“He loved the craggy ruins bound together by ivy, those dark halls, and any appearance of death and destruction. Having fallen so far from so high a position, he loved anything that had also fallen from a great height.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Eilean Donan Castle at Sunsetby Paul Stevenson (FCC)
Eilean Donan Castle at Sunset
by Paul Stevenson (FCC)

“From the grey sky that lowered over the city outside a few isolated snowflakes were floating down, and disappeared into the dark chasms of the yards behind the buildings. I thought of the onset of winter in the mountains, the complete absence of sound, and my childhood wish for everything to be snowed over, the whole village and the valley all the way to the mountain peaks, and how I used to imagine what it would be like when we thawed out again and emerged from the ice in spring.” ~ W.G. Sebald,  from Austerlitz

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not as cold, 48 degrees.

Yesnaby Castle, Orkney Islands, Scotland by Paul Stephenson FCC
Yesnaby Castle (rock stack), Orkney Islands, Scotland
by Paul Stephenson (FCC)

So the snow is melting quickly now. Not nearly enough accumulation to play in the snow with Tillie the Lab. She did some plowing in the backyard with Corey.

I just wanted to pause here to say thank you to all of my new followers and also thanks for the recent e-mails. It is always nice to hear from new people, to get feedback on what I’m doing here. Completely understandable if you would rather not comment on the post and prefer e-mail. I’ll take it however I can get it.

Apparently I missed National Reading Day, which was on the 23rd of this month, my birthday. I don’t think it gets as much press as Banned Books Week, but NRD is a good idea aimed at encouraging younger children to read, specifically Pre-K through third grade. It always makes me a bit sad to realize that most young children do not have books in their homes, that they don’t have ready access to stories. As an only child, I taught myself to read while I was quite young, and reading became one of my favorite ways to pass time. Alexis learned how to fill out a blank check while she was in middle school because I would send her to the reading fair with a blank check and a budget. Math and reading together.

“This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Shapechangers in Winter”

Yesterday I read one of the books that ordered for my birthday: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. First let me say that this whole classification of Young Adult novels stymies me. What exactly is a young adult novel? I mean, when I was a young adult I was reading Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Whitman. My children were reading the Harry Potter series in grade school. I find the classification a bit insulting, as if young adults are only concerned with relationships and feelings, and only young adults are concerned with relationships and feelings.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland by Isaxen FCC
Dunnattor Castle, Scotland
by Isaxen (FCC)

That aside, I loved the book. I finished it in just a few hours (is that what makes it young adult?), and when I was done, the only word that came to mind was luminous. I immediately thought of passing it along to my sons, both of whom would be able to appreciate it, perhaps in different ways.

If you haven’t read it—and I think that I’m probably in a minority here in discovering Green this late—it’s a story about kids with cancer. Sounds horrible, right? Wrong. While there are sad moments, the narration and dialogue are anything but depressing. I think the main reason that I found the book so engaging is the overall tone, which is this side of sarcastic and a little pretentious without being precious. I understood these characters, what made them tick, and I even appreciated the lesser characters.

I fear I may be describing all of this none too well. Anyway, loved it and am thinking about getting Green’s Looking for Alaska when the next opportunity arises.

“I’ll walk forever with stories inside me that the people I love the most can never hear.” ~ Michelle Hodkin

Speaking of books, Corey and I recently made a trip to our favorite Barnes and Noble, and boy was it disappointing. I had deliberately not ventured into a book store for a while as I was afraid of what I might find. My fears were realized: More electronics and games than books.

So sad really.

Duntulm Castle overlooking the Minch, Scotland by Brian Zinnel CC
Duntulm Castle overlooking the Minch, Scotland
by Brian Zinnel

I perused the poetry section, which was a mere five shelves. No poetry by anyone other than the expected: T. S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, and other mainstream names. Then I went to the true crime section, which used to be one of my favorite sections—for obvious reasons—and was again disappointed. No new titles, only paperbacks of the same authors. Even the bargain books section was sorely lacking.

I used to find such great enjoyment in spending $25 and leaving with five or six books, all titles that I had been wanting to read. Not any more. I know that the store’s inventory is a reflection of both the death of book publishing and the move towards e-readers, but it was jolting nonetheless. At least I can still find the titles in which I’m interested online, but it’s not the same.

