“How do I start this day, I who am unsure of how my life has happened or how to proceed amid this warm and steady sweetness?” ~ Albert Garcia, from “August Morning”
Friday, late afternoon. Sunny and cool, no humidity, 71°.
I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to figure out exactly what it is I want to say. I just don’t know. Part of me wants to write nonsense, cover subjects that require little thought, and truthfully, little active participation on the part of my little grey cells. But another part of me is quite introspective today, but I’m not entirely sure that I can go there.
Two choices. Two paths. The one less traveled by, and all of that, but I don’t know if I want to go down either. I feel a bit like Alice asking the Cheshire Cat which path to take. He doesn’t really answer her, just tells her that she’ll arrive somewhere.
Today when I was outside with Tillie I found a fallen bird’s nest, and it made me inexplicably sad. I mean, I looked it over, and the craftsmanship was impeccable. I had to hope that the nestlings were already long gone, that the feral cats that live in the bushes in the park next door didn’t find the nest and its inhabitants. Yes, it’s in a cat’s true nature to hunt, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.
Each year a bird builds a nest in our mailbox. The mail carrier and I have a tacit agreement: I don’t remove the nest, and he puts the mail off to the side away from the nest. But one year we had a substitute carrier, and when I went out to get the mail, I found the nest removed from the mailbox.
“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?” ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
My love of songbirds comes from Mari, from whom I learned which birds like which seeds. In the house that she used to share with her ex-husband there was a picture of Mari standing in a rubber rain coat and galoshes in a downpour. She was filling her bird feeders. Nothing deterred her from this daily routine.
Because her house was situated a bit off the beaten path and near water, she had phenomenal luck with hummingbirds. I put up hummingbird feeders but was only successful in creating a habitat for fire ants. I’ve never been able to attract any hummers to my yard; although now that I have so much more shade, perhaps I’d have better luck in growing hardy fuchsia plants, which are like beacons for hummingbirds. They don’t like really hot, humid weather, and every year I would hang several baskets only to have them wilt and die by mid summer.
I used to do so much more in the yard when Mari was around. Her love of gardening and birding was infectious, and we would spend hours roaming around garden centers buying pants and feeders. Even though I had planned to fill my planters this year with colorful annuals, I never got around to doing so.
My relationship with Mari enriched my life in countless ways. I miss that kind of friendship.
“Today in my heart a vague trembling of stars and all roses are as white as my pain.” ~ Federico García Lorca
You know what else I miss terribly? Teaching literature. It’s been so very long since I stood in front of a class filled with people who were eager to discuss a new poem, a new short story. I feel as if my mind is atrophying from a lack of outside stimulation. The creative mind is emboldened, nurtured by like minds. I remember one student in a section of American literature who began the class very quietly. Within a few weeks, he was volunteering to read poems aloud, and I could always count on him to add something meaningful to the discussion. In my mind, I can still see his face over a decade later.
Should I go back to school? I know. You’re wondering where that came from? To be honest, it has never left. It is always there, right next to the haunting knowledge that I will never have another child. The two things have carved out niches of emptiness in my soul that will never be filled. I can subsume them, and very often I can make it through a few days without thinking of one or the other or both, but never for very long.
It’s my ongoing inability to separate, to forsake that which is no longer a part of my life. I do not carry my heart on my sleeve—I carry my entire soul there, the esse that is me, omnipresent, looming just within reach, a tether that will never be long enough for complete separation.
“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I warned you from the outset that this post could go either way, and now it’s obvious as to which path I chose.
In a symphony, the whole truly is the sum of its parts. A viola chord slightly off, or a cymbal a millisecond to soon—this things bear weight. Nothing is innocuous. Consider Mozart or Beethoven, who heard the sounds of these individual instruments within their minds, who heard the collective and the individual, who translated these imaginings into sounds of such pure beauty.
Now, consider Clarence Clemons and his impeccable saxophone solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” The sound is raw and deep and it cuts straight to the soul.
The sounds are antithetical, yet not. Clemons’s rendering when he played was filled with the same kind of passion that is often associated with Beethoven’s “Hymn to Joy” from his 9th Symphony. So, too, the individual. We are capable of such beauty, and we are capable of such destruction. We can be rough and raw in our dealings with others, and completely tender in our interactions with a small child. Both the darkness and the light exist, and both carry weight.
“When I think I see clearly and, therefore, think about thinking about, let me be in the dark, measure and strain . . . And when I think it’s okay to sleep or that memory’s a comfort less malicious than happiness, give me the courage to deal these cards to the wind and keep walking.” ~ Ralph Angel, from “At the Seams”
Most of us exist somewhere in the middle, and still fewer dwell at either extreme, but some of us move back and forth like a child’s teeter-totter.
I can only tell you this: If I do not speak about these things, I will break. No, I am not a prodigy like Mozart who heard fully realized pieces of such immense splendor that they needed little rearrangement. But I do bear within myself a constant stream of thoughts and words, and sometimes the weight of these things threatens to drown me.
