“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ~ Rudyard Kipling

Cosmos by Arapy

                   

“I’m not a girl—I’m a woman. I want things. Shall I ever have them? To write all the morning and then to get lunch over quickly and to write again in the afternoon and have supper and one cigarette together and then to be alone again till bedtime—and all this love and joy that fights for outlet, and all this life drying up, like milk, in an old breast. Oh, I want life! I  want friends and people and a house. I want to give and to spend.” ~ Katherine Mansfield,  May 15, 1915

Tuesday late afternoon. Sunny and very warm.

Field of Wild Flowers by Valeri Simov (Pixdaus)

I’ve spent several hours online looking for a transmission for the Dodge. Vic, our neighbor, is ready to start work on the truck. We need to buy a transmission and a transfer case. I’m tired of speaking to men who talk too quickly, mumble, then get agitated if I ask them to repeat what they said. You know the kind of person of whom I am speaking—they don’t like speaking on the phone, so they rush to try to get off as soon as possible.

As a result, I have a dull headache in the back of my skull.

Speaking of which, I don’t remember if I mentioned it, but my lumbar puncture came back normal, no fungus, no infection. So now what?

I rescheduled my appointment with my gastro guy, which was supposed to be yesterday. I rescheduled for next Monday, and I must keep this one as I really need to know the results of my last two tests, that and tell him that the new medication that he gave me has stopped working. I wake up every morning with my mouth tasting like acid. I can’t keep eating Tums all day long to supplement the new medicine, which is supposed to be so much better than Nexium, but for me at least, it’s not.

Last night I dreamed that I had taken up smoking again, which is so far-fetched. I’ve been trying to get Corey to stop for years, to no avail. I’ve never been hooked, but I used to smoke in college during exams, and I tend to want to smoke if I’m in a bar or singing karaoke (neither of which has happened in quite a while).

Yesterday I decided to sweep the doggy hair tumbleweeds that were all over the wood flooring. After I did that, I decided that the floors really needed to be cleaned, so I mopped the kitchen, bathroom, and entry way, and cleaned the wood floors with Murphy’s oil wax, all of this on top of keeping the laundry going all day. By 9 p.m. I was hot, hurting, and exhausted, so no posting for me even though I had already picked out my quotes.

“You want to live—but do you know how to live? You are  scared of dying—and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?” ~ Seneca

VIctorian Walled Garden, Bellahouston Park, Glascow, Scotland by dalbera (FCC)

Last night, Eamonn picked up Brett, and the two of them went with Alexis to see their grandfather in the hospital. Once again, I did not see Alexis. Brett said that his grandpa looks bad and that he was really tired, but he did recognize everyone. I know that for Brett anyway, having his grandfather be more cognizant helped to make the visit a bit more bearable.

I’m going to try to go with Ann later in the week if possible. I’m hoping that I don’t run into my ex or my step-m-in-law while I’m there. The prospect of seeing either or both makes me cringe, but it won’t keep me from visiting

My gardenia bush is in bloom, so perhaps I’ll cut some blooms to take when I go. My f-in-law got into raising roses when he married his second/current wife. Ann told me that when she went to see him, he mentioned that he needed to cut some roses for her mother because she would like that. I’m thinking that in his final days, he may be feeling a bit of guilt about how he left my m-in-law for the other woman, but I am only surmising. Who knows how the brain works when the body begins to shut down.

I would imagine that the past and the present begin to comingle, that time ceases to be linear and reverts to being circular, that things long forgotten come back to the forefront and that the most recent memories fade most easily. It’s all part of the mystery.

“Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given the door will open.” ~ Jalal-al-Din Rumi

Wildflowers, Oro Valley, Arizona

Our brains are such interesting organs. They are the seat of our emotions and the housing for our logic. Everything that we know, that we feel, that we think—it all comes from our brains. Our very consciousness arises from the little grey cells. Our dreams, passions, likes, and dislikes all reside within this three-pound organ, give or take a few ounces. We are born with the capacity for such emotions as joy, happiness, fear, and shyness, but the nurturing we receive affects how these emotions are developed.

Our brains are almost full-sized when we are born, and a newborn’s brain contains most of the brain cells for life. Interestingly, our brains stop growing around age 18. Does this explain why teenagers act they way that they do?

