“And who would want to descend to the bottom | of a silence greater than the ocean?” ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “From Without”

Waves at Dawn by jemasmith FCC
Waves at Dawn by jemasmith (FCC)

                   

“Did I believe that I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see what I thought
was the light is part of the darkness.” ~ Wendell Berry, from “Breaking”

Sunday afternoon. Much warmer, 50 degrees.

I have no idea how far I will get with this post, but I feel a need to at least try.

The last five days have run together into a very strange loop, one from which I fear I may never emerge. Last Tuesday morning (January 28), my mother called me at 6 a.m. in a panic; she had gone out to the garage fridge to get some milk, and she heard water running. It turns out the faucet on the back porch was leaking, not a flood, but not a drip. I told her I would be over in ten minutes.

Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme fcc
Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme (FCC)

Now first, the really odd thing: I was wide awake. I had awakened at 5:30 and was fully alert. This is not a normal state of being for me. Anyway, I drove over to her house and tried to shut off the valve but couldn’t. As I was working, my mother was standing there rubbing her chest with her fist, which is something that she does when she is stressed.

I made her a cup of chamomile tea and sat her down on the couch while I looked up the number for a plumbing company that we had both used. I left her sitting on her couch watching television and sipping her tea.

“I draw in a ragged breath, the kind you take when the pain is too deep to cry, when you can’t cry because all you are is pain, and if you let some of it out, you might cease to exist.” ~ Ally Condie, from Reached

I got back home and made myself a cup of tea and opened the book I was reading. Around 7:30 I was picking up the phone to call my mother to see when the plumbers were coming, but the phone rang first. My mother was on the other end, and she said that she thought that she was having a heart attack.  I will admit that I did not believe her because she has been saying that she’s dying for the last four or five months, but I told her to hang up, open her front door if she could, and I would call 911, which I did immediately.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) taking flight to avoid crashing waves
Great Egret Avoiding Waves by Mike Baird (FCC)

By the time I put some clothes back on, brushed my teeth, and raced back over to my mother’s house, which is only two miles away, the ambulance was gone, which I knew wasn’t a good sign. I went into her house briefly to make sure the cat hadn’t gotten out, and just as I was going to call 911 again to see where they had taken her, the phone rang again; it was the rescue squad. They were taking her to Leigh ER.

I got back in the car, turned on the emergency flashers, and tried to make record time. Let me pause here to say that people are genuinely assholes. Each time I tried to pass someone, another person would deliberately block me in. One guy in a van next to me even laughed. It is truly a good thing that I do not own a weapon.

Somewhere in between all of this my mother had called the water company, and they came out and shut off her water until we could get the faucet taken care of.

“And so does my life tremble,
and when I turn from the window
and from the sea’s grief, the room
fills with a dark
lushness and foliage nobody
will ever be plucked from,
and the feelings I have
must never be given speech.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “Now”

I got to the hospital and was sent back to the ER. The cardiologist told me that they were taking my mom to the cardiac catheter lab to see exactly what was going on. I was sent to another waiting room where I began to text everyone to let them know what was going on. Eamonn showed up, and we waited together for some word.

The cardiologist came out and said that they were setting up transport for my mother to the Heart Hospital in Norfolk. He was unable to do any angioplasty as she had too many arterial blockages. They inserted a balloon to try to relieve some of the pain. At this point, I was completely on autopilot, taking in information and disseminating it to everyone as clearly as possible.

Crash Down by Mooganic fcc
Crash Down by Mooganic (FCC)

I got back in the car, realized I had no gas, and went to Costco to get gas. Another pause here: This was the day that the massive winter storm was supposed to hit, and in this area, any talk of snow immediately sends everyone into a panic, so I waited fifteen minutes to get gas, then drove to the Heart Hospital only to find that my mother still hadn’t arrived.

Another waiting room, another wait. Luckily, they had a canteen where I could get coffee that looked like it was pure bitterness, or use the hot water dispenser to make tea. I chose the latter, found an empty computer, and played spider solitaire.

“Melancholy, being a kind of vacatio, separation of soul from body, bestowed the gift of clairvoyance and premonition. In the classifications of the Middle Ages, melancholy was included among the seven forms of vacatio, along with sleep, fainting, and solitude.” ~ Ioan P. Couliano, from Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

At some point during all of this I was finally able to talk to Corey, who then had the decision to make as to whether or not to cancel his training and come home early. We put that decision on hold until we knew more about the situation.

I spent the day in the hospital room with my mother, who was obviously exhausted, waiting for one of the heart surgeons to come and talk to us about options. Around 5, one of them showed up. He had an Eastern European accent, and I could tell that my mother didn’t understand him. He told us that mom was not a candidate for bypass surgery because the damage to her heart was too extensive; also, that she had an aneurysm sitting on top of her heart.

