“The truth is, I pretend to be a cynic, but I am really a dreamer who is terrified of wanting something she may never get.” ~ Joanna Hoffman

The wild horses of David Thompson Country, Alberta, by kevinmklerks (FCC)
“I know I have conquered nothing
I have simply outgrown everything” ~ James Broughton, from “Aglow in Nowhere”

Wednesday afternoon. Party cloudy and cold with melting snow, 27 degrees.

So the house is quiet, just me, the dogs, and the (now) two cats. We acquired a new black girl cat with topaz eyes a few weeks ago. She took a few days to actually come to the door, another couple to come inside, and another few to let me touch her. Now, though, she has made herself quite at home, spending most afternoons curled up on an old flannel duvet cover in front of one of the heaters. Her name is Cleo because of the very exotic looking eyes.

Irish Horses by martie1swart (FCC)

Most certainly, she was someone’s pet as her coat is in good shape, but she was definitely too skinny when she arrived on our back porch, which probably means that she’s been missing for a bit.  Around here, that doesn’t often mean much—no one has come looking for her that we know of; of course, they’d have to be very dedicated to make it up the mountain to look here.

We’ve seen so many seemingly stray animals since moving to the mountains—cats, dogs, horses, donkeys. I had read stories for years about how people just abandon animals on or near land in the country that looks occupied, thinking that surely the landowners will take in the stray, but that just doesn’t always happen.

This area is so different from the city. There are many people out of work, and there really isn’t work to be hand anywhere nearby, so families aren’t so eager to take on more responsibilities. That, and many of the animals that we’ve seen that do belong to someone just look underfed, not anything like our spoiled rotten crew with the shiny coats and rib cages hidden within well-fed bodies. I try not to judge, but it’s hard because I’m so damned judgmental. I want to take in all of the strays and feed them until they have bellies full, but I suppose baby steps for now.

My new motto.

“Eat, sleep, sleep, eat. Exist slowly, softly, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red bench in the streetcar.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea

So I said that I’d tell you more about the horses, and so I will, but it’s not a short tale. But first, an aside: I’m writing on my laptop, the one that Corey gave me several Christmases ago. It’s a lovely little thing, but I still miss my desktop with the wide screen and the very clicky keyboard. My fingernails keep catching on these close together keys. I know. I’m analog . . .

But I digress . . .

Galloping Horses by Clint__Budd (FCC)

Horses. A few weeks after we finally moved here permanently after many fits and starts, Corey met a local guy, a neighbor a few miles down the road. His name is Dallas, and he’s a native, so native that he actually spent some of his youth in this house on this ridge. Fate is funny, huh?

Anyway, Dallas is as much of a character as you would imagine someone named Dallas would be, and the first time we met he offered me horses, puppies, and a stove. He’s one of those kinds of people: If he has something that you want or need, he’ll offer it to you. Well, so far, no puppy yet (promised), nor a stove as we didn’t really need one, but the four mares arrived a few days ago. It’s an arrangement that works for everyone: we have quite a bit of grazing pasture with nothing as yet to graze; his grazing land is getting sparse for the number of animals that he has. Apparently, I can expect to see at least two more, stallions this time, along with a selection of saddles.

I wouldn’t call Dallas a hoarder because he isn’t one, but he is a collector—not one saddle, but a dozen, not one dog, but 14. I think that’s what I like about him. I collect books, nail polish, and makeup; he collects pretty much everything else.

“The mountains have valleys
and I have thoughts.
They stretch out
until fog and until no roads.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Poems for a Woman”

The first time Dallas came to call, he arrived on a big John Deere tractor, which he then proceeded to use to clear a huge section of our land. Before this, Corey had been doing his best with a ride-on mower, which worked for some areas, but not the really overgrown ones. We had both been quite down about not purchasing our own tractor before we encountered the bounty of Dallas. When we left Norfolk, we had much less money in our account than we had hoped for, which meant that the purchases of a tractor, and a new washer and dryer were not going to materialize any time in the near (or possibly far) future.

