“Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

John Piper Covehithe Church 1983 oil on canvas
“Covehithe Church” (1983, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

                   

“All morning I was at my notes, ferreting through my life records, wondering where to begin, how to make a start.” ~ Henry Miller, in a letter to Anaïs Nin

Monday, early afternoon. Partly cloudy, 80 degrees.

Well, I made it through another Father’s Day. The hardest part of this particular holiday is seeing all of the cards on display. I don’t know why, but that always gets me. I had made a few revisions to “My Father’s Hands,” so I decided to post it again.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“A Ruined House, Hampton Gay, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil and Indian ink on canvas)
by John Piper

This year Corey wasn’t here as he’s in Ohio visiting his family for Father’s Day. It was a surprise for his dad, which is nice. Of course, his trip wasn’t without the usual hitches; this time, he missed his connecting flight in Atlanta and had to spend the night at the airport and pay $50 to change his ticket. It’s a good thing we hadn’t paid all of the bills yet so there was money on the card. He’s also getting to meet his newest nephew, Ian. I’m so jealous, as you know how I am about babies.

Speaking of which, I want/need to have Olivia over this week, but I’m not feeling up to doing this on my own, so I guess I’ll wait until the weekend when Corey is home.

“Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams . . . I liked the deep, sad summer nights.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Life around the house has calmed a bit since Jake was taken back to the shelter. I made the mistake of going on the site to see if he’s featured, and it made me feel guilty all over again. He was such a wonderfully loving dog; I can only hope that someone full of love adopts him and gives him the home he deserves.

John Piper Seaford Head, 1933, mixed media
“Seaford Head” (1933, mixed media)
by John Piper

But I must admit that I’ve been able to focus better on training Bailey (yes, she officially has a name now!), and she’s catching on very quickly. Far fewer accidents and more going to the door when it’s time. The real plus is that she and Tillie seem to get along very well. They have play fights and tug-of-war, and it’s great to see Tillie back to her old self again, not hiding from Jake under the bed, only coming out when she absolutely had to. She’s asserted her place as queen of the household pack, and Bailey is learning the routine from her.

But I just keep picturing Jake sitting there in his cage at the shelter wondering what happened. Oh well . . . We did the right thing, so why does it feel so wrong? That’s usually how it is, though.

“The whisper of leaves, water running down gutters, green depths flecked with dahlias or zinnias; I deviate, glancing this way, or that way, I shall fall like snow and be wasted.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I must sound like a fruit loop sometimes, the way I go on about dogs, but dogs have been a major part of my life since I was a child. I can’t imagine living without at least one in my life.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Welsh Landscape” (1950, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

In other news . . . I’ve actually been able to float in the pool a few times. It hasn’t been deadly hot and humid, and yesterday it was just the dogs and me and the sky. Very quiet.

I put Bailey in the pool, but she’s not quite pool-adept yet. Her big paws just pound the water. Tillie looks on with a bit of disdain; she hardly causes a ripple when she swims. Too funny.

I need to do some basics around here—laundry, paper work, some official replies—but I cannot for the life of me find even a spark of energy. Things haven’t gotten completely out of hand yet, but the mail is starting to make a small pile, and I have two baskets of clothes that I need to put away. The one good thing about Eamonn moving out is that the laundry has been cut in half. He routinely changes clothes at least twice a day.

Small favors.

“In my journal I write—I belong in this place of words. This is my home. This dark, bone black inner cave where I am making a world for myself.” ~ Bell Hooks, from Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

Well, it’s the middle of the year, and I have yet to do anything about taking the GREs so that I can apply to GW’s doctoral program. This song and dance is not new for me. I have gone back and forth for so many years over whether I should pursue a doctorate. The truth is that having a PhD would probably do nothing for me professionally as there is a plethora of post-docs looking for work.

John Piper Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire 1941 oil on canvas on panel
“Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil on canvas on panel)
by John Piper

Is it enough to go through all of this simply because I have always felt that I should do this? When I say always, I am not exaggerating—I have always, since I was an undergraduate, seen myself as holding a doctorate, teaching at some college somewhere.

I certainly don’t need the degree to pursue my writing. Lots and lots of successful writers out there who don’t hold degrees. For the writing I just need to write, and we all know that I haven’t done so well on pursuing that front either.

So what gives? Why oh why do I believe that I need this thing so much . . . I have no more answers than the last time I pondered this situation. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of my years having this inner debate ad infinitum.

