“I am interested in impossible embodiments. I wish to write; I wish to write about certain things that cannot be held. I want to create a sea of freely-flowing words of no definite form and shape waves of fluent exactness.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals, 1897-1909

                   

first-of-the-light-peter-wileman-proi02-w640h480
“First of the Light” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

“I live my own life and nurse my own wounds. It’s not the best way to live. But it’s the way I am.” ~ Jeffrey Eugenides, from Middlesex

Early Wednesday evening. Cloudy, 56 degrees.

Last night I had a cousin dream again. At first, we were in a high school, and we heard shooting, so two of us hid in a classroom beneath a science fair project. I thought it was a stupid place to hide. The gunman came into the room and just stood there. I tried not to breathe.

Peter Wileman Dawn over the Estuary 24 x 30 oil on canvas main
“Dawn over the Estuary” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Then somehow we got away, and then we were on a ship, and the ship was constructed so that all of the decks opened onto the middle of the ship, which was a swimming pool, and I thought about jumping from the third deck down into the pool but then decided against it, especially after these figures in white robes began to round up all of the people in the pool. The robed people didn’t have faces. Then it was time to eat, but there wasn’t any food except for pears.

Then the scene changed and Corey and I were on some wildlife preserve on an island, and we had no idea how big the preserve was, and we were walking on these trails, and suddenly I was attacked by a giant frog that was the size of a small dog, and Corey was running from frogs and foxes. I finally found a map of the island and realized that we were never going to find our way back.

Make of it what you will, I only know that too much was going on, and I was so tired afterwards.

“I’m writing against my own blankness, to record
this life that I’m living mostly lonely
or hopeful.” ~ Nate Pritts, from “All Those Sweet Things”

I’ve had a hard time focusing lately. When I sit down to write, nothing comes. I’m thinking about a million different things: the situation in Steubenville, Ohio, the prevalence of rape culture throughout the world, whether or not what I write here is writing, the idea of privacy in a world filled with technological gadgets that wash away any veneer of privacy to which we might aspire, and how I’m so tired that there actually exists a school of thought that the concept of feminism is just another word for lesbianism.

Peter Wileman Red Horizon
“Red Horizon” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Can you understand why I cannot focus? I have so very much to say, so many thoughts bouncing around in my head, but I am as yet unable to focus enough to write intelligently about any of it. Not to mention the whole thing about me having to take care of the bills and make the telephone calls and straighten out why my health insurance was cancelled once again and how that affected my upcoming doctor’s appointments and my medication refills . . . in other words—blech, double blech.

I did get a bit of a boost when I read selected sections of Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Reading these published writers when they talk about how they write always affects me in two ways: At first I am excited, and then I’m depressed, first because what they have to say makes so much sense, then the downside of realizing that the perch from which they speak is one share by that group of writers of which I hold no membership—the published writer who is selling his/her work.

“Over time, the ghosts of things that happened start to turn distant;  once they’ve cut you a couple of million times, their edges blunt on your scar tissue, they wear thin.  The ones that slice like razors forever are the ghosts of things that never got the chance to happen.” ~ Tana French, from Broken Harbor

I also fear that one of my new medications is messing with my head as well as my body. Since I don’t know a lot about Verelan, I looked it up, and of course, I have a host of the side effects, but mostly the ones dealing with stomach upset and pain.

peter-wileman-blue-horizon
“Blue Horizon” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Have I mentioned lately how very much I hate medications, doctors, medical tests, the medical industry in general, the medical treatment we receive, ya da ya da ya da? My neighbor’s elderly mother fell a few weeks ago and hit her head. She suffered from dementia. When when she got to the hospital, she must have told them she didn’t have insurance. She did. But the hospital was quick to do a CT scan and then send her home. Her son did not think she should be sent home. Then he noticed that her  discharge papers said self-pay. He called to straighten out the insurance problem. Meanwhile, she got very sick at home, wouldn’t eat, and ended up having a fatal stroke.

The MRI was not done on her until the second time she was taken in, and by then, it was really too late. She was 95. I would see her out in her yard pulling weeds. She talked to anyone who would listen. When her son tried to tell the hospital people that his mother was definitely not acting normally, they told him that they found no problems with the CT scan and insisted on discharging her.