When he left, my mother was extremely upset. She wanted to talk to other surgeons because she was certain someone else would operate. In all, we spoke with three different surgeons, and they all said the same thing: she would not survive the surgery—mitigating factors included her age, how very damaged her heart was, and the location of the aneurysm.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 fcc
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 (FCC)

That evening, Alexis, Brett, and Olivia came to visit, and that really made my mom’s day. She told everyone within hearing distance that her great-granddaughter danced, and Olivia obliged. Brett rode home with me, and we stopped by my mother’s house on the way to take care of the cat. Another aside: I locked the keys in the car, which contained my phone, my purse, and the fast food we had gotten at Wendy’s.

Brett has no spare key to his Honda. Two hours later roadside service finally arrived to unlock the car. I decided to drive my mother’s Honda home because it was higher than Brett’s old one. Turns out it drives really, really well on snow and ice.

What else could possibly go wrong? I should not have asked. By the time I got home that night I was emotionally and physically spent. I fell asleep with the television on.

“Because we are not the owners of anything,
not even of our own pain
at which we have looked with awe so many times.
……….

We are the owners of wishing everything: what sadness.
We are the owners of fear, dust, smoke, the wind. ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “The Owners”

The storm hit as we were leaving the hospital, and it did indeed snow for more than 12 hours. When I awoke, I called Mom, who was resting comfortably. I told her I would be there as soon as I could. That turned out to be hours later.

When I tried to back the car out of the driveway, I immediately got stuck. Brett did some digging, but it was really deep. I took Corey’s truck, which has two bald tires and no brakes and skated to the nearby Taylor’s to get a snow shovel and some salt. I skated back on the icy roads, and Brett got me unstuck. I made it to the hospital around four, and by that time, there were no doctors available for me to talk to. Mom said that they had told her she would be going home on the weekend. I left word that I really needed to speak to the doctors about her treatment plan, and I left around six.

Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous fcc
Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous (FCC)

It was a helluva of a day, but Mom seemed better. I mean, she felt well enough to criticize me over some minor things, so that was a good sign, and I was really starting to believe that this was yet another in a long line of her being really sick but then getting back to her old self. Part of me now thinks that she really did know that something inside was very wrong.

On Thursday, I met Mike over at Mom’s house because he was going to fix the faucet. He did that and shoveled her sidewalk and said that he would clear the driveway before she came home. Then Brett and I went to the hospital. When we arrived, Mom was wide awake and alert. She had gotten out of bed, and they had disconnected everything except for the oxygen cannula. Mom sniped at me about everything, and I could tell that she was getting antsy and wanted to come home. She was talking about just living her life, going to bingo, doing what she wanted to do.

I spoke with her cardiologist, who said that she would probably be released on Saturday. I spoke with the home health coordinator, and mom got mad over that as she didn’t want anyone coming into her home. She insisted that she took her medicine just as she was supposed to and didn’t need anyone’s help. When we left, she was talking the ear off a nurse. I felt more relaxed than I had in days. On the way home Alexis and I made plans to clean mom’s house on Friday so that she would stop worrying about it.

Thursday night Corey came home.

“I’ve become someone’s idea of me.
You can no longer read the wax seal of the sun.
The trees no longer mention anything about the wind.
I don’t see who could play me later on.
It turns out I am buried myself.
It turns out we are all buried alive
in the chamber of someone else’s heart.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Antigone Today”

I should have known, but I didn’t, didn’t have a clue. It really did not cross my mind after Thursday’s visit that she wouldn’t be coming home. I mean, when she first went into the hospital, while she was till in CICU, I had that talk with the doctors, you know the one: to call a code or not to, a DNR order, morphine for comfort. That talk.

But by Thursday night I told Corey that I was almost sorry that I had asked him to come home because she was doing so well.

Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA 19 Jan 2010
Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA by Mike Baird (FCC)

I should have known. But I didn’t.

Friday morning at 9:15 a nurse from the hospital called. My mother had died.

They had taken in her breakfast tray. She was fine. Then a short time later alerts went off. She had just died. They think it might have been the aneurysm. She was gone and now I am left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep the family together, to find a home for her cat, to cull through over 46 years of stuff. I’m trying to plan an informal memorial service. She didn’t want to be buried, didn’t want a viewing, didn’t want a funeral, so she’s being cremated.

That last day, when we got to the hospital, I sat on her bed and looked at her, really looked at her. That saying, “looks just like she’s sleeping”? Bullshit. She didn’t look like she was sleeping. Then I did something odd: I opened her eyelids and looked into her eyes. They weren’t cloudy. It was the first time I had looked into my mother’s eyes in years and years and years. It was the closest the two of us had been physically since I don’t even remember when. I held her hand, touched her cheek, and apologized for not being who she wanted me to be.

And then I left.

Music by Rose Cousins, “Go First”

                   

The Oracle

You have gone once more to the seashore
and this time you have looked at the horizon
with a fugitive’s lust.
You have asked yourself with sadness
who in Ithaca would notice your absence:
the sea toward which you always look,
the heavens you never question,
the land that waits for you assuredly.
Your bonds are of an impassive nature.
Are you thinking of destroying them,
are you thinking of escaping by denying
that pathway your feet have made?
You feel it, you don’t think about it;
one cannot ponder devastation.
You look at the water with haste:
with tired haste.

