“Life is a journey. Time is a river. The door is ajar” ~ Jim Butcher

“Flight of Swans,” by Frank Weston Benson (1951)

                            

“Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again . . .” ~ Frank O’Hara

Well, hey. How have you been? Long time no words between us . . . 

"The Reader," Frank Weston Benson (1910)

First, my computer died, an unanticipated immediate death, requiring the ordering of parts and much finger crossing. Said computer is still sitting forlorn in the corner of the bedroom, collecting dust and serving as a clothes stand. Ah, such is life. 

Then I appropriated Corey’s computer, which is no easy feat. Adjusted myself to his scratchy mouse and a different corner of the house, this one an apparent heat sink of a spot as all afternoon heat collects in this corner. Not to mention that his computer’s speakers sound tinny, an observation that made Corey reply haughtily, “Well, we can’t all have Bose speakers.” What? Was it something I said? 

Then, the Internet was shut off, so between the breakage, moving, and lack of payment, my posting has been, shall we say, bereft? 

In such a short space of time, summer is waning right outside my door. Oh, it’s still beastly hot, but leaves are beginning to appear on the surface of the pool. Speaking of which, my forays into the pool this summer have been few, not because I have developed an aversion to floating about on water but because the interminable headaches make it hard to be in the heat and bright sun. Tillie the Black Lab has been sure to jump into the pool as much as possible, and I’m sure that it’s only to make me feel better. 

“She would never change, but one day at the touch of a fingertip, she would fall.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir
"Lily Pond," Frank Weston Benson (1923)

As I said in my brief post yesterday, I found my blog’s theme changed when I was finally able to log in. How disconcerting. Apparently, WordPress is updating some themes and deleting others. Mine, which I mistakenly believed was Pressrow, was Cutline, which (as Isaak Mak pointed out—thanks), has been morphed into Coraline. Progress is fine, but change is not always necessarily good. It took me almost two years to switch from the first theme that I had, and now I am breaking in a new theme again. 

Granted for some people this would not present a problem, but I had everything where I wanted it, all of the widgets lined along the right side, a new header photo. Part of the problem, you see, is that I’m still not on my own computer, the repository of my vast folder of images, so I had to search for another image for my header last night. I settled on the one above, but it doesn’t seem quite right. And this blasted typeface seems incredibly big. I wonder if it is or if my eyes are rebelling? 

It seems the family is experiencing its share of computer problems. Brett is supposed to submit a Writing Sample Placement Test to ODU before he can register for his freshman English class. He is most unhappy at this proposition as he believes that having survived several years of IB English should make him qualified to take freshman composition. I agree, but as I explained, everyone has to do it unless they tested out, which he did not. 

To date, he has tried to take this test four times. He has written the essay two times. When he hits submit, the essay disappears, and he is locked out. The last time he wrote the essay I reminded him to copy it and paste it into a blank document so that he wouldn’t have to write it again. Brett, like his mother, becomes stymied by those things he deems unnecessary, this test being one of them. Multiply the process by four, and the result is a very unhappy son. 

Meanwhile, the router, the thingy that connects all of the computers in the house to the Internet and to each other, yep that thingy—continues to go in and out. 

“I want to write like August, to swim in it like a pool and forget the clock hands moving across summer’s face.” ~ Terresa Wellborn
"Rainy Day," Frank Weston Benson (1906)

 What else is new on the home front? I would love to be able to say that I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay, that Corey has been given his own boat, that my children are all content, that the dogs do not have fleas . . . I would love to be able to say these things, but we all know that I would be lying. 

I’ve been commissioned to do nothing, so I’m thinking about selling Avon online as a way to make a spare bit of cash. Of course, I have to check with my disability people to see if I’m even allowed to do such a thing. Corey still has no boat to call his own, and he is working tirelessly at his port security job. 

Alexis is frayed and exhausted from trying to take care of Jennifer’s paperwork, and son, and still be a good friend. She seems on the verge of tears most of the time, and her visits are just brief enough to drop off her laundry, which Corey has volunteered to do for her so that she has one less thing to worry about. 

