“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy

AWARD--Honest_Weblog_Award

Me? Seriously? You Shouldn’t Have But I’m Glad That You Did

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

This is a little late in coming, but I would like to thank Zirgar for bestowing upon me the Honest Weblog Award. I have been told by several people that one of the better qualities of my writing is its honesty; I know that I do write from my heart, which is not always a good thing, I realize, but it is my way of being true to myself. So many thanks Z and all of the other wonderful regular readers who stop by here to read and sometimes comment.

Chesapeake Bay
End of the Day, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

As we all know, no award comes without a few strings, and the Honest Weblog Award is no exception. Here are the rules: 

  1. You must brag about the award.
  2. You must include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on you and link back to that blogger.
  3. You must choose a minimum of seven blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
  4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with the Honest Weblog Award.
  5. List at least ten honest things about yourself.

Then pass along the award with the above instructions.

Top Seven

So here are the blogs to which I have chosen to pass along the Honest Weblog Award. The blogs are listed in no particular order, and their content is as varied as their owners. I try to visit these blogs daily or as often as possible, and my interest in each of them is evidenced by the fact that you can find them listed under the different categories of blogrolls to the left of my site.

  1. White Orchid: This blog is written by one of my dear online friends, Maureen, who lives in Australia. Maureen’s blog covers a wide range of topics—family, friends, work, Australian politics, and much more. Maureen has a very loyal group of followers, and she is diligent about responding to comments and e-mails.
  2. Supersense: Written by Bruce M. Hood, the Director of the  Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol in England. Bruce recently published Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable, an incredible book that I found immensely enjoyable and informative (I promise that I’ll get around to posting my review soon). Part of what makes Bruce’s blog so interesting is the comment section: His regulars are a diverse bunch with very strong opinions.
  3. Floridana Alaskiana v2.5: This blog is written by Janson Jones, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. If you appreciate fine photography, then you definitely need to visit this blog. Janson, who recently celebrated the birth of his daughter Aurelia, fills his posts with beautiful images of landscapes, wildlife, and people. He also comments occasionally on political issues in which he is interested.
  4. Islamorada Florida by JJ
    Islamorada, Florida by Janson Jones
  5. My Sweetest Downfall: This pseudonymous blog is beautifully written by a woman with incredible wit and enough sarcasm to keep me entertained. She doesn’t post daily, but the content of her posts makes up for the wait between. I think that what I probably enjoy most about JaneyLynn’s blog is that I can totally relate to it, to the craziness of her life, and to her occasional funks.
  6. Zirgar’s Fresh New Brain Squeezins: Zirgar, who presented me with this award, describes his blog as “a place to vent and find catharsis.” Very left of center, Z takes on Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the whole Fox circus, as well as most far-right politicians and politicos. Be warned, he doesn’t censor himself, so if you are offended easily, then this isn’t the blog for you. That being said, I greatly enjoy his rants and screeds on closed-minded racists and bigots, as well as the regulars who comment on his posts. Very glad I found this particular blog, and many thanks again Zirgar for remembering me.
  7. Leaving Lilac Sky: Another pseudonymous blog written by a very talented poet. I have been following this writer’s blog for almost a year now. As with most poets, she has her dry spells, and then she goes into periods in which she is incredibly prolific, turning out a poem a day. A confessional poet, her poems deal with heart-rending emotions, but at the same time, she celebrates life.
  8. Willpen’s World: This is another blog that I have been following regularly since I began blogging last year. Another kindred political spirit, WP is not afraid to voice her opinions about the state of affairs in this country. Worth noting: Several of the blogs that I now read regularly I found through the comments section of WP’s blog.

A few honorable mentions: November Fifth (intelligent, articulate, and a college-level English prof), Really . . . Really . . . Seriously (music and movies), David Bridger (writer with a lot to say about writing, life, and lots of other things). There are a few other blogs that I read as much as possible, but these are the highlights.

Ten Honest Things About Myself

  1. I am hypersensitive, although I try very hard not to be. Just how sensitive I am depends upon the state of my life, which means that currently, I can tear up upon hearing a song or watcing a commercial.
  2. I believe in reincarnation. I know that this is not logical (Bruce), but it is something that I have felt very strongly about since I was very young. No, I was not Marie Antoinette, but my affinity for and knowledge of things that I don’t have a logical reason for knowing has to come from somewhere.
  3. I was a daddy’s girl. As an only child, I was spoiled, and my dad labeled me as a “Want-Whiney” when I was a little girl. If I am to be completely honest, the label still applies. 

    Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay
    Catamaran on the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
  4. I love to wear boots, long skirts and sweaters. I should probably live in a cooler climate as this is how I would clad myself everyday if I had somewhere to be.
  5. My biggest personal regret is not going for my doctorate in English.
  6. I am a collector: books, stuffed bears, boots, office supplies, and watches probably being the top five.
  7. I don’t do things half way. It’s either all in or nothing.
  8. I have become too much of a recluse in the past two years, and I really need to get out of the house more.
  9. I love words. I love to find new quotes by writers I have been reading for years. I love to find new writers. I love to put words together and push them around until I have created something of which I can be proud.
  10. I love the man who has been the biggest part of my life for the past 10 years unconditionally and completely, and my children are my joy. Never try to come between me and my family.

Okay, a couple of other tidbits: I am not afraid of spiders, but am terrified of snakes and centipedes. I love the colors red, black and purple. I really enjoy nature: backyard birding, mountains, waterfalls, and sunrises and sunsets. I am very insecure about the way that I look. I do not have tons of friends, rather, a select few. I love them and miss them every single day, and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for one of my friends.

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” ~ Lionel Hampton

So, gentle reader, this ends my conferring of the Honest Weblog Award upon some of my favorite online sites. I hope that you take the time to visit a few of these worthwhile and diverse sites.

More later. Peace.

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“Half my life is in books’ written pages, lived and learned from fools and from sages.” ~ “Dream On” by Aerosmith

die tanzerin poster

“Die Tanzerin” (detail), by Gustav Klimt

 

“Lost in a dream of mirrors. Lost in a paradox.” ~ “Dream of Mirrors”* (Iron Maiden)

“A reflected dream of captured time . . .”

kananga-mineral-water-japanAs I’m sitting here, staring at the blinking cursor, I could swear that it’s mocking me: You cannot write. You cannot write. Ha ha ha . . .

I know, I do have a habit of personifying inanimate objects quite often, but I’m certain that it’s because my mind works on the same plane as those very objects that I personify. In other words, I understand the cursor, the mouse, the keyboard in the same way that I know what my dogs are saying.

Trust me. It’s a special gift—being this in touch with non-living, objects. Notice I did not say non-sentient? That’s because these little buggers are sentient (I don’t care what you think Bruce Hood; this is my special kind of  Supersense). For example, the mouse knows precisely when to act up: When I am exhausted and having a hard time editing myself. The keyboard knows exactly when to shift the keys one place over: When I am on a roll and not paying attention to the screen so that once I finally look up, I have 20 lines of gibberish.

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. And I think that the ceiling fan may be in on it as well. By the way, the dogs are laughing at me.

“Have you ever felt the future is the past, but you don’t know how?”

Of course, you are probably sitting there thinking, ‘She’s sounding pretty strange today. Stranger than usual, that is.’ Well you’d be acting strangely too if you had the dream that I had last night. It was filled with confrontation, religious symbolism, a non-working right leg, a professor who turned on me in class, and a red-headed woman who was out to get me. Trust me, all of that trying to escape, falling off a metal bleacher and landing inside a church: That takes a toll on a person’s psyche.

Nevertheless, the actual reason for this post is that David Bridger  posted an interesting meme: Describe the most interesting dream you have ever had, or the dream that you simply cannot forget. I have quite a few, but there is one in particular that really sticks with me because it did not feel like a dream. It felt like a memory.

Now we all know about my Buddhist tendencies to believe in reincarnation: You keep coming back until you get it right. Well this particular dream felt so real, so linear and complete that when I told Corey about it, I also mentioned that I thought that it was more of a memory than a dream.

Okay, for you non-believers out there, just go with the flow. I mean the whole reincarnation thing has always troubled me because I fear coming back as a cockroach; however as someone pointed out to me, coming back as a cockroach would not be so bad because someone would step on you or poison you, which would end that particular incarnation, and then you would be able to come back as something better, that is unless being a cockroach is your final destination, in which case, we really don’t want to ponder that too much.

