“I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin.” ~ Virginia Woolf

carnivalporthalfmooncayjpg.ashx
Carnival Port Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

                  

“I am subject to wind, the perambulations of the moon, the constellations, and anxiety.” ~ Rikki Ducornet, from The Complete Butcher’s Tales

Monday, late afternoon. Partly cloudy and warm, low 70’s.

Captain Corey
Captain Corey Relaxing on the Beach
L. Liwag

Well, here we are, fifteen days until Christmas. We got back from vacation Saturday night. I spent all day yesterday unpacking, organizing and doing tons of laundry. Alexis and Eamonn both denied agreeing to pick us up at the airport on Saturday, much in the same way they both denied agreeing to take us to the airport last Sunday. Neither of us were surprised; we took a taxi the few miles home.

Vacation was absolutely heaven, just the two of us, warm temperatures, blue water, sunny skies (except for one day). My lungs cleared; my cough disappeared; I had no headaches. I’ve been home two days and the nastiness in my chest is back; I awoke with a migraine, and the cough is making a full comeback. Mind over matter? The air? The temperature changes? Who knows . . .

Corey and I gave each other our vacation to the Bahamas as our Christmas present for the last five years. Actually, it’s been almost seven years since we went anywhere together, a very long time. We did a whole lot of nothing besides eating, relaxing, and being tourists. I cannot begin to tell you how much my mind and body needed the recharge before embarking upon another new year.

“How many years have slipped through our hands? 
At least as many as the constellations we still can identify. 
The quarter moon, like a light skiff,
 floats out of the mist-remnants
 Of last night’s hard rain. 
It, too, will slip through our fingers
 with no ripple, without us in it.” ~ Charles Wright

I will admit, though, that it took me a full 48 hours before I began to relax, well and truly relax. I kept thinking about things that needed to be done, bills, money, you name it. I kept feeling guilty for allowing us to do this. That old Puritan guilt that has shaped my life in oh so many ways. Now that we’re back, I still feel a bit guilty, but not nearly as much. Corey and I do and do and do for everyone else, mostly the kids, but we never do for ourselves. This past year was filled with family obligations, and I’m not complaining, but it’s nice to remember that we’re a couple who truly enjoys one another’s company, far away from the daily demands of family and life.

Carnival Ecstasy
Carnival Ecstasy at Anchor
L. Liwag

Unfortunately, I got a telephone call once we were back letting me know that my brother-in-law Patrick died on Wednesday. Patrick is my ex’s brother, but I have always been close to him; we’ve had a special relationship. Patrick is the one who was in a car accident years ago that left him a paraplegic who could not speak. He kept his mental faculties and his exceptional mind, but he was trapped in a body that no longer functioned on its own. Patrick was married to my German sis-in-law Helma.

He contracted bronchitis and went downhill quickly. Ann says that he went peacefully in his sleep, and for that I am so thankful.

To be honest, Patrick lived a much, much longer life than any of us ever thought that he would. After the accident, because he was so susceptible to illness and because he has had a couple of life-threatening bouts, we (the family) weren’t so sure he would even last a decade. The accident was in 1983. He lived almost three decades after.

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating.” ~ Louis Aragon, from Paris Peasant

So our homecoming was bittersweet. My ex and Ann will be flying to Germany for the memorial. I would like to go, but that’s not possible.

Swimming with the Fishes, Bahamas by cdorobek FCC
Swimming with the Fishes, Bahamas
by cdorobek (FCC)

Some of you may find my continued relationship with my ex’s family a bit strange, but truthfully, I was probably much closer to his mom and siblings than he was, and in my mind, I divorced him, not his family. Anyway, I feel fortunate to have such an extended family, the losses of the past 15 months notwithstanding.

So I am moving into this Christmas season filled with mixed emotions—not all that different from any other year, I suppose.

