“But we live on a broken mirror, and fresh cracks appear in its surface every day.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Abandoned Barn in Upstate New York by Lisa (FCC_

“Because the world is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and pick the flowers that grow in the midst of hell.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Narcissus and Goldmund

Sunday afternoon, sunny, warm, 78 degrees.

Another mass shooting, this one so close to my old home, so close to my children. The world is so full of madness, and nowhere as much as in this country at this time. I won’t go on about the need for better gun laws. That is only a part of the problem. The bigger part, perhaps, is that people are essentially cruel and entitled: My life isn’t going as I want, so I will punish those I blame. I will pick up a weapon, and I will show them. I will show them how much stronger and better I am than they believe.

Abandoned Barn in DeKalb, Illinois by Earl Shumaker (FCC)

Strength from a gun . . . Right.

In a society so full of misplaced entitlement, one in which people buy their entrance into things—jobs, colleges, elections–it is no small wonder that violence is the method by which we conduct our lives. Violence in word. Violence in deed. The violence we bear in our hearts towards anyone deemed not as good as ourselves.

I am so sick of turning on the television to see more breaking news screaming in red letters at the bottom of the screen. I am so sick of everything. I am tired of wondering if a name that I recognize from my past will be among the list of the slaughtered. I am weary of wondering if those I love are safe. I am long past rending my heart because I can no longer protect my children through word or deed.

It’s all too much.

“Girl, all of sorrow
is this single drop
Of your blood.” ~ Juan Ramón Jiménez, from “Song” (Trans. H. R. Hays)

Truthfully, I don’t know if I have what it takes to make it here. I don’t know if I have the constitution to live on a farm, to see death up close. I just don’t know how to do it.

Yesterday I was unable to save Max from my own dogs, whose nips turned into bites. I walked outside to look for the dogs, only to see them circling Max at the bottom of the pasture. I was alone, of course, and thoughts raced through my head on how best to stop them. You see, the dogs, the pups mostly, have made a game of chasing the goats, but Ruby turns and butts them when she is tired. Max, unfortunately, does not do this. We have always thought that Max a little slow, slow but very sweet.

Abandoned Barn by Isha Mehling (FCC)

Normally, it’s Ruby who is chased, but a few times I have caught the pups chasing Max. Yesterday was different, though. They weren’t dogs playing a game. They were predators with prey, and my heart sank at the very idea. When they didn’t stop when I yelled at them, I thought that I could fire a gun at a tree, and the noise would startle them into inaction. But I couldn’t get the damned gun to fire. Then I got in my car and drove to the bottom of the pasture.

I found Max at the edge of the water, blood coming from his throat, and my heart sank even as I sank into the mud at the edge of the water. I still don’t know how I lifted him and climbed back up the incline, but somehow I got him to the car and put him in the back seat; he was still alive, but barely. I made the instant decision to drive to Dallas’s house to see if I could get help for Max, even though my head knew that it was a futile move. I tried to call Dallas because I knew that Corey was with him, but of course there was no answer, nor was there gas in the car.

I drove anyway, and Corey called as I made my way around what seemed like thousands of curves in the long road. By the time I made it to Dallas’s driveway and stopped the car, Max was dead. I turned around and drove home.

“We are not made whole by pain, no matter what they say. We are broken by it, taught to peel back cushion between us and the world because we have no choice but to rebuild it, again, and, again: ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “Argonaut”

Corey arrived home just a few minutes after I did, and between sobs, I explained what had happened. The pajamas that I was still wearing were covered in blood and goat hair, and the situation had caused my body to go into a full-blown asthma attack, none of which I had noticed until I stopped the car and finally made my way inside.

As Corey buried Max where the dogs couldn’t find him, I stood in the shower and sobbed some more, trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dogs had acted ferally, that they now had a taste for blood.

Abandoned in Columbia County, NY by Paul Comstock (FCC)

In trying to reconstruct everything in my mind, I couldn’t quite remember who did what, except that I had a very clear memory of Bailey still trying to attack Max even as I struggled to lift his body from the water. I remember hitting her forcefully to make her stop. The other dogs had already backed off as I am certain that they could feel the fury emanating from my body in forceful waves. But not Bailey. Not my dog, the one I found at the shelter and cradled in my lap as a pup.

