“The Surreal is but reality that has not been disconnected from its mystery.” ~ René Magritte

(c) Dr Mary Major; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Rain, Man Walking and Telegraph Pole” (nd, oil on board)
by Theodore Major

                   

“You will remember this when all else fades, this moment, here, together, by this well. There will be certain days, and certain nights, you’ll feel my presence near you, hear my voice. You’ll think you have imagined it and yet, inside you, you will catch an answering cry . . . For you, this life will never be enough, there will forever be an emptiness, where once the god was all in all in you.” ~ John Banville, from The Infinities

Wednesday evening. Hot and humid, 87 degrees.

Been having the strangest dreams lately: snippet from a dream the other night: closing someone’s dead eyes. Who was it? My father?

Theodore Major Orange Sun oil on board
“Orange Sun” (nd, oil on board)

The other night dreamed I was having a telephone conversation with Phillip in Germany; he was telling me that he was worried that he had problems. I was trying to help him, but people kept interrupting.

Dreamed I was in a store like Kmart. I was looking at the Christmas trees that they hadn’t taken down yet. A manager yelled at me across the store, told me to get away from the tree. I was so embarrassed. I went to the front desk to complain. The other manager offered me a rose.

Also dreamed that I went back to work for the realty company. None of my stuff was there. Files were missing. Had a meeting with most important client. He acted like I had never been gone. When I dream about this company, I always dream that the people working for me are the ones who worked for me years ago.

Went to get supplies from the closet, and the closet was empty, just a water pipe that was dripping cold water onto the concrete . . .

“Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning. You’re on fire. Your eyes are on fire.
……….
It’s what you’ve come for. It’s what you’ll
come back for. It won’t stay with you, but you’ll
remember that it felt like nothing else you’ve felt
or something you’ve felt that also didn’t last.” ~ Lloyd Schwartz, from “Leaves”

But that dream was nothing compared to the two dreams that I had last night/this morning. In the first, I am back with my old realtor boss. I have volunteered to help take care of his mother. She is arriving by bubble . . .

Theodore Major Coast Scene with Driving Rain
“Coast Scene with Driving Rain”

It seems she is on a plane, and instead of landing, passengers are discharged in bubbles that land in the sea.

We collect her from the sea, and he tells me that she needs to stay in her round bungalow on the beach. We go to this bungalow, and it is very sparse, literally round, with a half ceiling that makes the second floor loft. My son Brett and I are tasked with taking care of her, but what we don’t know is that this bungalow is haunted by evil spirits. During the night, one of the people in the bungalow is captured by a witch doctor who curses this person, and the only way to get rid of the curse, is to spend another night in the bungalow.

We spend another night, and the bungalow is surrounded by the witch doctor and his followers, who are banging on the walls. I wonder why the windows are just holes in the walls as that is not going to keep anyone out. I know that it is only a matter of time before we are all captured. But I tell myself that if I make it through this dream, I will finally have resolved my feelings about this job.

“The reverse side also has a reverse side” ( 裏には裏がある) ~ Japanese proverb

Next dream: I am in a movie theater watching an epic movie about the Russian Revolution, but I am simultaneously part of the movie and part of the audience. At one point, I am a General who decides to abandon my post. Then I am part of the Romanov family, and they are all trying to hide from the revolutionaries. The movie theater is one of the places to hide.

Theodore Major Lone Man nd
“Lone Man” (nd, oil)

Then someone comes outside and shouts in the street that it’s over, the war is over. I don’t believe him, so I continue to hide in the old palace along with the rest of my family.

Gradually, other members of the family appear. They have all been in hiding. Finally the eldest son appears, and we know that we have our ruler again. The aging tsar tells his wife that he kept his wedding ring hidden so that no one would take it from him. He puts his ring back on and dies.

I am watching the screen and crying.

A soldier wants to sit in the row of seats in which I and my other family members are sitting. I somehow know that for him, the war is not over.

“Maybe some darks are deep enough to swallow
what we want them to.

But you can’t have two worlds in your hands
and choose emptiness.” ~ Mary Szybist, from “So-and-So Descending from the Bridge”

I realize that to protect my family I will have to kill this soldier in the darkened theater without anyone noticing. On the screen is the image of a huge painting that someone has created in which the entire revolution is depicted. The caption states that this painting is to go to a museum in D.C.

