“But I write badly. The part of my brain in charge of writing ability refuses to work.” ~ Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

Writer Carson McCullers, by Leonard McCombe

“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”

Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.

Eudora Welty Autographing a Book in 1984, by Terry James

Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.

He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.

I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.

“One morning you wash your face,
look into the mirror,
find the water has eroded your features,
worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”

So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.

Dorothy Parker at Work at Her Typewriter in 1941

I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.

And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.

“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”

The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.

Vita Sackville-West in Her Tower Study at Sissinghurst in 1939

The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.

I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.

If wishes were fishes . . .

“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
Writer Clarice Lispector at Home in Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1973

I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .

. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .

. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .

. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.

“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston in 1955

I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.

Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?

Anyway, more later. Peace.


Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version


With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston, from Their Eyes Were Watching God

Ragnar Sandberg White Birds on Dark Background 1968 canvas
“White Birds on Dark Background (1968, canvas)
by Ragnar Sandberg

                   

April is National Poetry Month

Here is another lovely that I’ve been storing up in my drafts. Just love Darwish, and can completely relate to the desire to become a bird . . .

Mural

This is your name —
a woman said,
and vanished through the winding corridor
There I see heaven within reach.
The wing of a white dove carries me
towards another childhood. And I never dreamt
that I was dreaming. Everything is real.
I knew I was casting myself aside . . .
and flew. I shall become what I will
in the final sphere. And everything
is white . The sea suspended
upon a roof of white clouds. Nothingness is white
in the white heaven of the absolute.
I was and was not. In this eternity’s white regions,
I’m alone. I came before I was due;
no angel appeared to tell me:
“What did you do back there, in the world?”
I didn’t hear the pious call out,
nor the sinners moan for I’m alone
in the whiteness. I’m alone.
Nothing hurts at the door of doom.
Neither time nor emotion. I don’t feel
the lightness of things, or the weight
of apprehensions. I couldn’t find
anyone to ask: Where is my where now?
Where is the city of the dead,
and where am I? Here
in this no-here, in this no-time,
there’s no being, nor nothingness.
As if I had died once before,
I know this epiphany, and know
I’m on my way towards what I don’t know.
Perhaps I’m still alive somewhere else,
and know what I want.
One day I shall become what I want.
One day I shall become a thought,
taken to the wasteland
neither by the sword or the book
as if it were rain falling on a mountain
split by a burgeoning blade of grass,
where neither might will triumph,
nor justice the fugitive.
One day I shall become what I want.
One day I shall become a bird,
and wrest my being from my non-being.
The longer my wings will burn,
the closer I am to the truth, risen from the ashes.
I am the dialogue of dreamers; I’ve shunned my body and self
to finish my first journey towards meaning,
which burnt me, and disappeared.
I’m absence. I’m the heavenly renegade.
One day I shall become what I want.
One day I shall become a poet,
water obedient to my insight. My language a metaphor
for metaphor, so I will neither declaim nor point to a place;
place is my sin and subterfuge.
I’m from there. My here leaps
from my footsteps to my imagination . . .
I am he who I was or will be,
made and struck down
by the endless, expansive space.
One day I shall become what I want.
One day I shall become a vine;
let summer distil me even now,
and let the passers-by drink my wine,
illuminated by the chandeliers of this sugary place!
I am the message and the messenger,
I am the little addresses and the mail.
One day I shall become what I want.
This is your name —
a woman said,
and vanished in the corridor of her whiteness.
This is your name; memorise it well!
Do not argue about any of its letters,
ignore the tribal flags,
befriend your horizontal name,
experience it with the living
and the dead, and strive
to have it correctly spelt
in the company of strangers and carve it
into a rock inside a cave:
O my name, you will grow
as I grow, you will carry me
as I will carry you;
a stranger is brother to a stranger;
we shall take the female with a vowel
devoted to flutes.
O my name: where are we now?

Tell me: What is now? What is tomorrow? What’s time, what’s place, what’s old, what’s new?
One day we shall become what we want.

~ Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Sargon Boulus

Music by Agnes Obel, “Fuel to Fire”

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” ~ Charles Bukowski, “The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship”

Charles Warren Eaton Quiet Shore c1885 oil on canvas
“Quiet Shore” (c1885, oil on canvas)
by Charles Warren Eaton

                    

“the soft-aired Tennessee night
Gathers it children in its cupped hands.
Time has its covenant, and who’s to say that it is unjust.
We make our sad arrangements.
The sky clears, the sun sets.
No matter the words, we never forget our own song. ~ Charles Wright, from “Arrivederci Kingsport”

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cool, 60 degrees.

A very quiet afternoon, alone in the house, just the dogs and me. Sometimes the quiet is too dense, as if it is filling all of the spaces around me, removing the oxygen and replacing it with something unnameable but palatable.

Robert Vonnoh The Bridge at Grez c1890
“The Bridge at Grez” (c1890, oil on canvas)
by Robert Vonnoh

It’s this first week in November that does me in, causes my heart to collapse, makes my mind travel to dark places. This week—it is too much with me. “The world is too much with me” . . . Wordsworth? Yes, Wordsworth. For a moment almost said Eliot, but it is not cynical enough. Wordsworth still had hope, I think.

Don’t worry if you cannot follow along. I cannot either. Heavily immersed in stream of consciousness, easier than linear thought—at times, this is so.

If you want to know how little you matter in the grand scheme, Google your name. Grandeur is quickly extinguished. Who does this?

“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston, from Their Eyes Were Watching God

In memory, the days from that Halloween until the seventh of November all collapse upon each other, like white-dotted dominoes laid out in a row.  Unable to halt the tide, unable to hold at bay the hours. Nothing could have stopped what happened.

Wojciech Weiss Sunset ca1902
“Sunset” (c1902, oil on canvas)
by Wojciech Weiss

Alexis, small and innocent, a fairy princess, a silver magic wand, a plastic crown. Standing on the front porch, posing for her last picture as a sister until years later.

There was a nurse in a clown costume, or was it a rag doll costume(?). I remember only the bright colors, the two red circles on her cheeks. I wondered then how anyone who worked amidst such perpetual sadness could muster the mettle to come to work in costume, to tend the grievously ill for 12 hours dressed as a doll? Who does this?

Now it makes perfect sense. The costumes provided an escape, albeit temporary, from the monitors, the beeps, the sterile white noise that is the backdrop to everything in an intensive care unit.

“If you have endured a great despair,
then, you did it alone;
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.” ~ Anne Sexton, from Courage

From that night forward, it was as if we were propelled by adrenaline and sadness. Ineffable sadness. The six days between were anomalous to the twenty-four-hour cycle, having only two or three hours a day. I’m certain of it. Time was different then. Supernormal with its sunrises and sunsets heaped upon one another, not enough minutes between sleeping and waking, perpetually exhausted.

Pierre Bonnard Landscape, Pink House, Sunset c1934
“Landscape, Pink House, Sunset” (c1934, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

Did I eat? I don’t remember. I do remember many cups of coffee.

Approximately one hundred and forty-four hours between Alexis’s fairy princess smile and Caitlin’s pale countenance. Everything about the two was opposite: Alexis’s fair skin and hair, and Caitlin’s olive skin and dark dark hair—as if fate sought to heighten the differences between the two.

Of course we will never know what kind of personality Caitlin might have had, whether she would have been a reader, or perhaps a writer, what she would have liked to do with her time, what paths she might have chosen. All such speculation is pointless. How much can you know of a person in seven months? How much of a person can seven months reveal?

“I don’t know. I just feel stuck, like I’m afraid to take any steps, in case they’re the wrong ones.” ~ Rebecca Stead, from When You Reach Me

Long before Google could tell me of my irrelevance, I met it first-hand on a November afternoon. It only took a few minutes to break my heart irreparably, to harden me with a cold cynicism bred from loss.

