“It was as if some space had opened up, a little rift, between words and whatever they were supposed to be doing. I stumbled in that space, I fell.” ~ Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter

Shakes Sailing Across the Water

                   

“The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking
it is necessary to go through
dark and deeper dark
and not to turn” ~ Stanley Kunitz, “The Testing Tree”

Friday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 80’s.

This post is very depressing. You may want to just skip it.

My dog Shakes is dying. He’s the fat, gay mama’s boy, the bigger Jack Russell, and he’s 12. He has congestive heart failure. That wheezy cough that I thought was allergies, wasn’t.

Christmas 2010: Shakes after the Packages

In the past 24 hours, he has collapsed twice, once, his heart seemed to stop. As I’m typing this, he’s at his usual spot, on the floor next to my chair. He’s been on medication for two days, but frankly, he seems worse.

I know that this happens. I know that if you have pets, the chances that they are going to die before you do are great. I know that loss is part of the process in deliberately choosing to open your heart to something. I know all of these things. Ask me if it makes a damned bit of difference.

In my lifetime, I have lost three dogs of my own, not including the deaths of those dogs who lived with my parents. Ascot was a rescue from the pound in Christiansburg, the first few months after I married my ex. She had hip dysplasia, but we adopted her anyway, knowing that she wouldn’t have a long life, but she would have a good one. Then I lost my first lab, Mokie, to old age and illness. And my second lab, Murphy, died of heart failure, and it happened on the one weekend that Corey and I decided to go to the Outer Banks with friends, so she died without me.

I won’t let that happen to Shakes.

“Until we have seen someone’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.” ~ Marianne Williamson

The two boy Jack Russells came to us from my mother, who bought them from the woman who used to live behind her. I had always wanted a Jack Russell, that is, until I found out that they are truly terror terriers. Never mind. She brought them over and announced that they were birthday presents for the boys.

Shakes Sleeping like a Human

So we welcomed William Shakespeare (Shakes), and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Alfie) into the fold. Murphy was still alive at the time, and the boy puppies put a new spring into her step. We soon found that the boys were escape artists, managing to find any hole in the fence, regardless of size. The neighbors became aware of the two white dogs who lived on the corner, and sometimes returned them before we even knew that they had escaped.

Shakes has always been my dog, following me from room to room, sleeping by my side. Alfie, not so much. In fact, Alfie is probably a wee bit psychotic, going into prolonged growls for no apparent reason. Canine rage, it’s called. The vet prescribed meds, but said that Benadryl was just as effective. So Alfie gets his dose of Benadryl in a blob of peanut butter. Everyone is happier.

So my canine boys are old now, and I’m facing yet another loss. And as we all know, I don’t do loss well, and, well, this is coming at a time in which my defenses are already weakened, and my spirits are mighty low.

“We scribble our little sentences.
Some of them sound okay and some of them sound not so okay.
A grain and an inch, a grain and an inch and a half.

Sad word wands, desperate alphabet.” ~ Charles Wright, from “When You’re Lost in Juarez, in the Rain, and It’s Eastertime Too”

Let’s add a really fine topper to this whole situation, shall we? Corey is leaving tonight. It’s been great that he’s been home, but the time spent running around trying to take care of things has made it so that we’ve hardly had any time with each other, and now he’s gone for at least another five weeks or so.

Shakes and Tillie Vying for the Ladder

And so, and this is very selfish, I know, Shakes in all probability will die while Corey is away.

I dealt with Tillie’s massive seizures without him, and lots of extraneous bullshit without him, and no, this isn’t his fault, and I’m not even close to suggesting that. It’s time and circumstance, both of which seem to be in collusion to bring about that perfect storm (a phrase which used to have real meaning before the media seized upon it and used it ad infinitum), the circumstances in which I will surely approach that point at which just one more thing, even pebble-sized, when added to the precarious perch upon which I find myself, will send me crashing.

Did you follow that?

“Thus I spoke, more and more softly; for I was afraid of my own thoughts and the thoughts behind my thoughts.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

I know that I’ve mentioned the circumstances of my parents’ marriage more than once. Short version, my father spent most of their marriage (we’re talking decades and decades) at sea. They essentially lived separate lives until he retired, and when they were together, they fought and fought and fought.

