“A little light is filtering from the water flowers. | Their leaves do not wish us to hurry: | They are round and flat and full of dark advice.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Crossing the Water”

Otto Modersohn The Cloud 1890
“The Cloud or Die Wolke” (1890)
by Otto Modersohn

                   

“The lake, as usual,
Has taken its mood from the sky,
Its color also,
The blue that breaks hearts.” ~ Tom Hennen, from “June, with Loons”

Thursday afternoon, Halloween. Cloudy and warm, mid 70’s.

John Henry Twachtman Sailing in the Mist c1895 oil on canvas
“Sailing in the Mist” (c1895, oil on canvas)
by John Henry Twachtman

The fates have been reversed for about a week or so: I’ve been wanting to write, have had much to say, but have had no time to spare until just this moment. I’m hoping that I can finish this post before the neighborhood kids begin to roam, and the dogs begin to go crazy. We’ll just have to see.

Since I have so many different thoughts going in so many different directions, I thought I’d do a random thoughts post. Here goes:

  • I learned a new word the other day: deliquescent, becoming liquid or having a tendency to become liquid. Doesn’t that just sound as if it should be in a poem?
  • I continue to awaken each morning with a song in my head, and the song of the morning does not seem to have any relevance to anything that I can pinpoint. For example, the other morning it was The Courtship of Eddie’s father theme song.
  • There is a running theme that occurs in my dreams, regardless of what the main theme is: I have forgotten to feed the dogs that stay in the backyard. I only remember them after several days. I find them in various states of illness—listless, dehydrated, close to dying.
  • Last night I dreamt of my family in Great Bridge, all of my cousins; one of my cousins introduced me to his friend and said that I had gone off to sing. I was very confused because I didn’t remember having a singing career.
  • I bought Halloween candy that I’m not particularly fond of hoping that it would keep me from delving into the bag; this has not worked completely.
  • Does too much sugar affect your dreams?

“She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.” ~ Oscar Wilde, from “De Profundis”

Pierre Henri Valenciennes Rome colon Study of Clouds 1780s
“Rome: Study of Clouds” (1780s, oil on paper mounted on board)
by Pierre Henri Valenciennes

So here’s the latest news from around the home:

  • Corey will be in port on Saturday. He’s getting off the ship before they travel to Ascension; we have to fit in the trip to New Orleans before all of the holidays roll around.
  • I weigh four pounds less on my pain doctor’s scale. I like that scale.
  • Olivia is going to be a lady bug for Halloween; I bought her some black and white Mary Janes with red bows, too cute.
  • I wonder how many of you remember those hard leather shoes made by Stride-Rite for toddlers, how we were all forced to wear them and then in turn told to force our children to wear them .  .  . somewhere along the line, the doctors who decide said that tennis shoes were better for young feet.
  • I read where Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa bought the young prince silver casts of his hands and feet for a christening gift, and media voices were calling the gift creepy. How is that any creepier than bronzing baby shoes like everyone in my mother’s generation did?
  • My current fascination with all things make-up related continues. Don’t ask me why as I haven’t the faintest idea.
  • Lately, I’m fixated on just the right make-up brushes.

“And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured
Of a craving for something I cannot find
And of the shame of never finding it.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Cocktail Party

Tom Thomson Grey Sky 1914 oil on wood
“Grey Sky” (1914, oil on wood)
by Tom Thomson

Funny, I thought that I had so much to say, but the last few hours have had so many interruptions that I cannot seem to find my train of thought.

  • It’s far too muggy to be October.
  • I just remembered that I had another dream about the real estate firm where I worked. In these dreams I’m always trying to please my boss, unsuccessfully.
  • I don’t want to think about how many jobs I have failed at; it’s just too depressing.
  • Neither Brett nor I went to any Literary Festival events this year.
  • I finally watched the movie Sylvia in which Gwyneth Paltrow plays Sylvia Plath and Daniel Craig plays Ted Hughes. The movie wasn’t bad, but I think it soft-pedaled the depiction of Hughes.
  • At the moment I’m feeling very displaced, as if I’m on the verge of something without really knowing what or why.
  • The other day I realized that this year marks 25 years since Caitlin. It still feels so immediate, so close, yet not.
  • I wonder if anyone else can understand anything I am trying to say.

“But mountain weariness and mountain hunger — how few know what these are!” ~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

August Strindberg Packis i Traden 1892
“Packis i Stranden” (1892, oil on zinc)
by August Strindberg

She said, apropos of nothing . . .

  • My mother ordered me some strange gadget from QVC. I told her that I didn’t have room for it, and I didn’t really need it. She insisted that I had told her I wanted it. This would be hard as I have no idea as to what it is. Patience. Patience.
  • QVC preys on the shut-ins, the elderly, and the lonely.
  • I probably won’t see the mountains again this year.
  • Obviously, I’m not going to apply to the doctoral program at GW since I have made no further efforts in preparing.
  • I am my own worst enemy.
  • Now that Corey is coming home, we can finally finish the bathroom, all of the things we couldn’t do before he left, and all of the things I couldn’t do on my own—not a whole lot, actually. Still, unfinished is unfinished.
  • I have the strangest feeling that I have forgotten to do something really important, but I have no idea as to what it might be.

“While the earth breaks the soft horizon
eastward, we study how to deserve
what has already been given us.” ~ William Stafford, from “Love in the Country”

Maurice de Vlaminck The Seine at Chatou oil on canvas 1908
“The Seine at Chatou” (1908, oil on canvas)
by Maurice de Vlaminck

On a more serious note . . .

  • I think that my mother is deteriorating mentally faster. I have noticed more things in just the last few weeks.
  • I really need to investigate what kind (if any) of support there is for seniors, as far as keeping house, running errands, that kind of thing.
  • We are not a society that values the aged, not like the Asians do.
  • I constantly berate myself for not having enough patience with my mother, yet when I’m around her, I just cannot seem to summon the patience I need.
  • I feel like a horrible daughter.
  • I am praying to the gods that be that I can teach myself more of how to live in the moment, something I have never quite mastered.
  • Am I too old to learn such things?
  • When I am with Olivia, I am forcing my mind to rest, not to think about this bill or that problem, but to just enjoy this time because I know all too well that it passes quickly.
  • I would give anything to have another fall afternoon with all three of my children when they were still young.

I happened upon the most wonderful site: Lancaster Center for Classical Studies, which posted pictures of cloudy weather for today, just as I have here. I wonder if they do that every day . . .

Nicholas Roerich Karelian Landscape c1917
“Karelian Landscape” (c1917)
by Nicholas Roerich

More later. Peace.