You are like an oracle that does not believe in the future.

~ Francisca Aguirre

“The problem with listening, of course, is that we don’t. There’s too much noise going on in our heas, so we never hear anything. The inner conversation simply never stops. It can be our voice or whatever voices we want to supply, but it’s a constant racket. In the same way we don’t see, and in the same way we don’t feel, we don’t touch, we don’t taste.” ~ Philip Glass, from “Listening to Philip Glass”

“West Coast of Ireland” (1913, oil on canvas)
by Robert Henri*

                   

“The business of words keeps me awake.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Ambition Bird”

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and chilly, low 50’s.

Sitting here in a white sweater, yoga pants, and Christmas socks thinking back on the past week. It’s been a long and tiring one.

“Sea and Cliffs” (1911, oil on board)
by Robert Henri

I did start my NaNoWriMo on Thursday, and have written on Thursday and Friday, but not yet today. This novel business is hard. I couldn’t get to sleep on Wednesday night because I was fretting over what I would write, which storyline I would chase. I came up with something and even came up with a working title, and of course, I didn’t write it down. Dammit, I was completely awake when I thought of it, so you would think that I could remember later, but noooooooo.

So far I’ve written about 1800 words, which isn’t really a lot. One of these posts can be almost that long, and I can fire that off in a few hours. I think that I’m overthinking it, editing as I go, which is not how you’re supposed to do it. I believe you’re not supposed to do any editing, just write, writing down to the bones, as it were.

I already fear that I won’t make it through the entire 30 days, and I’m only on day 3. How completely discouraging.

“I have written down the words
I have long not dared to speak.
Dully the head beats,
this body is not my own.” ~ Anna Akhmatova, from “Evening Room”

I think that what’s holding me up is that I have no clear direction, only an idea, and then as I get going, I want to stop and research this aspect or that aspect, which is not possible under these conditions. I don’t think that this is the best way to write; no. I know that this is not the best way, yet I am determined to try because for me, it’s the best impetus to actually get something down, something more than fleeting thoughts, plot lines, character names, working titles. It comes from that incredibly stubborn part of my personality, the one that refuses to let something or someone get the better of me.

“Rough Seas Near Lobster Point” (1903, oil on panel)
by Robert Henri

It’s just like sewing Brett’s costume, which turned into almost a 20-hour production. Man, talk about painful—and not just in my hand. I had to use my mom’s sewing machine, so she kept wanting to help. It was impossible to make her understand that I wasn’t working from any clear pattern, only an idea if what he wanted. I worked the first day for seven and a half straight hours, only to come home and find that the sleeves were too tight for him. Crying seemed like a good option.

The next day, I approached it in a more linear fashion, and was pleased with the outcome, so I guess that should tell me something about this whole write a novel in a month idea, or not.

Whatever.

“The body is a book and we the words.” ~ Michael Bazzett, from “The Body

I hear rumors of a storm that’s supposed to hit around Wednesday. I hope it stays away until after election day, that whole low voter turnout for Democrats in bad weather thing. All I know is that it’s getting downright cold at night, and there are still people without power, gas, and water in New York and New Jersey. Truly, I feel for them. It’s one thing to be without power during warmer months, but during cold ones, it really sucks. It wasn’t that long ago that we were heating our house with space heaters, and I could never get warm, no matter how many layers of clothes I wore.

“Big Rock and Sea” (ND, oil on wood panel)
by Robert Henri

So here I am blogging instead of working on the novel, and I have to tell you—it’s kind of a relief, just to write aimlessly, or rather with aim but without intention. Do you follow?  I know. I’m being a bit confusing, but I’m confounded, truly.

Anyway, there was the sewing of the costume (which he did not wear to the convention, by the way, but that’s another story), the whole Halloween thing, during which I may have had a total of 20 kids, this after I went out and bought more candy so that I wouldn’t run out. Then Lex didn’t make it to my mom’s house with Olivia in her monster costume on Halloween, so the whole guilt trip thing, which we fixed by dressing her up again on Thursday and taking her over for a visit. So the week was filled with time with Mom, sewing (which I am not very talented in executing), telephone calls with the SSA people, and getting the news that my health insurance is going up next year.

Hooray.

Oh, and Corey will be home probably on Thursday, which is also making me antsy as I feel the need to clean, the need but not the ability. It will be so good to have him home finally, and he’ll be here until after the holidays. The two of us plan to take a mini vacation between Thanksgiving and Christmas, spend some quality time together. We so need a break.

“Our words should cauterize
all wounds to the truth.” ~ Chase Twichell, from “Vestibule”

Lately I have taken to using Alexis’s bathtub for hot soaks whenever I get a chance. The holes in our bathtub make long, hot baths a thing of the past, at least for now, and the water in her apartment is really hot. I’ve only done it a couple of times, but boy did my back thank me afterwards. I only bring this up because I’m sitting here now with one of those heat wraps around my neck.

