“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” ~ Sir Isaac Newton

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” ~ Tom Stoppard

I wish I were here instead of in the middle of a major bathroom renovation . . . Oh well . . .

Reblogged from Curious History:

The Gothic Denham Bridge

This is an old pack horse Bridge across the River Tavy. Although only a minor road, Denham Bridge Lane is the main highway not far from Buckland Monachorum, a beautiful small village on Dartmoor in South Denham, England.

source 1, 2, 3

Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (from Central Park Concert)

                   

Rialto

When my mother said Let’s go down to the Rialto
it never occurred to me that the name Rialto

was odd or from anywhere else or meant anything
other than Rialto the theatre in my hometown

like the Orpheum, whose name was only a phoneme
with no trace of the god of Poetry, though

later I would learn about him and about the bridge
and realize that gods and bridges can fly invisibly

across the ocean and change their shapes and land
in one’s hometown and go on living there

until it’s time to fly again and start all over
as a perfectly clean phoneme in the heads

of the innocent and the open
on their way to the Ritz.

~ Ron Padgett

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“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” ~ Tom Stoppard

Blue Sky by the great 8 (FCC)

                   

“I am now writing to test my theory that there is consolation in expression.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Journal, 9 May 1926

Monday, early evening. Sunny and hot.

White and Blue, Monte Guardia, Ponza, Italy by ucsertemed (FCC)

Not sleeping so well again, and not really sure why. I had been gradually trying to move my body clock back so that I was falling asleep earlier so that I could get up earlier, but since the road trip to Ohio, I haven’t been able to fall asleep before 2:30 in the morning.

Who knows the whys or hows of my body . . .

We had a very nice time Saturday night, even though no one was quite sure where we were supposed to be gathering, and when Ann and her family showed up at the beach house, and no one was there. We were pretty sure that we had said the beach house and not Ann’s deck, but we all sat around on the deck at the beach house and waited for the Germans to turn up somewhere . . .

Everything turned out nicely, though, and as a bonus, we did not have to contend with my ex as he didn’t show on Saturday. Just kind of a laid back Saturday night, lots of conversation. I got the bright idea that we should have a Trivial Pursuit contest this coming Saturday as we used to do that all of the time in the old days. Patrick is a killer on history and geography, but I kick his butt in literature and the arts, so it’s usually a raucous game.

Tomorrow is Busch Gardens day, and it’s a big group this year: Corey, Alexis, Phillip, Hannah, Lucas (Hannah’s boyfriend), Eamonn, Brett, and Em. I get to stay home and have the house to myself, so everyone is quite looking forward to Tuesday. I used to love to go to Busch Gardens, but as I can no longer ride the roller coasters (because of the back issues), I prefer not to go. So they can go and spend the day riding and eating and milling through crowds, and I can spend the day in quiet with the dogs. Works out well for everyone, except for possibly Corey, who has a car full of people this year.

“The last few days, what one notices more than anything is the blue. Blue sky, blue mountains—all is a heavenly blueness! And clouds of all kinds—wings, soft white clouds, almost hard little golden islands, great mock-mountains. The gold deepens on the slopes. In fact, in sober fact, it is perfection. But the late evening is the time of times. Then, with that unearthly beauty before one, it is not hard to realise how far one has to go. To write something that will be worthy of that rising moon, that pale light.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Journal, 16 October 1921

Cloak and Dagger Cuckoo Bee on Bog Sage, by aussiegall (FCC)

The other day I was in the pool by myself, and it was one of those rare summer days in which it was not too hot; the sky was a clear blue, and only a few wispy cirrus clouds dotted the sky above me. I watched dragonflies dance around the drooping heads of the sunflowers, and a lone, vibrant Cardinal sat in the oak tree.

No one within earshot was running yard equipment, and there were no sounds echoing from the park. It was lovely. I floated around and just took in the simple beauty that surrounded me. Tillie and Shakes were resting on the ladder after playing ball, and I had left my phone inside.

I stayed out well past 5 p.m., and as the sun dipped, and the air became slightly cooler, I did some yoga stretches in the water. My face was turned to the sun, and my eyelids were closed. A slight breeze touched my cheeks. It’s the closest I’ve come to meditating in a very long time. It’s hard to describe accurately the sense of peace that can be achieved through such simplicity, but that is truly what I felt: at peace with myself and with the world.

