“It is the useless things that make life worth living and that make life dangerous too: wine, love, art, beauty. Without them life is safe, but not worth bothering with.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

) wv-fall-foliage-mountain-sunrise
Fall Foliage: Mountain Sunrise, West Virginia (Wikimedia Common)

“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realize that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realize, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.” ~ Helen MacDonald, from H is for Hawk

Thursday evening. Partly cloudy, a bit unseasonably warm, and very windy, 67 degrees.

Hello. Very, very long time, no write. I hadn’t realized exactly just how long it had been until I looked at the date of my last real post, you know, one with more than someone else’s words — three and a half years almost. If you’ve stayed with me, I thank you. If you’ve dropped by a time or two, I do so appreciate it. If you’ve despaired of me ever writing another original word, well, that makes several of us.

Mount_Sterling,_North_Carolina_Fall_Foliage
Fall Foliage: Mount Sterling, NC, by Jrmichae (Wikimedia Commons)

So . . . onward, as it were.

Greetings from the mountains of Virginia. The last time we visited, I was still living on the east coast of Virginia. This past summer, after many aborted starts and stops, we (my husband and 2 dogs and 1 cat (relatively new addition)) brought the final truckload to our acres of tree covered land in a small town in southwest Virginia.

Life changes even as we do . . .

I needed my mistakes
in their own order
to get me here ~ W.S. Merwin, from “Wild Oats”

To the matter at hand: Where have I been, and perhaps more importantly, why?

The first is much easier: I have been nowhere. I have been sitting. I have been stewing. I have been composing in my head and putting nothing down permanently. I have been contemplating, and I have been questioning. Between there have been many tears, recriminations, regrets, harsh words, and unbelievable support. And the end result is a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of . . . well, I’m not exactly sure.

San_Bernardino_Mountains,_Big_Bear,_CA_(5808766463)
San Bernadino Mountains, Big Bear, CA, by inkknife_2000 (Wikimedia Commons)

But as far as my writing, my composing, my creating? Nothing. Not. a. thing.

I never intended to be away this long. It was a dry spell, one that I thought I would conquer as I had before, be away for a few weeks, and then I would return. But weeks turned into months, which morphed into a year, and then another year, until I was embarrassed by the delay. Mortified by the failed declarations of return. And ultimately, I feared that I really had nothing to say nothingtosay nothingtosayyyyyyyyy . . .

So there was the writer’s block, the epic writer’s block, and then there was the election (far too many words for this), and then there was the depression, and then there was . . . well . . . I’ll have to think about that part a bit more.

“Alas, the vices of man, as horrifying as they are presumed to be, contain proof (if only in their infinite expansiveness!) of his bent for the infinite.” ~ Charles Baudelaire, from Artificial Paradises

Fall Foliage in Laurel Mountains
Fall Foliage in Laurel Mountains by Ron Shawley (Wikimedia Commons)

I imagine that I will delve into things much more as I go here. After all, I’m still getting my feet wet here. I need to update my site, get rid of all of the broken links, create a new header, find a new theme, decide if I want to pay to get rid of the WordPress ads . . . Also, I have to say that the whole idea of social media (which I suppose is the category into which blogs still fall) stymies me. I mean, it’s so divisive, so full of venom and vicissitude. The discourse is more often than not, well, coarse. I just don’t understand.

From what I’ve observed in visiting other sites and places, people are not very kind on social media. In fact, this modern form of connecting and communicating seems inhabited by many people who like nothing better than to incite and accuse. It’s not for those who bruise easily, and quite honestly, I don’t know if I currently fall into that category.

“The virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate; their flaw is that they cannot improve. Man’s flaw is that he can deteriorate, and his virtue is that he can improve.” ~ The Talmud

I’ve had to look back at previous posts just to try to remember how I used to do things, which doesn’t mean that that’s how I’m going to continue to do things. I still hope to incorporate other’s quotes, selections of images that are free of copyright or for which I have obtained permission, music maybe, but I also hope to do more of my own photography, show some of what I’m looking at these days.

So much to do, so much time in which to do it. That’s a bit different, isn’t it?

Fall-foliage-changing-mountains_-_Virginia_-_ForestWander
Fall Foliage: Virginia Mountains, by Forest Wander (Wikimedia Commons)

I must admit to conflicting feelings: trepidation and excitement. Trepidation — do I really want to do this again? What will it mean? How will it go? Will people still find my words interesting? Is it too late to come back?