“Marine Storm at Sea” (1911, oil on canvas)
by Robert Henri

Colder weather, a double-edged change: boots and sweaters versus aching joints and bones. On any given day my love of one is not enough to outweigh the pain of the other.

But getting back to the whole writing thing . . . In those 1800 or so words, someone has been murdered, someone has given birth, and someone has gotten bad news. I couldn’t give you a synopsis of the plot if I tried because it’s unfolding as I write it. I have a vague, very, very vague notion of who my protagonist is, what the conflict is, and where most of it takes place. Other than that, I just don’t know.

This is precisely why I need Corey to come home. He’s so wonderful to bounce ideas off, that, and he remembers everything, ideas I told him years ago. He doesn’t forget like I do, and I have this nagging sensation tugging at my brain that I’ve forgotten something really, really important about this particular story.

Man, I wish that I had a writing shed. Don’t ask me where that came from because I do not know. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

“The world is greater than its words. To speak of it the mind must bend.” ~ Wendell Berry, from Window Poems

Since I began this post, the sky has cleared, and the sun is out, making it a beautiful but cold day. Tillie the Lab is very restless as I haven’t been playing with her daily, and she feels neglected. Shakes is much the same, still wheezing, still having his coughing spells, but he has an appetite, and he still wants to go for car rides, so I take that as a good sign for now.

“Sea and Cliffs (Maine Coast” (1908-11, oil on canvas)
by Robert Henri

I’m really wondering how it got to be November, though. Where did the summer go? It was such a strange summer, so much of my time spent away from the house. Now to most of you, this isn’t a big deal, but remember, I have become a virtual hermit in recent years. Between the baby and Corey’s absence, I have been forced well beyond my comfort zone and back into the world. Some days I like it, and some I don’t. Some days, I still hate the world in all of its narrow-minded stupidity, and other days I feel such a keen sense of loss that life is not as it once was—so full of promise with far more days ahead than behind.

Don’t mind me. It’s one of those days, my thoughts carried of on so many different tides that I cannot possibly contain them or steer them. I’m not being morbid, but I do wonder when I reached my halfway point. I mean, think about it; it’s not something that we ever consciously know, is it? And it’s different for everyone. Someone asked me once if I wanted to live past 100, and I told them quite honestly no. I think that by that age life would be too impossibly heavy to hold, the weight of all the memories, all of the people come and gone, all of the loves and losses, all of the wars, all of the genocides, all of the social change.

So, no, I don’t want to live to be 100, but I suppose I could do 88. But then I remember P. D. James, who was born in 1920 and is still writing.

Hmm . . .

More later. Peace.

*Images by American painter Robert Henri, a leading figure in the Ashcan School in American painting. Of course, I migrated to his seascapes.

Music by Eddie Vedder with Natalie Maines, “You Can Close Your Eyes”

                   

Adios

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with.
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say it, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

“That is just what I want to do. To learn to watch the passing of time.” ~ Maxence Fermine, from Snow: A Novel

Fog Over Puget Sound
by robert.hamilton (FCC)

                   

From other-wordly:

                   

“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home. It is a journey we can make only by the acceptance of mystery and of mystification—by yielding to the condition that what we have expected is not there.”

~ Wendell Berry,  from The Unforeseen Wilderness

Music by Lights, “River”

“Things don’t change, but by and by our wishes change.” ~ Marcel Proust

San Carlos Wildflowers (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“We must talk now. I am no longer sure of the words,
The clockwork of the world” ~ George Oppen, from “Leviathan”

Wednesday, late afternoon. Sunny and mild. Beautiful outside.

California Wildflowers by Kevin Cole (FCC)

Pollen, pollen everywhere. Yellow dust on the cars, everything. Lots of sneezing.

The boys and I are sort of settling into a routine. We’re taking turns making dinner. Everyone has his or her assigned tasks. Somehow, I still have dishes, all day, every day. One of these days, we’ll replace the broken dishwasher, probably when we rip out everything in the kitchen to remodel. One day.

I’m actually not feeling to terribly awful emotionally. Might be because it’s too beautiful outside to feel awful. Beautiful, that is, except for the pollen. All of the trees that bloom are bursts of color, especially the cherry trees and red buds. So gorgeous. I thought about visiting the cemetery, but didn’t. Something is stopping me.

Corey got everything straightened out with our cellular carrier, and now he can text, which is definitely cheaper than calling. It costs about $.40 for him to text me, and $.20 for me to text him, as opposed to $3 or $4/minute for a call. Anyway, it looks like the ship is going to be headed to Florida sometime next week, that is if the Coast Guard signs off on Fridays inspection. Who knows how that will go.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman

Actually now that I’ve started this post, I’m not sure that I’m actually in the right frame of mind to write. My mind is kind of blank. I’m sitting here at Brett’s computer, for a change. Eamonn is off work today, and he’s in his room and would prefer some privacy. So I’m sitting here at Brett’s small desk, and all I can think is that it really needs to be dusted, not just the desk, but everything.