It’s as if somewhere an instrument is slightly out of tune, and I can sense this discord, and when this happens, the melody is simply impossible to realize, but time and life are fickle, always conspiring to steal bits and pieces from our lives unless we grasp what matters most firmly and refuse to relent.
As I sit here with the waning rays of the late afternoon sun bathing my face, I will leave you with this final metaphor, as this post has been rife with bad ones, so why not one more? Wood, specifically a newly felled tree. At first glance something of such mass would appear to bear so much weight that sinking beneath the water seems the only possible action. But when these logs are pushed into the water, they float. They are filled with air pockets. Borne by the current, they travel to their destination. Water, wood, and air come together in a perfect symbiosis.
Yes? See? Well, of course that’s ignoring that the log used to be a tree hanging out with a bunch of other trees before someone with a chainsaw decided its fate. And that bird’s nest used to sit in a tree before a predator knocked it to the ground.
More later. Peace.
Music by Matthew Perryman Jones, “Amelia,” just beautiful
I Like the Wind
We are at or near that approximate line
where a stiff breeze becomes
or lapses from a considerable wind,
and I like it here, the chimney smokes
right-angled from west to east but still
for brief intact stretches
the plush animal tails of their fires.
I like how the stiffness rouses the birds
right up until what’s considerable sends them
to shelter. I like how the morning’s rain,
having wakened the soil’s raw materials, sends
a root smell into the air around us,
which the pine trees sway stately within.
I like how the sun strains not
to go down, how the horizon tugs gently at it,
and how the distant grain elevator’s shadow
ripples over the stubble of the field.
I like the bird feeder’s slant
and the dribble of its seeds. I like the cat’s
sleepiness as the breeze then the wind
then the breeze keeps combing her fur.
I like the body of the mouse at her feet.
I like the way the apple core I tossed away
has browned so quickly. It is much to be admired,
as is the way the doe extends her elegant neck
in its direction, and the workings of her
black nostrils, too.
I like the sound of the southbound truck
blowing by headed east. I like the fact
that the dog is not barking. I like the ark
of the house afloat on the sea of March,
and the swells of the crop hills bedizened
with cedillas of old snow. I like old snow.
I like my lungs and their conversions
to the gospel of spring. I like the wing
of the magpie outheld as he probes beneath it
for fleas or lice. That’s especially nice,
the last sun pinkening his underfeathers
as it also pinks the dark when I close my eyes,
which I like to do, in the face of it,
this stiff breeze that was,
when I closed them, a considerable wind.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice” ~ T. S. Eliot, Section II of Quartet no. 4 “Little Gidding,” lines 118-119, from Four Quartets
Monday afternoon. Sunny and colder, mid 40’s.
Couldn’t sleep last night. Couldn’t sleep this morning. So I said what the hell, and got up and started my day. I know that my heightened anxiety is affecting my sleep. It’s just hard to relax knowing that at any time Corey is going to receive the telephone call that is going to change our lives. Kind of a big thing, no?
Spent yesterday doing laundry and tidying the house. Cleaned out the fridge and threw away all of the leftovers that have turned into science experiments, and packed away the Christmas dishes and glasses, as well as the good silver. I’m full of nervous energy. Corey found most of his old work clothes, all except for his Carhartt jacket and overalls, both of which he needs. So I’ve been doing loads of laundry as the clothes have been bagged for a few years.
I think that I’m ready to take down Christmas, which is unusual for me. Usually, I like to leave the decorations up the first week in January, but lately when I walk through the house, all I can think about is that I don’t want to see them. I know that it’s all reactionary, and probably the last thing that Corey wants to do before he leaves is to get involved in taking down all of the decorations, so I’ll try to hold out as long as I can.
I took the time yesterday to catch up on reading some of the blogs in my blogroll and sending new year’s wishes to everyone with whom I’m in contact. Speaking of which, the number of Christmas cards that we received this year was abysmal. I did receive a late card from one of my aunt’s in Florida. This year marks her third Christmas without my Uncle Melchor. It was nice to get an update from her and to see pictures of her grandchildren.
But other than that, we did not receive cards from about five families who normally send us cards, but I did get one new card from reader Leah in North Carolina, which was a nice surprise. I’m still receiving a card each year from the lawyer who drew up my separation agreement with my ex, which I find very odd as we did not end our business relationship on a good note. I suppose that I’m on some list that I will remain on until he retires. Whatever.
When I began this post, I didn’t think that I would have any problems in writing as I have so many thoughts coursing through my brain, but now I find that it’s hard to pick one from the stream and elaborate on it. Each time that I think that I know what I want to say, it seems to slip away like smoke. I awoke with lines from a T. S. Eliot poem running through my brain: “Teach us to care and not to care . . .” Perhaps it’s my subconscious trying to help me: care about the big things and let everything else go.
Have never been good at letting anything go . . .
