“See, the darkness is leaking from the cracks. | I cannot contain it. I cannot contain my life.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Second Voice

“Portrait of Ted Hughes” by Sylvia Plath*
“There is an emptiness.
I am so vulnerable suddenly. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Third Voice

It’s been almost two years since my life was upended into total chaos. Two years since my idea of normalcy faded into a new normal that is anything but. Two years since I felt like my life and those within it might be moving back into some semblance of everyday existence.

I was so very wrong.

“Boats off Rock Harbour, Cape Cod”

Any approach to normalcy that we may have been nearing exploded into shards of glass in one afternoon, and there was no chance of normalcy after that. Not one second passes when I don’t ask myself what if . . . what if I had done this or hadn’t done that . . . what if I had never, or if only I had . . .

“What if” is a phrase that will kill you, you know. My ability to blame myself for everything is a long-standing state of being, as long-standing as my love affair with guilt. I honestly don’t know where it all started, if I was just a child and felt such profound guilt that my parents’ marriage wasn’t the storybook kind, that somehow it was my fault. Kids take on a lot more guilt than adults give them credit for. But it started long ago, and it has never abated, this consuming sense that I am the one who could have prevented this or that tragedy, that I am the one who should have seen the signs before this or that happened.

It’s pretty frigging arrogant, right? This sense of omnipotence and omniscience with which I feel I should be imbued. Only children are great at seeming arrogance. It hides their insecurities well.

“I have had my chances. I have tried and tried.
I have stitched life into me like a rare organ,
And walked carefully, precariously, like something rare.
I have tried not to think too hard. I have tried to be natural. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Second Voice

If left alone with my thoughts for too long, I inevitably begin a deep dive. It matters not how well I know exactly where I will land nor how badly I will fall. That never even factors into it. The truth is that I really have very little control over these dives.

“Citronnade Stand in Tuileries”

My mother never understood this, nor did my first husband. They were both of the school of think happy thoughts to fix whatever ails you. He saw my depressions as self-absorbed; she saw them as completely perplexing. What did I have to be depressed about? What, indeed. I lived in a nice house in a nice suburb. I had friends, family, seeming popularity in school. I could go on and on, but it doesn’t really matter.

Ask a person suffering from debilitating depression why, and the chances are very good that they cannot answer you; just as if you begin to list for them all of the things for which they should be grateful and happy, you will only push them farther down. Trust me. We know what we should be grateful for, but we can negate your list and add 50 more things before you take a breath.

“What is it I miss?
Shall I ever find it, whatever it is? ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Third Voice

The irony of the moment is that I am not within the full throes of a debilitating depression; rather, it’s just more of a commonplace, ordinary depression. You know, a run of the mill kind of thing in which no one specific thing is wrong. Nothing has really happened. It’s just there. On the fringes, as it were.

“Cambridge: A view of gables and chimney-pots”

So how do I know that the deeper fall is incipient? How do I know that night will be followed by day, and so on? Years of experience, my dear. Years. For instance, there was that song that came up in my YouTube playlist, the one that made me teary-eyed, and then there was that thing that reminded me of that time, and the smell that hearkened back to that day.

I cannot explain it to you. It’s like trying to catch rain in a colander. You can’t, and we’ll both end up wet. (The glibness is affected, and it hurts my heart, yet I provide it for you, don’t you see?) Shall I call you listener, or reader, or friend? No? Should you call me wanderer, sojourner or wayward one? Perhaps.

“The voices of loneliness, the voices of sorrow
Lap at my back ineluctably. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” First Voice

It’s strange, you see, in that the way I feel about my life at the moment hearkens back so clearly to exactly how I felt after I lost Caitlin. Then, I had no control over anything, no power to make anything better or right or good. Now, it is the same, but not. This time, the losses are not from death, but they feel as if they are. They feel just as permanent, and sometimes I feel as if I have been rent, from stem to stern, as it were, and there is no clear path to healing.

I could pause here and say, “oh, don’t listen to me. I’ll be fine in the morning.” And there is a distinct possibility that it may be so. And there is also a possibility that it may not be so. It all depends on how far my mind races with these thoughts before I am able to call a halt, if I am able to call a halt, that is. I keep thinking that I could have fixed all of this, that I could have done something to make everyone  and everything okay in the end.