Look. I know that dogs come from wolves. I know that certain breeds of dogs have more violence bred into their bloodlines, but I have always believed that it is the owners who determine just how vicious their dogs behave through how much or how little love and attention and training they bestow upon their animals. Am I completely wrong in this belief?

“this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold.
We have not touched the stars,

nor are we forgiven” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

And now things are fraught. Corey would very much like to give Maddy back to Dallas, take Tink to a shelter, and put down Bailey as he fears there will be a repeat with the other goats, especially the kids to come.

Abandoned Barn in Virginia by Forsaken Fotos (FCC)

I cannot fathom such a thing, and that he has seriously contemplated this breaks my heart all over again. I must now deal with reconciling myself that I could not save Max, and now my spouse no longer wants some of the dogs. I contend that the dogs can be broken of this habit of chasing, but he is so full of rage over what happened that he will not hear it.

I know that he will do nothing to do the dogs if don’t agree, and I don’t, but the very idea that he harbors such feelings is tearing at my soul. Bailey is 7; she has only known us. Tink is very much my dog. To give Maddy back to Dallas would ensure that she would not be fed or cared for properly.

Can I retrain them? Can Corey forgive them? Can I forgive myself? The dogs are all cowed at the moment as they sense a change. Of course they do; how could they not?

“I want the truth of things. But there’s nowhere to find it.” ~ William Golding, from The Pyramid  

I have no answers, none at all. Friday night left me reeling after the news about the shooting, and then yesterday afternoon broke me. This morning, my breathing is still hard and phlegmy, and my soul is fractured. So I am back at my original question to myself: Do I have the constitution to live this kind of life?

In your mind’s eye, achieving your dream seems so filled with possibilities. That I’ve always wanted to own land in the mountains, and then to get that land—it has been as if the fates finally aligned after so many years of hardship and loss. But the reality is that there are things you never consider, things that you will encounter that never neared the idyll that filled your dreams.

Abandoned Barn in Rib Mountain, Vermont by William Garrett (FCC)

I had wanted a few goats for milk, and then Corey decided that he wanted to raise goats for an income. It seemed like a fairly straightforward move. It never occurred to me that there would be an issue with the dogs; after all, all of the dogs had been around cats and horses, and there had never been any problems. How could I foresee what would happen? Why did I not?

And now the atmosphere is filled with anger and regret and loss and pain, and I question how Corey could even contemplate such actions. It is not within me to be cruel to any creature, even when angry, and my dogs have always been part of my family. I am hoping against hope that his is just a reaction to what happened, even though he claims that it is not, that what he says is said from anger and grief and not what he truly feels.

Everything has changed, and I am wholly uncertain as to if it can be changed back.


Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “If I Go, I’m Going”


Which One

I eye the driver of the Chevrolet
pulsing beside me at a traffic light

the chrome-haired woman in the checkout line
chatting up the acned clerk

the clot of kids smoking on the sly
in the Mile-Hi Pizza parking lot

the meter reader, the roofer at work
next door, a senior citizen

stabbing the sidewalk with his three-pronged cane:
which one of you discarded in a bag

—sealed with duct tape—in the middle of the road
three puppies four or five weeks old,

who flung two kittens from a moving car
at midnight into a snowbank where

the person trailing you observed the leg
& tail of the calico one that lived,

and if not you, someone flossing her teeth
or watering his lawn across the street.

I look for you wherever I go.

~ Maxine Kumin (found on Poetry Foundation)

 

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“Get used to the bear behind you.” ~ Werner Herzog, from 24 pieces of life advice

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Giulia Leonardi 1910
“Portrait of Guilia Leonardi” (1910)
by Ferdinand Hodler*

“I fear I will be ripped open and found unsightly.” ~ Anne Sexton, from A Self Portrait In Letters

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 51 degrees.

Well, long time, no write, hmm?

Let’s see. Where were we? When last I posted, I was in the midst of a never ending migraine, one that wouldn’t abate with shots, meds, what have you. Finally, I went on an aggressive two-week regimen with upped doses of my pain meds, and it seemed to break, at least for a while. Good news on that front, yes, but don’t worry. Things continued to be interesting.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Berthe Jacques 1894 oil on canvas
“Portrait of Berthe Jacques” (1894, oil on canvas)

It seems I’ve developed akathisia from my seroquel, one of the meds I was on for sleep and anxiety. What is akathisia, you might ask? Well, it’s this wonderful condition in which you cannot stop your body from moving: tapping feet, rocking from side to side, and all kinds of variations. Mine appeared as an ability to keep my feet from moving while lying in bed at night, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I have no idea when it started, exactly, but it’s been going on for a while.