“This very second has vanished forever, lost in the anonymous mass of the irrevocable. It will never return.” ~ E. M. Cioran
So I just took a little detour looking for a link, but I’m back. While I was gone I did a bit of laundry, and gave the dogs baths . . . You didn’t even miss me, did you? So where was I? Oh yes, having nothing to say . . .
The strangest thing—I seem to be off sweets, at least temporarily. I think that this may be due in large part to the frequency with which I have to use my inhaler, much more than in years past. My lungs are still crackling and heavy, and I think that the albuterol, or whatever it is they put in inhalers now, is affecting my taste buds. During the holidays, I fill a big dish with assorted chocolates, and I’m not dipping my hand into said dish all of the time, not even the peanut M&Ms . . . I even threw out uneaten pecan pie, which I found too sweet to eat.
How strange . . .
This is a good thing, of course, but I would really like it if my lungs would start to act normally again. My asthma hasn’t been this bad since I was a child, and I know that it’s an offshoot of the neverending bronchitis, but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to bear.
The other downside to this continuous wheezing and tightness is that I could not uphold my pledge to myself to start my walking regimen yesterday. I fully intend to begin walking a couple of miles a day and to take the lab as she will not be getting her usual exercise with Corey, and if you know your dogs, you know that a bored lab is an unhappy lab, much like a bored child. The last time I let a lab get bored, she ate a couch (not that that would be a big loss with our current dilapidated couch).
“Which are the magic moments in ordinary time? All of them, for those who can see.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Ordinary Time”
Corey and I are going to try to see a movie tonight and perhaps eat sushi—our date before he leaves. We have to snatch these moments while we can.
I know that last year passed so quickly. Outside it was spring, while inside I was still trapped in January. I would wager that this year will pass interminably slowly. I have a list of things that I’d like to accomplish while he’s away. Who knows how much I will actually do, but I would hope that I use this time apart wisely.
I know that I’ve said this before, but in my mind, it seems as if the two of us have been together for years and years. It’s hard for me to remember a time when Corey was not in my life. And yet, it seems that the eleven or so years that we have actually been together has gone by so quickly.
It always mystifies me, this notion of time, but as I’ve gotten older, time has become less linear and more cyclic. I find myself back in memories, remembering times in which good girls didn’t get tattoos, in which television only had three major networks, in which there was no such thing as Starbucks. Am I dating myself? Probably.
But some of you will understand what I mean: how we continue to move forward but things from the past loom largely, and not necessarily because they were important. I don’t speak of the past that much, and when I was younger, I used to wonder why my mother was always living in the past. I’m not living in the past, nor do I have any desire to do so, but flashes of the past come at me from nowhere, and it’s, at times, a bit unsettling.
I think of things like Hula Hoops and ice pops. I think of my orange Super Beetle and how I could drive around for more than a week on one tank of gas. Things such as this, nothing of significance, but there still, locked somewhere in the recesses of my mind’s many rooms.
“ . . . we are each of us made up of a cluster of appurtenances. What do you call one’s self? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us—and then flows back again. One’s self—for other people—is one’s expression of one’s self; and one’s house, one’s clothes, the books one reads, the company one keeps—these things are all expressive.” ~ Henry James
I suppose that as we age we tend to gain perspective, or at least, I would hope that we do. Youth and perspective do not seem to be compatible, and that is truly unfortunate as we probably need perspective the most when we have it the least.
Consider: We make some of the most important decisions of our lives in our 20’s, at a time when we think we know everything, but in actuality, we know so little. We decide what our college majors will be; we decide what fields we wish to pursue for our careers—all things that would best be considered with experience. There is something to be said for living a life backwards.
Yes, I am more than a wee bit melancholy. Titirangi Storyteller posted a photograph that she had taken of a three-week-old boy. It’s an amazing photograph in that it captures the newborn’s fascination with everything and anything. I commented to her that it made me wish for the times when we as individuals could still find everything new and interesting. I wonder when that feeling actually begins to fade, when we no longer see the wonder in the smallest things, when we no longer look with awe and surprise on the seemingly insignificant—a fabulous sunset, the sun through the trees, a bird in flight, the reflections in a pool of water.
Pity, really, to lose that. But lose it, we do. And we begin to view the world through eyes that are tainted with experience, colored with fragments of anger and loss, heartbreak and sadness. And when we do see something truly beautiful, remarkably breathtaking in its brilliance—if we even take the time to notice—then, and only then, do we remember that long-lost feeling of innocence.
“This I know at great cost: all life is not outward, nor is all death from within: time writes in the ciphers of water and rock for no one at all, so that none may envision the sender and no one be any the wiser.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “The Traveler” in Five Decades: Poems, trans. Ben Belitt
As Walt Whitman said,
O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
To these questions, I have no answers.
More later. Peace.
I found most of today’s quotes on Proustitute’s blog, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, who will no longer be posting on tumblr, so I have added him to my blogroll, Poietes’ Recommended Reading.
Music by Tom Waits, “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)”
~ Susan Elbe, from Light Made from Nothing: Poems (couldn’t find a better copy but wanted to use, sorry)