Happy Thanksgiving . . . Bonne Action de grâce . . . Feliz Día de Gracias . . . Glad tacksägelsedag . . . Herzliche Danksagung

Set up and of course, forgot to schedule to post . . .

autumn

                   

First Thanksgiving

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me, Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

~ Sharon Olds

                     

Nick Drake, “Blues Run the Game”

“I can’t exactly describe how I feel but it’s not quite right. And it leaves me cold.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “The Love of the Last Tycoon”

Dark Night of the Soul
by David Hepworth (FCC)

                    

“He is like an old ferry dragged on to the shore,
a home in its smashed grandeur, with the giant beams
and joists. Like a wooden ocean out of control.
A beached heart. A cauldron of cooling melt.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Refusing Heaven”

Very early Friday morning. Cloudy and cold. 2:30 a.m.

I had thought that after I wrote the last post I might be able to find sleep. I was wrong. Apparently my attempts to purge my grief did not succeed. Each time I laid back and tried to close my eyes, my mind began that headlong rush into a miasma of thoughts, thoughts that I cannot control, so here I am. I can change the channel on the television, or play another hand of spider solitaire, or walk out to the kitchen. But I know what is wrong, why sleep eludes me: There is no warm snoring body curled into the crook of my knee.

Twisted Tree in Mist, Stanmer Park Great Wood, UK
by dominic’s pics (FCC)

Oh, he was smelly, between the ongoing crud in his ear and his perpetual halitosis, Shakes was a smelly dog. But I knew that smell. That smell followed me from room to room, sat patiently as I washed dishes. Daily spritzing with Febreze helped, but the smell persisted. Now that smell is gone.

You might find this an odd thing to think about, but smell does that to me. After Caitlin died I carried the outfit she had worn to the hospital in a plastic bag. I took that bag everywhere with me, and once in a while, when I felt the need to torment myself, I would unseal the bag and inhale deeply. It took a long time for her smell to fade.

“My brother once showed me a piece of quartz that contained, he said, some trapped water older than all the seas in our world. He held it up to my ear.

‘Listen,’ he said, ‘life and no escape.’” ~ Anne Carson, from  Plainwater

Shakes could also be mean. He hated to have his nails cut, and his ear problem never fully resolved because he fought attempts at cleaning and medicating. I bear a few scars from when he bit me. In fact, on my right arm, I have a c-shaped scar that I have seriously contemplated having a crescent moon drawn around. Turning a scar into a badge, if you will.

Forest after Fire
by Steve Slater (Wildlife Encounters) (FCC)

So he could be mean, and he smelled. But he was also fiercely loyal, very jealous, and quite funny. I know that I’ve posted pictures of him as he lay with his head upon my pillow, or tented beneath the quilt, or sitting by the window.

In these last few months, I tried to take him on car rides when I could, and I didn’t scold him when he stole a piece of French bread. He knew that he was being spoiled, and he probably took advantage of it. Who cares. I just hope that he had a good life, one filled with memories of cookies and treats, doing army crawl across the grass to scratch his belly, playing games of tennis ball and jumping into the pool. I hope he knew how much he was loved, in spite of his grouchy old man demeanor. I hope that I did right by him.

“There are still days you can catch me
tape recording eternal silence
and playing it backwards for an empty room” ~ Buddy Wakefield, from “Human the Death Dance”

I suppose I am trying to write myself into oblivion. If I type enough words, if I confess enough, if I reveal everything—bad and good and in between—if I do all of these things, perhaps then my soul may find some rest.

Winter Trees in Mist at Dawn, Stamner Park Great Wood, UK
by dominic’s pics (FCC)

Perhaps.

Or perhaps I’ll just keep writing and keep feeling and keep scratching off that thin veneer of a scab that is only just forming, worry it in that way that I do, pull on it until the wound that is bared is deeper than it originally began. If you tear at something long enough, it will fray. Mess with it long enough, the fabric will wear, erode, crumble. Perhaps I will do all of these things enough times that when I finally lay back and close my eyes, I will see . . . nothing. And (one can only hope) be blessed with dreamless sleep.

Too bad the waters of Lethe are not accessible in this sphere. Forgetfulness would be a good thing.

“Even in a place you know intimately,
each night’s darkness is different.” ~ Anne Michaels, from Miner’s Pond

Friday afternoon. Cloudy and cool, 50’s.

So I eventually found sleep around 4 a.m. Awoke around 7 with another headache. Actually, Tillie woke me at 7, then again at 9:30. At 7 she wanted out, but at 9:30 she wanted to play. I asked Corey to wake me no later than 11 so that I could try to sleep tonight.