When I was an undergraduate, I used to go sailing with a friend of mine who owned a catamaran. I would get on the trapeze and hang off the side of the boat as one of the hulls was in the air. I remember closing my eyes and just letting the wind and the sky envelope my face. That was my favorite part about sailing: coming as close as possible to hanging in the air. That’s the feeling that I recaptured the other day.

I used to think that I would like to go sky diving, to feel that freedom of falling through the air. I’ve never gotten over the yearning to do so, but I just don’t think that they let people with bad backs hurtle themselves out of planes, no matter how many release forms they sign.

“You still don’t understand? Throw the emptiness in
your arms out into that space we breathe; maybe birds
will feel the air thinning as they fly deeper into themselves.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke,  “The First Elegy” in Duino Elegies, trans. A. Poulin, Jr.

White Wing Blue Water (Pixdaus)

I must admit that I’m still feeling a bit melancholy, not sad necessarily. It’s just that tug, that feeling around the edges of my heart, as if there is a thought out there that I cannot quite grasp, that slips by me far too quickly to catch.

Does that make sense?

Do not ask me to define it as that would be impossible. It’s not the creepy sensation that one gets when staring in the mirror and then suddenly sees something out of the corner of the eye. On the contrary, it is a tender sensation, that I am being embraced by the earth itself, that I am communing with something ineffable yet exquisitely intense. It is the feeling that I am beginning to discern a larger pattern of which I am a minor part.

I know this sensation as well as I know myself. It makes an appearance without warning, and then it can progress either one of two ways: It can portend an oncoming storm in my soul, or it can evolve into a time of deeper introspection. I believe this time it will be the latter rather than the former as I am feeling calm rather than disquiet. Still, it’s a bit unsettling.

There is nothing for it but to wait to see how things play out.

“To write, now, only to make known that one day I ceased to exist; that everything around me turned blue, an immense space for the flight of an eagle whose powerful wings forever beat goodbye to the world.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from Le Livre de l’hospitalité, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

White on Blue, by Webb Zahn (FCC)

Even as I sit here in my desk’s new location, the late afternoon sun is coming through the window and painting my lashes. If I lean back and close my eyes halfway, I can see those dandelion-like sparks that come from refraction and reflection.  It’s how I’m typing at the moment, having no need to look at the keys (Thank you Ms. Magnuson for teaching  me my way around a keyboard a million years ago).

In the background, Earlimart’s song “It’s Okay to Think About Ending” is playing with sound bytes from television’s “House” interspersed with the music. It’s a lovely song that is not about ending. Rather, it’s about choosing to stay in the moment, which is where I currently find myself—I’m enjoying the moment and have no desire to go forward or backward. Sometimes just being is enough.

Unfortunately, because life so often intrudes upon moments of such beauty, most of us do not recognize them for what they are, and they slip past us without ever materializing. We become so entrenched in all of the worries, all of the petty grievances, all of the setbacks and brick walls that we forget to look past, even for a moment. We lose so much as a result.

I include myself in this we as I know that I am just as guilty as anyone else. I think too much about the what ifs and the why nots, and I forget about that thing called possibilities. I do not seize, carpe, if you will. Yet in spite of how myopic I can become, something within me churns to the surface and causes me to pause, to stop and look around, to notice that the only sound is birdsong, that the only movement is gossamer dragonfly wings.

“If the soul and the ego were objects we could look at, the soul would be a translucent heart beating.” ~ George Condo

Globe Thistle (Echinops) by Gaphiker (FCC)

We grow older, and we forget things. We forget the wonder of discovering something for the first time as young children do. Put a three-year-old outside in the fresh grass, and she will stare at everything; she will touch everything; she will notice everything: the blades of grass, the petals on a flower, the butterflies, the wind in the leaves. Everything is new and wonderful and unsullied.

We grow older, and we do not notice the most obvious. We walk from our doors to our vehicles, and we do not see anything between the two. Does the Rose of Sharon have new blooms? Is that a new garden spider’s web between the sunflower stems? How long has it been there? The morning dew hangs on the finely wrought pattern and shimmers in the early light.