Last night my dreams included my dad, who was dressed up to go to some big government function, and I was a visitor staying at someone’s home, but the teenaged girls who lived in the home resented all of the company. I tried to talk to one of the young girls, to ask her who her heroes were, but she told me that she didn’t have any. I told her that everyone needs heroes. And in the dream, I was doing laundry . . .

“I go through phases. Somedays I feel like the person I’m supposed to be, and then somedays, I turn into no one at all. There is both me and my silhouette. I hope that on the days you find me and all I am are darkened lines, you still are willing to be near me.” ~ Mary Kate Teske

I will finish 2012 short of my reading goal of 60 books, even though in the past month I’ve read quite a few, and I will finish well short of my writing goal. I did not work on my stories at all while we were gone, even though I had plans to do so. I did finish two books, and I worked on my tan, obviously not as artistically productive, but hey, I didn’t get any sun this past summer.

Tugboat, Freeport Bahamas
Tugboat Water Spray, Freeport, Bahamas
C. Fickel

While we were on the ship, we did a little bit of karaoke, and boy, did I find out how out of shape my vocal chords are. Yikes. It was fun, and one night, I even sang with a band, but my performances were, shall we say, tepid at best. Who cares? I’m never going to see anyone on that ship again (although we did meet some people from the area). Singing again did make me hanker to get my voice back in shape We shall see, I suppose.

Let’s see, what else? A book I really want to read comes out tomorrow, and Peter Jackson’s new movie The Hobbit releases this week. I am anticipating the first and absolutely quivering with anticipation over the second. I still contend that I would be Peter Jackson’s gopher given the chance.

This week I hope to do holiday cards and perhaps to begin to decorate the house, although the warm temperatures do not exactly make me feel all wintery wonderland inside. Lex and Mike leave this weekend to visit his family in Mississippi for the holidays, which means that I will not see Olivia for 12 days. I have missed her tremendously in the past week and a half; I had hoped that Alexis would come by before we left, but alas, no.

“This morning, waking to unaccustomed calmness,
I write these words to stay in that silent, unfevered existence,
to delay the other words that are waiting.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “I Write These Words to Delay”

Before we left, I was looking through photographs for some reason, and I came across a photo of Shakes that we took before the family vacation in 2007. My suitcase was on the couch, and Shakes crawled inside and went to sleep. Obviously, he wanted to go with us. It was weird coming home to just the two dogs, no smelly fat boy to curl up against me my first night home.

Parasailing Half Moon Cay
Parasailing in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

I did not take a lot of photographs while we were gone. In truth, there just wasn’t that much to shoot. We didn’t venture beyond the ports. Our afternoon on the private Half Moon Cay was delightful, though, and I got some nice shots of Corey and the water. Speaking of water, it was so clear that I watched schools of fish swim around me. It was heavenly just spending some leisurely moments doing nothing but idly paddling as the sun beat down. The air was clean and there were no sounds of traffic or sirens or whatever. I was able to shut out pretty much everything and just chill. I did kind of wish that I could go parasailing, though.

I think I had forgotten how to do that. Chilling is an art form that comes naturally to some people, and then for people like me who are wrapped too tightly most of the time, it is an acquired state of being. I wonder if I could live like that all of the time . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Julie Roberts, “Wake Up Older”

                

A Momentary Creed

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

~ W. S. Merwin

 

“All things pass, all things, that is, but mystery.” ~ Rikki Ducornet

Sunset on Ke’e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
by jaybergesen (FCC)

                   

All that we do
Is touched with ocean, yet we remain
On the shore of what we know.” ~ Richard Wilbur, from “For Dudley”

Saturday afternoon. Storms.

So where was I? Oh yes, I left you on July 6 at the point at which Alexis was ready to push . . .

So she pushed and pushed and pushed, for two hours, but the baby’s head was facing up and turned at an angle. I guess she was looking around, but as a result, the pushing didn’t achieve very much. The nurse said to Alexis, “I’m going to step out for a moment and talk to the doctor,” and that’s when I knew . . .