Pang Xunquin Autumn on Fragrance Hill 1962
“Autumn on Fragrance Hill” (1962, oil on canvas)
by Pan Xunquin

I think that I laughed more easily before that day, found more joy in the ordinary nothingness. I know that I smiled more, or at least, I think so. But it would be a lie to say that I knew how to be happy then because I don’t think that I’ve ever quite known how to do that.

I will not lie to you: I do not remember what Caitlin looked like. I mean, I know from the pictures, but I cannot, simply am quite unable to conjure her image in my mind. She has become two-dimensional.

I never thought I would find the day in which I could no longer smell her, so long did I carry her belongings with me wherever I went.

It this all too much for you? Perhaps I should have warned you sooner of my propensity to crash so completely, should have placed a label somewhere to shield you from my carefully guarded obsession with those days in early November, the ones that I hoard like first editions and garage-sale masterpieces.

“But I understand how light works.
. . . . . . . . . .

Later I will go out in a leopard-coat of light
with you: just me and the trees baring themselves
for winter, and the marbled paving stones,
and my empty hand shining” ~ Henry Shukman, from “The Call”

I am never quite sure how much to say when my mind and heart conspire against me and take me back to that afternoon and the days immediately preceding. It’s as if I somehow can still be caught unawares, regardless of how many times I have made this journey.

Max Slevogt Red Arbor with Dog 1897c
“Red Arbor with Dog” (c1897)
by Max Slevogt

And sometimes I think it would be better if I did not allow myself to acknowledge this tack, pretend it is not just there, on the periphery of my vision, waving its arms madly to get my attention. If I just don’t look . . . perhaps . . . maybe. If I spend enough hours in the bathtub with the lights out, it won’t be able to get a toehold, will fall away.

Who am I kidding? It always wins. Always.

More later. Peace.

Music by Bastille, “Oblivion”

                    

Any Night

Look, the eucalyptus, the Atlas pine,
the yellowing ash, all the trees
are gone, and I was older than
all of them. I am older than the moon,
than the stars that fill my plate,
than the unseen planets that huddle
together here at the end of a year
no one wanted. A year more than a year,
in which the sparrows learned
to fly backwards into eternity.
Their brothers and sisters saw this
and refuse to build nests. Before
the week is over they will all
have gone, and the chorus of love
that filled my yard and spilled
into my kitchen each evening
will be gone. I will have to learn
to sing in the voices of pure joy
and pure pain. I will have to forget
my name, my childhood, the years
under the cold dominion of the clock
so that this voice, torn and cracked,
can reach the low hills that shielded
the orange trees once. I will stand
on the back porch as the cold
drifts in, and sing, not for joy,
not for love, not even to be heard.
I will sing so that the darkness
can take hold and whatever
is left, the fallen fruit, the last
leaf, the puzzled squirrel, the child
far from home, lost, will believe
this could be any night. That boy,
walking alone, thinking of nothing
or reciting his favorite names
to the moon and stars, let him
find the home he left this morning,
let him hear a prayer out
of the raging mouth of the wind.
Let him repeat that prayer,
the prayer that night follows day,
that life follows death, that in time
we find our lives. Don’t let him see
all that has gone. Let him love
the darkness. Look, he’s running
and singing too. He could be happy.

~ Philip Levine

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Sandy Hook Elementary School Hoa Nguyen Patch
Sandy Hook Elementary School
by Hoa Nguyen (Newtown Patch)

                   

“Weary at the close of day, wondering if tomorrow brings me joy or sorrow.” ~ Leon Redbone

Friday afternoon. Sunny and mild, 50’s.

I’ve picked up some new followers recently, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some new voices commenting, which is always nice. I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all of you out in the ether who take a few minutes to peruse what I put here. When I first began this blog, I didn’t really know what my goals were, but I hoped that along the way one or two people would stop by. That this has come to pass gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I mean, someone besides my family and dogs is tuning in, and hey, that’s a nice feeling. So thanks.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting  Curbside Shrine by Emmanuel Dunand AFP
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Curbside Shrine
by Emmanuel Dunand (AFP)

I’m hoping to get the house ready for Christmas this weekend, and while Alexis is out of town I’m going to work on Christmas stockings. At the very least I need to finish a stocking for Olivia. I’m hoping that I’ll get inspired once I go to the craft store, but right now, my creative side is coming up blank.

