“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” ~ Joss Whedon

Blue Tide of Dinoflagellates in Southern Australia by Phil Hart

        

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” ~ Milan Kundera
Bioluminescent Plankton Washed Ashore

I’ve just spent the last fifteen minutes staring at this blank page while cuddling with the smallest pup, Alfie. Inevitably, when I sit down at my desk, Alfie tries to get in my lap. I usually accommodate him for a few minutes of tummy rubbing and then put him down, but today he was especially cuddly, and my mind sort of drifted off as he lay in my arms and my songs played in the background.

Nana Mouskouri, Great Lake Swimmers, Jon McLaughlin—all made for a pretty mellow backdrop. The only reason I finally stopped my Alfie time was that my left hand went to sleep. Obvious sign that it’s time to move along.

Last night I had one of those convoluted dreams that involved my mother, driving, parking garages, and New York City. There was also an appearance from my friend Allen, my best friend from eighth grade, and boots. I was exhausted after that one. The good part was that I actually slept last night, pretty soundly. I really needed it.  I needed rest, and my body needed time to regroup. All day yesterday my joints were aching, and by late last night, my knee joint and leg muscles hurt so much that I felt like whimpering.

Unfortunately, I need a new heating pad. This last one didn’t last six months. But heat would have really helped my legs. Heat and some Blue Emu cream, which I am also in desperate need of replenishing. If you’ve never tried it Blue Emu is this wonderful cream for achiness, and it really works without making you smell like a grandmother with rheumatism. Of course something this wonderful does not come cheaply, so I have been waiting to buy more.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Bioluminescence by Phil Hart

This Thursday night is Brett’s IB ceremony at school for graduating seniors enrolled in the IB  program at Granby High School. Currently, the IB (international baccalaureate) works with 2,946 schools in 139 countries to offer an academically-rigorous curriculum that stresses global understanding, cultural awareness, critical thinking, and community service. Of course, the program is not without its detractors: In 2008, Senator Margaret Dayton objected to the program, stating, “I don’t want to create ‘world citizens’ nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world.”

I understand Dayton’s stance, but I truly believe that students who are taught to think beyond their communities, beyond their borders become better citizens because they have a more diverse information base from which to draw. A 2006 article in Time magazine described the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) as “a rigorous, off-the-shelf curriculum recognized by universities around the world.” That we have an IB school here in Norfolk is wonderful, and I am so glad that Brett was able to participate in this program because I know that he would have been bored to tears in regular curriculum.

Anyway, I’ll have to find something in my closet that won’t make me look like a sausage so that I can go out in public for this ceremony.

“No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Image of Bioluminescence by Phil Hart at www.philhart.com

 

Let’s see, in the world of make believe and beyond,

  • Lindsay Lohan has to wear an alcohol bracelet, or something along those lines. I wonder if the device senses cocaine?
  • Kelly Bensimon claims that she didn’t have a breakdown but rather a “breakthrough.” Whatever . . .
  • A man involved in a home invasion in Colorado was nabbed by police because of his lip tattoo, “East Side.” Note to self: wear funny fake mustache to hide obvious tat when next committing crime .
  • In Reno, Nevada, chicken costumes will be banned at polling places. I’m not making this up. Apparently, Democrats have taken to showing up in chicken costumes at events held by Republican senate candidate Sue Lowden, who suggested that people barter with doctors for medical care, like when “our grandparents would bring a chicken to the doctor.” I wonder if Sponge Bob costumes are okay?
  • A new African-American Barbie in the Barbie Basic collection is dressed like a hoochie mama (plunging neckline) and has major boobie action. Are we at all surprised by this? I think that it’s just a natural progression in a long line of dolls that have never had realistic proportions.
  • In South Carolina, don’t get in the way of speeding grandmas having bad hair days. Apparently, one 72-year-old woman was clocked doing 102 mph. She was late for her hair appointment. Grandma claims that her doctor said that she has a kidney infection which may have caused her to act in an “abnormal manner.” Right . . .

And finally, the most recent images of the Gulf oil spill show the latest progress into the loop current. So depressing. I decided that in contrast to the awful pictures of the spill I would highlight some pictures of bioluminescence in the sea (such as plankton that glow when agitated) , which is visually awesome.

That’s it for today. More later. Peace.

Jon McLaughlin’s “Beautiful Disaster”

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“Winter garden, the moon thinned to a thread, insects singing.” ~ Matsuo Basho (trans. by Robert Haas)

  

Toei-Zan Temple from “Twelve Scenes of the Eastern Capital” by Utagawa Hiroshige (no date) 

“Winter solitude
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.” ~ Matsuo Basho

Drum Bridge at Meguro by Hiroshige

Thanks to those of you who have visited my Collecting Dust page and perused my verse. I had always thought that my first book would be a book of poetry, but as the years have passed, I have realized that while I can occasionally write an inspired verse, my creative non-fiction seems much stronger than my poetry, at least in my opinion. But then what do I know? I have written for years and years for myself and have never bothered to try to get anything published, with the exception of one essay. All of my other publications were on the professional side, which is great except that it wasn’t for me.  

