When everything around me begins to fall apart, I often find comfort in the words of others. Bukowski’s poem below seems especially relevant at the moment:
Aside: I’m really impressed by the YouTuber who makes these poem companion videos.
Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965), poet, literary critic, essayist, and publisher (“The Waste Land”)
Belated Happy Birthday to WILLIAM FAULKNER (September 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), Nobel Prize Laureate and author whose work I always have to read at least twice to really understand (The sound and the fury).
“The wind of longing blows to your right, from the orange groves, and to your left, from the sea salt. A fog, approaching the chambers of your heart from the north, makes it difficult for memory to distinguish what is private from what is public ” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from In the Presence of Absence (Trans. by Sinan Antoon)
Saturday afternoon, cloudy and cold, 34 degrees, winter storm warning.
I spent the entire day yesterday alone, just the animals and me. It’s the first full day into evening that I’ve been entirely alone. I didn’t mind it. It made me think of how originally the plan was that Corey would go to sea for a few months, and I would be here alone with the animals. I was fully prepared to embrace that, although I’m not sure if Corey believed that.
Before moving here permanently, I wrestled with the idea of loneliness versus being alone, and truthfully being alone does not make me feel lonely. I know, though, that if I had been in a better place with both of my sons before I left, that it might be different, that the loneliness might be more present. I mean, the person I miss the most is Alexis. I miss seeing her and talking to her, however briefly our encounters might have been. I miss my sons constantly, but it’s not so immediate as the lack of my daughter, if that makes sense. The way in which I miss them is an internal ache that is always there, but I have become accustomed to it.
I never thought that I would be saying something like that.
But as far as being lonely? No, not so much. I miss fast access to any kind of food and easy access to my physicians. I miss the idea of living in Norfolk and being able to see my parents’ house anytime I needed to, or being able to ride over to where my other mother used to live just to see the house for a few minutes. I miss those ideas of things.
“Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Hollow Men”
I have always known that I don’t need a lot of people around me. My friends have been few but fast. And as an only child, you become comfortable with the idea of yourself. You have to. No matter how much I told my parents that I wanted siblings when I was a child, I always kind of knew that I’d never have any.
Being an only can be very lonely, but it can also make you able to withstand things that people with siblings might not be able to withstand alone—like death. I never had siblings to lean on during tough times. It was just me, the dogs, and to some extent, my parents. Whenever we lost a dog when I was a child, I grieved alone. I would go into myself and just deal. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I learned to build walls and had a harder time taking them down. Who knows . . .
Look. I know that for a lot of people siblings are a burden. Not everyone loves, let alone gets along with their siblings. Brothers and/or sisters can be an incredible pain, especially if there is a big age difference, and brothers/sisters who grew up very close can grow apart as years pass. That’s what I saw happen to my sons, who were the best of friends when they were young but who became one another’s nemeses as they got older. That bothered me, but you cannot control your children’s emotions. A hard reality.
Still, I always wanted a sister.
“You fear for the present stifled by the hegemony of the past and fear for the past from the absurdity of the present. You do not know where to stand at this crossroads.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from In the Presence of Absence (Trans. by Sinan Antoon)
Perhaps if I had a sister, this alone thing would be different. I’ll never know now. The person most like a sister to me for so many years is now in a different city, living a different life, and liking me not at all, for a variety of reasons, some of which I will never even know or understand.
But getting back to the idea of loneliness—I do not claim to be immune from the emotion. There have been times when I have been so lonely that I just wanted to find a dark closet and hide. I remember being very lonely in my first marriage. In fact, I remember one day standing at the bedroom window and watching my then spouse drive away, going to work, and just holding my hand to the windowpane and weeping. I don’t remember the why, only the what. It’s not a good memory.
And when our marriage fell apart, I would spend many weekends alone while the kids visited with their father, and the house seemed too big to hold me. In fact, I went to my boss at the time and told him to schedule me for every Saturday because I didn’t have a life. The arrangement worked well for both of us. If I was working, I didn’t have to think about the state of my life, so I worked a lot.
“Rising from the past, my shadow Is running in silence to meet me.” ~ Anna Akhmatova, from “The souls of those I love are on high stars” (trans. A. S. Kline)
My job, my career was always important to me, always an extension of my self, but never my total identity once my children were born. But before that, I relished the self-importance of my career, the power, the seeming limitless ways in which I could grow and prosper. The thing is that it was only years later that I realized that while I considered myself a groundbreaking female in a mostly man’s world, my ability to grow and prosper was always hampered by the positions I held simply because I was a woman. Funny, that.