I stopped by my mother’s house yesterday with Olivia. I was watching her while Lex was trying to get ready for their road trip to Mississippi. My mother was glad to spend some time with her great-granddaughter. I am sad that Lex and the baby won’t be here for Christmas, but I remember when the kids were young and how we felt pulled in so many different directions at holiday time, so I’m trying not to make a big deal out of it. My mother, of course, does not understand and thinks that it’s weird that Mike wants to see his family. How is that weird?

Oh well. We are talking about my mother, after all.

” . . . how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.” ~ Bob Hicok, from “In the Loop”

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and mild, 50’s.

I began this post yesterday afternoon and had planned to come back to it in the evening after Corey and I ran some errands, and then what happened in Sandy Hook entered my consciousness, and I just couldn’t go on with a bunch of drivel about my life, all of which seems terribly insignificant and unimportant when compared to what happened.

Connecticut School Shooting
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Woman Waits to Hear News about her Sister
by Jessica Hill (AP)

So I wrote, just wrote whatever came to mind, uncensored, raw, without thought to structure or logic or development, and it helped, a bit. But I suppose the emotion that most of us are feeling (and yes, I am assuming here) is raw. How did this happen? Why did this happen?

And dammit, who are these people who think it’s a good idea to go to an elementary school and take out as many six and seven-year-olds as possible?* And this was before we learned today that the gunman wasn’t satisfied shooting his victims once but rather chose to inflict the children and adults with between three to eleven wounds. Who does this?

Truthfully, my overwhelming question is why in the hell didn’t this guy just kill himself if he was so mad at his mother, mad at the world, dissatisfied with his lot in life? What possesses a person to take a weapon into a school filled with young children and decide that this is a good thing? And yes, obviously his thinking was not logical, but I refuse to give him the excuse that he was a psychopath. That’s just too easy. And no, I won’t name him because the last thing he needs from me or anyone else is publicity.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth (IV,iii)

And so, like many others, I watched hours of news coverage, and even as I did so, I had to wonder why. Why was I watching? What was I hoping to glean from the talking heads? I mean, everyone was saying the same thing, and no one had anything new to report. It was all just a hodge-podge of sad commentary by dour-faced journalists, many of whom chipped in and said that perhaps now we would have a real discussion on gun control, and you could tell that they didn’t believe it even as they said it.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting Children Being Led from Building by Shannon Hicks AP slash Newtown Bee
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Children Being Led from Building
by Shannon Hicks (AP/Newtown Bee)

And yes, I am particularly cynical and bitter today. Having no answers makes me this way.

Seriously? All I could think was that if someone had done that to one of my children, or if it had happened to Olivia, I could not be responsible for the rage that would consume me. Odd words for one who abhors gun violence, from one who purports to hate violence of any kind. But it’s different when it’s one of your own, right? Isn’t that what we tell ourselves?

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

The loss of a child is an unbearable thing. But to lost a child to violence—this I cannot even begin to comprehend. When I hear news stories about young babies who have been beaten to death, my mind immediately jumps to a place of logic, for it is with logic that I try to face the unbearable: Why didn’t they just give their child to someone who really wanted it? If having that child was such a burden, just open a door and step outside. Finding a family who desperately wants to have a child is not hard.

Sandy Hook Firefighters Hanging Black Bunting Mary Altaffer, AP
Sandy Hook Firefighters Hanging Black Bunting
by Mary Altaffer (AP)

But then multiply that senseless death by 5 or 10 or 20? What then? How to begin to process such senseless devastation, for surely it is devastation that has been wrought upon those families—the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends. The repercussions of one man’s violence will spread and multiply for years.

Consider the first responders, the carnage to which they had to bear witness. How to live with those images? How to survive the nightmares that will surely follow?