So at my last check-in with my prescribing psychiatrist, she noticed that I was fidgety. She asked me how long I had been that way. Who knows, I said. I’m quite anxious at the moment with everything that’s going on in my life. Could be that, I said. She gave me a look, suggested we switch up meds, try an extended release seroquel. Great.

Well that particular medicine landed me in bed, unable to wake up for more than a few hours. Not so good. I mentioned the fidgeting to my neurologist at that checkup. He gave me that look. Said, look I don’t want to worry you, but I want you to look up extra-pyramidal syndrome and akathisia.

So I did.

Crap.

“As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Lighthousekeeping

So ny prescribing psych and I agreed to stop the seroquel completely. Only problem is that at night, I cannot get comfortable. My feet won’t stop, and my legs feel terrible, and everything sucks. Yes, yes. RLS, or restless leg syndrome, which I supposedly do have, but which can be mistaken for akathisia, or vice versa. Add to that that our mattress is worn and it makes my back hurt, and on and on and on . . . ad infinitum. So it’s back to the doctor(s) to try to tweak the meds.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait study to Look into the Infinity 1916 oil on canvas
“Portrait study to ‘Look into the Infinity'” (1916, oil on canvas)

Look. Enough already. I am so fricking tired of not feeling good that I’m ready to bang my head against a wall, except for that whole headache thing. I need some energy. I need to feel like myself. And I especially need to be able to sit down at this computer and do stuff instead of looking at it across the bedroom as if it were some time bomb getting ready to go off.

I literally have not sat in this chair and plied these keys in weeks. I’ve even taken to glancing at my e-mail on my phone, of all things. Oh the joys of having a smart phone. I look up medical terms like akathisia. I look up the weather. I look up whatever, anything to avoid coming back here.

Don’t ask me why being here, on this computer, on this forum is paralyzing me, but it is. I suppose its my unspoken pact with myself that I will continue to keep this blog going, that I will make it a place in which people who love quotes and art and minutiae will enjoy visiting, and because I have not done that for months now, I feel like such a failure—once again

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” ~ Junot Diaz, from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Ferdinand Hodler Empfindung 1901 tempera on canvas
“Empfindung” (1901, tempera on canvas)

Things are precarious at the moment. One son is completely heartbroken over a relationship that he ended and has decided that former girlfriend is now the love of his life. Ah to be 23 . . . not. Another son has been off his meds and is trying to cope, but I don’t think it’s working. And my daughter? Geez, I can’t begin to figure out what is going on in her mind, what possesses her to continue to do the stupid things that she does. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, “What the hell are you doing with your life?”

Then the whole oil/shipping thing has us over a barrel (no pun intended). We never thought we’d be facing down a repeat of those black years of 2008-2010, but it appears we are. Is it horrible that I want gas prices to go back up? Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be able to fill the tank for under $40, but given a choice, I’d rather spend more at the tank and have jobs come back in the industry.

And out of respect for Corey’s wishes I haven’t written about the situation before, but his family knows now, and the kids know, so what does it matter that I’m throwing it all out there again?

“I would like. I would like anything at all, but fast. I would like to get out of here. I would like to be rid of all this. I would like to start all over again. I would like to leave all this. Not to leave through an exit. I would like a multiple leaving, a whole spread of them. An endless leaving, an ideal leaving so that once I’ve left I begin leaving again right away.” ~ Henri Michaux, from “With Mescaline,” trans. David Ball

So is it any wonder that I have retreated from everything?

I haven’t been on my tumblr in a month. My inbox is completely overflowing. Mail lies unopened on the table by the front door. Furniture goes unpolished. Dust has gathered in corners, forming tumbleweeds. And I walk through the house seeing, but unable to act.

Ferdinand Hodler The Truth 1903
“The Truth” (1903)

When Olivia is here, it is a brief respite, a welcome distraction, but it also exhausts me. I leave the house to go to doctors’ appointments and for little else. Corey and I pass one another silently. He keeps to the dining room, looking out the back door, and I stay in here, a self-imposed prisoner to my bed. We don’t seem to be able to help one another.