We grow older, and we become like the insects that become caught in the web: we do not struggle against our fate. We simply wait for fate to come to us. And it always does.

When do we cross that border between wonder and resignation? When do we reach the apex and begin the slide downward? When do we stop seeing?

When I was a young teen, I first read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I will admit that it is the first book that I ever stole from a library. I had to have it, and of course, Amazon did not exist then, nor did large bookstores. But the point is this: I read “Song of the Open Road,” and today I still remember some of the lines that touched me so deeply the first time I saw them on the page:

I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me,

and this (all of stanza 15, which, admittedly, I do not know by heart completely):

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
My friend, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Just remember: It is possible for all to still seem beautiful to us.

More later. Peace.

Music by Earlimart, “It’s Okay to Think About Ending” (and yes, this is a repeat, but it seemed apropos)


“Yesterday was blue, like smoke.” ~ Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Tree in Field before the Storm (Pixdaus)

                   

“That is why the bird sings its songs into the world as though it were singing into its inner self, that’s why we take a birdsong into our own inner selves so easily, it seems to us that we translate it fully, with no remainder, into our feelings; a birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us, because we feel that the bird does not distinguish between its heart and the world’s.” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, “Notes on Birds”

Friday evening. Warm, not too humid. Possibility of storms.

Field Storm by Maria (Pixdaus)

Last night I dreamed of a vast field, green and yellow and a storm approaching from the distance.

Today I spent the longest time in the pool so far this season. Tillie and Shakes joined me, which meant that splashing ensued, but it was still quite peaceful. Everyone else was in the house, so it was just me, the dogs, and lots of birds. It’s nice when it’s just the dogs because when I fall off the raft or talk to myself about my belly, they just look and listen as if I’m talking about cookies.

The mockingbirds are back. As I floated, I watched two small mockingbirds attack a much larger crow. I love mockingbirds, not just for their songs, but also for their fearlessness. They are the rebel songbirds; I like that about them.

The blue sky was dotted with puffy cumulus clouds, and thankfully, no leaf blowers or chain saws were in earshot, so overall, it was a peaceful few hours, except for the hole in my raft. I bought two rafts at the discount store, and one has a hole in it already—it’s never been used. You get what you pay for, I suppose, but these will have to do for now.

As a result, I got the beginnings of a nice tan on my front, and nothing on my back. I’m not too fussed about it, though. It’s not as if anyone ever sees me.

“Has it ever struck you . . . that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going? It’s really all memory . . . except for each passing moment.” ~ Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Flight Before the Storm (Pixdaus)

Well, I had two doctors’ appointments this week. Have you ever had one of those doctors who just loves to do tests? My gastro guy has turned into one of those. He wasn’t always like that. We talked about the results from my last two tests, which essentially show the same things—my digestive system is whacked—and then he mentioned another test. I told him that I really didn’t think that it was necessary.

I think that I need to find a new gastro doctor. I mean, now that I’ve been poked and prodded from both ends, perhaps I can find someone who will now discuss treatment options with me instead of talking about more tests and referrals. This particular visit was part of the cause for my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day; that, and more peripheral drama.

My other doctor’s visit was with my PCP, who is also starting to sound like a broken record: It would be nice if we could get you off some of these medications . . .

Really? That never occurred to me. Which ones do you think I can do without? The pain medicine for my back? The cholesterol medicine? The headache medicine?

Exactly.

So she sent me to the lab to have more vials of my life blood sucked out, and I’m certain that she will not be happy with the results because I have yet to begin my exercise regimen. I know. I know. I really do need to at least walk, but it’s mighty hard to steel the self for three or four miles when the vision is impaired from squinting as a result of the jack hammer that is at work on the skull.

Just saying . . .

“I thought how true it was that the world was a delightful place if it were not for the people, and how more than true it was that people were not worth troubling about . . .” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Violet

Red Stormy Skies (Pixdaus)

The ongoing drama at my house is not really something that I feel comfortable talking about as it does not directly involve me. Rather, Corey and I are on the periphery of events that are unfolding, and our role is pretty much relegated to support. I’m fine with this, especially in this particular situation.