Some disorders originate from the brain, like my m-in-law’s Parkinson’s Disease. Psychiatric conditions such as my depression are thought to arise from a brain dysfunction. My brother-in-law’s brain damage from the car accident has resulted in his impaired vision, and cerebral cortex damage means that he cannot speak. My daughter Caitlin’s malignant ependymoma was located in the fourth ventricle of her brain.

Because the human brain is about 75 percent water, it is very susceptible to damage from alcohol and drugs, something my ex should probably consider when he’s on his sixth beer. Alcohol also weakens the connections between neurons. Also consider that smoking is bad for the brain as it causes brain cells to die and stops neurogenesis, the process of creating new brain cells.

And then, of course, there is love, which does not reside in the heart as the ancients believed, but rather in the brain. Specifically, fight, flight, anger, and love all reside in the most primitive part of the brain, the brain stem, or the lizard brain, so called because it resembles the entire brain of reptiles. This area of the brain, located near the base of the skull, hearkens back to the dinosaur brain, interestingly enough.

“The silence one hopes for, no echoes of recrimination. Dreams reside there.” ~ Robert Gibbons, from “XI,” Rhythm of Desire and Resistance

Field of Poppies

I read a mind-blowing article (pun intended) called “Humans Have Three Brains,” by James Thornton. According to Thornton, human have three brains: the lizard brain, the dog brain, and the human brain.

The lizard brain, which developed first, is the smallest. It controls “breathing, vision, bodily movement” and also allows “fierce territorial fights, lusty bouts of mating, and displays of anger.” Thornton also contends that lizard brains do not allow for complex states such as loyalty, which is why an alligator mother will leave her eggs. Loyalty comes from the dog brain.

Mammals came into being about 100 million years ago. The mammalian or dog brain that resides atop the lizard brain is the complex limbic system. Thornton says that the dog brain accounts for the richer experiences, such as love and loyalty.

Then there is the human brain, the neo-cortex, which developed a few hundred thousand years ago with the appearance of the apes. This brain  gives rise to poetry, art, language, and reason: “It is inside this human brain that mathematics and music, deception and politics, religion and racism live. It is the Machiavelli as well as the Mozart brain, the Eichman as well as the Einstein brain.”

Thornton posits that these brains work inter-dependently; the human brain contains language, but the separate dog and lizard brains contain emotions:

The older brains cannot speak. They can only feel and act. This is where the self-contradictory nature of so much human behavior comes from. It explains why we can cheat on someone we love: each of our brains is pursuing different kinds of satisfaction.

The lizard brain is moved to lust. The dog brain is moved to love and loyalty. The human brain is moved to the idea of romance and a dream of ethics. (The human brain is also moved to sadomasochism and premeditated murder.)

Apparently, humans have different kinds of memory also. According to Thornton, there are “independent memory systems in the neo-cortex and the limbic system. The big human brain has the intellectual memory where we remember facts and phone numbers. The dog brain has an emotion-based memory. It is slower to learn but retains memories longer. In fact it never forgets your experiences. As we age the neo-cortical memory degrades and we have senior moments. This doesn’t happen to the limbic brain.”

“Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world,
pierced by a ray of sunlight,
and suddenly it’s evening.” ~ Salvatore Quasimodo

Echoes by KarolZ

Our brains are soft and fatty. They create enough wattage to illuminate a light bulb. They are the actual seat of power in the human body, but they are also fragile even though the organ itself can feel no pain. A stroke can do irreparable harm to a brain, as can bruising of the brain and oxygen deprivation.

We can choose to enhance our brain’s capabilities by reading more and learning other languages, and we can stint the growth of another’s brains through sensory deprivation and abuse. Eating seafood regularly can decrease our susceptibility to dementia. Oxytocin can make us feel love and be more receptive to sex; it can make us feel content and reduce anxiety. Endorphins can relieve pain and control our appetites, and our brains produce both of these hormones.

The brain is an enigma. It is wiredrawn like a finely spun web: intricate, beautiful, strong and simultaneously fragile. I knew a woman who worked at Old Dominion, seemingly healthy, in her 30’s, who died in an instant from a brain aneuryism. There was no warning. She was in the kitchen, and her husband heard her say, ‘Oh.” By the time he got there from the bedroom, she was dead.

