“It is a lonely idea, a lonely condition, so terrifying to think of that we usually don’t. And so we talk to each other, write and wire each other, call each other short and long distance across land and sea, clasp hands with each other at meeting and at parting, fight each other and even destroy each other because of this always somewhat thwarted effort to break through walls to each other.” ~ Tennessee Williams, from “Person-To-Person”

Henri Edmond Cross The Iles d’Or  The Iles d’Hyeres, Var 1892
“The Iles d’Or (The Iles d’Hyeres, Var)” (1892, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

 

“After all, you know there are days
when even thirst runs dry
and prayer’s lips harden.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “Tierra del Fuego,”

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny, hot and humid, 94 degrees.

Last night I had this very intricate dream in which I was retelling a family history story to a friend, something that my mother had told me. I was using letters, news clippings, and photographs that were in an old trunk. I kept getting facts wrong and forgetting key players. I was very frustrated because I hadn’t written down what my mother had told me, and now it was too late to ask her.

Henri Edmond Cross Les Iles d'or 1892 oil on canvas
“Les Iles d’or” (1892, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

It had something to do with a great great grandparent owning an old hotel in Norfolk. There was a criminal involved, and a distant relation that no one knew about. It was actually a pretty good story. Wish I could remember more.

Anyway, it’s hot as blazes, too hot to go outside because my head is exploding. I had a wonderful conversation with my legal representative, the one who is going to be at the Social Security hearing with me in August. This is my second go round on the hearing route. That I am underwhelmed at the prospect is an overstatement. This whole thing taxes me mentally and physically, but hey, some person with a list can sit there and say what jobs I can do, and I can’t say a thing, can’t make the argument that not a single employer out there is going to want to hire someone who cannot give 100 percent, someone who is guaranteed to have to call out of work frequently because of pain issues . . .

whatever . . .

I have sat here for four hours, going back and forth between this supposed post and my e-mail, my tumblr, and comparative shopping on different sites for water weights. The fact is I just cannot turn this into a post, no matter how hard I try. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that I have too much to say, but so much of it involves other people, and I just don’t feel that I can talk about some of these things here even though I really, really need to talk about a lot of these things.

Suffice it to say that my head is rumbling at about a point 5 on the Richter scale, even after giving myself one of those painful shots. The glare from the screen is making me squint, which isn’t helping my head. And I am no further along in making words flow than I was when I started, so . . .

whatever . . .

Music by Banks, “Waiting Game”

                    

Who Needs Us?

The quiet, the bitter, the bereaved,
the going forth of us, the coming home,
the drag and pull of us, the tome and teem
and tensile greed of us, the opening
and closing of us, our eyes, in sleep,
our crematorium dreams?

The brush of us one against another,
the crumple on the couch of us,
the spring in our step, the sequestered dance
in front of the cracked mirrors of us,
our savage suffering, our wobbly ladders
of despair, the drenched seaweed-green
of our tipped wineglass hearts, our wheels
and guitars, white spider bites blooming
on our many-colored skins, the din
of our nerves, our pearl onion toes
and orangey fingers, our effigies
and empty bellies, our plazas
of ache and despair, our dusky faces
round as dinner plates, our bald pates,
our doubt, our clout, our bold mistakes?

Who needs the footprints of us,
the glimpse of us in a corridor of stars,
who sees the globes of our breath
before us in winter, the angels
we make in the stiff snow,
the hack and ice of us, the glide
and gleam and busted puzzle of us,
the myth and math of us,
the blue bruise and excuse of us,
who will know the magnified
magnificence of us, could there be
too many of us, the clutch and strum
and feral singing of us, the hush of us,
who will hear the whisker of silence
we will leave in our wake?

~ Dorianne Laux

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“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” ~ Charles de Lint

Layers of the Mind by R. MeredithArt of Neuroscience Competition 2012
Layers of the Mind by R. Meredith
Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012

                   

“Sometimes it is the smallest thing that saves us: the weather growing cold, a child’s smile, and a cup of excellent coffee.” ~ Jonathan Carroll

Wednesday early evening. Sunny and mild, 59 degrees.

I must admit that I was shocked to receive the notice from the WordPress people that my blog is five years old. I really had no idea. That first year, my posting was erratic, with a total of  only 135 posts, with just two in that first February of 2008. By the end of the year I was posting almost regularly and beginning to hit my stride. In fact, I’m not even ashamed of most of that first year’s posts, which is saying something.