Music by Rosi Golan and Johnny McDaid, “Give up the Ghost”

                   

Assurance

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or in the silence after lightning before it says
its names — and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles — you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head —
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

~ William Stafford

“The enormous silent poem of color and light…of sea and sky, of the woods and the peaks, so far surpasses imagination as to paralyze it.” ~ Lafcadio Hearn, Two Years in the French West Indies

One of the Nereids, Court of Neptune Fountain, Library of Congress, DC, Artist Roland Hinton
by jcolman (FCC)

                   

“Winter dawn is the color of metal,
The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.
All night I have dreamed of destruction, annihilations” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Waking in Winter

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, high 60’s.

When I let the dogs out around 4 a.m., the sky was beautiful—streaked with clouds and a kind of purplish hue. The moon looked like it was covered with gauze. Oh to have a camera that would capture such a sky.

The Channel Gardens: Nereid Thought, Rockefeller Center, NYC
by artist Rene Paul Chambellan

Last night I dreamed I was babysitting for a couple who were renovating their home. The husband was morphing into something with wings. He would bend and contract, and then the faint impression of wings would appear on his back. The baby was eating rice. The mother was getting ready for an interview with Oprah. I had nothing to wear. My sister-in-law Alana had a beautiful cream-colored sweater that she had just bought from Hecht’s, but I knew that I would look like a sausage in it. The husband had concave grooves on his back where the wings would go.

Make of that what you will.

So Sandy was downgraded to a tropical storm and then upgraded right back into a hurricane. It’s going to be one of those. My biggest worry is the back door; other than that, I’m as prepared as I’m going to be.

I really don’t feel like leaving the house today, but I’m supposed to drive Brett and Em to a Halloween party this evening. We shall see . . .

“We depend on nature not only for our physical survival. We also need nature to show us the way home, the way out of the prison of our minds. We got lost in doing, thinking, remembering, anticipating; lost in a maze of complexity and a world of problems. We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be – to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: here and now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Why was I awake at 4 a.m.? The dogs, of course. Unfortunately, Shakes is wheezing more and more, and his breathing is ragged. But the big culprit last night was Tillie the Lab, who wanted to go out every hour. I don’t know if the impending storm is making her antsy, but for some reason, she will not be still.

Underwater Amphitrite, Grand Cayman, BWI
by Simon Morris

I’m on the fourth (fifth?) day of this headache. I have intermittent respites from the pain, but this is a bad one. Probably the swaying barometric pressure combined with anxiety of weathering a hurricane and worrying about Corey, although he is out of the storm’s path.  Around here, all of the ships have left port, standard procedure when there is a hurricane coming. They go out of port to ride out the storm, to avoid getting buffeted against the piers. That’s a lot of ships.

The governor has already declared a state of emergency, and closings were being flashed on the television screen last night. Forecasters are predicting damages in the billions—that’s with a b, not an m, and everyone is bandying about that phrase “perfect storm” again. Images are all over the Interwebs and television of rising tides and ferocious seas. I think of my friend Sarah and hope that she does not suffer another flood with this storm.

I guess everyone is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, but nature will do what she will, regardless of the humans. I’m just hoping selfishly that we don’t lose power for an extended time like we did back in 2003 with Hurricane Isabel. I think we were without power for days then. We really should have brought home that generator that Corey’s parents were going to give us.

“I like to live in the sound of water, in the feel of the mountain air. A sharp reminder hits me: this world still is alive; it stretches out there shivering toward its own creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing enters into this elaborate give-and-take, this bowing to sun and moon, day and night, winter, summer, storm, still—this tranquil chaos that seems to be going somewhere. This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it. This motionless turmoil, this everything dance.” ~ William Stafford

So, what else is going on besides hurricane news?

Channel Gardens: Nereid Imagination, Rockefeller Center, NYC
by Rene Paul Chambellan

Ooh, a memory from Hurricane Isabel: The boys and I set up Risk and played by candlelight. We played for days, and never finished the game. I was winning. Those were good times. I bought the boys a Lord of the Rings version of Risk. We have never played it. That makes me a bit sad. I doubt that we shall ever play it. They have grown up, moved on, changed so much since those powerless afternoons of almost a decade ago.

The longer I write, the more my head hurts, but I’m determined to get a real post up today. The earlier satellite images do not count as today’s post because . . .. well, they just don’t.

I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t feel better about the hurricane if Corey were home with us. Of course I would, but we’ll just have to muddle along without him, at least for another couple of weeks.

“How to photograph this,
the dark when one has said
too much. The dark
of sudden feeling. Love’s
darkness.” ~ Anne Michaels, from “Fontanelles”

I have put Anne Michaels on my list of poets whose books I would like to own, a list that continues to grow and grow. Speaking of which, I still have not shared anything with you about the two poets I saw during the literary festival. I’ll get to that, just as I’ll get to the three book reviews for the books that are sitting on top of the pile.

Sea Nymph Riding Sea Horse, Court of Neptune Fountain, Library of Congress, DC
by Roland Hinton Perry (Wikimedia Commons)

I remember the first time that I went to Mari’s house, I was so pleasantly surprised to see that she had piles of books in every room in much the same way that I do. That was how I knew that I had found a kindred soul. Speaking of which, the other night I dreamt that I had missed a week’s worth of classes for some graduate literature class, and then I showed up right as it was time for the final exam (usually these are math dreams). Mari was in the class with me, but she refused to share her notes with me, and she wouldn’t talk to me.

Then I was meeting with the class’s professor who was very upset with me for missing so many classes, and she didn’t want to let me take the exam, even though I told her I was ready, but I knew that truthfully I wasn’t.

How weird is it that I still have classroom dreams so many years later? What does that say about me, about my inability to move on? Probably way too much, I fear.

“I liked the solitude and the silence of the woods and the hills. I felt there the sense of a presence, something undefined and mysterious, which was reflected in the faces of the flowers and the movements of birds and animals, in the sunlight falling through the leaves and in the sound of running water, in the wind blowing on the hills and the wide expanse of earth and sky.” ~ Bede Griffiths

So, let me end this post, yet another disjointed one, by talking a bit about the Nereid, sea nymphs in Greek mythology. Why Nereids? Why not? Well, mostly because they embodied the sea.

Amphitrite
(artist and location unknown, ??)

There were 50 Nereids, daughters of Nereus and Doris, and they were specific to the Mediterranean, as opposed to the Naiades, the nymphs of fresh water, or the Oceanides, the nymphs of the great ocean. Nereus and his 50 daughters dwelt on the bottom of the Aegean Sea in a silvery cavern. The Nereids were considered good fortune to seamen as they supposedly came to the aid of sailors in distress. Individually they represented aspects of the sea such as the foam, the brine, the waves, the currents, etc. In ancient art, the Nereids were depicted as beautiful young maidens riding on the backs of dolphins or as having small dolphins or fish in their hands.

The Nereid Amphitrite was the queen of the sea, and all of the Nereids made up the retinue of Poseidon, god of the sea. Together with her sisters Kymatolege (end of the waves) and Kymodoke (steadying the waves), Amphitrite possessed the power to still the winds and calm the sea. One other Nereid worth mentioning is Sao, the Nereid of safe passage, or the rescue of sailors.

