“In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” ~ Truman Capote, from “Miriam”

View of the farm from the back deck
“Boughs of trees adorned with thick pillows,
so fluffy someone must have plumped them up;
the ground a series of humps and mounds,
beneath which slinking underbrush or outcrops of rock lay hidden;” ~ Thomas Mann, from The Magic Mountain

 Sunday afternoon, cloudy and cold, 32 degrees, more snow forecast.

View of the pasture from the front of the house

It began snowing during the night and continued into early afternoon. I estimate about five or six inches on the ground, and the weather is predicting more to come. I am mesmerized by how everything here looks. It is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

In scouring the internet in search of appropriate quotes and a poem for today, I was dismayed to find only the most well known of quotes and poems, you know, Christine Rossetti’s “In the Deep Midwinter,” which I love, but I’ve used before, I’m certain. And I do try very hard not to repeat the poems or songs that I include; although, it’s a bit harder with quotes.

But I thought of Galway Kinnell, one of my favorite poets, and I reasoned that he had to have a poem that fit the mood of this post. I was not wrong, but the poem, which is about his wife, is a bit melancholy, I’ll admit, just so you know.

“Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.” ~ Jean Webster, from Daddy-Long-Legs

Corey has driven to Dallas’s house to pick up some hay for the horses; although they seem to be grazing just fine beneath the snow. Napoleon and Sassy continue to break out of the pasture, and have taken to coming onto the front porch to get my attention. While Corey wonders how we always manage to have animals with so much personality, I smile inwardly. It does not surprise me at all that the horses have already developed distinct personalities. It just take a little conversation, a little attention, a little love.

Tillie in the snow in her very big coat

Animals are not dumb. People are.

I put the coats on the dogs before they ventured out again. Tillie loved hers, Bailey not so much. Though it looks as if I’m going to have to switch them—the coats, not the dogs. Originally I had bought a bigger coat for Tillie, but hers is too big, and Bailey’s is, well, a bit snug; she was not amused when I told her that she had gotten bigger.

Anyway, while the dogs are enjoying the snow, and the horses seem a bit indifferent, the cats are having none of it. Ash took a quick peek out the front door and immediately turned around and plopped himself back down in front of the wood stove, as if to say, “You must be joking.” Cleo, the other cat, rarely stirs from sleeping 23 hours a day unless it’s to eat or to peer out the back door as if to reassure herself that she is no longer living outside.

Speaking of the wood stove, we really need to buy a bellows for it. It’s not that large, but it puts out a lot of heat once the fire gets going, that being the operational phrase—gets going, as in it takes a lot for that to happen. Corey ends up frustrated daily by the lack of cooperation that he gets from the stove/fire.

“All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snow” ~ Hashin (only known haiku)

When I awoke very early this morning, the flakes that were falling were big drops of fluff, bigger than I’ve seen in quite a while. I had to stop myself from waking Corey so that he could see, as I didn’t think that he’d appreciate it.

View of outbuildings from the kitchen window

Once we finally stirred ourselves hours later, it was still snowing. I noticed that it was almost impossible to make out the top of the ridge as everything was snow covered, and the sky was white, so it appeared as one long white gradient. Sometimes, it’s nice to see the world a little blurry as I do without my glasses and truthfully, sometimes with them; but I do enjoy seeing the lines blurred between nature’s boundaries, earth to sky.

Unfortunately, I know that I need to get my eyes checked again before ordering new glasses. The last time that I was at the eye doctor in Norfolk, she had said that my vision will continue to deteriorate because of the cataracts but that the cataracts weren’t yet bad enough to operate.

A classic catch-22. Aging is fun.

What will also be fun is trying to find an eye surgeon around here that I trust to do the work on both eyes, and with my ill luck in finding just a regular doctor, I’m seriously considering going back to Norfolk at the beginning of the year to get my eyes checked out and to make an appointment for the operation.

“The crisp path through the field in this December snow, in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like ghosts on dry toast.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from Quite Early One Morning: Stories

I’m torn between putting on layers of clothes and venturing outside for real, as in past the porches, or taking a nap, or taking a hot bath. For now, I’ll just sit here and write until something changes, I suppose.

A view of the ridge from the front of the house

Last night I had a very strange dream in which there was a lot of movement between two houses, people going back and forth. What is strange about this dream is that the night before, I dreamed that an old friend was supposed to come to dinner, but I had forgotten to tell him that I had moved, so he went to the old house and then had to drive to the new one. It doesn’t take a dream interpretation book to understand the underlying contexts; still, it’s a bit unnerving in that the people who populate these particular dreams are ones I have not seen in many years.