What it boils down to for me is the mystery, how the scope of emotions can reside in something that only makes up about 2 percent of our total body weight.  How misery and elation can both come from the same place. How our ability to reason logically is in proximity to our ability to be devious. How the invisible, the intangible, and the immeasurable—love, loyalty, hate, and happiness—are manifest along with the tangible—blinking, yawning, talking, and seeing.

I will tell you this: Of all the parts of my body, I think my brain is the sexiest, and it’s the part that I like the best.

More later. Peace.

Music by Michelle Branch, “Are You Happy Now?”

                   

Gradual Clearing

Late in the day the fog
wrung itself out like a sponge
in glades of rain,
sieving the half-invisible
cove with speartips;
then, in a lifting
of wisps and scarves, of smoke-rings
from about the islands, disclosing
what had been wavering
fishnet plissé as a smoothness
of peau-de-soie or just-ironed
percale, with a tatting
of foam out where the rocks are,
the sheened no-color of it,
the bandings of platinum
and magnesium suffusing,
minute by minute, with clandestine
rose and violet, with opaline
nuance of milkweed, a texture
not to be spoken of above a whisper,
began, all along the horizon,
gradually to unseal
like the lip of a cave
or of a cavernous,
single, pearl-
engendering seashell.

~ Amy Clampitt

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“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.” ~ Serbian Proverb

Il Bucco Nero (Stairs in Puglia, Italy by Paolo Margori (flckr cc)

                   

“You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.” ~ Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life)

Late Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and warm, around 62 degrees.

Staircase at The Rookery, Chicago, IL by rspnogsaj (flckr cc)

The house is empty and quiet, just the dogs, me, and a handful of gummi bears. Not exactly certain what brought to mind the Seneca quote, but there it is, in all of its profound wisdom, its references to seizing the day.

I suppose I thought about seizing, or my inability to seize when mulling over the poetry competition. I had almost talked myself out of entering the darned thing in the first place. I do this all of the time. Truly. This is no exaggeration.

My ex, with all of his faults, did often say that I needed to work more on my writing. Corey has said from the day that he met me that I should do something with my writing. Poets and authors have made similar comments. The only thing holding me back is me.

When I worked full time, I used to harbor this dream of quitting my job and writing full time. Funnily enough, since I’ve been out on disability, I do not work on my craft full time. I suppose that I could. No, the truth is that I definitely could. I just don’t, and I don’t have any good excuses as to why I act this way except for that ever-present, nagging feeling that I’m just not good enough, so why bother.

Thanks, mom.

Okay. So it’s not exactly kosher to blame all of my problems on my mother, but it’s certainly easier when introspection feels too much like giving yourself an appendectomy with an exacto knife.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

Camondo Stairs, Instanbul by marielito (flckr cc)

So, I’m living the dream. Right? No career obligations. Just time, time, and more time. So why does it seem that there is never enough of this particular commodity? Is it because I spend almost half my life in bed, (let’s use that euphemism) resting, attempting to find sleep, which continually eludes me.

Last night, for example, the dogs awoke me on average every hour and a half. I’m certain that they were doing this simply because they knew that I was physically and emotionally exhausted from my gastro test yesterday. I had worked myself into such a worrisome snit beforehand that once the test had been completed, I was exhausted. Hence: ongoing nocturnal dog restlessness syndrome hard at work.

So if I cut back on my attempts at rest, I would have more time. Seems logical. So with more time, I can now focus on my writing, except that I don’t. I play at this blog, and I peruse tumblr looking at beautiful images and silly memes. I do laundry. Clean the kitchen, and then, well it’s time to go back to bed.

Everything just takes so damned long to do any more. My former hyper-paced multi-tasking self ceased to exist at some point, and I would really, really like to find her again. Grab her and her stylish self and make her my own. I know. I’m speaking of myself in the abstract, a sure sign that things are going wonky again.

Perhaps I need to increase my chocolate intake again.

“The heart lies to itself because it must.” ~ Jack Gilbert

Staircase at Sigiriya Sri Lanka by mckaysavage (flckr cc)

Well, the gummi bears are gone, and I’m resisting the urge to get more from the bag. Instead, I’m munching on saltines. Back to watching my caloric intake. One reason is that I’m mulling over the possibility of attending my high school reunion this August (no, you really don’t need to know the year). I told my friend Ed in Rhode Island that I might go if I lose weight. He, being male, just does not understand this statement as it’s the same thing that someone else told him.