So here’s hoping the Nereids are doing their respective jobs in the coming days.

More later. Peace.

(Images include the beautiful Nereid fountainheads in the Channel Gardens of Rockefeller Center, NYC)

Music by Peter Bradley Adams, “Keep Us (from the storm)”

 

                   

You are Tired

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I’ll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

~ e. e. cummings

“But suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and its spectacular.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Monet's "Water Lilies" at the MOMA (detail)

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy with dropping temperatures.

The headache is gone for now.

So earlier this afternoon was for cleaning. Corey gathered up clutter from outside and took it to the dump. Brett polished the furniture, and I swept the hardwood floors and cleaned off the dining room table. Eamonn is off at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ocean View, a continuation of his 21st birthday celebration. As I’m writing this, Corey is washing his truck; Tillie is helping. Need I tell you how happy he is to be doing this?

Anyway, I’ve done all that I can do for today, so it’s time to write. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word above—commuovere (pronounced kum-wo-ve-ray, with the emphasis on the first syllable). It’s Italian in origin, and while it has no direct English translation, the closest would be to touch, to affect, to stir, to move to tears.

What stirs me, touches me, moves me to tears? Wow. I’m not talking about grief or sadness; rather, it’s a matter of stirrings in the heart. Still, it’s a long and complicated list, but I thought that I would try to share some of the things in life that have moved me or do move me, so much so that I get misty-eyed.

“I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from“ Clown in the Moon”

Believe it or not, I don’t cry often, at least not as often as I used to, but I am very sentimental, which is why I don’t watch many movies on the Lifetime channel because they always have very sad endings. But what genuinely moves me, touches that tender spot in my heart? Here is a partial list, starting with movies:

  • The death of a beloved character in a book or movie. Oh I cried when Dumbledore died, and the death scene for Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring went straight to my heart.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. Who can watch that movie and not be moved? George Bailey as everyman? Clarence the awkward angel? Slays me.
  • Wall-e. Okay, he’s a little robot, but he has such sad eyes, and he’s in love.
  • And speaking of Pixar, when Nemo’s mom dies in the beginning of Finding Nemo? Why do the moms always die in Disney and Pixar movies?
  • That scene in The Lion King when Mufasa, the daddy lion dies. Omigawd. Even though I love Jeremy Irons as Scar, I hated him at that moment. Yes, it was animated. What’s your point?

    The English Patient
  • I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, but when he does the St. Crispin’s Day speech, I literally get chills and tear up. I want to join the fray for England. Take me, take me!
  • Yes, Dead Poets’ Society was overly sentimental, but that didn’t stop me from liking it, so when Neil stands before the open window, I feel complete dread, but when the guys stand on their desks in the final scene? Oh yeah, I’m weeping. Every. Single. Time.
  • And then there is The English Patient. Almásy rubbing saffron across Katharine’s dead lips. Katharine’s final journal entry in the Cave of the Swimmers. Hana’s final injection of morphing into Almásy. What doesn’t make me cry in this movie.

“Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path — but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on earth, again and again.” ~ William Stafford, from “Cutting Loose”

I remember when I was a child there was this commercial with a supposed Native American man paddling in a canoe amidst pollution. The camera zoomed in on his face to show a single tear. That commercial made me cry, as did the Miller (?) beer Christmas commercial that showed a couple in a sled traveling through the snow with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” playing in the background, no words. I cried. So here are some of the epic moments in television show that have tugged at my heartstrings:

  • When Mark finally succumbed to his brain tumor on “ER.” Agony. Another devastating ER episode was “Love’s Labours Lost,” in which Dr. Green tried to deliver a baby, ultimately losing the mother. Oh, how I cried.
  • When Bobby Simone dies in “NYPD Blue.”
  • When Radar comes into the operating room to tell everyone that Colonel Henry Blake’s plane went down.
  • On “Criminal Minds,” the “Riding the Lightning” episode in which Sarah Jean Dawes, who is an innocent woman, goes to her death in prison to protect the son that she gave up years before. Gideon’s complete helplessness rips my heart into pieces.

    From Dr. Who Episode "Vincent and the Doctor"
  • Two “Dr. Who” episodes in particular: “The End of Time,” in which David Tennant (10) says, “I don’t want to go.” His face in that scene is so sad. And the other one is “Vincent and the Doctor.” In one scene Vincent, the doctor, and Amy lie beneath the night sky as Vincent explains the stars as he sees them. In the final scene, Mr. Black (played by Bill Nighy) tells the doctor that Van Gogh was “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived,” while a stunned Van Gogh looks on in tears. Yep. That one is always good for a cry.
  • The ultimate crying fest came in the “M*A*S*H” episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, Amen” when Charles learns that the Chinese musicians that he had been teaching were killed. At that moment, I felt the absolute futility of war as only a civilian can.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~ Rumi 

Another weepy trigger for me is music, and this really depends upon my mood. Anything by Chopin really moves me. Apocalyptica’s “Nothing Else Matters” stops me in my tracks. When I’m crashing, certain pieces of music absolutely slay me, take Annie Lennox’s “Why,” for example. Before the bathtub developed rust holes, I would run myself a hot bath, light the candles, and set up my CD player in the bathroom. Then I would listen to the selected CD and weep until the water became too cold. Very cathartic, in an odd sort of way.

  • “I Hope You Dance,” be Lee Ann Womack. The first time I heard this song, which is about a mother and daughter, Alexis and I were going through a very rough patch. I think she was about 16 or 17.
  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” If you’ve never heard this, you are missing out on one of life’s true beautiful mysteries.
  • The swelling soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, which incorporates the same type of violin that was used in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. I firmly believe that incorporation of beautiful string sections is a deliberate attempt by composers to cut to the heart.
  • Okay, this is a combination of music and a scene in a movie: “Everything You Do” (not with words) in the scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in which Marion is going across the water through the mist. Something about that scene just gives me chills. I know. I’m a sucker for soundtracks, especially by James Horner or Howard Shore, both of whom know how to use a string section for maximum effect.
  • I’m also a sucker for country love songs, especially when Corey isn’t home or if we’ve had an argument. A few that get to me are “Whiskey Lullabye” and “Please Remember Me” do me in, but Garth Brooks’s “The Dance” is one that I listen to to torture myself.
  • Speaking of country songs, “Christmas Shoes” by New Union is one of the saddest songs ever. It’s about a little boy who doesn’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes for his mother who is in the hospital dying. Can you think of anything sadder to write a song about?
  • One more: the sax solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” It is so beautiful and epic that it never fails to make a chill run down my spine.