“There is a life which
if I could have it
I would have chosen for myself from the beginning” ~ Franz Wright, from “The Poem”

At least while we were there I was able to pick up my Valentine’s Day cards for everyone. Oh, and speaking of cards, I got a birthday card from Corey’s parents, which was lovely, especially since my own mother has once again forgotten my birthday. She remembers about every birthday in four. I have come not to expect her to remember.

Saltcoats Castle, Lothian, Scotland by DecoByDesign FCC
Saltcoats Castle, Lothian, Scotland
by DecoByDesign (FCC)

Tonight for my belated birthday celebration we are taking the sons with us to see The Hobbit. Brett has already seen it but wants to see it again. Eamonn has yet to see it. We thought it would be nice for the four of us to go to a movie together, something we haven’t done in years, mostly because Eamonn always goes to movies with his girlfriends, but he is sans girlfriend at the moment.

There’s a local theater chain called Cinema Cafe, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s table seating, and you can order food. We used to take the whole family when everyone was younger because the tickets are cheaper, and it makes for a nice night out with everyone. Corey and I went there several months ago to see Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus, both of which were quite enjoyable.

“You can learn a lot about people from the stories they tell, but you can also know them from the way they sing along, whether they like the windows up or down, if they live by the map or by the world, if they feel the pull of the ocean.” ~ David Levithan, from Every Day

So let’s see . . . what else?

Seem to be getting congested again, no idea as to why, though. The leftover pneumonia cough, which hadn’t completely disappeared, is also deepening. All of this is happening because I’m still having problems with my health insurance. Over the phone when I check things with the automated system the computer voice confirms that my account is up to date; however, when I go online, it still says that my coverage ended in October. The main problem is that because of this ongoing snafu, I cannot get my medication refills. The medication has nothing to do with my congestion except that I know that not being on all my meds weakens my system overall.

Waterfall at Kilt Rock, Scotland CC
Waterfall at Kilt Rock, Scotland
(photographer unknown; cc)

Hate this.

Other than that, temperatures by mid-week are supposed to be in the 60’s, because they were just in the 20’s, and these temperature shifts wreak havoc on my sinuses. I think that I could do winter fairly well if it were more consistent, not this abrupt cold/warm/freezing/snow/warm/rain that is inherent in this area.

Anyway, I’m hoping to give the dogs baths on the warmer days and maybe—dare I say—go for a walk?

More later. Peace.

(All images of Scotland are licensed under creative commons. Felt like a highland/old ruins kind of day.)

Music by A Boy and His Kite, “Cover Your Tracks”

                   

Late Echo

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.

~ John Ashbery

“No matter how often I tell myself that chance happenings of this kind occur far more often than we suspect, since we all move, one after the other, along the same roads mapped out for us by our origins and our hopes, my rational mind is nonetheless unable to lay the ghosts of repetition that haunt me with ever greater frequency.” ~ W. G. Sebald

Lagoon Nebula
NASA

                    

“I suppose it is submerged realities that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality.But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno. What manner of theatre is it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene painter and audience?”

~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Music by Melody Gardot, “Deep Within the Corners of My Mind”

“Could it be, that this was life? — startling, unexpected, unknown?” ~ Virginia Woolf, from To The Lighthouse

“Stillleben mit Spiegel und Feuerlilien (Still Life with Mirror and Tiger Lilies),” by Max beckmann (1950)*

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “When I Am Among Trees

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and mild. Night thunderstorms moved out the heat and humidity.

Woke up early this morning with massive migraine, nausea, extreme light sensitivity, but the weather is beautiful . . .

Corey is scheduled to leave port on Saturday. He plans to stay on for the full run, which may take him to Antigua (obvious envy) and a few other islands, as well as Brazil. I am simply overcome with jealousy. If he does the full run, he’ll be getting back just in time for le bébé, which will be nice.

“Rote Tulpen und Feuerlilien (Red Tulips and Tiger Lily),” by Max Beckmann (1935)

It has been to nice to have him home even though he has to work during the day. Brett made homemade pizza for dinner last night as he wanted to cook for Corey, which was sweet. Both boys are glad to have him home, as are the pups. I think that everyone will be massively sad when he has to go again, but I’m so glad that they made port here first.