Brittany Horse by girolame FCC

Then in rode Dallas. And that first day he bushwhacked and mowed and whatever else you do on a tractor, and then he made Corey get on the tractor and spent the next few hours complaining that Corey wasn’t going fast enough, so Dallas kicked Corey off. Since that first day, the tractor and Dallas and Corey have been constant companions. Because of his eyes, Dallas isn’t supposed to be driving (operative phrase being supposed to), so Corey drives Dallas around and then gets introduced to all kinds of people, and in turn, Dallas comes over and clears the land, which had become horribly overgrown and impassable in places. There’s a lot of land, in case I hadn’t mentioned.

As for me? I sit around and watch and offer running commentary. Bailey still barks at Dallas like he’s a stranger, but Tillie loves him, so much so that she knocked him into the small pond while he was fishing. He thought that was hilarious, which immediately endeared him to me. Oh yeah, two ponds, one small and one much bigger, too.

“As life runs on, the road grows strange with faces new—and near the end, the milestones into headstones change, ‘neath every one a friend.” ~ James Russell Lowell

So that’s the story of the horses and Dallas. As for the puppies, he has a litter of five girls and one boy, of dubious heritage, but they definitely have some retriever in them, so I want one. The plan was always for me to get at least two more dogs once we got here. Initially, that was so that I wouldn’t be lonely when Corey went to sea, but it looks like

Cold Horses by grongar (FCC)

Corey may have become a permanent landlubber in favor of farming. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. It’s not that I want him to be gone; more, it’s that I’m afraid that he’ll regret not going some day.

I mean, he’s been over more than half the world and seen so many things, and I know that he really loved doing that. I also know that he was very proud of his accomplishments as a merchant marine, which he had every right to be. Being permanently landlocked, not seeing the ocean, any ocean or any sea again? I would miss that it if were me—in fact I do miss living near the Chesapeake bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s not me. Only time will tell on that front, and there is much here to keep him occupied.

“Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Clenched Soul,” trans. W. S. Merwin

That’s a brief synopsis of the past few months here. Lots more details, but enough for now. I am making an efforts to go walking on the property as much as possible. The recent cold has put a temporary halt to that. And you’ll be happy to hear (or not so much, who knows?) that I no longer spend most days in my bedroom. It’s a smaller house, but I manage to frequent all of the rooms! Gasp! Yep, I know, small things . . .

Icelandic Horses by Machine is Organic FCC

Anyway, I’m not doing so much as far as getting out and about, but that’s actually not just my choice. The first time we left the house, we met Bailey on the driveway on the way home; the driveway is almost two miles long. She had pushed out the screen of the open bedroom window and apparently went searching for us. The second time we left the house we closed all of the windows. When we got inside, we saw that she had pulled off the molding on the bottom of the bedroom window and had somehow begun to dig through the masonry. She is a dog with serious abandonment issues.

I haven’t left the house without her since then, but it doesn’t make too much difference at the moment because she’s fine in the car, and I don’t go that many places anyway. Still kind of a hermit. I suppose we all have things to work on here, huh?

So that’s all for now. Even though I started this post in the afternoon, it’s now almost 6 p.m., time to feed the dogs and perhaps bathe the blogger. The evening skies have cleared, but the temps have dropped to 25 degrees. Time to publish my first real post with quotes, images, music, and a poem in what? Years? Well . . . it’s about time, no?

More later. Peace.


Music by Lorde, “Writer in the Dark” (so phenomenal to be so young)


Other Horses
I wept in a stable.
I found money in the dirt.
I reenacted a car accident in the tack room.
I asked a horse van driver to let me off where the bridle path stopped.
I looked at the jockey for what he was dreaming.
I told him he was wrong about making things happen.
He couldn’t make things happen.
I couldn’t make things happen anymore.
There is exactly not enough money in the world.
Magical thinking got me where I am today.
Animals are warriors of time.
I stopped keeping things hidden.
That wasn’t a horse we saw in the winner’s circle.
I can’t stop horses as much as you can’t stop horses.
Source: Poetry (June 2015)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

The English Patient
(Ralph Fiennes & Kristin Scott Thomas)

                   

“Let the darkness transform into rock
across the wilderness of my memory” ~ Liu Xiaobo, from “Fifteen Years of Darkness” (trans. Jeffrey Yang)

Monday night. Stuffy outside, humidity. Seems like storms are looming but not actually becoming.