Shakes Pulling Back the Curtains for a Peep Outside

It was never the kind of marriage to which I aspired. I mean, I’m not that kind of crazy. But now I find myself in the kind of marriage in which one of us is gone for weeks and weeks, out of touch by telephone, and yes, it’s great that there is e-mail, but it’s not the same. It’s just not the same.

Yes, he’s working. Yes, he’s making good money. Yes, we’re able to pay our bills. No, we’re not going to lose our house. No, our utilities are not going to be shut off. No, I’m not going to lose my health insurance.

The adult part of my brain, small that it is, understands all of this. But I have always been ruled by my heart, not my brain, and my heart aches. It simply cannot bear the weight of all of these things, piling on in quick succession. And, I have to say this because it’s true, I hate that, hate hate hate that about myself. Why can I not be better about all of this? Why can I not weigh the pros and cons rationally? Why can I not handle the stress with more aplomb and less angst?

I have no answers. Face it. If I had any answers, I wouldn’t be asking these stupid questions.

“All will go
And one day
We will hold
Only the shadows.” ~ Carl Sandburg, from “Losses”

Shakes Under Cover

So, full circle. Shakes is lying on the floor, head on front paws, breathing relatively well. The image seared into my retinas of his tongue hanging out of his mouth is still fresh, and it’s right there next to the horrid memory of Tillie’s face pulled back in pain and her eyes beseeching me. And all the while, I am of little more use than a lamp post.

We humans seek out animal kinship. We buy, find, rescue dogs, cats, birds, snakes, mice, lizards, even rats. We give these creatures names, and we bestow upon them human characteristics. We talk to them, play with them, feed them, and spoil them. That is, if we are decent humans deserving of animal companionship. I won’t even delve into those beastly humans who inflict great cruelty upon animals because, after all, they’re just fill-in-the-blank, and no, I have not nor will I ever forgive Michael Vick no matter how well he plays football.

I have spoiled Shakes. And in the past few days, I am deliberately spoiling him more, letting him go for car rides, giving him extra treats. I cannot control the fact that he is dying, but I can make his remaining time here as filled with love as is possible. I can say his name lovingly, rub behind his ears gently, and hold him when he has an attack.

And then I can go in the bathroom, turn on the water, and weep.

More later. Peace.

Music by Antony and the Johnsons, “Cut the World”

                   

The Wound

The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell

something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.

Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.

The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.

A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.

The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.

It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.

After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.

~ Ruth Stone

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“The blue was gathered in her hand, and she could feel it quiver, as if it had been given breath and was beginning to live.” ~ Lois Lowry, from Gathering Blue

“The Seine” (1930, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

                    

“It bothers me
because it’s summer now and sticky—no rain
to cool things down; heat like a wound
that will not close.” ~ Erin Belieu, from “Rondeau at the Train Stop”

Sunday afternoon. Sunny, hot, and humid, 90’s.

I’m all alone in the house, a rare occurrence. Corey is on watch; Eamonn is at Busch Gardens, and Brett is off with Emilie working on some mural. So just the dogs and me, which is a nice change.

“Garden at Midday” (1943, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

Apparently Corey is going to be in port longer than expected as there is a leak somewhere that has to be fixed. It would be nice of the captain changed their shifts to in-port watches for the duration, which would mean that he would work for eight straight hours instead of on and off around the clock. Yesterday the two of us went to Costco in between his watches, where I had some prints made of Olivia pix, mostly because my mother keeps bitching about how she has no pictures to show anyone.

I’ve decided that it’s so much easier to have the prints made rather than trying to print them at home, and I had a coupon, which made them $.09/print, which was a steal.

I do need to take some new pictures, though, as all of the ones I have are from her first week. It’s so weird to think that this past Friday makes four weeks. I had forgotten how quickly they change in very little time. She has a definite personality, definite likes and dislikes already, and she appears to have a strong will, which is good. The world needs more strong women, as far as I’m concerned. Anyone who contends that infants don’t have personalities has never spent much time with one.

“Hope as a living state that propels us, open-eyed and fearful, into all the battles of our lives. And some of those battles we do not win. And Some we do.” ~ Audre Lorde

So, let’s see . . . what’s new?

