“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Maximilien Luce 1896 oil on canvas Moonlight on Charleroi Canal
“Moonlight on Charleroi Canal” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Maximilien Luce

                   

“I don’t know what map I misread,
its roads now slipped into dust,
what cul-de-sacs and one-way streets
could have brought me to this,
my life driven as if through fog into a river.” ~ Judy Jordan, from “Fragments in February”

Tuesday afternoon. Rainy and cool, 50 degrees.

I think that my body is trying mightily hard to succumb to my annual fall cold, but I really don’t have time for that. This time last year I had a houseful of company, and I was heading for yet another case of pneumonia, but this year I made sure that I got a pneumonia vaccine along with my flu shot, so maybe . . . fingers crossed.

So, we’re back from our epic New Orleans trip, and I don’t even know where to begin, so how about if I just ramble a bit and see where it takes us? You good with that?

Emil Nolde Half Moon over the Sea 1945
“Half Moon over the Sea” (1945)
by Emil Nolde

Great.

So we finally made it past the boundaries of Hampton Roads last Monday around 8:30 a.m. (or so) after getting turned around almost immediately, this after a planned departure time of 6 a.m. (yes, I know, although we did pull out of the driveway before 7). We both thought that we knew where we were going, but apparently, not so much. Picked up the rental the evening before, and even that turned out to be a mess: We were supposed to get an Altima, but the guy at the counter said that the Altima was in bad shape, so he talked Corey into a Mustang convertible.

Okay, so at one point in my life the idea of traveling in a Mustang convertible would have been awesome, but the very thought of traveling for 16 hours in such a low-slung car made me uncomfortable, so another trade, and for only $10 more a day . . . ended up with a Mazda CX5 (I believe), which was pretty comfortable and great on gas; however, the upgrade pretty much negated all of the bargain shopping I had done online, along with the discount that I had found on one site. Oh well . . .

“The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. Its surface texture of grass and stone is blessed by rain, wind, and light. With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness.” ~ John O’Donohue, from “The Celtic Underworld as Resonance”

The drive wasn’t too bad as far as road conditions and weather, nothing like the great blizzard we drove through a few years ago, and we arrived in New Orleans around midnight (I think, it was kind of a blur). The good news is that our hotel was right in the French Quarter (Place d’Armes, definitely worthy of repeat visits), and they had upgraded us to a suite at no extra charge. We had a lovely balcony, and the ambiance was so nice, very old New Orleans. Parking, however, cost us $30 a night, so we made mental notes to try to find street parking for the second night, which we were actually able to do. Woo Hoo.

Konstantin Korovin Moonlit Night period Winter 1913 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night. Winter” (1913, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Korovin

So we got up early on Tuesday after only about six hours sleep and headed out to the first company that Corey wanted to visit. The website had stated that applications would be taken at both locations, but the New Orleans office directed us to their other headquarters, which was in Galliano. Our game plan had been to go to the NOL office first and then to Cut Off and then to Covington. That plan was changed immediately and we had to regroup and head to Galliano. Unfortunately, the first company seemed completely disinterested in him, which was a set back as this was his first choice.

Fortunately the second company on our list was just down the road from Galliano. This company was very interested in Corey, but the downside was that they weren’t hiring until February. The good news is that they are building a bunch of new boats/ships and have plans to hire 300 people in early 2014, so it looks very promising; however, by the time Corey finished speaking with the recruiter it was 3 p.m., and there was no way that we’d make it to Covington in time to speak with anyone before COB.

This meant a bit of a delay as we had planned to leave late morning Wednesday and possibly to stay somewhere on the route home. We had no idea how much of a delay it would turn out to be . . .

“On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The River of Bees”

Tuesday evening, back in New Orleans, we roamed around the French Quarter, spent some money, and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too pricey. Best crab cakes I’ve ever had—hands down. We had originally brought going out clothes with us, but neither of us had the energy to change, get gussied up, as it were. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter what you wear (we saw one guy in a Spiderman outfit, and another one in some kind of monster get-up with spikes—pictures to come).

Nicholas Roerich Spell period New Moon period 1938 tempera on canvas
“Spell. New Moon.” (1938, tempera on canvas)
by Nicholas Roerich

So we acted like tourists, drank libations as we meandered along the streets, bought souvenirs and a few Christmas presents, then headed back to our very comfortable room and slept the sleep of the very tired. On Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the famous outdoor Cafe du Monde (only two blocks from our hotel), home of the famous delectable beignets. I inhaled my portion and delighted in my very large cafe au lait. Then back to the hotel to check out and get back on the road to Covington and company number 3.

