“Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak . . . surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.” ~ Hermann Hesse

The Fairy Host
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law*


“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still” ~ Sylvia Plath

Tuesday afternoon. Cloudy, showers, much cooler, low 60’s.

Well, Corey is in the Ascension Island for a few days. He hasn’t seen any giant sea turtles, but he says that the island is beautiful, crystal blue waters, clean beaches, no touristy stuff. Apparently, the turtles nest at night, and the road to their nesting ground is actually closed to traffic at night so as not to disturb the turtles. Isn’t that cool? Unfortunately for him, his watch shifts haven’t allowed him to be off the boat at the time the turtles are on the move, but he has seen the tracks in the sand, and he says that they are huge.

A Dream of Grace
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

From there, the ship is supposed to head to Brooklyn to go into the yard, where it will be for a month or so. He sounds content, but tired. I haven’t heard that tone in his voice in quite a while, so it’s very nice. I can’t express how wonderful it is to know that he’s doing something that he loves and is very good at doing, especially after four years of a roller coaster ride.

Four years? Yep, since 2008. Wow. That really is a long, long, long time to be unemployed and underemployed, but I know that we are fortunate because many people who lost their jobs when the recession hit are still out of work. I truly fear for this country, its shortsighted leaders who continue to believe that the struggling lower classes are lesser citizens, and who continue to reward the elite.

What happened to equity? Democracy? The American Dream?

“What syllable are you seeking,
Vocalissimus,
In the distances of sleep?
Speak it.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “To the Roaring Wind”

I don’t want to go off on a socio-political rant as it will just depress me, and I’m actually feeling a bit better emotionally. I haven’t been weepy in several days, so that’s a good thing.

White Knight of Bright Morning
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

We got a graduation announcement from Corey’s niece, his older brother’s daughter. Apparently Steve texted Corey twice for our address, which just stymies me as we send them a Christmas card every year, and have done so for over a decade. Anyway, his daughter is graduating, which is kind of weird as I remember when she was just a little girl who followed Eamonn around Corey’s parents’ house when we were visiting at Christmas.

They refuse to stay young.

In ten years they will all wish that they were just approaching their 20’s again. After ten years of the stresses of young adult life, they begin to see how easy life really was. I’m not at all saying that being a teenager is easy, because it’s not. The stressors are there, just of a different nature. And far too many young people come out of their teen years scarred and scared, with absolutely no idea of what the future might hold for them.

I never thought I’d be talking about today’s youth in that same tone of voice that I hated when I was younger, so I try to remember that all of those things that seemed terribly important, life-changing, heartbreaking, all of those things really did matter then. Only now am I able to place them in context.

“I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.” ~ Rumi

I ate a snack bag of Cheetos last night, really wanted them, but today I’m paying for it as I can feel the migraine creeping into my head. MSG. I don’t understand why food producers continue to use MSG when so many other things are available and so many people are sensitive to the additive. I try to tell myself that it won’t bother me, but 98 percent of the time when I ingest something with MSG I get a migraine. It’s that two percent that I’m hoping for.

Filling Up the Sea
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Silly me.

Last night Richard Gere and Mari were in my dream. Very, very strange. Apparently, I knew Gere. In the dream I’m taking Mari to the airport, but we’re in the Underground in Crystal City, Arlington, and we keep making wrong turns. At some point, the cast from “Law & Order” makes an appearance, and Jack McCoy is standing outside of the courtroom talking to Abby. I think to myself that Abby really is just as beautiful in real life as she is on television. Then I notice that she has a scar running down the side of her legs, and I think that she’s had an operation to make her thighs smaller. Richard Gere is wearing a white dress shirt but no tie, and he’s going in the same direction as Mari and me. The newspaper is across the street. Mari tells me that she has chronic pain but wonders why she didn’t get my old job at GW. There is a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

Make of that what you will.