I once had to make the case for being paid more than certain males because I had more education and experience, and they were just out of college. That shouldn’t have happened, but it did. I did win that argument, by the way, but that’s the kind of thing I faced regularly. I know that things have gotten better for women in the workplace, but that’s not to say that sexism does not still exist. We all know that it does . . .
Ah, but that was then, as they say.
Now? Now, I have no job, no career, no profession, unless I own up to the fact that writing is a profession, well, maybe for other people. It’s just that I’ve never made money with my writing, never even tried, even though I’ve had probably hundreds of ideas for books. So I refrain from calling myself a writer because it’s not like I’ve ever done anything with it.
Are you what you were, or what you are now? You fear you will forget tomorrow while mired in the question: In which time do I live?” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from In the Presence of Absence (Trans. by Sinan Antoon)
Which brings me to the Darwish quotes, which are from one longer passage that I broke up for the purposes of this post. It’s this last part really: “Are you what you were, or what you are now?”
That’s the real question, isn’t it? Who am I? Who do I want to be? Is that the same person I wanted to be before or different? In which time do I live?
I live in all of them, really. My past is so intricately woven into my present that it’s impossible to separate them. But my present self is so very different from my past self that sometimes I have a hard time reconciling the two. I care little for money, or fame, or things, or what anyone else has. In fact, more and more, I am genuinely put off by the excesses of life today.
Will I always want to buy and to own books? Of course. But do I need a big house with a separate library just for my books? No. Maybe my answer would be different if I still owned the hundreds and hundreds of books that I once had, but I lost those when we lost the storage unit, so there’s that. Losing a collection like that, over 1,000 books, changes you, definitely.
But possessions? Thousand dollar purses or shoes? What good would they do me? My house is old. My furniture is old. My clothes, for the most part, are old. And you know what? I like old things. It’s another thing that my mother never understood, my love for things with history. If you showed me a brand new chair that was the perfect color of red, and placed an old Queen Anne covered in faded red brocade beside it, there’s no questions to which I would be drawn. History over new. Worn over pristine.
So ultimately, standing at the crossroads between past and present, more than likely I just wouldn’t move, I think, which is why I find myself always wondering in which time I really live.
More later. Peace.
*All images are taken from the former apartment of Mrs. DeFlorian, a Parisian woman who fled before the German occupation of WWII. The apartment was found to be exactly as she left it when it was opened in 2010. For an article on this beautiful artifact, go here.
Music by Julia Brennan, “Inner Demons”
A Person Protests to Fate
A person protests to fate:
“The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me.”
Fate is sympathetic.
To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
for only the very young,
the very old.
During the long middle:
conjugating a rivet
training the cat to stay off the table
preserving a single moment longer than this one
continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before
and the penmanships love practices inside the body.
“The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Gerontion”
Thursday evening, cloudy and cold, 41 degrees, warming temperatures.
Well, where do I begin this post? So far, I’ve kept it light, telling you a bit about our move, the mountains, the animals, but I haven’t touched on how we ended up here, which is a long and convoluted story, one that cannot be shared in its entirety because other people deserve their privacy, even if I put everything about myself down here. So let me go back, back to 2017.
Last year began one of the absolute worst times of my life, I mean, ranking right up there with the loss of Caitlin, the loss of my father, the loss of my mother. Emotionally, we began 2017 on what can only be described as a roller coaster in hell, and it only got much worse. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I’m not going into specifics; I just wanted to set the mood a bit.
Suffice it to say that by the middle of the year, I had, not by my choice, officially—emotionally and somewhat physically—lost any contact with either of my sons, and contact with my daughter was fraught at best. Perhaps I should backup even more. If I’m going to tell some of this, I need to go back more, back to that time in which, for various reasons, younger son chose not to have much to do with me, and older son followed suit, more by accident than deliberation, I think.
Eldest son has always been independent, and he has been closer to his dad than to me since about the age of 13 or 14. His dad exited our lives when the boys were only 7 and 6 respectively, but he did his visitation regularly, always paid his support, so I’m not slamming him here, just stating facts. Anyway, eldest son has much in common with his father, some good and some bad, as we all tend to be, so I was not entirely surprised that once eldest moved out for good, I didn’t see or hear from him regularly, not that it didn’t wound me or that I didn’t miss him tremendously, just saying it wasn’t a surprise.