AON O Brock Rockefeller Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Christmas Tree by O. Brock
Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012

Blogging was a new beast for me, and I only got into it because of a professor who gave us the assignment to create a website of some sort for his class. It was a very open-ended assignment, and several people in the class opted for WordPress blogs. Not being familiar with WordPress, I went the difficult route of purchasing a domain name and paying for hosting. I remember those initial attempts at coding my own site not at all fondly. It was painful, and the end result was . . . pitiful.

After noticing the WordPress address in other people’s assignments, I finally got a clue and moved to a platform that did the coding for me, provided me with options for layouts and widgets and all of that good stuff, and I have had no desire to move since. It’s a good fit for me: ridiculously easy at the best price of all—free. I am forever thankful that there are people out there who like to code and even more, who like to share that coding with those of us who can’t.

“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.” ~ Tennessee Williams from Camino Real

So when I began this blog, what did I hope for, what did I expect? I don’t know. I remember being excited beyond belief the first time that someone actually commented on a post. This is wonderful, I thought. Someone out there found me and read me. How cool is that? And then when that stats counter went past 100 hits, I wanted to break out the champagne. One hundred hits! One hundred!

They like me. They really like me, a la Sally Field.

AON R Meredith Neurospectrum
Neurospectrum by R. Meredith
Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012

Okay, then I came back to earth when I realized that people were getting that many hits in one minute, when I saw that there were people with hits in the millions. Ooh, blog envy. It’s not a pretty thing, and that first year I was filled to the brim with envy. Why couldn’t I glam onto a phenomenon like Mudflats, or some such thing, and be propelled into the blog elite? I know, I know. Petty.

Really though, I guess what I wanted was to be able to say anything that I wanted, without fear of repercussion or ridicule, and I wanted people to read me, and okay, I wanted them to like me. It mattered, that whole liking thing. But then something quite unexpected happened: I began to enjoy myself. I found other people to read. I realized that I wasn’t such a strange bird, after all, and I began to care less about being liked and more about having something to say.

Year two (2009) saw me finding a groove, deciding on a format that incorporated quotes and images and trying to have an underlying theme with each post. And then when I began tumblr in June of 2010, I think everything kind of clicked: Here was the companion to my writing blog, a source for quotes and images to complement my words.

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, from Zorba the Greek

And, well, here I am five years later. And here are some of the things that I have learned along the way:

  • People can be very supportive, surprisingly so.
  • Politics is very polarizing, and even on a personal blog such as mine, haters can be relentless in trying to make you see how very wrong you are about X or Y.

    AON CPJ de Kock Neon River
    Neon River by C. P. J. de Kock
    Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012
  • You can either ignore or engage haters, but be prepared for backlash.
  • If you are going to write about your life for all to see, you have to be mindful of the privacy of the other people in your life.
  • Not everyone has signed on to make an appearance in your blog, so don’t be surprised if they get upset when they do.
  • Cyber-stalking can be very disconcerting, regardless of how lame it might seem.
  • The best way to get readers is to be a reader.
  • The Golden Rule applies in blogs: If you don’t want people to steal your content, make sure you are just as judicious in attributing other people’s words and images. When in doubt, don’t use it.
  • Cite formal sources, or at least provide links to them.
  • Spam. Get used to it.

“What the river was showing her now was that she could flow beyond the brokenness, redeem herself, and fuse once more.” ~ Ursula Hegi, from Stones from the River

Blogging has been a lifeline for me in so many ways, helping to keep me sane (somewhat), and grounding me, giving me that tether to the outside world, especially now that I am less in the world than I used to be. A few observations:

  • In such an unreal setting, I have made some very real connections, and I have met people through this blog with whom I would love to share a cup of coffee and some cake.
  • As the world has become more connected via cyberspace, we have become less connected physically, depending upon computers, tables, and phones to do what we used to do face-to-face.

    AON M Baratella Neuronal Universe
    Neuronal Universe by M. Baratella
    Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012
  • I recognize that this shift is actually good for some people, particularly those who stay close to home, for whatever reason.
  • There are people out there who I may never ever meet who actually care about my well-being.
  • Grief is a subject to which people can relate; this astounds me because the first time I thought about writing about my ongoing battle with grief, I really wondered if to do so was such a good idea.
  • Dogs always make for good copy.
  • There are still some subjects that I cannot quite bring myself to broach. You may find this surprising.
  • I will occasionally self-censor.

