“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.” ~ Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Tuscany Landscape by Marcin Sacha

                   
 

“She is not waiting. Not quite. It is more that the years mean nothing to her anymore, that the dreams and the street cannot touch her. She remains on the edges of time, implacable, unhurt, beyond, and one day you will open your eyes and see her; and after that, the dark. It is not a reaping. Instead, she will pluck you, gently, like a feather, or a flower for her hair.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Crovie Banffshire Scotland by Chris Spracklen

Isn’t the picture above just breathtaking? I have landscapes on the brain today—lush green, gold, and red landscapes, far, far away from here. Imagine living in that house amidst those rolling hills, surrounded by nothing but green. 

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the weather outside is lovely, a temperate 76°F with lots of sun and no clouds. If I had any inkling of motivation, I would sit outside and read a book. Obviously, that is not what I am about today. I’m still recovering from yesterday’s migraine, a pretty foul one that kept me in bed all day with an ice pack glued to my head. It’s always such an attractive look. 

The pain finally ebbed around 2 a.m., and I was almost asleep when the dogs decided that it was time to go out, which meant that by 3 a.m., I was wide awake and full of nervous energy. Hence, I loaded the dishwasher, wiped down the bathroom, and took a shower in the hopes that the warm water would soothe me. No joy. 

Spider solitaire until 5 a.m. Ah, the rich pageantry that is my life. 

“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.” ~ Anais Nin

Bench, Germany, Svetlana aqua2512

I had thought about dedicating a post to that nut job tea bagger in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, but what’s the point, really? She lies as it suits her, has a platform that would deny women’s basic rights, and ducks the hard questions. How is she any different from anyone else who is running this November? 

I’m so tired of all of them, dems and reps alike. The right is running on a fear-mongering platform, and the left has essentially tucked its collective tail and run for cover. The president is stumping, but I cannot help but feel that it is too little, too late. 

If the right retakes Congress, we can look forward to a dismantling of the first real healthcare reform in decades, and it’s all so disheartening. Just for grins, I called Optima last week to see if I qualified for health coverage . . . three guesses as to their response . . . pre-existing conditions are a bit of a problem. But let’s make damned sure that we undo what has been done, if for no other reason than principle: the Kenyan socialist enacted it, so we must backpeddle, post-haste. 

Beh. Double beh. 

I have realized that what will kill the dems in November is apathy: We voted for change, real change. We got dribbles and drabs. DADT still exists. Guantanamo still exists. Rendition still exists. Healthcare reform is tepid at best. We’re still pouring money into Afghanistan, and non-combat personnel are still dying in Iraq. And oh yeah, Newt Gingrich still thinks that he’s Speaker of the House. 

Look, I’m not some starry-eyed innocent who doesn’t understand that certain intelligence policies will always exist. I know that Gitmo and places like Gitmo will always be in operation. But can’t change happen on the domestic front at least? 

Get out the vote is going to be damned hard in November, and I don’t foresee long lines of people waiting at 5 in the morning to cast their votes. But how I wish that I could be proven wrong on this one. 

“She was illusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.” ~ Jerry Spinelli 

Unknown Landscape found on Pixdaus

A few things are going well, though. Brett is adjusting well to college, much better than I had hoped, actually. He has joined a club, and has already made a small circle of friends with whom he likes to spend time outside of class. He gets out of bed and gets ready in the morning without any kind of prodding or mood propping by me, and he actually likes going to class. 

The change in him is pretty phenomenal. He has realized that I wasn’t lying when I told him that college was nothing like high school. He isn’t self-conscious about wearing his beret if he wants to, and he has commented that no one on campus looks the same, as in that high school pressure to dress and look like everyone else. 

He had his first test on Friday (in psychology), and he received a B-. Happiness all around. 

I can feel my need to be in protective mode loosening each day as he gains self-confidence and begins to make his own way. I’m really hoping that the worst is behind us, that he will no longer suffer agonizing depressive episodes that paralyze and drain him.  

Now, if I could just see eldest son more than a few minutes ever few weeks, I might be able to feel less anxiety in the parenting department . . . Who am I kidding? We all know that if I’m not worrying about Brett, I’ll just turn my focus on someone else. Speaking of which, Alexis is adrift again. She is sleeping hours and hours and missing time at work. I wish that I knew how to help her. 

“She could never be a saint,
but she thought
she could be a martyr . . .
if they killed her quick.” ~ Flannery O’Connor, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”

The northern coast of Normandie found on Pixdaus

Since the hearing last week, I have been obsessing about what I did or did not say. If the judge rules in my favor, it will be a mixed blessing at best. I mean, I will be covered under Social Security as far as income and health insurance (unless the Republicans go through with their threat to shut down the government after the election), but at the same time, I will officially be disabled; my name will be on a government roster somewhere, down as unable to work. 

I really don’t know how that makes me feel. Sort of. I mean, it means that I have moved from that group of people who contribute to society to that group of people who take from society. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been paying into the system since I was 16, and I have no qualms about receiving the benefits due me. 

It’s the emotional part. The part in which I feel as if I have been sidelined. Everyone claps when the injured party moves off the field, acknowledging that the injury isn’t life-threatening, but no one in the stands gives another thought to what happens to the person who was taken off on the stretcher, not really. The attention goes back to the ongoing action. 