“One must look for one thing only, to find many.” ~ Cesare Pavese

There are other things, of course. Works of art, like seeing Monet’s massive “Water Lilies” for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Images of animals that are hurt or sad kill me; I thought that if I saw that commercial for the SPCA with Sarah McLachlan one more time during the Christmas season, I was going to jump off a building. I mean some things are just too much. And then there are the words: passages, poetry, drama, memoirs—far too many to begin listing.

Homeless Man with His Best Friend

I was once in an Italian restaurant, and one of the servers sang “Nessum Dorma.” I cried into my Napoleon pastry. I used to drive through the cemetery with David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” cranked all the way up on the tinny car stereo, weeping at the splendor and the sadness.

I suppose that for me, it’s the beauty behind it all, the beauty behind the music, the beauty behind the visual, the beauty behind the combination of colors and swirls, or sounds and echoes. Or perhaps, it’s knowing that for many of those who create the stunning and the sublime, a little piece of the person creating goes into the finished product. I think of Beethoven and Van Gogh, of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, how they all suffered for their art, how they poured that pain into everything that they created so that the world could have a measure of that beauty, how that breath-taking beauty was birthed from suffering and sorrow.

I don’t know. I say that I don’t cry that much any more, which is true, yet I still can be reduced to weeping when faced with the ineffable, especially in nature, whether it is a breathtaking sunset, or the color of leaves in the fall, or a night sky. Serendipitous instances of kindness and caring, love and tenderness where it seems there should be nothing but sorrow.  I am a walking contradiction, and life is both my passion and my poison.

More later. Peace.

Music by, who else, Apocalyptica, “Nothing Else Matters.” Turn it up.

                   

The Hollow Men V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men V

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” ~ Langston Hughes

Anemone in Seventeen Parts by Oslo in the Summertime (FCC)

                   

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford 

Friday afternoon. Way too warm for winter, 80’s.

That’s right, 80’s. Ugh. What’s so bad about this is that I’m certain that next week it will probably be in the 40’s. How is a person with sinus problems supposed to thrive in such an environment? It’s hot. No wait, it’s cold. No, it’s hot. The natural immunity that I have gets so confused that it runs and hides.

Kaleidoscope by ark (FCC)

As it is, I’m out of my Singulair, so my lungs are beginning to crackle again, and because of the hiccup in Corey’s job, I cannot get refills until this coming Thursday. By then, with the temperature changes, this gunk that had taken up temporary residence in my lungs may have come back for an extended visit.

Last night, the progress I had made in getting to sleep earlier vanished as I was unable to fall asleep until 5 a.m., and then I had very bad dreams about dead babies. So not cool.

Corey is working all weekend, which is actually good as it keeps his mind busy so that he doesn’t dwell on the still-unannounced departure date. His truck is finally working; of course, it needs gas, which isn’t going to happen, so while he’s excited that his truck has been fixed, he’s depressed that he cannot drive it anywhere. Of course, there are still a few other things that need to be done, not the least of which is to put new tires on it, but we’re planning to wait until he gets back from his hitch before that expenditure.

Meanwhile, life carries on, as it were.

“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.” ~ Publius Syrus

So I’ve been thinking about things that break—real and imagined, literal and figurative. Not really sure why. What follows is stream of consciousness and random association, so be forewarned:

  • Crystal (too much)
  • Hearts (too many)
  • Promises (promises to keep . . .)
  • Words (is this the same thing as promises?)
  • Glass (looking glass? walking on broken glass?)
  • Eggs (secrets and treasurer inside a fragile box)
  • Families (far too many of these)
  • Concentration (too easily done)
The Twist by sebilden (FCC)
  • Fevers (hallucinations or reality)
  • Negotiations (power struggles)
  • Wings (fear of flying)
  • Codes (more secrets?)
  • Locks (the way in or keeping something out?)
  • Bones (corporeal fragility)
  • Habits (bad? broken enough?)
  • Contracts (see words and promises above)
  • Records (as in over and over, or in something to surmount?)
  • Speed of sound (can we travel this far this fast?)
  • Barriers (all of my life)
  • Rules (meant to be broken)
  • Spirits (see wings and hearts)
  • Glass ceilings (barriers for women)
  • Systems (this country)
  • Waves (crash down)
  • Deadlines (as in promises?)
  • Bodies (feel this too acutely)
  • Ties (promises? hearts? families? All of these?)
  • Covenants (more than a promise)

“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell

So what does all of this mean? In no particular order . . .

I spent a great deal of time in my 20’s trying to break the glass ceiling. I felt that it was my duty, to myself, to the women who looked up to me and those I mentored, and to women in general to take on the very systems that promoted inequity. I had indoctrinated myself in the whole system of feminism, the idea that there should be no inequality between the sexes, that people were people, regardless of sex, creed, color.

Kaleidoscope VI by fdecomite (FCC)

I have learned in recent years that feminism has taken on a new meaning, that the rules by which I lived may no longer apply. All of the unspoken promises that those of us on the frontline made to the cause, those ideologies have been overshadowed by something that is no better than the patriarchy that we fought so hard to replace. Feminism should not be about women being better; it should not be about lesbians being better. The whole point of the covenant that we made was that no one should be considered better or treated better or made to feel inferior.

I am sadly disheartened on several fronts: the young women who see feminism as a dirty word, associating it with women who don’t like men (not sexual preference, just in general), defining it as women who hate marriage, family, children. That’s not what it’s about, or at least what it used to be about. I also hate that so many of the young women who are enrolled in women’s studies curricula have made it an uncomfortable place for men. When I was seeking my women’s studies certificate as an undergraduate, the classes were filled with men and women, all who sought equity, more parity between the sexes, all of whom were dedicated to an idea that women could be whatever they wanted and that men could actively support this. It was a curricula that welcomed everyone, and it still should, but I fear that that is no longer the case.

So many barriers that used to hold women back—in government, in society, in all aspects—these barriers have been broken. They should not be replaced with new barriers, reverse sexism, if you will.

People. We are people, and as such, we can embrace our difference and similarities without building more walls.

“It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.” ~ Chief Joseph

Someone once said that a broken promise is better than no promise. I heartily disagree. A promise reflects the individual. One who is willing to make a promise is giving his or her word. To toss that aside thoughtlessly is to be careless with the essence of what makes us who we are.

Starspheres by Song_Sing (FCC)

When we marry someone, we make all kinds of promises, sometimes in front of large groups of people and sometimes in front of no one more than an official. In so doing, we bind ourselves, create a tie. When Corey and I wrote our vows, we promised to do things for each other, with each other. Time and circumstance should not change those promises. I don’t believe that either of us said those words lightly. Nevertheless, I would not be telling the truth if I did not admit that we have each broken pieces of the other’s heart, have each chipped away at that unspoken code to do no harm to those we love best. We are only human, after all.