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Edward Abbey

The other aspect that I want to address is that of the act of writing itself. I know that I go on and on about not finishing my novel, about not having an agent, about not being a real writer (whatever that is) . . . and all of this is yet another prime example of how I don’t believe in myself enough, how I am my own worst enemy. With that in mind, I thought I’d force myself to do a bit of analysis:

  • I spend at least two hours on each real post, i.e., not the Jon Stewart Videos or reposts from other people. Two hours.
  • My posts average 1500 words.
  • Inevitably, I learn something new with each post, whether it is discovering a new artist, or coming upon a new place, or even reading a new quote by someone I had not heard of before.

    AON S Hoyng Organised Chaos
    Organised Chaos by S. Hoyng
    Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012
  • For me, each post poses a tacit agreement with my audience: I will do my best to impart some kind of information, and with any luck, that information will touch you in some way, either making you laugh, or making you pause, or making you want to read more.
  • I take great care in ensuring that my writing is grammatically correct because these words reflect me. If I cannot be careful with language, then what is the point?
  • Even though it may seem like it sometimes, I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a throw-away post; even if I’m just posting an image, I try to make that image reflect my state of mind.
  • The blog is about choices, from the very small (what color to use for the headers) to the very big (what to use for my title), and in between, (does this image reflect what I’m thinking?)
  • Good, bad, or indifferent, I put myself out here, over and over again, and I don’t regret it a bit.

By the way, this is post 1200. Thanks for sticking with me through the years. Thank you for commenting, for sending me e-mails and cards, for enabling my chocolate addiction. Thank you for five years. I wonder if there will be five more.

More later. Peace.

(All images are from the 2012 Art of Neuroscience Competition, sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)

Music by Andrew Belle, “In My Veins”

                   

Sometimes, I Am Startled out of Myself,

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

~ Barbara Crooker

“Here’s a prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages.” ~ Tennessee Williams

Lone Gull at Sunset (via desktopnexus.com)*

                   

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol

Tuesday afternoon. Hot and hazy.

Tropical Sunset (via desktopnexus.com)

The house is mercifully silent. Everyone left for Busch Gardens this morning, and they are not expected back until this evening sometime.

I love having the kids home, but I also love my silence, love hearing nothing but my playlist in the background, the tick of the clock, and the occasional sound of puppy paws on hardwood floors. Silence is seriously underrated.

I have always been this contradictory: While I loved being around groups of people and talking for hours, I also valued the time I spent alone, reading or writing. Perhaps that’s why being an only child did not bother me except upon those rare occasions when I felt I needed an older sibling, never a younger one, and since older was impossible, I remained an only.

Of course, the big drawback to being an only child is that your parents focus entirely on you—good or bad, though to be quite honest, I was a very good child. We won’t discuss my teen years, in which I was a terror, as most teens are.

A friend of Alexis’s who is a few years older, has a daughter who is 12. That is so hard to imagine, mostly because she is a contemporary of my daughter, but also because I remember when Alexis was 12. She was still sweet and smart and had not yet decided that she wanted to be neither as that was just too predictable. My Uncle Nick used to comment all of the time how Alexis’s name was on the marquis of her middle school every other week. He would see it and call my mother as he was bursting with pride. She won science fairs, literary contests, you name it.

That all ended with high school . . . It’s as if their hormones build to explosive levels between 11 and 13, and then all hell breaks loose. Overnight you become stupid simply because you are the parent. Overnight they become omniscient, simply because they are teenagers. I do not envy teens and that raging imbroglio that is adolescence. It’s too bad that a TARDIS cannot truly move people from one time to the next, skipping all of the angst in between, but of course, if that were so, how would we ever learn?

“All night love draws its heavy drape of scent against the sea and we wake with the allure of earth in our lungs, hungry for bread and oranges . . . We are sailors who wake when the moon intrudes the smoky tavern of dreams, wake to find a name on an arm or our bodies bruised by sun or the pressure of a hand, wake with the map of night on our skin, traced like moss-stained stone.” ~ Anne Michaels, The Passionate World

Chobe Pier at Sunset, Botswana, Africa (via desktopnexus.com)

Last night I had a very strange dream: I was walking down Hampton Boulevard with a backpack. I had left ODU and my office there without my car as I was quite upset. I was sharing an office with Mari and some other people from the old days, and Mari was acting horribly towards me. She walked away as I was speaking to her, and she said, “I have no desire to drink tea with her.”