The soldier in my row sets fire to the two rows below us, but no one notices but me. I stab him in the heart. Then my sons come into the theater to tell me that a hurricane is coming. Gradually my dream family makes its way from the rows and leaves by a back door.

Theodore Major Industrial Landscape with Sun
“Industrial Landscape with Sun”

When we go outside, I realize that I am late for my job with the realtor. It’s 3 in the afternoon, and I haven’t called in to say that I’m going to be late because of the revolution. I realize that the bungalow is going to be destroyed in the hurricane, and I don’t know where his mother is even though I’m supposed to be taking care of her. I try to sneak out of the dark parking lot past the soldiers who are still looking for me.

I am on this peak, and Brett tells me that he is going to take the stairs. I tell him that I must ride the elevator because there are too many stairs. It’s only one seat, and it moves quickly down the side, but it keeps stopping on different levels for me to pay more of the toll. I become frustrated because I don’t have any money.

Suddenly, I am at a quick mart.

“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.” ~ Zadie Smith, from White Teeth

At the quick mart, there are two young women who are a couple. They know the salesperson, and he gives them free roses. I want free roses. He gives me three broken ones. I realize that I still haven’t made it down the mountain, and now I have to carry the flowers and soda that I have bought at the quick mart.

Theodore Major Rain, Man Walking and Telegraph Pole oil on board
“Man Walking and Telegraph Pole” (nd, oil on board)

I make it to the bottom and find myself in the darkened theater again. Now everyone who is in there is different. The movie screen shows a strange pattern, and I can stick my hand into the screen. I realize that everyone is waiting for me to stick my hand in the screen, but I’m not sure what will happen when I do, so I hesitate. I wonder where the realtor’s mother has gone and if she’s safe from the hurricane. I hear someone say that the Monaco family is at my uncle’s house.

I think to myself that I’d like to have the beach bungalow, and I wonder if they’ll sell it to me for a reduced price because of the curse.

Brett tells me that it’s time to go. The young tsar, who is wearing a leather jacket, leaves with his entourage by a different door.

When I wake up, I realize that I have forgotten my therapy appointment.

All images by British artist Theodore Major (1908-1999)

Music by Foy Vance, featuring Ed Sheeran, “Guiding Light”

                   

Dark Spots

In the late nineteenth century, some photographers

claimed not only to capture images
of loved ones from beyond

the grave but to be able to photograph memories

of the deceased, their auras still glowing
around the bereaved,

as if to capture light reflected off a body could preserve

that body over time, as Beatrice explains
the presence of the dark

spots on the moon to Dante in Paradiso: how

the brightness of a celestial body
reveals the angelic

gladness that quickens the body, letizia that shines as joy

shines through an eye. Visit Fort
Courage—Take Pictures

of the Past, the billboards across Arizona advised,

and at the base of the mountain in
New Mexico, a note taped

to the gasoline pump read, Hold tight to your money—the wind

will carry it away. In the snapshot of
my grandmother in her

casket, wearing the Elizabethan collar and permed

curls she never wore, my mother
gazes through her

to a planet she always knew existed but which, without

the darkness, she could never see
before. They call

some bruises shiners like the violet stars of the Rose of Sharon

that come out in the morning and shine
all day in their leaf-black

shade, shade carved into the yard like fish scales covering

the sarcophagus in Sant’Apollinare in
Classe near Ravenna

or the stiff, veined hands of the sycamore stretched wide

in applause, the Italian gesture
of mourning.

~ Angie Estes

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“(Art as Idea as Idea) (Water),” (1966)
by Joseph Kosuth

“The heart’s the eye
we cry
the body through.” ~ Graham Foust, from “Poem”

Sunday, early afternoon. Overcast, high 70’s, but still humid.

Let’s subtitle this post, “Cleaning One’s Floors the Hard Way,” or perhaps, “Avoiding the Realization that Your Homeowner’s Insurance Has a Ridiculously High Deductible,” shall we?

“Flood Water” (1896)
by Claude Monet

Yesterday was, well, strange is the only word that fits.

I awoke and looked at the clock, and squinting to decipher the time, thought that I had slept until 3 in the afternoon, which didn’t make any sense. Then I squinted harder and realized that the 3 was a 9 and that when I had reset the clock, I had mixed up the am/pm setting. I felt a bit better that I hadn’t slept so late, and was just relaxing when I heard the unmistakable sound of water suddenly gushing. The sound was coming from the bathroom.