Well, I got my eyes examined, not by the person with whom I had scheduled an appointment but by the person at whose office I arrived mistakenly, only to find that he was the person that I thought I had scheduled the appointment with in the first place. Are you with me?

“Landscape, Sunset” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

As with so many things in my life, it was quite serendipitous, and I really liked this optometrist (so much more than the one from last year). He listened to me, and he was willing to try different lenses on me right then instead of making me come back three times.

Funny story: Appointment was on Friday. Wore contacts for a few hours on Saturday. Went to put contact in on Sunday, and the right one was missing, not in the case, not stuck to the lid, just gone. Called his office on Monday, he said that he’d give me a replacement, so he left it with the optical department a the Walmart to which he is adjacent since he’s not in on Tuesdays. Picked up the lens . . . Then . . .

I went home and did laundry. Looked in the dryer and noticed a contact case. Thought for a minute that it must be Eamonn’s, but then I noticed a green lid mixed in with the clothes. Now, I hadn’t lost the left lens; it was in the case. The case was in my pocket, the pocket of the khakis that I threw in the wash and then in the dryer. So . . . I have a replacement right lens, but the left lens is somewhere in the ether with all of the lost socks. I’m too embarrassed to call him again and say that I’ve lost the left lens, so here I am, still not able to see too well.

“I was thunderstruck. For an instant I stood like the man who, pipe in mouth, was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia, by summer lightning; at his own warm open window he was killed, and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon, till some one touched him, when he fell.” ~ Herman Melville, from “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

I have picked out the new frames or my glasses, but I haven’t yet ordered them. I’m getting the frames at Walmart (if you can believe it) because I really, really like them, and bonus! They’re quite inexpensive. But I’m getting the glasses made at Sam’s Club because they’re cheaper, and they take my insurance. It sounds good, but it involves going places, and quite frankly, it’s too damned hot to go places.

“Woman at her Window” (1895, oil on canvas)
Pierre Bonnard

I’m melting in this heat. Of course, I could go float in the pool, which would be both relaxing and refreshing. That is, I could if Eamonn had brought home the chemicals for the pool any day this past week, something I reminded him to do over and over. Then last night he had the nerve to give me a hard time when I reminded him again to take out the kitchen trash. What is it with kids that they pick the strangest battles at the strangest times? I mean really. Emptying the trash is worth taking a stand on? Are you serious?

I’m still spending a few hours each day helping Alexis, and then I come home and do dishes and laundry, and by 8 o’clock in the evening I feel like a dish rag wrung out too tightly, and I probably smell that way, too. The last thing I care to do is explain why doing one’s chores is actually a no-brainer.

Whatever. Yep. I’m ending this thought with whatever.

“We know nothing. Absolutely nothing.” ~ Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter

So Brett finishes his second section of pre-Calculus this week, and he’s fairly certain that he’s going to make an A. He showed me one of his answers to a test question—one page filled with numbers and symbols. Need I say that I was suitably impressed? Numbers mystify me. Some people look at calculations and see beauty, but I look and see squiggles and a headache. Brett sees beauty in numbers, but the really cool thing (in my opinion) is that he is also keenly attuned to language, so he’ll probably be one of those physicists who writes books that people can actually read. That and he has his art as well. My son, the renaissance man.

“Momisa” (1915, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

Actually, I loved math until my second year of algebra. Then, not so much.

I remember watching the movie Good Will Hunting, and one of the premises was this mathematical problem that was supposedly unsolvable (or something like that. My attitude towards an unsolvable math problem is something like this: Can’t solve it? Okay. Walks away completely content.

That’s how my brain works. On the other hand, I ponder over and over again things like what really happened to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or Amelia Earhart? What if Hitler had been killed—would the madness have ended then, or would someone else have just stepped into his place? Who came up with the format for a sestina, and why? Why do people claim that their short poems are Haiku when they don’t fit the 5/7/5 format? You know, the important things.

These things bother me, not an unsolvable math problem, which is why I will never find the cure for anything or ever solve the problem of cold fusion. I can probably live with that.

“Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” ~ Roland Barthes

That pretty much catches me up, not that the throngs are out there madly beating the drums requesting an update, although I do like to pretend that they are. Clamoring madly, that is.