“Whatever I looked at was alive, everything had a voice,
but I never found out were you a friend, an enemy,
was it winter, summer? Smoke, singing, midnight heat.
I wrote thousands of lines. Not one told me.” ~ Anna Akhmatova, from “Fragment, 1959,” (trans. Stephen Berg)

That creative spurt that I was going through a few weeks ago seems to have dried up. Gone. For a while, I had poems running through my brain constantly. Lines upon lines kept appearing. Now the only thing in my brain is pain and bad dreams. I knew that it wouldn’t last.

Tam Lin the Knight
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I’ve started to request galleys of books again. I thought that I would try to get back into writing reviews, like I was doing a few years ago. I had stopped requesting galleys when I stopped reviewing the books I was being sent. Knowing the publishing process, it didn’t seem right to request an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) without writing a review.

I’m also trying to stay caught up on Goodreads. I hadn’t updated my profile in ages, so I set a reading goal for myself in 2012: 60 books. I’m a little behind, but I should be able to make my goal by the end of the year. I don’t really do the social part of Goodreads—chatting with other people about what they’re reading, making friends, all of that. I just don’t get into that whole social networking, even if it is a reading site.

I know. I’m a curmudgeon. But you can’t say that I’m not honest about it.

If you’re an avid reader, and you haven’t discovered Goodreads yet, you should click on the link on my sidebar. It really is a nice resource for readers; they do book giveaways each month, and people do write some good reviews of books. At the very least, it is a great site for keeping a record of your books and for finding literary quotes.

“‎When you do not speak, the thousand stars that lay upon your tongue slide back down your throat only to be swallowed one by one, jagged, pointed and weighing more than planets.” ~ Tama Kieves

Speaking of age, as I was earlier, the Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys are touring. Aren’t they all 100 or so? I mean, even though Mick Jagger is ancient, I can kind of see him touring (not really sure why), but these guys? Whenever I think of the Beach Boys, unfortunately I think of Charles Manson. I know. It’s a weird association, but Manson’s desire to be taken seriously as a singer, his relationship with Dennis Wilson, are all part of what drove him to do the crazy things that he did.

Climbing the Dragon Gate
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

You know what’s really crazy? Manson’s music was actually used by some bands after he and his followers killed all of those people. Guns ‘n Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered his songs. Weird, huh?

If anyone does not deserve that kind of recognition, it’s Manson, but hey, we’re that kind of society: desirous of fame no matter what. Okay, maybe I’m generalizing, but I remember as a youth I wanted to be famous, wanted to sing on Broadway. Of course, my dreams of fame had nothing to do with being infamous, but I wanted that recognition, nonetheless.

The desire for fame is as old as time, though. As long as humans have been able to speak, someone has chosen to be the one to lead, and people have followed because of what they have heard. Even before speech, someone always stood out, took charge, and others went along. It’s a pack mentality that has evolved into the kinds of government that exist today. Think about it: Are our Congressional members really so different from the early hominids? In both cases, someone pounded their chest (literally or figuratively) and declared that he should be heeded because he, and only he knew what was right . . .

Yep.

More later. Peace.

*All images used with permission from the Fairy Tales and Mythology Gallery on Shadowscapes, the website of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I recommend clicking on each image to see full size.

Music by the Alialujah Choir, “A House, A Home”

                   

Of Distress Being Humiliated by the Classical Chinese Poets

Masters, the mock orange is blooming in Syracuse without
scent, having been bred by patient horticulturalists
To make this greater display at the expense of fragrance.
But I miss the jasmine of my back-country home.
Your language has no tenses, which is why your poems can
never be translated whole into English;
Your minds are the minds of men who feel and imagine
without time.
The serenity of the present, the repose of my eyes in the cool
whiteness of sterile flowers.
Even now the headsman with his great curved blade and rank
odor is stalking the byways for some of you.
When everything happens at once, no conflicts can occur.
Reality is an impasse. Tell me again
How the white heron rises from among the reeds and flies
forever across the nacreous river at twilight
Toward the distant islands.