But separation from youngest son? That wounded me to my very core, and it is still a very fresh wound. I really don’t know if it will ever get easier or better.
“Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall, and falling they’re given wings.” ~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
Youngest son is also my youngest child, so he was the one who was with me alone after the other two moved out. We did pretty much everything together, watched movies, exchanged books, went to poetry readings and thrift stores, and I always loved how close we were, but life happens, everyone grows up, and nothing stays the same. If that were all that it were, I could accept it. But that’s not it. For various reasons unrelated to me, he began to withdraw, which is not to say that there aren’t reasons related to me because there are. The problem is that I don’t understand a lot of those reasons. I can, however, pare it down to one particular devastating accusation though: He told me that I was abusive, emotionally abusive.
Okay. Well, then . . .
No. Not okay then. Not okay at all. Yes, there are all kinds of ways to be abusive, and god knows that there is an entire generation approaching life through triggerwarnings and needing safespaces, and no, I don’t really understand that either, but whatever. Look, he’s had social anxiety issues for most of his life, and who am I to criticize, hermit and agoraphobic that I am. But I tried many times to help and to get him help, not wanting him to end up like me; nevertheless, he began to deal with other more serious things as he got older, but I always approached him honestly and with all of the understanding that I had, and I always told him that I would love him no matter what, and I have. But apparently, I must have loved him abusively . . . is that even a thing?
I know that helicopter parenting can create a slew of problems, but I never saw myself as a helicopter parent. I tried hard to help when asked, comfort when needed, and to butt out when it warranted. I never said anything to anyone about having the wrong friends or the wrong boyfriends or girlfriends or significant others. I didn’t snoop, even when I really, really wanted to. And I promised myself that I would never break a promise and that I would always try to be truthful. The brutal truth for parents is that ultimately they must step back and watch their sons and daughters make mistakes, watch them fall, and although it is a painful thing to do, it must be done, but that doing is never easy. So what is it that I did, exactly?
I believed to my soul that I owed my kids all of that—truth, love, understanding, and yes, protection. But I never thought that I coddled them. My kids didn’t have everything that they wanted or asked for; they didn’t wear designer clothes; we had some lean Christmases, and we even lived without cable for years (shudder). But they had a solid roof over their head albeit a smaller one with old furniture, and they never went to bed hungry. They weren’t deprived, but neither were they spoiled rotten.
I’m not claiming to be blameless. Of course I’ve done things. All parents do, even when they don’t really mean to. I’m certain if you asked any of my offspring if I ever screwed up, that they could come at you with a list, and each of those lists would probably not contain that same things. What? I’m only human, after all. But this, this accusation, this statement, whatever it is? I just don’t understand it, and I really, really really want to understand it because the gulf just keeps widening, and as it does, my heart just keeps breaking.
Years ago, when I used to talk about moving to the mountains, I told youngest that he could come and build his own place wherever we went, and when I would daydream about that move, he was always a part of it. But now? He’s hundred of miles away, and the chances that he will ever move here and build his own place are completely non existent.
“Don’t you get tired of wanting to live forever?
Don’t you get tired of saying Onward?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Circe/Mud Poems”
I know that I began this post talking about 2017 and how we actually ended up here in the mountains on 100+ acres, trying to live the dream, but it looks like I’m going to have to come back to that later because this has morphed into a post about parents and children, and loss and heartache and . . . yep, all of that and so much more.
Suffice it to say that the entire family on all sides went through emotional hell, and there are some wounds that may never heal. Corey and I have only very recently begun to allow ourselves to attempt to move on and get along with our lives, but all of that crap about resolution? Resolution is a gift, and some receive it, and others do not, and a great deal depends upon the individual, so you can rightly assume that I do not feel that resolution has been bestowed upon me.
But as for youngest son, I no longer contact him, and that is as he wishes, not as I wish. Does that mean that I don’t want to every hour of every single fricking day? Need I bother to answer? But again, it’s that thing of trying to respect your child’s wishes because that child is no longer a child, is no longer the unexpected miracle of your life, no longer the boon companion of years previous.
“And if you are not a bird, then beware of coming to rest above an abyss.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from unpublished fragments dating to June-July 1883
Look, it’s November, for me the time of bad anniversaries, and the holidays are upon us, and as usual, it’s the beginning of my annual dive into the depths of my personal abyss, so here I am. And even as I type these word, I wonder to myself will I actually post this? Will I really put this out there? And the answer is . . . I have no idea.