Consider the survivors and the families of survivors, filled with gratitude and then overcome with guilt. How to resolve the antithetical emotions?

“For the poison of hatred seated near the heart doubles the burden for the one who suffers the disease; he is burdened with his own sorrow, and groans on seeing another’s happiness.” ~ Aeschylus

What happened yesterday morning in Connecticut will stay above the fold and at the top of the hour only until the next great tragedy usurps it and takes its place. That is the way of the news cycle, and unfortunately, that is the way of the human mind. We focus on what is put before us.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting  Emergency Responders, Media, Parents Gary Jeanfaivre Newtown Patch
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Emergency Responders, Media, Parents
by Gary Jeanfaivre (Newtown Patch)

But how many other disgruntled employees, displaced teens, disassociated spouses are out there at this very minute stewing over injustices perceived and real? The violence does not end, will not end, certainly not in my lifetime.

And that violence will be visited upon countless other innocents in more ways than we can conceive of our begin to enumerate: guns, knives, poison, baseball bats, letter openers . . . The means are endless, and no, we cannot outlaw every single item that could be used to visit harm upon another. But does that mean that we should not regulate those things that can be regulated? Consider, in China a crazed man attacked students at a primary school, but none died; he used a knife. Students lost fingers and ears but not lives.

It was so easy to strip travelers of anything remotely sharp in the fallout of 9/11: no nail files, no box cutters, no pen knives, no multi-function tools, no aerosol cans, no large containers for liquid, and on and on and on, ad infinitum. We did that. This country and many others enacted those laws. So why so reluctant to enact or amend the laws we have regarding firearms? Yes, it’s in the Constitution, but when the Constitution was drawn, firearms were necessary to many aspects of life. Is that still the case today?

The times have changed, the circumstances evolved, yet our approach remains steadfastly 1950’s Cold War mentality when it comes to weapons.

“Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish” ~ Thomas More

But in spite of everything that happened, I refuse to believe that there is not goodness in this world. In the face of certain death, how many teachers thought only of extending their classroom role to that of protector? The teacher who read to her students during the gunfire? The teacher who shielded her students, losing her life in the process? The principal who ran towards the gunman, not away?

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting David Goldman AP
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
by David Goldman (AP)

When we talk of heroes and role models, we should talk of these people, not NBA stars or mega movie stars. Everyday people doing their everyday jobs in extraordinary ways.

The ramifications of yesterday morning are still unfolding. I am not understating when I say that a lot of people are going to need a lot of therapy just to be able to close their eyes at night. The people of Sandy Hook, like the people of Aurora and the people of Blacksburg and the people of Columbine and the people of too many other places to name individually need our support now, a month from now, a year from now. The people of this nation need change. Now. The people in charge of this nation need to step up to the challenges. Now.

But it all begins with each one of us and what we are willing to do, or do we just go back to business as usual? Do we just retreat to the safety of our living rooms, the glow of our holiday lights, the warmth of our family’s arms? Or do we look at our children, say a prayer of thanks, and vow to work for change?

*List of victims; all the children killed were 6 or 7 years old.

Music by Vienna Teng, “Lullaby for a Stormy Night”

                   

Beyond Even This

Who would have thought the afterlife would
look so much like Ohio? A small town place,
thickly settled among deciduous trees.
I lived for what seemed a very short time.
Several things did not work out.
Casually almost, I became another one
of the departed, but I had never imagined
the tunnel of hot wind that pulls
the newly dead into the dry Midwest
and plants us like corn. I am
not alone, but I am restless.
There is such sorrow in these geese
flying over, trying to find a place to land
in the miles and miles of parking lots
that once were soft wetlands. They seem
as puzzled as I am about where to be.
Often they glide, in what I guess is
a consultation with each other,
getting their bearings, as I do when
I stare out my window and count up
what I see. It’s not much really:
one buckeye tree, three white frame houses,
one evergreen, five piles of yellow leaves.
This is not enough for any heaven I had
dreamed, but I am taking the long view.
There must be a backcountry of the beyond,
beyond even this and farther out,
past the dark smoky city on the shore
of Lake Erie, through the landlocked passages
to the Great Sweetwater Seas.