~ Hayden Carruth

“We are fragmented into so many different aspects. We don’t know who we really are, or what aspects of ourselves we should identify with or believe in. So many contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings fight for control over our inner lives that we find ourselves scattered everywhere, in all directions, leaving nobody at home.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, from “Glimpse After Glimpse ”

Berenice Abbott: Blossom Restaurant, NYC (1935)

“Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.” ~ Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces

Tuesday early evening. Overcast and humid. White sky.

Berenice Abbott: City Arabesque (from roof of 60 Wall Tower, NYC) (1938)

Last night my dreams were filled with people from my past and present: Kathleen, another woman I used to work with in Northern Virginia who told me to keep my doors locked, and Patrick and Helma. In one part, I was living in (or just possibly staying in) the old townhouse that we used to rent in Alexandria. It was a spacious townhouse in a questionable neighborhood. I was there again, but the furnishings were not mine. The belonged to the women who owned the house.

There were four different sets of dishes, and I was trying to decide which ones to use to serve some hors d’oeuvres to guests. Then my ex was there but in the backyard. It was all very confusing as I didn’t know why this particular mix of people were in my home, so I just decided to make food.

In another part, I was on a ship, a cruise ship I think, but the propellers were visible, and they were attached to the bottom of the ship instead of the aft, and I was wondering how they could possibly propel the ship if they were attached in this way. So I decided to touch one, not too smart, I know, but it was made of plastic.

Some woman from the cruise line told me that they had to keep replacing the propellers because people were always touching them, and I thought to myself how inefficient. Make them out of metal (brass?), and put them out of reach.

Don’t ask me . . . they’re dreams.

“Listen.
We must all stop dying in the little ways,
in the craters of hate,
in the potholes of indifference—
a murder in the temple.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Children”

Berenice Abbott: Whelan's Drug Store (44th St and Eighth Ave, NYC) (1936)

The past two days have been very stressful for reasons that I don’t particularly care to revisit at the moment. Suffice it to say that external forces are rearing their ugly heads again like a giant Lernaean Hydra, and each time I manage to cut of one head, two more grow back.

Sometimes, in this particular venture, I truly feel like Hercules, only I’m stuck cleaning out the dung-filled Augean stables over and over again, and my only relief is when I do battle with ugly monsters like the Hydra and the boar. But what I must keep reminding myself is that no one expected Hercules to succeed.

I know that you might be surprised by this particular revelation, but I do not cotton well to males who try to assert their authority over me through power plays. My response is to dig deeper, entrench further, rather than to cede. I’m not suggesting that this is a particularly endearing trait as I am well aware that it is not, but there is just something in me—the same thing that rebels against the idea of being called a housewife—that does not like the idea of someone trying to put me in my place.

I know my place, and it’s not ten steps behind, nor is it in the proverbial kitchen. My place is anywhere I want it to be.

Look, I’m a woman who came of age during a period in society in which roles were shifting greatly, and I like to think that I played a part in breaking some boundaries, that I helped in my own way to educate and enlighten a few people along the way to the realities that women are people, that women can be intelligent and strong, that women can be in charge, that women are not their reproductive system, and all of the rest.

So don’t imply that I’m a “little miss,” even if you don’t have the balls to say it to my face. I won’t act well either way.

“I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed” ~ John Steinbeck

Berenice Abbott: Columbus Circle, NYC (1938)

Ooh. I just had the most marvelous surprise arrive by post. My online friend Leah in NC sent me a care package: four bars of Godiva with a tag to use in emergencies only.

Oh, Leah, if you only knew how very, very much my soul delights in such small joy. I have restrained myself from tearing into one immediately (salt caramel . . .) so that when I finally do succumb, the pleasure will be that much better.