I came back to this forum recently for several different reasons:
The political climate and the state of our democracy made me want to rant, really, really rant.
The new location seemed to afford me a new beginning, so I wanted to talk about that and all that it encompasses.
But mostly, I missed it. Admittedly, I missed the small group of regular who always had something to say to me. But more than that, I missed me. I missed the me that sat down and just let the words flow like water from an open faucet. I missed the me that not only felt things deeply but who also shared those feelings. And mostly, I suppose, I missed the me that took great care in creating this personal space that was mine alone, mine to do with whatever I deemed worthy or appropros, regardless of who I offended or who I enraged, regardless of who I might alienate.
Honestly, I don’t want to alienate or offend anyone, but I refuse to self censor. Ever. What I will do, from this point on, is be more respectful of other’s privacy. That I will do, but that is my only concession. What is the point of having a personal blog that isn’t personal? Everything else just seems like time wasting, like gathering wool, as it were.
And so in beginning again, in returning to this forum, I feel, no, I need to talk about my own truths. I need to work through what I can with my words. If that is callous or heartless, then I apologize for that, but I won’t change the words, any more than I could change my inner core of being. The truth is that most people who create are patently self-absorbed. I am no different. So to the question of whether I will post this . . .
Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .
More later. Peace.
Music by Ben Abraham, “This is On Me,” featuring Sara Bareilles
Not the attendance of stones,
nor the applauding wind,
shall let you know
you have arrived,
nor the sea that celebrates
nor the mountains,
nor the dying cities.
Nothing will tell you
where you are.
Each moment is a place
you’ve never been.
You can walk
believing you cast
a light around you.
But how will you know?
The present is always dark.
Its maps are black,
rising from nothing,
in their slow ascent
their own voyage,
the bleak temperate
necessity of its completion.
As they rise into being
they are like breath.
And if they are studied at all
it is only to find,
too late, what you thought
were concerns of yours
do not exist.
Your house is not marked
on any of them,
nor are your friends,
waiting for you to appear,
nor are your enemies,
listing your faults.
Only you are there,
to what you will be,
and the black grass
is holding up the black stars.
“In the uncertain hour before the morning Near the ending of interminable night” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding”
In the first part of the dream, the surgeon cuts out a small piece of my mother’s heart, about the size of a quarter. He hands it to me and tells me to pump it whenever she dies, and it will bring her back to life. I take the small piece of flesh and examine it, see the striations, wonder how I am supposed to do this. I awaken to the phone ringing.
Somehow, I go back to sleep, and the dream continues: My mother has come back to life, even though she died, even though she has been cremated (but in the dream she has been buried next to my father), she is back, and she knows that this is just a temporary pardon. For some reason, I go to a city official’s office. I don’t think it’s for a job interview, but it might be. He likes me. Not like that, but in a professional admiring way, says that he might be able to find a position for me in his government. I leave and go to a room where employees can rest. An old friend from high school is there, and she is still playing games with my head. We see a pile of shoes that someone has delivered as give-aways. I see a pair of sandals that I would like to get for Alexis, but I am not interested in the pumps with spiked heels as I no longer need to wear heels to work, but then I think that I might get this job. Someone comes to get me, tells me that the boss is waiting for me. I find out that there is a huge meeting of all the employees, and I’m late. I get a phone call at the last minute, and I find out that Corey is at work with a female co-worker, has no intention of taking care of my mother because he’s decided to stay with this woman, and I realize that my mother is at home alone, and I know that she is going to die soon. I have to decide between making the telephone call or going to the meeting. I take my phone into the meeting. My friend from high school is supposed to help me with the presentation, but she keeps messing me up on purpose to make me look stupid. I walk out, finally get my mother on the phone. She has walked down the block. I ask her why she has left the house as she knows that she is dying. She tells me she cannot sleep, and cannot stay in the house forever. I find her on the neighbor’s lawn. She is not dead yet. I put my hand in my pocket looking for the part of her heart that the surgeon has given me, but I cannot find it. I realize that no one is going to help me.
I am awakened once again by the telephone ringing…………………
Music by Andy Shauf, “Comfortable with the Silence”
Go Ahead; Goodbye; Good Luck; and Watch Out
You get to Gilead, let me know. That balm,
supposed to be so good for human hurts
—all wounds, holes, hollows, hungriness—
you tell me if it’s there, and how it works.