Barbed Wire and Wildflowers, Gorman, CA

It has only been in the last year or so that Brett has actually taken an interest in making this room his, by that I mean adding posters and things. So I’m looking around, and there are two Shawshank Redemption posters, a Fight Club poster and a Star Wars poster, a framed old map that Alexis got him. an old Chinese paint on wood  picture from the thrift store, and several other things. It’s definitely his room, dust and all.

It’s funny how different my sons are: Eamonn is very particular about keeping his room neat; he puts away his clean laundry in a timely manner and changes his sheets regularly. With Brett, not so much. I see cobwebs and Chinese fortunes laying about. I don’t know why I’m really going into detail here except that it is yet one more way in which my two sons differ as individuals.

At one time, when they were toddlers, the whole point was for them to try to be like each other. People thought that they were twins as they were so close in age, and definitely looked like they could be fraternal twins. I think the real separation began in middle school, that bastion of emerging hormones and attempts to establish oneself as a person by trying to look like everyone else.

Oh the agony of puberty.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” ~ Wendell Berry

I’ve set some goals for myself while Corey is gone: I want to try to give up sugar completely (or nearly completely), which means no more regular sodas, no more chocolate. I’m already doing quite well, believe it or not in that I am using only Splenda in my coffee and tea. I’m weaning myself from Pepsi and trying to drink more water with Mio, which is quite tasty and has no calories.

Seattle Wildflowers

I also want to begin to walk on a regular basis with a goal towards getting my body ready to go back into a yoga class. With the warmer weather, I feel the need for oxygen and sunshine, and this is definitely a good sign, a sign that I may be willing to leave the house again. My other goal is that I want to get something written while he’s gone.

I have a concept that I’m mulling over, and the more that I ponder it, the more that I like it. It’s completely doable; it’s something that I would enjoy doing, and it would be a great starting point for me to begin to write with goals in mind, you know, goals like getting published, or at least noticed.

Lately, I’ve been having these dreams in which I’m writing things. The other night I wrote a complete short story in a dream. I came up with a concept; I created character names, and I developed the story. I mean, I literally wrote this thing in a dream, and the horrible part is that I dreamt that I was actually writing it down, so I didn’t know that I wasn’t writing it down, which meant that when I finally awakened, there was no story, just the memory of one. It’s still there somewhere, just beyond my grasp. I keep getting glimpses of what it may have been, but not quite.

Another recent dream involved writing a poem. Same basic situation. Sleeping = creating, but Waking ≠ product. I have absolutely no memory of the poem’s theme, contents, development. Nothing.

“The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” ~ Paul Coehlo, from The Devil and Miss Prym

But surely this is a sign? Why would my mind be moving in creative hyperdrive unless it was filled to the brimming with something? Anything?

Mountain Wildflowers by Andrea Schafthuizen (Public Domain)

I do believe in signs. I do believe that the universe gives us hints and nudges us in directions. I believe that if I see something repeatedly, then I am meant to pay attention to it, whether it’s a type of bird, or a word or phrase, or a color. Just as I believe, however falsely, that hearing a crow caw when I first get out of bed is an augury of a bad day. The only problem with believing in signs is interpreting said signs.

Crow equals bad day is fairly straightforward for me. Everything after that becomes sort of blurry and undefined. My dreams, which tend to be on the vivid side, don’t necessarily mean anything. I might have eaten something too spicy. I might be too tired. Who knows . . . But sometimes, now and then, I get the feeling that my dreams are trying to tell me something, and this is one of those times.

So I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how these signs evolve over the next few weeks.

That’s about all for now. So . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Sleeping at Last, “Chandeliers”

                   

The Ghazal of What Hurt

Pain froze you, for years—and fear—leaving scars.
But now, as though miraculously, it seems, here you are

walking easily across the ground, and into town
as though you were floating on air, which in part you are,

or riding a wave of what feels like the world’s good will—
though helped along by something foreign and older than you are

and yet much younger too, inside you, and so palpable
an X-ray, you’re sure, would show it, within the body you are,

not all that far beneath the skin, and even in
some bones. Making you wonder: Are you what you are—

with all that isn’t actually you having flowed
through and settled in you, and made you what you are?

The pain was never replaced, nor was it quite erased.
It’s memory now—so you know just how lucky you are.

You didn’t always. Were you then? And where’s the fear?
Inside your words, like an engine? The car you are?!

Face it, friend, you most exist when you’re driven
away, or on—by forms and forces greater than you are.

~ Peter Cole

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.” ~ Joan Didion

The Golden Horse in Iceland by Stuck in Customs*

“and you will somehow
get through the slow days and the busy days and the dull
days and the hateful days and the rare days, all both so delightful
and so disappointing because
we are all so alike and so different.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “gamblers all”

Friday afternoon. Cool, high 40’s.