A few nights ago, when I could not sleep, I wrote a poem, something very unlike most of my other poems. It was a take from a news article that I wrote a lifetime ago about the nightlife in Norfolk. For that particular story, I girded myself with an assortment of my male friends, and for several nights ventured into various seedy after-hours establishments around the city, one of which was a strip bar outside Gate 1 of what used to be the Amphibious Base. I use the term strip loosely as Norfolk outlawed stripping years ago, so the women wore bathing suits and/or shorts.

Anyway, the poem that I wrote was about that bar. Again, something from years ago. I truly haven’t the faintest idea why that experience would pop into my head at 2 a.m. or why I would suddenly be possessed to write a poem about it, but it did, and I was.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

“In your hands winter
is a book with cloud pages
that snow pearls of love.” ~ Aberjhani,from “Angel of Earth Days and Seasons”

So I suppose the last thing on my mind is this preoccupation we now have with trigger warnings. I mean, I just watched the video for “Drunk Girl,” by Chris Janson, and there was actually a warning about the video’s contents. I just don’t understand.

Looking through the trees straight through to infinity

Look, I absolutely do understand that people have terrible experiences that can come roaring back out of the past without any warning, triggered by an image or a song or whatever. I know that only too well as it happens to me. But country songs are all about love and hurt and heartbreak and the wrong man and the wrong woman and life and . . . And now we have to put warnings on videos that contain no nudity, no violence, nothing of the sort, only an implied abusive relationship?

I read a story in the news a few days ago about how today’s youth wants to be sheltered from so many things, and it isn’t good for them. Okay, so I just used the phrase “today’s youth,” which is really, really weird. Next, I’ll be yelling for people to get off my lawn. But I digress . . .

I suppose it’s a combination of helicopter parenting and that derogatory term of snowflakes to describe young people. But if a person is never exposed to anything that might, just might, maybe, possibly be a bit negative, then how on earth is that individual ever going to grow? Going to develop that invisible exoskeleton with which we armor ourselves in order to deal with life?

We’ve gone from the horrors of forcing children to work 18 hours a day for mere pennies to shielding them from commercials that might have a scary message. I am completely befuddled, but then, that’s not exactly a new thing.

Okay. Time for a hot cup of tea and a bath. All of the images are mine.

More later. Peace.


Music by David Lanz, “Whiter Shade of Pale” (bet you thought it was going to be “Drunk Girl”). I cannot tell you how many times I listened to David Lanz’s CD Cristofori’s Dream while driving through the cemetery on cold winter days.


Two Seasons

I

The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled

II

I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.

~ Galway Kinnell

“The wind is us—it gathers and remembers all our voices, then sends them talking and telling through the leaves and the fields.” ~ Truman Capote

Angel in Irish Cemetery
Photographer Unknown

                   

Things they never tell you:

How to resolve
the paradox of
watching someone take her last breath
when you have seen her take her first.

Things you wish you didn’t know:

How to clean your father
after
he’s soiled himself,
but begs you
not to call for help.

Things you wish you’d never seen:

Blood oozing
around
the edges of a scalpel
cutting into your daughter’s chest.

Things you wish you’d never overheard:

“They all throw up
after chemo. What
do you want me to do about it?”

Things you wish you’d never touched:

Your dead father’s eyelids
as he lay
in his coffin.

Things they tell you that are lies:

It won’t hurt
like this
forever.

Things you say that are untrue:

I’ve forgotten
how her skin smells.

Things you wish you could forget:

How
her skin smells.

Things you wish you could remember:

The sound of your father’s voice
before the morphine
consumed him

Things you wish you didn’t know (part two):

The names
of brain tumors
and medications
that can paralyze and infant.

Things that leave you hollow:

The emptiness
of a cemetery
on
a cloudy afternoon.

Things you can’t escape:

The last week in March
and
the first week in November

Things that haunt you still:

The sound a ventilator makes
in
a small white room.

Things that scar your heart:

Grief’s
pervasive sting.

Things that rend your spirit:

The passing of Halloween
and
the relentless onslaught of November.

Things that break your soul:

The interminable moments
between the final breath
and
the last heartbeat.

Things they never tell you (part two):

You will regret this decision
until
the last warm breath
leaves your lungs.

Things you wish you’d never said (part one):

It’s time.

Things you wish you’d never said (part two):

It’s time.

Things you’re glad you said:

It’s okay.
You can go now.

