“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 . . .
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.
“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.
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
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.
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
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
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)
“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.
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
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?
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
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
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
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 afeminist. 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
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.
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,
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.