Admittedly, I made promises to my ex, or we made promises to one another. In the end, our words ended up on the scrap heap of broken promises; our marriage on the pile of rocks where broken marriages go to die. Years later, I no longer feel the seething anger or intense heartbreak that I once felt, and time and distance have allowed me to see how much we were both at fault, how we broke each other’s spirits, and broke our covenant, which resulted in a broken and fractured family that has slowly rebuilt itself..

We move through time, salve our wounds, fix some things, but are unable to repair completely others. Too often we walk about in a fog, as if in a fevered ague, and only awaken when necessity forces us to confront what is before us.

“The tender heart, the broken and contrite spirit, are to me far above all the joys that I could ever hope for in this vale of tears.” ~ Charles Simeon

Years ago, when I was still teaching at ODU, I was standing on the kitchen counter, reaching for something, and I dropped a glass on the floor, which immediately broke into pieces. I looked down, saw the glass. This fact registered in my brain, but I still stepped down onto the floor in my bare feet and immediately cut a deep gash on the sole of my foot that required stitches.

Daisy Kaleidoscope by srqpix (FCC)

Why do I mention this? Because even with knowledge, foresight, we still take steps that are foolhardy; we still knowingly step into a pile of sharp edges, and then we are surprised when we are wounded. We enter into frays knowing that we might exit with wounds, yet still we do it, perhaps because we think that if we make it through to the other side, we have outpaced our own limitations, we have approached the speed of sound, come close to shattering yet another barrier. Or perhaps it is something much more simple: We are not careful enough, not mindful enough. We do not treat our hearts and our souls like the fragile eggs that they are, always believing that we can go just one step further, take one more chance.

We have no fear of flying, convincing ourselves that it cannot possibly happen to us, that is until it does, until our wings are broken, or at the very least, clipped. And what then? Does the reflection looking back at us become unrecognizable, distorted as if reflected from broken glass?

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Ultimately, this is a world of broken people, fragmented lives, and no matter what system we depend upon for support, we are all still imperfect beings. How we seek to attain perfection varies as widely as there are people on this planet. How we attempt to reach that state of grace is limitless.

And as I sit here now, contemplating the mutability of life, I am brought back to the corporeal as a stabbing pain shoots down my spine. And I know that even though my body is broken in so many ways, that I often do not recognize the person in the mirror as I glance quickly and then turn away, I also know with just as much conviction that the places in me that are broken have been stitched together with things that I have borrowed and stolen from everyone I have ever encountered:

Mushroom Flower by sebilden (FCC)

A bone of contention here, a sliver of spine there. I have amassed fragments and pieces, facets and slivers.

Sitting atop my jewelry box is a rather small Waterford crystal salt cellar, an individual dish for salt. My m-in-law gave it to me years ago, and it was my first piece of Waterford. She had received it as a present from an elderly woman to whom she delivered Mobile Meals. This vessel contains three small pins that I no longer wear as I have few occasions to wear suits. This tiny crystal container is perhaps one of my most treasured belongings, so I handle it with great care, probably more care than I take with my life as a whole.

Why do I mention it here? Because it is one of those things that I have amassed that is as much a piece of me as anything else. It does not serve the purpose for which it is intended, but if I were to  employ it for salt, it could hold my tears. Or I could stand at the edge of the shore as the waves break onto the sand and collect sea spray that would dry as salt, and fill it wave by wave.

For now, I allow it to contain memories, and I protect it and everything that it symbolizes, which, in the end, is all that we can do really—protect that which can be broken or mend that which has already fractured.

More later. Peace.

Music by Livingston, “Broken”

                   

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages of a great book
waiting to be read

It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
opened at last
fallen in love
with Solid Ground

~ David Whyte

“I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.” ~ Susanna Kaysen, from Girl, Interrupted

Sunrise on Hambledon Hill, Child Okeford, UK, by MarilynJane (FCC)

                   

“Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic . . . Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.” ~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and cooler, high 40’s.

Ann called early this morning to tell me that her father, my kids’ grandfather, had died. She’s lost both parents within five months.

Frosty Sunrise, Morebath, UK, by me'nthedogs (FCC)

I was never as close to my ex-father-in-law as I was to my m-in-law, mostly because he wasn’t an easy person to be close to. He was a very quiet man who spent most of his time watching sports and old war movies, or sitting in his study looking through his stamp and coin collections. He was a Navy seal before they were called Seals (UDT), and our friends used to joke that he would probably die one day sitting on the couch, drinking a soda and watching a game.

After he retired from the Navy, he became a middle school shop teacher, and it was at the middle school that he met the woman he would leave my m-in-law for after almost four decades of marriage.

Once he left my m-in-law for the evil step-m-in-law, I saw little of him. My ex used to take the boys over to his house to fish when they were younger, but as the years passed, my kids mostly saw their grandfather at Christmas and possibly once during the summer. That is until his health started to decline. Then there were the visits to the hospital.

The man smoked way too much, and his body finally caught up with the smoking—emphysema, COPD, and finally, cancer.

I think that I will miss the idea of him more than the actuality of him, if that makes sense. It’s hard to quantify my feelings as I felt for a long time that he completely abandoned his family. He left before the boys were old enough to know him, but Alexis was the grandchild who was closest to him for the longest time. She loved her Grandpa, and she is feeling the loss keenly.

“I am haunting your dreams,
conducting these fevers
from a distance,
a distance that leaves me weeping,
and storming,
and bereft.” ~ Katie Donovan, “Yearn On”

It’s very strange, this losing people in your life. I acknowledge that this is the natural order, that people inevitably get older and die; this does not make the process easier to bear.

Through the Trees, Dorset, UK, by MarilynJane (FCC)

I find that as I type these words I am more numb than anything. There have been no tears, and I’m not at all certain that I will go to the services as I am unsure of my welcome there. There was never any question with my m-in-law, but this is different. The evil step-m-in-law made it quite clear after my ex and I separated that she was cutting me out of that side of the family.

Perhaps I’ll go and sit in the back. I just don’t know. I suppose that I will take my cues from Ann and the ex. In this, I am only a bit player.

I keep getting flashes of memories, just glimpses, really. Nothing concrete: him sitting on the end of the couch, an RC Cola in front of him. His biggest physical exertion came through golf. Although, I know that he did take up growing roses in later years, which is odd as he never spent any time at all in the yard or the gardens of my m-in-law’s house when they were still together. She did all of the yard work, kept the house, did all of the cooking. The house was her domain, the garage his.

He sat. A lot.

I remember that she told me that he never took care of the kids when they were babies, no bottles, no diapers. I suppose it’s one of those generational things. Instead, he usually showed his feelings through the things that he made. He was a master woodworker, and he built all kinds of things through the years, everything from small Christmas ornaments to blanket chests and coffee tables. He built a set of Adirondack chairs for the evil step-m-in-law that I coveted.

“before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.” ~ H.D., from “Eurydice

Years ago he had promised to build built-in bookcases in the living room for me. It never happened.