I mean, I had plans to get back on the healthy eating program after the holidays, and the notice about the reunion just came in the mail, so the two sort of coincided. The truth is that there are really very few people who I would want to pay good money to see again. Although this year’s reunion is supposedly including the class before and the class after our class, which might prove to be interesting.

But then there’s that whole thing of finding something to wear, attempting to hold in my gut for four hours, ya da ya da ya da. Plus, the inevitable questions: So, where are you working? Hmm, I’m not. I’m on disability. Then the funny looks from people who cannot seem to equate disability with anything other than the loss of limbs or sight, as in you look fine to me . . . must be a malingerer.

I love that word: malingerer. I malinger. He/she/it malingers. You were malingering. They malingered. We are malingerers . . . Maybe I’ll go just so I can work that word into the conversation three or four times, and then having had my fun, I’ll depart, leaving hilarity in my wake . . . one does dream . . . 

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ~ Jack Kerouac

Spiral Staircase by erix! (flckr cc)

Damn. No more Pepsi in my glass, and the saltines are stuck in my throat. Pardon me for just a moment.

Quick check on the laundry. Fed the dogs dinner. Tillie talked me into giving her a new toy that was hidden on top of the fridge (don’t ask me how she knows, but she does); made a cuppa tea (last jasmine green tea bag, reminder to get more), back at the desk, and you guessed it—forgot the Pepsi.

Yes, my life is grand, grander than grand. All ye bow before me in awe at my awesomeness. Okay, enough of that.

My mother is leaving me messages about hair color. We’ve had this conversation several times already, but she keeps forgetting that the doctors told her that coloring her hair is not problematic while she is on coumadin. She reminds me each time that we talk that she’s on coumadin and is diabetic, as if I would have forgotten this information since our last conversation.

I’m not as horrible as I sound, or maybe I am.  I don’t know, but I do know that my mom’s memory is going quickly. I really don’t think that she’s developing Alzheimer’s like her older sister did, or maybe I’m in denial. These are the things that I just don’t want to think about now: my mother’s health, my other m-in-law’s rapidly declining health, my daughter’s seemingly complete detachment from what it means to be a productive member of society.

Too much, just too much. At least for tonight. Perhaps I’ll jump into the deep end of the pool tomorrow. Until then, I want to share with you someone I am much too late in discovering, Adele. What a voice. You might get sick of her soon because I plan to include a few of her songs with the next few posts. I’ll just say sorry now, and we’ll move on.

Shall we?

More later. Peace.

Music by Adele, “Someone Like You”

“I am like a book, with pages that have stuck together for want of use: my mind needs unpacking and the truths stored within must be turned over from time to time, to be ready when occasion demands” ~ Seneca

San Carlos Wildflowers

  

“The problem about the future is that it keeps turning into the present.” ~ Bill Watterson
Lake Elsinore Wildflowers

I planned to write about something else today, but after sitting here for a while, I realized that I’m just not interested in that particular topic at the moment, which is always a sign that I won’t have much to say. So I’ll just backtrack a bit and start over. 

Corey is at work until 11 tonight. It’s one of only two shifts for which he is scheduled this week, which really bites, but what can you do? I mean, it’s mid 2010, and shipping has not picked up at all, except for in the Gulf. Corey keeps sending out applications, but no one seems to be ready to hire yet. I never would have imagined when all of this began that he would be off boats for two and a half years. I know that he never imagined that either. 

Brett’s graduation rehearsal is this Friday, and graduation is Monday. I am also having a hard time coming to terms with the reality that my youngest child is leaving high school and going to college in the fall. 

“Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all.” ~ Herodotus
Feverfew Plant

So I was reading about feverfew being a possible preventive for migraines. Feverfew (a member of the sunflower family), also known as bachelor’s buttons, was originally believed to help alleviate fevers, one possible derivation of the name, although, some sources attribute the name to the hot taste of the plant’s root. Although it does not help with fevers, feverfew is an anti-inflammatory, which means that it works much like ibuprofen. Feverfew has been used medicinally for years. In fact, a reference to the plant was found in the works of ancient Greek physicians. 