He is liking his job very much, and his co-workers all seem to like him. He said that he is bothered by things on the boat less than some guys, probably because he is used to working for a dysfunctional shipping company. But he assures me that the ship is safe, which is my primary concern. He took some pictures off the coast of Dover and also got some nice shots of Klaipeda, the town in Lithuania that he visited while in port there. I hope to post some of the pictures soon, but I cannot open Photoshop on this computer or it will freeze indefinitely. I know that some of you can relate.

“We are faithful
only to the imagination. What the
imagination
seizes
as beauty must be truth.  What holds you
to what you see of me is
that grasp alone.” ~ Denise Levertov, from “Everything That Acts Is Actual”

So, shall I share with you a funny story?

I read somewhere, don’t remember, that turmeric was a natural astringent, and this actress said that she mixes a small amount of it in with her moisturizer to get a natural glow. So I thought, why not?

“Stilleben mit Orchideen und grüner Schale (Still Life with Orchids and Green Bowl),” by Max Beckmann (1943)

Yellow. The color of curry yellow. I had to laugh out loud when I looked in the mirror. I might have had a very bad case of jaundice. It took three scrubbings to get all of the yellow off—no lie, and in between washings, I wiped my face with a paper towel that turned . . . yellow.

Who are these people who can get a nice healthy glow with turmeric? They must have no yellow tint in their melanin, that’s certain.

Oh well, so much for natural . . . It really is a shame, though. I used to hate the color yellow, probably because of my skin, but now I love it, but I simply cannot wear it anywhere near my face. I mean, I could wear yellow in a skirt, but a yellow blouse? No, nope, never. I turn this wonderful shade of squash. Totally unflattering.

“ . . . there’s this vast dangerous garden, waiting out there, undiscovered, unexplored.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, “At the Bay

“Stilleben mit Tulpen und Ausblick aufs Meer (Still Life with Tulips and Sea View),” by Max Beckmann (1938)

Let’s see, what else is noteworthy? Oh, another somewhat funny story: Yesterday, I drove Eamonn to his eye doctor’s appointment. On the way home, he wanted to stop by 7/11. As he came out, he opened the Rodeo door right into his head, creating an instant bump. That’s not the funny part.

He got in the car and said, “Pull out fast. I’m so embarrassed.”

I told him to put his cold drink on his forehead to keep it from swelling. He was so concerned with how it would look that he decided that he would tell anyone who asked that . . . and this is the outrageous part . . . I accidentally hit him in the head with the door. Oh yes, Eamonn, that’s so much better than admitting that you accidentally hit yourself in the forehead. Make me out to be the abuser. And you know what? He actually did it. He told his girlfriend that I gave him the bump. Love it.

My children (probably not cool to refer to them that way as they are all adults . . . yeah, right)—always good for a chuckle.

“The sea lies in its bed wet and naked
in the dark. Half a moon glimmers on it
as though someone had come through
a door with the light behind.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Adults” 

“Still Life with Flowers,” by Max Beckmann (1927)

Speaking of adulthood, I remember when I got out of graduate school (the first time) and started my first real job. I was so adamant that I not be referred to as a girl, mostly because of my traditional feminist sensibilities which point out that calling a grown woman a girl is akin to calling a grown man a boy, and no man wants to be called a boy, but everyone refers to younger women as a girl. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I worked for a government contractor with a bunch of retired military guys, and I was always trying to enlighten them. When I look back on that now I have to chuckle to myself. But you know what, they actually stopped using the word girl. I think that I kind of intimidated them. Well, actually, I know that I intimidated them as I found that out later from this 6’7″ former Navy Captain.

I just find the whole thing so humorous now, but it was deadly serious to me then. We so want to be considered mature adults when we are in our 20’s. It’s more of that foresight versus hindsight thing. If only we had the hindsight of our 40’s while still in our 20’s. I really think that argument can be made for living life backwards, starting it with the knowledge we glean from experience and age, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of all of that angst we suffer in our youth.

“The invisibility and intangibility of that which moves us remained an unfathomable mystery . . .” ~ W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

So tomorrow night is date night for Corey and Me, to celebrate our anniversary, for which he will not be here. We’re going to eat sushi and go to a movie, our usual date. I had a hankering to go sing karaoke, but he would rather go to a movie, which is fine as I just want to have an evening out with him.