Strange the thing one remembers in the midst of trying to remember more significant things. When I was writing about my m-in-law, the memories and thoughts came like a flood, one upon another, unabated. Now, it’s more like staccato, intermittent, jerky.

Morning Mist on Hayward's Bridge, Dorset, UK, by MarilynJane (FCC)

On reflection, it must sound terrible, like I have no feelings whatsoever about the man, his life, or his death, which is not true. Perhaps it’s more that I loved him as he required love: with more reserve, less open emotion.

I wonder how much guilt he bore in later years, how much he thought about his long marriage, his relationship with my my-in-law, if he realized how much he hurt her, how much disappointment his actions bred. I wonder if it ever even occurred to him. I do not know, yet I do not believe that he was a man prone to serious introspection. I could, of course, be completely wrong about all of this.

“‘Who are you really, wanderer?’
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
‘Maybe I’m a king.’” ~ William Stafford, from “A Story That Could Be True

This post isn’t at all what I had in mind when I sat down here, although what I had planned I really couldn’t say for certain.

Misty Sunrise Over Robin Hood's Bay, UK by PaulArthurPhotography (FCC)

The pageant of people who travel through our lives is part of what defines us. Some of those people we choose, and others are chosen by fate. Some of them become part of our lives for just a moment, and their departures barely register in significance. Those in whom we place the most significance, those we open our entire hearts to—they are the ones who leave deep indentations in the tapestries of our lives.

The longer they stay with us, the more that they contribute and require, the richer the pattern of the relationship.

My personal tapestry is many-colored, and the fabric is both rough and smooth. At its center are the richest colors and the tightest weaves. Everything radiates from the center. In my mind’s eye, it is crimson and purple and gold; it is as smooth as velvet and as rough as burlap. The stitching is as fine as it is irregular. There are rips and tears that have been mended again and again.

But it holds.

At the center are Caitlin and my father. The births of my children. My marriage to Corey. There you will find the embellishments of first loves and the tears from first heartbreak. Everything radiates from this place of love and loss, truth and lies, poetry and prose.

Somewhere in the bottom right corner is where you will find my father-in-law. Here the fabric is a heavy twill, sufficiently strong to last, without glamor or added decoration. This is not a place of dishonor or disregard, but it is not the center. He is there, firmly enmeshed in that part of my life that is the permanent periphery.

As the song says, “We’re older now and still running against the wind.”

Peace be with you and yours.

(I had a heckuva time figuring out what kind of pictures I wanted to include with this post. I finally found some lovely pictures of mists at sunrise from different places in the UK.)

Music by Bob Seger, an oldie that I heard on the car radio this morning that felt strangely appropriate: “Against the Wind”

                   

January Drought

It needn’t be tinder, this juncture of the year,
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.
The woods’ parchment is given
to cracking asunder the first puff of wind.
Yesterday a big sycamore came across First
and Hawthorne and is there yet.
The papers say it has to happen,
if just as dribs and drabs on the asbestos siding.
But tonight is buckets of stars as hard and dry as dimes.
A month’s supper things stacks in the sink.
Tea brews from water stoppered in the bath
and any thirst carried forward is quenched thinking you,
piece by piece, an Xmas gift hidden
and found weeks after: the ribbon, the box.
I have reservoirs of want enough
to freeze many nights over.

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, December 25, 1856

"Fresh Snow, Yosemite Valley, California," by Ansel Adams (c. 1947)

                   

“I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don’t have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along.” ~ William Stafford

Wednesday, late afternoon. Rainy, mid 50’s.

"Cedar Tree, Winter, Yosemite Valley," by Ansel Adams (c. 1935)

Listening to Vienna Teng in the background. She’s a recent discovery. Voice like silk, beautiful lyrics. The perfect backdrop. I’ve been adding her songs here and there to my other playlists, but I decided to save the entire playlist; she’s that good. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

So, three days later, four days of antibiotics . . . how do I feel? Badly wrung and hung out to dry in the rain. The only way to describe my chest is wet. Coughing is still quite painful. Luckily, I’m not coughing as much, but when I do, my whole body feels wracked. Monday, I had a little burst of energy, felt better than I had in days, so what did I do? Act sensibly? Of course not. I did laundry, the dishes, and wiped down the bathroom. Consequently, I felt worse.

I always do that when I’ve been really sick—the first little glimmer of recovery, and I go overboard, attempting to cram in as much as possible during the energy spurt. You would think that after all of these years that I would know better. Of course, the operative word here is think . . .

Unfortunately, Corey seems to have a chest cold now. He insists that it is not bronchitis, but it sure sounds like it. Of course, his ability to rebound from such things is much better than mine. Here’s hoping that the cold/not bronchitis has resolved itself before he has to go to the colds of Europe.

“Even as a child, she had preferred night to day, had enjoyed sitting out in the yard after sunset, under the star-speckled sky listening to frogs and crickets. Darkness soothed. It softened the sharp edges of the world, toned down the too-harsh colors. With the coming of twilight, the sky seemed to recede; the universe expanded. The night was bigger than the day, and in its realm, life seemed to have more possibilities.” ~ Dean Koontz, Midnight

I have spent some of my down time reading. Corey bought me the Stieg Larsson Milennium Trilogy as an early birthday present. I’ve been wanting to read this series for quite a while. I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Monday evening and handed it over to Eamonn, who also wants to read the series because he saw the movie.

"Locust Strees in Snow, Yosemite Valley," by Ansel Adams (1929)

It’s intense reading, lots of characters, densely written, but most excellent. I read that Larsson, a Swedish journalist, signed a contract for three books, a rare opportunity for an unpublished writer. Unfortunately, Larsson died right before the first book in the series was published. He had written books one and two before trying to find a publisher, and had apparently had conceived of ten books.

I know that I’m coming to the series late, but I’m so glad that I’m finally reading the books contain one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across in a long time in crime/mystery novels, Lisbeth Salander. The other really great thing for me was that I did not figure out the plot halfway through, which, unfortunately, is usually the case.

Now that I’ve read book one, I can see the movie, which is the good side. The bad side is that there are only three books to read. How cool it would have been to read ten of these.

“The misery and greatness of this world: it offers no truths, but only objects for love. Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it.” ~  Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942

So in just the past few days I’ve found a new singer/songwriter and a new author. At least the days haven’t been a total wash.

Yesterday I sat down and collected quotes for a post, but that was as far as I got. I just didn’t have it in me to think, actually think about anything more than staring at the screen. Tumblr is good for situations such as that, when the main function is looking and not necessarily discerning. So I ran through a couple of days of my dashboard and then went back to bed.