Now while Corey was doing all of these interviews, I was hanging out in the car, pirating wi fi and trying to do something to amuse myself, mostly tumblr and some lazy magazine browsing. Company number 3 turned out to be super interested in Corey and said they’d be in touch. We plotted our route home, found a nearby Sam’s Club, gassed up, and as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Corey got a call from #3 asking if he could come in and fill out paper work. Second big Woo Hoo.

Great news, but . . . he needed to do a drug test and physical, as well as an agility test, and none of that could be done until . . . wait for it . . . Thursday . . .

“Change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Sweet Thursday

So there really wasn’t a choice, was there? I called the rental company, added another day, and we regrouped, again. Fortunately #3 paid for our hotel and breakfast for Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Small woo hoo only because it was a regular hotel and not the très cool accommodations from which we had just decamped, but hey, free . . .

Eugene Fredrik Jansson Moonlight Night 1896 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Eugene Fredrik

Thursday morning on to clinic for physical. Three hours later (I really don’t know what they do that takes three hours, but Corey said it was a whole lot of waiting). Slight hiccup on his physical (nothing major), and then around the block to the physical agility place.

Finally at 3 p.m., we were done. Decided to go ahead and eat dinner then hit the road so that we could try to make up some time (hooray for 70 mph speed limits and radar dectectors). Found a little locals restaurant and finally had our genuine Po Boys, shrimp and oyster, respectively. Full stomachs, weary bodies and minds, we hit the road around 4:30.

Everything had happened so fast, and we had had so very little time between everything that I think we were both kind of shell-shocked by this point.

“I’m forging my note to the future, recording
all I know of this moment before
the moment completes itself” ~ Chris Forhan, from “The Taste of Wild Cherry”

Corey drove for a while. I took over in the middle of the night. We stopped in a rest stop somewhere and napped for an hour like about 20 other weary travelers and many, many truck drivers (did you know that Virginia doesn’t let you do this? Of course not.). Anyway, we pulled into our driveway a little after 10 a.m.

Milton Avery Harbor at Night 1932
“Harbor at Night” (1932, oil on canvas)
by Milton Avery

We’re both still processing everything. Corey has to go back in December for training, and we’re not sure how many weeks that will be, and there is a possibility that he’ll go straight from training onto a ship. So much to digest.

Brett and the dogs were very glad to have us home; the dogs had apparently pined away for us and had made Brett’s life miserable.  Corey immediately fell into bed, but I was too wired by then, so I unpacked and cleaned, hoping to exhaust myself, but that never really happened. The weekend was a total blur, and I feel that I am so far behind that I may never catch up.

“You must make decisions knowing those decisions make you.” ~ Rakishi, from “The son without his father”

Anyway, here is where we are: Corey has a job, but is still in denial, kind of that other shoe dropping thing, you know? He can’t help it as he’s been bitten in the butt more than once by supposed job offers. I keep telling him that this company is different—well established, big, good reputation, not like some of the companies he’s had to endure in the past. He won’t be on tugs, but off-shore supply vessels (OSV’s). He’s anxious at the idea of starting over, but the good news is that this recruiting guy really seemed to like him and was already mentioning Corey upgrading his qualifications.

Nicolas Tarkhoff Paris, Montparnasse at Night c1905
“Paris, Montparnasse at Night” (c1905, oil on canvas)
by Nicolas Tarkhoff

So it’s Thanksgiving week. My body aches all over, and I haven’t quite recovered from the five days of whirlwind activity. The house is trashed. I am totally unprepared for Thursday, and truthfully, it’s beginning to hit me that Corey may not be here for Christmas. So much is still up in the air, and the trip ended up costing us a small fortune, but it was so worth it. We had a really nice time together, got to experience another new place with each other, had some great food (as my stomach can attest), and it looks like we’re about to embark on a new path.

Hard not to be anxious, but trying to be calm. Anyway, that’s the quick and dirty version. Lots of little details in between that I may tackle later before they slip through the sieve that is my brain. Until then . . .

Peace.

Music by London Grammar, “Nightcall”

                   

No crying, calling out, complaining…

No crying, calling out, complaining,
This all will pass, like the green of gold,
Like the white smoke of apple blooms,
And I won’t be as young as I used to.

