“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Iceland colon The Blue Lagoon by Captain Oates
Iceland: The Blue Lagoon
by Captain Oates (FCC)

                   

“It occurs to me, then, that people themselves are full of tunnels: winding, dark spaces and caverns; impossible to know all the places inside of them. Impossible even to imagine.” ~ Lauren Oliver, from Pandemonium

Thursday evening. Very cold, windy, snow flurries.

People are insane around here. They see flurries, real flurries albeit almost microscopic, and they freak. Everyone rushes to the grocery stores and gas stations as if they are going to be unable to leave their houses for days. It’s laughable and annoying at the same time.

Seyðisfjörður - Iceland by Gilles Chiroleu FCC
Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
bu Gilles Chiroleu (FCC)

Anyway, about the whole doctoral program application, here’s the deal: Yesterday I finally found a more explicit page on the website that gave January 5 as the deadline unlike the other two pages that said January. Obviously, I have missed the deadline, which at first gave me great angst but also filled me with a sense of relief.

Corey reminded me that I can use the coming year to better prepare for a return to school, take the tests I need to take, etc. But, and this is a big but, I will be one year older, and the truth is that there is ageism in doctoral programs. Last year the program had 97 applicants and accepted 8. I would be up against people fresh out of master’s programs, people more likely to be able to get jobs.

I’m not really sure how I feel about all of this, but I have ordered some GRE prep materials off EBay nonetheless. I also need to unearth my Norton Anthologies and do some cramming from them. I hope they haven’t fallen prey to the elements or the critters.

“Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Some Questions You Might Ask”

We postponed our sushi date for my birthday until this weekend. I really didn’t feel like putting on real clothes and leaving the house yesterday, that and I was quite full from the Eggs Benedict that Corey made me for brunch. So delicious. So we’re going for sushi and then taking the boys to see Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.

Islandsk landskap by nordon dot org cc
Islandsk landskap
by nordon.org (CC)

A special thank you to Leah in NC whose package of birthday chocolates arrived today, feeding my addiction, so bad but so good. Thanks for remembering my birthday even though I would rather forget it.

Oh yes, back to the year older thing and the application: Doctoral programs are very competitive, which makes me ask myself the question, the pertinent question—is this the program that I want, or is it the program to which I am applying because of the tuition assistance. For people like use tuition assistance is a very big deal, but I had really wanted to do my doctoral research on Polish poets, specifically Wislawa Szymborska. I’m not sure if GW’s program would encompass that.

The whole thing is so very confusing. The only thing that I know for certain is that I want to work on my doctorate; I have wanted this since I was in my 20’s and the desire has never gone away, which is saying something. I want this so much that I am willing to prepare for the GREs, and I really loathe standardized tests as I never do well on them.

Perhaps I can still be a gopher for Peter Jackson and fetch his tea . . .

“The thing is to understand myself: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. That is what I now recognize as the most important thing.” ~ Søren Kierkegaard

I don’t know if you know this, but I really try not to repeat my quotes, music, or images, which means that sometimes I have to search on key words in my posts past. I did that today to double-check on one of the quotes, and a post from two years ago popped up in which I was talking about seeing Alexis’s friend Jennifer in the hospital. I mention this only because I was so certain in that post that Jennifer would not have long to live. Thankfully, I and so many others were wrong. She is still happily around today, raising her son. It’s nice to be wrong about something like that.

Svartifoss Cascade, Iceland by Victor Montol CC
Svartifoss Cascade, Iceland
by Victor Montol (CC)

I heard from my s-in-law Helma a few days ago. Apparently when I mailed her Christmas Card in which I included a letter, I omitted a digit in the zip code, so she didn’t get the card until a few days ago. I’m just glad that she got it at all. She is having a very hard time with Patrick’s death. I really wish that she wasn’t an ocean away so that we could sit down over coffee and just talk. It hurts to know she’s hurting, but at least she has all of her family nearby.

I find that’s the problem with most of the women with whom I am close emotionally—physical distance, as in too much of it. That’s partially another reason I would like to be back in school, to meet new people, have some outside stimulation beyond these cracked-paint walls.