Till the time comes, I’ll look for further ways
with the old lack, the void, push it along
ahead of me in the only way we have
to carry this luggage of ours of hungriness
like an empty bag. You look, though. Let me know.
“The lake, as usual, Has taken its mood from the sky, Its color also, The blue that breaks hearts.” ~ Tom Hennen, from “June, with Loons”
Thursday afternoon, Halloween. Cloudy and warm, mid 70’s.
The fates have been reversed for about a week or so: I’ve been wanting to write, have had much to say, but have had no time to spare until just this moment. I’m hoping that I can finish this post before the neighborhood kids begin to roam, and the dogs begin to go crazy. We’ll just have to see.
Since I have so many different thoughts going in so many different directions, I thought I’d do a random thoughts post. Here goes:
I learned a new word the other day: deliquescent, becoming liquid or having a tendency to become liquid. Doesn’t that just sound as if it should be in a poem?
I continue to awaken each morning with a song in my head, and the song of the morning does not seem to have any relevance to anything that I can pinpoint. For example, the other morning it was The Courtship of Eddie’s father theme song.
There is a running theme that occurs in my dreams, regardless of what the main theme is: I have forgotten to feed the dogs that stay in the backyard. I only remember them after several days. I find them in various states of illness—listless, dehydrated, close to dying.
Last night I dreamt of my family in Great Bridge, all of my cousins; one of my cousins introduced me to his friend and said that I had gone off to sing. I was very confused because I didn’t remember having a singing career.
I bought Halloween candy that I’m not particularly fond of hoping that it would keep me from delving into the bag; this has not worked completely.
Does too much sugar affect your dreams?
“She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.” ~ Oscar Wilde, from “De Profundis”
So here’s the latest news from around the home:
Corey will be in port on Saturday. He’s getting off the ship before they travel to Ascension; we have to fit in the trip to New Orleans before all of the holidays roll around.
I weigh four pounds less on my pain doctor’s scale. I like that scale.
Olivia is going to be a lady bug for Halloween; I bought her some black and white Mary Janes with red bows, too cute.
I wonder how many of you remember those hard leather shoes made by Stride-Rite for toddlers, how we were all forced to wear them and then in turn told to force our children to wear them . . . somewhere along the line, the doctors who decide said that tennis shoes were better for young feet.
I read where Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa bought the young prince silver casts of his hands and feet for a christening gift, and media voices were calling the gift creepy. How is that any creepier than bronzing baby shoes like everyone in my mother’s generation did?
My current fascination with all things make-up related continues. Don’t ask me why as I haven’t the faintest idea.
Lately, I’m fixated on just the right make-up brushes.
“And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured Of a craving for something I cannot find And of the shame of never finding it.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Cocktail Party
Funny, I thought that I had so much to say, but the last few hours have had so many interruptions that I cannot seem to find my train of thought.
It’s far too muggy to be October.
I just remembered that I had another dream about the real estate firm where I worked. In these dreams I’m always trying to please my boss, unsuccessfully.
I don’t want to think about how many jobs I have failed at; it’s just too depressing.
Neither Brett nor I went to any Literary Festival events this year.
I finally watched the movie Sylvia in which Gwyneth Paltrow plays Sylvia Plath and Daniel Craig plays Ted Hughes. The movie wasn’t bad, but I think it soft-pedaled the depiction of Hughes.
At the moment I’m feeling very displaced, as if I’m on the verge of something without really knowing what or why.
The other day I realized that this year marks 25 years since Caitlin. It still feels so immediate, so close, yet not.
I wonder if anyone else can understand anything I am trying to say.
“But mountain weariness and mountain hunger — how few know what these are!” ~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir
She said, apropos of nothing . . .
My mother ordered me some strange gadget from QVC. I told her that I didn’t have room for it, and I didn’t really need it. She insisted that I had told her I wanted it. This would be hard as I have no idea as to what it is. Patience. Patience.
QVC preys on the shut-ins, the elderly, and the lonely.
I probably won’t see the mountains again this year.
Obviously, I’m not going to apply to the doctoral program at GW since I have made no further efforts in preparing.
I am my own worst enemy.