I suppose I am lucky. I am still cogent and ornery enough that I insist on knowing what’s going on with my treatment. I won’t be ignored. But the stress of fighting for inherent rights as a patient certainly does not add to overall well-being.

“It is this backward motion toward the source,
Against the stream, that most we see ourselves in,
The tribute of the current to the source.
It is from this in nature we are from.
It is most us.” ~ Robert Frost, from “West Running Brook”

And then there are the raccoons. I know that I’ve mentioned them before, how Corey thought they were cute. Well . . . they are not huge, and they are doing terribly non-cute things like eating bags of dry dog food and opening the tubs in which we store chips and bread. Not cute, definitely not cute. These things are so fat that it sounds as if they are going to come crashing through the ceiling. Something has to be done. I have a solution but not the means by which to implement it.

eveningfallsovertheestuary24x30oiloncanvas_01-w640h480
“Evening Falls over the Estuary” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

And then there is the dry rot. I know in my heart of hearts we have dry rot forming beneath our bathroom because of the leaky tub. Corey doesn’t like to go beneath the house, and I don’t blame him, but if we don’t do some shoring up soon, one day I’m going to be in the shower and the whole bathtub is going to fall through the floor. Of course I will be the one in the tub when it happens because that is my own personal Murphy’s Law at work.

I know. I know. Bitch, bitch, bitch, but really, my head feels as if it’s going to explode from all of the worrying that I’m doing over these things—large and small. Add to this, of course, my ongoing worries about eldest son and his total and complete lack of direction in life as well as his significant drinking, my worries about youngest son and what he’s going to do with his life, worries about daughter and her continued withdrawal, worries about my mother who seems to be in the initial throes of Alzheimer’s.

It’s too much, I tell you. Too much.

“I am the shore and the ocean, awaiting myself on both sides.” ~ Dejan Stojanovic, from The Shape

And at times such as these I think longingly of that other generation of writers, the ones who subsisted on booze and cigarettes, the ones who never seemed to care how much or how little money they had, and still they pressed on, putting their words down on paper, sending them out, getting published, being read. I think of Carson McCullers and her penchant for drinking bourbon for breakfast, and a wee small part of me wishes that I could live with such abandon, but of course, I cannot because, well because that’s just not a healthy way to live, and I know that I couldn’t do that to myself.

violet-horizon-by-peter-wileman-165479
“Violet Horizon” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Two weird memories came to me in the car on the way home from taking Brett to campus today (will he ever learn to drive???). I heard the song “Closing Time,” which I heard for the first time many years ago when I was on a blind date with a firefighter. A teacher with whom I taught at the public school was married to a firefighter, and he had a friend who was looking for someone to date. Natch, a blind date was arranged. He was a very nice man, soft-spoken, attractive, and I felt absolutely no attraction to him whatsoever. I couldn’t wait for the night to be over, and I didn’t give him my telephone number. Of course, my automatic guilt mechanism kicked in and I wondered if I should have given him a chance, but I held firm.

The second memory came immediately after when the song “Come My Lady” came on the radio, and it was one of the first songs to which Corey and I danced, and he has always called me his butterfly. If I had gone on a second date with the firefighter, would I have ever made it to the point at which another man would call me his butterfly? Thankfully, I don’t really have to worry about that one.

More later. Peace.

All images by British painter Peter Wileman, President of the Royal Institute of Oil Pointers.

Music by Erin McCarley, “What I Needed”

                   

Words

Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.

Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren’t good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.

But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

~ Anne Sexton

“There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Heading Towards Darkness by russell.tomlin (flickr)

                   

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.” ~ Mary Oliver, “Mysteries, Yes

Saturday early evening. Another beautiful blue day, low 70’s.

Abstract Realism: Trees Below Water as Though Inked Washed Drawing by russell.tomlin (flickr)

Seem to be having a reprieve from the five-day-long migraine. I don’t want to say yet that it’s over because that will surely bring at least three more days of pain.