I must say that while I do not have a large following, and I am not read by hundreds of people all over the world, the people who do visit me are so incredible: I addition to Leah, I have my dear, dear friend Sarah who continues to stand by me decades later, my friend Maureen in Australia who keeps me close to her heart, my New Zealand friend Veronica who sends me some of her beautiful photographs and shares recipes, and a few others who may or may not want to be mentioned.

As is the case in life in general, I would much rather have a handful of people in my corner who truly want to be there than a hundred people on my side who have but an ephemeral loyalty to my best interests.

“let’s pour the night
into our stone water jars
this song isn’t red flowers
crushed under silence” ~ Yusef Komunyakaa, from “Blues Chant Hoodoo Revival”

Berenice Abbott: Herald Square (34th and Broadway, NYC) (1936)

Okay, so where was I? (Well yes, I had a taste. Of course I had a taste. It takes a lot of energy to clean these stables) . . .

Oh yes. The stress, and discretion is the better part of valour (prefer the British spelling of that particular word).

I abide by the common courtesies. I know how to shake hands properly and to look people in the eye. I say my pleases and thank yous, and I try (really), try to be polite on the telephone. I was taught the Golden Rule at a young age, and have always found it to be a very good maxim when dealing with people.

All that being said, what has happened to the niceties? People who think they can run roughshod over others? What’s that about? I mean, not just in a personal sense, but take the Wall Street actions. I’ve seen several snarky comments in which critics call the protestors “hippies,” as if that equates them with the dregs of the earth. I’ve read comments in which the protests are being compared to what happened with college students in the 60’s.

Well, hello? What happened because of the 60’s protests was a good thing, remember? Social change, the end of an unjust war, desegregation? Those were actually good things. Those hippies? They believed in peace. No, they didn’t wear the best clothes, and perhaps their personal hygiene wasn’t what you would have wanted, but their messages? Good things.

What is happening in this country right now in New York is but a reflection of what has been happening all over the world in recent years: Social protest against unjust policies, cruel regimes, and financial ruin. I think it’s about time.  I mean, the latest news reports indicate that Wall Street bonuses this year are set to equal or surpass last year’s bonuses . . .

How many of us lost a lot of our retirement funds when Wall Street crashed a few years ago? I know that I did. So don’t talk to me about how these protests are quaint. These protestors are doing what so many of us gripe about but take no action against, and if I were in New York, I’d be out there.

Everything must have been once. That’s why life seems to me like a ghostly undulation. History does not repeat itself; yet it seems as if our lives are caught in the reflections of a past world, whose delayed echoes we prolong. Memory is an argument not only against time but also against this world. It half uncovers the probable worlds of the past, crowning them with a vision of paradise. Regrets spring from the nadir of memory.” ~ E. M. Cioran, Tears and Saints, (trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston)

Berenice Abbott: Tempo of the City (Fifth Ave and 44th St, NYC) (1938)

So what does Wall Street have to do with my street, with my personal situation? More than you might think. Far too many of us in American society have had serious setbacks in recent years. Far too many of us are struggling just to survive. Far too many of us have lost jobs, lost homes, lost health coverage, and some have lost everything.

Why? Not because we’re lazy, or because we choose not to work. I read post after post about recent college grads who are coming out of school thousands of dollars in debt with school loans and absolutely no prospects for work. I read about one woman with a college degree who makes $7.50 an hour and spends most of her income repaying her school loans.

Are there slackers? Of course there are. Are there people who abuse the system? Of course. But far too many of us do not fall into that category.

Me and mine? We are better off than most. We have food and shelter and a vehicle. We do not live beyond our means, have no credit cards, have no new car payments, have an old house that needs a multitude of repairs, and some of us in this family have health insurance. But we’re surviving. Things aren’t ideal, but truthfully, are they ever?

Four of the five people living in this house are going to college, thankfully with some Pell Grant money, some scholarship money, and a bit of student loans. Four of the five people living in this house are relatively healthy. You don’t need to tell me that we should be grateful, because we are. I guess I just needed to say that.