Count Almásy and Katherine Clifton Dancing Cheek-to-Cheek

Memory is a tricky thing, as I’m sure I have said before. The same memory can at times be nostalgic, conjuring a bittersweet longing for a return to the moment of conception. And then later, that same memory can be so fraught with emotion that tears are the only possible response.

For example: Last night I was flipping through the channels rather aimlessly. I happened upon a showing of The English Patient, a movie that has held the number 2 spot in my all-time favorite movies for well over a decade. (It was formerly in the number 1 spot, that is until the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and well, there is no surpassing that). As I noted the listing, I paused on the channel, thought that I would probably move on to something else, but never changed the channel.

This was a mistake.

I know that I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch The English Patient, and I wasn’t in that frame of mind. But by the time the credits rolled, I was in full emotional meltdown. I pulled my soundtrack off the rack, popped it into the computer, and waited for morning.

“The rapturous notes of an unendurable grief, of isolation and terror,
the nearly impossible to sustain slow phrases of the ascending figures—
they drifted out over the dark water
like an ecstasy.” ~ Louise Glück, from “The Balcony”

The English Patient
Naveen Andrews & Juliette Binoche

I first saw that movie upon its release in 1996, which was a very, very bad year for me. A friend of mine at the museum had recommended the Michael Ondaatje book to me the previous spring, but I had promptly forgotten about it. Immediately after watching the Anthony Minghella-directed movie, I did two things: I bought the soundtrack, and I bought the book. I didn’t look for the best price, or a sale, I just bought them, which, if you know how I shop, is very uncharacteristic.

In 1996, my marriage to my ex was quickly declining, for a multitude of reasons. I had been laid off from the Museum because of the massive deficit, and I was in a very dark, lonely place. My relationship with Mari, one of the bedrocks of my life, was also in rapid decline, for reasons of which I am still not fully aware. But I went to see this movie with her, and, as it turns out, with her young amour, the person who would be responsible for completely changing her.

But I digress.

We went to the Naro, an old renovated theater in the heart of downtown’s Ghent section. The sound in this particular theater is incredible, and from the opening notes of the first song I was totally enthralled.

“We have understood nothing of life until we have understood that it is one vast confusion.” ~ Henry de Montherlant, from The Bachelors

Almásy in the Desert

If you are unfamiliar with the movie (which holds very closely to Ondaatje’s book), I will briefly recap chronologically what is shown in two different timelines: Count Almásy (played by a then rather gorgeous golden Ralph Fiennes) is part of of a Royal Geographical Society archeological expedition in the deserts of Egypt and Libya in the 1930s. Katherine (played by a blond Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband (Colin Firth) join the group. An affair ensues, hearts are broken, promises are broken, WWII breaks out, Almásy trades important maps of the desert with the Germans in exchange for a plane and fuel so that he can keep his promise to return to Katherine, a plane crash follows, the Count is burned beyond recognition, loses his identity and simply becomes the English patient, Juliette Binoche, Naveen Andrews, and Willem Dafoe enter the picture, hearts are broken, betrayals occur, the war ends.

It all sounds so clinical when spelled out like that. It is anything but.

The cinematography is breathtaking. The music is heart-wrenching. The acting is impeccable. So how could something that I consider to be so good hurt me so bad(ly)? To provide a true answer to that would take a lot more time and space than this little forum.