I’ve been pondering the concept of people in the past few days. You might find that a bit odd, but not really. I mean, so many people come and go in our lives, and I firmly believe that each person leaves a little something behind, even if it is only a brief memory of an afternoon, or a remembered line from a conversation, or a sense of keen dread when remembering certain individuals.

I will admit that I am one of those people who usually causes one of two reactions in people: either strong dislike or undying loyalty. I’ve wondered what it is about me that causes this, and most probably, it is because I tend to speak my mind. I have found that, especially in a certain types of men, this is not a trait that is welcomed in a woman, which only makes me more vocal.

But at the same time, I know that in the past, I got along better with men than with women. I have found—at least in the workplace—that a group of women always has a very specific dynamic: one of extreme competitiveness, either for real power or perceived power. It’s that whole clique formation thing, perhaps a carryover from high school and the concept of mean girls. I know that it’s one thing that I do not miss at all about working full time.

Women can be absolutely brutal to one another, and that saddens me. It truly does. When I was an undergraduate taking Women’s Studies courses, I remember a lot of discussions about the sociology and psychology of females and the unspoken need to one-up another woman who may or may not be a competitor. As in, for example, the Queen Bee Syndrome: the woman who reaches a position of power who then does everything she can to make sure that no other women get promoted (there is only room at the top for one).

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton

Storm Clouds, South Dakota (Pixdaus)

I know that I’ve talked about these things before in this forum, but when I think back on some of the women I have left by the wayside in my own quest for fire, I am, most certainly, abashed. For example, I remember years ago when I managed the document production department for a government contractor. The art department was particularly troublesome.

The first graphic artist I hired was a seemingly nice woman. What I didn’t realize, even at the time, was that she was so insecure that anyone else I hired had to be willing to be subservient to her.

In my way of apology, it was my first time supervising so many people, and they were all female, until I hired a guy who had been in graduate school with me to work as an editor. Anyway, the senior graphic artist took a strong dislike to another artist I hired, and as a result, she (the first) took every opportunity to plant little tidbits of doubt in my ear. I was just naive enough to fall for it, and the end result was that the second graphic artist lost her job.

Now in my defense, she was habitually late and/or absent, so that was reason enough, but I never should have fallen prey to the constant brainwashing that X was really a terrible person, a bad artist, unproductive, ya da ya da ya da . . .

My point is this: I was stupid. The woman who reveled in spreading seeds of discontent was insecure, petty, and immature, and as a result, everyone lost.

“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.” ~Sylvia Plath

Field Before the Storm (Pixdaus)

I would like to think that such things would not happen now. I’m older, wiser, more patient, and less prone to be swayed by idle gossip and venomous rancor. I wish that I had had these traits when I was in my 20’s, but of course, hindsight proves to be the greatest teacher of all. I think back on myself at that time and how certain I was of everything, how unwilling I was to bend for fear it would be seen as weakness.

I love it when young women declare to the world, I am not a feminist. I would never want to be that kind of woman.

What is the old saying? Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too (I’m paraphrasing). So many women of my daughter’s generation view feminists as men-haters, as lesbians, as hairy-arm-pitted radicals.

If only they knew. I was in the second wave, after the bra-burners. But if not for women like me who did not allow men on the staff to pat my bum or to call me sweetie, women in their 20’s would not have half the gains they have in the workplace. Fifty-one percent of the population is female. The number of women on corporate letterhead is still growing.

Women are in politics, in the boardroom, in private practice; they are partners in prestigious firms, and they are chief of staff. No longer are women in the service confined to bedpans and bandages. They can fly fighter jets.

At the same time, feminism is all about choices: those women who choose to stay home and raise their children, those women who choose not to get married, those women who choose to have careers and families. And all of this is because of the radicals of the 60’s and early 70’s, and those of us who came after and picked up the baton.

“’How does distance look?’ is a simple direct question. It extends from a spaceless
within to the edge
of what can be loved. It depends on light.” ~ Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Storm Clouds Over the Canola Field

I remember that sometimes it really did feel as if we were fighting in the trenches, with our power suits, pumps and briefcases. Take us seriously—the unwritten banner across our chests.

I remember the male general manager who did not want to promote a woman on staff because he did not like her laugh. I remember the male executive who asked me to microwave his lunch. I remember the teacher who told me that I should seriously consider a career in politics. I remember wondering if it would ever get better.