Blandford Nature Center
by mikemol (FCC)

The headache is gone for now, but my back muscles are like a basket of walnuts—all crammed up against one another and compressed into a space that is too small to accommodate them. In spite of the pain, I feel a bit better emotionally. I haven’t cried once since waking, and I don’t appear to be leaking incessantly. My chest also seems to have loosened, as in it doesn’t feel so constricted and painful. I suppose I have begun the long process of healing yet again.

But we all know not to expect too much of that. Right?

So my dog Shakes was smelly and temperamental and funny and loyal and fluffy in spots where dogs shouldn’t be fluffy, and his mouth looked like it had been lined with black eyeliner, giving him perpetual lipstick. He would do spite pees in the house, as in if I left him for too long alone, he would mark something, usually the end of my iron bed. He was a Jack Russell without spots and with long legs. For some reason, I remember the sire’s name was Simon, from the litter into which both Shakes and Alfie were born. They were the last two pups left, and the woman sold both of them to my mother for the price of one pup, which is how I came to own two male dogs.

“And he told stories about the stars above, about the earth below. He told them to make the night pass, and also because his heart was all reflections in which the soul of the world moved.” ~ Jean Giono, from The Serpent of Stars

I think that when I’m finished here, I’ll curl up beneath a blanket and read. I’ve abandoned NaNoWriMo mostly because I’m so far behind that I know I cannot catch up, especially as it is past the mid-point of the month. However, I have not abandoned the story. As I mentioned, I like my protagonist, and I like the sketchy plot that I have so far. I just know that I’m not in the frame of mind in which to flesh out characters and plot lines.

Macclesfield Forest in Winter, UK
(Wikimedia Commons)

I need to spend the weekend cleaning and polishing silver, getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I think because we’re going to have so many people that we’re going to cook a turkey and a ham, at least that’s the plan for now. When I first began planning the meal in my head, I had considered trying to bake a special cake. Not going to happen now. Apple and pumpkin pies from Costco—always a good plan.

Look. I’m just holding on at the moment. I’m better, but not there yet. I’ll spend my time this weekend doing mindless chores, and with any luck, I can burn away the pain. I don’t want to be a complete emotional wreck when Corey’s parents get here.

For now, we’ll just see how the days unfold.

More later. Peace.

Music by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, “Sophie”

                   

A Journal of the Year of the Ox (excerpt)

It is as though, sitting out here in the dwarf orchard,
The soul has come to rest at the edge of the body,
A vacancy, a small ache,
the soul had come to rest
After a long passage over the wasteland and damp season.
It is as though a tree had been taken out of the landscape.
It is as though a tree had been taken out
and moved to one side
And the wind blew where the tree had been
As though it had never blown there before,
or that hard.

~ Charles Wright

“Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the mind while awake?” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Nature Impressionistic, Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)*

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.” ~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country

Tuesday afternoon. Overcast and warm, 68 degrees.

A very bad few days, indeed. On Saturday, I was completely unable to get out of bed, probably slept 18 out of 24 hours. Just one of those days when the old body is too weak to deal with the vicissitudes of daily life. Then Sunday Corey and I went to buy the Thanksgiving turkey, and it was probably not the best day for it as I was still recovering, and he was sleep-deprived from his work schedule, and consequently, we had a spat in the middle of Sam’s Club.

Bokod, Komárom-Esztergom, Hungary, by Halasi Zsott (FCC)

By yesterday evening, when I was ready to write, I didn’t have access to the computer, so here I am today, no headache, a bit of back pain, and a strange tingling sensation in my left thumb. No idea as to what that is about.

I did make a point of checking my e-mail today, something that I no longer do daily. E-mail, like paper mail that is not in the form of a personal letter, has become rather boring to me. I could not tell you why this is so other than it is. Anyway, the point is that if you desperately need to get in touch with me, sending an e-mail may cause a delay of about a week or so. Sending a message via comments here tends to get my attention faster.

Apologies for this, but am not going to try to pretend that I will be better at checking my mail as I know myself too well. I might intend to do so, but will probably not.

Anyway, it’s a good thing that I did check the old electronic mail as there was a note from Helma (German s-in-law) that my nephew Phillip has to have emergency surgery for pancreatitis. His father Patrick (my ex’s brother) had a severe case of pancreatitis several years ago and almost died from it. Reading that note that was sent a week ago made me feel like the negligent git that I am.

“She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Everything is Illuminated

I’m trying to get the house ready for Thanksgiving. Ask me how much I’ve done . . .