One article I read stated that feverfew may inhibit chemicals that cause constriction of the blood vessels in the brain; feverfew is also purported to relieve smooth muscle spasms. The chemical in feverfew that is believed to help is called parthenolide. Recommended doses of feverfew as a preventive should contain .2 percent or more of parthenolide. 

Apparently, the feverfew plant is easy to grow, and it spreads quickly. I also read that planting feverfew near roses helps to keep aphids off rose bushes. Another bonus is that one source says that chewing leaves from the feverfew plan offers instant headache relief. I’m all in favor of instant relief. 

Since I am just now coming off the most recent migraine, I suppose this is the next thing that I will try as a supplement in addition to the 1200 milligrams of magnesium that I am currently taking. All I know is that the prescription medication is still a crap shoot: I never know whether or not I will get relief. 

“Self-examination is usually a half-hearted, spontaneous thing we do when we’re either scared or bored. As a result, whatever conclusions we reach are distorted either by a clumsy urgency or a listless sigh . . . ” ~ Jonathan Carroll
Sunflowers in Bulgaria

I got an e-mail from my German sister-in-law: they will be here for eleven days starting on June 6. This now gives me an end date for everyone in the house to accomplish his or her goals in getting the house cleaned. Corey must clean off the dining room table. Brett needs to clean his room and find a place to put the gerbil tank. I need to do some work in Eamonn’s room. These are all attainable goals. We’ll see how that goes. 

It will nice when the Germans get here, especially since the whole family is coming this year. 

Speaking of flowers (feverfew), and I was, Corey’s sunflowers are huge. The tallest one is about nine feet tall. He planted three different kinds, but none are in bloom yet. That corner of the yard is going to be beautiful when the sunflowers bloom. He started planting sunflowers in the yard a few years ago, but this year he went crazy. I don’t even know the total number of plants that he has, and I don’t think that he does either, especially since the slugs kept attacking his seedlings, so he kept planting replacements. 

The only other bit of news is that I’ve launched my tumblr site. I decided to call it Slow Dancing in Quicksand. It will feature the same quotes and images as this site, along with some additional quotes and musical selections. I’m still learning how to use the site, and there’s this whole thing called reblogging that I don’t quite understand yet, but I believe it involves clicking on links of items posted on other tumblr sites, which automatically copies the image or quote or whatever onto your tumblr site. I’ve tried it a couple of times, but I still don’t think that I’m doing it correctly. 

Anyway, I don’t know what possessed me to start another site other than I convinced myself that it won’t involve a lot of extra work as I will already found the information for this site. I suppose I thought that it might get me more exposure on the web, which can be a good thing one day . . . I think. 

To visit my new tumblr site, click here 

More later. Peace.

Music by Los Lobos, “Spanish Guitar”

“Veritum dies aperit” (Time discovers the truth) ~ Seneca

Staying Put Zink Arkansas 1935 by Ben Shahn

One of the few remaining inhabitants of Zinc, Arkansas, October 1935 by Ben Shahn

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.” ~ Max Frisch

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I think that Corey took a smartass pill when he woke up today. He’s showing all of the classic signs. I could tell that it was going to rain as soon as I woke up because I had  a sinus headache. When I commented that everytime the barometric pressure drops, I get a headache, Corey replied, “Aren’t you glad that you are so in tune with mother nature?” Funny. Very funny.

My husband the wit.

So Izzie the Trooper is going to be coming home tomorrow. We still need to buy a new battery and a spare tire before our trip to Ohio. I’m not driving through the mountains of West Virginia without a spare tire. Not with our luck. But once the Trooper comes home, I plan to try to clean her insides top to bottom, rid of her of the tobacco atoms that are clinging to everything. Of course, once Eamonn starts driving her again, it will all be for naught, but until that time, she’s still mine, and I want her to smell clean, even if it means that I Febreze the hell out of her.

Itenerand photographer in Columbus OH by Ben Shahn 1938
Itinerant Photographer in Columbus, OH, by Ben Shahn (1938)

We haven’t been able to make the trip to Ohio in years, mostly because of my back problems. This will be the first time that I have been on such a long car journey. I’m hoping for the best, but if I arrive shaped like a pretzel, I won’t be surprised. The trip is to celebrate Corey’s dad’s birthday, and our arrival is supposed to be a surprise. The whole family is going to Indian Lake.

