“Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” ~ Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Blue Whale Fluke
by mikebaird (FCC)

                   

“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” ~ John Berger

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, lower 80’s.

Man, do I love the Berger quote above. I have always loved the sound of cicadas, found it beautiful, but I know that some people find it annoying. Berger’s explanation makes so much sense to me. Of course, you would have to be familiar with my tendency towards anthropomorphism to truly understand this.

Blue Damselfly
by aussiagall (FCC)

Anyway . . .

So it’s a blue Monday—I’ve got my blues playlist going on in the background, and of course, the blue images of different things that I found in various places. I’m just feeling, well, blue.

Not really certain as to any particular cause, more of an overall blue—the day, the atmosphere, my mood, my disposition. I have a sink full of dirty dishes that were not there when I went to bed last night, and laundry that keeps appearing after I’ve done an all-call for dirty clothes. I wonder if anyone in this house ever wonders from where clean clothes and clean dishes come. Does it ever occur to them that the cleaning fairy actually does not exist?

Don’t mind me. I’m tired, and I overdid it this weekend by taking everything out of the kitchen fridge and scrubbing. I wanted to do the old fridge in the garage, but ran out of steam. I managed to cure the leaking washer, but there is still water leaking from the old fridge. One leak at a time, I suppose.

“To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.” ~ Tao Te Ching

Actually, a better adjective for my mood might be testy. Everything and everyone should be warned. Just not in the mood for anyone’s whims today.

Blue Window
(Source imgfave)

Actually, a whole string of adjectives might be more appropriate: blue, testy, tested, tired, tried, sore, unsure, underappreciated and overtaxed. I’m weary to the bone and wary of what’s to come. My confidence is gone, and my days seem to be running short. And the more that I write here, the less I am certain that I should continue. Not just now, not just today, but tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Hell. I don’t even know what I’m saying. I think that I’ll take a break and go clean something. I’ve remembered why I used to clean so much: it passes the time mindlessly, and when you’re finished, you can look at something and say, “Now that’s a polished dining room table,” not that anyone should really be saying that because it’s the height of mundane and who cares anyway? I mean really. Are you going to get an award because your dining room table now has a great reflective surface? But when you are feeling the way I’ve been feeling lately, these seemingly small victories are just about all that’s available for the taking, so I’ll take them for now.

Oh, and I broke my only pair of glasses in half last night. This sucks.

“When I look at my life and its secret colors, I feel like bursting into tears. Like that sky. It’s rain and sun both, noon and midnight . . . I think of the lips I’ve kissed, and of the wretched child I was, and of the madness of life and the ambition that sometimes carries me away. I’m all those things at once. I’m sure there are times when you wouldn’t even recognize me. Extreme in misery, excessive in happiness—I can’t say it.” ~ Albert Camus, from A Happy Death

So while I was in the shower just now, I tried to think about what has brought about this latest downturn, and I realize that it’s quite a combination of things:

“Seizure” Art Installation, London
Roger Hiorns*

First, Corey is not doing well on this hitch. He is feeling quite down because so much has gone on for his family in Ohio in the last months or so, and he has been unable to be there for any of them. That, and he’s feeling lonely. I send him e-mails in which I try to brighten his spirits, let him know how much everyone loves and misses him, but I feel that it’s a very small band-aid, and with him being physically so far away, I cannot help but worry.

Also, last night I had a very vivid Caitlin dream. I haven’t had one of those in quite a while, but this one was a hospital/doctor/Caitlin dream, and those are the absolute worst. I was fighting with the doctor who was admitting her because he just kind of glanced over what was wrong with her, and I didn’t understand what he was saying. I was telling him not to be condescending, that I needed facts, not kind words. Then, and this was the really bad part, Caitlin was another daughter of mine who was sick, but I kept calling her Caitlin because I couldn’t remember my daughter’s name, so I was terrified that the people at the hospital would think that I was a horrible mother and take her away.

Add to that my screwy sleep schedule, the ongoing melodrama with Social Security, my upcoming home visit with the disability people, the fact that another huge pane of glass fell out of the sliding door in the middle of the night, and well, you have a recipe for major doldrums.

“What is it about us human beings that we can’t let go of lost things?” ~ Leslie Marmon Silko, from The Turquoise Ledge

In addition to the Caitlin dream, I followed it with a dream in which someone was chastising me for still grieving. I was trying to explain why my grief never ended, but I couldn’t find the words, and I have to wonder if I will ever, ever, ever get over my keen sense of loss of not only my daughter, but also my inability to have another daughter.

Hanging Rock, Baltzer Lookout, Blackheath, NSW
by JIGGS IMAGES (FCC)

For those of you who may be tired of this song, feel free to fast forward, not that I can promise that it gets any better in the next section . . .

I can say that this section and the previous one share one good thing: Camus and Silko, two writers I adore.