“Once there was
a ceramicist who cast vessels on the scale
of human beings. Asked why he punctured each
one by striking the soft clay with a two-by-four,
he answered, ‘To let the darkness out.’” ~ Laura-Gray Street, from “Phosphenes and Entopics”

I found a new site for poetry: The Fishouse, which is a site that promotes the oral tradition of poetry by posting recordings of poets reading their work. They showcase emerging poets, which they define as those with fewer than two published books at the time of submitting. According to the About page, “From the Fishouse takes its name, and the spelling of “Fishouse,” from the writing cabin of the late Lawrence Sargent Hall. Hall renovated the former codfish-drying shack and wrote in the space for 50 years.”

See. My idea to have a writing shack is not unique. Space is important. Ambiance is important.

Old Shed in Iceland-XL by Trey Ratcliff Stuck in Customs
Old Shed in Iceland
by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck in Customs

At this moment, I am sitting at my desk, which is tucked away in the corner of our bedroom behind the door. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful to have this space, which in our house, is a premium. But it’s dark and cramped, and I cannot help but feel that I might be more inspired if I could hear the birds outside or at least have natural light pouring in the windows.

Oh, what am I going on about? We’re just lucky to be able to pay for my health insurance (which is finally up to date and reinstated), and I’m whining about not having a room of my own.

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

So let me leave you with this thought: When is the last time you breathed? Not the automatic respirations that your body does on its own, completely separate from your will or thought. Not that kind of breathing. But the kind during which you pause and then inhale deeply and slowly through your nose (or mouth if you’re asthmatic), then exhale just as slowly. The breath measured, counted, and in so doing, given meaning.

Dyrholaey, Iceland by Martino! FCC
Dyrholaey, Iceland
by Martino! (FCC)

Bet it’s been longer than you thought, hasn’t it? I know it was for me.

I came upon something, probably on tumblr, that posed that same question, and it made me pause. I couldn’t remember the last time I made breathing active, the last time I paid attention to my lungs expanding and contracting, to the way the air moved into my nose, to the sound that ensued. And I have to admit, it felt good, really good to breathe, not because the opposite would be terrible, but because the act itself was affirming. And for me, that’s saying quite a lot.

Grace in small things.

More later. Peace.

Music by Trespassers William, “Vapour Trail”

                    

The Soul

It disappeared.
It reappeared
as chimney smoke
that burnt through carcasses
of swallows stilled,
and that it portrayed no will
was why I followed that smoke
with this pair of eyes.
It was that it didn’t need
or require my belief
that I leant upon it
as a tired worker
upon
a gate.

~ Katie Ford

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

The Golden Horse in Iceland by Stuck in Customs*

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

Friday afternoon. Cool, high 40’s.

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleeping In, Iceland, by Stuck in Customs

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

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

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

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

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

The Lonely Grass House, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

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

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

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

I suppose that’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

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

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

                   

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

By Lisel Mueller

“Life lasts but a few scratches of the claw in the sand.” ~ Wislawa Szymborska, poet

Polish Nobel Laureate Wisława Szymborska died on February 1, 2012, in her sleep at home in Kraków, at the age of 88. She was described by the Nobel committee as the “Mozart of  poetry” but with “something of the fury of Beethoven.” Click here to read more about her or to read more of her work, or click the following to read an article about the poet in The Guardian.

                   

 Advertisement

I’m a tranquilizer.
I’m effective at home.
I work in the office.
I can take exams
on the witness stand.
I mend broken cups with care.
All you have to do is take me,
let me melt beneath your tongue,
just gulp me
with a glass of water.

I know how to handle misfortune,
how to take bad news.
I can minimize injustice,
lighten up God’s absence,
or pick the widow’s veil that suits your face.
What are you waiting for—
have faith in my chemical compassion.

You’re still a young man/woman.
It’s not too late to learn how to unwind.
Who said
you have to take it on the chin?

Let me have your abyss.
I’ll cushion it with sleep.
You’ll thank me for giving you
four paws to fall on.

Sell me your soul.
There are no other takers.

There is no other devil anymore.

From POEMS NEW AND COLLECTED by Wisława Szymborska. English translation by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh, copyright ©1998 by Harcourt, Inc.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~ Charles Dickens

                    

“They are trying to make me into a fixed star. I am an irregular planet.” ~ Martin Luther, c. 1530

Early Saturday evening. Sun and clouds. Scattered showers.

National Poetry Month (2002)

I haven’t done a regular post for days. The usual factors at work: health, bills, anxiety . . .