Corey took us to Indian Lake one year when the boys were still relatively young. Corey and the boys rented a paddle boat and went all around the lake. I sat on a blanket in the sun and read a book. Everyone was happy. But I’m pretty sure that we ran out of gas either to or from the lake. That was when we owned the big gnarly Buick that I hated, and if I remember correctly, Corey ran out of gas with that car more than once.

He still does that—runs out of gas—only not as frequently. He also gets lost, but won’t admit it. Don’t ask me why he does these things. It’s just one of those Corey things. The first time that he did it with the boys in the car, they were young, and they became very anxious. They kept asking us if we were in a bad part of town. We were somewhere in Richmond on our way to Ohio. Eamonn had obviously learned the term “bad part of town” from somewhere, so I explained to him that being out of gas and lost is always a bad part of town.

One of these days I’m going to be able to afford a Magellan for Corey, which will at least take care of the getting lost part.

Oh well. Not really what my subject is today.

“Time is not a reality (hypostasis), but a concept (noêma) or a measure (metron).” ~ Antiphon from On Truth

A few months back David Bridger, one of the writers who I visit frequently, posed a question on his blog: If you could go back in time, where would you go? Who would you see? What would you do? Good idea for a post David (who is busy working on his book, preparing for two fall weddings, and taking care of wife Janette: Hello to everyone).

I’ve kept that post in the back of my mind for a while now without tackling it because my answer (of course) wouldn’t be just one point in time. I have managed to narrow it to three different points in time: the Renaissance, the Great Depression, and France during WWII, all for very different reasons.

The Tudfors S3 Henry
The Tudors (season 3) Jonathan Rhys-Davies as Henry VIII

Being a writer and a lover of great literature, the Renaissance is probably the most predictable answer for me. Granted, the Renaissance is a pretty broad time period, beginning after the Middle Ages and ending with the Reformation (approximately 1450 to 1600). However, the time in which I would be most interested would be during the Elizabethan period of literature, during which writers such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne, and Spenser were prolific.

Granted, living conditions in Tudor England would be a tad hard to adapt to, what with chamber pots being emptied out of windows and a lack of a central drainage system. Threats of the plague might put a damper on things; although drinking ale for breakfast as opposed to a hot cup of tea would be interesting, if not an engaging way in which to begin the day.

Obviously, life would not be a brilliant pageant of color and intrigue like Showtime’s The Tudors (alas, alack), which, by the way, I am not enjoying as much in Season 3 as in previous seasons. Probably the lack of spark provided by Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn.

But as usual, I digress . . .

My real interest in looking in on Elizabethan England would lie in the relationship between Shakespeare and Marlowe. Did Shakespeare actually steal from Marlowe? Was Marlowe as prolific as Shakespeare? Could Marlowe have been the better playwright if he had lived longer? Actually, conspiracy theorists about the Bard contend that Shakespeare’s works could have been written by Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, and Edward de Vere. Why such a reluctance to attribute to Shakespeare that which is Shakespeare’s?

Who knows? But it would be wonderful to go back in time to see the literary masters at work, to look over Shakespeare’s shoulder as he created his own version of Richard III. To visit with the man who created Falstaff.

“It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.” ~ Paul Strand

Fiddlin Bill Hensley Asheville NC by Ben Shahn
Fiddlin' Bill Hensley, Asheville, NC, by Ben Shahn

Another time that I would like to visit would be the Great Depression, specifically that period during which Roosevelt’s photographers for the WPA were in service.

The WPA was the Works Progress Administration, a government-funded program for artists during the mid 1930’s to mid 1940’s. Artists who received funding during the WPA included Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Among the writers of the Federal Writers’ Project were Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, and Claude McKay. But my interest lies with the photographers, people like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Walker Evans, the individuals who created an enduring photographic record of a period in American history during the artistic period known as social realism.

I am in awe of these masters of the genre who took the art of photography to new heights with their achingly real depictions of people and places. Personally, I have never been very good at capturing the essence of a person in a photograph, which is why I tend to stay with nature and architecture. I believe that it takes an artist with great insight to be able to capture that moment of greatest personal revelation on film, and I know of none better than Lange, Evans and Shahn.

