“These hands — the hands that care, the hands that mold; the hands that touch the lips, the lips that speak the words — the words that tell us we are whole.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God

Lord Howe Island Photos
View from Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia
Source: tripadvisor.com

                   

“You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently

Why hold onto all that? And I said,
Where can I put it down?” ~ Anne Carson, from “The Glass Essay

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy, low 80’s, showers expected.

Yesterday I had to buy a new lawn mower. Ours finally died, and with Corey gone it was up to me to purchase a new one. I went to Sears and picked up a Craftsman with a Briggs and Stratton engine. I applied my little knowledge about mowers and mower engines, and rolled it around the floor to get a feel for it, and then dropped $231 plus tax (sale price). That means that within the last week I have spent $600 on unexpected, emergency purchases.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Do I even need to say how painful this was and is? That’s money that could have gone to catch up my health insurance payments. Money that could have gone towards ordering my much-needed glasses. Money that could have gone towards anything but plumbing and a mower.

Corey is really hard on mowers, and he goes through one every three years or so. This is kind of a foreign concept to me as the mower that I had before Corey )that’s how I categorize everything: before Corey and since Corey) was about 10 years old. I also had a lawn tractor that my dad bought me after my ex left. When I mowed the yard, and yes, I did indeed, I cleaned the mower after each use and put it back in the shed. I would really like for this mower to be stored in the shed, but that means that I need to go out there and make room in the shed, which resembles our garage: massive piles of who-knows-what seemingly placed by a tornado-force wind. I know this to be true because I just took a peek in there.

Disheartening, but hey, I have a new job, right? Right…………………..

“Hear how the mouth,
so full
of longing for the world,
changes its shape?”  ~ Mark Doty, from “Difference

So while mower shopping, I took Brett to purchase some new clothes for school (with his money). He managed to spend $100 and got some new pants, a vest, and several t-shirts. I tried to explain to him that he got a lot for his money, but Brett is, well, thrifty. I understand why, and I suppose it’s good that someone in this family is so inclined as I’m always out there spending money on frivolous things like, say, a lawn mower, and food, and utility bills.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Sorry, a bit on the testy side today.

We stopped by Alexis’s apartment on the way home. She was having one of those days: Olivia is not taking to her new swing. I could not have survived without a baby swing. All of my kids loved it, especially Alexis, who would become calm as soon as the swing began to move, but with those old swings, you had to wind them to make them work, and just as she’d fall asleep, the swing would stop. I would wind it, which would wake her, and the whole process began again. Now, they plug in or use batteries and are so quiet. I really hope Olivia adjusts to hers as the swing is the one item that allowed me to actually begin to eat meals again like an adult, you know, sitting down with utensils, instead of standing and on the run.

While I was there I did her dishes, made formula, and gave Olivia a bath. Just these little things really help Lex, and it doesn’t take me any time at all. Of course, by the time I got home after the stress of shopping and spending money, I was beyond tired.

“If I expect as little as possible, I won’t be hurt.” ~ Susan Sontag in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

Later that same day . . .

I took an extended break to do a few things: clean Capt. Jack’s fish bowl, clean Eamonn’s fish bowl, play ball with Tillie and Shakes, and bathe the dogs (well, Alfie was a half bath as he had one of his psychotic episodes, and I really didn’t feel like dealing with it). I’m really, really hoping that someone puts the lawn mower together today or tomorrow morning. Just as I’m hoping a different someone will clean out some space in the shed.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sunset on Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

And I’m really, really hoping that neither of those someone’s are me, but I’m not holding my breath.

Wow. That was really passive/aggressive, wasn’t it? Oh well.

I love my sons, but they don’t take initiative, at least not at home. It reminds me of their father, which is unfortunate. He was great at helping his friends at a minute’s notice, but not so much around here, which is why I took it upon myself to learn some basics about doing things around the house. Not only did I mow the yard, but I used to edge and trim, wash my car, change my oil, and trim the bushes. I know how to change a fixture, do some basic plumbing, and clean gutters.