That’s how I began my day.

Oddly enough, the dream that I was having just before I awoke was about Corey’s very old washing machine, the one that he had in his apartment. It was an archaic affair, with a very small bin for washing, and then you had to move the clothes to the other side for the rinse cycle. Anyway, in the dream, this washer is sitting in the middle of the living room, and Corey is mad because he told me not to use it because it would flood. I did, and it did.

Then there was the real flood.

“It always takes a long time
to decipher where you are.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Ottawa River by Night”

It took me few minutes to realize that I wouldn’t be able to recap the water source and that I needed to turn off the main water valve in the front yard post haste. By the time I had done so, water was puddling on the hard wood floor in the hall and running into the master bedroom and under the bed. I grabbed towels from everywhere (fortunately, we keep a large stack of old towels for the dogs), and then I waded towards the water source.

“Finale (Sonata of the Sea)” (1908, tempera on paper)
by Mikalojus Ciurlionis

Apparently, the washer or rubber gasket within the connecting PVC that runs from the water source to the toilet decided to fray, hence allowing the entire assembly to be propelled from the wall with a lot of force.

Ah yes, plumbing on a Saturday morning.

I cursed the fact that I was home alone, and then I called the only person who I knew would be available: Alexis. What could she do? At least she could help me to clean up the sopping towels and vacuum the water. I will admit I got a bit hysterical with her, but she finally made it over, with Olivia in tow, crying loudly at having her routine disturbed, and so began the plumbing repairs and the ensuant clean-up. While waiting for her to arrive, I thought that I should at least make myself some coffee, so I turned on the faucet in the kitchen and got . . . nothing, of course. Thank the gods for bottled water.

All in all, I will admit that it wasn’t pretty, and that it took two trips to the local hardware (which were a complete waste of time as I knew more about plumbing than the supercilious man who attempted to help me), and then two trips to a nearby plumbing supply store that was open until 3 on Saturday (thank goodness as most local business owners close early on Saturday) before I was able to finish the repair. In between were two ill-fated attempts to turn the water main back on and more flooding.

“Loneliness clarifies.  Here silence stands
Like heat.  Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

So six hours later . . .

I was left with two full loads of wet towels, rags and rugs. Alexis used the Shop Vac on as much as possible. The dusty objects beneath my bed were removed to dry.

“Ocean Waves” (nd)
by Katsushika Hokusai

Dryness restored in the bathroom, I set about cleaning the floors, first the tile in the bathroom, and then some Murphy’s Oil Soap on the hardwood. There is no apparent warping or bowing, which I am eternally grateful for as I don’t think that I could take one more thing in this house that is out-of-whack.

Alexis went by Ann’s house, my s-in-law, and borrowed her big Shop Vac, as ours (which I know that we own) is buried somewhere in the garage. This realization led me to a not-so-kind epiphany: When Corey gets home, the first thing on his major list of things to do is to clean out the garage, even if we have to rent a storage space. I cannot take not being able to find anything when I need it. Ever. Not ever. (My dad, who was obsessive about keeping his tools and garage in order, would shudder at the sight.)

So I did laundry until 1 in the morning. In between, I managed to shower and eat some rather bad fast food. I also downed two Coronas. Two! (I do like to drink beer in the summer as I find it very refreshing, but should I be concerned that I drink one a day? Seriously? Is this a sign of some kind?) Of course that was over the span of seven hours, but still I felt somewhat guilty as I took the two empty bottles into the kitchen to rinse for recycling.

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Peter Camenzind

Late last night, as the muscle pain really began to take over, I made the mistake of applying too much topical pain ointment, which resulted in a terrible burning feeling on my neck. I didn’t realize that I had applied too much until I was lying on my bed, which I had stripped of all linens, and I began to feel this horrible sensation. Truly, it felt as if I were on fire. I found the aloe (in the hall closet, the bottom of which is newly cleaned and organized) and applied it liberally, which helped a bit. I probably should have taken another shower, but I was just too damned tired.

“Water” (nd)
by Erte

This morning, I’m sore, but I can move—slowly.