So I began the long walk home (to my parents’ house), which is a walk that I take often in my dreams. It’s about seven miles or so, along busy streets, but for some reason, I walk this route often. In the dream, I arrive at the crossroads of Little Creek Road and Hampton, and I stop to repack my stuff. As I’ve walked, I’ve accumulated more stuff, and it has become quite heavy.

I’m in a flea market/antique store, and I spread all of my things across this mattress to try to decide what I should keep and what I should leave behind/donate. I decide to call my father to pick me up from my current location, and amidst my things, I find my old pink razor phone. I put off making the call until I’ve sorted through everything.

Then the surroundings morph into a more exclusive antique shop, and another woman from my past is there, and she is suggesting that we go ahead and take some of the antiques that belong to a female museum patron. I tell her that I don’t think that’s a good idea, but she starts taking things off the shelf. Meanwhile, my black lamb has gotten loose.

Fast forward a bit, and my museum director is there, and he wants to know if I’ve stolen any of the antiques. I tell him that the only thing that I took from the shelf was something that the woman had given me. I ask where my mother is, and he says that she’s being questioned. I walk down a hall and fling open a glass door to find my mother sitting at a boardroom table with about five other people, one of whom is the owner of the antiques. I declare that my mother will not be answering any more questions without an attorney.

Then the officials in the room bring in a container and begin removing antiques and placing them on the table. They ask me about each piece, and I tell them that I do not know how they got into the container, even though I know that the woman from my past took them. They accuse me of taking them, and I tell them that it wasn’t me.

I leave and push my now-packed suitcase before me down the road, crying that they hadn’t believed that I did not steal anything.

Weird, very weird.

“The lake is quiet, the trees surround me, asking and giving nothing.” ~ Margaret Atwood, “Surfacing”

Country Sunset (via desktopnexus.com)

After I finish this post, I’m going to float in the pool a bit with the puppies. Then I plan to work on the bedroom some more; we still need to switch the night stand and move the old trunk into the living room, and for that I will need Corey. Almost everything else in the shuffle has been done. Unfortunately, once again the dining room table has become a repository for those things left misplaced, so that means another few hours cleaning the table and sorting through old mail and various other things.

Oddly enough, Eamonn said that he wanted to cover the one wall that still shows writing on it. I think that he does not want his new girlfriend to visit and see all of the notes from other girls, i.e. “xxx luvs eamonn” (fill in a name, as there are several). Actually, I’m thinking of using a dark color on just this particular wall and then white on everything else. I’ll have to ponder that a bit more.

What is interesting is how both of my sons are now taking an interest in refurbishing the house, when just a few years ago they really didn’t care. Brett even made the offer to Corey a few nights ago to contribute some of his savings to help finish the renovations, but Corey told him that that money was his and that he should keep it in his savings for if and when he decides to move out. It was a very sweet offer, but not one that we would feel at all comfortable in accepting.

“Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Sunset on Field Flowers (via desktopnexus.com)

Let’s see . . . what else is on my plate at the moment? There is so much, yet so little. I have rebates that I need to send, a few official requests, other types of paperwork. It’s all so mundane. Given the choice between alphabetizing my CDs (yes, I still use CDs as I do not have nor do I want an mp3 player) and doing paperwork, it’s no contest—the CDs.

And, oh yes. I do alphabetize and categorize my music and my movies—drama/action, science fiction, history, comedy, documentary. Doesn’t everyone?

When my books weren’t all packed in boxes, they were also alphabetized and categorized: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, etc. I love organization in certain aspects of my life, and I abhor organization in others. Well, let me explain: It’s not that I abhor it, but performing the actions necessary to keep those aspects organized is so taxing and unsatisfying.

As I’m typing, Tillie is napping on Eamonn’s bed. It’s her new favorite spot. Just a bit ago, she was remonstrating me quietly, trying to get me interested in going outside. When I ignored her, she went to sleep. It’s funny how much like a toddler she is: all play all of the time . . . unless it’s time for a nap.