Like the trees

I don’t know what to sing.” ~ Eduardo Chirinos from Reasons for Writing Poetry

Berenice Abbott: Gasoline Station (Gremont Ave and Dock St, NYC) (1936)

So what happened to set me off on this rant? Everything and nothing. I must remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, Hercules finished his labors. He did not stay in those stables forever, and the Hydra? Well she was vanquished as well.

My personal Hydra seems to keep sprouting new heads, and once in a while, that really torques me out of shape, but not because those heads do anything more than smell pretty bad.

Discretion is the better part of valour.

I don’t always remember that, but I try. I just have a really hard time when someone threatens, even remotely, those who I consider to be under my protection, under my sheltering wing, if you will. It does not sit well, let us say, when aggressive tactics, time-wasting efforts start my week off on a bad note. And so I say and do things that I would not normally say or do. Whatever.

It’s Tuesday. It looks like rain. I have chocolate. The music is playing, and I laughed out loud a few times today. Life, in spite of all of my assertions to the contrary, is good. Sometimes I’m looking at it through a veil of pain, and sometimes it is a veil of tears, but when the rain passes, and the clouds break, the sky is still there, filled with stars or sunshine.

Outside the sky is darkening. I can do this.

More later. Peace.

Music by Fink, “Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us”

*All images from New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Berenice Abbott

                   

Personal

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

~ Tony Hoagland

“Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“Tree Shadows in the Park Wall, Roundhay, Leeds” by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1872)

                   

“Life goes on grinding up 
glass, wearing out clothes 
making fragments 
breaking down 
forms 
and what lasts through time 
is like an island on a ship in the sea, 
perishable 
surrounded by dangerous fragility 
by merciless waters and threats.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Ode to Broken Things” 

"October Gold," by John Atkinson Grimshaw (ca 1880s, oil on canvas)

Saturday afternoon in my mother’s living room.

Another entire week has passed between posts, and the only thing that I wanted to do this week was to write. In the small interludes between television and other things, I have had no signal, so I sit here and play Spider Solitaire for a few minutes, hoping that the small icon in the bottom right of my screen will change from a big red X to a globe.

So this is the latest: My mother is much better; she is bitching at everyone about everything, so I know that she is feeling close to normal. She is even thinking about going to bingo. Therefore, I will begin gathering my possessions and making the physical and mental move two miles to my own home where my exceedingly patient spouse, son, and not-so-patient dogs are awaiting me.

The time is right for everyone. My back is pretty much fried from sleeping on couches and attempting to lift things that I should not lift. Each time a knot makes its way into the small of my back, I cannot help but flash on the face of the judge who ruled that I’m just fine, that I could go back to a job similar to one I previously held. Need I say my hankering to accost him verbally simmers close to the surface frequently these days . . .

“Meaning is not in things
but in between them.” ~ Norman O. Brown

"November Moonlight," by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Instead of measuring my days in coffee spoons, I find myself measuring the day by what my mother has on the tv: If it’s “The Price is Right,” it must be 11 a.m. I know that I have been here too long as I find myself shouting out answers to game show questions on the television, and immediately afterward I think, “who is this person?”

Today, though, I am taking advantage of this small break in predictability, hoping against hope that I can at least finish the written part of this post before my mother wakes from her nap and/or before I lose the signal I am pirating.

Truthfully, the past four or five days I have really felt the totality of what the past two months have brought. Not only is my back killing me all of the time, but I spent three days on the precipice of a tearful meltdown. The only thing standing between me and incipient darkness was the realization that I did not have the time or the luxury to wallow. That is not to say that I was pleasant, though, as I know that I was as prickly as a wasp.

I must say that this Oreo generation crap is more tiresome than people might think but for reasons that are not obvious: If I cough, my mother immediately says that I am getting a cold. I get out of the shower, and she relentlessly harps that I must dry my hair immediately lest I die of consumption (okay, a bit of an exaggeration, there). I made the mistake of grabbing my head in pain when a migraine seized me suddenly while I was in the living room, so now she is looking for migraine remedies on television medical shows.