“Once I conjugated every animal to sorrow . . . Even now it seems like every version of melancholy rescues a nocturne for the pallid sky. A type of permanent dusk. Fold down the bedsheet. The room has earned its sadness. Nondescript despite how we have rearranged ourselves inside it, undressing with cold hands. Us with our pilgrim hearts. Stationed fast to parentheses of sleep and winter.” ~ Allison Titus, from Sum of Every Lost Ship

Le me try a slightly sifted explanation in which the chaff has been mostly eradicated:

Final Walk to the Cave of the Swimmers

The love affair between Katherine and Almásy is epic. It is destiny. It is the kind of love between two people that those of us who are romantics firmly believe is possible, what we hope for but what we know we will never have. Even as she lays dying, Katherine offers her love a quiet peace within the last words she writes, and she writes these words even as the lamplight is dying, the air is chilling, and any hope of rescue is firmly quenched.

Later, as he lies in a foreign bed in a deserted house, Almásy spends his time daydreaming about the hours they shared. His copy of Herodotus is filled with love notes and personal commentaries on love and betrayal, overwriting the historian’s account of Greco-Roman history.

After watching the movie and then reading the book, I found a kind of running thread of words and phrases from both in the back of my mind at any given time during the day or night. I underlined passages. I wrote marginalia, the most telling of which was “I wish that I could find someone to love me like this.”

“Now and then, I remember you in times
Unbelievable. And in places not made for memory
But for the transient, the passing that does not remain.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Little Ruth” (trans. by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav)

At that time in my life, I did not feel loved, or rather, I felt loved in the wrong way, if that makes any sense. Any sense of belonging that I felt came from outside my home. I felt stretched too thin, underappreciated, overworked, and mostly, mostly I felt hollow. So when I see this movie, all of those feelings come back to the surface. I remember exactly where I was sitting in the theater. I remember trying to tell my ex about the beauty of the movie, asking him to go see it with me (which never happened).

The English Patient Original Theatrical Release Poster

(Later that year, the owner of the Naro gave me the movie poster as he knew how much I coveted it. I still have it and am still waiting for that room of my own in which to hang it.)

The English Patient does for me exactly what Aristotle’s Poetics declared great drama would do to an audience: allow an empathy with the story so profound as to cause a purging of pity and fear. The mythos (plot) and ethos (character) of the movie combine to reopen old scars, leaving me stinging as if the scab has only recently been scratched, and then, a few days later, I am purged. But the reopening of the portal to that era in my life is not without consequences.

Or, to put it more simply, it’s an elevated version of The Way We Were, the Streisand/Redford collaboration of the 70’s that depicted two ill-fated lovers who loved too much, whose love was all-consuming, and consequently, couldn’t withstand time and circumstance. Of course, The English Patient won nine Academy Awards, and The Way We Were none. But the real point is this: Why is such passionate love always doomed?

But that’s a completely different entry.

More later. Peace.

Music from The English Patient, closing theme, composed by Gabriel Yared

                   

Light By Which I Read

One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the
redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering,
memory seen
through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The horizon edged with chalk, loose where the fabric frayed.
Each yesterday glacier-scored, each a dark passage illumined by a
honeycomb.

*

I begin to fathom the brittle intricacy of the window’s scrim of ice.
For years, I managed without memory—stalled, unnumbered,
abridged—
No more alive than a dismembered saint enthroned in two hundred
reliquaries.
Now, it is hard not to say I remember,
hard, in fact, not to remember.
Now, I hear the filament’s quiver, its annoying high frequency, light
by which I read.

*

River mist, mudbanks, and rushes mediate the dark matter
Between two tomorrows:
one an archive of chance effects,
The other a necropolis of momentary appearances and sensations.
One, a stain of green, where a second wash bleeds into the first.
The other time-bound, fecund, slick with early rain.

*

As if to impose a final hermeneutic, all at once the cicadas wind down.
The gooseberry bush looms like a moon: each berry taut, sour, aglow.
The creek runs tar in the cloud-light, mercury at dusk.
Then the frogs start up.
Clay-cold at the marrow. A hollow pulse-tick.
And it seems, at last, I’ve shed my scorched and papery husk.

~ Eric Pankey

(To see poem with original indents, click on link.)