“Tabac Opposite Palais de Justice”

Isn’t that what mothers are for? To offer a salve for the hurts? To be the one that brings everyone back together after a rift? If not for that, then what? That’s a real question, dear reader. I don’t know what my role as mother means, any more. I realize that there are all kinds of mothers out there, and plenty of them are perfectly happy not to have constant contact with their offspring. Everyone moves along on their individual life trails, rarely crossing or interacting. Weird.

What you have to understand is that I was raised in a household with a decidedly Filipino approach to family, in spite of my North Carolinian mother. In a Filipino household, generations live together, and there are often cousins, too, first, second, no matter. The terms uncle and aunt do not necessitate blood kin. They are honorifics. The point is that children are rarely very far away from their parents in these kinds of households. It’s completely alien to me, and it’s also another source of pain: to realize that if either of my parents were still alive that this state of affairs would absolutely kill them.

Perfect. Now I’ve added the parental guilt (mine for them, not theirs for me) to this particular dive.

“I am calm. I am calm. It is the calm before something awful:
The yellow minute before the wind walks, when the leaves
Turn up their hands, their pallors. It is so quiet here. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” First Voice

I deliberately left the last parts of this post unfinished last night, thinking that if I came back to it later, that I would no longer feel the need to finish, that I would be calmer, more fixed. I am neither, and the constant thrum of a migraine sits somewhere just behind my eyes; this does not engender any sense of well being, only adds to the unease . . . dis-ease? Disease?

Hmm . . . never approached that word in that way before. Curious.

“Harbor Cornucopia, Wiscosin”

Today is grayer and colder than yesterday when I began, and even though I slept for most of the night with only 3 awakenings (few, for me), I still began the day unsettled, which is how I began this post. Dear reader, whoever you are, wherever you are, I apologize for this self-indulgence. Better are the days in which I skate just along the surface of everything, as it is on those days that I can actually breathe most freely, feel less in order to feel better.

Forgive me for that last bit—it made complete sense in my head. I suppose that my point is that on the days in which I am able to block many of my thoughts, on those days I can find a calming peace in the simplicity of my life now, here, on this land, surrounded by trees, wildlife, and no sounds of traffic or people or cities. But I must admit that when I do finally allow my thoughts to brook my consciousness at some point, I always feel just a tad guilty for trying to shut everything out.

Yes, I know, that makes little to no sense. Alas, alack, as it were.

“Again, this is a death. Is it the air,
The particles of destruction I suck up? Am I a pulse
That wanes and wanes, facing the cold angel?
Is this my lover then? This death, this death?” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Second Voice

In my attempts to respect the privacy of others, I find that I am frequently talking in a coded language that only I can understand, which tends to defeat the purpose of sharing, does it not? It’s like collecting shells on a beach after a storm: There is always so much detritus at hand, but finding unbroken shells always requires a careful search and much sifting out of the unnecessary.

“The Pleasure of Odds and Ends”

Nevertheless, share I will. I will toss these scattered thoughts out into the ether in the hopes that in so doing, I might be able to purchase a little peace for myself, or if not peace, exactly, at least a few hours in which the widening gyre that Yeats so often spoke of does not continue to spin. Of course, he was alluding to the constant movement of history towards chaos. I speak only of my personal history and my attempts to stop its spinning towards entropy.

Enough. There will be more later. Peace.

*All images are pen and ink drawings by Sylvia Plath, who was originally an art major before switching to English. In 2011, a collection of 44 drawings by the poet went on display at the Mayor Gallery in London. According to an article in The Independent, “the sketches were given to Plath’s daughter, the artist Frieda Hughes, by her poet father and Plath’s former husband Ted Hughes before he died . . .The drawings date from 1955, the year Plath graduated from Smith College, Massachusetts and won a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge, in England, where she was to meet and marry Hughes. In 2017, the National Portrait Gallery of The Smithsonian Institute hosted a retrospective of Plath’s art and memorabilia.

No poem today as I think that I covered that aspect well enough with all of the Plath quotes.


Music by Larkin Poe, “Mad as a Hatter”

 

 

“We forget we’re mostly water till the rain falls and every atom in our body starts to go home.” ~ Albert Huffstickler, from We Forget

Along Toutle Trail by Connie A Wandering Soul
Along Toutle Trail by Connie A Wandering Soul

“Dreams, like memories, are shores we row toward to escape the ever same tomorrow and their cruel futility. Days which cannot express themselves are grey and cold. Mute days whose untidy gestures tear us apart.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions Volumes 2 and 3: The Book of Yukel Return to the Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warmer, 80 degrees.