“An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.” ~ William Least Heat-Moon, from Blue Highways

I’ve spent the last few nights in my past again. Mari has made several dream appearances, as have the people I used to work with at Dillard’s. I have no idea if it means anything or not, but it leaves me feeling limp in the morning, as if I’ve traversed hundreds of miles in my sleep.

John Piper Seaton Delaval 1941 oil on canvas laid on wood
“Seaton Delaval” (1941, oil on canvas laid on wood)
by John Piper

Last night I dreamed that I had a phone altercation with a bill collector who was looking for Corey. That was very, very strange, but the strangest part is that I have a feeling it actually happened. I’ve been known to carry on entire conversations in my sleep. I can only hope that it was indeed a dream and not an actual occurrence.

I just remembered that part of my dream last night involved me floating about five feet off the ground on what can best be described as kind of a magic carpet, only it wasn’t a carpet, it was white and silky. I’ve had this dream many times before, and I’ve had the sensation of being able to float from place to place. These floating dreams are usually very enjoyable, for obvious reasons, but last night’s included a pit bull jumping up and grabbing me while I was floating. He was grey. No idea where that came from.

“Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.” – H. G. Wells, from The War of the Worlds

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Coventry Cathedral 15 November (1940, oil on plywood)
by John Piper

Corey will be home Wednesday evening. I couldn’t tell you why this particular trip hit hard, especially as it’s only for a few days. I guess it’s just an accumulation of things. I hope that I’m feeling better by then as I am so tired of feeling tired, so tired of feeling less than myself.

It’s hard to describe sometimes, this enervating lethargy. It’s not just feeling tired, but more of feeling like a rag that’s been wrung tightly and left to dry—shapeless, limp, used up. I’m not sure if I’m in the tail end of this particular depressive episode, if it is bodily aguish as a result, or if the body is causing the mind, or if it’s all unrelated.

When I finish this, I just may crawl back into bed. Even floating in the pool feels like too much work. I suppose the cobwebs will just have to wait another day.

More later. Peace.

All images by English artist John Piper (1903-1992)

Music by Gretchen Peters, “Five Minutes”

                   

Celestial Music

I have a friend who still believes in heaven.
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks
to god,
she thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth, she’s unusually competent.
Brave, too, able to face unpleasantness.

We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling
over it.
I’m always moved by weakness, by disaster, always eager to
oppose vitality.
But timid, also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
according to nature. For my sake, she intervened,
brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down across
the road.

My friend says I shut my eyes to god, that nothing else
explains
my aversion to reality. She says I’m like the child who buries
her head in the pillow
so as not to see, the child who tells herself
that light causes sadness—
My friend is like the mother. Patient, urging me
to wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person—

In my dreams, my friend reproaches me. We’re walking
on the same road, except it’s winter now;
she’s telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial
music:
look up, she says. When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
like brides leaping to a great height—
Then I’m afraid for her; I see her
caught in a net deliberately cast over the earth—

In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
from time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It’s this moment we’re both trying to explain, the fact
that we’re at ease with death, with solitude.
My friend draws a circle in the dirt; inside, the caterpillar
doesn’t move.
She’s always trying to make something whole, something
beautiful, an image
capable of life apart from her.
We’re very quiet. It’s peaceful sitting here, not speaking, the
composition
fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering—
it’s this stillness that we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.

~ Louise Gluck

“The universe lies before you on the floor, in the air, in the mysterious bodies of your dancers, in your mind. From this voyage no one returns poor or weary.” ~ Agnes De Mille

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia (Wikimedia Commons)

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, early evening. Cloudy and quite chilly, low 50’s.

Lighthouse, Sälskär in Hammarland, Finland WC

Corey left port today, 11 a.m. our time, 6 p.m. his time. I am posting pictures of lighthouses that I imagine he might see along his route home. Of course, I have no way of knowing if he will be able to see any lighthouses once they leave the Baltic Sea. But I would like to think that the beams from these beacons will shine upon their bow if only ever so lightly.

We will be out of touch for approximately 19 days. I don’t know why this did not occur to me sooner, the fact that he will be out of touch. I think that I am so used to living in this technology-driven society, that I never stopped to think that in the middle of the ocean, there is no signal, no one can hear you now because cell towers are not scattered along the Atlantic Ocean at strategic outposts.