Moving on. I find it particularly hilarious that many people who claim to have had past lives declare that they were someone famous. How many people could have been Napoleon, or George Washington, or Marie Antoinette. Why is it that no one ever remembers being a scullery maid, or a blacksmith, or a fisherman?

(Just a note: You thought that the whole first section was a complete drop-in, something to fill space, but I had my motives: If I began this post with something completely nonsensical and outrageous, then by the time I got to reincarnation, it couldn’t possible phase you, and you’d just keep reading. (I do have my moments of lucidity within my insanity . . .))

“Have I dreamt this time, this place?”

Delusions of reincarnation grandeur. Too funny. But as usual, I digress. Getting back to my memory dream . . .

utamaro-kitagawa-a-young-woman-seated-at-a-desk-writing-a-girl-with-a-book-looks-on
"Young Woman Seated at Desk Writing, Girl With Book Looks On," by Utamaro Kitagawa

I am a young Japanese girl in Feudal Japan. My mother is a person of some importance in court, not a princess, but someone who is definitely of the upper class. I am wearing a white kimono that is covered with small cherry blossoms. In my child’s mind, I think that the kimono should not be white as that is the color for marriage. I wish that I could wear a fancy kimono like the ones that my mother wears, but I am too young.

My mother is trying to teach me how to paint my characters, specifically my name with small willows on a sprig as decoration. I keep trying, but I cannot get the page to look as beautiful as my mother’s.

In leaning over the paper, I spill some ink on my kimono. It is red ink even though I am drawing with black ink, and I think that the splatter looks like blood. My mother chastises me for being so clumsy, and leaves the room with her maid. I continue to work, but instead of drawing what I am supposed to be practicing, I draw the following image instead:

 

Basic RGB

 Japanese Memory Dream Image by L. Liwag

And I think I’ve seen your face, seen this room, been in this place”

I draw this image repeatedly, trying to perfect it until an old man comes into the room. He is my tutor. He looks at what I am drawing and tells me to stop. For some reason, the image makes him uncomfortable. He tells me that I can learn how to draw my characters better if I practice drawing a small canoe first. He takes the brush, and in three easy strokes draws a canoe; then he adds fine lines and a bit of shadow that illustrate the water.

I tell him that I am not able to draw such a simple yet beautiful picture, but he instructs me to begin with the three lines of the canoe. I push aside the image from my mind that I have drawn over and over again, and I take a clean sheet of white paper. I dip the brush in the ink pot, and I draw the three lines. They look just like the old man’s canoe. He smiles at me and bows his head. I bow my head in reply.

The dream ends.

“Think I’ve heard your voice before, think I’ve said these words before”

In setting the action into words, it seems as if it is a very short dream. But the reality is that this dream or memory takes a long time. I begin the lessons with my mother in the early afternoon. I pursue the elusive image in my mind for several hours. By the time I finish the canoe, it is evening.

arnie-fisk-gilded-kimono
"Gilded Kimono," by Arnie Fisk

Things I remember about the dream: My mother’s hair is very beautiful, black and shiny. Her Kimono has very long sleeves or tamoto, that are trimmed in gold, and I wish that I were old enough to wear sleeves like my mother’s. My mother’s maid is short and not very attractive, and she gives me a dirty look when my mother says that I am clumsy. I know that she is trying to make my mother like her more. I shoot the maid a child’s dirty look, although my eyes are cast downward out of respect for my mother.

The red ink that I spill on my kimono spreads quickly like blood, leaving the bottom of my right sleeve, and a portion of the right side of my kimono saturated with the ink. I try to blot the ink with a piece of fabric, and I stick my fingers in water to try to rub out the ink . Someone, I don’t know whose voice it is, says that the ink will come out when the kimono is washed, but my mother scolds the person and says that the kimono, which is made of fine silk, is ruined now.

My tutor does not have a long mustache. He is thin, and he has brown leathery hands, and the bones are prominent. I think that he will not be able to draw well with such hands. My tutor has an assistant, a much younger man, who does nothing. He sits off to the side and drinks tea while the old man instructs me. I think that he is a lazy assistant and wish that I could spent more time with my tutor as I like him very much. He is not as stern as my mother, and he is very patient with me.