~ Maggie Anderson

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.” ~ Anaïs Nin

Night Symphony, Paris, by Isik Mater

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice” ~ T. S. Eliot, Section II of Quartet no. 4 “Little Gidding,” lines 118-119, from Four Quartets

Monday afternoon. Sunny and colder, mid 40’s.

Couldn’t sleep last night. Couldn’t sleep this morning. So I said what the hell, and got up and started my day. I know that my heightened anxiety is affecting my sleep. It’s just hard to relax knowing that at any time Corey is going to receive the telephone call that is going to change our lives. Kind of a big thing, no?

Blue Berries in Winter in Felsőfarkasd, Pest, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)

Spent yesterday doing laundry and tidying the house. Cleaned out the fridge and threw away all of the leftovers that have turned into science experiments, and packed away the Christmas dishes and glasses, as well as the good silver. I’m full of nervous energy. Corey found most of his old work clothes, all except for his Carhartt jacket and overalls, both of which he needs. So I’ve been doing loads of laundry as the clothes have been bagged for a few years.

I think that I’m ready to take down Christmas, which is unusual for me. Usually, I like to leave the decorations up the first week in January, but lately when I walk through the house, all I can think about is that I don’t want to see them. I know that it’s all reactionary, and probably the last thing that Corey wants to do before he leaves is to get involved in taking down all of the decorations, so I’ll try to hold out as long as I can.

It’s just a weird beginning to the year.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

I took the time yesterday to catch up on reading some of the blogs in my blogroll and sending new year’s wishes to everyone with whom I’m in contact. Speaking of which, the number of Christmas cards that we received this year was abysmal. I did receive a late card from one of my aunt’s in Florida. This year marks her third Christmas without my Uncle Melchor. It was nice to get an update from her and to see pictures of her grandchildren.

Winter Light by Enidanc (FCC)

But other than that, we did not receive cards from about five families who normally send us cards, but I did get one new card from reader Leah in North Carolina, which was a nice surprise. I’m still receiving a card each year from the lawyer who drew up my separation agreement with my ex, which I find very odd as we did not end our business relationship on a good note. I suppose that I’m on some list that I will remain on until he retires. Whatever.

When I began this post, I didn’t think that I would have any problems in writing as I have so many thoughts coursing through my brain, but now I find that it’s hard to pick one from the stream and elaborate on it. Each time that I think that I know what I want to say, it seems to slip away like smoke. I awoke with lines from a T. S. Eliot poem running through my brain: “Teach us to care and not to care . . .” Perhaps it’s my subconscious trying to help me: care about the big things and let everything else go.

Have never been good at letting anything go . . .

“This very second has vanished forever, lost in the anonymous mass of the irrevocable. It will never return.” ~ E. M. Cioran

So I just took a little detour looking for a link, but I’m back. While I was gone I did a bit of laundry, and gave the dogs baths . . . You didn’t even miss me, did you? So where was I? Oh yes, having nothing to say . . .

Into the Blueness by ebergcanada (FCC)

The strangest thing—I seem to be off sweets, at least temporarily. I think that this may be due in large part to the frequency with which I have to use my inhaler, much more than in years past. My lungs are still crackling and heavy, and I think that the albuterol, or whatever it is they put in inhalers now, is affecting my taste buds. During the holidays, I fill a big dish with assorted chocolates, and I’m not dipping my hand into said dish all of the time, not even the peanut M&Ms . . . I even threw out uneaten pecan pie, which I found too sweet to eat.

How strange . . .

This is a good thing, of course, but I would really like it if my lungs would start to act normally again. My asthma hasn’t been this bad since I was a child, and I know that it’s an offshoot of the neverending bronchitis, but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to bear.