Of her famous picture of the migrant mother, Lange had this to say in an interview in 1960:

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

The photographers worked for the WPA for about $23 a week as starting wages. Many felt fortunate to be able to plie their trade in a period in which so few had any meaningful work. But as the Library of Congress collection reveals, what may have begun as merely a way to make a living became an intense affinity for the American people, a record of their hardships, sorrows, and sometimes, their small celebrations.

So while a journey back to one of the most painful periods in our country’s history may seem like a bizarre choice, being able to watch these artists, perhaps even to emulate them would be an amazing opportunity.

“Le jour de gloire est arrivé !” ~ La Marseillaise

My last choice probably seems like the oddest of the three: France during WWII.

I do not view World War II as a particularly wonderful time in history. On the contrary. However, I would like to think that if I were living in France during this dark period in history that I would have participated in the French Resistance movement.

French Resistance Croix de Lorraine symbol
Croix de Lorraine, Symbol of French Resistance

Essentially, there were two main movements. The Conseil National de la Résistance or the National Council of the Resistance was created by John Moulin. The CNR directed and coordinated the different movements of the French Resistance: the press, trade unions, and members of political parties hostile to the Vichy France. Eventually, the CNR  coordinated with the Free French Forces, led by Charles De Gaulle

The French resistance included men, women and children from all social classes, religions, and political movements who worked against the Nazi occupation in France. Although the Resistance was responsible for blowing up key targets, members also published underground newspapers, helped Allied soldiers to freedom, collected and disseminated military intelligence, and raising awareness among the French populace.

Even though women were not allowed many leadership roles in the Resistance, I still think that it would have been admirable to work on one of the underground presses, churning out anti-Nazi propaganda. It’s that anti-establishment streak that runs through my veins, not a glorification of the Resistance that has been depicted in so many movies that makes me think that I could have participated in such a movement. Doing something, standing up for your beliefs.

“Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river” ~ From “Cry Me a River,” by Arthur Hamilton 

Other notable eras of which I wish I could have played a part: The era of great torch singers (Etta James, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne ). Oh those bluesy, unrequited love songs, like “Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine” and how they just rip at the very fabric of the heart. Other eras that I wouldn’t mind visiting would be the age of the emerging confessional poets (Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich) , as well as Europe during the Impressionistic period in art—Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, Gaugin—all of that angst amidst all of that beauty.

For now, I’m sitting here in 2009, with my old soul and my dreams of other days.

 

 

More later. Peace.

Of Course Not.

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Fresh Cut Lilacs

Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Today was one of those lazy Saturdays. I was awakened early by the clamor in the park. The loud speaker came on, and announcements were made about parking regulations. Did that stop people from parking in front of our house which is a no-parking zone because of the fire hydrant?

Of course not. Those regulations are meant for other people . . .

Well, I do have things that I need to do, fill out some more forms regarding my disability. Did I do them?

Of course not. They’ll take care of themselves at some point (audible snort on my part).

“Discovering this idyllic place, we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger here, where time stand still and beauty overwhelms.” ~ Author Unknown

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It's a Dog's Life

I did sit out in the backyard for a bit. Let the sun fall onto my face and warm my skin. But only after most of the crowd had cleared from the park. The dogs were overjoyed that Brett and I were outside and vied for our constant attention, which made reading pretty much impossible. Tillie came up with a tree branch that she wanted to play fetch with—not a stick, a branch, about two inches in circumference, and two feet long.

What a funny dog. In the meantime, Alfie and Shakes spent their time being sun puppies. Corey thinks that it’s funny that I put a towel in the chair next to me for the dogs, but I want them to be comfortable.

The goal was to give the dogs a bath at some point today. Hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure that between the three of them, only Tillie would be looking forward to doing some serious splashing anyway.

Both Brett and Corey seem to be in the same kind of mood as I am: kind of laid back, not really wanting to tackle anything too tasking or serious. Can’t say that I blame them. Must be something in the air.

“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

I did do two semi-productive things today: I added my blog to fuelmyblog. See that neat icon to the left of the post? Well, if you like a particular post, I think that you are supposed to click on the icon, and I get points, or something like that. Not entirely sure exactly how it works. I did check the box to be a contributor to their blog. I suppose that I could do that if they wanted me to, or I could continue to hide in my bedroom, writing for myself and a few regular readers.