“Stilleben mit Mimosen (Still Life with Mimosa),” by Max Beckmann (1938-39)

I’ve been mulling over going to karaoke by myself like I used to. I would go early in the evening, before all of the drunks, and sit by myself, write in my journal, and sing a few songs. I was usually home by 9. Alexis used to tell me that going out on a Friday night did not mean being home by 9, but I was fine with it. So I’ve thought that I might try that again, just to try to get my voice back into shape, not that I have people banging my door for a singing contract or anything like that, but I have noticed that when I do sing along in the car, I sound, shall we way, icky.

I watched an episode of RHofOC, and Gretchen did a sting with the Pussycat Dolls in Las Vegas in which she was supposed to sing “Fever.” I say supposed to because I’m not really sure what in the hell she sang, but it did not resemble “Fever.” Poor, poor Peggy Lee was doing somersaults in her grave, I’m sure. Now “Fever” is a song that I can/used to sing as it’s the perfect key for my voice. Unfortunately, if I were to attempt it now, I would probably sound like Gretchen, which is just depressing.

I really don’t know why I still watch that show as it’s not even entertaining any more, too predictable. It’s the only one of the franchise that I still watch, but I will admit to “Bethenny Ever After,” as Bethenny is my twin sister (I wish). I mean she says exactly what’s on her mind, consequences be damned, and her poor spouse appears to be more befuddled than anything by her attitude. It’s very early in their marriage, so they’re just getting used to each other and the idea of being married, and it kind of reminds me of Corey and me in the early days, except that we’re not worth over $100 million. Just that tiny difference.

“No, my soul is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,
its eyes wide open
far off things, and listens
at the shores of the great silence.” ~ Antonio Machado

Speaking of this POS computer—which I was a couple of sections ago (keep up)—yesterday I designed the content for Alexis’s baby shower invitation. Granted there isn’t a low of content, just the who, what, when stuff, but you would think that I was trying to get this computer to insert graphics into a 300-page manuscript.

“Schwarze Iris (Black Irises),” by Max Beckmann (1928)

Fortunately, the invitations that I bought had a website on which I could download a template so that the measurements were exact, but I had wanted to use a special font, and boy was that a nightmare. I use the dafonts.comwebsite, which is a site of downloadable free fonts. The only problem is that some of the script fonts that look good on the site do not translate well into Microsoft. I would have used Adobe InDesign to create the invitation, but this computer does not recognize real programs . . .

Anyway, I asked Brett’s opinion on my font choice, and he was so helpful. His reply (which really, really reminded me of my dad): “It’s a font.” Why do I bother?

So I finished the design and printed a sample. I had chosen a custom color to match the border, but the printer decided that everything should print in Navy. Why??? This means that I need to buy new ink cartridges before attempting to print the invitations as I really don’t want to be in the middle of printing only to have half of them turn out faded, with indecipherable text. That would put me over the edge, definitely.

But I’m happy with the finished product. Now I just have to find those poet stamps that I read about (doubt if my post office will have them as that would be too easy).

My trials and tribulations. It could be worse. That’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

(*Images by Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 – December 28, 1950), German, identified as Impressionist, but he did not like that categorization. These oil on canvas still lifes very different from his other work.)

Music by Kathryn Calder, “Arrow” (perfect song)


                   
Tuesday, June 4th, 1991

By the time I get myself out of bed, my wife has left
the house to take her botany final and the painter
has arrived in his van and is already painting
the columns of the front porch white and the decking gray.

It is early June, a breezy and sun-riddled Tuesday
that would quickly be forgotten were it not for my
writing these few things down as I sit here empty-headed
at the typewriter with a cup of coffee, light and sweet.

I feel like the secretary to the morning whose only
responsibility is to take down its bright, airy dictation
until it’s time to go to lunch with the other girls,
all of us ordering the cottage cheese with half a pear.

This is what stenographers do in courtrooms,
alert at their dark contraptions catching every word.
When there is a silence they sit still as I do, waiting
and listening, finger resting lightly on the keys.

