: only having the knowledge to face the worst when the need for that knowledge no longer exists. I do not believe in that saying that a person is never given more to bear than he or she can handle. These onerous loads are almost always placed upon the people who are most unprepared. That is because most people live life forwards, hoping for the best and guarding against the worst. 

Only people who have touched the face of relentless pain and despair realize that the future is dependent upon the past, that normalcy is a myth. When the impossible becomes reality, it is almost always more than any individual is prepared or able to bear.  Survivors, those left behind, almost always wish not to be. Those who survive are forever changed and not necessarily for the better. Survivors muddle along after the life-cleaving event, never again complacent, some small part always thinking about the worst that can happen. 

The truth is that two kinds of people exist in this world: the whole and the broken. And the whole become broken after sharing intimacy with tragedy. 

“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” ~ Pearl S. Buck
Late 19th Century Pocket Watch (Swiss)

As sentient beings we make thousands of choices during our lifetimes. Sometimes the choices are easy, requiring little thought or reflection. Other times, the choices that we make ultimately change the courses of our lives. 

I have made too many choices that I regret, choices about Caitlin, choices about my father, but the decision that I made 12 years ago is the one haunting me today. When I found out that Alan had cancer, I called his sister and asked if I could visit him. I set a date, but on that day, I stayed at school late; I don’t remember why. By the time I was supposed to drive to Alan’s house, I was exhausted. I did not go. 

Alan died before I saw him. At his funeral, his sister told me that he had gotten dressed and had come downstairs on the day that I was supposed to visit. He waited for me. It was one of his lucid days. I know that she did not tell me this to shame me; she was trying to let me know how much Alan still cared about our friendship. 

My reasons for not going that day are worthless. Some of you may wonder why I still think about something I did not do 12 years ago. I can only tell you that I am haunted by my bad decisions, particularly those that directly affected someone else important to me. 

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” ~ C. S. Lewis
Old Watches

I’m really not certain as to why this post took this turn. I can only say that after talking with Alexis last night, I was overcome with feelings of regret—the insufferable what-if of life. 

And then last night I did sleep, but it was fitful and filled with disturbing dreams: I had a baby, a girl, and I was amazed that she was talking so soon. Then the girl child turned into a boy child. I was sitting in a waiting room while Corey was in a class. Someone said, “Does anyone know whose baby this is?” 

I said that he belonged to me, but he was supposed to be with his father. The boy came running to me, and I swooped him into my arms. Throughout the dream, my ex kept appearing, and I thought it odd that he would want to spend time with me now that he is living with his girlfriend. Corey was not happy to see him. 

Brett, Alexis and Eamonn were helping their father to drag bags of empty cans into a place for recycling. My ex asked if we would help. The baby disappeared. Corey and I turned away and began walking down a sidewalk. 

I woke up with another headache. 

“In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real.” ~ Libba Bray
Time with Shadows and Light

Chiaroscuro ((k-är-skr): The practice of using the contrast of light and dark pictorially; also called clair-obscur. What a great word and also the perfect description of my life. 

Sometimes I think of life in photographic terms: light and dark, what is seen versus what is shadowed. The images that are crystal clear from a distance can become unfathomable when looked at too closely. And some images that are easily interpreted upon first glance later morph into something that cannot be comprehended when revisited. 

Perhaps this accounts for my preoccupation with the sky: my love for blue skies is matched only by my love for night skies. I am a study in contradictions:  I am comforted by the mountains as well as the sea. What wounds me also nourishes me.

Would that I could be the kind of person who accepts things at face value, who moves through life unfettered by the need to question, to analyze, to disseminate, to cull. Would that allow me to move past the past, to bury all of the speculation and regret? Or perhaps it is just as Oscar Wilde once said: “One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.” 

More later. Peace. 

Music by One Eskimo, “Kandi” 

                                                                                                                                         

Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint 

Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose of your breath
places on my cheek at night. 

I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair. 

If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master, 

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

~ Federico Garcia Lorca

Quelle Surprise!

bugs bunny maroon

 

You must stick to your convictions, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.” ~ Denis Waitley 

“The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every new encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions.” ~ David Brin 

Imagine my surprise today when I checked my comments and found the following delightful missive from Alex:

Wow..you are a little moronic I must admit. Who on Earth would use someone as shallow and absurdly small-minded as Kim Kardashian, who is famous for doing not much of anything similar to Paris Hilton, as a role model? I certainly would not want my children looking up to someone like her. Since when is she the standard of real? She has had plastic surgery to obtain what many voluptuous women are blessed with (i.e butt, lips, breasts, even had a nose job!) She is NOT the standard of real, but I do respect her for not being rail thin. I would never look up to her for anything outside of what she is–an attention/media whore. That is what she lives for. Famous for being promiscuous and creating sex tapes “mysteriously” released on the internet. I’ll look up to someone who aspires to be something more than what she unfortunately is.