I have not lived in my parents’ house for many, many years, so this return to parent/child communication in which I am the latter and not the former is quite grating. But I bite my tongue as much as possible. Speaking of which, the stress has found yet another route in my body: my mouth. I have ulcers in my mouth, and this current bout of thrush does no seem willing to abate anytime soon. Both conditions make food taste odd. No big loss there.

“So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Sound of the Sea”

"Whitby Harbour at Moonlight," by John Atkinson Grimshaw (oil on canvas)

I can identify at least one source of my continuing melancholy: Everywhere I look, I see things that remind me of the past, of my father, of my childhood, of days that were good and days that were bitter. I mean, it’s different from visiting your parents and coming across something from the past, and recalling a memory here or there.

Having all of my past infused into every waking hour has definitely culminated in oversaturation. For example, I have taken to hiding in the den, which is more removed from the living room and the television than my old bedroom. The den was actually not added to my parents’ house until the year that I married my ex, so that means eons ago. But the den has always been one of my favorite places in this house, and it was the room in which my father would take his long afternoon naps after his back prevented him from lying on the floor in the warm rays of the afternoon sun that seeps into my parents’ living room (a habit that I used to emulate).

Anyway, in the den is one of those tables that is made from an actual tree, knots and all. This table was brought over from the Philippines many years ago. On this table is a keep-all box that is also made from a tree; the outer edges are varnished bark. I was sitting in the den one evening, and these two objects caught my eye. I ran my hands over the gnarls of the table, and a shiver went down my spine. It’s that tactile influence on memory.

“Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony.” ~ Lou Reed

"In the Golden Olden Time," John Atkinson Grimshaw (oil on canvas)

This house is so full of memory—memory of anger and raised voices, discontent and disquietude. Most of the happiness that resides within these walls comes from the years in which my children were young and spent so much time here with my mom and dad while I was working full-time. Only with their grandchildren did my parents reach a kind of stasis in the long battle that was their uneasy marriage. 

The memories from my own childhood in this house are a confused jumble of both joy and sadness. It probably would not surprise you at all to know that I was a solitary child, not just an only child but a solitary one—a child quite content to spend long periods of time alone. I did have close friends with whom I would spend hours and hours on a Saturday just doing the things that kids do, but I also had many hours alone, and I don’t remember being particularly bothered by that, save for the few times in which I longed for a sibling.

But I remember months on end during which my father was at sea, and it was just my mother and myself. I remember going to the movies with her, before the days of multiplexes, and occasionally we would travel to North Carolina to visit one of her sisters and my cousins. Mostly, though, I remember being alone, reading.

Do not misunderstand, I was neither abused nor neglected, but I sought my own escapes from the constant thread of tension that existed in any situation involving prolonged interaction between my parents. Having spent nearly two months here as an adult, far removed from those days, I still sense that tension. Perhaps I bring it with me as it is permanently interwoven into memory. I really don’t know. I only know that I have reached the point at which I sense its omnipresence, and I long for freedom, much in the same way that I did as a young woman.

Thomas Wolfe was, of course, correct: You cannot go home again.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sarah McLachlan, “My Skin”

                   

Ode To Broken Things

Things get broken 
at home 
like they were pushed 
by an invisible, deliberate smasher. 
It’s not my hands 
or yours 
It wasn’t the girls 
with their hard fingernails 
or the motion of the planet. 
It wasn’t anything or anybody 
It wasn’t the wind 
It wasn’t the orange-colored noontime 
Or night over the earth 
It wasn’t even the nose or the elbow 
Or the hips getting bigger 
or the ankle 
or the air. 
The plate broke, the lamp fell 
All the flower pots tumbled over 
one by one. That pot 
which overflowed with scarlet 
in the middle of October, 
it got tired from all the violets 
and another empty one 
rolled round and round and round 
all through winter 
until it was only the powder 
of a flowerpot, 
a broken memory, shining dust. 