This is what Samuel Pepys did too, jotting down in
private ciphers minor events that would have otherwise
slipped into the heavy, amnesiac waters of the Thames.
His vigilance paid off finally when London caught fire

as mine does when the painter comes in for coffee
and says how much he likes this slow, vocal rendition
of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and I figure I will
make him a tape when he goes back to his brushes and pails.

Under the music I can hear the rush of cars and trucks
on the highway and every so often the new kitten, Felix,
hops into my lap and watches my fingers drumming out
a running record of this particular June Tuesday

as it unrolls before my eye, a long intricate carpet
that I am walking on slowly with my head bowed
knowing that it is leading me to the quiet shrine
of the afternoon and the melancholy candles of evening.

If I look up, I see out the window the white stars
of clematis climbing a ladder of strings, a woodpile,
a stack of faded bricks , a small green garden of herbs,
things you would expect to find outside a window,

all written down now and placed in the setting
of a stanza as unalterably as they are seated
in their chairs in the ontological rooms of the world.
Yes, this is the kind of job I could succeed in,

an unpaid but contented amanuensis whose hands
are two birds fluttering on the lettered keys,
whose eyes see sunlight splashing through the leaves,
and the bright pink asterisks of honeysuckle

and the piano at the other end of this room
with its small vase of faded flowers and its empty bench.
So convinced am I that I have found my vocation,
tomorrow I will begin my chronicling earlier, at dawn,

a time when hangmen and farmers are up and doing,
when men holding pistols stand in a field back to back.
It is the time the ancients imagined in robes, as Eos
or Aurora, who would leave her sleeping husband in bed,

not to take her botany final, but to pull the sun,
her brother, over the horizon’s brilliant rim,
her four-horse chariot aimed at the zenith of the sky.
But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,

barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.

~ Billy Collins

(Aside: I need to get a collection of Billy Collins poems as I am really liking him.)

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.” ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Gate to the Sea

                   

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Meg Chittenden

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kind of a slow, sad day. Not exactly sure why, but I think that it has something to do with the disturbing dreams that I had last night. In one, I saw my father standing on the shore and fishing; I saw him so closely that I could see the little moles on his face, and then he disappeared.

Later, in another dream or perhaps the same one, I was at a funeral home, but it was a very unusual funeral home: they specialized in creating replicas of the dearly departed, and these replicas did things like talk or blink or in one case, had eyes that glowed. I kept trying to get out, but each door that I went through took me into yet another room filled with the macabre.

And then I was with my cousins on the Filipino side, and the youngest had stolen Caitlin’s soul. I was frantic, trying to get her to give back my daughter’s soul so that she could be at peace, but my cousin was possessed, and everyone turned against me, locked me in a bathroom, and I couldn’t make anyone see how wrong everything was.

Needless to say, I awoke with a killer headache, and to top it off, achy legs.

I read somewhere that people tend to remember 95 percent of their dream upon waking, and then with each subsequent minute, the dream fades very quickly, so why do the images from last night still haunt me?

“One could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.” ~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Saintes Maries de la Mer, France, kaneda99 (FCC)

Last night we had our combined Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anniversary dinner out. Sushi. So good. Brett and his friend Em came with us even though they had already eaten. Brett cannot resist sushi.

Even though everything was tasty, it was probably the longest that we have ever had to wait for our meal. Only one sushi chef was on duty. Still, everything was tasty.

We came home, and I collapsed in bed. I took three Seroquel last night, which is the dose that my doctor recommended; I’ve only been taking two at bedtime because this is yet another medication that can cause weight gain, so I’ve been trying to be pretty conservative with it. But last night I found myself chewing on my fingers, something I haven’t been doing for a while now, so I realized that for one night at least I needed to take more.

I slept very soundly, and perhaps that is why my dreams were so vivid. Who knows . . . I slept through two telephone calls this morning. I heard the phone somewhere in the distance, but I could not bring myself to get up to find it. This is not a great habit, but hey, at least I slept.

Eamonn came over for a while yesterday for Dad’s day. He gets along so well with Corey; they have a very comfortable relationship. I’m still trying to talk him into moving back here, at least for fall semester because it’s so important that he does well this fall so that he can get into the radiation technology program that he wants. I don’t know if he will come back, but I find myself missing him terribly.