Jennifer is home from the hospital, and now, I suppose, we are all in wait mode. Alexis and Jennifer’s brother Christopher are trying to enroll Reilly in the grade school that is just around the corner from my house, which would allow me to walk over and pick him up from school any time needed, and Lex’s Aunt Ann has volunteered to be on the emergency list for Reilly as well. 

I wish that I could say that the outlook is good, that Jennifer is rallying, and the doctors have predicted good things . . . If wishes were fishes . . . 

“I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer . . . It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.” ~ Violette Leduc 
"Dog River, Alabama," Frank Weston Benson (1930)

Everything that I have written so far has been much ado about nothing. I realize that. I also realize that I am once again standing too close to a precipice to peer over the side. Too many things are stirring in the cosmos. Too many things are unsettled and being bandied about like a badminton shuttle (I’m certain that’s spelled correctly, but it looks funny). 

My dreams of late have been filled with babies and confrontation, heated arguments with people in charge, those unknown faces of people who hold power over me. I wake up frantic and in pain after averting physical fights. Last night there was a knife, a group of teenagers who were shooting automatic weapons on a side street in Downtown Norfolk, and a long walk down an alley. I don’t need psychoanalysis to tell me what that means. 

The end of summer used to have a curious coda to it: When I was teaching at ODU, August became a month of frenzied activity, getting ready for school, buying new clothes for everyone, trying to fit in as many activities as possible. Now, it is merely muggy and long. A part of me even misses the chaos of buying school supplies for Eamonn and Brett, the lists, the rush from store to store to find three-prong folders with pockets because all of the stores only have the ones with pockets. Buying a certain kind of pen for Brett, and another for Eamonn. 

Corey, the boys, and I would try to fit in a trip to Busch Gardens, and maybe a trip to the Outer Banks. Those were heady summer days. It all seems to very far away. 

“When you start to live outside of yourself, it all seems dangerous.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
"Red and Gold," Frank Weston Benson (1915)

Now, here with two-thirds of the year gone, I think back to the plans I made at the beginning of the new year, my resolution to myself that this would be the year that I finally did something, that I would make the telephone calls, that I would release the flow of words that are dammed within. 

I have done nothing. I have moved through eight months without gaining any forward motion. If I were to disappear tomorrow, there would be nothing to show the world that I was here except as a mother, as someone’s spouse. My sense of self, though, that would disappear in an instant with me. 

All of the worlds within my mind, all of the stories left untold, all of the lines left unwritten—they would cease to exist, and the fault would be mine alone, a result of my continual, ongoing paralysis of spirit. 

Self-pity is heinous on a bright August afternoon. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Powderfinger, “Nobody Sees”

“I shrink and grow in cycles, dazzled at the small cup that is my life.” ~ Terresa Wellborn

     

“All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.” ~ André Breton
Vintage Fence by Francoise Rachez

So where do I go now? I mean, now that I’ve reached a milestone of sorts, do I keep doing what I’ve been doing? I suppose so as this platform seems to be working for me. Somewhat. The writing, the posting—both continue to offer me a great outlet. By writing about so many different things, I am able to feel a sense of immediacy as opposed to growing stale. But there is still something that is not quite right, still an element that remains elusive.

After all, I still haven’t gotten around to starting the book. I do have three concrete ideas that could be developed. One is a fact-based story. The other is a mystery, and the other is a memoir/tribute.

Time for total truth, I think: I will never be happy until my unwritten book has been put to page. That is the one thing that I have yearned for all my life, and it is nameable. It is as tangible in my desire as it is intangible in its reality. 

I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” ~ Sylvia Plath
We Held Gold Dust in Our Hands

I realize that I’ve probably used this Sylvia Plath quote before, but it speaks to me; it is so close to what I feel—each minute of each hour of each day. In fact, all of today’s quotes are quite personal.

I suppose what got me on this reflective tack is that I received two comments recently about my writing, more precisely, about me being a writer, a good writer. Both comments made me pause. Wow. Someone actually thinks of me as a writer, someone other than me. When I list who and what I am for other people, though, I don’t usually put writer first.

By that I mean that I usually describe myself personally as a wife and mother, professionally as a writer/editor. But is my essence, the essence that I have been trying to define my entire life, that of a writer? Is that who and what I am? Thinking of myself as a writer does not negate being a wife and mother, but it does change my perspective. Consider the difference between saying “I like to write” as opposed to “I am a writer.” The first places the emphasis not on the writing, whereas the second shifts the emphasis.