Excitement — This feels quite natural. I think that I actually have things to say again. I want this platform, this freedom, this exhilaration that comes from the risk of putting myself out there.

Ultimately, only you can tell me, and I don’t even know if you’re still out there. Let me know, won’t you?

More later. Promise. Peace.

Music by Lady Gaga, “I’ll Never Love Again” (love, love, love this song)

 

“Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

John Piper Covehithe Church 1983 oil on canvas
“Covehithe Church” (1983, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

                   

“All morning I was at my notes, ferreting through my life records, wondering where to begin, how to make a start.” ~ Henry Miller, in a letter to Anaïs Nin

Monday, early afternoon. Partly cloudy, 80 degrees.

Well, I made it through another Father’s Day. The hardest part of this particular holiday is seeing all of the cards on display. I don’t know why, but that always gets me. I had made a few revisions to “My Father’s Hands,” so I decided to post it again.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“A Ruined House, Hampton Gay, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil and Indian ink on canvas)
by John Piper

This year Corey wasn’t here as he’s in Ohio visiting his family for Father’s Day. It was a surprise for his dad, which is nice. Of course, his trip wasn’t without the usual hitches; this time, he missed his connecting flight in Atlanta and had to spend the night at the airport and pay $50 to change his ticket. It’s a good thing we hadn’t paid all of the bills yet so there was money on the card. He’s also getting to meet his newest nephew, Ian. I’m so jealous, as you know how I am about babies.

Speaking of which, I want/need to have Olivia over this week, but I’m not feeling up to doing this on my own, so I guess I’ll wait until the weekend when Corey is home.

“Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams . . . I liked the deep, sad summer nights.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Life around the house has calmed a bit since Jake was taken back to the shelter. I made the mistake of going on the site to see if he’s featured, and it made me feel guilty all over again. He was such a wonderfully loving dog; I can only hope that someone full of love adopts him and gives him the home he deserves.

John Piper Seaford Head, 1933, mixed media
“Seaford Head” (1933, mixed media)
by John Piper

But I must admit that I’ve been able to focus better on training Bailey (yes, she officially has a name now!), and she’s catching on very quickly. Far fewer accidents and more going to the door when it’s time. The real plus is that she and Tillie seem to get along very well. They have play fights and tug-of-war, and it’s great to see Tillie back to her old self again, not hiding from Jake under the bed, only coming out when she absolutely had to. She’s asserted her place as queen of the household pack, and Bailey is learning the routine from her.

But I just keep picturing Jake sitting there in his cage at the shelter wondering what happened. Oh well . . . We did the right thing, so why does it feel so wrong? That’s usually how it is, though.

“The whisper of leaves, water running down gutters, green depths flecked with dahlias or zinnias; I deviate, glancing this way, or that way, I shall fall like snow and be wasted.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I must sound like a fruit loop sometimes, the way I go on about dogs, but dogs have been a major part of my life since I was a child. I can’t imagine living without at least one in my life.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Welsh Landscape” (1950, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

In other news . . . I’ve actually been able to float in the pool a few times. It hasn’t been deadly hot and humid, and yesterday it was just the dogs and me and the sky. Very quiet.

I put Bailey in the pool, but she’s not quite pool-adept yet. Her big paws just pound the water. Tillie looks on with a bit of disdain; she hardly causes a ripple when she swims. Too funny.

I need to do some basics around here—laundry, paper work, some official replies—but I cannot for the life of me find even a spark of energy. Things haven’t gotten completely out of hand yet, but the mail is starting to make a small pile, and I have two baskets of clothes that I need to put away. The one good thing about Eamonn moving out is that the laundry has been cut in half. He routinely changes clothes at least twice a day.

Small favors.

“In my journal I write—I belong in this place of words. This is my home. This dark, bone black inner cave where I am making a world for myself.” ~ Bell Hooks, from Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

Well, it’s the middle of the year, and I have yet to do anything about taking the GREs so that I can apply to GW’s doctoral program. This song and dance is not new for me. I have gone back and forth for so many years over whether I should pursue a doctorate. The truth is that having a PhD would probably do nothing for me professionally as there is a plethora of post-docs looking for work.