Most of this week has been quite mild, with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. I wonder if we’re going to have any kind of winter this year.

Stone Hut in the Morning Light, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

Corey is not leaving this week. Another postponement, but with a twist: the company rep called and asked Corey if he’d like to go ahead and get on the Pacific run. Corey said that he’d rather wait for the ship he’s supposed to be on. He’s tired of all of the changes and just wants to go as planned. I told him that he made the right decision. Going to the Pacific would be a huge change, and one that neither of us are ready for. We had discussed the possibility of him shipping out in the Pacific one day, but not now. So more waiting . . .

I went to the neurologist on Tuesday, only for her to tell me that essentiallythere was nothing new that we could do, no new meds on the horizon, nothing, so we would just continue with the treatment that we’re doing, and try the Botox shots again . . . she’ll see me again in a year. Now this might seem like same old, same old, but what torques me out of shape is that the last time I spoke to her nurse, the nurse was quite adamant that the doctor had to see me on a regular basis to continue prescribing my meds, but the doctor tells me that she really sees no need to see me more than once a year.

So the shots are scheduled for February 21. Supposedly, they will be stronger this time. Let’s hope so, as I’ll be paying out of pocket, and I’d really like for them to last more than six weeks, which is all that I got last time. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see . . .

Waiting . . .

“I am a recluse at present & do nothing but write & read & read & write.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume 1: 1903-1917

I received a lovely surprise in the mail a few days ago: Leah, a faithful reader and commenter, send me a birthday card and some chocolate. She’s such a thoughtful person, and it was really a  nice surprise. I’ve already sampled some of the chocolate . . . I suppose I’m over my holiday chocolate overload.

Summer House in Isafjordur, Iceland (with elve house to left), by Stuck in Customs

Corey put together the desk that we got for our bedroom. We got it on clearance, and it’s very roomy as it has a hutch. Once we moved my corner desk into Eamonn’s room, Corey vowed that we wouldn’t be moving it back as it got stuck in the door and was a pain to maneuver. So now I have a new desk, and I’ve been moving things out of Eamonn’s room and into our room. It will be nice to have my little corner of the room workspace again. Of course, my computer is still dead as I need a motherboard that actually fits.

I have managed to find one from a reputable wholesaler that does not cost the three hundred dollars that it was listed for in several other place. (I love the Internet). But of course, I now must wait for the $100 that it will cost to install.

Waiting . . .

“Once, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a ship for several hours, during a furious storm, so that he could later paint the storm. Obviously, it was not the storm itself that Turner intended to paint. What he intended to paint was a representation of the storm. One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.” ~ David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress

One of my favorite poets passed away a few days ago, Wislawa Szymborska. I have a collection of her poems on my wish list for Amazon. Admittedly, I never had a real appreciation for Polish poets before I started my Tumblr, but I really love her work.

The Silent Horse in the Fog, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

I also have another Polish poet on my wish list, Czeslaw Milosz. I still have my Amazon gift card from Christmas, and I haven’t used it yet because I keep changing my mind. I really need to get a new dictionary, and the American Heritage one that I want lists for $37, so do I get the poets that I want or the dictionary that I really could use?

I know that the idea of a paper dictionary is foreign to many people, but I do so love having a good one, and after years of buying new editions, I know that I prefer the American Heritage version over the Webster’s. Personal preference, I know, but when I was in the graduate program at Virgina Tech, the department gave all of us brand new American Heritage dictionaries, and I used that thing until it fell apart.

So what should I order? All of it, preferably . . .

“The memory is cursed with what hasn’t happened.” ~ Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair

I was on tumblr until 4 this morning. Another one of those restless nights . . .

So last night I had one of those end-of-the-world dreams. I was in some town, and all of the people were contracting some kind of deadly virus. I wanted to leave the area, but of course, the military was shooting anyone who tried to leave, so I convinced a small group of people to leave with me. I know that at first there were six or seven of us, but by the end there were only three, two men and myself.

Sleeping In, Iceland, by Stuck in Customs

Somewhere in the middle was this really bizarre scene (more bizarre than the dream as a whole) in which Leonardo DiCaprio was deranged and trying to fight this battle on a rooftop, and then I was fighting him, and I realized that my c-clamp was not attached to my harness but instead, was attached to a belt loop, and I knew that wouldn’t support me.

Anyway, after the rooftop confrontation, I was in a big SUV with the original six or seven people, and I turned down a street, and we all heard a baby crying, and I wanted to stop and look for the baby, but we saw too many people, and realized that if we stopped for the baby, we had to stop for all of them, and we didn’t have the room.

Then, the two men and I were walking (don’t know what happened to the SUV), and there was a little snack shop on the street that hadn’t closed. The guy working there told us that we could have some water, but we ended up doing some food shopping, and I told the guy that I would come back on Tuesday if the world didn’t end and pay him for what we took. He seemed to be okay with that. Where does this stuff in my mind come from?