Alexis texted last night. Big surprise there. If she couldn’t make it over for Mum’s Day, I really didn’t expect to see her yesterday. Still, it stings.

Corey brought me a card that he has kept all of these years; it’s an old Father’s Day card from Alexis in which she thanks him for being so supportive and telling him how glad that he is a part of our family. He looked at it wistfully, and I could tell that even though he didn’t say so, he was hurt.

“’I do adore music,’ she said. ‘It just seems to say all the things one can’t say oneself.’ She gave a nervous little laugh and looked from one to another with great benignity, as though she would like to say something but could not find the words in which to express it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

Truthfully, I think that part of my melancholy stems from the loss of Clarence Clemons. I know that Corey got tired of me playing “Jungleland” yesterday, but that sax solo is so full of emotion that I cannot help but get caught up in it.

So today I’m back to country music, which is also not helping the mood, but I need soft and soothing today.

I think that if Corey and I still went to karaoke it would actually help. Singing is one way for me to release emotions. Sitting here, just me and the computer, singing my heart out seems kind of counterproductive. The dogs seem to like it, so there’s that.

Music, writing, book-making, collages—these are my artistic outlets. I haven’t made a book in ages, and I’ve been mulling over making one for Brett. Now that I have a better idea as to his literary likes and dislikes, I think that I could put together something creative.

It’s funny, you know, but I made my first book years ago, when I was working at the museum. I took a blank book and pasted in pictures, odd paper scraps, and quotes. I made one for Dr. K when she was expecting her first baby. She loved it and said that I really should think about trying to commercialize it. I told her that I didn’t really think that there was a market for such a thing. Less than a year later, the whole scrapbook thing exploded in the marketplace.

Once again, another train missed. I don’t mind, though. Scrapbooks strike me as cookie cutter a bit; I know that some people create really striking visual products, but there are templates and pre-printed sheets; whereas my books are wholly individual: no one else has these pictures or these papers. I’ve made books for Alexis and for Corey. It never seemed like the kind of thing that Eamonn would like, so I didn’t make him one when he graduated. I wonder if I’m underestimating him.

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “Motto,” from Poems: 1913-56, various translators

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

I have a confession: I have taken a strong dislike to e-mail. Don’t ask me why, but I find myself checking it only once a week, if that often. Perhaps it’s more of that hermit tendency in me, but e-mail, virtual mail isn’t real. I want paper. That and the fact that I get so many unwanted ad and pleas for money from someone I’ve never heard of. It’s virtual junk mail, and quite frankly, I  abhor it.

Corey is outside making home-made stakes for his sunflowers, which took a real beating in the last storm. He heard from his mom today that one of his aunts is willing to help us with airfare to Ohio for Chad’s wedding. That’s an unexpected but quite lovely gesture. Her entire family is like that—very thoughtful and giving.

Corey’s mom had offered to give me all of her sisters’ e-mail addresses for my Avon, but I just didn’t feel right about approaching them since I don’t see them often. I really don’t know if I will be continuing with the whole Avon venture as it seems to be a money pit as opposed to a money-maker. I’m certain that people who are very active and aggressive about it do very well. We all know that of the two, I am not very active. Hence, the standstill.

I hope everything works out that we can both go to Chad’s wedding as it will be nice to see everyone on such a happy occasion. I could do with a happy occasion or two.

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling. When the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Walk to the Ocean

You know, I probably should not write when I feel this way, when the melancholy threatens to overtake me at any minute, but this is precisely when I need to write, when the need is overpowering, the need to make real the words that are inside me.

One of the things that is making me ache is that the peripheral drama appears to be moving into high gear, and it’s hard to stand idly by, to bite my tongue, to remember that this is not my battle. My tendency to become embroiled in the battles of those I love and those for whom I feel a strong loyalty has taken me into the fray even when I pledged to stand apart.

I just find it hard to watch another person hurt, whatever the reason. I long to step in and say, “Here. Let me take that pain away.” But this is not possible. Witness my own daughter: no matter how much I long to make it so, I cannot help her to find her way, cannot help her to regain her footing in this vast world, a world that sometimes seems so completely unforgiving, so scornful of the weak, of the lost.