John Piper Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire 1941 oil on canvas on panel
“Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil on canvas on panel)
by John Piper

Is it enough to go through all of this simply because I have always felt that I should do this? When I say always, I am not exaggerating—I have always, since I was an undergraduate, seen myself as holding a doctorate, teaching at some college somewhere.

I certainly don’t need the degree to pursue my writing. Lots and lots of successful writers out there who don’t hold degrees. For the writing I just need to write, and we all know that I haven’t done so well on pursuing that front either.

So what gives? Why oh why do I believe that I need this thing so much . . . I have no more answers than the last time I pondered this situation. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of my years having this inner debate ad infinitum.

“An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.” ~ William Least Heat-Moon, from Blue Highways

I’ve spent the last few nights in my past again. Mari has made several dream appearances, as have the people I used to work with at Dillard’s. I have no idea if it means anything or not, but it leaves me feeling limp in the morning, as if I’ve traversed hundreds of miles in my sleep.

John Piper Seaton Delaval 1941 oil on canvas laid on wood
“Seaton Delaval” (1941, oil on canvas laid on wood)
by John Piper

Last night I dreamed that I had a phone altercation with a bill collector who was looking for Corey. That was very, very strange, but the strangest part is that I have a feeling it actually happened. I’ve been known to carry on entire conversations in my sleep. I can only hope that it was indeed a dream and not an actual occurrence.

I just remembered that part of my dream last night involved me floating about five feet off the ground on what can best be described as kind of a magic carpet, only it wasn’t a carpet, it was white and silky. I’ve had this dream many times before, and I’ve had the sensation of being able to float from place to place. These floating dreams are usually very enjoyable, for obvious reasons, but last night’s included a pit bull jumping up and grabbing me while I was floating. He was grey. No idea where that came from.

“Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.” – H. G. Wells, from The War of the Worlds

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Coventry Cathedral 15 November (1940, oil on plywood)
by John Piper

Corey will be home Wednesday evening. I couldn’t tell you why this particular trip hit hard, especially as it’s only for a few days. I guess it’s just an accumulation of things. I hope that I’m feeling better by then as I am so tired of feeling tired, so tired of feeling less than myself.

It’s hard to describe sometimes, this enervating lethargy. It’s not just feeling tired, but more of feeling like a rag that’s been wrung tightly and left to dry—shapeless, limp, used up. I’m not sure if I’m in the tail end of this particular depressive episode, if it is bodily aguish as a result, or if the body is causing the mind, or if it’s all unrelated.

When I finish this, I just may crawl back into bed. Even floating in the pool feels like too much work. I suppose the cobwebs will just have to wait another day.

More later. Peace.

All images by English artist John Piper (1903-1992)

Music by Gretchen Peters, “Five Minutes”

                   

Celestial Music

I have a friend who still believes in heaven.
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks
to god,
she thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth, she’s unusually competent.
Brave, too, able to face unpleasantness.

We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling
over it.
I’m always moved by weakness, by disaster, always eager to
oppose vitality.
But timid, also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
according to nature. For my sake, she intervened,
brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down across
the road.

My friend says I shut my eyes to god, that nothing else
explains
my aversion to reality. She says I’m like the child who buries
her head in the pillow
so as not to see, the child who tells herself
that light causes sadness—
My friend is like the mother. Patient, urging me
to wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person—

In my dreams, my friend reproaches me. We’re walking
on the same road, except it’s winter now;
she’s telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial
music:
look up, she says. When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
like brides leaping to a great height—
Then I’m afraid for her; I see her
caught in a net deliberately cast over the earth—

In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
from time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It’s this moment we’re both trying to explain, the fact
that we’re at ease with death, with solitude.
My friend draws a circle in the dirt; inside, the caterpillar
doesn’t move.
She’s always trying to make something whole, something
beautiful, an image
capable of life apart from her.
We’re very quiet. It’s peaceful sitting here, not speaking, the
composition
fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering—
it’s this stillness that we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.

~ Louise Gluck

“I can’t feel a thing; All mournful petal storms are dancing inside the very private spring of my head.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Letters To Milena

Claude Monet The Seine at Port-Villez, Blue Effect 1894
“The Seine at Port-Villez, Blue Effect” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Claude Monet

                   

“And what were they anyway, sprigs of grass, things of blue? For a long time I wanted to use words, then didn’t.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

Friday early evening, 80 degrees. Tropic Storm Andrea warning in effect.