I also changed my site picture. I was getting a little tired of my old picture, but since I don’t really let people take pictures of me, it’s slim pickings finding something to choose. I settled on cropping out most of me, and just focusing on a small part of my face. That way, you don’t have to be exposed to my sausage body, and you won’t run screaming, “Ahhh. Eek. The sausage monster is loose,” or whatever it is you scream when you see a woman in her 40’s sucking in her stomach mightily.

I know. I know. I just wrote about how we should not judge people by their physicality. But do I apply that maxim to myself?

Of course not. I don’t think that I will ever be happy with my physicality.

“That is a good book which is opened with expectation, and closed with delight and profit.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott 

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"Mirror of Galadrial," by Alan Lee

I decided to begin my annual re-read of Lord of the Rings. A few years ago Corey bought me the set that is illustrated by Alan Lee, the artist who worked with Peter Jackson on the films. It is a beautiful collection. If you’ve never seen the illustrations in this particular collection, you should check it out the next time you are in a bookstore.

Brett is finishing The Prince, by Machiavelli. Don’t ask me why he decided to read it, but now we have to put together some kind of book talk (what in the hell is a book talk?) for his English class, which is being taught this grading period by a student teacher. I know that student teachers have to go in the classroom to learn, but honestly, if this woman wants to teach English, shouldn’t she at least be aware of certain titles and authors, even if she hasn’t read them?

When Brett submitted The Prince as his book choice, she approved it, thinking that it was a contemporary novel. Could he have picked a more difficult choice to do a Power Point Presentation on?

Of course not. Why start now?

“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

andromeda-and-lavendar-azaleaI did cut some fresh lilacs to put all over the house. The bush is in full bloom, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I put lilacs in my bedroom, in the living room, and in the bathroom. Nothing helps a room to look more welcoming than fresh cut flowers or blooms. Not that I’m welcoming anyone into my home anytime soon.

We have a new Andromeda (pieris) plant, and a new lavender Azalea. Corey is going to plant them somewhere. I have wanted both for a while, so I think that he threw caution to the wind and bought both for me to make me feel better. They will look lovely planted near each other.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ~ Seneca

Corey went to the open house for the shipping company yesterday morning. It seemed to go very well. The man he spoke to was very impressed with all of his experience. Corey let the company representative know that he is enrolled in some courses that will help his qualifications. Now if only that could transfer into a job, everything would be super.

He also received approval from the City of Norfolk to fund the classes that he wants to take. That is doubly good news. He starts the Tankerman class on Monday, and then the following week, he will be taking the Lifeboat man class. I believe that he got approval for four classes, which is stupendously good news. Maybe our luck is beginning to turn. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I am trying not to show too much excitement because I don’t want to jinx everything by believing that everything is getting better. That old superstition creeping back into my thoughts.

crossed-fingersTrust me, if I thought that it would do any good, I’d build a fire with all kind of herbs and chant something nonsensical until the cows come home. No sacrifices, though. What do you think I am? Some kind of weirdo?

Of course not. Just like to keep my fingers crossed.

Speaking of which, do you know where the whole fingers crossed thing comes from? Well, there were a number of possible origins: one says that finger crossing comes from pre-Christian times and was used to ward off witches and evil spirits, like the crossing of fingers to form the sign of the cross. Another says that when crossing fingers, benign spirits reside at the intersection of the two fingers. Several sources cite that finger crossing used to be performed by two people in old Europe, the first person who crossed his fingers made a wish, and the second supported it. By linking fingers, it was believed that the two people could energize the spirits to help make the wish come true.

Things that make you say hmm . . .

“The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.” ~ Blaise Pascal

Well, it seems that I have rambled on about nothing much at all. Like I said: just one of those days. Stick with me; I promise something with a little more depth next time. Until then, Let me leave you with an incredible picture by Janson Jones from Floridana Alaskiana. If you haven’t visited this site you, you are missing out on some really incredible photography. Just look to the left. See his blog in my Recommended Reading? Just click on it. Wasn’t that easy?

Of course it was.

More later. Peace.

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The Shallows at Mt. Glacier National Park by Janson Jones

                                                                                                                                         

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