“The cloud is free only to go with the wind. The rain is free only in falling.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett is having dinner with his father tonight. After last week’s funeral, Brett came home and told me that he and his dad are going to try to spend more time together. This shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I suppose it’s more of my misplaced righteous indignation on behalf of someone else—his dad has ignored him for years, so now he wants to make up for it? I need to get over it and be happy for my son. I know that it has had to hurt not to be in his dad’s life in the past few years. Perhaps I’m jealous? Insecure? All of the above? Who knows . . .

The Lonely Grass House, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

Anyway, I wanted to get this post up before I get back to sorting through old office supplies and doing other chores. My obsession with office supplies has not waned even though I no longer work full time. Books, office supplies, nail polish, black boots, squishy leather purses—things that make me happy and keep my mind occupied. It’s the little things, isn’t it?

Speaking of things that I need to do, I have told Eamonn and Brett that I’ll do their taxes for them. Eamonn really needs the funds to pay for his big traffic ticket, and I also need to do our taxes and this year’s FAFSAs. God do I hate doing forms like those.

So many different sites offer free e-filing, but what they don’t tell you until you are in the middle is that the state form will be an additional fee, so I’m doing free federal for the boys on one site, and then their state filing on the Virginia site, which isn’t too bad as they are both simple forms. It’s just a pain.

I suppose that’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

*All images are taken from Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs site, Iceland Collection (under a Creative Commons license)

Music by The Twilight Singers, featuring Mark Lanegan, “Be Invited”

                   

Sometimes, When the Light
Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood
and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows
or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,
you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows
something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous
that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

By Lisel Mueller

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.” ~ Carl Schurz

Sun Reflected in Frosty River

 

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks on the Road

Well, we survived Thanksgiving and my mother’s lovely running critical commentary throughout dinner. Had a bit of a snafu though: Alexis overslept because her electricity went out during the night, so her alarm did not go off, and as a result, the turkey went into the oven rather late. Since it was a 20-pound turkey, we didn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m., which doesn’t really bother most of us because we tend to eat late, but my mother was beside herself.

I called her at 2:30 to tell her that everything was going to be late and suggested that she eat a small meal, but that didn’t stop the bitching. “What do you mean . . . why? . . . how did her electricity go out in the middle of the night . . . I’ve never heard of such a thing . . . I can’t believe this . . .” Unfortunately, we could not cook the turkey here as we are still without natural gas, and our oven is a beautiful, large gas oven that is sitting unused, but that my friends, is a different saga.

This couple couldn't take the time to put on clothes

So the waiting became too much for eldest son as he had an urgent need to get to his girlfriend’s house; we sent him on his way with our blessings and suggested that he check back in later, although he didn’t.  In spite of the delay, dinner was delicious, not way too much food as it used to be, and we had open-faced hot turkey sandwiches on Friday night for dinner.

The madness that is Black Friday did not leave the country unscathed. No stampedes at Wal Marts this year because the stores allowed shoppers into the building; the catch was that no one was allowed to touch the early bird specials until 5 a.m. Everything was on pallets and covered with plastic. I know about this not because I was there (Wal Mart the day after Thanksgiving? me? shudder), but because Alexis’s friend Jennifer went and was out by 5:40 a.m. in time to go to work. Amazing.

I didn’t read any stories about fights in the aisles or mayhem, and the American consumer seemed to be more willing to part with dwindling cash, somewhat. Preliminary data show that shoppers deposited almost $41.2 billion into retail coffers (oh to have just .001 percent of that), this according to the National Retail Federation.  But the madness that normally plagues the pages of the news seemed to be less this year.

There was a shooting in which a man killed his adult sisters and a 6-year-old cousin on Thanksgiving day; another man locked his children in the trunk of his Trans Am while he ran into a sporting goods store (“They like to play in the trunk”). However, the most horrific thing that happened over the holiday weekend state side was the shooting of four Seattle police officers in a coffee shop early Sunday morning. The officers were sitting at a table with their laptops preparing their day when 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked in and opened fire. No other patrons were shot, only the officers. For more details on this story, click here.

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

A Salvation Army Kettle

Oh, and one more on holiday cheer and good will towards all: In Toledo, Ohio, a man grabbed a Salvation Army kettle full of donations and pushed the bell ringer to the ground. Supposedly the man said, “I can’t stand you and your bell-ringing. I hate Christmas.” Clearly, this year’s winner for the Ebenezer Scrooge award. Personally, I love to see the kettles, but I miss seeing real Salvation Army members ringing the bells. I always try to put something in at least a few kettles each year.

And by the way, the rumor that bell-ringers receive part of the kettle coffers is absolutely false. Bell-ringing is done by civic organizations, scout troops, schools, etc, but the Salvation Army does employ people from shelters to be bell-ringers. These needy individuals receive minimum wage to stand out in the cold, snow, and rain collecting donations that are used to fund the Salvation Army’ s many charitable programs, including shelters, meal programs, after-school programs, to name but a few.