For a long time I thought of myself as a poet, but I’m not a poet. What has helped me to come to this realization is this blog. I can write poetically; my phrasing can by lyrical, sometimes musical, but what I do best is not poetry even though I have written some poems of which I am quite proud. But for me, my forte seems to be this genre called creative non-fiction, for lack of a better category.

“Will secrets fly out of me
when I break open?” ~ Mary Oliver
Vintage Cameo

I know that I will probably continue to have periods in which I feel that I have nothing else to say in this blog, that what I am saying just doesn’t matter any more. Thankfully, when that has happened in the past, I have been able to get past it after a brief respite and some cheering up from friends.

But what concerns me a bit, what is wiggling around in the back of my brain is the idea that perhaps I am using this blog as yet another means of delaying sitting down to write the manuscript that I compose in my head as I lay awake at 4 in the morning, the sentences that I form in my head as I float around in the pool, staring at nothing in particular.

Am I using this so that I don’t have to do that? By turning all of my creative energies to these posts, am I negating my ability to create something else? I don’t believe that that is the case, at least I hope that’s not the case. This is something that I am really going to have to ponder. I know that I do have a tendency to set myself up for failure at those times when I am most afraid of succeeding.

It’s not fear of failure; it’s fear of success, if you can believe that.

I know that I have joked before about my head exploding and the contents running out. I also know that I tend to over think things, to go through all of the ifs, and whys again and again and again, beating the proverbial horse that is already dead (where did such a perverse saying come from anyway . . .).  But once again, am I doing this, employing these methods for avoidance?

Ah me, ah life, as Walt Whitman said. It’s enough to make a sane person crazy, and to make a crazy person absolutely batshit. I think that I had better stop for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Gary Jules, “Mad World”

Photographs with links can be found on my tumblr, Slow Dancing in Quicksand

“We do not find our own center. It finds us. We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” ~ Richard Rohr

Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Hebden Bridge, UK

  

“I want to write like August, to swim in it like a pool and forget the clock hands moving across summer’s face.” ~ Terresa Wellborn

When I realized that this post would be #500*, I immediately froze and wrote nothing. I mean, 500? That’s pretty auspicious, at least in my mind, anyway. If I were to estimate the number of words in my posts and multiply by 500, I would get somewhere between 550 and 600,000 words. 

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . . 

Granted, not all of my posts have been written; a small percentage have been videos. But still . . . I have sat down at my computer (or someone else’s) at least 500 times (more if counting the posts I lost and had to rewrite) and written about . . . well, things. I have to admit that when I began this project, I never thought that I would last this long. Of course when I began this project, I was ecstatic to get 100 hits in one day. 

My how times have changed. Now, I realize that despite my creative ebbs and flows, I will probably continue writing here for some time yet, and fortunately, I am not nearly as obsessed by my stats as I used to be. Rather than numbers, I relish the comments as they are much more tangible (so if you’re lurking and haven’t commented, please accept this as an invitation to do so). 

So here I am, muddling about, trying to think of something to say in my anniversary post. Who knows where this may lead . . . By the way, I was quite surprised to see all of the 500 images that I found when I did a Google search, so I took that as a sign that I should bedeck my post in the company of other historical 500th things, like Henry VIII and a 500-year-old bridge in the UK. Granted, some of these anniversaries occurred before mine, but hey, Henry won’t mind. He was all about self-promotion.

So here I go . . . 

“Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.” ~Kahlil Gibran
Image of King Henry VIII in Celebration of His 500th Anniversary

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers.

I have created three sets of five in honor of the big 500. It’s the least I can do. No really, the least: 

  • I have decided that in the history of television, five shows stand out as being uniquely entertaining, at least in my estimation:

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: I mean really,  hilariously funny and engaging dialogue (shows up again in another Joss Whedon creation, “Firefly” which I would have listed here, but it didn’t last long enough) 

“The West Wing”: Still waiting for a President Bartlett, unfortunately 

“Law & Order” (original): Twenty years. Just as relevant. Who else can say that? 