Already, your blood isn’t as quick as it was,
I tell my heart—and it’s getting colder.
White birch roots stitch the ruddy fields
And you’ve lost the urge to wander.

Lips and eyes, emotions:
Where are your fire and anger,
Where your floods?
All were fresh, now are errant, scattered.

My wants are sparer now, leaner,
Or maybe they were just a dream
—Like the moment morning flashes green—
And I charged past on my sorrel steed.

We’re all, all of us in this world soon to spoil.
Copper leaves are tumbling coyly from the maples . . .
World-weary drifter, be forever grateful
To have faded fast, in early petalfall.

~ Sergei Esenin, trans. James Stotts

“And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone.” ~ W.B. Yeats

Frost Flower on Gateby crestedcrazy (FCC)
Frost Flower on Gate
by crestedcrazy (FCC)

                   

“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 49 degrees.

Frost Flower by Lotus Carroll FCC
Frost Flower
by Lotus Carroll (FCC)

Well, I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas. Two days past, now we are in the time of reconciliation: the frenetic preparation back to the days of normalcy, whatever those may have been; the momentary love of everything back to the cynicism of everyday life; the intimate closeness of family back to the separation of time and space.

Okay, so perhaps not as glum as all that, but you know what I mean. The days leading up to the big day are filled with hurrying to and fro, trying to remember all of the little details, the anticipation and anxiety over whether or not everything will come together at the last hour. Or at least that’s how it is in my house. No matter how prepared I think I am in the days before, I always find myself doing last minute errands for the fresh lemon or the candy canes or the tissue paper or whatever.

Frost Flower close up by Marklnspex FCC
Frost Flower Close-up
by Marklnspex (FCC)

I have to say, though, that this year’s celebration was very nice. My mother didn’t insult anyone overtly or accidentally, which tends to make things run much smoother. Dinner came off without a hitch, except for the overcooked broccoli, which would have been fine had we eaten on time (I know better, I really do). And everyone seemed to genuinely like his or her presents.

Of course there was the added bonus of Olivia’s first Christmas, which just changed everything in ways hard to pinpoint.

“It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in windowpanes like the beat of an excitable heart; when for some reason the beauty of the world is revealed and yet soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Frost Flower 9 Frostweed by cotinis FCC
Frost Flower on Frostweed
by cotinis (FCC)

As I had mentioned, Lex, Mike, and Olivia had gone to see Mike’s family for the holidays, and I didn’t expect them back until the day after. Turns out they came home early and surprised me on Christmas night, which was truly a wonderful surprise. I hadn’t realized how down I had actually been at the prospect of not having Lex or the baby with us, so when they came through the door, it was the perfect addition to what had already been a good day.

Apparently, I was the only one who did not know that they had come back early. The boys had seen them earlier in the day at that side of the family’s celebration, and they kept the secret, just as last year they kept the secret about Lex being pregnant. My sons really know how to keep a secret, which I find surprising for some reason. But Corey also knew—accidentally—apparently when he finished wrapping at 4 in the morning, he went to Walgreen’s for some stocking stuffers and ran into Alexis in the card aisle. At four in the morning?! My family is certainly strange, but hey, already knew that.

So Olivia arrived in her shiny Christmas dress that Mike had bought for her, and she had a great time grabbing at tissue paper and laughing. Yes, she laughs now. Fun stuff.

“I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands.” ~ Louise Bourgeois

Frost Flower 6
Frost Flower

Yesterday I spent the day packing up the silver and Christmas dishes and vintage Santa Claus Coke glasses that my mom has kept all these years. I had already done most of the cleanup Christmas night, so it wasn’t too much work. And then I did a whole lot of nothing, which I suppose is what I needed. I had thought about posting, but wasn’t really in the mood, so I didn’t.

Frost FLower 7 Ribbons by Slomoz FCC
Frost Flower Ribbons
by Slomoz FCC

Today I need to work on making Olivia’s Christmas stocking, something I had planned to do yesterday to have ready by the time they came back, but of course, now my schedule is all topsy turvy, so I’ll try to get started today.