The idea of not being able to contact him, even via text, is a bit jarring; how often, any more, are we actually out of touch, we as a society in this supposedly advanced world? I  mean, if I ever do go live on that remote island somewhere, there will be no cell tower nearby, and that appeals to me, that is if I have my loved ones with me.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” ~ St. Augustine

The lighthouse at Skansin, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark

When I was a little girl, I loved the idea of lighthouses to make the path clear for my father while he was at sea. I suppose I imagined that he was standing on the deck somewhere, and the rotating light cast its beam upon him, and he felt safe. Of course, he was actually below deck, in the engine room, and because of his seniority, he never had to stand watch. He absolutely hated to stand watch, and the ship captains for whom he worked knew this, and they agreed to his requests because he was that good at his job.

Corey is also very good at his job. The crew with whom he works (several of whom are Filipino and have taken him under their collective wings) has already given him the responsibility of being helm watch. He says that working on big ships is nothing like working on tugs, and not nearly as labor-intensive, but in spite of that, he misses being on tugs.

Oh my. Just had quite a scare. The whole post disappeared, and when it came back, it appeared to have only the quotes and nothing else. Luckily, I reopened Firefox, and it was here. I really hate it when that happens in the middle of writing.

“When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” ~ William Least Heat Moon

Aside: I love Native American names: Least Heat Moon got his name from his father, who called himself Heat Moon; as William came after his brother, he was Least. If I had a Native American name, I think it would be something along the lines of Troubled Heart or Broken Path.

Väderöbods Lighthouse, Sweden, by Lars Reidar (Wikimedia Commons)

Anyway, back to the whole idea of journeys, voyages, travels.

So while Corey is making his way from the North Atlantic to the upper lower Atlantic (?)—or whatever Florida is considered in relation to the Atlantic Ocean—I’m hoping that he gets rid of the cold/sinus troubles that he has had ever since arriving in Lithuania. He said that the weather there has really been beastly; it snowed on Easter. I have not told him how temperate it is here, except for today, that is.

The cold was one of the things that my father absolutely hated about Europe, especially when he was doing the run from Rotterdam to New York. I imagine that working on the cold on the water is doubly fierce: the wind and the spray from the water.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” ~ Martin Buber

I’m also hoping that this trip brings Corey a certain measure of self-satisfaction, something that has been missing from his life in many ways since he was laid off.

Lighthouse at Carraig Aonair, Ireland by Richard Webb (Wikimedia Commons)

He has been so unsure of so many things for so long. Going back to school was great for him, and I know that he really enjoyed it, but he still felt restless because he wasn’t working at a job in which he could make any kind of money or that had any room for advancement. So with any luck, he will finish this hitch feeling better about himself, about his abilities, about his training. He needs the kind of validation that I simply cannot give him, regardless of how much I care or how much I respect his abilities.

And with any luck, he’ll be able to find something afterwards that still allows him to take some classes. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly;” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, early evening. Sunny and low 60’s.

Penmon Lighthouse at the Isle of Anglesey, Wales, UK, by Alistair Young (Wikimedia Commons)

Well, this has to set a record for the post taking the longest to finish. What I started on Wednesday I was unable to finish that evening as Eamonn came home from work and wanted his room. Can you imagine? And I couldn’t use Brett’s computer as I had to pick him up from school early that evening as he wasn’t feeling well. So no Wednesday night writing for me.

Then yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment to get the shots in my back, and I had to take Brett to school. That only left the evening, and once again, Eamonn was home. Add to this that the time that I do have access to this computer is almost useless as this particular computer is definitely on its last legs. More often than not, I get the Not Responding message. May I say once more how happy I will be to get my computer up and running. Just imagine, 24-hour access to a computer that works! In my room! Oh happy day . . .

So my good intentions about sending beacons out into the universe for Corey are a little late, but the sentiment remains. Do I back post this to the 11th? the 12th? today? I guess I’ll go for the one in between.

I suppose I’ll close for now so that I might still be able to do a current post.

More later. Peace.

Music by Beth Thornley, “Everyone Falls”

Love at Thirty-two Degrees (section III of IV sections)

III

Then, there is the astronomer’s wife
ascending stairs to her bed.

The astronomer gazes out,
one eye at a time,

to a sky that expands
even as it falls apart

like a paper boat dissolving in bilge.
Furious, fuming stars.

When his migraine builds &
lodges its dark anchor behind

the eyes, he fastens the wooden buttons
of his jacket, & walks

outside with a flashlight
to keep company with the barn owl

who stares back at him with eyes
that are no greater or less than

a spiral galaxy.
The snow outside

is white & quiet
as a woman’s slip

against cracked floorboards.
So he walks to the house

inflamed by moonlight, & slips
into the bed with his wife

her hair & arms all
in disarray

like fish confused by waves.

~ Katherine Larson