When I finish here, I need to go prepare the cranberry relish so that it has a few days to get that commingling of flavors. Alexis is supposed to be doing the mashed potatoes and deviled eggs, but as she never got around to texting or calling me this weekend, I’m not sure I can depend on that. You see, she was supposed to be my ride to Sam’s Club, her reward being gas in her tank. Her no-show meant that Corey had to fill in, which led to the overall grumpiness and spat, etc.

Falling Leaves in Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)

I despair of her ever coming out of this whatever it is. She knows, as do I, that she needs professional help, but that costs money. She has no money because she has no job; she has no job because of this prolonged downward spiral, so she cannot get professional help. She is her own 99 percent. Not trying to be glib, just realistic.

If I dwell on it for too long, it only adds to my personal miasma of pain, guilt, and otherwise world-weary despair.

So I’ll make cranberry relish. I’ll clear the dining room table. I’ll enlist as much help as I can, and we’ll muddle through the same as always. At least I’ve got a lovely bottle of sparkling blush muscato to accompany the bird and trimmings. It will be one of my occasional forays into imbibing, the last being after the memorial service in September.

“To disguise nothing, to conceal nothing, to write about those things that are closest to our pain, our happiness; to write about our sexual clumsiness, the agonies of Tantalus, the depth of our discouragement—what we glimpse in our dreams—our despair. To write about the foolish agonies of anxiety, the refreshment of our strength when these are ended; to write about our painful search for self, jeopardized by a stranger in the post office, a half-seen face in a train window, to write about the continents and populations of our dreams, about love and death, good and evil, the end of the world.” ~ From The Journals of John Cheever

I found this Cheever passage on tumblr, and it seems so perfect for me, a perfect description of how I write, what I do here. Each time I sit down at these keys, it’s as if I’m sharing my life as it unfolds, as if this act is both abhorrent and necessary, as if penning the words to my own bitter song will cleanse me and thus allow me to feel better. But better how I could not tell you.

Like Tantalus, the fruit always seems to be just beyond my reach, and the water recedes just as I cup my hands to drink. But somehow I keep going.

Twilight in Bokod, Komárom-Esztergom, Hungary, by Halasi Zsott (FCC)

Images flashing through my head: a young boy, holding someone’s hand and looking back over his right shoulder as he’s being pulled away; a woman wearing huge metal frame sunglasses, face turned to the sun; a red rubber ball bouncing . . .Total disconnect? Where do these things come from? Do they mean anything or are they just the commercials in between the stuff that means something? Are these the strangers who I have encountered without noticing, the ones that my brain has filed away for later without my conscious self knowing?

It’s like the photograph of the Irish countryside that I posted a few days ago (which got quite a nice response from you guys . . . should I just cut out the words and post pretty pictures? Kidding.). I came upon it quite by chance, but boom, it was the perfect representation of what I’ve been trying to describe as the Ireland that I see in my mind’s eye.

Have you noticed that I have a real affinity for Greek mythology? I credit Mrs. Clay for this. I really despised that woman when she taught me 9th grade English, but she knew her stuff. I wonder if they even spend time on mythology in English classes any more, I mean, more than a week or two.

“The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightning and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not.” ~ From the Upanishads

But getting back to the whole idea of what I do here, in this little space of mine—I populate this world of mine with dreams (those I’ve had while sleeping and those I keep close to my heart), with agonies and victories, small and large, and I intersperse occasional bouts of politics, irony, whimsy, and comic relief. But all of it—the mindless rambling, the tortured angst, the attempts at the profound—it all comes from a place I simply cannot define. It’s all there, and I do not control how or when it surfaces.

Fall in in Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary by Halasi Zsolt FCC

Last night I dreamed that I went into an old abandoned building. People were living there. It was an old theater, and the people who lived there went into an empty convenience store to use the telephone. I thought about staying there because the people made me feel welcome, but decided that I needed to move on. I had somewhere that I needed to be, even if it meant walking down a dark road, so I put on some old clothes that were in a backpack, and I began to leave, but when I did, some of my dad’s relatives appeared and wanted to know why I wasn’t at home. Then there was something like a flea market in front of the building.

Now I must pause here. I don’t know about you, but my dreams can be sequential, events carry over from other dreams, and I reference previous dreams in later dreams. While I was looking at the items that had been put out for the flea market, I remembered a piano that I had seen in my dream from the night before; the piano was old and black, an upright, but the keys were in bad shape. I thought about the piano in last night’s dream and wished that I had bought it and refinished it.

