“The Long Way Home”
“The Long Way Home”
Friday afternoon. Sunny, hot, and humid.
It is beginning to hit me—the insidious thing called grief—waves of sorrow and sadness and regret and loss, pouring over me. I hear it in the strains of the music playing in the background. I see it in the brilliance of the late summer day. I feel it in the silence of the walls surrounding me.
I do not like this.
I wish that there were a lantern festival somewhere in the area. You know, the festivals to honor the dead in which participants float paper lanterns, sometimes with personal messages, sometimes not. I’ve always thought that these festivals are beautiful homages to the spirits.
Speaking of homages, yesterday, I spent hours and hours working on the family pictures for the college. Perfectionist that I am, I could not simply place the pictures onto an 11×14 rectangle. I had to despeckle, fix the contrast, touch up the color. I added a border around each picture, something that should have been quite simple but was not because I have forgotten how to place pictures into frames, and the copy of Photoshop that is on this particular computer is not my full version from Adobe, but rather a temporary version which Brett downloaded.
It’s better than nothing, but aggravating in its limits nonetheless.
I finished the collage around 10 last night. It’s a huge jpeg file. Corey is going to take the disk to have the enlargement and prints made for me because, of course, I could not upload the file onto the Costco site. I acquiesced rather than spend another hour trying to figure out why I could not upload. Then I went and threw up. In the past few days, I have been living on anti-nausea medication and muscle relaxers. Neither are working.
To say that I slept fitfully when I actually slept is, alas, understatement. I turned off the television around 2 a.m. The last time I allowed myself to look at the clock it was 4:30. The dogs sensed my restlessness and acted accordingly: they got up and down all night, and I got up and down with them, walking to the back door to let them out, only for them to sit down at the door and look at me expectantly. My patience was sorely tried.
I had to get up early to take Brett and Em to ODU, and I’m afraid I drove while unconscious, or at least it seemed that way. I only remember one part of the drive, the part at which I had to pass police and rescue cars surrounding a pedestrian who had been hit by a car. The universe is fucking with me.
I came home and rubbed Blue Emu into as much of my back and neck that I could reach, took muscle relaxers and ibuprofen, and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.
All of the knots that were released by the trigger shots on Tuesday are back, probably thanks to the floor cleaning and then sitting at the computer for half a day. I am my own worst enemy. I could go back to the pain doctor today and probably need another 18 trigger shots. My wrist is marginally okay, as long as I don’t turn it certain ways, the same with the neck—limited range of motion. I realized last night that I was walking through the house with my shoulders hunched.
Did I mention that I’m losing my voice as well? Perfect, absolutely perfect.
Last night (this morning?) I had a Dillard’s dream, which is usually what I dream when I am intensely stressed. I had been accused of saying something that I hadn’t said, lots of drama. Blah, blah, blah.
In the midst of trying to steel myself to take another look at the eulogy that I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve been going around with my health insurance people who told my neurologist that they couldn’t find me in the system to approve my Botox injections for migraines. However, when I called the health insurance people, they found me just fine. Forget the Botox and just give me a hammer.
I need to make changes to the eulogy, but since I’ve already had one meltdown this afternoon, I dread opening the file. But I’m out of time. Tomorrow is the service. I need to iron dress shirts and pants for Corey, Eamonn, and Brett. Eamonn cannot find his dress shoes, of course. What other crap can happen? Please, let it rain down on me now so that I can just get this over with, seriously.
Apparently, there is a dead sea turtle floating near where Corey is working today. I’m glad that he did not send me a picture of it as I happen to love sea turtles, think they are beautiful creatures. He called the local marine institute, and they are coming out to retrieve the body. Encounters with dead things. Perfect.
Do I believe in omens? You bet I do.
I think that I’m running out of steam. The other sections of this post wrote themselves. Then I got up to check the dryer, folded some clothes, came back, and now I find myself staring at the screen, which, without my glasses, looks like a mass of white with black blurry lines and a few blocks of color here and there.
I don’t wear my glasses when I write as I have no need to seen either the screen or the keyboard. I look when I’m inserting the images and deciding on a color for the headers. Other than that, I just let my fingers serve as a direct conduit to my brain, my thoughts. Looking just means that I focus, and when I focus, I lose the thread of what I was saying.