“House”: One of the best-drawn modern tragic characters 

“Oz”: Consistently gripping drama with an ensemble cast unlike any other ever seen 

  • Based on the above, I realize that I am a nerd/drama junkie. Sitcoms just don’t do it for me.
  • I still need a haircut.
  • Being the party of “No” is nothing of which to be proud.
  • The war in Afghanistan is too reminiscent of Viet Nam in that it is an unwinnable war. Counterinsurgency in a country that has repelled conquerors for over 1,000 years is lunacy. They don’t want to be Americanized, and the concept of American imperialism is outdated. Bring our military home.
“Brilliance is typically the act of an individual, but incredible stupidity can usually be traced to an organization.” ~ Jon Bentley
A 500 Yen Coin
  • BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward has been reassigned to Siberia. At first I thought that this was funny until I found out how much he is being paid to go away: $1.6 million in salary, and more millions in pension benefits. I guess he got his life back.
  • President Obama appeared on “The View,” causing some critics to lose their minds, saying that the show was not serious enough. Need I remind everyone of Bush’s appearance on “Dr. Phil”? At least most (Snooki aside) of the questions on “The View” were pointedly in keeping with today’s issues. And as far as the Boy Scott Jamboree that Obama passed on, how about the other 12 U.S. presidents who declined the same invitation, including Republicans Nixon, Reagan and Ford? They weren’t called un-American.
  • Jon Stewart is right. Nothing Obama does will ever make the right happy. Nothing.
  • Just a reminder: W. had a surplus coming into office ($236 Billion, according to Congressional Budget Office). Obama had a $1.2 Trillion deficit when he took office (same source).
  • Another reminder: The Wall Street crash happened on W’s watch, not Obama’s.
“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.” ~ Confucius
Darth Vader 500th Anniversary

Well, I just lost one-third of this post when I tried to save because the router went out. Lovely. Let’s see . . . what was I rambling on about anyway . . . 

  • All of Corey’s sunflowers are dead, which means that the beautiful patch of yellow in the backyard is now a sad patch of droopy, green stems and leaves.
  • For some reason, centipedes abound in our house this summer. I don’t care what you might have to say about them, I am terrified of centipedes. I know that this is an irrational fear, but I used to have nightmares about them when I was a child. I dreamed they were in my bed. These things are hard to kill, and before you lecture me on letting things be, you should know that I only swat a few things: cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, and ants running rampant on my kitchen counter. Nevertheless, centipedes just won’t die.
  • I’m ready for fall, which is weird since I still think that it’s April.
  • At one point we had about six tennis balls throughout the house. Today, I couldn’t fine one, which means that Tillie and Shakes cannot play pool ball. They are very sad puppies. Next week, I’ll probably find the missing tennis balls in an unlikely spot.
  • I think that I’ve just about decided what my next tattoo will be, not that I’ll be able to afford one anytime soon. These are the kinds of things with which I occupy my mind. Small things . . .

So much for the great 500th post. I sort of lost my momentum after part of the post disappeared. I think that I’ll go have a bowl of cereal and watch a “Law & Order” rerun. That always works. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Iron and Wine, “Such Great Heights” 

 

*I realized today that my actual stats show only 496 posts, but, and this is a big but, I have written and posted 500 times. About a year ago I made 5 posts private, but I then decided to delete 4 of them permanently, which puts my total at 500 . . . Crystal clear, right?

“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world—to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.” ~ Ayn Rand

Kensington, Brooklyn Graffiti From Truth and Rocket Science

  

“I want to build a ship and write novels. I want a stack of books tied to my name, and poetry, too, collections of it. I write slow. I think long. And I want to last longer in people’s minds than their last meal or movie. So I keep writing and building, word by word, an ark maybe, as I can, in every spare space.” ~ Terresa Wellborn
A Secret Place: Old Barn, by renejo (1951), via dreaminginthedeepsouth

Since I haven’t had my computer, I’ve been spending more time on my tumblr site, and I have to say that I’ve really come to like it. Going on tumblr doesn’t require me to post in the same way as this site. Instead, I can sift through what has been posted by the people who I follow, and decide whether or not to repost, or reblog as it were. It’s so effortless that a part of me feels as if I am doing something wrong. 