"Winter--Yosemite Valley, California," by Ansel Adams (1951)

ODU spring semester began on Monday and Brett and Em went back to class. Eamonn is not going to college this semester. He has submitted an application to the shipyard’s apprenticeship program, the same program that Corey applied to a couple of years ago. Corey didn’t qualify because his high school curriculum did not include advanced math classes. Luckily, Eamonn did take Algebra and Geometry in high school, as well as technology and computer science. Applicants must have four out of six or seven required classes.

Here’s hoping it works out for him.

Brett is still fine-tuning his schedule, which is unfortunate. It just turned into one of those last-minute things because he is still undecided as to what he wants to do. His first love is astronomy, which means that he will need to get his bachelor’s in physics and then do his graduate work at another university that offers astronomy.

He was seriously considering going into nursing with a goal towards becoming a nurse practitioner. Things are so unsettled in so many ways right now that I know that he is anxious and stressed, and this is not the best way in which to begin a new semester. I’ll just be glad when tomorrow is over, and we can all settle down. I can’t write about tomorrow’s anticipated drama, but will write when it’s all over.

“I saw but was not seen. I walked unshadowed; I came unheralded.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

I had asked Corey to take a picture of me in front of the Christmas tree before we took it down. You must understand, I do not often seek for anyone to take my picture, so this was an unusual request. The entire thing became kind of farcical: I would pose while trying to look as if I weren’t posing. Corey would push the button, and nothing would happen. I would turn my head, and then the camera would click. Or, right as the shutter closed, one of the dogs would nose their way into the frame.

"Oak Tree, Snow Storm, Yosemite," by Ansel Adams from Portfolio One: Twelve Photographic Prints (1948)

Consequently, there really weren’t any good shots. Corey liked a few. I hated all of them. I have a very weird hang-up about my body (other than all of the other ones that I’ve mentioned): I hate my neck. I always envied those women with swan necks—long and elegant, but I could accept that I did not have the neck of a ballet dancer, that is until my neck became flabby.

When I lose weight, I lose it in my face and belly. But how does one go about losing weight in the neck? I mean really . . . think about it. So I have these extra chins, or whatever, and along with everything else, I am terribly self-conscious about it, which means that in each photo that Corey took, I could only see this part and nothing else.

Gawd I hate my self-image, and I hate that I have such a bad one, and I hate that I bought into the commercial hype of beauty, and I hate that I cannot rise above that which I know is crippling me.

“I think I still have rain somewhere in my heart.” ~ Kelwyn Sole, from “Near Brandvlei

Anyway, I still haven’t had the strength to take down Christmas, and it doesn’t appear that anyone else is going to take the initiative since Christmas around here is a mom thing . . . Funny how that works. Brett did take down the outside lights, so at least we’re not the only family in the neighborhood to have decorations still up on our house.

"Pine Forest in Snow," by Ansel Adams (1932)

Since I first began this post, the sky has darkened, and the temperature has increased by two degrees. Go figure.

The atmosphere in the house at the moment is tense and prickly. It’s as if we’re all sitting on an unexploded bomb. Truly, I resent this intrusion into our lives. I have no doubts that the stress of this outside situation has contributed adversely to my health. I just want it all to be over so that I can go back to the normal insanity of our lives without others’ insanity stalking the periphery of what we call normalcy.

I wish at this moment that I could just enjoy the sound of the rain outside my window. Perhaps the soup that Corey is making for dinner will sweeten my disposition. It’s an old family Filipino recipe for chicken and rice soup, Arriz Caldo. It’s Corey’s first time making it, but it’s fairly simple. The key is using fresh ginger, and everyone knows that ginger is always good for what ails you.

More later (I hope). Peace.

Music by Vienna Teng, “Transcontinental, 1:30 AM”

                   

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

~ W. S. Merwin

“Why is it the words we write for ourselves are always better than the words we write for others?” ~ Mike Rich from Finding Forrester

U. S. Postal Service Parcel Post Truck, ca 1950*

                   

“Nostalgia, more than anything, gives us the shudder of our own imperfection. This is why with Chopin we feel so little like gods.” ~ E. M. Cioran, from The Book of Delusions

Wednesday evening. Much too warm (mid 70s) and intermittent showers.

It’s unseasonably warm, so of course, I’m thinking of snow.

Mail Trucks on Parade, 1956

Another sleepless night. Watched the clock hit 7:30 a.m. Not sure what’s going on with this most recent bout of insomnia unless I’m just getting myself too amped for the holiday stress. Stressing over impending stress?

Yesterday I had out of control back spasms. Corey worked on the knots a bit, but I really need some trigger shots. My appointment is in two weeks, which means two more weeks of knots in my back and now, also in my right hand. I don’t know if I have a pinched nerve in my hand, or if such a thing is even possible. I suppose if it’s possible, then I have it.

Brett finishes his scientific writing class with his power point presentation on Thursday, and then he has a presentation in public speaking on Friday. Oral presentations used to really worry him, but he’s gotten much better. Unfortunately, he’s still unsure as to what he wants to declare as his major. That’s problematic as he’s entering his second semester of his sophomore year.

Corey is at work, although his shift today was cut by two hours because of ship departures. His shift yesterday at the boatyard was completely cancelled, but he did manage to pick up a two and a half hour shift at the bank. Some bank in Virginia Beach hires security to walk their employees to their cars once Daylight Savings time kicks in, which is actually a good practice. The downside is that the shifts are very short.

“I was always one for being alone,
Seeking in my own way, eternal purpose;
At the edge of the field waiting for the pure moment;
Standing, silent, on sandy beaches or walking along green embankments;”~ Theodore Roethke, from Section 1 of “Fourth Meditation”

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and much cooler, 50° 

Rural Letter Carrier in Sleigh, 1918

So I just couldn’t finish yesterday. Too lethargic. Of course, now that it’s 24 degrees cooler than yesterday, my cough is acting up. I’ve almost emptied a new inhaler with this bout of bronchitis. Simply cannot win.

House to myself. The dogs are off napping somewhere, and it’s pretty quiet. Corey’s shift today was supposed to be extended by two hours to compensate for yesterday, but unfortunately, not so.

Very good news though: he now has his merchant mariner’s documents in hand, updated licenses and credentials. Hooray. With any luck, he’ll be back on a boat of some sort by 2012. You should have seen how happy he was when he opened the mail yesterday, and his package was there. I haven’t seen a smile that wide in quite some time.

Of course, it will be a radical change for our daily way of life. I’m so used to him being here, taking care of the things that I cannot handle, you know, simple things like picking up the groceries. But the biggest change will be that he’s physically away. We’ve gotten quite used to daily living together. I’m not complaining. We did the sea thing before, just not for the past three years. I am happy for him, though. I know that he’s looking forward to the change. I’m just hoping that he can still fit in at least one online class next semester. I guess we’ll just have to see how things go on that end.