“Tree by the River” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

I had hoped to give the dogs baths today, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s just too frigging hot. Of course, try telling Tillie that, who is at this moment sitting next to me looking up at me with big puppy eyes as if to say, “What? No running around outside? What’s up with that?

So no dog baths, no floor cleaning, not much of anything once I finish this post. Perhaps I’ll immerse myself in one of the books on my stack of things to read. It’s always nice to have once of those stacks. I tend to feel very deprived if I don’t have at least three or four books waiting in the wings, probably much like a heroin addict jonesing for his next fix.

Granted I don’t have the whole hollow-cheeked non-bathing thing going on, but I’m talking about the incessant need, the hunger, the feeling that if I don’t get a book/fix soon I may have to commit petty larceny or something. I’m thinking that my coffee may have been a bit too strong today.

Right . . . better stop now.

More later. Peace.

(*Pierre Bonnard, post-impressionist, images found on wikipaintings.org)

Music by Florence + The Machine, “Breath of Life”

                    

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them—

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading.  And I do.

~ Mary Oliver

“This is Dr. Reality´s office calling, you´re way overdue for your checkup . . . ” ~ Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice

Amble Pier by Jim Donnelly (FCC)

                    

“I wish you could live in my brain for a week. It is washed with the most violent waves of emotion . . . And you think it all fixed and settled. Do we then know nobody?—only our own version of them, which, as likely as not, are emanations from ourselves.” ~ Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville West,1926

Wednesday afternoon. Hazy but not quite as hot.

Pier by dendroica cerulea (FCC)

I had very vivid dreams last night. In the first, I was in the midst of a CSI episode, one in which the main character was Gil Grissom. I stopped watching the show after William Peterson left as he made the show (in my opinion). Anyway, the entire cast was there, and the earth was literally cracking—massive waves, the ground opening up and swallowing large masses of people. We were moving quickly, trying to stay ahead of the devastation. At one point, we got on an escalator, which in my mind in the dream did not make sense since the electricity should not have been working. Lots of running and screaming all around me, but I was fairly calm. Weird, very weird.

The other dream involved my dad. He told my mom that he was going to the grocery store, and I jumped in the car with him. It was our old VW bug. But he wasn’t really going to the grocery store; instead, he was going to visit his friend who owned a gas station/small convenience store. He wanted to have a beer with him, and I ruined his plan by jumping in the car.  He went anyway and left me in the car for a few minutes while he visited with all of his friends at the convenience store.

He left the car running, and it began to roll backwards. I pulled up the emergency brake, and it stopped rolling. My dad came out and asked me what happened, and I told him. He asked me to go into the store with him to help him carry something. He had bought two large glass containers that were etched on the outside. They were both over two feet tall. I was certain that my mother would hate them. On the way home, he told me that he really wanted to open a gas station with a small convenience store.

Suddenly, my mother was in the car, and she and I were arguing because I told her that I wanted to go home. My dad was in the passenger’s seat, and he had his old machete. He waved it in the air and told both of us to stop fighting. We didn’t.

I wanted to go home because I suddenly realized that I hadn’t turned in the last two assignments in one of my classes, and I hadn’t asked for an incomplete, so I was going to fail the class. I really needed to call my professor to tell her what had happened. My mother kept bitching at me.

Strangely enough, I did not wake up with a headache.

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Man on Tynemouth Pier by smlp.co.uk (FCC)

Dreaming about my dad is a very bittersweet experience. Almost always, the dreams are fairly realistic, as in he’s acting like my dad, and he looks and sounds like my dad. You know how sometimes in dreams people take on different voices or mannerisms? This never happens with my dad. But one thing that I have noticed is that in the most recent dreams, my mother is almost always with my dad. I’m not sure why that is.

I haven’t spent much time with my mother lately, and I feel guilty about that. I also haven’t visited my other m-in-law in a while, and I feel guilty about that as well. My ability to heap guilt upon myself is limitless and always has been. I probably would have made a great Puritan during the colonial period: hard work and guilt being my primary driving forces.

All would have been well, that is until I spoke my mind, and then I probably would have been burned as a witch. That whole timid female thing? Definitely not me.