My mantra? It doesn’t take a penis to use a power tool.

Knowing is only half of it, unfortunately. Being able to do it is the other half, and that’s where I’m stymied. Corey, however, is super handy around the house, which is why things break when he’s away. Which principle is that? Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives (a corollary to Murphy’s Law): Anything that can go wrong will—at the worst possible moment. Yep, that’s how I live my life.

Oh, and by the way, resistentialism also applies (spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects): On the way to pick up Eamonn, the Rodeo’s “Check Engine Light” came on again. Is it not enough that I just spent $1200 on everything from brakes, to tires, to shocks, to oxygen sensors on that damned vehicle? Apparently not.

“there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “Alone with Everybody

Just a bit of a continuation on the last section: I went into the garage to check the laundry, and the washer is leaking. This is probably a direct result of my prior bragging about my plumbing skills; ergo, Sod’s Law, second law, actually: Sooner or later, the worst possible set of circumstances is bound to occur. (For a complete list of all eponymous laws and adages, click here.

Anyway, today’s pictures relate to one of my obsessions: Lord Howe Island, in New South Wales, Australia. Apparently, this little bit of paradise is relatively untouched by the very things that tend to ruin island paradises: too much development, too much commercialism, and too may tourists. I want to go there some day, preferably sooner rather than later. I used to want to go to Hawaii, but time seems to have ruined the last state in the union: overdeveloped, overpriced, overcrowded.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sea Turtle, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Speaking of places, I was reading an article on The Daily Beast about the smartest cities in the country, and quell surprise?! Norfolk, VA ranks as #35 out of 55 listed. Norfolk’s 2009 ranking was 41st. Out of a metropolitan population of 1,675,792, 17 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 10 percent have graduate degrees, as compared to #1, which is . . . Boston, MA with 24 and 18 percent, respectively.

According to the article, scores were compiled based on adults with degrees, as well as data collected from Lumos Labs, which was used to analyze cities in five cognitive areas: “memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The median Lumos Labs score, presented as an estimated IQ score, was worth 50 percent of our final, weighted ranking.” Norfolk’s IQ score was 88.33, as compared to Boston’s score of 176.68.

Who would have ever thought it? I’m just full of irrelevant trivia today.

“I remember the first time I realized the world we are born into is not the one we leave.” ~ Mary Ruefle, from “I Remember, I Remember, On the handsome roofers, attentive cows, and sudden tears of youth

And finally . . .

I want to send my love to Corey’s family in Ohio. Recent events have hit everyone hard, and I’m thinking of all of you. Corey’s Uncle Tom passed away this past week, and I know that my f-in-law John has been hit hard. Big hugs to Alana. Also, my m-in-law Joyce is having back surgery at the end of the month, so I’m wishing her well and hoping that she has good results.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Blinky Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

I think that I’ll stop here for now with a few more glorious shots of Lord Howe Island, and the really intriguing Balls Pyramid, which was discovered in 1788. The former Pacific shield volcano juts out 1,843 feet, making it the world’s tallest sea stack. The first successful climb to the summit was made in 1965. Climbing has since been banned without permission from the minister of state.

                   

Lord Howe Island Photos
Side View of Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com
Lord Howe Island Photos
Aerial View of Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Music by David J. Roch, “Skin and Bones”


                   

Why We Must Struggle

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

~ Kay Ryan

“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work” ~ Susan Sontag’s thoughts on writing, from her diaries

                   

“Whatever I do I must
keep my head. I know
it is easier for me to lose my way
forever here, than in other landscapes” ~ Margaret Atwood, from Journey to the Interior

Sunday, late morning. Sunny, not as hot, but thunderstorms predicted for later, 80’s.