Then I walked onto a suspension bridge above the flea market, and it was made of rickety wood. Someone had dropped a cigarette, and the bridge had caught fire. I walked quickly among the planks that were still solid until I reached the roof of the abandoned building. Then I climbed down, and there was a line of people waiting to see . . . Alexis, who had designed jewelry in honor of her mother (me) who had been missing. I walked up to the front of the line and hugged her and told her that I was home.

So in one dream, I encompassed my continual search (the walking down a dark road), my affinity for the old (the piano and the abandoned building), my feelings of alienation (the homeless people living in the building), my sadness (the relatives), my dreams for my daughter (obvious), and my fears of not making it to where I want to go (the burning bridge).

“I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.” ~ Czeslaw Milosz, from “Dedication

Speaking of writing about the painful search for self, I received another invitation to contribute my blog to Vibrant Nation. Other than one blogger friend with whom I’m in contact, I don’t know much about this site. If anyone has any advice pro or con, I’d love to hear about it.

Balatonfenyves, Somogy, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)

I just remembered that there was a woman in last night’s dream that had strange eyes, huge, with one eye significantly bigger than the other. She was Asian, and she did not want her daughter to date. Her daughter was 42 and still stuck at home. Make of that what you will.

I suppose I’ve put off my real work for the week for long enough. I’ve walked by the dining room table twice to refill my coffee cup, and it did not magically clear itself. Why can’t I be normal? Does every woman hate Thanksgiving as much as I do? I really hate to admit it, but a small part of me understands what my mother has been saying for years: What’s the point of doing all of this?

Oh, well, that answers my question, doesn’t it? My mother. Of course. It always comes back to my mother. I think that I’ll go chop cranberries and apples and try to put everything else out of my mind for a few days, just get through this.

*All images taken from Halasi Zsolt’s photostream on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Music by Trent Dabbs, “Stay by Me”

                   

A Boat

Evening comes on and the hills thicken;
red and yellow bleaching out of the leaves.
The chill pines grow their shadows.

Below them the water stills itself,
a sunset shivering in it.
One more going down to join the others.

Now the lake expands
and closes in, both.

The blackness that keeps itself
under the surface in daytime
emerges from it like mist
or as mist.

Distance vanishes, the absence
of distance pushes against the eyes.

There is no seeing the lake,
only the outlines of the hills
which are almost identical,

familiar to me as sleep,
shores unfolding upon shores
in their contours of slowed breathing.

It is touch I go by,
the boat like a hand feeling
through shoals and among
dead trees, over the boulders
lifting unseen, layer
on layer of drowned time falling away.

~ Margaret Atwood

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.” ~ Carl Schurz

Sun Reflected in Frosty River

 

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks on the Road

Well, we survived Thanksgiving and my mother’s lovely running critical commentary throughout dinner. Had a bit of a snafu though: Alexis overslept because her electricity went out during the night, so her alarm did not go off, and as a result, the turkey went into the oven rather late. Since it was a 20-pound turkey, we didn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m., which doesn’t really bother most of us because we tend to eat late, but my mother was beside herself.

I called her at 2:30 to tell her that everything was going to be late and suggested that she eat a small meal, but that didn’t stop the bitching. “What do you mean . . . why? . . . how did her electricity go out in the middle of the night . . . I’ve never heard of such a thing . . . I can’t believe this . . .” Unfortunately, we could not cook the turkey here as we are still without natural gas, and our oven is a beautiful, large gas oven that is sitting unused, but that my friends, is a different saga.

This couple couldn't take the time to put on clothes

So the waiting became too much for eldest son as he had an urgent need to get to his girlfriend’s house; we sent him on his way with our blessings and suggested that he check back in later, although he didn’t.  In spite of the delay, dinner was delicious, not way too much food as it used to be, and we had open-faced hot turkey sandwiches on Friday night for dinner.

The madness that is Black Friday did not leave the country unscathed. No stampedes at Wal Marts this year because the stores allowed shoppers into the building; the catch was that no one was allowed to touch the early bird specials until 5 a.m. Everything was on pallets and covered with plastic. I know about this not because I was there (Wal Mart the day after Thanksgiving? me? shudder), but because Alexis’s friend Jennifer went and was out by 5:40 a.m. in time to go to work. Amazing.

I didn’t read any stories about fights in the aisles or mayhem, and the American consumer seemed to be more willing to part with dwindling cash, somewhat. Preliminary data show that shoppers deposited almost $41.2 billion into retail coffers (oh to have just .001 percent of that), this according to the National Retail Federation.  But the madness that normally plagues the pages of the news seemed to be less this year.