I know. I know. The time between real posts seems to stretch on inexorably. The truth is, writing is hard at the moment. The truth is, I find myself in the midst of a major depressive episode, the likes of which I haven’t seen in many years.

Isaak Brodsky, New Moon, 1906, oil on canvas
“New Moon” (1906, oil on canvas)
by Isaak Brodsky

Why?

If I knew, I might be able to find some kind of resolution, but there really is no why. Not really. I’m just kind of empty, kind of numb, kind of unable to string together words to form sentences, sentences to form paragraphs. Mostly, I can write about why I can’t write, and I’m not really sure what kind of post that will produce, but I thought that I’d at least try.

If you’ve never suffered from depression, you simply cannot relate. You might try to understand, but it will be hard. It’s hard enough for the person who is suffering from depression. And because it is to hard for her or for him, it is hard for anyone who might happen to be in the vicinity.

I can only say in advance, that I’m sorry.

“—You’re very poetic.
—No, just sad.” ~ José Saramago, from Blindness

I think that this started about six weeks ago, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I know that it started while Corey was still at sea. It didn’t abate once he returned home, and it (the depression) took a major hit when I held my small dog Alfie’s body in my arms as Brett dug a grave beneath his bedroom window.

Georgia O'Keeffe Untitled paren Night City paren 1970s
“City Night” (1926, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

In an attempt to alleviate my pain and sorrow, I convinced everyone that it was time to visit the human society from which we had adopted Tillie so that we could find a playmate for her, someone closer to her size. The reality is that it was too soon; I realize that now, but of course, it’s too late as we came home with two new dogs: a hound mix 8-week-old puppy I named Kopi, which is Indonesian for coffee (I had wanted to call her Gilly, but Tillie kept getting confused), and a 17-month-old named Jake, for Jack Kerouac (his name was Jack, but we all kept saying Jake, so that was obviously what he was supposed to be called).

You would think that the adoptions would have made some of the sadness go away, but instead, Jake reminds me of Shakes because he is an obvious mama’s boy who clings to me, and this made me think of Alfie, who was never loved enough because of Shakes, and it made me sad all over.

Add to this that the playmate we hoped Jake would be has not turned out as planned: Jake and Tillie do not get along at all; in fact, they seem to despise one another, but everyone gets along with Kopi.

And all of this has led to more guilt on my part for not waiting longer, guilt for bringing home two new pets without considering that Tillie might not like it even though we took her to the shelter with us, and she played with both of them without any problems while we were there. And of course guilt that life sucks for everyone when it sucks for mom.

“In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.” ~ Isaac Marion, from Warm Bodies

Depression is so insidious and unpredictable. It creeps up like a slow-moving fog, or it hits like a mighty nor’easter, all at once and unrelenting. This time, it was a bit of both. There was the gradual descent, and then the sudden appearance of a precipice. I was unprepared.

John DUncan Fergusson The Troacadero, Paris ca 1902
“The Troacadero, Paris” (ca 1902, watercolor)
by John Duncan Fergusson

As many of you know, I am on antidepressants and mood stabilizers, so some of you may be confused as to why I am depressed. The truth is that there is only so much that medicine can do. The brain is a funny thing. Somewhere within mine, a switch didn’t throw all of the way, or a connection was broken, and now, there is this, this nothingness, this painful numbness.

Depression comes from the brain, but it is felt in the heart.

I try very hard not to let mine show too much, but I know that I’m not very successful in doing so. And now we have two dogs and a plus one, for whom a future is uncertain. I know that we cannot return him to the shelter; that would be too cruel, for him to live with a family, get lots of attention, have a yard in which to run and play, and then to find himself inside a cage? I couldn’t do that to my worst enemy. And so we are searching for a family that can give him love. Unsuccessfully, so far. Ideally, behavior modification would be possible, and we could live happily with all three dogs.\

Ideally . . .

“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.” ~ Robert Hass, from “Faint Music,” in Sun Under Wood

Outside, nature seems to be a perfect reflection of my state of mind: It is at once sunny and partly cloudy, and in the very next instant, grey with whipping winds. Who knows how intense this storm will be. We may have a fierce tropical storm or a short-lived thunderstorm, but I’m trying to pen this before everything hits and before Alexis arrives with the baby.

Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1924
“Starry Night” (1922-24, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

Even though my heart isn’t quite in it, we are taking Olivia for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night. It is going to be a task to continue to try to keep Jake and Tillie separated, try to watch over Kopi to make frequent trips outside for the potty training, and then, add to the mix the curious 11-month-old that Olivia has become, but I haven’t seen her in many days, and I miss her terribly.

Part of me thinks “to hell with it” as what’s a little more stress added to the mix, and part of me thinks this is another bad decision atop other bad decisions, and yet another part of me just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.

The air outside is like liquid as the humidity is climbing to 100 percent, and my sinuses are constricting with the climb. A smarter person would crawl into bed for the duration, but a smarter person would not have brought home two new dogs so soon after the loss of long-time pets.

If I only had a brain . . .

“I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have been dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.”—Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Wall

It all goes back to my first section: Why?

August Strindberg, Jealousy Nigt, 1893
“Jealousy Night” (1893, oil on canvas)
by August Strindberg

I read an interesting piece about Stephen Fry, who I love in every single thing he does. Apparently, while working on a project in 2012, he had a major episode and attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills with vodka. Fry, who suffers from bipolar disease, described it better than I could, although I must emphasize that I am in no way feeling suicidal:

“There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”

I mention this only because of Fry’s phrasing that there is no reason, and while he may have been talking about someone who is thinking about committing suicide, I apply the words to my own depressive episodes: There is no reason. Sometimes there is, but more often than not, there just isn’t. And so people on the outside sometimes think reductively, as in, “it’s all in her head,” and funnily enough, it is—in a way.

I’ll try to put together another post in the next few days, and maybe by then I’ll be able to express myself a bit more cogently, until then,

Peace.

Image theme: Blues

Edward Potthast Seascape moonlight
“Seascape Moonlight” (date unknown, oil on canvas)
by Edward Potthast

Music by S. Carey, “In the Stream”

                   

The Truth the Dead Know

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

~ Anne Sexton

“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.” ~ David Foster Wallace, from The Pale King

bird and owl

                   

Saturday weirdness . . .

A flaky end to an off-kilter week. Corey came home yesterday. Had Olivia on Wednesday and Thursday. Kept thinking yesterday was Saturday, so today is Friday? Didn’t check my e-mail for two days, so missed the one from Corey saying he would be in port on Friday. Kept thinking he would be here Sunday. Mother’s Day and anniversary quickly approaching and haven’t gotten cards. Very, very weird dreams about a plague outbreak in Corey’s hometown which turned into a cruise ship. Got kicked off the cruise ship because the captain didn’t like us. Woke up coughing. Couldn’t find my regular green tea mochi at the international market. Think I have an off-batch of Corona; that ever happen to you that the beer tastes slightly off? Olivia’s first tooth is almost through, and she pulled herself to a stand this morning, which means everything on tables is now up for grabs. One of Brett’s best friends is graduating college today, and I’ve known this kid since he was born, so I’m feeling incredibly old. Got a letter from health insurance that they consider trigger shots experimental. What the? I’ve been getting trigger shots for almost a decade to great positive effect. Hate health insurance. Neither of my sons will be home for Mother’s Day. What did I expect?  Anyway, here’s a little collection of weirdness from me to you:

First, Jimmy Fallon and John Krasinski have a lip-sync competition, and the results are epic.

Robin Williams still rocks . . .

BBC show “Vicious”

Banana bunkers?
banana bunkers
Remember this?

A little Fry

and finally . . . time for a nap . . .

                   

The Bouquet

Between me and the world
you are a bay, a sail
the faithful ends of a rope
you are a fountain, a wind,
a shrill childhood cry.

Between me and the world
you are a picture frame, a window
a field covered in wildflowers
you are a breath, a bed,
a night that keeps the stars company.

Between me and the world,
you are a calendar, a compass
a ray of light that slips through the gloom
you are a biographical sketch, a book mark
a preface that comes at the end.

between me and the world
you are a gauze curtain, a mist
a lamp shining in my dreams
you are a bamboo flute, a song without words
a closed eyelid carved in stone.

Between me and the world
you are a chasm, a pool
an abyss plunging down
you are a balustrade, a wall
a shield’s eternal pattern.

~ Bei Dao