The poems that I have included on the Collecting Dust page are mostly ones that I have featured in earlier posts. I actually have lots more verse that is sitting in computer folders doing a whole lot of nothing.  

With that in mind, I’ve decided that 2010 will be the year that I will try to find an agent. I say this with great casualness, as if finding an agent were akin to checking out the local grocery store and finding a good canteloupe. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth  (yes further, as farther is reserved for physical distance). I realize that literary agents are a commodity, and that finding one to give you a bit of time is well nigh impossible, but I’ve made this my one writing goal for the year.  

If at the end of this quest I am still empty-handed, then I shall have to regroup and rethink . . . well at least it sounds good for now. and if I am to be truthful, which I try to be on this blog, I really don’t know if I can muster the courage needed to try to find an agent.   

Is all of this just more of my personal setting myself up for failure state of mind? Who knows. Certainly, not I.  

Moving along . . .  

“The first soft snow!
Enough to bend the leaves
Of the jonquil low.” ~ Matsuo Basho

Had a very strange dream last night about one of my cousins from Great Bridge. I was writing a paper for him on this computer that was shaped like a toy cash register. I was having a hard time figuring out how to work this computer as there was no apparent save button  anywhere, and the keyboard fell off at inconvenient times. Very strange.  

I remember something about race cars going on in the background, and the movie Hidalgo, with my LOTR idol, Viggo Mortensen, making an appearance. Bizarre in the extreme. Have absolutely no idea what any of that was about, especially Hidalgo.  

"The Bridge of the Brocade Sash at Iwakuni, Hiroshige (1859)

So it’s February already, and not a peep from the guy from Vane Brothers Shipping. I am trying mightily hard not to devolve into full-blown panic mode as it would only rub off on Corey, who doesn’t need yet another thing over which to worry. But I mean, geez, February, the second month of 2010 (as if you were unaware of that fact), and still no call to duty, as it were.  

Corey spent over an hour on the phone with his dad the other night, talking about this and that, mostly his dad’s lawn care business in Ohio. Corey started that business when he was just out of high school, and it’s still going strong. I do envy him his long conversations with his parents. That just wasn’t something that ever happened in my house. Even though my mother lives less than two miles from our house, the last time we had any kind of conversation over anything of substance was years and years ago when my marriage to my ex broke down irreparably.  

I’m glad for Corey that he can get on the phone and talk forever to either one of his parents about just about anything. That’s enviable, especially coming from a home in which deep subjects were never pondered, politics was not a topic of discussion, and emotions were always kept in check unless someone was yelling. Don’t misunderstand: I did not come from an abusive home. Hardly. But I came from a home in which my parents were always pitched on some kind of battle ground, and I was forced into a forward position, like it or not.  

I vividly remember one time when I was a teenager, and I was horribly depressed, weeping depressed, and my mother and I were out running errands. I picked up the book Holocaust to buy, and my mother made me put it back. Her reasoning was that I should read happy things to feel better. That was her treatment for my depression. Over the years I have come to realize that my mother was wholly incapable of dealing with things such as clinical depression as she was so much a child of her generation in which any kind of mental illness was a taboo, something people hid from the neighbors. So think happy thoughts was pretty much it as far as treatment.  

Of course I did not know it then, but my father was suffering from his own personal demons while I was growing up, depression being one of them. I just used to think of him as being quiet, but it was a comfortable silence most of the time, until it wasn’t. It’s hardly surprising that my country-born mother and my Filipino father never seemed able to be there for one another. That they lasted for so many years probably has more to do with generational ideology than anything else.  

Not really sure what made me go there. Just sort of popped into my head.  

“The winter leeks
Have been washed white—
How cold it is!” ~ Matsuo Basho
 

Night Snow: Kambara, Hiroshige

It’s raining today, and I heard some forecaster calling for a rain/snow mix later in the week. Now that snow has come to the area, it will continue to pop into the forecast until March, undoubtedly.  

I do seem to have acquired another cold as my head is full of fluff and pressure, and my throat has gunk. Delightful. What can I say? I just have a flair with description.  

I decided that today would be a good day to feature some images by Utagawa Hiroshige (also known as Ando Hiroshige), a famous Japanese artist who produced over 1,000 prints in his lifetime (1797-1858). Hiroshige produced several well-known series (12 total), including “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” and “Famous Views of the Fifty-Three Stations,” which featured images on the theme of the Tōkaidō, the road running from Edo to Kyoto. Personally, I love the snow scenes, mostly because of the contradiction that I always feel when seeing snow on Japanese landscapes, which in my mind, should be covered with cherry blossoms.  