Things no one can truly know:

Sorrow
is an uncharitable
sea.

Things they never say:

Grief
is an
endless abyss.

L. Liwag
Monday, November 5, 2012

“ . . . Our real fears are the sounds of footsteps walking in the corridors of our minds, and the anxieties, the phantom floatings, they create.” ~ Truman Capote

Cottage in Bowd, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

“But mostly they were lies I told; it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t remember, because it was as though I’d been to one of those supernatural castles visited by characters in legends: once away, you do not remember, all that is left is the ghostly echo of haunting wonder.” ~ Truman Capote

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy and warm, mid 60’s.

Cottage, Hemingford Abbots by gillpenney (FCC)

I slept fourteen hours last night, with only a few interruptions. The house was very quiet and the dogs accommodating. I feel better for it. The choice was between doing the dishes, folding clothes or beginning a post. Not much of a choice really. So here I am.

Last night, the kids went with their father to their grandfather’s house. Corey picked up Brett from his night class and dropped him off there. I imagine that it was one of those uncomfortable gatherings in which people spoke about nothing of consequence as the reality was much too hard to acknowledge. My heart aches for the loss my children are feeling, and I feel strangely guilty that I don’t feel more.

I’m not sure if my heart is in protective mode, in denial, or completely closed off. I would truly hate to think that my distaste for the evil-step-m-in-law is clouding everything that I feel about this man. That would be too, too small-minded. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I just don’t know how to express this, so perhaps I shouldn’t even try.

“Still, when all is said, somewhere one must belong: even the soaring falcon returns to its master’s wrist.” ~ Truman Capote, from Summer Crossing

Well the other big news is that Corey will be going to Lithuania next week . . . yes, you heard me: Lithuania. You know, that little country on the Baltic Sea?

Rustic Kitchen (photographer unknown)

Apparently, that’s where the ship is in the yard, and the company is putting on a minimal crew to move the ship from there to Cape Canaveral, where it will begin its new route. At first, we thought that he would be leaving this Saturday, but now the departure date has been extended a week.

This change in plans means that Corey will have to pack for both cold (very cold) weather and warm weather. He has mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, Lithuania? But at least we now have a clearer departure date, which means that we can all begin to acclimate ourselves to the idea of his leaving.

Truthfully, I know that it’s not going to really hit me until he is gone—the idea of him being gone for more than a few weeks is hard to wrap my brain around. I mean, everything changes, absolutely everything. I’m really hoping that my breathing is back to normal before he goes because Tillie the lab is going to need some daily exercise so that she doesn’t get lazy or out of shape. I plan to do morning walks with her, but breathing without wheezing is actually a necessity for such things.

“The wind is us—it gathers and remembers all our voices, then sends them talking and telling through the leaves and the fields.” ~ Truman Capote

Anyway . . .

Now that I’m beginning to actually feel better, feel as if I’m getting some energy back, I look around at all of the things that I need to do: I need to do everyone’s taxes, need to complete next year’s financial aid for Brett and Corey, need to deal with the pile of whatever in the corner of my room. It’s so easy to throw a shirt on a stool, but before you know it, the shirt has morphed into some kind of dark blob that has taken on a life of its own.

This bathroom here . . .

Thankfully, all of the Christmas decorations are packed away. I ended up doing most of that myself as I knew that I would. In moments like that, I almost agree with my mother’s declarations that decorating is a waste of time. I said almost . . .

Overall, the house needs a really good cleaning, and I haven’t felt up to it in weeks and weeks, so now everything is reaching critical mass, well at least in my eyes. I often wonder what happened to the woman who used to clean the entire house each Saturday—polishing the furniture, scrubbing the floors, vacuuming everything—where did she go? Perhaps she left in exhaustion. Of course, that woman got by on five or six hours of sleep a night, exercised each morning before work, and worked full time.

Yes, exhaustion . . .

But as I said, a change is indeed going to come to the abode, and everyone needs to get on board.

“So the days, the last days, blow about in a memory, hazy autumnal, all alike as leaves: until a day unlike any other I’ve lived.” ~ Truman Capote

I came across a Truman Capote quote on my tumblr dash, and thought to myself, “yes, it is indeed a Capote kind of day.” I have long admired his descriptive abilities. It’s as if his diminutive body was filled with nothing but words, words that he poured forth in huge bursts, and then when he ran out of words, he stopped living.

This view from my bedroom window . . .

He died quite young in 1984 at only 59, of liver cancer, a result of years of alcohol and drug abuse. I always think of Capote in terms of burning out rather than fading away.