Anyway, back to trying to decipher my mood: When I looked in the bathroom mirror this morning when I first awoke, I saw a face that looked unfamiliar. Without the daily dose of beauty cream and under eye dark circle cream, my face bare, I looked, well, old. Older than I have ever looked. Apart from not having my miracle cream, I also do not have my daily dose of Corey telling me that I’m beautiful (which I never believe, but which helps, nonetheless). And for a nanosecond, I feel as if I’ve become my mother—the woman who has tried to stave off time with multiple operations, who has treated her hair so much that its texture resembles fine straw (ooh, I also dreamed that I was losing my hair), the woman who never wanted to be called grandma.

Oh. My. God. I have become my mother.

“We are silhouettes, hollow phantoms moving mistily without a background.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I never, ever wanted to face aging in the way that my mother faced it: full retreat. I wanted to be one of those strong, secure women who never lied about her age, who never went under the knife, who displayed her crow’s feet like a badge of honor. That’s what I always told myself I would do, who I said I would always be.

Blue Bottle Tree Sculpture, Seattle WA
by ingridtaylar (FCC)

When did I become this huge bundle of insecurity? Was it when I married a younger man and began to see each year as another 365 days that separated us? I think so, or maybe not. I mean, I’ve always been insecure, but I was able to hide it behind a demeanor full of bravado.

You must understand, the age thing has never bothered Corey. And as regards my heart, it has never bothered me. And actually, it’s not the physical in so much as it is the counting of the days, which makes no sense. I, who have always felt so much older than my number, am at a loss to explain this discrepancy. I’ll share this with you, though, as I suddenly remembered it a few days ago, and now that I think of it, this memory barreling out of nowhere is probably what precipitated everything: When I told my mother that Corey and I were going to get married, she said this: “Well you can probably get away with it now because you don’t look your age, but that’s not going to last forever.”

Once again, thanks mom. Can you imagine being told such a thing by a parent? But that’s how it has always been between us, a kind of generous love tempered with a bit of spite. It’s not a pleasant thing to admit.

I guess that break in which I did more laundry, cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom helped because I’ve written the last three sections in less time than it took to write the first two.

More later. Peace.

Music by Fiona Apple, “Sullen Girl” (“my blue oblivion”—perfect)

*A note about one of the pictures: SEIZURE is by British artist Roger Hiorns who pumped 75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution into a London council flat to create “a strangely beautiful and somewhat menacing crystalline growth on the walls, floor, ceiling and bath of this abandoned dwelling.” To see more images of this installation, click on the link. Beautiful.

                   

The Hay Devil, Section V

And now
this evening’s sky:
the seep of cloud through cloud so black
it looks like wreaths of ink
unfurled in water
dock-lights
spotting the further shore:
quicksilver
gold
and crimson
one white boat
dissolving in the firth.
It’s gone before I’ve seen it: details
changing
light
imagining a world:
the play of wind
and traffic
voices
footsteps on the streets
intruding on my thoughts like some
perpetual film of space
or coming home
or counting out a lifetime’s worth of sails
and other people’s gardens smudged with rain
or wisps of drifted hay
that catch the light
and vanish
as I never quite arrive
at absence
which is presence somewhere else
in some bright field
some miracle of air.

~ John Burnside

“We work with the substantial, but the emptiness is what we use.” ~ Tao Te Ching

“In the Midst of the Thick Wood,” Kay Nielsen

  

“In this metallic age of barbarians, only a relentless cultivation of our ability to dream, to analyse and to captivate can prevent our personality from degenerating into nothing or else into a personality like all the rest.” ~ Fernando Pessoa
Arthur Rackham, "The Ring" illustrations (#26)

Yes, I know. Once again, I have posted items out of sequence, back-posted as it were. Indulge me, please. I have been unable to get out of bed for three days.  It’s times such as these when I long for my old laptop and folding desk. At least I would be able to write while in bed. Alas, alack . . .

I watched the light creep through the blinds this morning as the clock moved toward 6 a.m. For a minute I considered getting up to write and just forgoing sleep altogether, but then my body reminded me that I really needed sleep, so I turned over yet again and tried to find a position that would allow me to be a bit comfortable as Tillie blew warm dog breath into my face while she slept quite peacefully. I looked over, and Corey was snoring quietly; Alfie was above Corey’s head on the pillow, and Shakes was buried deep beneath the covers, scratching intermittently. Meanwhile, a two-foot square of open space seemed to be allotted for me.

Let’s just say that it was not a tableau that invited the deep sleep of Ameles potamos, or Lethe. I would love to have eight uninterrupted hours of mindlessness sleep, a sleep of pure forgetfulness, no interruptions, no distractions, just sleep, and then once rested, awake to a painless new day of possibilities. That it what I would like . . .

“The perception of small things is the secret of clarity; guarding of what is soft and tender is the secret of strength.” ~ Lao-Tzu
Arthur Rackham, "Undine: Soon She was Lost to Sight Beneath the Danube"

Corey has worked four days in a row. Can I get a hallelujah from the chorus? I must say that the duty sergeant has an unenviable job, having to shift people constantly because of the unpredictability of ship movement. At one point, Corey was scheduled to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then to go back in at 11 p.m. and work 12 hours, and while that would have been great in the hours column, it would have really sucked in the sleeping column. But he’s hanging in, which is more than I can say for myself.