Hiroshige, a near contemporary of Hokusai (another of my favorites), was a renowned ukiyo-e landscape artist of the late Edo period who produced woodblock prints in the oban format, which was the most common print size of approximately 15×10 inches; tate-e refers to the print being vertically-aligned (portrait), and yoko-e means horizontal alignment (landscape). Ukiyo-e translates as “pictures of the floating world,” and the term refers to the woodblock prints produced in this school. Hiroshige’s landscapes, which featured, snow, mountains, rain, and the moon, were popular with European Impressionists such as Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.  

The term japonisme arises from the 1870s, after the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867, which featured a Japanese stand that included art. The public became enamored with all things Japanese, and the Impressionists were particularly taken with the Japanese artists’ use of broad spaces of color. In particular, Horishige employed the use of perspective, primarily a Western technique, something heretofore not employed in the ukoyo-e prints, which were largely two-dimensional.  

Van Gogh was so taken with Hiroshige’s work that he painted copies of two Hiroshige prints: “Plum Tree in Bloom” and “The Bridge in the Rain.” Van Gogh described his interest in Japanese painting in saying that “I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one’s waist-coat.”  

"Plum Tree in Bloom" (left by Hiroshige; right by Van Gogh)

Hiroshige was a member of the Utagawa School, a famous group of 19th Century Japanese woodblock print artists. The school was one of the more successful schools, and many of the ukiyo-e prints that have survived are from the Utagawa School. Today, many of these prints can be found on greeting cards, fans, posters, even book illustrations.  

Just thought I’d share more of the minutiae that rolls through my brain and makes an appearance on occasion.  

Haiku by Basho.  

More later. Peace.  

“Silk Road” by Kitaro. Simply lovely.  

   

“Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” ~ Horace Mann

 

 Dawn on Island View Beach, BC, by Brandon Godfrey

“If you had never been to the world and never known what dawn was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive.” ~ John O’Donohue*

Dawn as seen from an airplane over Greece

While the above sentiment is beautiful, greeting the dawn for six mornings in a row has just gotten old. I mean, I was thinking about it. If I worked the night shift, then my body clock might make sense, but as I am not working at all, this biological time-out has become overwhelmingly stale. 

This most recent episode began on Sunday after my birthday (great sushi for birthday dinner, by the way). I woke up on Sunday with a headache, so I spent most of the day lying on my back in the dark. Slept on and off. By Monday, headache had receded to pressure, but I felt exhausted. Or, let’s just say that I thought that I felt exhausted. Now I truly know what exhausted is: I feel as if I am one of those movie zombies, wandering about aimlessly looking for my next victim, but even that description doesn’t quite do this state justice. 

Last night, I took my bedtime meds early (around 10). Nothing, nada. Around 12:30 Corey came into check on me; I took Benadryl. Nothing nada. At 3:20 when Corey (Mr. Nightowl himself) came to bed, I took half a trazadone, since a whole pill normally puts me out and gives me a medicine hangover. Nothing, nada. Creeping towards 5 a.m. and still no sleep. Not even spurts of mini-sleep. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. By this time I figured that it had been 9 hours or so since I had taken any muscle relaxers, so I chanced it, even though thoughts of putting myself into a pharmaceutical coma were lurking somewhere. 

At 6 a.m. I heard Brett’s alarm go off, but he didn’t get up. I was just starting to drift a bit when I squinted at the clock: 6:16 and still no movement from Brett. He had two exams today, so he had to go to school. I knocked on his door, and behold, he was not awake. I nudged Corey around 6:45 and told him that there was no way that I could drive even though I was awake since I was definitely under the influence of something. I finally fell asleep around 7:45 and slept until 11. Took two ativan and slept from 11:30 to 2:30. 

Those last three hours were the only uninterrupted, sound stretch of blissful sleep that I had. Every night since Sunday has been like this. 

“I’m sleeping while awake, standing by the window, leaning against it as against everything.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Snow at Dawn by Tracy Rosen

In between tossing and turning, I play computer games. I think about writing, but realize that if I begin a post, my mind won’t settle—it will only come to consciousness fully. I know, computer games aren’t the best idea either, but I try to find something mindless, like Bejeweled, just moving jewels around, but mindless games don’t seem to fix the problem either. 

I have noticed that the quality of my dreams when I do sleep is pretty wild: Something about a really ugly dress, a work dream thrown in there (work dreams have taken the place of algebra finals for my stress dreams), and then the other night, I had a full-blown action/adventure movie in which Corey and I were holed up in some seedy hotel, trying to find ammunition. Apparently, we were on some job that involved taking out someone, and we had run out of ammunition. 