I had big plans to write on Friday and Saturday, but I became distracted by all of the things that still needed to be done, like sorting my files on this computer, cleaning my desk, giving the dogs a bath, cleaning the floors . . . I used to think that if I had a bigger house, that it wouldn’t get so messy, but now I realize that the mess would just be bigger. The dogs would still come in with wet paws; people would still leave mail in odd places, and dishes would just have more places to get lost in if there were more space.

Pigmy Manta Rays at Aussie Point, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffhanger (FCC)

Anyway, Corey had an uneventful flight to New York, and he’s all settled in to his quarters; he sounds tired, though. The ship is actually coming to Norfolk this coming week to take on a load. Have to love that. I have no idea as to how long he’ll be in port, but I’ll take what I can get. Tillie is already missing him as she is acting out quite a bit. She wakes me up with a ball in her mouth as if to say, “Now? Now?” Or she sits on the bed while I’m at the computer, and she talks to me (yes, talks).

Tonight, we get to babysit Miss Olivia while Alexis and Mike go to a surprise birthday party for her friend Jennifer, who has been cancer free for over a year now (who would have thought?), I believe. Eamonn is very excited that the baby will be here. I wonder how excited he’ll be when I tell him to change a diaper . . . Speaking of the baby, I still haven’t downloaded the pictures from the camera, but I figured that I’d just take a few more today, and then download the whole bunch. How’s that for logic?

“I am
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
amazed
as any other
that
I have gotten
from there to
here . . .” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “The People Look Like Flowers At Last”

So I have clean dogs, a clean desk, clean floors. I’ve almost finished going through the pile of papers, and I’ve almost finished the Social Security form. I had my eye exam and was fitted properly for multi-focal lenses (which I don’t happen to have in at the moment) and now have a new prescription for glasses. I’ve picked out the frames, just have to buy them and take them to Sam’s Club to get the lenses put in. I seem to have accomplished quite a bit.

Top Shelf, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

So why do I feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing? Last night I dreamt that it was time for final exams, and I hadn’t been to two of my graduate classes and was behind in turning in assignments. I was trying to explain to my professors that I had been sick, but to no avail. One of my instructors did offer me some candy to make me feel better, but she still wasn’t going to accept any late assignments, and I needed to read two books in one day for a final exam. Such a stressful dream, but so telling: I’m behind even when I’m ahead.

Last night when I was backposting for this past week, I felt genuinely sad and disappointed in myself. I mean, I do like what I’ve posted, the poems, the quotes, but they aren’t real posts, are they? At least not real within the parameters that I’ve set for myself. I never wanted this blog to become a chore, but last night it felt that way, felt a bit like the song of the albatross (which is something I said once upon waking from a dream(?)), but that feeling is another reason that I did not go on to write more then.

Did that make any sense?

“Sometimes it gets lonely here,
the sea water collapses
out beyond the horizon
like the dream I thought
I understood, only to find
waking harder than the dream’s horizon.” ~ Michael Burkard, from “Directly in Shadow”

I feel as though I’m a walking jumble of emotions all of the time, not just here and there, but all the time, and that’s quite disconcerting. I’m happy that Olivia is here, and she’s healthy and happy and good-natured (as far as one can tell about an infant). I’m sad that Corey is gone for another three months, but I’m glad that he’ll be in port soon, but it will be hard to gear myself up to say goodbye again.

Rock Hind in a Sponge, Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire
NOAA Photo Library (FCC)

I’m glad that we’re doing much better financially, but I’m so sad that Corey is working at a job that keeps him from going to college and keeps him away from the family for long stretches. I’m glad that Brett has found a major that he truly loves, but I wish that he knew how to drive, but I understand why he doesn’t want to learn.

I’m glad that my mother seems relatively healthy, but I’m terrified because I think that I’m seeing signs of Alzheimer’s, and I have no idea as to how to approach her about this.

I’m delighted that I have my computer back and that everything is set up and working, but seeing it sitting here on this desk is almost like an unspoken taunt: What are you going to do now? I kept promising myself that I would do this and this and that once I got my computer fixed. Okay, so it’s time. Now what?