Now that Corey is coming home, we can finally finish the bathroom, all of the things we couldn’t do before he left, and all of the things I couldn’t do on my own—not a whole lot, actually. Still, unfinished is unfinished.
I have the strangest feeling that I have forgotten to do something really important, but I have no idea as to what it might be.
“While the earth breaks the soft horizon eastward, we study how to deserve what has already been given us.” ~ William Stafford, from “Love in the Country”
On a more serious note . . .
I think that my mother is deteriorating mentally faster. I have noticed more things in just the last few weeks.
I really need to investigate what kind (if any) of support there is for seniors, as far as keeping house, running errands, that kind of thing.
We are not a society that values the aged, not like the Asians do.
I constantly berate myself for not having enough patience with my mother, yet when I’m around her, I just cannot seem to summon the patience I need.
I feel like a horrible daughter.
I am praying to the gods that be that I can teach myself more of how to live in the moment, something I have never quite mastered.
Am I too old to learn such things?
When I am with Olivia, I am forcing my mind to rest, not to think about this bill or that problem, but to just enjoy this time because I know all too well that it passes quickly.
I would give anything to have another fall afternoon with all three of my children when they were still young.
I happened upon the most wonderful site: Lancaster Center for Classical Studies, which posted pictures of cloudy weather for today, just as I have here. I wonder if they do that every day . . .
More later. Peace.
Music by Rosi Golan and Johnny McDaid, “Give up the Ghost”
You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or in the silence after lightning before it says
its names — and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles — you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head —
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.
“There is a fissure in my vision and madness will always rush through. Lean over me, at the bedside of my madness, and let me stand without crutches.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from “House of Incest”
Friday, late afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, liquid humidity, 80 degrees.
Now on day 8 of this particular migraine. Would someone please explain to me how this is even possible? My body is so full of pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, steroids, Botox, and nausea medication that I couldn’t pass a drug test in any quarter of this world, yet I am still in pain. Added to this was a brand new twist with my vision—as in I was rendered temporarily blind, could only see lines for about 15 seconds.
Very, very freaky.
Do not like stuff messing with my vision. I remember well the onset of a migraine while I was out on my daily walk (years ago when I did that); suddenly, layers were coming off the hot street, and I saw horizontal bands everywhere. Today’s visual anomaly was a hundred times more unsettling.
Not good. Not good at all. So I’m sitting here typing blind, hoping that my fingers on are on the right keys because I’m trying not to focus on anything.
“When I can’t make you understand I repeat myself I repeat
If you don’t stop asking me all these questions how Will I understand anything” ~ Robert Polito, from “Please Refrain from Talking During the Movie”
Monday evening. Sunny, hot and humid, 90 degrees.
Obviously, never got back to the post on Friday. So many good things have happened since then that I feel a need to share them with you . . .
Let’s see, first, I’m having a severe reaction to the Botox, at least that’s what I think it is. I cannot get my doctor’s office to return my call, so let’s just hope that I don’t go into anaphylactic shock over this. The soft tissue above my eyebrows is very swollen; my cheeks feel taut, and I cannot open my mouth all the way. My eyes feel as if something is inside both of them burning. I looked up my symptoms and it’s either the Botox, or an extreme mold reaction, or cellulitis. All good things . . .
But believe it or not, this is the good news. You see, we have water damage and rot down to the joists. Yes, the joists. You know those big pieces of lumber that keep the house up, that make it possible for the house not to sink into the crawl space, the ones that are long and unwieldy. Yes, the joists.
I tried to put this into perspective for Corey by telling him that had we hired a contractor, that discovery would have tacked on at least another $6k to the job. Perspective is not exactly what he’s looking for. Help would be the operative word. I cannot help in the wood replacement, just don’t have the strength. It’s definitely not a one-person job. At times like these, Corey really misses his brothers and cousins, all of whom are very, very handy.
“A trap is only a trap if you don’t know about it. If you know about it, it’s a challenge.” ~ China Miéville, from King Rat
We knew we had water damage, and we suspected that it was in the studs, but not the joists. That just seems too traumatic somehow. It’s a wonder that no one fell through the floor before now. If you could only see this—it’s amazing in it’s thoroughness, complete and total breakdown of the foundation. It’s everywhere.
As I sit here, I can actually feel all of the muscles in the top of my back and shoulder contracting. What does anaphylactic shock look like? I know. I’m a drama queen, but hey, now’s the time, if ever.