Last night I watched three different exorcism movies. Don’t ask me why I do this to myself, especially when Corey is working the night shift. Perhaps I hope that if I watch enough scary movies, then the current mire of my existence will seem to pale in comparison. Anyway, after this horror marathon, I found myself at 3 a.m. wide awake.

One of the movies that I watched was Exorcist III: Legion. The movie is quite dated in the clothes and the acting as George C. Scott overacts every scene in which he appears. That being said, there is one memorable scene that takes place in a heavenly train station. There is a pseudo big band a la Tommy Dorsey, and weird appearances by Fabio of the long hair and basketball player Patrick Ewing. Okay, so it’s a cheezy, make that very cheezy movie, but it has Ed Flanders and a young Brad Dourif, as well as an appearance by Samuel L. Jackson.

The book Legion is so much better than the movie, but the movie is still entertaining in its own overblown way, not remotely scary, though.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”~ Anaïs Nin

Water Lily Pads on the Oregon Coast by russell.tomlin (flickr)

So it’s fairly quiet here, well quieter now that Eamonn has left the building. He came home from work and took the house quite by storm. He’s just such a ham, always singing at the top of his lungs, running commentaries about everything—a younger version of his father. I used to hate it, really hate it, when his dad sang in the morning. How do people do that, wake up immediately and begin their days with exuberant singing and talking?

Not me, that’s for sure. I wake up very slowly, allowing consciousness to creep in rather than embracing it wholly and immediately.

Anyway, not sure if I’ll be able to finish this post today as I fully expect Internet service to be interrupted at almost any second. Pesky thing called a bill. Besides, I really should be doing some cleaning around the house, but just not feeling up to it. While the headache has subsided, thel knot at the base of my neck is pulsating as I type.

Nevertheless, the floors need to be swept and mopped, and laundry is piling up. More of that housewifery stuff . . .

I’d much rather sit her and write in between visiting tumblr and playing a few games of Spider Solitaire. Doing all three at once is pretty much my standard approach to getting a post written. I find that if I don’t try to write everything at once, I stay a bit more focused, that is unless I’m having a real creative spurt, which I am obviously not doing today.

“Here. You are at the beginning of something. At the exact
beginning.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Dawn Day One (Dec 21 ‘03)”

Water Color Edges by russell.tomlin (flickr)

Well, almost two hours have passed since I put down my first words. The sky is a dark grey, and the temperature has barely dropped. Laundry is going. I’ve eaten some Twizzlers and had a caffeine-free Pepsi. I still need to do the floors, but don’t know if I’ll be getting to that today or tomorrow. I would hate to think that I measure my days by how many chores I accomplish.

But really, how do I measure my days? By what I’ve read? By any new poets I’ve come across? By what images I’ve seen? By which television shows I’ve watched? By how many times I’ve stopped to throw the tennis ball for Tillie? By how many muscle relaxers I’ve had to take just to make the pain tolerable? By whether or not I’ve peeled off my nail polish by evening? By the quality of the sky? By the songs that I’ve heard?

I suppose this train of thought is just a continuation of yesterday’s pondering. But how do we measure our days really? What makes one day better or worse than another? What makes a day intolerable as opposed to being so-so?

If I were working, my measurement would be different, would definitely encompass what I had accomplished, which tasks I had completed, whether or not I had made the requisite telephone calls and answered the pending correspondence. If I were still in school, I would measure my days according to my schedule of assignments, whether or not they had been completed, or whether or not I had procrastinated until the last minute.

And what happens when we procrastinate? We put off doing something, but are the minutes we use to postpone just wasted time?

I know that there is a school of thought that all of the minutes of all of the hours should be spent in thoughtful contemplation and achievement. There is also the school of thought that we should spend a portion of our time in silence so as to allow ourselves to commune with . . . nature? God? The self?

“I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds—but I think of you always in those intervals.” ~ Salvador Plascencia

Shore Acres Botanical Garden (10 August 2011), by russell.tomlin (flickr)

I do believe in meditation, in its healing effects, in its ability to quell the troubled waters of the soul. But that I believe in it does not mean that I am able to do it.

I know that I have achieved a state of meditation—a state in which I was able to clear my mind of all of the swirling thoughts—maybe four or five times in my life. By that I mean that I was truly able to set aside the external and just be.