And that clock 
whose sound 
was 
the voice of our lives, 
the secret 
thread of our weeks, 
which released 
one by one, so many hours 
for honey and silence 
for so many births and jobs, 
that clock also 
fell 
and its delicate blue guts 
vibrated 
among the broken glass 
its wide heart 
unsprung. 

Life goes on grinding up 
glass, wearing out clothes 
making fragments 
breaking down 
forms 
and what lasts through time 
is like an island on a ship in the sea, 
perishable 
surrounded by dangerous fragility 
by merciless waters and threats. 

Let’s put all our treasures together 
— the clocks, plates, cups cracked by the cold —
into a sack and carry them 
to the sea 
and let our possessions sink 
into one alarming breaker 
that sounds like a river. 
May whatever breaks 
be reconstructed by the sea 
with the long labor of its tides. 
So many useless things 
which nobody broke 
but which got broken anyway

~ Pablo Neruda

This is your mind on . . .

mri-of-migraine

MRI of a Full-Blown Migraine

Today’s Topic: Brains and How They Sometimes Don’t Work

Isn’t it beautiful? Looks like something that could have been done by one of our contemporary artists, depicting a monster of some sort, branching out, seeking entry any way that it can. The casual observer, having no idea what she is looking at, could be mesmerized by the successive branches, the way that they crawl, unabated. In a way, it reminds me of Sigourney Weaver’s Alien: not in its form but in its relentlessness. If only I had one of those wonderful guns that she had in one of those movies (don’t remember if it was 1, 2, or 3) so that I could blast the living hell out of it; of course, that would mean blasting the living hell out of my head . . .

But if you’ve ever experience a real migraine, you might concur that that option might not seem like a bad idea.

I’ve suffered from migraines since I was a teenager. I’ve gone through periods during which they have been debilitating, lasting for weeks, and then periods in which they have been dormant. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. Medical science will tell you that women suffer from migraines more than men; I would like to add that that is probably because women have to deal with inanity more than men, but we shall not go there today as I do not have the stamina for that argument.

Common triggers for migraines include caffeine, but caffeine is also used as a curative for migraines. Explain the logic in that. One time, while my doctors were trying to find something to relieve the pain of my migraines they gave me something called cafergot, which made me so deathly ill that I threw up for hours, which tends to defeat the purpose of alleviating pain (have you ever thrown up with a migraine? Just try bending over with a migraine . . .).

Other triggers can include chocolate, peanuts, red wine, stress, sleeplessness, certain fragrances, bright lights, MSG, pot, and loud noises.

I love peanut butter and good chocolate. I suffer from bouts of insomnia. I used to work with a woman who bathed herself in Giorgio perfume. My dogs know when I have a migraine and bark in unison at air. I love Chinese food, which usually contains MSG. When I worked, I never turned on the overhead lights, and always caught crap about it because no one believed that it triggered my headaches; they just thought that I was being eccentric, which I am, but I wasn’t.

One of the worst migraines I ever had lasted for weeks and weeks. I imagined the worst scenarios. I had a CT scan of my head, and a CT scan of my sinuses to see if perhaps they were impacted. That was one of the most painful tests I have ever endured, mostly because I was in pain from the migraine, and the test involved putting myself face down for the test . . . lovely. In the end, the doctors decided that the migraine was probably caused by my body readjusting itself post-partum (I had just had my second child), and my hormones were out of whack.

But about four years ago, I finally found a pain management group that treats my back pain and my migraines. I’m now on a maintenance medication to try to prevent the migraines, and then I have a relief medication that I can take at the onset of a migraine. This usually works, the key word being usually. Sometimes, though, there are still the rare ones that knock me off my feet for a few days.