It did. And I did.

What seemed so far in the distance to me when I was just beginning my career is no longer unattainable simply because of gender. Yet for all of it, women still seem to be hardest on other women, and I’m not talking about in the insane vernacular of real housewives women. For every male who stood in my way in the workplace, there was a female who did the same.

I wonder if it will always be that way. I wonder if that is an American socialization thing, or if it spreads throughout countries all over the world.

Curious.

The computer is beginning to misbehave, and I haven’t even inserted my graphics yet, so let me close with this: A man asked Cher is she wasn’t a bit old to still be rocking. Cher replied, “You’d better ask Mick Jagger.”

More later. Peace.

Music by Grace Griffith, “My Life.” (Thanks, Leah in NC)

                   

When I Am Asked

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.
It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

~ Lisel Mueller

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little . . . ” ~ Tom Stoppard

Law and Order Optical Illusion Billboard

   

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.” ~ W. S. Merwin
Berger Paints Billboard Illusion

Watched Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead last night (1990 starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman); hence, the Stoppard quote. Thought that it would be a good movie to watch before going to sleep. Good movie, yes. Sleep, no. 

Speaking of sleep . . . I haven’t been getting much—yet again. The past two mornings have seen me sitting at this computer at 7 a.m. and not because I’m an early riser. Au contraire. I am having a hard time falling asleep again. Who knows the whys or wherefores of my body, why I can sleep for 10 hours one night and four hours on another, why I can fall asleep without any pharmaceutical assistance one night but not so on another. Regardless, I am watching dawn break, morning rise, and everything else in between. 

I do know the heat really affects me—headaches, mood swings, appetite—and it has been hotter than hades here for several days. I suppose, though, that we are quite fortunate considering the bizarre weather patterns to the north: a tornado in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a major twister in Eagle, Wisconsin that damaged or destroyed 125 homes and killed one person, flooding in the midwest after severe thunderstorms, a 5.0 earthquake that struck in the Quebec/Ontario border region with tremors felt as far away as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Toronto. 

A good rain here would be nice, but nothing too drastic. 

“When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep, and you’re never really awake.” ~ From the movie Fight Club, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Maker's Mark Billboard Illusion

 One of the things that I did when I couldn’t sleep was to organize my music on my YouTube channel, break it down into more categories as I had reached my 200-song-limit in my main category. One of these days I’m going to follow progress and get an MP3 player. Of course, those are really better for people who actually leave the house, go places in cars, or maybe even on walks. 

Yep. We’ll see about that. 

I’m actually a bit hungry today, craving chocolate and salt. Unfortunately, slim pickings in the house at the moment, so I don’t anticipate that carving being sated anytime soon. Just read an article that states that adults should not ingest more than one teaspoon of salt a day. I’m so busy worrying about sugar and fat; now I have to worry about salt? Sometimes I think that existing on crackers or cereal is really the best way to go. 

I’ve been counting calories recently, and Corey asked me how I’m going about determining calories. I told him that I’m estimating what I think something might be and then doubling it. I watched some show about Americans and food, and it was actually quite revealing. This university professor (cannot remember who or where, sorry) studies food habits. He had this study group divided into two subgroups. Each group was served the exact same meal, but their reactions were very different. The meal was a taco salad from Taco Bell. 

The first group was served the meal on the plastic plate, and they were told that it was fast food. When asked their opinions, most of the individuals said that the taste was mediocre, and they were pretty accurate in estimating the calories at around 1,000. Group two was served the exact same meal, but it was placed on nice dishes, and they were told that it was from a bistro that served health-conscious food. These people claimed that the food tasted great, and they estimated the calories between 300 and 450. 

So interesting how presentation can affect perceptions. But of course, being in marketing, I knew that. 

It’s the same thinking that advises people not to eat standing up over the kitchen sink (Corey does this), and to set the table for at least one meal a day. The mind affects the enjoyment of a meal as much as the meal itself. 

“I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Mini Cooper Underpass Advertisement Optical Illusion

Aside from those tidbits, not much seems to be stirring in my right brain at the moment. I suppose it’s because I know that Corey is in the dining room trying to make less than three hundred dollars cover about one thousand dollars worth of stuff. Alchemy. That must be the answer because working 11 hours a week certainly isn’t creating optimum cash flow. 