Corey left yesterday late afternoon. I didn’t sleep last night, so of course I had to be up by 7 this morning. I came back home and crashed and slept another five hours, much longer than I had intended, but obviously I needed it.

Of course, right before Corey left, my phone died, and when Corey took it to T-Mobile, he found out that the warranty expired on August 23. Of course it did. How could it possibly be any other way? So for the next seven or so days, no phone, which actually doesn’t bother me except that I cannot text Corey. So we’ve alerted everyone who might need to know that they should e-mail me if they need me. Of course, I could dig around and find one of those old-fashioned plug-in things . . . how quaint . . .

Light through the Fog by Donnie Nunley FCC
Light through the Fog by Donnie Nunley (FCC)

Last night I had intense dreams, dreams that went on and on. For example, in the last one I can remember, I am driving down this road that is icy, and I pass a truck, but when I pass the truck, somehow it puts me on another road, far from where I’m trying to be. I can no longer find the destination I knew was just ahead. Cut to my washroom, and I’m messing with a new washer and dryer, and nothing is working. I go in the kitchen, where we have company, and without thinking, I disrobe to put my clothes in the laundry basket. Then I realize that I’ve taken all of my clothes off in front of a relative stranger. I run to the garage. Then I’m in an arcade with Brett, Alexis, and a couple of other people. One of the exhibits is a polar bear. I can’t figure out how to get my phone to work to make a call, so I go outside to get a signal. They close the arcade, and half of us are locked outside, and the other half are inside, and I just know that Brett is going to panic.

These dreams exhaust me, but I know they’re from stress, and I’m so weary that I almost typed there from stress, one of my cardinal grammar sins……….

“Distant
the river flows along drunkenly, singing and weeping
prehistories of water, olden times.” ~ Cesar Vallejo, from “Autochthonous Tercet”

So this time last week Corey and I were doing something wonderful, and I’ve been hesitant to write about it just because of that whole jinx thing, but then I decided that it will either happen, or it won’t.

Adney Gap, Blue Ridge Mountains by Donnie Nunley FCC
Adney Gap, Blue Ridge Mountains by Donnie Nunley (FCC)

We drove to the western part of the state, past Roanoke and Christiansburg, to just outside Floyd to look at some property. It’s 66 acres in the mountains with a natural stream and a pond. There is an old house there, but if we were fortunate enough to get it, we would want to build on it and keep the old house. It’s everything I have ever dreamed of: land, mountains, sky, a running stream, so many possibilities. There is a barn with three stalls, an old milking shed that could be turned into a paddock for goats, fruit and nut trees galore. Butterflies abound in the meadows of thistle and wildflowers. There’s even an old spring house where the original owners kept their milk cold using mountain spring water.

We fell in love with it even though we tried not to. I know that my kids would love it and so would Corey’s family. His brothers could come and hunt, which I’m still trying to reconcile myself with; I mean, I could do with wild turkey and grouse, but deer, not so much. And I know that his mother would adore it. It could be my haven, the place I’ve always dreamed of being. And dare I say it, I’ve even been looking at plans for log cabins.

“The blood pumping of the heart, the severed valves, hurt, love. Your blood flows up into the distant mountains and down into the sea, chasm, the red delta, red river, fluid, brutal poetry of blood and broken.: ~ Carole Maso, from Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo

The man is selling it because he just lives too far away for weekend visits. It’s been in his family for over 100 years. He says that his family is heartbroken that he’s selling it, and I can certainly understand that.

Stony Man Mountain, Virginia m01229 FCC
Stony Man Mountain, Virginia m01229 (FCC_

The problem is that in order to buy it we need to sell both houses, and even then we’d still need to take out a mortgage to build the house. It’s definitely doable, especially as my mom’s house is paid for, but not immediately doable, and he wants to sell now. The other thing is that home values still have not completely rebounded, and I’m uncertain as to how much we would get from mom’s house. We proposed several options but have no idea if he’ll go for any of them.

Part of me wishes that we had never gone, because then if we don’t get it, I won’t be heartbroken. But part of me is proud that we went because it means that we’re finally taking steps to make a major change in our lives. My kids all have lives of their own, and if they wanted to move with us, there’s plenty of room to do so. I have no problem in selling this house, but it needs work, and that’s hard with Corey’s schedule.

Ideally, we need a home equity loan to do the work needed here, and the small work needed in Mom’s house, but we’re not positioned for that at the moment.