This one now is the result of being off my maintenance medication for a week (a snafu in my mail order for my refills), and compounded stress. In fact, I just realized that I’m typing with squinted eyes, which means that I probably should sign off for now. I just wanted to share the beautiful artwork with you and let you know that yes, I’m around, but now, I won’t be writing one of my usual blongs.

More sometime later. Peace.

Ever The Same

jessie-willcox-smith-new-years-baby
Jessie Willcox Smith, watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil, 1910

“New Year, Same Goal” ~ Joe King 

About that resolution thing . . .

So I tell a friend of mine that I’m going to write about my resolutions for 2009 in my New Year’s blog. Then I realize that that means  that I actually have to put down resolutions for everyone to see, and I’m thinking, hmm, is this really a good idea, what with me putting my whole life out here on a daily basis? And people who really know me know how much of a procrastinator I am, and people who know Corey know how much more of a procrastinator he is, and between the two of us, it’s a wonder anything gets done unless we happen to be cycling on an energy upswing, which hasn’t happened in quite a while, what with the whole unemployment and ensuing downturn in the economy and predictable downturn in moods and related downturn in funds for projects, and then the back, and now the shoulder, and you see where I’m going . . . don’t you?

Breathe . . . two . . . three . . . four.

“New Year’s Resolution: To t0lerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” ~ James Agate

But actually, there really are things that I would like to put on my “resolve to accomplish” list for 2009, and then really work on accomplishing them, so I shall take a stab at it, as they (just who are they, anyway?) say.

Resolved:

To write at least two hours daily. I have found that when I do this, I feel much better about myself, feel as if I have accomplished something, and feel that I am making headway in my long-term goal towards creating something publishable.

To try (key word being try) to stay more organized so that I don’t miss doctor’s appointments or get the times or dates wrong.

To help Brett get through the rest of this school year without over-stressing.

To work on our personal debt that has grown since the big financial crash of 2008.

To put together the rest of the dining room chairs, and start having dinner together as a family at least half of the time each week.

To download the pictures in the camera and to start doing something with them.

To start scrap booking (see above) and quit thinking that I’ll remember all of this stuff because I won’t

To take better care of myself by getting on the training bike every morning for at least 15 minutes (I can do that, 15 minutes, right?) so that I’m getting some kind of exercise, since I can’t do free weights right now with my shoulder.

To make sure that Corey takes better care of himself by quitting smoking, or at least cutting back, and stops eating things that are bad for his heart.

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives . . . looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And a few more:

To paint my bedroom by mid-February so that the bedroom furniture can come out of the boxes in the living room.

To take up the rest of the old carpet in the living room and dining room by March.

To paint the living room and dining room by April.

If Corey has a job, to finish renovating the garage by the end of summer.

To start to work on the deck in the fall.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” ~ Brooks Atkinson

I think that that’s a pretty comprehensive list. I’m certain that I could add lots more, but I don’t want to overdo it. If I add too much, then I’ll look at the list and start to feel overwhelmed and as they say in the old Monty Python movies, I would have to “run away.” But there are just a few more that I feel a need to add:

Find the copy of the Blade (first) DVD that is lost somewhere in this house

Fix my dangling black earrings that have been sitting in the dish on my dresser

Backup my hard drive because my computer has been acting wacky.

There. I think that takes care of everything, from the mundane to the lofty. Some of these I know that I will be able to accomplish. That’s why I put them on here, just to be able to give myself a sense of accomplishment. Some of these I might get done, but maybe not within the time frame that I’m hoping for. Some things I didn’t put on here because they are a given, and I don’t want to jinx them. I just want everyone out there to send good thoughts to help them happen. And these are the two most important: That Corey can find a job on a boat very, very soon, and that I can find some relief from this constant pain, which I know is exacerbated by the stress.

Thank you for visiting and reading. It means a lot. I hope that you and yours have a very safe and happy 2009. Peace be with you.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S. Eliot