It seems that Alex was taking umbrage at my post on beauty, “Beauty is not in the face . . .) (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/beauty-is-not-…-kahlil-gibran/) in which I discussed the issue of people being held up as role models for girls and women and how these supposed role models do not have attainable bodies without a personal trainer or air brushing. In this post I also discuss how most women have a warped sense of their body images because of what is thrown in our faces day after day. Personally,  I really liked the post, and I received good feedback from regular readers. I should also point out that the woman whose image I placed at the top of my post was Sophia Loren, an iconic beauty simply because she does not look like everyone else.

However, this is not the first time that someone has dropped in on my blog randomly and completely missed the point of a post. I just received an overly long treatise on politics in Iran in response to my recent post on the demonstrations. I do love to get comments, even completely irrelevant ones such as the one above. It let’s me know that people are reading, even if they are reading selectively.

This was my response to Alex:

I have never said that Kim Kardashian is a role model. I said that she could be a role model “as far as how she carries herself.” If you read more closely, what I was commenting on was the fact that she is attractive without being rail thin. Other than that, I know nothing about the woman.

If you were a regular reader of my blog, you would know that my heroes are more in the line of Socrates, Einstein, Virginia Woolf, and countless other philosophers and writers. I have never viewed celebrities or celeb-wanna bes as role models. Nor have I ever pointed my children in that direction.

As for your labeling of me as moronic, perhaps you should read more than one entry on a blog before casting aspersions.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I do find it fascinating, though, when people who are obviously not regular readers decide to be a wee bit caustic. Do I know Alex? I don’t believe so. Have I ever heard from her (assuming gender since the name Alex can be male or female) before? Not that I recall. Do we have an ongoing dialogue? No. So how is it then that Alex can call me a moron? This puzzles me.

Marvin the MartianLet me be clear here. I do banter back and forth with my friends. They have on occasion called me everything from a bitch to a dork to a dweeb, and perhaps a few other things in between. I have never taken offense because this type of name-calling is done in jest with no ill intent, and admittedly, I can be bitchy, and a dork, an a dweeb. Those individuals in my life who are close enough to me to say these things also love me unconditionally for who I am and would not hesitate to be there for me if I needed them. And as I have mentioned before, bantering is one of the things that I do best—the give and take, the witticisms, the seeming disagreements over small things—but always without malice.

I will freely admit that I like to quibble. Accepting everything at face value seems to be just a tad too compliant. Questioning and carping keep life interesting and have often led to long, intense conversations. I like intense. I appreciate a keen wit. I derive great pleasure out of the give and take of an easy banter. In fact, one of my daughter’s first polysyllabic words was sarcastic, as in “Mom, you’re being sarcastic again, aren’t you?”

But that’s not to say that my personality has not led some people to draw conclusions about me that were untrue. That’s probably because my temperament is an acquired taste, and very often, my tendency towards being a curmudgeon can be offputting, even though more often than not, my vaunting comes from insecurity.

“Regret is insight that comes a day too late.” ~ Author Unknown

I do remember one time in which I made a callous remark out of the hearing of someone to a friend of mine. I turned to my friend Amy and said, “God is she ugly.” Amy just looked at me in stunned silence, and then she said, very calmly, “Who are you to judge the way that someone looks?”

I will forever be grateful to Amy for saying this to me because she was absolutely correct. I had no right to judge this other person, who happened to be very sweet and kind. Amy’s comment to me made me feel like the shallow person that I was at that moment. But ever since that day a long time ago, I have watched what I say about people, especially people who I do not know.

Granted, in the heat of a political debate, I can be absolutely caustic, casting my own aspersions about Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, and I do not apologize for that. Individuals such as these men go for the jugular of people with whom they disagree time and again, and I find it abhorrent. I do not claim to be an innocent who has never had a harsh word for anyone. I know that I can be vicious in an argument, but not without deep regret afterwards.

“It was not that she was out of temper, but that the world was not equal to the demands of her fine organism.” ~ George Eliot

Daffy DuckNow that I have some years on me, I have become much more even-tempered, if you can believe that. I try to choose my battles well, and I try not to go for the sweet spot just because I can. I am not always successful.

That being said, I can say with honesty that Alex’s comment did not provoke my ire, nor did it hurt my feelings. Rather, I was more intrigued by how someone who has never met me or conversed with me could make such a pronouncement on my character.

So for the purposes of this post, let us just assume that Alex possesses a deep loathing for Kim Kardashian. Or let us suppose that someone may have made fun of Alex in a bathing suit or some such thing. Or even, let us assume that Alex is a beautiful woman who is self-assured and impatient with supposed celebrity. Any of these could be true, or none of these could be true. I have no way of knowing because I do not know Alex. So it would be rather supercilious of me to assume anything about Alex.

And that, dear readers, is my point exactly.

More later on a more interesting subject. Peace.