I mean, having access to all of this beautiful images, literary quotes, factoids—the researcher in me feels as if I am cheating by not working harder.  I suppose that it’s a fairly normal response to people who are new to tumblr as I am, but in less than two months, I already have 1,024 posts (each individual item is counted as a post), and I am following 29 people (with 13 people following me). Posts are categorized as follows: text, photo, quote, audio, chat, video. 

Having people follow me on my tumblr site is nice, but what I actually get more satisfaction from is finding new people to follow. Let me explain: tumblr is many things to many people; there are sites devoted to music, cars, book deals, gaming, news, food . . . whatever. The sites that I follow tend to deal with one of five things: literature (poetry, quotes by authors, passages from books, book covers), the ocean (pictures of ocean life, waves, islands, etc.), geographic photography (pictures from around the world of architecture, landscapes), vintage things (postcards, typewriters, jewelry), and then a bit of pop culture (Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, videos, shoes). 

Of course, there are the odd bits and pieces, but as a whole, that is what I am searching for when I go on the dashboard. 

“Camus said there is only really one serious philosophical question, which is whether or not to commit suicide. I think there are four or five serious philosophical questions:
The first one is: Who started it?
The second is: Are we going to make it?
The third is: Where are we going to put it?
The fourth is: Who’s going to clean up?
And the fifth: Is it serious?” ~ Alan Watts
My Secret Place by a tamer, via dreaminginthedeepsouth

There is one thing about tumblr that bothers me: copyright. One of the key things that our professors in the publishing program hammered into us repeatedly was the importance of copyright; hence, my sensitivity about usage. This is why always try to use images from Wikimedia Commons or Flckr Creative Commons, or those works that I know exist in the public domain. 

I try to reblog those things that do not appear to be under copyright or are under a creative commons license. A creative commons license means that the item in question can be used, but that certain rules apply. Currently, four license conditions exist, and these licenses allow writers, photographers, software creators, designers, etc.  to specify which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. 

According to the cc site, the four conditions are: Attribution (BY), requiring attribution to the original author; Share Alike (SA), allowing derivative (changed) works under the same or a similar license (later or jurisdiction version); Non-Commercial (NC), requiring the work is not used for commercial purposes; and No Derivative Works (ND), allowing only the original work, without derivatives. 

However, not everyone is attuned to the nuances and obligations of copyright, and sometimes a picture will be posted without any title, or link, or name. This is where I have a hard time: I  love the image and want to reblog it, but I don’t think that it’s adhering to the rules. Having said that, I get the sense that copyright rules on tumblr are more relaxed, but I could be wrong. Some people are real sticklers regarding copyright, and early in this blog I used an image by a contemporary artist and was called on it. I had assumed that using the image was all right since it was for non-commercial use; however, I in no way wanted to infringe on the artist’s copyright. On the flip side, I have attached a copyright to my tumblr’s name, Slow Dancing in Quicksand (which some of you may recognize as the title of a post) because I want to preserve that phrase as a possible book title. 

I suppose that I may have to be of two minds, depending on which blog I’m on: With this blog, I hold fast to the rules; on tumblr, I try to maintain the rules, and if I am going to import an image from tumblr to this site, I’m going to give the link provided. 

The other issue, of course, is determining which link to provide. You see, with reblogging, image X may have started out on A’s blog, but by the time it appear on my dashboard, it’s been reblogged five times. I’m seeing the image from G’s blog. When possible, I click on the image to try to find the original source, but if I cannot, then I have to attribute the image to the blog on which I found it. 

Somehow, this all seems much harder than it should be. Oh. I get it. There’s the hard part about tumblr, and it’s only as hard as the individual makes it. 

“We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fade to White by Stephen K. Willi, via dreaminginthedeepsouth

Anyway, the whole point of this voyage around my elbow was to say that I’m finding some great quotes and things on tumblr, many of which I plan to use here. 

In addition to Crashingly Beautiful, the tumblr that I have been following the longest, I wanted to list a few of the sites that I follow on tumblr, just in case you want to do some journeying of your own: 

Go exploring. You’d be amazed at the things you can find. 

More later. Peace

Music by Dashboard Confessional, “Stolen” (acoustic)