I remember assigning “A Diamond Guitar,” a Capote short story in one of my American literature classes. What was interesting was how much some of the students really hated one of the characters. To accomplish such a thing among audiences is a good indication of how the characters were so well drawn, enough to give rise to hate and empathy. It was the same semester that I assigned Carson McCullers’s novel Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I saw/still see many parallels between McCullers and Capote, their writing, their tortured lives.

I do so miss teaching literature. It used to distress me to no end when one of the boys would come home from school and tell me that his English teacher said that X story meant Y and only Y. Teaching literature in a vacuum is unpardonable in my eyes . . .

“Did you ever, in that wonderland wilderness of adolescence ever, quite unexpectedly, see something, a dusk sky, a wild bird, a landscape, so exquisite terror touched you at the bone? And you are afraid, terribly afraid the smallest movement, a leaf, say, turning in the wind, will shatter all? That is, I think, the way love is, or should be: one lives in beautiful terror.” ~ Truman Capote

I know that you will probably think me quite mad, but in thinking about all of the things that I need to do around here in this house, my thoughts are drawn back to the kind of house I used to imagine I would be living in when I was young. I never imagined a brick ranch in the suburbs, and I have no desire to live in a cookie-cutter McMansion. I always thought that I would be living in a log cabin or a big open loft, or an old farmhouse. The idea of living in a rambling tree house is also quite appealing, the very hap-hazardous nature of such a structure.

This potting shed-cum-writing studio . . .

I envision white rooms that are not carpeted with wall-to-wall, but colorful rugs, lots of toss pillows, comfortable niches in which to curl up and read. The kitchen would be like a farmhouse, with an old solid wood table. The bathroom (or at least one of them) would have a claw-footed bathtub. The floors throughout would be wood planks, and the windows would open out not up.

Outside would be an huge herb garden—lavender, mint, verbena, rosemary, thyme, Russian sage—the smells from which would drift in through the open windows. There would be lots of trees, perhaps a small orchard, wildflowers and roses, climbing vines around the front door. Birds would be frequent visitors. As would butterflies and dragonflies.

Adirondack chairs on the back lawn. Within view, would be the sea.

My whitewashed country cottage by the sea. Some dreams never die.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Bradley Adams, “Wait for the Faithless”

                   

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words

The voice in my head speaks to me of my father—in a time and place not forgotten.

Old Harrison’s Fishing Pier in Ocean View Where My Dad Loved to Fish

 

“What we want most is only to be held . . . and told . . . that everything (everything is a funny thing, is baby milk and Papa’s eyes, is roaring logs on a cold morning, is hoot-owls and the boy who makes you cry after school, is Mama’s long hair, is being afraid, and twisted faces on the bedroom wall) . . . everything is going to be all right.” ~ Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Father’s Day is very bittersweet for me. Just looking at the rows and rows of cards that I will never buy pains me in inexplicable ways. No more cards. No more photographs. No more echoes of my father’s voice.

This is what I wrote in a post in February 2009: “Memory then, is what saves us, what brings us back from the edge, what supplants those who chose to leave and those who are taken with things left undone. My father is in the night sky, the summer storms, the bold flashes of light just beyond the horizon.”

Instead of a post I thought that I would share a few of my favorite poems about fathers. There is another by Len Roberts, but I cannot find it.

********************

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices

********************

My Father’s Hat
by Mark Irwin

     Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
     on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
     the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
     through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
     his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
     crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
     held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
     was that of clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
     sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
     on water I can’t be sure is there.

********************

The Gift
by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Music by Michelle Branch, “Goodbye to You”

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” ~ Truman Capote

Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Trail of Blue Ice (Portage Valley, AK) by Janson Jones

 

“Often when I write I am trying to make words do the work of line and color. I have the painter’s sensitivity to light. Much . . . of my writing is verbal painting.”
~ Elizabeth Bowen

Two of the worst words in the history of language: ignorance and indifference ~ L. Liwag

Few words tonight. Too many thoughts running through my head about the world in which we live. To much tumult to reconcile in a coherent post. Janson’s “Blue Ice” image is the perfect visual accompaniment to how I feel.

My overall mood can best be expressed by Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard singing “Now We are Free.” Many thanks to my compatriot Janson Jones for reminding me of their incredible music.

 

And to close the evening, here is “Host of Seraphim.” Let me warn you that this particular vid can be very depressing. I may try to tackle this topic tomorrow.

 

More later. Peace.