I seem to be in the midst of a grand pity party, one that was not scheduled, as it were.  I know exactly what started it, what precipitated this most recent excursion into the poor, poor, pitiful me fray: I went on the Old Dominion University site to look at information for Brett’s orientation, and just for grins, I thought, I went to the English Department’s site. After perusing for a few minutes I realized that I knew a grand total of four people in the department. All of the old guard is gone. Names I’ve never heard of filled the department roster, which really set me back until I realized that it’s been a grand total of 16 years since I left ODU.

Sixteen years. The boys were toddlers. I was still plugging away at my marriage to Paul. The dogs were two black labs. The house was in most respects, the same, and I owned my favorite car, the black Oldsmobile Calais. My father was still alive. I knew people, lots of interesting, engaging people, and Mari was still a part of my life.

Might I just say that it is a bitter pill to have shoved down one’s throat—the realization that time has continued, inexorably, whilst I have not.

“But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.” ~ Lawrence Binyon, Last two stanzas of “For the Fallen”
Arthur Rackham, "Midsummer Night's Dream: Fair Helena"

Which brings me to the now, the present, the time after the past, and the question. Yes. There is most definitely a question: What in the hell have I done with my life? I am having a crisis of faith of the personal kind. I wonder what it is I have accomplished in all of these years of trying. I wonder if I have really done anything at all. I mean, what am I playing at here? I write. I opine. I open my veins and bleed onto this page, or rather, this virtual page. But to what end?

In looking at all of the unknown names in the English Department, I realized that my dreams of getting my Ph.D. in English are just that—dreams only. I have been left behind, or I have stayed behind while the canon has continued to develop at an amazing pace, largely in part because of the Internet. What these people are teaching and researching goes so far beyond what I know. So I don’t know if I could catch up to them, but perhaps more importantly, I don’t know if I should.

These people have three and four books, pages and pages of publications. They have evolved as the material has evolved, as the very institution of teaching has evolved: distance education, virtual classrooms. I don’t know if I can do that.

And so I sit here and wonder if I’ve ever really been good at anything, anything that matters, that is. When I die, how will I be remembered? As the woman who didn’t leave the house for years? As a woman whose self-image was so skewed that her mantra was “I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny”? As someone with an acerbic wit? Or as just a woman who was here and then who wasn’t . . .

“Heedless or willfully ignorant of this
procession of changes, we dream of prosperity
all through life and, without understanding
the nature of transience, hope for longevity.” ~ Hōnen
Arthur Rackham, "The Ring" illustrations (#1)

And these thoughts paralyze me, cause me to look about me as if in an unfamiliar place, a place in which the things themselves are different, the atmosphere different, the lighting slightly shifted, and the only thing that is the same is me. I think of the days when I walked around in power suits and leather pumps, so self-important, so engrossed in my own little world, my circle of power. A person to be watched, emulated, respected. Was it all in my mind?

Days from my past pass before this windowpane of memory, and I am hard-pressed to find anything significant. Has it all been an act? Was I so good at deception that I deceived myself more than anyone?

I’m not talking about the consistency of my belly button lint. These are real, hard questions, ones that I need to find the answers to lest I go mad with the thinking. This morning, as I was rolling from side to side, watching night move into morning, I suddenly wondered if one could go mad from thinking too much. And I think that yes, one probably could go mad from too many thoughts, from being unable to stop the flow of thoughts as they engulf everything, unabated, uncensored.

“This world
a fading mountain echo
void and unreal.” ~ Ryokan
 

Kay Nielsen, “Such a Terrible Dream”

   

Yet another thing came to me during my wakefulness, the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” Don’t really know why that song at that moment, except for the very telling lines here and there: “In these past few days/When I’ve seen myself/I seem like someone else” . . . or “I never thought I’d come to this/What’s it all about?”

Is that clichéd, that I’m thinking in old songs? Probably.

See this is what happens when I don’t write for three days, but I have all of these things running through my head, non-stop, full-speed. Without the ability to exorcise the moment of disillusion, it leeches energy from everything around it and grows until it takes on corporeal form—something very real that needs to be confronted, to be battled, to be handled and then filed away in the completed drawer, a drawer that does not, in fact, exist.

It’s like those old science fiction movies in which the hero meets the dark self, and the two fight with one another in some dark alley with a rain-soaked pavement, drops of water falling from the fire escape above their heads, the sound of empty cans and cats a backdrop to the violence taking place. And the hero always wins, well, most of the time, but not without losing something of himself along the way.

Yes. That’s exactly how it is. I think.

I am reminded of James Wright’s poem, “Lying In A Hammock At William Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota,” which ends with this line: “I have wasted my life.”

Peace.

“illabye” by Tipper