Corey finished his first week at his new job. He really seems to like being back on a boat, doing the things that he likes to do. At least it’s not the constant monotony of maritime security, with long stretches in between of nothing upon nothing.

Monday I go back to my gastro doctor to follow-up on three of the tests that they have done so far. They’ve scheduled another one for later in the month. Lovely. Can I just tell you how much I like discussing the inner workings of my intestines?  I have to admit, though, that always lurking in the back of my mind is my dad’s pancreatic cancer, how all of that started with a bunch of stomach-related problems, how they did test after test.

To put my mind at ease, I’ve decided that I’m going to remind my doctor about what happened with dad (same doctor), just to bring it to the forefront of his memory when we are discussing possibilities. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that I have pancreatic cancer. That’s not it. I just remember all of the tests that he had to endure, driving him back and forth, and watching him suffer and lose more and more weight.

I don’t have that problem, as my mother reminded me the other day when she pulled into the driveway and blew the horn (always such a pleasant way of announcing her arrival). I went out to her car, and she put her window down to talk at me (yes, I mean at); then, she ever-so-pleasantly put her hand out the window and patted my stomach and said, “Why are you so bloated?”

Just thought I’d remind you guys as to why I have such horrible self-image problems.

“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.” ~ Victor Hugo 

National Poetry Month (2009)

But, just to remind me of why it’s better that my mother honk from the driveway . . . she came inside the other day to bring me a bunny rabbit head decoration for Easter (?). She walked in, looked around, and then, looking me dead in the eye, said, “I don’t think that I’ve ever seen your house look so bad.”

Thanks, mum. You’re the best. Actually, I had been thinking that it’s really been looking fairly good lately. We’re keeping it picked up. Vacuum, polish the furniture, mop the floors, clean the glass on a pretty regular basis. I clean the bathroom at least three times a week. But to her, it looks bad. Why?

Because in the corner of the living room we still have the very large wardrobe that Corey and I purchased over five years ago to put into the bedroom once we move things around. Yes, it is a big piece of furniture, but it doesn’t look bad in the corner, and in spite of her protests, she has seen this particular piece of furniture several times. Yet she insists that she has never seen it, wants to know where it came from, when we got it. I bite my tongue to remind myself that discretion is the better part of valor.

The fight simply isn’t worth it, and she probably won’t step foot into my house for another three years. At least, one can hope.

“There is goodness in blue skies and flowers, but another force—a wild pain and decay—also accompanies everything.” ~ David Lynch

National Poetry Month (2006)

April is Poetry Awareness Month, which makes me aware that I am not nearly as up on my contemporary poets as I used to be. The Academy of American Poets first designated April as such in 1996 in an attempt to increase the awareness and appreciation of poetry in the U.S. Of course, we’re talking about the same country that is cutting arts funding like it’s a budget for unnecessary Snickers bar, has stopped funding the Reading is Fundamental program, and wants to get rid of NPR.

Culture? Beh. Who needs it? (I like the 2009 poster with the T. S. Eliot quote the best)

There was a time when I knew who the up and comers were, when new books were going to hit the stands. Now, I mostly rely on the people I follow on tumblr to find new poets.

Sad, really.

I have learned of several Polish poets of whom I had known nothing previously. I like the idea of Polish poets, mostly because the whole (American) concept of world literature used to be such an oxymoron: World literature might include a few famous South Americans, lots of British and French writers and poets, perhaps a Russian or two. Now, the writings of  people from every little corner of the world are available just from a Google search.

I would love to be sitting in a world literature class now, absorbing the words of people I have never read. I mean, even the old style European literature classes were so narrowly defined. Not so, any more. European actually means European, not just three countries in Europe.

But back to the Polish poets. Take this section from “Going On,” by Bronislaw Maj:

Unattainably beautiful 
for those who like me—slovenly, 
chaotic, from day to day—go on 
dying.

Or “The Moment of Reconciliation,” by Anna Kamienska

Take in your hand the gray wafter of day
for the moment of reconciliation has arrived
Let there be reconciled
apple with knife
tree with fire
day with night
laughter with sobbing
nothingness with body
Let there be reconciled
loneliness with loneliness

Of course, these are in translation, so they probably are not as powerful as in the original Polish, but they are still so full of the kind of angst that I appreciate. I love the pairing of slovenly and chaotic, the poem that can include an apple and sobbing and still be moving.