There was a shooting in which a man killed his adult sisters and a 6-year-old cousin on Thanksgiving day; another man locked his children in the trunk of his Trans Am while he ran into a sporting goods store (“They like to play in the trunk”). However, the most horrific thing that happened over the holiday weekend state side was the shooting of four Seattle police officers in a coffee shop early Sunday morning. The officers were sitting at a table with their laptops preparing their day when 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked in and opened fire. No other patrons were shot, only the officers. For more details on this story, click here.

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

A Salvation Army Kettle

Oh, and one more on holiday cheer and good will towards all: In Toledo, Ohio, a man grabbed a Salvation Army kettle full of donations and pushed the bell ringer to the ground. Supposedly the man said, “I can’t stand you and your bell-ringing. I hate Christmas.” Clearly, this year’s winner for the Ebenezer Scrooge award. Personally, I love to see the kettles, but I miss seeing real Salvation Army members ringing the bells. I always try to put something in at least a few kettles each year.

And by the way, the rumor that bell-ringers receive part of the kettle coffers is absolutely false. Bell-ringing is done by civic organizations, scout troops, schools, etc, but the Salvation Army does employ people from shelters to be bell-ringers. These needy individuals receive minimum wage to stand out in the cold, snow, and rain collecting donations that are used to fund the Salvation Army’ s many charitable programs, including shelters, meal programs, after-school programs, to name but a few.

“You’re the love of my life
And the breath in my prayers
Take my hand, lead me there” ~ Dave Matthews Band

So with the one holiday over and the big one looming, Corey and I are in a kind of stasis. The bills continue to pile up, and the money continues to be non-existent. We have a huge payment due to the power company in just a few days, and absolutely no way to pay it. It’s hard to think about putting up Christmas lights when there might not be electricity to power them.

So that’s what I mean about stasis. We cannot really do anything as far as decorating until the living room undergoes a major clearing, but that is dependent upon painting the bedroom, and I had forgotten that one of the reasons that we didn’t move  the very heavy bureau into the bedroom before this is that the bedroom needs to be carpeted. Once that huge dresser is in place, it’s going to be very hard to move it. So do we wait to paint until we can carpet so that we move everything once? Do we move everything twice? And who is this we I speak of, Kemosabe . . .

I must admit that my recent renewed addiction to home renovation shows is not helping with my complete dissatisfaction with the state of our house. There are so many things that we could do to make the house better, less cluttered, easier to get around in if we just had a little cash. Having said that, using cash for renovations has to take a backseat to using it for bills, so once again, the infamous Catch 22 comes into play.

Oh well, moving along . . .

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us, and the hands of those who come after us.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett's Hands

I have been thinking of hands lately. Don’t ask my why, but  I have. Hands that are moving through the air. Sunlight glowing through hands. Babies’ hands. My children’s hands, which are very much like my own. I have very long fingers, which was great when it came to playing the piano, and all three of my children have long thin fingers.

I remember my father’s hands. He had a degenerative condition in his right hand that caused the muscle to atrophy, so much so that he had to use his left hand to turn the ignition in his 1966 Ford Falcon.  I remember more than once looking at my father’s hands, so bent and worn with age and work, and being just amazed at how much those hands had accomplished over the years.

I really don’t remember anything that my father couldn’t do when he tried. He built things around the house, sewed things, fixed things, worked on his car (all of the time), and maintained the engines on those huge cargo ships that traveled all over the world. I know that my father was very good at his job because he had ship captains who routinely requested him.

In the end, when he was in the hospital, it was his hands that I watched. So small and shrunken, they knitted the sheets to and fro. This man who was never really still his entire life was working even in the midst of his morphine dreams. Watching that automatic movement day after day almost broke me.

But my thoughts about hands are not all painful. In my mind’s eye I see a pre-school craft project that Alexis made: a piece of muslin with small green handprints in a circle, forming a wreath. I still have that. Brett’s hands, specifically his thumb, which he sucked when he was a baby. I never really fretted that he sucked his thumb because I knew that he would stop when he was ready. Nine-year-old Eamonn’s long fingers scooped around a basketball, his slightly crooked smile as he stood for his team picture.

These memories are good memories. I can take the memory of my father’s hands when it is balanced against these memories from my children’s earlier days.