I’m not disparaging. On the contrary. If not for Corey’s creative right-brained abilities with the minimal income we have, we would have been out in the cold (or heat, as it were), a long time ago. Just knowing that he is doing this always brings about two diametrically opposing emotions in me: awe and sadness. 

In keeping with the whole concept of creating something out of nothing, the images are optical illusion billboards from around the world. Enjoy. 

More later. Peace

Music by The Pretenders, “I’ll Stand by You” 

“Every exit is an entry somewhere.” ~ Tom Stoppard

Perception Versus Reality

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” ~ William Blake
George Rickey's "Column of Four Squares Gyratory III

A quiet Sunday. Corey is working 3 to 11 again. The dogs are being lazy. Laundry is going. Outside, no sounds coming from the park, only the occasional birdsong. Comfortable temperatures and sunshine, although rain later. All in all, not a bad day.

I was thinking last night, or rather, early this morning, about the differences between what we perceive and what is real, that is, is what we see necessarily what is real? Is our reality the only reality?

 I think that what set me on this tangent was a dream from which I awakened in which my father was going to drive a big white Cadillac to a physical therapy appointment; my mother was rearranging papers, and different people kept coming in and out. My father, who was a small man, never felt comfortable in big cars. In his later years, I think that he would have been hard-pressed to see over the steering wheel of a big Cadillac.

But I awoke from this dream thinking about how the mind works, how in dreams reality is always altered at least slightly if not completely. I mean, the appearance of my father so often in my dreams is obviously not in keeping with the reality of my life because my father died almost nine years ago. Yet there he is. I know that I’m simplifying considerably, but for approximately one-quarter  to one-third of our lives, we exist in a state of unreality—those hours in which we sleep and dream; although the dreaming part is usually only about 25 percent of that sleeping time, taking place during REM sleep.

But the perceptions in dreams are not what I am really talking about. I think.

“But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.” ~ Octavio Paz
Liu Bolin, "The Invisible Man," Urban Camouflage

As far as I can discern, the concepts of perception and reality are both fluid, totally dependent upon the individual. My sense of what is right and just is based on how I was raised, the laws of the country of my birth, the beliefs instilled in me by family. For example, I do not believe that it is right to force a woman to cover her body because the sight of a female ankle might drive a man into unbidden lust. However, I was raised in a society in which the roles of men and women have continually evolved. My reality is not that my bare legs are sinful; does that mean that in another city in another country the idea of the exposed female body as unholy is wrong? No. Not wrong. Just different.

But let’s move closer to home. I believe that there is exquisite beauty in a yard that is filled with different kinds of flowers and trees. Five houses down the street there is a house that does not have one tree, one shrub, one flower. My perception is that it is barren. The owner’s perception may be that such a yard is maintenance free, clean lines, uncluttered.

When the trees lose their leaves in the fall, I do not feel a great compulsion to rake the leaves and dispose of them. In fact, I love the look of fallen leaves. My nosy neighbor cannot abide a stray leaf. She probably sees my leaf-strewn yard as the end result of laziness, slovenliness. I see her perfect yard as a reflection of how uptight she is.

Granted, these are relatively small things. But you get the point: What I perceive as beauty is not necessarily seen as beautiful by someone whose reality does not allow for things to be out of place.

“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” ~ Lao-tzu
Trompe l'oiel by Richard Haas, Facade of Brotherhood Building, Cincinnati, OH

My perception of the reality of my life at the moment is shaped in great part by the reality of my past. Three years ago, money was not so much an issue. I did not awaken each morning and measure the possibilities of my day by how much pain I was experiencing. Today, I see my life as being very limited, hemmed in by circumstances that are very much out of my control. These are my perceptions.

Across the world, in a small village somewhere, the days are measured in more concrete terms: how much water is available? Will there be enough rain to sustain the crops? Will another child die from dysentery?

Across the country in a city somewhere, a woman with perfect nails and a chic haircut is measuring her day by how many pairs of shoes she will buy, whether or not to lunch in this trendy bistro or that one.