I wonder what the black lamb in my dream meant?

“There is immeasurably more left inside than what comes out in words.” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

Sunset Through the Gate (via dexktopnexus.com)

I’ve been contemplating what I wrote yesterday. It’s still with me. I’m not certain that I did a good job of explaining myself.

Yesterday I found myself self-censoring again. And that really bothers me. I do not say all of the words that have built up inside me as I worry how these words will be taken out of context and used against me. I had thought that I had moved beyond that, but as yesterday witnesses, I have not, but I know that I must move past this, move beyond this feeling that someone out there is watching my every move, just waiting for me to stumble, even though that is the reality.

I grow weary of this non verbal tug-of-war. I tire of the incessant vexing nature of it.

When I was in high school, I took my first psychology course. Of course at that time, Freud still held a great deal of sway in the field, and I learned all about the id, ego, and superego, about the theory of the Oedipal and Electra complexes, and while all of this information was vastly interesting, the key thing that I took away from that course was this: there was an actual name for people who vacillated wildly between low and high mood swings: manic depression (or as we know it today: bipolar mood disorder).

I cannot tell you how much better it made me feel to know that other people jumped between highs and lows, that it wasn’t just me.

You see, at that time I had never seen a therapist, had not been put on any kind of medication. And as a result, I used to find myself suddenly in tears, or just as suddenly, filled with this unabating energy. My close friends called me moody, which I suppose was apropos. My parents called me sensitive. When in fact I was suffering from a true disorder, one that had been studied, one that had been named.

When I say that I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for anything, this is one of the reasons why: To be filled with raging hormones, and to be prey to mood swings over which I had no control, and to be told that it was “growing pains”—can you even begin to imagine my frustration? Of course, were it a few hundred years ago, I would have been thought to be possessed by demons and tried for witchcraft.

Small favors, I say.

Anyway, I was going to mention this tidbit yesterday, but I didn’t. I hit the backspace key and erased the words, made it appear as if they had never existed. But they did exist, and to delete them simply because I do not want to supply more fodder to my stalker is cowardice, at least, that’s how I view it. And one thing that I am not is a coward.

I face what comes my way unflinchingly. Does this mean that I do not feel fear? Of course not. But as Shakespeare put it in Henry V, “back into the fray”:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; (III,i)

More later. Peace.

Music by Amos Lee, “Colors”

*All images can be downloaded as wallpapers.

                   

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved: After Nazim Hikmet

I always knew I loved the sky,
the way it seems solid and insubstantial at the same time;
the way it disappears above us
even as we pursue it in a climbing plane,
like wishes or answers to certain questions—always out of reach;
the way it embodies blue,
even when it is gray.

But I didn’t know I loved the clouds,
those shaggy eyebrows glowering
over the face of the sun.
Perhaps I only love the strange shapes clouds can take,
as if they are sketches by an artist
who keeps changing her mind.
Perhaps I love their deceptive softness,
like a bosom I’d like to rest my head against
but never can.

And I know I love the grass, even as I am cutting it as short
as the hair on my grandson’s newly barbered head.
I love the way the smell of grass can fill my nostrils
with intimations of youth and lust;
the way it stains my handkerchief with meanings
that never wash out.

Sometimes I love the rain, staccato on the roof,
and always the snow when I am inside looking out
at the blurring around the edges of parked cars
and trees. And I love trees,
in winter when their austere shapes
are like the cutout silhouettes artists sell at fairs
and in May when their branches
are fuzzy with growth, the leaves poking out
like new green horns on a young deer.

But how about the sound of trains,
those drawn-out whistles of longing in the night,
like coyotes made of steam and steel, no color at all,
reminding me of prisoners on chain gangs I’ve only seen
in movies, defeated men hammering spikes into rails,
the burly guards watching over them?

Those whistles give loneliness and departure a voice.
It is the kind of loneliness I can take in my arms, tasting
of tears that comfort even as they burn, dampening the pillows
and all the feathers of all the geese who were plucked to fill
them.

Perhaps I embrace the music of departure—song without lyrics,
so I can learn to love it, though I don’t love it now.
For at the end of the story, when sky and clouds and grass,
and even you my love of so many years,
have almost disappeared,
it will be all there is left to love.

~ Linda Pastan, from Queen of a Rainy Country