So in between trying to identify my symptoms as some new rare disease, I’m researching joist repair, adding it to the list of E-How printouts that are piling up on the dining room table. We might get to tiling sometime next week. Meantime, did I mention this is our only bathroom? Only. Bathroom.
I’ve raised three children, three teenagers with only one bathroom. It seemed like quite an achievement before. Now the real achievement is that no one has been killed by the structural failure that is our house.
“Your home is regarded as a model home, your life as a model life. But all this splendor, and you along with it… it’s just as though it were built upon a shifting quagmire. A moment may come, a word can be spoken, and both you and all this splendor will collapse.” ~ Henrik Ibsen, from A Doll House
I don’t know. Somehow, I’m not really terribly surprised by this turn of events. Our life tends to unfold based on the application of Murphy’s law and all of its corollaries. Not by choice, mind you, but by happenstance. I knew that once we pulled things up and off that what lay beneath would be ugly, but I never thought that it would look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie in which basic structures have disintegrated into something indeterminate.
Anyway, as I try to complete this post it is now Tuesday, but I saw no point in declaring that with yet another subhead. I stopped writing this post last night to go and cook dinner and then got completely distracted in researching joist replacement, calculating wood needed, etcetera ad nauseum.
This whole project has turned into one massive pain in the tuckus. The only good thing that I can say about all of this is that I am so glad we are undertaking this at a time in which finding out the correct way to do something is only a mouse click away. I cannot imagine trying to do a major renovation without Internet access. By the way, the people who frequent DIY forums are seriously serious about their opinions. Every thread that I have followed has had some element of one-upsmanship as well as snarky comments along the lines of “I can’t believe you just told X to do that! Everyone knows that’s now how you do it!”
Just want to point out that most of the DIY forums are inhabited by people with XY chromosomes. Perhaps that’s why there is so much competition, such a need to have a bigger . . . wrench (not saying that women aren’t competitive, so don’t even go there).
“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
I suppose I’ll close with a bit of good news: My doctor’s office finally called me back yesterday evening to reassure me that I am not suffering from a progressive case of anaphylactic shock (which I knew, really, I did, it was just the whole vision thing), just good old side effects from the Botox. My eyebrows aren’t quite as huge today, and the lower half of my face/neck/throat no longer feels as if it’s closing.
You know, I really just want to take a Xanax and lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, and since Brett is on campus, and Corey is out buying wood, I just might do that. I mean, I began the day by taking a shower at my mother’s house, which is enough of a story for a post of its own, and the day does not promise to get any better as the hours pass, so why not just bypass all of that? Don’t you agree? I thought that you might.
Besides, if I can’t float in the pool (because of the prednizone and sun being a bad mixture), and I can’t soak in the tub because it’s in a box in the living room, I’ll just have to settle for thinking abou floating in these natural pools until my skin is all wrinkly.
More later. Peace.
*All images are of the Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey.
Music by Future of Forestry, “Someone”
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
“I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.” ~Richard Brautigan, from Trout Fishing in America
Monday, late afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.
In the past two days, I have attempted to write a post, only to be stymied after the first few sentences. I’m not really sure why, only that what I did write seemed forced and contrived, which made continuing seem pointless.
Part of me feels as if there is something simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to be voiced, but another part feels completely incapable of giving words to that feeling. Truly, I do not know which direction to take or even if there is a direction to be had, so I decided to find some suitable end-of-the-year quotes and just give it a go, see how it unfolds, as it were. I make no promises that any great revelations will ensue, or even that I will find a common thread among these disparate sentences.
I do know that the looming 2013 seems awkward and strange to me. Thirteen has never been a bad number for me. Corey and I were married on the 13th of May, and that particular thirteen has turned out to be one of the best days of my life. But the year 2013 makes me pause, and for the life of me, I could not tell you exactly why that is.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
I remember being suitably excited when 1999 rolled into 2000, even though the official start of the new millennium did not begin until 2001. But the coming of both of those years seemed momentous to me—so many changes in my life, so much going on, such excitement about what was ahead. I remember that Corey and I spend New Year’s Eve of 2001 in his brother’s hot tub in Ohio. We were surrounded by snow, and it was absolutely freezing outside, but the water was hot and comfortable, and it was a perfect way in which to greet the new year.
But if you were to ask me what I did on New Year’s Eve of 2003 or 2005 or even 2008, I don’t know that I could tell you as we really aren’t big New Year’s Eve people. By that I mean that we do not go out. I am too afraid of all the drunk crazies on the roads, and we usually just watch a movie and go to sleep. It may sound boring, but it works for us.