Too often, I lead with my heart instead of my head, and this is not always best, although sometimes it is the only way to go. Then, too, I find that I am still able to be surprised by the generosity of other people, people I have never met, people who have been out of my life for years who resurface and say, “Here. Let me help.”

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Path to Nowhere, St. Agnes, Cornwall, by atoach (FCC)

In today’s virtual world, friendship has morphed into a page on the screen on which people list their current state of affairs, their immediate mindset, and missives that may have gone out to only a single friend in the past are now shot-gunned out to however many friends are listed on the side of the page. Close confidences are shared with everyone, almost as if the sharer longs for someone, anyone in the virtual sphere to respond and say, “I hear you.”

Like the paper letters I long for but will not receive, friendship seems to have changed its face with the continual evolution of the web. Who we are is not our icon, not our gravatar, if you will. Our online handle is a reflection of how we see ourselves but not necessarily who we are. With all of this, it is completely expected that we will get lost along the way, that we go through the wrong doors in our attempts to find the exit or the entrance.

And as a result, we have spawned a generation that will know little of the post office, of the possible beauty of a postage stamp. A generation that knows only fleetingly how to converse intimately. A generation that finds comfort in sharing everything, every scintilla of emotion, who knows nothing of self-censoring. We have a generation that is being raised knowing little of shared confidences because everything is shared.

You might find that an ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed confessional writer, but trust me when I say that I know how to keep confidences. I have been told things that I have never revealed to another soul. I fear that this generation raised online will not understand the value of one-to-one sharing, the precious regard for heartfelt confession after a night of wine, and movies, and long conversation.

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kenny Chesney, “You Save Me.” For Corey.

                   

I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought—
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me.

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do.
Meanwhile, we are dreaming:

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us.

~ Jane Mead

“To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Freundschaftsinsel, Potsdam, by Max Baur (Friendship Island)
                    
“How secure have I felt seated at my desk in my house in the dark night, just watching the tip of my pencil in the lamplight following its shadow, as if of its own accord and with perfect fidelity, while that shadow moved regularly from left to right, line by line, over the ruled paper.” ~ W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Park Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany, by Max Baur

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .   

Sitting in Eamonn’s room on Friday afternoon. A few days ago, I began the task of trying to clean this room, which means going through all of the various piles of crap that Eamonn has left here since moving to his Dad’s house.   

I’ve only managed to clean the desk so far. We’re talking about countless binders, notebooks, and piles of paper from high school. Dead pens and broken pencils. Permanent markers that have completely dried up from having no cap. and all kinds of other unidentifiable stuff. Oh, and I also found the title to his Explorer, which Eamonn swore up and down that he had given me. Yep, that title, the one that he had to go to DMV to get a duplicate of so that he could junk the Explorer.   

What possessed me to begin this cleaning project? Well, several things, the main one being that I’m using his computer while mine is dead, and I just couldn’t stand not having one clear space on which to place my Pepsi. That and the fact that if I continued to wait for Eamonn to come over and start to de-junk, I’d be waiting until 2020.   

Corey and I are thinking about turning this bedroom into an office with a futon for guests, not that we ever have guests, nor do we have the money to purchase a futon, but one thing at a time.   

“It is a strange life when I consider it,
how I endeavor to attain strength and clarity,
to mold these base materials into forms which will express me,
and my attitude, my joy and thankfulness. 
I work alone,
who cares whether I produce anything or not,
or who appreciates it? 
Yet I believe a good thing will not perish.” ~ Harlan Hubbard
Friedenskirche, Potsdam, Germany by Max Baur (ca. 1928)

Brett made it through his first week of college. Today’s classes were cancelled because of the hurricane. Although, all we’ve seen is rain. I know that schools and businesses try to be more proactive ever since that hurricane about five years ago that took out everything, and few people were prepared.   

Our hurricane preparation? Flashlights and bottled water. I mean, there really isn’t anything else that we can do. We don’t have a generator, nor do we have anything else in the way of emergency equipment. Next year, though, I want to be sure to have flood insurance in place. In this area, homeowners cannot get a flood policy written once the first hurricane enters the Atlantic, so we’re out of luck for 2010, and even though we don’t live in a flood area, we are close enough to water that we should have it. Besides, regular homeowner’s insurance covers very little in the way of water damage, which means that if there is a massive storm surge, and our home becomes a wading pool, we may well be SOL.  