Is one reality better than the others? Is one reality less of an existence than the others? We make these judgments according to what we know, most of the time without ever considering what is going on across the world, across the country, or even across the street.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin
3D Sidewalk Illusion by Julian Beever

I don’t know if I’m being very effective here in making my point. What I had planned to say, or thought that I might say, does not seem to be translating well onto this page.

I think that too often we take our own realities and try to impose them on others. Take the Catholic church (or not).  I am not catholic, but many people assume that I am because I am Filipino.  But my feelings about the Catholic church are mostly hostile, and I realize that my hostility comes from my firm belief that there should be equality between the sexes; the Catholic church is inherently misogynistic. Men have all of the power. Therefore, I cannot reconcile myself to be of a faith that in its basic tenets places women below men. For me, that’s just a bunch of hooey.

But I was watching some documentary a while back that discussed how Catholicism, because of its staunch stance against the use of condoms is causing more deaths in third world countries. Consider: according to the pope, condoms are a sin because of that whole sex and procreation thing. Men with AIDS are forbidden by the church to use condoms when having sex with their wives even though the unprotected sex will most likely result in the wife contracting AIDS.

In my reality, this makes no sense, no sense whatsoever. But there are a whole bunch of people out there for whom this reality makes perfect sense. Do I have a right to be indignant? Well obviously I can be as indignant as I want to be, but whether or not that indignation should be heaped on any Catholic with whom I might come into contact is questionable.

But I’m right. Right? Transmitting AIDS is wrong. Right? Well, duh. But to people of faith, for whom the word of the pope is infallible, it’s not a duh. On the contrary. It’s not even a quandary.

Hence the whole personal reality and perception versus that of another person, society, country, etc. The concept of fluidity is more fact than concept. My reality of today is so different from my reality of 20 years ago.

“I want so to live that I work with my hands and my feeling and my brain. I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing (Though I may write about cabmen. That’s no matter.) But warm, eager, living life — to be rooted in life — to learn, to desire, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing less. That is what I must try for.” ~ Katherine Mansfield
Trompe l'oiel Mural: Before and After

When I was younger, my reality went something like this: career first, family incidental. Before I had children I could not conceive of a time in which my career was not the most important thing in my life. My personal success was directly tied to the size and location of my office, the amount of my salary, the scope of my bonuses. In my 20’s, I was a political animal in the corporate world. I had the kind of personality that would have actually done very well in politics.

After I had Alexis, my reality shifted, slightly at first, then dramatically as the days passed into months. I hit a point in my life in which I could not conceive of ever placing anything above her needs, her comfort, her security.  And so on.

My reality now? Not sure. I perceive of myself as being so different from what I used to be, but I don’t know if that is true. It could well be that time has passed, but I have remained the same. Or maybe time has passed, and I have allowed my reality to evolve. I just know that Mansfield’s quote comes about as close to my ideal reality as I can sum up in words: home, animals, books, pictures, music, writing. To continue to learn, expand my mind. Not to stop thinking and delving and discovering.

I feel fortunate that my reality does not include the possibility of starvation, or imminent rape, or death from something easily preventable. That my reality does not include Manolo Blahniks and pricey eateries really doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think that if I were to put on a pair of shoes that cost $800, I would probably hate myself because I would not be able to rid my mind of the thought of how that money might be put to better use.

Evolving realities. Shifting perceptions. Movement. Growth. Life is not the destination; it’s how we get there and what we do along the way.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sugarland, “Make Me Believe”

“Beyond the East the sunrise, beyond the West the sea, And the East and West the wander-thirst that will not let me be.” ~ Gerald Gould

View from Castle Dunluce, Irish Coast

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” ~ Tom Stoppard, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

North Sea Dawn

I thought that I should probably post tonight as our Internet service will likely be going by the wayside anytime now. I’m just hoping that it stays on until Monday since Brett has a statistics paper that he must do, and he really needs to consult a few sites in order to complete it.

Corey has realized that even if Congress passes another extension on unemployment benefits, he will not be eligible as he is at the highest tier, meaning he has exhausted his time-limit. I really didn’t realize, or perhaps I didn’t pay that much attention, but unemployment figures are calculated by the number of people who file for unemployment. Right? Well, in order to keep those figures skewing lower, the government does not count those individuals whose unemployment benefits have expired but are still unemployed. If they did, then the figures would be much higher.