Kaena Point, Oahu, Hawaii
by puuikibeach (FCC)

Within five minutes, the room went from quiet, with just Alexis, Mike, the nurse, and me, to a room filled with people: the ob, a couple of nurses, a pediatrician, the anesthesiologist. People were breaking down things and setting up things, and the doctor told Alexis that she was going to have a c-section. She got a bit weepy, which made Mike nervous, and I was told that everything had to be packed to move to another room.Mike was suited up in sterile scrubs, and a nurse and I moved all of Alexis’s stuff (she’s a bag lady, like her mother) to another room. My mother went home, as I told her that it would be a few hours, and it was already going on 9 p.m. I promised to call her. Corey and I waited in the room, and I tried very hard not to panic.

About half past ten Mike walked into the room and said that we could go to the nursery. I think that I finally took a deep breath at that point.

“Perhaps creating something is nothing but an act of profound remembrance.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke,  from The Poet’s Guide to Life, (trans. Ulrich Baer)

So Miss Olivia was born via c-section, and we were able to see her brand new, in all of her tiny, glorious wonder. Mike was more emotional than I had ever seen him, and Corey was pretty awe-struck himself. And me? I officially became MiMi at 10:11 p.m. on July 6, one day before Alexis’s 28th birthday.

Lava Steam Plume Hitting Ocean, Hawaii
by Erik Charlton (FCC)

They brought Alexis into the room around 11 p.m., and we started sending out text messages and texts to let everyone know about her arrival and that mother and daughter were healthy. I slept at the hospital that first night with Alexis and Olivia, and it was truly surreal—being with my first baby and her first baby.Alexis was in the hospital until Monday evening, and I’ve spent the last week at her apartment during the day, trying to help her adjust and taking care of both of them.

There have been more than a few teary breakdowns, the normal insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Breastfeeding wasn’t working, so Olivia is being bottle-fed. Again, causing feelings of failure, which the pediatrician (one from the same practice that all of my children went to) helped tremendously in helping to alleviate by sharing her own problems with breastfeeding. I have tried to reassure Lex by pointing out a few things that others told me along the way: A c-section is major surgery, and the body needs time to heal; I’ve done this four times, so I have a bit more experience, which only means that time is a great teacher.

“How right that the body changed over time, becoming a gallery of scars, a canvas of experience, a testament to life and one’s capacity to endure it.” ~ Janet Fitch

Let’s see, family reactions: My mother is more than a little tickled (she showed up at the hospital on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.). Eamonn is telling anyone who will listen that he has a niece and that he’s an uncle. Brett is afraid to hold Olivia as he thinks that she’s breakable, a feeling he shares with Mike who finds even burping to be a bit overwhelming as he’s afraid of patting too hard. My s-in-law has been great in taking care of the puppy for the past week, which alleviates the need for Lex to go up and down the stairs all day to take out the puppy.

Kaho’olawe Hawaii
by Justin Ornellas (FCC)

Corey is enamored, but I can tell that it’s a bittersweet love as I watch him look at her fingers and her nose and her hair. Wistful, is probably the best word, and I try not to think about it too much.A steady stream of Lex’s friends and family have stopped by, sometimes all at once, which causes her to become anxious, totally understandable. Corey’s parents have had to postpone their visit until November, so we are keeping them updated as much as possible.

So we are all adjusting in our individual ways. Truthfully? I’m exhausted and kind of enjoying having today to myself to get caught up here. Each day this past week I have tried to spend fewer hours at the apartment so that there is less dependency on Lex’s part. This coming week, I’m only going in the afternoon while Brett is in class.

“I carry inside myself my earlier faces, as a tree contains its rings.” ~ Tomas Gösta Tranströmer, from For the Living and the Dead

So that’s the latest news regarding our family’s latest addition.