The room that I am in throughout the dream has long windows. At first, there is much sunlight streaming into the room. As the day wanes, I no longer notice the sunlight, but at some point my tutor lights the lanterns in the room. The floor is stone, and I am sitting on a large, red cushion. It has gold tassels on each corner.

“Have I found my destination?” 

Picture of the Upper Class by Kitagawa Utamaro
"Picture of the Upper Class," by Utamaro Kitagawa

Now, I had this memory dream several weeks ago, but I still remember every detail, even though this is the first time that I have written about it. I do remember my dreams, but never with this much clarity.

The other very curious thing about this memory dream and reality is that for a very long time, since I was in my early 20’s, I have felt that there is something Japanese in me somewhere along the line. It’s not from my father’s side of the family. In fact, my father hated the Japanese, and for good reason. His village suffered horribly under Japanese rule during WWII.

Despite that, I have had this feeling that I have Japanese blood, and I wrote about it in a poem called “Blood Tracings.” I never told my father about my feelings; in fact, I have only told a few people over the years about this sense of heritage, but I have not thought about it in years.

And then this memory dream pervades my bedtime sojourns and leaves me feeling very disquieted.

“Am I still inside my dream? Is this a new reality” 

Who’s to say if my dream means anything. It may just be my mind’s way of sifting through the detritus of the day, which is how I usually interpret my dreams. If there is a red-headed woman in my dream, it’s usually because I have seen a red-headed woman on television, or on a book flap (which was the case last night), or in person.

 But this dream has nothing to do with anything I have thought about recently, nothing I have written about, nor anything that I have seen. It just came to me, and when I awoke, I was certain that it was a memory. I felt that way and still feel this way because of the effect that this memory dream has had on me: I think about it constantly; the details are still quite vivid, and when I awoke from the dream, I immediately said to Corey, “I just had the most curious memory.” Of course he was asleep at the time, so I had to remind him later.

If it was indeed a memory, then it was a good one. Aside from displeasing my mother, I enjoyed my creations with brush and ink. I cared little about my kimono being ruined, and the old man who was my tutor gave me a great deal of comfort. The room in which I was working was obviously the room that was dedicated to learning as there was the one larger desk with several brushes, and many cushions on the stone floor.

I know nothing about Japanese characters. I don’t think that the drawing that I created actually translates into anything. But if it does, I would love to know.

またあいましょ : ‘Mata aai masho’ or “Let us meet again.” Peace.

claude-monet-the-japanese-bridge

 “The Japanese Bridge,” by Claude Monet

*All quotes in text subheadings are taken from Iron Maiden’s “Dream of Mirrors”
                                                                                                                                        
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I Vant To Be Alone . . .

Hermits, Eremites, Anchorites, or Just Plain Recluses?

aran-islands-hermits-cave
Aran Islands Hermit's Cave, Ireland

I’ve been contemplating hermits. You know, those people, usually men, sometimes women, who go off and live by themselves. (The word hermit comes from the Greek word erēmos, which means desert or uninhabited; hence “desert-dweller”; adjective: “eremitic”; (Wikipedia)).  Hermits have been around since the 3rd century AD, and their associations have traditionally been religious. Originally, Christian hermits would live in huts or caves, called hermitages, in the desert or forest, and they were sought for spiritual advice, which kind of negated the whole solitude concept. (Here in Norfolk, we have a museum called The Hermitage, which has nothing to do with hermits, and that’s always kind of bothered me, but I digress.)

By the Middle Ages, the hermit’s life had changed in that it had become more anchored to the Christian church, thus the term anchorite. Instead of living in forests or deserts, many anchorites were actually walled into mud or brick attachments on the sides of the churches with a window opening into the church so that the anchorite could receive holy communion and another window open to the street to receive donations of food. I suppose that this allowed for more of the life sought by the Christian eremite, which was to be in total praise and devotion to his god.

tigers-den-buddhist-monastery
Tiger's Den Buddhist Monastery in the Himalayas

Of course, there were and are many kinds of hermits, not just the Christian ascetics. For example, Buddhist monks and nuns seek solitude for meditation, contemplation, and prayer. They prefer to life without the distractions of modern society or sex, and their lives follow a regimen of a simplified diet without meat, drugs, or alcohol. Buddhist monasteries and temples can be found all over the world, with an expected preponderance in China, but also from every place from Queensland, Australia, to Slovenia, to Oregon, to Chile and Bali.