So far, my repairs are holding, no drips, no leaks. So glad that my dad taught me some things about plumbing. Can you imagine if I were some helpless female type?

Nah, I can’t imagine it either, so why bother to go there? Except that too many females still don’t take the initiative to learn as much about as many things as possible, preferring to think that someone will come to their rescue. That bothers me. Knowledge, any kind of knowledge, is power. Who would willingly choose not to have a taste of that? It’s not a mindset to which I can relate at all.

As I was walking back to the main turn-off valve, I thought to myself, “It’s all just a matter of logic, really. If this part does this, then this part does that, and to connect them I need . . . ” No, I don’t have Brett’s mathematical mind, but I can employ linear thought fairly well when I need to. Of course, such intense thinking takes its toll on my brain, and later, all I want to do is find a chocolate source and ingest it quickly, which I did, only to feel first horribly guilty and then smugly satisfied.

“That summer I did not go crazy
but I wore
very close
very close
to the bone.” ~ Dorothy Allison,  from “To the Bone”

“After the Water, the Clouds” (1926)
Rene Magritte

This post has taken a bit longer than normal as I’ve been stopping between sections to search for songs that I’ve heard recently so as to add them to my various playlists. I’ve surprised myself with the realization that I actually like a Carrie Underwood song, “Blown Away,” the subject of which is what led me to post the Patrick Stewart quote about violence against women and girls (there’s a connection there). If I ever get a new-old car, I must be sure that it has auxiliary input so that I can plug in my non-existent MP3 player and listen to all of these playlists that I’ve been compiling over the past few years.

Anyway, today I’m trying to go slowly. I still need to do the kitchen floor and finish cleaning beneath the bed—a chore that will require much bending, hence, the drawing out of the post so as to postpone the last bit of cleaning.

Just realized that my head is actually quite tight, something of which I was unaware until I noticed that I’m squinting terribly at the screen, and I paused to figure out why. Hate that—pain that creeps up like that—but I suppose it signals a good time to wrap this up. I hope to be a bit more regular in posting this week. I actually did have three posts written for this past week, but forgot to set them up to publish—another thing I hate (okay, hate is a strong word, but you know what I mean).

Hoping for an extremely quiet week. I should know better.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from wikipaintings.org, water-related, what else?

Music by Ron Pope, “Reason to Hope”

                   

I Don’t Miss It

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

~ Tracy K. Smith

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” ~ Allen Ginsberg

“Open Door on a Garden,” Konstantin Somov (oil on canvas) 

  

“My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line.” ~ Louis-Ferdinand Céline
"Door Open onto the Garden," Pierre Bonnard (oil on canvas)

 I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with Cal lately—chills, aches, and lethargy—so I have not written a word in a week. A very long time for me, especially when the Internet is actually on. 

Everytime that I start to think that maybe I could actually go back to work, my body gives me a wake-up call, as in, “Have you lost your mind?” This past week, temperatures around here reached record highs. Meanwhile, I was walking around with goose bumps on my arms. A couple of nights ago, I woke myself when my body was shaking, which made the bed jerk. It’s all quite disconcerting. 

And then, of course, there is the insomnia, which makes just getting through the day a chore. One night it was nigh on 6 a.m. before sleep came. Last night, I was so grateful to be sleepy by 3 a.m. What a strange life I lead. 

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton
"30 Regent Terrace," Francis Campbell Cadell (1934)

Corey had to work today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it doesn’t really matter as we had no plans for mother’s day. Eamonn came by with flowers and a card. He can be such a sweetie when he wants to be. Alexis is supposed to come by later, so just a quiet day at home. 

Corey and I were married on mother’s day nine years ago. We didn’t really want to get married on a Sunday, but it was the only day that we could get the Women’s Club in Norfolk, which is an old Victorian home in the Ghent section of Norfolk. We were contemplating the Botanical Garden, but decided on the house so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the weather. I walked down the winding staircase in five-inch heels, and miraculously, I didn’t trip. 

But I digress . . . 

For the most part though, I have only had one request over the years when it concerns mother’s day: Please do not give me any appliances, as in a toaster or something of that sort. Just feels too domestic and traditional for my tastes. 