One time that I distinctly remember was when Corey and I were in the Mediterranean, and we were on a large catamaran being sailed to a bay that was rich with rays. On the way to the spot, I sad on the tarp in lotus position with my eyes closed and just allowed myself to truly be in the moment. I was able to drown out sounds of conversations, the music that was playing. All that I heard was the water and the wind. All that I felt was the sun and the spray.

Being able to achieve that state before communing with the rays made the entire experience so much richer. I don’t know if I’m doing an adequate job of explaining the state that I was able to achieve, and perhaps you might not understand if you have never achieved such a state yourself. I only know that it was a perfect day.

“L’automne est pour moi le signe le plus sûr des recommencements. Depuis l’enfance on appelle cela la rentrée. Quelque chose décline, et quelque chose commence. Je me présente toujours devant l’automne : neuf, prêt, dispos. Quelque chose va se passer, va m’arriver. Je vais apprendre, je vais changer.” (Autumn is for me the surest sign of new beginnings. Since childhood it is called re-entry. Something is declining, and something begins. I always before this fall: new, ready, willing. Something will happen, will happen to me. I will learn, I’ll change.) ~ Pierre Péju

Dream Deepens in Autumn Gloaming, by russell.tomlin (flickr)

I think that during such times, time becomes suspended, not literally, of course. I mean that in clearing the mind, all of the troubles of the day, no matter how serious or how trivial, are set aside temporarily.

I envy those individuals who so easily achieve this state of meditation, who are able to do so regularly, even daily.  I think that if I could do so, I might not feel as if I am wasting so much of my time here, or worse, just biding time.

To live here, in the moment, to feel acutely, to appreciate what life has to offer—these are things that belong to the contented, not to the tumultuous souls. Contentment is that placid body of water, smooth like glass. Whereas for me, there are almost always waves crashing down all around me. There is almost always that sense of being propelled along the water by the wind without a sense of control.

Instead of the one sonorous bell, there is the clanging of many bells being rung at once, each one fighting to be heard. Instead of the graceful arc of a flock in synchronized flight, there is the rush, the onslaught of all of the birds taking to the air at once, the beating of many wings battling for space.

“In the midst of all your memories there is one
Faded away beyond recovering;
Neither the yellow moon nor the white sun
Will ever see you drinking from that spring.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “Limits

Shore Acres Botanical Garden2 (10 August 2011), by russell.tomlin (flickr)

Pay me no heed. I believe that my mind is on some track that I have yet to identify, that to get there, I must first make many missteps, dropping my foot into potholes filled with cold rain.

There is a sense of anticipation and apprehension—simultaneously, as if I am ready for this change but am afraid of it. And who even knows if it is change that awaits me.

I only know that I feel as if I am at the beginning of a long journey, one that I am not certain that I am ready to take. Perhaps my heightened sense of my surroundings is a harbinger of some sort. Or perhaps I am just reading entirely too much into nothing at all. It just feels so much like those moments immediately before the storm when the air hangs so still that even the buzzing of a fly seems too loud. When the moisture on the front of the storm first touches your face, and you have an inkling of what is to come but cannot be certain of just how wet you will get. When the leaves of the trees turn around, showing their backs to the sky. When the stickiness of the air thickens just before the first drop falls.

This is what I feel. This is what awaits me. Undefinable, unrelenting, formless and frayed.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sophie Milman, “La Vie en Rose”

                   

After Us

One day someone will fold our blankets
and send them to the cleaners
to scrub the last grain of salt from them,
will open our letters and sort them out by date
instead of by how often they’ve been read.

One day someone will rearrange the room’s furniture
like chessmen at the start of a new game,
will open the old shoe box
where we hoard pajama-buttons,
not-quite-dead batteries and hunger.

One day the ache will return to our backs
from the weight of hotel room keys
and the receptionist’s suspicion
as he hands over the TV remote control.

Others’ pity will set out after us
like the moon after some wandering child.

~ Nikola Madzirov (Trans. Peggy and Graham W. Reid, Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed)

(All images in this post taken from Russell Tomlin’s Flickr photostream)