I do wonder why I still have dreams about school. Usually, my stress dreams involve an algebra class that I have forgotten to go to all semester, and suddenly, it’s time for the final exam. But this time it was a sociology class, and I even recalled the name of my old professor in the dream—Dr. Dixie Dickinson. Isn’t that a strange detail to recall after all of these years?

I remember that she was one of my favorite professors, and that I took two classes that she taught because I enjoyed her so much.

“But when we reach the end of the pier of everything we know, we find that it only takes us part of the way. Beyond that all we see is uncharted water. Past the end of the pier lies all the mystery about our deeply strange existence . . .” ~ David Eagleman

Craigendoran Pier B&W by baaker2009 (FCC)

The quote? New author. Hence the pier theme. Seemed appropriate.

You know how yesterday I was so proud of the fact that we had no car trouble during our Ohio road trip? I should have known not to brag. The Rodeo broke down on Corey on his way home from school last night. Seems it wasn’t just the battery that went, but the alternator as well. Mike and Alexis brought Corey home, and surprise! Alexis let Corey borrow her new car to get to work last night for his second shift.

I felt so sorry for my poor hubbie yesterday. It was an endless parade of crappola in which he was the major participant: First shift his relief arrives an hour and a half late. He gets home with just enough time to change clothes and go to school. On the way home from school, the car dies. He has to be back at work at 11 p.m. This morning he woke me around 8:30 just to talk. He had been up over 24 hours, this after driving 12 hours on Sunday night/Monday morning.

At the moment, he is sound asleep, waiting for Mike to get home from work. Thankfully, Mike offered to help Corey change the alternator, which saves us the labor charge. Then tonight Corey has to go back to work at 11 p.m.

So all of my boasting about this being the best road trip ever came back to bite me in the ass. Fate has a very warped sense of humor. The rental car was a dream, but the Rodeo is another story. At least we didn’t try to drive the Rodeo to Ohio and have these breakdowns happen on the way there or on the way home. Just saying . . .

“Stripped of words, untamed, the universe pours in on me from every direction. I become what I see. I am earth, I am air. I am all. My eyes are suns. My hair streams among the galaxies.” ~Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories

Old Pier, Lobos Buenos Aires, AR by Irargerich (FCC)

I have come to a few conclusions. Let me share:

  • Our house is very crowded when filled with five people. I don’t remember it feeling this crowded before.
  • I’m very fortunate to be married to a man who still has dreams about the future.
  • In this country, the rich are now referred to as “job creators” (per Jon Stewart). Are we supposed to be able to swallow the bitter pill that allows the rich more tax breaks than the middle class if they aren’t called rich?
  • I do not want to live to be so old that I merely exist. That is not living.
  • I’m chewing my fingers again, which is a sure sign that I’m stressed without even realizing it.
  • I have felt old since I was young.
  • I try not to make fun of Mormons, but it’s so hard.
  • Coffee should always be served hot and strong.
  • When I was younger, I gave my heart to people who did not deserve it, but in so doing, I gradually learned to be more discerning.
  • Given the choice, I would choose more land and a smaller house as opposed to a bigger house and less land.
  • Salt air holds magical powers of rejuvenation.
  • I would prefer wall-to-wall bookcases over expensive furniture.
  • Something about Oregon is appealing.
  • My life has an omnipresent soundtrack, real and imagined.
  • I am still very self-conscious and feel like an ugly duckling when I am in large groups of people.
  • I have gotten to a point in my life in which a self-propelling vacuum is on my list of things I desire.
  • I still desire sunlight, moon glow, cool winds, the heady scent of gardenias, lilac, and fresh rosemary, sweet fresh peaches, hot tea at dusk, beautiful books, and the sound of waves hitting the shore.
  • I lost myself somewhere along the way, but I am slowly finding my way to a different state of being, one that trusts in myself more and harbors less resentment for past ills.
  • I am ageless—simultaneously old and young—and this I can accept.
  • When I run out of things to say, I can always find the perfect words from someone else:

“We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.”
~ T.S. Eliot

More later. Peace.

Music by Cee Lo Green, “What Part of Forever”

                   

Last night as I was sleeping

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

~ Antonio Machado (Trans. Robert Bly)