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place . . . I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

This past week was a busy one for Brett. He is taking is IB exams in all of his classes. The better he does on these exams, the better the chance he has of getting college credits for the courses, which will be wonderful. He submitted his art portfolio to the IB board, but that takes a couple of months for review before he hears anything. It was a combination of sketches and photographs. I was duly impressed with the quality of his work. He has two more exams this week, and then he is pretty much finished except for a few odds and ends, so he will have a nice break before graduation. 

For his final project in art, Brett is going to paint something on one of the doors in the art room. He hasn’t told me what he plans to paint, but I can’t wait to see it. 

Tomorrow, Corey and I need to go back to the financial aid departments at ODU and TCC to complete the paper work for both boys to get tuition adjustments, which (we hope) will increase their Pell Grants. At least there is one good thing about being poor. 

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” ~ René Magritte
"The Balcony Room," Adolph von Menzel (1845)

We watched a movie a few nights ago called “Haunting in Connecticut,” which is supposedly based on a true story. I hadn’t heard anything about the movie, but we were in the mood for something scary. Turns out, it’s pretty dark—dead bodies with words carved into them, some kind of ectoplasm and séances, lots of hallucinations. Of course, watching something like that before trying to go to sleep is probably not the best idea. 

Then last night, I was watching this program about women who kill. I think that I’ve seen it before. Anyway, three of the stories really got to me. Two of them involved young girls who got pregnant, hid their pregnancies from their families, then threw their babies in the trash. 

Anytime I read about something like this happening, it really upsets me in so many ways: That these girls felt that they could not go to their parents with the truth says a lot about the kind of pressure families put on their daughters. Like the article I just read that stated that most parents do not believe that their children are having sex; they believe that other people’s children are having sex, but not theirs. How utterly naive.  The kind of naiveté that causes people to be against birth control in favor of abstinence. 

Facts: Forty-six percent of all teens in the U.S. between 15 and 19 have had sex. A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned; they account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually. This is reality, folks. 

Sure abstinence is the goal. It’s just not the reality.  So these girls get pregnant but do not tell their families out of fear, out of shame, because they want to see the disappointment in their parents’ eyes, whatever the reason. The tragic part is that they choose to throw their babies away like trash in part because they have spent the last nine months convincing themselves that it isn’t real. 

“There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.” ~ William Somerset Maugham
"The Four Rooms," Vilhelm Hammershoi (1914, oil on canvas)

However, the story that still gets to me, that still rips my heart right from my chest is that of Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons, Michael and Alex. When the car was found, the two boys were still strapped into their car seats in the back seat of the car. Imagine for a moment what it must have felt like for those boys when the water began to come into the car, as they yelled for their mother, the woman who had to hear their screams. Imagine the fear and helplessness that had to overtake them as the minutes passed and the water kept rising. 

There is evil in this world. Of that, I have no doubts at all. Susan Smith killed her sons because she wanted to be free of them so that she could date the man who broke off their relationship, the man who said that he was not ready for children. So this mother, this monster decided that the best thing to do would be to kill her children and to blame it on an imaginary black man. 

In 1995, Smith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. During her trial, she tried to use as a defense that her step-father had molested her and that she suffered from a lifetime of depression. Someone else’s fault. Of course. 

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~ Oscar Wilde
 Found on Wikimedia Commons (lost the title, sorry) 

Perhaps this was not the best issue to discuss on mother’s day. Or perhaps we need to be reminded that not all mothers are good and kind and loving. That some mothers care more about themselves than they do their children. That some mothers should never have had children. That some mothers, completely contrary to societal expectations, are filled with hate and resentment for the very children they bore. 

Fortunately, most mothers do not fall into the former category. Most mothers love their children with a fierce, protective love that no one can touch. 

I do not believe in perfection, but I do believe that some things and some people come very close to this ideal.  Motherhood, in its truest sense, is that continual strive to achieve perfection—saying the right words said at the right time, listening instead of lecturing, comforting with an embrace that bespeaks more than any words, accepting even when faced with a reality that is contrary to expectations. Motherhood is complex, tasking, and never easy. It is not for the weak hearted or the selfish. It is the only job in the world that expects you to know everything on day one. It is the only career that breeds anxiety and insecurity in continuous doses. 

When the door closes, and the child is on the other side, off to unknown places, it is the mother who remains behind and whispers to no one in particular, “It will be all right.” 

More later. Peace

Music by Jon McLaughlin, “We All Need Saving”