What kind of life is this?

The only good thing is that I have been devouring books, that is up until this past week, when I suddenly found it impossible to concentrate on the words before me. Before that, I went through almost a dozen books, but books can only sustain for so long before the brain begins to shut down. And beneath all of this runs the undercurrent of my mother.

“The present is already too much for me. I can’t cope with the future as well.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from Shalimar the Clown

You see, I still haven’t made it to the cemetery to put on the silk flowers I bought ages ago. I still haven’t paid to have the dates put on her gravestone, and now I don’t have the money to do so. And so I have failed her once again.

Ferdinand Hodler The Dream 1897 watercolor on cardboard
“The Dream” (1897, watercolor on cardboard)

Will I ever arrive at a day on which I do not think of my mother and close my eyes in shame and regret for all of the ways in which I failed to make a difference in her life? Do you know the number of times in my life that I can remember my mother telling me she was proud of me? One. The number of times in my life I can remember her telling me she loved me? A handful.

How could this woman who so many found helpful and friendly have had such a completely different demeanor when it came to her only daughter, her only child? I will never have the answer to that question. Not ever, and so I continue to be haunted in the backdrop of each day by what a complete and utter failure our relationship was, how we failed one another, how I never quite measured up.

And you know what? That really and truly sucks.

More later (I truly hope to keep this promise). Peace.

*All images are by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1817), one of the leading symbolist painters of the late 19th century. I love his paintings of women.

Music by Beth Orton, “Mystery”

                    

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

~

“My heart is maneuvering in rings of trembling darkness and unreasonable echoes of over-thoughtfulness.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters of Virginia Woolf

PS Kroyer Hornbaek in Winter oil on canvas1891
“Hornbaek in Winter” (1891, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

                  

“A sigh just isn’t a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from The Moor’s Last Sigh

Tuesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warm, 69 degrees.

DHS222
“Summer Evening at Skagen Beach” (1893, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

Last night I dreamed about my father. We needed to buy nitroglycerine, not sure why. Corey, my mother, my father, and I went to an old-fashioned hardware store. The man who helped us told us that we needed to be very careful not to jostle the canister when transporting it, so my dad also bought a weird-looking cart in which to move the canister. My dad and mom went to get the car. My dad called and said to meet them at the school. There was no school anywhere near the hardware store. Corey and I were lugging around this heavy cart with the canister, and I was really worried about moving it so much because I had seen what the nitro could do. The hardware store’s manager had poured a little bit around a door knob and the wood around the doorknob melted.

When we didn’t see my dad and mom, we went back inside the store. Then my dad called and wanted to know where we were, why we weren’t at the school. I told him that we couldn’t find the school. He got really mad and started yelling at me over the phone, and I heard my mother in the background telling him to calm down. Corey and I went back outside to see if we could see them. They were across the street in my dad’s old Falcon, and when I looked again, my dad was punching my mother (nothing like this ever happened in real life). I ran up to my dad and grabbed him from behind. My mother said that he was beating her because he was mad at me. Suddenly, we were in the middle of the street, and traffic was all around us. Then the dream ended.

“Heart on fire, ashes everywhere
— there’s no return from a red like that.” ~ Manuel de Freitas, from “Fado Menor,” trans. Richard Zenith

My mother still has the ability to make me feel like a six-year-old just by uttering four words: “Don’t lie to me.” This was an oft-heard phrase when I was growing up, and it has continued well into adulthood. As an only child, I was blamed for anything that happened, and very often for things that didn’t happen. Example: My mother once had me in tears by accusing me of flushing a bottle of nail polish down the toilet. I hadn’t done such a thing, and it never would have occurred to me to do such a thing.

PS Kroyer Sea at Skagen 1882 oil on canvas
“Sea at Skagen” (1882, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

Today, she pulled into the driveway behind the Rodeo and wanted to know who had banged up the car. “There’s a big one on the front and one on the back.”

I told her that there were no new dents, that the one on the front had rust on it  because it had been there so long, had been there when I got the Rodeo, to which she responded, “Don’t lie to me.”