My hands when I had long manicured nails

I look down at my own hands as they skate aross the keys: long, thin fingers, the one vein on each hand that has always been prominent, cuticles a bit ragged from worrying them unconsciously. These hands have touched piano keys and computer keys; they have brushed my daughter’s long hair and finger-combed my son’s waves. These hands have held four babies, cupped their small heads and massaged their backs. These hands have polished a thousand pieces of furniture and cleaned thousands of dishes. They have planted countless flowers and strung colored lights year after year.

These hands are my strength and my weakness: For everything that these hands have allowed me to do, they have also felt the pain of being idle at times when doing something, anything, would have helped.

These hands stroked the soft dark hair on my daughter’s head as she lay dying in my arms, but these hands could not stop death. These hands held my father’s small, curled hands as he lay sleeping in a hospital bed, but these hands could not keep the pain at bay nor force death to wait.

These hands have held newborn babies, and puppies seconds from their mother’s womb. They have stroked the flanks of a chestnut mare and loosened the bolts in an engine. They have turned the pages of thousands of books and held countless cups of tea and coffee. Each morning, these hands move across a face that belies its age, while fingers probe for wrinkles that have yet to appear. These hands stroke Corey’s cheek when he is asleep, and rub the belly of my fat, spoiled dog as he lays snoring by my side.

Everything that is or has been me is within these hands, and when I hold them up to my eyes when the summer sun beats down relentlessly, my fingers seem to glow with life, and I am reminded of that scene in the old movie Ladyhawke when Isabeau raises her hands to the morning sun just before she transforms into the hawk.

I have my father’s hands. My desire is that when I am in the dusk of my life, my hands will have created more than they have destroyed, that they will have caressed more than they have repelled, that they will have calmed more than they have worried, and that they will have written a million words, filled with the myriad sides of myself, my life, and those who have used their own hands to help me, guide me, hold me, and teach me along the way.

More later. Peace.

This video of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” somehow seemed appropriate.

 

 

Let us give thanks . . .

 

Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.

 

Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.

 

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

“Rose Pastor Stokes,” by Clarence H. White (1909)

 

“Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

I found a new blog last night called Crashingly Beautiful. It’s the kind of blog that I might create myself, filled with quotes, poems, music links, passages, Zen stories, photographs, and other artwork. Lovely, just lovely. I found several quotes there that are new to me, and I liked them so much that I am using in tonight’s post. I am also borrowing some images that were posted on the site. Many thanks to Luke Storms for offering such inspiring material.

 If you get a chance, check out the site, along with the companion blog Intense City, also by Luke Storms.

“if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves . . . ” ~ Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet”

"Autumn Trees," Egon Schiele (1912)

Aside from finding new blogs to read and achieving high levels in online Bookworm, not much new to report. Corey’s burn on his arm is healing nicely, just a little sore and no infection on the part that blistered. It’s getting ready to rain again because we so obviously need more rain. Tillie has been hanging out on the platform of the pool’s ladder, almost as if she expects to go swimming at any moment. I had to inform her that regretfully, November is not swimming weather, even for a Labrador Retriever.

I am feeling a bit better emotionally. No big changes, just a slight upswing. I’ll take anything that I can get. Perhaps I am feeling a bit better because I have printed out pages and pages of forms to have my PCP sign and then send on to various pharmaceutical companies (five total). I decided finally that being without my medication has gone on long enough, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t apply for patient assistance directly with the companies.

Happily, I found that I can get almost all of my medications through the companies, with the exception, of course, of the ones that now have generic formulas. Nexium will probably be the hardest one to obtain, mostly because they want my entire life history to prove that I am worthy of receiving assistance from Astra Zeneca. AZ recently received the right to retain their formula for the purple pill, so no generics anytime soon on that front.

If anyone else is having problems with affording his/her prescription medications, look up the name of the company that manufactures the medication, and then enter patient assistance into the site’s search. Almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies have some sort of patient assistance program. I really wish that I had thought of this three months ago.

“Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty, even for a moment, it is enough.” ~ Jeannette Winterson

"Four Trees," Egon Schiele (1917)

Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away, and already the drama has begun in my family. Incredibly important issues such as who is going to cook what dish are on the forefront of family discussions. Three vegetables or two? Really?

I made a passing comment to my mother about butter, and her response, verbatim, was this: “I can’t get you to lose weight for anything.” Ummmm, alrighty then. I have real butter on my bread maybe three times a year. I’ve gotten comments like these my entire life. Now do you see why my self-esteem is so low?