So back to the whole college preparation thing: We finally got Brett a workable schedule. I ordered his books, only to have two of them kick back from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I mean I searched high and low to find the lowest possible prices on textbooks. One book is on backorder, with no projected shipment date. Another book is no longer available from the vendor from whom I originally ordered, which meant finding an alternative source, which (of course) was much more expensive.   

Things that make a person scream ARGH.   

“With writing, we have second chances.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated 
Chinesisches Teehaus, Potsdam, Germany, by Max Baur (Chinese Teahouse)

 So an update on the various things that aren’t working:   

My computer: The motherboard arrived, and Corey took my CPU and the motherboard to the Geeks, who then quoted him $99 after initially quoting him $49. Then the person with whom Corey was speaking uttered those horrible words (the words that IsaacMak had already prophesied): There’s a good chance that the computer will need to be reloaded with Vista, which means that you will lose everything on the hard drive . . .   

It seems that Windows has implemented a new hitch with Vista and all subsequent windows versions: If the motherboard needs to be replaced, then the operating system has to be reloaded. This news, although not entirely unexpected, is more painful than I can express. The last time I did a total system backup was three years ago. Since then, I have approximately twice the data I had at that time. I won’t bother to mention (so, of course, I shall) how I pointed out to Corey months ago that we needed to get some kind of external hard drive so that all of the systems in the house could be backed up, you know, just in case . . .   

Options  for recovering and transferring my data include paying the Geeks to do it, which of course would be expensive. Or we can try to plug the computer in and download as much as possible onto the home network. That option depends on whether or not the computer will even boot.   

Then there is the small problem with the home network, which isn’t working. As I’m typing this a guy from the local cable company is here checking our connections to see why the router/modem will not stay on. I mean, it’s cable, not FIOS. It’s not weather dependent.   

Things just keep getting better and better.   

“I am increasingly impressed by how nature permits human beings to make fools of themselves in vast numbers.” ~ William Glass 
Refektoriumsportal des Klosters Heilsbronn, by Max Baur (Portal Refectory of Convent Heilsbronn)

A few final tidbits:   

Former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican co-chair of President Obama’s Deficit Commission has been in the news lately with his off-the-wall comments; most recently Simpson complained that Viet Nam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are adding too much to the deficit. Simpson complained that these benefits run “contrary to efforts to control federal spending,” and even went as far as to say that “the irony” is that “the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess. My contention: Simpson is using too much air to fuel his waning grey cells. 

After President Obama’s speech this past Tuesday acknowledging the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the usual Republican/Tea Party talking heads lined up to criticize the president for not giving enough credit to W. For once, I am in almost complete agreement with McConnell, McCain, Palin, et al, with one teenie tiny exception: exchange the word blame for credit.  

Yep. It’s all on W., but as usual, the right has been drinking the Kool-Ade. According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, more credit should be given to W., who had the “determination and will to carry out the plan that made [this] announcement possible.”  

Uh . . . sorry, just threw up a little in my throat . . .  

W. had determination and will all right: the determination to circumvent the Constitution, the will to do more to impede basic freedoms in the name of anti-terrorism. And we are supposed to praise W. for making possibly the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the country? We are supposed to laud him for dragging our country into an unwinnable war based on a faulty premise that had nothing to do with the original post-September 11 mission to capture Osama bin Laden and wipe out the Taliban?  

Don’t make me gag. Again.  

Keith Olbermann did a better job on calling out the talking heads on the right on this particular issue:  

Vodpod videos no longer available.

All images by German photographer Max Baur.

More later. Peace.  

 Music by Eva Cassidy, her version of “American Tune”  

                                                    

The Great Bear
A clear night
Trying to understand
What happened all those years ago
Under this
Exact constellation. 
It does no good
To dwell on the past.
What happens happens only once.
No such thing
As a lesson can be learned. 
And yet the same figure
Slowly appears
At the foot of the garden,
Looking as if
He is made of the dark, 
And I feel the same
Dilemmas rise
That have risen before,
And the same reactions
Hours behind, 
Burning off
What I’ve made of my life.
By the time the starlight reaches us
The world it began
Has gone. 
~ Frances Leviston