I remember that my m-in-law used to go out on her porch at midnight and bang a pot, more to annoy her neighbors than anything else. I have sometimes gone to parties, but for most of my life, I have stayed in. What does that say about me? That I’m careful? Boring? Lazy? Who knows? But this year I am a bit hesitant about 2013 coming to pass. I don’t know if it’s that still, small voice inside of me that is trembling a bit, or if there is something worrying the edges of my brain, but something just doesn’t feel right.
Don’t you just hate it when you have those kinds of feelings (if you do), and you cannot ascertain as to why?
“Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself.” ~ Angela Carter, “The Erl-King”
I don’t really do resolutions, either, never have. I know myself only too well, and I try never to make promises that I know I can’t or won’t keep. All of those false promises about quitting this or that, losing weight, exercising more, giving more to charity, being less selfish, more generous . . .
Ya da ya da ya da . . .
No one does it. Not really, so why say that you will?
Perhaps we make these promises to ourselves because we really do believe that we can or will change in the coming year. Perhaps we think that if we say it, it makes it so, makes it more tangible, harder to ignore. But the truth is that if we don’t want to quit smoking (or drinking or eating chocolate or whatever), then we won’t. The desire has to exist else a thousand words written in stone will not make it real.
And so I make no promises, either to myself or the powers that be or anyone else, at least no coming year promises. I save my promises for important things, like things that I will do for my children or for Corey. I will tell myself that it’s in my best interest to go back on my chocolate fast as the few pounds that I have gained since Thanksgiving/cruise/Christmas dinner are beginning to add up, and I liked it better when I was on a healthier diet, but other than that? Nothing.
“All night we now hear the desperate downwardness. All day we have watched the last icicle Drip, drop by drop, as though from a wound—grow less and less. Dark comes again. Shut eyes, and think of a sacred cycle.” ~ Robert Penn Warren, from section 1 of “Downwardness” in “Seasons”
One tradition that I do miss is that of building a fire in the fireplace on New Year’s Eve. My ex and I used to do that each year, even that was the only fire we built for the year, but I honestly feel too guilty now when building a real wood fire. Pollution and all of that. But oh how I would dearly love to have a gas fireplace hookup. It’s one of the few luxuries that I want to install if and when we ever go into reno mode. A gas fireplace and a jetted tub—two things that I would so love to have, two things in which I find true comfort.
Corey and I only used the fireplace during those two winters in which we did not have gas heat. Those were cold winters, and the fireplace did help, if only briefly.
Some people cannot abide the smell of woodsmoke, and I can understand that, but I am not one of them. One of the things that I loved about going camping in the mountains was building an outdoor fire from fallen branches and twigs. Sitting there in the evening with friends, talking about everything and nothing, watching the wood burn down to embers before zipping up in a sleeping bag.
“I’ve never been very good at leaving things behind. I tried, but I have always left fragments of myself there too, like seeds awaiting their chance to grow.” ~ Joanne Harris
Anyway, 2012 is in its last hours, and the new year will be hear in less than eight hours. Corey and I will spend the evening with Olivia as Lex and Mike are going out. Eamonn is house sitting for his father, and Brett is with friends. So I think it will just be the three of us and the dogs, and that’s just fine with me.
I will leave you with this, things I hope may happen in 2013, in the world and at home:
Congress will grow up and realize that being obstructionists serves no one well.
Automatic weapons will once again be banned.
Obama will become the president we all know he could be.
Honey Boo Boo, the Real Housewives of everywhere, Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, Bad Girls, and all of the rest will quietly fade into the background (okay, know this won’t happen, but I can wish).
and also these wishes:
Brett will make his trip to New Zealand and from this experience be able to glean a little insight into what he wants out of life.
Eamonn will get a job as a merchant mariner and begin to enter the adult world.
Alexis will continue to try to work towards a more stable life.
Corey will get the job he really wants.
My dogs will remain healthy.
Our families will suffer no more losses.
I will actually do real work on my novel and poetry.
To all of you out there, may the coming year bring you health, happiness, and safety, and may you move one step closer to achieving your dreams and desires.
“Lilac Wine,” Jeff Buckley version and mashup with Nina Simone, couldn’t decide:
New Year Resolve
The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.
Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.
Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.
For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.