Brett and I stopped by my mother’s house the other day on the way home from school. Brett had his sketch pad with him, and I thought that it would be nice to show my mom some of his recent work. Big mistake. Brett is really good at pencil sketches, and his latest was done during the nor’easter. It’s a dark self-portrait, done in sort of an anime style. For those of you who may not be familiar with this style, anime (アニメ) is short for Japanese animation. Anime, like manga (Japanese comics) is considered to be a non-traditional but pervasive art form.

The facial characteristics in anime can be exaggerated or muted (e.g., very large eyes and head, or simple lines for eyes), depending upon the artist. Coloring the cornea to indicate depth is sometimes employed. Some anime (sometimes spelled animé with final acute accent) attempts to draw characters whose nationalities cannot be discerned (e.g., Pokemon). The sketch that Brett showed my mother had very exotic, piercing eyes. The first time I saw it I was amazed by the detail that he had included, and I think that it is one of his better sketches.

After I got home, my mother called me to tell me that she’s worried about Brett. Specifically, she’s worried about what’s in his mind, “all of these dark pictures.” She asked why he doesn’t paint geese. I tried to explain to her that Brett doesn’t like to paint, that he likes charcoal and pencil. I noted that not all art is mountains and fruit, but it really didn’t matter what I said because now my mother has decided that Brett’s art is cause for concern.

I made a point of telling Brett how much I like his work, and I told him to take what his Oma says with a grain of salt as she doesn’t realize how much her words can hurt. She really doesn’t realize this, which is something that it took me many years to realize myself. My mother has good intentions, but she has no sense of self-censorship: whatever she thinks comes out of her mouth without any consideration of the hearer’s feelings or reaction.

I hate to have to say this about my mother, but it’s true. It’s also something that I have learned to live with, although not without its consequences, so I want to ensure that her remarks do not affect Brett’s already fragile self-esteem.

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” ~ Erich Fromm

Untitled by Maurice Tabard (1932)

Anyway, that’s about all for now. I must pause here, though, to express my incredible gratitude to all of you who took the time to send me very special comments in response to my last post. Maureen, Kelly, and Andrew sent very lovely expressions of support, and no matter how many times I say it, being on the receiving end of such generous statements always makes me feel better and helps more than I can say.

Even though I have not been as focused lately as I would like to be, this blog continues to be incredibly important to me. It allows me to vent, to bemoan, to rejoice, and to share with a wonderful community of people.

NCIS this past Tuesday night featured a major power outage in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area as a backdrop to the crime. The investigators had to do things the old-fashioned way—by hand—and they were all complaining about how hard life is without computers, without mobile telephones, without PDA’s. I know that when we lose electricity around here because of a storm (which happens more than you might think), I always enjoy the quiet; no sounds of air conditioners or televisions permeate the neighborhood, and the streets are so dark.

Having said that, I do have to admit that as much as I like the simplicity when the lights go out, I do love the convenience of a lightning-fast search engine and the fact that the Internet and the web keep us connected all over the world. Just a decade ago I was still struggling with dial-up and having to wait to get online. Now I am so completely spoiled by our high-speed connection that I cannot imagine living without this convenience in my life, although I’m sure that I could if I had to.

I suppose that all of that was a very roundabout way of saying that yes, I am able to appreciate the small things, but especially how technology has afforded me new avenues to friendship and support.

YouTube video courtesy of Kelly. I’m including a poem by Mary Oliver, and I apologize in advance if I’ve already included this one, but it seems very fitting.

 

 

More later. Peace.

                                                                                                                                     

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

“Carry with you maps and string, flashlights, friends who make you sing, and stars to help you find your place, music, hope, and amazing grace.” ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter

Stonehenge November Sunset

Stonehenge November Sunset

 

“Maybe what we leave
Is nothing but a tangled little mystery
Maybe what we take
Is nothing that has ever had a name”

Random thoughts about nothing at all:

Today has been one of those days that just seems to be a never-ending river of crapppola. Nothing really in particular, just a bad day, I guess.

Some good news: Vane Brothers called and unofficially offered Corey a tugboat job. The catch? It won’t be until the end of the year or beginning of next year. He has mixed emotions about it, which I understand. I mean, how can you get excited about a job that will probably happen, but no guarantees?

Clent Standing Stones Winter Sunset
Clent Standing Stones Winter Sunset

Alexis stopped by this evening. She was very chatty. Her doctor has adjusted her meds again, and she seems to be in better spirits emotionally. That makes one person in the family . . . So she’s talking about the holidays. Who is doing Thanksgiving. What she is buying for Christmas. Have I mentioned that I absolutely hate November?