“Greedy for life, we forget in body and soul our hopes for the future until reality teaches us that tomorrow is not what we had dreamed, and we discover nostalgia.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from “Memories of My Melancholy Whores”

So, dear readers, I feel as if I have arrived at some sort of juncture in my life, Frost’s two roads, if you will. What I find immensely strange is that most of the time in life we do not have such a clear indication that the juncture is before us. We make choices, change our lives, and then we realize that there was a turning point. Sometimes the junctures are obvious: Do I go to graduate school? Do I get married? But I think that most of the time, they are not so obvious.

Skull Island Wall, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

For example, in the back of my mind I have had a certain date looming: October 2012. That’s the point at which my student loans for my last graduate degree will be forgiven as I am on disability. Now, once that happens, do I want to do what many would consider to be stupid and apply for a Ph.D. program in English? Am I not too old to be embarking on such a course? But then there is this: I truly do not feel as if I will ever be satisfied unless I achieve this milestone in my life.

So do I go left,  or do I go right?

But more immediately, what is this turning point at which I feel I have arrived? Is it that I have now joined the ranks of my friends and compatriots who are witnessing a second generation within their families? And in reaching this, have I crossed some invisible demarcation in the sand that now places me firmly in one category versus another?A person could go well and truly mad over such thoughts.

More than we experienced has gone by.
And the future holds the most remote event
in union with what we most deeply want.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “[II]” (Appendix to The Sonnets to Orpheus) by  (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

If only life were like nail polish: You choose a color, put it on, wear it for a bit. Then, you decide that you don’t like the color, and you change it. You can even do this daily if you are obsessed enough. Put it on. Take it off. A different color for every day. A different choice for every day. A different way of seeing things for each day.

Munda Bar, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

I know. It’s a pretty lame simile, but hey, it’s close to home.

When I used to go to the nail salon, the people who worked there had a running joke: What color do you want today? Red or red? Everything was a shade of red. It fit me, fit my mood, fit my demeanor. Now that I’m not so angry at the world all of the time, I have branched out—pink, purple, copper, black, even blue.

Oh my, that last statement was actually an epiphany for me. I don’t think that I realized until I wrote it that the red was my shield, my protective armor against all of the forces that I thought were against me, and truthfully, there were some forces against me. Don’t even get me started on the boss who openly hated women. (But that’s another story.) So perhaps I don’t need that armor any more, or at least, not all of the time.

“I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Utterance”

I have Radiohead playing in the background, seems fitting.

Batfish at Munda Bar, Solomon Island
by Lenny Cliffbanger

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase teenage angst, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the phrase adult angst. But why not? Angst is not singular to adolescence. Well, at least not for me. I’m not sure about you, out there in the ether.

Angst (Latin angustia, “tensity, tightness” and angor, “choking, clogging”), aside from being a truly wonderful word, applies to all manner of anxiety. True, Søren Kierkegaard used the word Angest (in common Danish, angst, meaning “dread” or “anxiety”) to describe “a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and fear in the free human being” (Wikipedia, I’m lazy today).

Personally, angst is much more than mere anxiety. For me, it is the following:

anxiety + fear + insecurity + frustration + self-loathing (the unknown)3 = success ± failure

I was going to say squared, but somehow it didn’t seem emphatic enough.

More later. Peace.

Music by, who else, Radiohead, “No Surprises”

Continuing on yesterday’s theme: images of ocean life taken from Flickr Creative Commons

                   

Where Horizons Go

I never write the words I meant to write.
Those come from where I’ve been, looking for me;
they are a door ajar, as if they might
almost be true, and almost make me free.
But then the words that they set out to be
become those others that perhaps I meant
for naming what I wanted not to see,
as if some truth half giving its consent
turned, and the turning made it different
and led it elsewhere, somehow, by a hand
not the same hand that guided my intent.
I mean to write those words I understand
before they speak themselves, but then they close.
And what they would have said, god only knows.

~ Rhina P. Espaillat