Waves Crash Against Lava Rock, Maui, Hawaii
by Randy Son of Robert (FCC)

I must admit to feeling a bit like I’m walking through water—I am filled with a joy I haven’t felt in years and years, yet at the same time, I am feeling a keen sense of loss and more than a bit of bittersweet longing. These are things that I cannot say to anyone but Corey, and you, of course.When I hold Olivia, my mind is taken back to the days of holding my own babies as they were new in this world. I remember things so keenly that had been long forgotten, and the remembering is too sweet. But then I am brought back to the present, and it is an unfamiliar time in which I find myself: I have passed on the birthing of new babes to the next generation, and now I must face the hard fact that I will never bear another baby, that I will never give Corey that child for which he longs.

And that I feel these things makes me ashamed, because should I not be able to see only the joy? Why must I always remember Caitlin? That Alexis gave her daughter Caitlin’s name means more than I can ever, ever express: It is a carrying on, a continuum. And it is double-edged: sweet and painful. But I suppose that is how it will always be with me, no matter what, sweet and painful.

Again and again, I try to put down a few words.
As day and sky dissolve in sheets of gray,
 the sea repeats your name to the desireless sand.” ~ Stephen Dobyns, from “Letter Beginning with the First Line of Your Letter”

You are probably thinking that I should be more grateful, after all, everyone is healthy, and I am, grateful, that is. I am so, so grateful, and I am so, so melancholy.

Kilauea Lighthouse, Hawaii
by Makahauine Pa’i Ki’i (FCC)

Perhaps it’s the end of a very long seven, no eight days, and my psyche has been through extreme highs and lows. And after all, it’s not my hormones that have been thrown into shock, but there is something . . . something ephemeral, just beyond my grasp, something that I cannot quite name, and I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the coming down after rolling along on an adrenaline high for so long. Perhaps it’s coming face-to-face with the essence of life, the cyclical nature of our existence.I really couldn’t tell you.

I am a flawed individual, just like the rest of you, but I tend to focus too keenly on my flaws, to the detriment of anything positive. That I am aware of this does not make me any less perplexed. Awareness of a thing does not necessitate understanding of said thing.

“Those who fear the border do not know they are walking on the sea.”  ~ Luis Benitez, from “The Pearl Fisherman

Recently I ran across that ontological query: If you could take a pill that would instantly cure you, would you take it? (Or more precisely: If your mental illness could be cured by one pill, would you take it?)

Mala Surf, Hawaii
by vl8189 (FCC)

No.

Years ago I resisted Prozac because it made me feel nothing. Some of you might think that my medication is not working for me because I still have these highs and lows. I can only tell you that they are nothing compared to the pendulum that used to be my extreme emotional swings. But this is the cold, hard truth: If I did not have lows, then neither would I have highs, and living in the middle is not living for me.

I am, as someone once said, stitched together by my flaws. All that makes me who and what I am comes from my angels and my demons, from my hellish nights and my placid days. That I can feel both great joy and great sadness simultaneously only tells me that I can feel. That I know that this is not normal, only reassures me that at least I know myself, that I am not deluded enough to believe that I can be like everyone else.

I don’t know how I got onto this philosophical bent. Perhaps it would have been better saved for another post, but I have not written in a week, and all of this was churning around inside me.

I’m going to cheat a bit today, what with the longer post and everything, I’m including a shorter poem here because it just really, really fits how I’m feeling:

Isadora Duncan

The wind?
I am the wind.
The sea and moon?
I am the sea and moon.
Tears, pain, love, bird-flights?
I am all of them.
I dance what I am.
Sin, prayer, flight
the light that never was on land or sea?
I dance what I am.

~ Carl Sandburg

More later. Peace.

By the way, if you haven’t already checked it out, today’s Google celebrates Klimt with “The Kiss” (thinking of you, Maureen).

Music by All Thieves, “Turn and Turn Again”

                   

The House of Belonging

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

~ David Whyte