I remember being quite enamored with my gun, which was a Walther PPK, à la James Bond. It had a weird siting mechanism, and the safety was on the back, not the side. Weird. I have never owned a gun and have never fired a handgun, but in this dream, my gun was my best friend. 

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.” ~  Federico García Lorca

Spire of the Church of Tronville-en-Barrois at Dawn

Although, what is more strange is that when I am not sleeping, in those long stretches of painful wakefulness, I find myself doing very odd things like math equations. Trust me when I say that while I am good at math, I do not like it, so why is my mind in overdrive doing word problems? 

Do you ever compose in your sleep? I do, not as much as I would like, but it happens. I compose verse, which in my dream state sounds perfect, but I almost never wake myself to jot down what I have composed. I think that I do, but it’s just my body tricking me. However, on Monday, when I finally did fall asleep, I composed a piece of music, which is something that I have not done in many years. 

I am a classically-trained pianist, which I may have mentioned. I was good, but not great, and I knew it. I just loved it, which is why I took lessons for so long, but knowing that I didn’t have that special whatever that would set me apart, I did not major in music in college. So when I realized in my dream that I had composed a piece of music, I felt overjoyed. Once I woke up, I managed to hum just a tiny bit of it, but that was all that was left to me in my conscious state. 

However, I interpret the way in which my mind has been working recently during my semi-awareness to mean that I might be embarking on another creative spurt, at least I hope so. I mean, math? Music? Of course, the two are closely related . . . perhaps my mind is making connections that I have yet to reach once I am alert, although describing myself as alert these days might be going too far. 

“I have a sense of something imminent coming closer. But then I lose it again, become ordinary and inadequate. I feel like someone who is trying to guess an object being described by music. The sound grows steadily louder; he thinks he is on the point of grasping it, and then the sound becomes weaker again and he has to look for another answer.” ~ from the diary of Kaethe Kollwitz

Sunrise on the Outer Banks of NC

Who knows what is really going on in my mind? Certainly not I. Of course, if I were to venture a theory, it would be that the stress of our lives is currently wreaking havoc with my body. Yes, there is the pain, but that is omnipresent. It is more the sense of my head being very full and tight, my ears ringing, and an inability to focus. 

Of course, it has now been exactly two years since Corey was laid off. His job with Vane Brothers, which his contact said should start at the beginning of this year, now has a tentative start date of mid-February. We haven’t given up hope because if he does actually manage to get a job with this company, it would be wonderful. They have a great reputation in the shipping industry, good benefits, and people who work for them seem to be satisfied, which is not commonplace in tugboating. 

I have learned that people who work on tugs jump from company to company, often returning to companies once, twice, even three times. I suppose it’s just one of those industries that is a bit incestuous: everyone knows everyone else; being part of the in network secures a job faster than qualifications, things like that. Anyway, I am really, really hoping that this comes through. We’ve been due for a change of luck for some time now, and I find that time has become somewhat unreliable as a result. 

By that I mean I look up, and it’s the end of January. I was just getting ready for Christmas. But at the same time, it’s been two very long years without a second regular income, and that seems interminable. It’s almost as if I am somnabulating through the days, getting nowhere, so my body cannot truly rest. 

 “If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It’s your restlessness that causes chaos.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Florida Dawn by Janson Jones

Oh listen to me, going on about a whole lot of weirdness. I can say, though, that my back feels better today after getting my caudal yesterday, even though I felt as if I was going to throw up on the procedure table. This nausea crap is really getting old, but as I told Corey, I’m sure that this, too, shall pass. 

I just have to hold on to the idea that next week or the week after, my body will begin to right itself, so to speak, and I will be able to concentrate more fully on the things that matter, like writing this blog, for example. This overwhelming sense of restlessness cannot last forever; can it? I mean, a person could really and truly go crazy without the ability to find focus. 

Ah well. For now, I will continue to exist between these states of tossing about in the bed covers, stumbling to the kitchen to get something to drink, sitting at my desk in front of this computer waiting for inspiration. I don’t think that I have killed my sleep like Macbeth did, but I do believe that something inside of me is churning about too much, hence the inability to sleep soundly. Exactly what that something is, I have no idea. But as Emerson said, “What you are comes to you.” 

I have to believe that given time, things will begin to shift course. The receding tide will remove all the detritus that life has scattered on the shore for the past two years, and dawn will again become something that I greet with a sense of hope instead of dread. 

More later. Peace. 

Music from the Dixie Chicks: “Landslide,” which seems wholly appropriate: getting older, children getting older, being brought down by a landslide . . . 

  

 

  

*Many thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the quotes used in this post.