“You’re the love of my life
And the breath in my prayers
Take my hand, lead me there” ~ Dave Matthews Band

So with the one holiday over and the big one looming, Corey and I are in a kind of stasis. The bills continue to pile up, and the money continues to be non-existent. We have a huge payment due to the power company in just a few days, and absolutely no way to pay it. It’s hard to think about putting up Christmas lights when there might not be electricity to power them.

So that’s what I mean about stasis. We cannot really do anything as far as decorating until the living room undergoes a major clearing, but that is dependent upon painting the bedroom, and I had forgotten that one of the reasons that we didn’t move  the very heavy bureau into the bedroom before this is that the bedroom needs to be carpeted. Once that huge dresser is in place, it’s going to be very hard to move it. So do we wait to paint until we can carpet so that we move everything once? Do we move everything twice? And who is this we I speak of, Kemosabe . . .

I must admit that my recent renewed addiction to home renovation shows is not helping with my complete dissatisfaction with the state of our house. There are so many things that we could do to make the house better, less cluttered, easier to get around in if we just had a little cash. Having said that, using cash for renovations has to take a backseat to using it for bills, so once again, the infamous Catch 22 comes into play.

Oh well, moving along . . .

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us, and the hands of those who come after us.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett's Hands

I have been thinking of hands lately. Don’t ask my why, but  I have. Hands that are moving through the air. Sunlight glowing through hands. Babies’ hands. My children’s hands, which are very much like my own. I have very long fingers, which was great when it came to playing the piano, and all three of my children have long thin fingers.

I remember my father’s hands. He had a degenerative condition in his right hand that caused the muscle to atrophy, so much so that he had to use his left hand to turn the ignition in his 1966 Ford Falcon.  I remember more than once looking at my father’s hands, so bent and worn with age and work, and being just amazed at how much those hands had accomplished over the years.

I really don’t remember anything that my father couldn’t do when he tried. He built things around the house, sewed things, fixed things, worked on his car (all of the time), and maintained the engines on those huge cargo ships that traveled all over the world. I know that my father was very good at his job because he had ship captains who routinely requested him.

In the end, when he was in the hospital, it was his hands that I watched. So small and shrunken, they knitted the sheets to and fro. This man who was never really still his entire life was working even in the midst of his morphine dreams. Watching that automatic movement day after day almost broke me.

But my thoughts about hands are not all painful. In my mind’s eye I see a pre-school craft project that Alexis made: a piece of muslin with small green handprints in a circle, forming a wreath. I still have that. Brett’s hands, specifically his thumb, which he sucked when he was a baby. I never really fretted that he sucked his thumb because I knew that he would stop when he was ready. Nine-year-old Eamonn’s long fingers scooped around a basketball, his slightly crooked smile as he stood for his team picture.

These memories are good memories. I can take the memory of my father’s hands when it is balanced against these memories from my children’s earlier days.

My hands when I had long manicured nails

I look down at my own hands as they skate aross the keys: long, thin fingers, the one vein on each hand that has always been prominent, cuticles a bit ragged from worrying them unconsciously. These hands have touched piano keys and computer keys; they have brushed my daughter’s long hair and finger-combed my son’s waves. These hands have held four babies, cupped their small heads and massaged their backs. These hands have polished a thousand pieces of furniture and cleaned thousands of dishes. They have planted countless flowers and strung colored lights year after year.

These hands are my strength and my weakness: For everything that these hands have allowed me to do, they have also felt the pain of being idle at times when doing something, anything, would have helped.

These hands stroked the soft dark hair on my daughter’s head as she lay dying in my arms, but these hands could not stop death. These hands held my father’s small, curled hands as he lay sleeping in a hospital bed, but these hands could not keep the pain at bay nor force death to wait.

These hands have held newborn babies, and puppies seconds from their mother’s womb. They have stroked the flanks of a chestnut mare and loosened the bolts in an engine. They have turned the pages of thousands of books and held countless cups of tea and coffee. Each morning, these hands move across a face that belies its age, while fingers probe for wrinkles that have yet to appear. These hands stroke Corey’s cheek when he is asleep, and rub the belly of my fat, spoiled dog as he lays snoring by my side.

Everything that is or has been me is within these hands, and when I hold them up to my eyes when the summer sun beats down relentlessly, my fingers seem to glow with life, and I am reminded of that scene in the old movie Ladyhawke when Isabeau raises her hands to the morning sun just before she transforms into the hawk.

I have my father’s hands. My desire is that when I am in the dusk of my life, my hands will have created more than they have destroyed, that they will have caressed more than they have repelled, that they will have calmed more than they have worried, and that they will have written a million words, filled with the myriad sides of myself, my life, and those who have used their own hands to help me, guide me, hold me, and teach me along the way.

More later. Peace.

This video of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” somehow seemed appropriate.