Also, some Congressman (don’t remember who) was saying that there really isn’t a need to extend benefits since the statistical trend is for people to find employment once their benefits expire. Well duh. Of course they find employment, but it is usually underemployment. For example, let’s take an individual who normally earns $50k a year. During the time in which benefits are available, the individual can keep looking in his or her field, trying to match or at least come close to a normal salary; however, once benefits end, that same individual is forced to take absolutely anything because absolutely anything is better than nothing.

Underemployment. Such a term. Such a slap in the face.

All of that being said, Corey hopes to hear from the port security folks by mid-week, and with any luck, Vane Brothers will complete their new vessel and have a need sometime this spring. All we can do is continue to hope as the alternative is grim.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another.” ~ Anatole France

Waves and Mussels

I am feeling terribly melancholy today, not exactly sure why. It has been a very rough week emotionally, what with Alexis’s health, facing the next few months with a decided drop in household income, both Brett and I needing medicine. Sometimes it’s all just too much, and sometimes, it’s all just not enough.

That old saying about never being given more than you can handle? Bah, I say. I have been faced far too often with more than I can handle, and I can attest that it diminishes the self each time that it happens. The question becomes how to continue to throw oneself into the fray knowing that a battle may be won, but the war is far from over. It’s at times such as this that I wish I had a Henry V to rally me with a rollicking St. Crispin’s day speech: “We few. We happy few.” Oh well.

Corey and I were talking about age the other night, and I said that being in your twenties is almost worse than being a teenager because you still think that you know everything, only now you have some power behind you, which makes you dangerous. This statement was preceded by the declaration that I would not be in my 20’s again for anything. Corey said that if a good fairy came and said I will make you 20 again, that I would jump at the chance, and I told him quite honestly that I would not return to my twenties for anything, my thirties perhaps, but definitely not my twenties.

As I told him, I was pretty much insufferable in my twenties, head-strong with no wisdom to make me pause before speaking or acting. I’m not entirely sure that my current self would have been able to tolerate my 22-year-old self. But then, reflection does give one pause, doesn’t it?

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

My friend Maureen and I have been bolstering each other with the sentiment that 2010 will be our year—a year of good change, a year of better circumstances, a year of  repair and restoration for the body and soul. I try to remind myself of that, but with it going into the second week of March, I realize that so far, 2010 is no better than 2009. I’m hoping that some of Maureen’s good fortune makes its way across the world to our abode. ‘Twould be nice.

Wave at Guadeloupe

And so I continue to move through the days, mostly aimlessly, often wearily, thinking myself much put upon, not really knowing what it is I am doing. The dust continues to settle about me, growing thicker with the days, a potent symbol of my disuse. The house continues in its decay, and I with it. We are linked, this house and I, in more ways than I care to admit: built during a time in which things were made to last, but not so well-tended in recent years; a solid foundation, but with chinks and cracks reflecting the settling of time, the encroachment of nature. With some care, we could possibly be bright again, but that care has been postponed and put on the back burner to await a time that is more convenient.

And as I so often find when I am melancholy, I think of the sea, its constant movement, the immense power, the vast stretches of nothingness. I think of my father, who spent almost his entire life on the sea. I think of the cerulean blues of the Caribbean, and the muddy greens of the Atlantic. I remember my graduate school office mate who came from Wisconsin and had never seen the ocean before, how we brought her to Norfolk for Thanksgiving and took her to the oceanfront, and how amazed she was by something I took for granted, and how I tried to see it through her eyes.

I remember my father telling me once that many men who used to work on the water would not learn to swim because they did not want that unendurable wait for exhaustion to overtake them before the sea finally swallowed them. I remember my mother’s neighbor fumbling into our house one December and crying out that she had just gotten the news that her husband had been lost at sea.

I think of Isolde looking out to sea from the windy Irish cliff, searching the sea for signs of Tristan.

Why do I think of these things now? I do not know. They just come to me, and then they recede from memory again like the tide. And all that is left are fading footprints in the wet sand where someone walked but a moment ago, the foamy edge of the receding water, and the stark cry of gulls in the air above.

More later. Peace.

“My Face in Thine Eye” from Tristan and Isolde movie soundtrack

All images taken from Wikimedia Commons.