I have my blues playlist running in the background—Tom Waits, Melody Gardot, B. B. King. Anything else would grate on my nerves. The songs come in and out of my consciousness, sometimes hearing, sometimes not. But right now, Waits’s scratchy voice has entered into my consciousness, and I am close to tears again. That’s the kind of voice that he has, full of sadness and melancholy. Corey asks me why I do this, torture myself. He doesn’t understand that these sad, melancholy songs are sometimes the only thing that serve me well.
It’s hard to explain, but my playlists are the soundtrack for my life, sometimes full of catchy melodies, sometimes heavy with nostalgia, and sometimes, just pure gut-wrenching.
Today is a gut-wrenching kind of day. Having said that, I suppose I should just go ahead and open the wound a little more and take a look at my eulogy. If I put if off any longer, it’s going to be night, people will be in the house, I won’t be able to concentrate.
More later. Peace.
Music by Kate Rusby, “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies?”
Try to Praise the Mutilated World
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
~ Adam Zagajewski
(Translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh
Thursday evening. Rapidly dropping temperatures after a lovely high of 70 degrees.
First let me say that there will be no ranting tonight. Just thought I should let you know right upfront since the past two days have been pretty vitriolic, even for me.
Today I finally set up my Avon representative e-site. I thought that I would give this a whirl just to see if I can make a bit of money from it. Who knows. If anyone is interested in checking it out, click here. I did send an e-mail to a few people in my mailbox, but it was automatically generated, so I have no idea what it said . . .
So at the moment, I’m listening to some tunes and munching on saltines. I saw my PCP on Tuesday, and most of my blood work was fine. Only problem was that for some reason, the lab didn’t do my lipid profile or my thyroid, which meant that I had to fast again and go back on Wednesday. Those are probably the two most important tests for me: my triglycerides and my thyroid. One troubling thing: I seem to have adult onset diabetes (just barely). The reality is that if I start exercising again and cut down on the carbs (no rice?), I should be fine without any additional medication, which suits me just fine.
Tomorrow is the eye doctor. I don’t think that I’ve looked forward to an eye appointment so eagerly since my very first appointment which I had when I was 12. I had put off telling my mother that I thought that I needed glasses until I could no longer see the blackboard. For a while, I borrowed Kim Reese’s glasses (funny, the things you remember). I was so eager to have glasses so that I could see things clearly again, but getting used to glasses was hard as I didn’t wear them all of the time; hence, I lost my first pair fairly quickly.
The reason I didn’t wear my glasses all of the time? Because of something my mother said to me (and yes, you will probably be horrified): “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” What the hell? And you people wonder why I have such low self-esteem. That was fairly typical for the kinds of things my mother said to me, and at the time, it was a pretty stupid thing to say as I wasn’t even really interested in boys yet.
(Just an aside: If you’ve never heard Eva Cassidy’s version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” you should give it a listen. Beautiful.)
Isn’t the above just a bone-jolting quote? “Daggers I pilfered from an angel”—wow. I mean, just think about it, someone writing about stealing daggers from an angel, the juxtaposition of the hard g-sound in daggers with the fluidity of pilfered and dwelling. Bold. Beautiful. Mystical. I love it.
I have come to Edmond Jabès late in life, but at least I have finally found him. Jabès was born an Egyptian Jew but was forced to relocate to France during the Suez Crisis in 1956, where he become one of the most famous post-war French poets. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but as is often the case in life, I keep running across quotes from his work in the strangest places, and the more I read, the more that I want to read. I suppose that I shall begin with The Book of Questions, Vol. I.
Paul Aster in the New York Review of Books said this about the book: “Neither novel nor poem, neither essay nor play, The Book of Questions is a combination of all these forms, a mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogues, songs, and commentaries that endlessly move around the central question of the book: how to speak what cannot be spoken.” I find the description very appealing, that Jabès’ work is an amalgamation of writing forms.