“he told again our great race through the stars
and how the world can’t keep up with our dreams.”~ William Stafford, “Living on the Plains [1990]”

So I’m sitting here as the sky darkens, cup of hot tea on the desk, and Christmas socks on my feet. I wish that I had something interesting to say, but I really don’t. My mind is kind of fuzzy today, probably from the weird sleep patterns of late. It bugs me, though, when I do have the time and access to write, and then when I sit before the keyboard, nothing seems to come forth.

Puttling a Letter into a Doremus Mailbox, ca 1880

Wish that I could ring a bell or respond to a herald: Go forth ye and write . . . No such luck. I’m really hoping that this doesn’t turn into a three-day post. It just seems so lame, somehow.

Last night I had a very strange dream in which I was cleaning out the refrigerator and cabikitchen cabinets in my my-in-law’s house. The kitchen had begun to smell because food from the funeral was still in the fridge. Of course, this never happened. So odd.

I also dreamed that I was walking down a major highway, and in a field off to the right were three young men with a pack of dogs. Tillie was with me, and she ran towards the dogs. The young men told me to be careful because their dogs had ticks. Also strange.

Then in another part I was counseling two men who had just been released from prison. Where does this stuff come from?

“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.” ~ Robert Haas from “Faint Music”

Well bugger. I just lost the entire last section of what I had typed. Hate it when WordPress does that.

Friday afternoon. Cloudy and 61º.

Yep. It’s turned into a three-day post. I had thought that I’d be feeling much better by now, but between the coughing, wheezing, and hacking, it’s just not happening. Nice image, I know. I have an idea that I probably waited too long to go to the doctor, so the ordinarily miraculous z-pack is not working as well.

Mail Van in the Snow, ca 1953

When I saw the doctor, he gave me a script for Prednizone, which I did not have filled. I hate taking Prednizone as it blows me up like a turgid balloon, but I think that I’m going to have to just suck it up and take it.

So between the time I first began this post and today, Corey has spoken with the representative from the shipping company that was interested in hiring him right after he had started classes. He seemed to remember Corey and told him that he would move his file to the top of the pile for the next crew change, which is scheduled for early January.

We’re both kind of in shock that things seem to be going smoothly. I supposed living in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop makes one terribly gun shy. Daring to hope? Hoping beyond hope? And then when something actually does change, daring to believe that this is so?

It’s hard because we’ve become so accustomed to things not going our way, so inured to the seemingly endless doses of bad luck, so when the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel begins to come into focus, we do a double take.

It’s more of the do I dare? mentality. Do I dare to eat this peach in my hand? What if it’s the very last peach I ever have? Should I savor it or save it?

“It is hard
in the radiance of this world to live
but we live.” ~ Campbell McGrath, from “Storm Valediction”

Last night (after finally falling sleep sometimes after 4), I dreamed that I had been invited to this feast. The hosts were a rich family in New York, and the dinner was at a big, fancy restaurant. What’s significant about this dream is that I could not get anyone to serve me. People all around me were being served food, delicious food, but not a single server would pay attention to me. I wanted to order wine, but no one would take my order. I wanted a steak and asparagus spears, but no one would ask me what I wanted.

Letter Carrier in Snow, 1920

All around me, people were dining on lavish dishes: caviar, mango strips, lobster, crepes, exotic fruits, shrimp. I got a taste here and there, but no plate of food. Corey had food. Somehow, he had a plate, and he was able to take things from here and there, but I had nothing. The sommelier finally came to the table, and seemed surprised that I ordered a bottle of wine without a screw cap, but he never reappeared with my wine.

So does this dream mean that good things are within reach but not quite attainable? Or does this dream mean that everyone gets some except me? Or does this dream simply mean that I went to bed hungry?

Who knows. But now I’m craving steak, button mushrooms, and asparagus. I suppose I’ll munch on a few Wheat Thins . . .

*All images taken from the Flickr Smithsonian Institution’s Photostream, Collection on Postal History

Music by the Perishers, “Sway”

                   

Shopping for Pomegranates at Wal-Mart on New Year’s Day

Beneath a ten-foot-tall apparition of Frosty the Snowman
with his corncob pipe and jovial, over-eager, button-black eyes,
holding, in my palm, the leathery, wine-colored purse
of a pomegranate, I realize, yet again, that America is a country
about which I understand everything and nothing at all,
that this is life, this ungovernable air
in which the trees rearrange their branches, season after season,
never certain which configuration will bear the optimal yield
of sunlight and water, the enabling balm of nutrients,
that so, too, do Wal-Mart’s ferocious sales managers
relentlessly analyze their end-cap placement, product mix,
and shopper demographics, that this is the culture
in all its earnestness and absurdity, that it never rests,
that each day is an eternity and every night is New Year’s Eve,
a cavalcade of B-list has-beens entirely unknown to me,
needy comedians and country singers in handsome Stetsons,
sitcom stars of every social trope and ethnic denomination,
pugilists and oligarchs, femmes fatales and anointed virgins
throat-slit in offering to the cannibal throng of Times Square.
Who are these people? I grow old. I lie unsleeping
as confetti falls, ash-girdled, robed in sweat and melancholy,
click-shifting from QVC to reality TV, strings of commercials
for breath freshener, debt reconsolidation, a new car
lacking any whisper of style or grace, like a final fetid gasp
from the lips of a dying Henry Ford, potato-faced actors
impersonating real people with real opinions
offered forth with idiot grins in the yellow, herniated studio light,
actual human beings, actual souls bought too cheaply.
That it never ends, O Lord, that it never ends!
That it is relentless, remorseless, and it is on right now.
That one sees it and sees it but sometimes it sees you, too,
cowering in a corner, transfixed by the crawler for the storm alert,
home videos of faces left dazed by the twister, the car bomb,
the war always beginning or already begun, always
the special report, the inside scoop, the hidden camera
revealing the mechanical lives of the sad, inarticulate people
we have come to know as “celebrities.”
Who assigns such value, who chose these craven avatars
if not the miraculous hand of the marketplace,
whose torn cuticles and gaudily painted fingernails resemble nothing
so much as our own? Where does the oracle reveal our truths
more vividly than upon that pixillated spirit glass
unless it is here, in this tabernacle of homely merchandise,
a Copernican model of a money-driven universe
revolving around its golden omphalos, each of us summed
and subtotalled, integers in an equation of need and consumption,
desire and consummation, because Hollywood had it right all along,
the years are a montage of calendar pages and autumn leaves,
sheet music for a nostalgic symphony of which our lives comprise
but single trumpet blasts, single notes in the hullabaloo,
or even less—we are but motes of dust in that atmosphere
shaken by the vibrations of time’s imperious crescendo.
That it never ends, O Lord. That it goes on,
without pause or cessation, without pity or remorse.
That we have willed it into existence, dreamed it into being.
That it is our divine monster, our factotum, our scourge.
That I can imagine nothing more beautiful
than to propitiate such a god upon the seeds of my own heart.

~ (January 11, 2010 New Yorker)