“And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.” ~ William Butler Yeats, from “Adam’s Curse”

We’ve been working on repairing our credit after those fateful three years of want and need, but it’s hard. It’s especially hard in retrospect because before the big crash nationally and on the home front, we were making real progress financially. But I cannot keep dwelling on that; if I do, it really sends me spiraling.

Coming home from the trip we were so full of possibilities, but we kept telling each other not to get ahead of ourselves. It’s hard, though. That land is everything I have ever dreamed of. It’s not so far that making trips back here would be arduous, and it puts Corey much closer to his family.

Shenandoah Appalachian Trail by wanderingYew2 fcc
Shenandoah Appalachian Trail by wanderingYew2 (FCC)

The seller took us on a nice hike up some trails, but not all the way to the top of the ridge, which is the furthermost point of the land. There is so much variety in the trees on the land, and the stream runs down from the top of the mountain, providing the property with this crystal clear stream water. There is fish in the pond with so much room to make the pond larger and deeper. And yes, there are bears, but you know, that didn’t bother me in the least. I mean, that’s part of living in a place like that. And just think of the possibilities: I could get a few more dogs, some goats, maybe a couple of horses. The neighbor’s cattle graze on part of the land because of a deal he has with the owner, and that would be fine if we could get milk.

I’m running away with myself. Writing about it now makes me so melancholy, partially because I want it to happen now, and partially because it may not happen at all, and of course, there is other land for sale, but this? This is perfect, this is my dream come true, this is my heaven on earth.

“Between memory and reality there are awkward discrepancies, producing a solemn but subtle agitation, an intense but as yet indefinable struggle.” ~ Eileen Chang, from Written on Water

 Want to know something outlandish? Neither Corey nor I took any pictures. We were so enthralled with seeing everything, we never even thought about capturing what we were seeing. Luckily, I only have to close my eyes, and I can still see everything clearly. The song that I’ve chosen for this post could have been filmed on that property, seriously.

Star Trails on Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 188 by krishna_kumar_1 FCC
Star Trails on Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 188 by krishna_kumar_1 (FCC)

One of the reasons I chose yesterday’s images was because they reminded me of where we were a week ago (but the house is not at all dilapidated). Still, I wish that we had thought to take pictures so that we would have those at least if everything falls through.

I hope that I have not set myself up for heartbreak with all of this, something I am prone to do. But if this happens? It would be more than amazing. We would both have what we want. I would have the mountain home with the running stream that I have always, always dreamed of, since I was a young teen, thinking about what I wanted in life. Perhaps even that log cabin. Corey would have a beautiful location while still being close enough to Olivia and even closer to his family. We wouldn’t have to move across the country or abroad. Perfection. Too perfect?

My soul absolutely aches at the moment, both in joy and pain. What if . . . if only . . .

More later. Peace.

The image by Connie – A Wandering Soul looks almost exactly like parts of the stream on the property.

Music by Midlake, “Rulers Ruling all Things”

                   

 August

Just when you’d begun to feel
You could rely on the summer,
That each morning would deliver
The same mourning dove singing
From his station on the phone pole,
The same smell of bacon frying
Somewhere in the neighborhood,
The same sun burning off
The coastal fog by noon,
When you could reward yourself
For a good morning’s work
With lunch at the same little seaside cafe
With its shaded deck and iced tea,
The day’s routine finally down
Like an old song with minor variations,
There comes that morning when the light
Tilts ever so slightly on its track,
A cool gust out of nowhere
Whirlwinds a litter of dead grass
Across the sidewalk, the swimsuits
Are piled on the sale table,
And the back of your hand,
Which you thought you knew,
Has begun to look like an old leaf.
Or the back of someone else’s hand.

~ George Bilgere

                   

How to Regain Your Soul

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out. You will see
the white butterflies. Because of the way shadows
come off those vertical rocks in the west, there are
shafts of sunlight hitting the river and a deep
long purple gorge straight ahead. Put down your pack.

Above, air sighs the pines. It was this way
when Rome was clanging, when Troy was being built,
when campfires lighted caves. The white butterflies dance
by the thousands in the still sunshine. Suddenly, anything
could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon
and then shines back through the white wings to be you
again.

~ William Stafford

Shorpy

William Butler Yeats

shorpy

adj. yearning to move into a photo from a hundred years ago, to wade into the blurred-edge sepia haze that hangs in the air between people in hats and petticoats who walk the bare earth, who leer stoically into this dusty and dangerous future, whose battered shoes are anchors locked fast in the fantasy that none of it risks turning out any other way but the way it happened, which is just as well to you because the food’s 100% organic.