Okay. I apologize for the sports metaphor, particularly since I do not like most sports, but it’s what came to mind. Now that I’m on the sidelines, apparently for good, now what? Just put it all away and wait until tomorrow? 

I suppose. 

I’ll close with this wonderful quote that I found by Janet Finch from White Oleander

I regret nothing. No woman with any self-respect would have done less. The question of good and evil will always be one of philosophy’s most intriguing problems, up there with the problem of existence itself. I’m not quarreling with your choice of issues, only with your intellectually diminished approach. If evil means to be self-motivated, to live on one’s own terms, then every artist, every thinker, every original mind, is evil. Because we dare to look through our own eyes rather than mouth cliches lent us from the so-called Fathers. To dare to see is to steal fire from the Gods. This is mankind’s destiny, the engine which fuels us as a race.

More later. Peace

Music by Katie Herzig and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Where the Road Meets the Sun” 

“Everything stated or expressed by man is a note in the margin of a completely erased text.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Blooming Sour Cherry Tree, Switzerland

“The various thoughts which arise in our minds are nothing but the scenery of the Life of the Self.” ~ Uchiyama Kosho

Spring in Vorarlberg, Austria

Very little sleep again last night . . . I got up early this morning to take my other mother-in-law to DMV to get a replacement license. I suppose this is my first time alone in trying to do something with her since her condition has worsened, and I must say that it was an awakening.  When I got to her house, she did not know why I was there, and then we had to spend time looking for her social security card, which she was certain she had lost. As it turns out, it was in her wallet. 

I really wasn’t sure if they would replace her license as I put Parkinson’s on the form under medical conditions, but I don’t think that the woman at the counter even glanced at that particular box. In a way I am very dismayed by the outcome. Her license was replaced, which means that she is legal to drive. She assured me that she won’t drive unless she feels up to it and that she will not drive at night, but after spending the morning with her, I am worried that she might get in the car and forget where she is going, only to get lost. 

To say that I am saddened by the helplessness of a once-vital woman who has been such a big part of my life for so many years is a huge understatement. Like so many others of us in the sandwich generation, watching my children grow and come into their own while simultaneously my elders decline and lose so much of themselves has become the sad reality of life. 

“How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you—you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences . . . little rags and shreds of your very life . . . ” ~ Katherine Mansfield

Claife Station, Western Shore of Windermere, NW England

The weather here is beautiful, a bit chilly, but sunny and clear. For some reason, when the weather starts to become warmer, Shakes takes to hiding in my closet, nested within the shoe boxes and clothes that have fallen in the back. It’s very unnerving to go to the closet door and hear rustling. Maybe he likes the cool, dark of the closet. Who knows. When I was a child, I remember going into my closet during thunder storms. I wasn’t really scared, everything  just sounded better from within the depths of the closet. 

A few nights ago I dreamed about my cousin from Great Bridge again. We were very close when we were growing up, but other than the funerals, I haven’t seen very much of him lately, which is why it’s disturbing that I seem to be dreaming about him about once a month now, and he is always in some kind of dilemma, not danger, but facing some kind of problem. Another who knows . . . 

Some good news with a caveat: Corey spoke to someone at the port security firm today, and she told him that she had a list of names to call of individuals in whom the company is not interested, and his name is not on the list. The head guy comes back next Monday, so perhaps Corey will get some good news next week. Here’s hoping. 

“There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with or without repentance.” ~ Gilbert Parker

Bois de la Cambre, Brussels

Tomorrow is Alexis’s EEG, which is supposed to take eight hours (blimey), and then she has her MRI on Friday. It will be good to get the tests out of the way, but then more waiting for results. Overall, she is handling everything really well, or maybe she’s hiding it from me. There is no way to be certain. I just know that I’m on perpetual worry mode until we find out something concrete, which may or may not happen. 

I think that Alexis realizes what a worrier I am, so she probably does not let on if she is fretting herself. But she seems to be fairly calm, which is a good thing. I can worry enough for everyone. 

I didn’t tell my other m-i-l about Alexis’s seizure as I didn’t see any need to worry her. I was thinking about it, especially when she asked how Alexis is doing, but I decided that in this particular situation, discretion is most definitely the better part of valor. The last thing she needs on her mind is whether or not something is wrong with one of her grandchildren. 

“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.” ~ Josephine Hart

Spring in Vonêche, Belgium

Since it’s getting close to spring, I wanted to feature some spring images from other parts of the world (found on Wikimedia Commons). I have images in my mind of Europe in the spring, the hills in Scotland, vast expanses of green in the English countryside. I know that I saw them as a child, and even then they imprinted themselves on my memory.  

Personally, part of me longs to live in a small European village dotted with houses with steep roofs. I hate the suburbs. I hate ranch houses. I hate driving down a road that is one long line of unending convenience store chains, grocery stores, and car repair shops. I wonder if the place actually exists that I have created in my mind’s eye, the small place, with local shopkeepers, a small flower store, and in the background, fields of wildflowers, a creek. 

But more, I wonder if I would really love it in reality as much as I think I love it in my mind. 

More later. Peace. 

“Be Here Now,” by Ray LaMontagne 

Let us give thanks . . .

 

Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.

 

Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.