“I have followed a book in its persistence, a book which is the story of a thousand stories as night and day are the prow of a thousand poems. I have followed it where day succeeds the night and night the day, where the seasons are four times two hundred and fifty seasons” ~ The Book of Questions, p. 325
My tumblr dash continues to be a sustaining source of inspiration for me. I find that I open it each day with an emotion akin to giddiness (truthfully, I just don’t do giddy) at what new, beautiful things I will see and read there. The dash is where I first saw words by Jabès, where each day I see incredible photographs of abandoned castles, old writing desks, empty performance houses.
I’m not sure where my love of abandoned buildings comes from. I’ve only been in a few, but I love to see pictures of them. I’m certain that if I were younger and still able to do such things, I would be one of those urban adventurers who seeks out abandoned buildings, the ruins of castles and manor opens, old opera houses, empty hospitals that still house rusty gurneys in hollow exam rooms. I think that such places are filled with a singular mystery and beauty because they are abandoned. And once so, they assume a presence of their own.
The emptiness allows the imagination to run free: What kind of soprano stood in the middle of that stage? Was she wearing a red velvet dress? Who sat in this alcove and looked out the lake and the gazebo and the trees? How many people climbed this staircase? Why did they leave just the shell of a grand piano here and nothing else?
These are the kinds of things that I ponder if I just let my mind wander, and it only stokes within me more of a desire to visit these places, to walk through the crumbling entrance to an abandoned manor. It’s like Harry Potter returning to Sirius Black’s family home and looking beneath the dusty bed, finding part of a letter written in his mother’s handwriting. Those forgotten pieces of the past that most people see as trash and junk—what secrets do they hold?
I remember walking to school when we lived in London. Part of the route took us past the iron fence to an old hospital. One day, I noticed a woman’s black clutch purse shoved behind a bush. I thought about that purse for weeks: Who did it belong to? Who put it there? Why? I wanted to look inside that purse so badly that I almost became obsessed. I didn’t care about finding money; I wanted to see what the purse revealed about its owner. I still remember exactly what that purse looked like. I was six, seven at the most.
Last night, in keeping with our newest addiction, Corey and I watched a particularly good episode of “Dr. Who” called “Vincent and the Doctor.” It was the episode in which the doctor and Amy Pond went back in time to Provence to see Vincent van Gogh (played by Tony Curran, a great likeness for the self-portrait). I had already seen this episode, but Corey hadn’t, and I really wanted to see it again because it was poignant.
When the doctor and Amy encounter the artist, he is the subject of public ridicule, being thrown out of cafes for not paying his bills, his works of art seen as garish depictions in which no one is interested. The appearance of the charming doctor and his companion provide a nice distraction for van Gogh (as an American, I am so used to Gogh being pronounced as go, so it was unsettling to hear the British pronunciation rhyme with cough, as in goff), who happens to be seeing invisible monsters.
Turns out, the monster, a Krafayis, is just as real as the other things that torture the artist. In the ensuing battle with the monster, Vincent accidentally kills the Krafayis while defending himself. But as the doctor, who realizes that the creature is blind, comforts the dying creature, the visibly stricken Vincent comments that the creature was only afraid and frustrated, feelings with which the artist can empathize.
But the part of the episode that I really liked the best was when the doctor and Amy took Vincent into the future so that he could see his paintings hanging in the Musée d’Orsay (I will go there one day) and to hear an art scholar (Dr. Black, played by the wonderful Bill Nighy) praise the artist by referring to him as “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived.” A stunned Vincent cries tears of joy and hugs and kisses the confused scholar.
The doctor and Amy had hoped that by affirming Vincent’s talent, that they might be able to keep him from the despair that drives him to take his own life a few months later. Of course, it doesn’t work. But during the episode, to hear the Vincent character speak about beauty and color so passionately is incredibly moving. I know: I’m a sap.
I have always loved van Gogh’s paintings, the vibrancy of the colors, his choices of subjects. But it has always been the brush strokes that have always fascinated me: they are almost ferocious, as if he couldn’t put the paint to the canvas fast enough or hard enough. What is must have taken out of him each time he created a canvas awash in color and a beauty that he saw, and how it must have devastated him that no one else saw it.
A tortured mind and a tortured soul who produced such immense beauty.
More later. Peace.
Music by Don McLean “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)”
I Know My Soul
I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of
sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days
with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.
~ Claude McKay