Alfie is doing much better, and may be with us a while longer, which is nice. Corey had taken him to the vet this past weekend, which cost an amount that I shall not say as it is painful to think about, but they gave him antibiotics, and anti-nausea medicine, and he’s eating again, and back to growling at people when they disturb his naps, so he’s actually almost normal (for him). I’m so glad that I did not have to deal with losing another pet friend over the holidays as I don’t know how I would have handled that.

Tillie was apparently good this past year as Santa brought her several new stuffed babies to play with and terrorize. It was funny because anytime anyone opened any kind of stuffed animal, Tillie thought that it was for her. She’s been very busy, snooping in bags and such, and she found the spare toy that I hadn’t planned to give her until she had destroyed one of the others. I swear she is just like a small child.

The only sad part was not having Shakes on Christmas morning to sit between us as we opened presents. I missed that.

“All art is exorcism.” ~ Otto Dix

Frost Flower 3 cal tech
Frost Flower (caltech website)

Corey finally read my two novel beginning drafts, and I got some feedback from him. We both agree that my second story is better than my original plot, and I have promised myself that I will work on it in the coming months.

I did not receive any books or gift certificates for books this year, which is very unusual for me. Equally unusual is that I did not purchase any books for anyone except Olivia. I guess it was just that kind of year. I’ll just keep my list until my birthday or until I win the lottery . . . so I guess until my birthday.

Frost Flower 4 by Billy Joe Fudge, Columbia Magazine
Frost Flower
by Billy Joe Fudge, Columbia Magazine

Now that Christmas is over, we all need to get back to everyday life, which means that Corey needs to send out his job applications, and Brett needs to get his passport, and Eamonn needs to sign up for maritime school, and I? I need to try to get back into some kind of regular writing routine.

I’m still on the lookout for an IBM Selectric II, so if anyone knows of any place that is getting rid of one, like a church or school, keep me in mind. Ideally, it should be red, but hey, I think that I could use just about any color as long as it isn’t that weird turquoise blue that IBM used for some of them. I always thought that was a dreadful color for a typewriter. If you’ve ever used an old Selectric, you know exactly what I mean about how the keys feel beneath your fingers as you are flying across them. Well, I used to fly across them. I learned to type on one, and I did all of my timing tests on one. The last time I was timed (for a job interview) was soooo long ago, but I typed 127 words a minute with one mistake. Cool, huh?

“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Junot Díaz

Frost Flower5 Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association
Frost Flower
Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association

Anyway, so 2013 is but a few days away. The Mayans were wrong, and the “Dr. Who” Christmas special has aired and left Whovians with lots and lots of questions. We still need to see Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and the remake of Les Miserables. Things to do in the coming weeks.

I have to admit that 2013 seems like a weird year to me. Don’t ask me why because I don’t really have a specific reason. I just don’t like the sound of it. I mean, 2012 didn’t flop about on the tongue in the way that 2013 does. I know. I dwell on the strangest things.

Frost Flower 2
Frost Flower

Last night, I had one of those dreams in which so many of my realities converge: I was at a large family wedding, but it was also a family reunion, and it was an odd mix of Filipinos and Americans, all of whom were acting as if it was strange to be in a room together, which I just couldn’t understand, and the dinner was salmon or steak, and I asked for salmon and was given just a hunk of salmon, nothing else, no potatoes, veggies, nothing, and then I ate someone else’s cheese, and some friends of mine from high school were there, and I was also in Ohio, but it was Pennsylvania, and I knew that across the highway was my grandmother’s house, but the plow was stuck in the mud, and it was snowing, so I took the wrong turn on the interstate, the same wrong turn that I frequently take in my dreams, and I’m going the wrong way, and I’m late for work.

I awoke with a headache.

More later. Peace.

Today’s post features images of frost flowers, a phenomenon of which I was totally unaware until coming across some pictures on my dashboard. Here is an explanation from the Texas Parks and Recreation site:

Frost flowers develop when air temperatures are freezing but the ground still is warm enough for the plant’s root system to be active. Plant juices flow from these roots up into the stem, where the cold air freezes them. As the moisture in the plant freezes, the ice crystals push out through the stem. They may emerge from a small slit to form thin ribbonlike strands or they may split open a whole section of the stem and push out in a thin, curling sheet. Sometimes several ribbons of ice push out to create a flowerlike petal effect. As long as the juices flow, air temperatures remain low, and the plant is shaded from the sun, these ice crystals continue to form.

Music by Counting Crows, “A Long December”

                   

Prayer

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
infolding,
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change–
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

~ Jorie Graham