Listening to my “Music to Work By” playlist. Jamie O’Neal’s “There Is No Arizona” is currently playing. I love that song. I love to sing that song. I love the words to that song. I miss singing. Maybe one of these days, Corey and I will be able to go to the karaoke bar that we used to go to, and I can get my singing fix.

I had wanted to watch the original Halloween movie in honor of, well, Halloween. But for some reason, the DVR did not record it even though I scheduled the recording. ‘Twas not meant to be. Just as well. Corey doesn’t really like it, and I didn’t want to watch it alone. I reminded him that I watch his scary movies with him and had him almost convinced he needed to watch with me, and then it wasn’t there. We watched some other scary movie instead, and it turned out to be totally predictable. I hate that.

Have I mentioned that I am out of reading material? Dream job: Own a bookstore that is just mine all mine. Then I can stock books that other people don’t have and read the stock. Of course, independent bookstores are going the way of the atmosphere and clean drinking water. It’s hard to compete against the Barnes & Nobles of the world.

“Maybe love will fade
Like the parchment pages of our history
Maybe life is made of flickers
From some brilliant, burnished flame”

Standing Stones of Stenness England
Standing Stones of Stenness, England

My friend Sarah had another round with the courts today. She is going through hell with the court system over her ex-son-in-law and his mother’s request for visitation  Apparently, his mother can still see the children, but the good news is that the ex (drug addict and cop assaulter) is not allowed to be present. Exactly how does one go about ensuring such a thing? Sometimes the laws that are supposed to protect minor children really bother me. Of course, everything varies city to city, state to state.

Tomorrow is election day. I managed to get my mother to say that she would go vote. I told her that we need all of the Democratic votes that we can get in this particular governor’s race. I’m not holding my breath, though. Virginia is far too fickle when it comes to politics, especially in governor’s races.

Social Security denied my disability claim—again. Essentially their reasoning was that since I can dress myself and move my arms and legs, I’m not entitled to disability. It’s a good thing that I’m covered by my insurer. However, I know that my insurer will want to appeal, which makes sense since coverage by Social Security would mean that the insurer no longer has to pay for me.

Still rainy and chilly here. I’m wearing a pair of red socks that have penguins all over them. I love my Christmas socks. Wearing them is one of the better things about the weather becoming cooler. I know, small things amuse me.

We received a nice surprise on Saturday. My sister-in-law in Germany sent us an early holiday box filled with German chocolates, cookies, marzipan, coffee, and a beer stein for Corey. He doesn’t drink beer that often, but he has always wanted an authentic German stein. Helma said that she wanted to send us treats because we always take such good care of Phillip and Hannah when they are visiting. The whole family really enjoys their visits, so spending time with my niece and nephew is never a chore.

I’ve been having strange dreams again, but I’m not remembering them as well. This may actually be a good thing because I’m hoping that it means I’m getting a more restful sleep. I told Corey that I would love to sleep for eight hours uninterrupted one night. No dogs nudging me, no waking up because I’m thirsty, no waking up because I hurt somewhere—just eight solid hours of sleep. One day, maybe.

I’m dreading the holidays this year. Normally, I love Christmas and hate Thanksgiving, but I think that Christmas this year might be just as bad as Christmas was last year, which was last minute and stressful. I really hope that I don’t become like my mother, who does nothing but bitch about the holidays. In all of my life, I think that my mom has only liked her Christmas present from me maybe three or four times. I’m not exaggerating. I love to buy special presents for those I love. It’s not spending money that makes me happy; more, it’s finding something that I think is really suited to the person for whom I am buying the present. We’ll just have to wait and see how this Christmas turns out.

A word about the images, since my last post on Druids, I have had standing stones on my mind, hence, the photos of several standing stones from across the United Kingdom, courtesy of Wiki Commons.

I stress too much over the strangest things and find pleasure in really tiny things. I don’t think that I’ll ever understand myself.

“Everybody strains to hear the sound
Of their heart’s calling
Now you can write yours down
It’s your life story” ~ All quotes from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “It’s Your Life”

Callanish Standing Stones
Callanish Standing Stones

When I grow up, I want to be a ballerina . . . writer . . . doctor . . . lawyer . . . Broadway star . . . marine biologist . . . teacher . . . fabulously wealthy . . . writer . . . poet . . . farmer . . . Peace Corps volunteer . . . president. Now, I would settle for being debt-free, pain-free, and somewhat sane. Funny how things change. 

Check out the peace sign character that I’m using instead of a bullet or diamond. Again, small things . . .

Here is Jamie O’Neal singing “There Is No Arizona”:

 

 

More later. Peace.