Then there are the hermits who have no religious affiliations, the ones who are hermits simply because they choose to live a reclusive life apart from the rest of society.

When I was about 17, I contemplated becoming a nun. Now, given that I’m not Catholic and was not raised Catholic, you might find this a somewhat interesting declaration. I had a very good male friend in my teens who I may have mentioned before, and he was pretty much my sounding board throughout my teens and college years. We have known each other since the fourth grade, so I trust his judgment, even though he was a Republican for almost forever. So when I made the statement that I thought that I might like to become a nun, his response was to raise an eyebrow and wait.

These were my reasons: Let me preface this by saying that I find the Catholic religion particularly sexist, so I really have a hard time with that part of it, which I know pretty much disqualifies me from the start, but I love the rituals of it: the incense, the candles, the kneeling, the holy water. I wish that they still said the mass in Latin, not that I understand Latin, mind you. I loved the idea of being a nun and not having to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I mean, bingo, you’re married to god, you have a vocation, your wardrobe is chosen for you, you never have a bad hair day.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to be flippant. These really were my reasons. I was 17, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. It had nothing to do with religion. I loved the idea of being cloistered. I had not idea that I might have to teach school children or anything like that. I just wanted to be away from the rest of the world, and I didn’t know how to go about being a hermit, and I wasn’t sure if you could still actually do that, at least not in America. I knew that they still had hermits in England, or at least, I thought that they did.

My friend listened to my reasons, and then very calmly pointed out two main flaws in my plan: First, I wasn’t Catholic. And second, I wasn’t particularly religious or even spiritual at that point in my life. As he said, he thought that I needed to be at least one of those or to at least have some kind of “calling,” as he put it.

I cannot say that I was surprised. Disappointed yes, but surprised, no. It has seemed like a good idea at the time, and one that I revisited from time to time, especially when I was feeling as if I did not want to be of this world, if that makes any sense.

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of finding a monastery to go to for an extended retreat. I have heard of one that is in the foothills of Virginia somewhere, but I have never actively looked for it. I suppose that I have never given up on the idea of the monastic retreat even if I cannot live the lifestyle full time, which, in reality, I know that I cannot. I mean, I am already pretty much of a hermit already. Since going on disability, I have retreated from the trappings of life by choice, and I cannot say that I miss it all that much.

I miss going to school and learning new concepts and new information on an ongoing basis, but my computer is my lifeline to information, and I am tapped in 24/7. When I cannot sleep, I surf. I watch MSNBC for new political information, and I watch Law & Order, Without a Trace, and CSI for my doses of crime drama. That much hasn’t changed. I still like to eat out once in a while, and I would love an occasional night out for karaoke, but other than that, the world outside my bedroom doesn’t beckon to me in the way that it used to.

hermits-cave-quarry-bank-garden
Hermit's Cave Quarry Bank Garden

If we had the money, I would still like to take a trip once a year to a new country just for the experience, but a trip to a mall? Not so much. The movies? I really resent paying $30 for tickets and drinks and popcorn when I can pay $4 on cable in a month. Now a museum? In a heartbeat, but I would need to be in a new city for that. The symphony? I would probably get out of my pajamas for that. But just going out to go out? My hermit tendencies kick in, as do my curmudgeonly feelings about people in crowded stores like Wal Mart and the like.

If I had been around in the Middle Ages, and I believe that I probably was, I think that I would have liked to have been a hermit, probably one who lived in a stick hut in the forest. That sounds about right. And my name would have been something like Leonid of Aghast and I definitely would have been a misanthrope.

I’ll get into the whole idea of reincarnation and my thoughts about past lives and Zen and Karma and getting it right in another posting. But just one parting thought on that one. Why does everyone who believes in reincarnation believe that they were someone great like Napoleon or Marie Antoinette? I mean, why isn’t anyone ever a chambermaid or a stable boy or something like that? Just a thought.

As always, there will be more later. Peace.