“It must be those brief moments
when nothing has happened—nor is going to.
Tiny moments, like islands in the ocean
beyond the grey continent of our ordinary days.

There, sometimes, you meet your own heart
like someone you’ve never known.” ~ Hans Borli  

National Poetry Month (2007)

Anyway, so that’s the current state of my life. Exciting, huh? Well, there is the appointment with the neurologist this Thursday—finally. The person who called me from the doctor’s office said, “Be sure to call us at least 24 hours in advance if you need to cancel this appointment, or we’ll have to charge you $100.”

I told her that there was nothing that could make me cancel this appointment. A couple of days ago I had a migraine that was on the right side of my face, including my teeth. It was the weirdest sensation. A migraine in your teeth? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Corey is working today; he picked up a 14-hour shift doing security. I asked him why in the world he would want to take a security shift on his first weekend after working on a boat? His reply was that we’ve been without regular decent paychecks for so long that he wants to do everything to get ahead.

That’s great, but I don’t want the poor man to work himself to death. He’s already too thin. But truth be told, I think that he remembered that today is opening day at the park and took the shift so that he wouldn’t have to hear the loudspeaker at 8 o’clock this morning.

There is a reason that I am not armed with any kind of weaponry. Not because I am violent or want to hurt anyone, but this morning I would have felt completely justified in shooting the loudspeaker. I hate opening day. People parking everywhere, litter strewn about as if people were raised in a barn, car alarms blaring, and idiots honking their horns at 8 a.m. At least a police car was stationed in front of our house for a time this morning to keep people from parking in the no-parking zone in front of our house, you know, where the fire hydrant is?

Apparently that bright yellow fire hydrant is easy to overlook when you don’t want to carry the cooler a few extra yards to the stands. I know. I know. I’m a bitch. You would be too if you had to endure this for months every year. I mean, when I try to be nice and tell people that it’s a no-parking zone, they just glare at me as if I’m that old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to stay off his yard. When that happens enough times a person can become jaded. Just saying.

More later. Peace.

Music by Crowded House, “Falling Dove”

                    

Couldn’t decide between two poems, so posting both (found on Poetry of the Poles tumblr):

List

I’ve made a list of questions 
to which I no longer expect answers,
since it’s either too early for them, 
or I won’t have time to understand.

The list of questions is long, 
and takes up matters great and small, 
but I don’t want to bore you, 
and will just divulge a few:

What was real
and what scarcely seemed to be 
in this auditorium, 
stellar and substellar, 
requiring tickets both to get in 
and get out;

What about the whole living world, 
which I won’t succeed
in comparing with a different living world; 

What will the papers
write about tomorrow;

When will wars cease, 
and what will take their place;

Whose third finger now wears 
the ring
stolen from me — lost;

Where’s the place of free will, 
which manages to be and not to be 
simultaneously;

What about those dozens of people —
did we really know each other; 

What was M. trying to tell me 
when she could no longer speak;

Why did I take bad things 
for good ones 
and what would it take 
to keep from doing it again?

There are certain questions
I jotted down just before sleep.

On waking
I couldn’t make them out.

Sometimes I suspect 
that this is a genuine code, 
but that question, too, 
will abandon me one day.

~ Wislawa Szymborska (Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

                    

The City Where I Want to Live

The city is quiet at dusk, 
when pale stars waken from their swoon, 
and resounds at noon with the voices 
of ambitious philosophers and merchants 
bearing velvet from the East. 
The flames of conversation burn there, 
but not pyres. 
Old churches, the mossy stones 
of ancient prayer, are both its ballast 
and its rocket ship. 
It is a just city 
where foreigners aren’t punished, 
a city quick to remember 
and slow to forget, 
tolerating poets, forgiving prophets 
for their hopeless lack of humor. 
The city was based 
on Chopin’s preludes, 
taking from them only joy and sorrow. 
Small hills circle it 
in a wide collar; ash trees 
grow there, and the slim poplar, 
chief justice in the state of trees. 
The swift river flowing through the city’s heart 
murmurs cryptic greetings 
day and night 
from the springs, the mountains, and the sky. 

~ Adam Zagajewski (Translated by Clare Cavanagh)