I wasn’t lying. I don’t lie. I’m not a liar. I felt sick to my stomach.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ~ John Banville, from The Sea

PS Kroyer Summer Night on the South Beach at Skagen 1893 oil on canvas
“Summer Night on the South Beach at Skagen” (1893, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

My friend Mari asked me in an e-mail what I’ve been doing. I responded with the following:

What am I doing? Thinking about how I used to say to myself that May Sarton didn’t start writing professionally until she was in her 50’s, and that was the perfect excuse. What’s my excuse now? I try to post something every day on my blog. On days that writing is just too hard, I usually resort to something from Jon Stewart or a single poem. I started two novels during NaNoWriMo, but failed to finish either of them. I dream in French sometimes, and I still write poems in that time between sleep and wakefulness, only to forget them entirely before I can write them down. I dream about my few friends, now scattered across the country, and I imagine lives for them since I am miserable about keeping in touch. I bought GRE prep materials so that I could take the GRE this year and apply to GW’s PhD program by January of next year. I wonder if I’ll really do that.

What am I doing?

Nothing.

“and I am only nerves, strung on constellations,
meridians and vectors quivering.” ~ Cynthia Huntington, from “Meds”

I began this post three hours ago. In between I’ve played stick with Tillie and finished reading a book that I started yesterday. I wonder if I have anything to say. I wonder if I ever have anything to say. I wonder why anyone would care what I have to say. I wonder what the point is, the point to this blog, the point to me.

PS Kroyer Painting on the Beach at Stenbert 1889 oil on canvas
“Painting on the Beach at Stenbert” (1889, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

What am I, not who, but what? Am I doomed to be stuck in replay mode forever, that same track over and over again, the one in which I pine over the future that is not and bemoan the fates over the now that is?

I told Corey that I think my brain is full of holes, and I do. My mother thinks she might have early Alzheimer’s, and then she tells me that I’m just as bad at remembering things, so as usual, I take her words to heart, and I think, “my brain must be full of holes because I cannot remember things.” And is this post yet another attempt to dissect the person that is my mother, to try to see past her words into her DNA, the strands that define her, as if in so doing I might finally begin to understand.

No. I will never understand.

“Oh, my friend sometimes the realization runs through my head that I am actually living a supremely dangerous life: for I belong among those machines that can explode! I can’t emphasize that strongly enough. The intensities of my feeling make me shudder and laugh aloud.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Selected Letters

My friend Mari’s father died in February after a long illness. We both loved our daddies, but I would not say that we were “daddy’s girls,” or perhaps we were. Who knows. My father, when he comes to me in dreams, is always different, as in each dream is different, and I wonder if I’ve forgotten who he was. I don’t think so. But when I dream of family members, it’s always the past; everyone is younger, like my cousins who aren’t really my cousins—when I dream about the females in the family, they are always young, like they were when I used to care for them in the summers. And one other strange recurring theme: I am always very close to my male cousin, the only male with four sisters. In my dreams, we are always very, very close. We can tell each other anything.

PS Kroyer Summer Evening 1908 oil on canvas
“Summer Evening” (1908, oil on canvas)
by P. S. Krøyer

My dreams are my past, replaying itself, unfolding in different ways. I rarely dream of future selves, either the past or now, alternative nows. But my father is in my dreams much more than my mother. I suppose my dreams are my way of maintaining those connections that in real life have faded into pale, almost transparent threads, from lack of work, lack of maintenance, which doesn’t actually make sense because on a woven blanket or on a quilt, those areas that fade the fastest are the ones that are touched the most.

So does this mean that because I touch these people so often in my dreams, then the imaginary quilt is fading?

I have not answers, only far too many questions today. No answers. No defining moments. Only standing on the porch hugging my arms close to my body, trying not to let a single tear escape as my mothers says, “Don’t lie to me.”

More later. Peace.

All images by Peder Severin Krøyer, Danish painter known as prominent member of Skagen painters

Music by Maggie Eckford, “What If”

                   

Today It Seemed I Had Nothing to Say

that hadn’t been said already—
my head full of moldy
hay and feelings
of futility—

until you asked me
what it was like, for a change,
to have no barred owl
brooding above the barn,

and so I went stealing again,
softly, softly
up the worn wood loft ladder,
hoping to startle up
a glimpse of something

that even now might heft
itself lightly through the mouth
of the mow, and drift just
out of view, off-levelly,
all hollow and feather pillow,

folding and unfolding
and folding itself silently into
the forest where its terrible
utility moves like a shudder
over every living thing.

~ Todd Boss