The other downside to this continuous wheezing and tightness is that I could not uphold my pledge to myself to start my walking regimen yesterday. I fully intend to begin walking a couple of miles a day and to take the lab as she will not be getting her usual exercise with Corey, and if you know your dogs, you know that a bored lab is an unhappy lab, much like a bored child. The last time I let a lab get bored, she ate a couch (not that that would be a big loss with our current dilapidated couch).

“Which are the magic
moments in ordinary
time? All of them,
for those who can see.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Ordinary Time

Corey and I are going to try to see a movie tonight and perhaps eat sushi—our date before he leaves. We have to snatch these moments while we can.

I know that last year passed so quickly. Outside it was spring, while inside I was still trapped in January. I would wager that this year will pass interminably slowly. I have a list of things that I’d like to accomplish while he’s away. Who knows how much I will actually do, but I would hope that I use this time apart wisely.

Snow Covered Blue Dawn, Elmhurst, IL, by clarkmaxwell (FCC)

I know that I’ve said this before, but in my mind, it seems as if the two of us have been together for years and years. It’s hard for me to remember a time when Corey was not in my life. And yet, it seems that the eleven or so years that we have actually been together has gone by so quickly.

It always  mystifies me, this notion of time, but as I’ve gotten older, time has become less linear and more cyclic. I find myself back in memories, remembering times in which good girls didn’t get tattoos, in which television only had three major networks, in which there was no such thing as Starbucks. Am I dating myself? Probably.

But some of you will understand what I mean: how we continue to move forward but things from the past loom largely, and not necessarily because they were important. I don’t speak of the past that much, and when I was younger, I used to wonder why my mother was always living in the past. I’m not living in the past, nor do I have any desire to do so, but flashes of the past come at me from nowhere, and it’s, at times, a bit unsettling.

I think of things like Hula Hoops and ice pops. I think of my orange Super Beetle and how I could drive around for more than a week on one tank of gas. Things such as this, nothing of significance, but there still, locked somewhere in the recesses of my mind’s many rooms.

“ . . . we are each of us made up of a cluster of appurtenances. What do you call one’s self? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us—and then flows back again. One’s self—for other people—is one’s expression of one’s self; and one’s house, one’s clothes, the books one reads, the company one keeps—these things are all expressive.” ~ Henry James

I suppose that as we age we tend to gain perspective, or at least, I would hope that we do. Youth and perspective do not seem to be compatible, and that is truly unfortunate as we probably need perspective the most when we have it the least.

Winter in Blue by Roger Smith (FCC)

Consider: We make some of the most important decisions of our lives in our 20’s, at a time when we think we know everything, but in actuality, we know so little. We decide what our college majors will be; we decide what fields we wish to pursue for our careers—all things that would best be considered with experience. There is something to be said for living a life backwards.

Yes, I am more than a wee bit melancholy. Titirangi Storyteller posted a photograph that she had taken of a three-week-old boy. It’s an amazing photograph in that it captures the newborn’s fascination with everything and anything. I commented to her that it made me wish for the times when we as individuals could still find everything new and interesting. I wonder when that feeling actually begins to fade, when we no longer see the wonder in the smallest things, when we no longer look with awe and surprise on the seemingly insignificant—a fabulous sunset, the sun through the trees, a bird in flight, the reflections in a pool of water.

Pity, really, to lose that. But lose it, we do. And we begin to view the world through eyes that are tainted with experience, colored with fragments of anger and loss, heartbreak and sadness. And when we do see something truly beautiful, remarkably breathtaking in its brilliance—if we even take the time to notice—then, and only then, do we remember that long-lost feeling of innocence.

“This I know at great cost:
all life is not outward,
nor is all death from within:
time writes in the ciphers
of water and rock for no one at all,
so that none may envision the sender
and no one be any the wiser.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “The Traveler” in Five Decades: Poems, trans. Ben Belitt

Trees in Rich Light by Snipps Whispers (FCC)

As Walt Whitman said,

O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

To these questions, I have no answers.

More later. Peace.

I found most of today’s quotes on Proustitute’s blog, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, who will no longer be posting on tumblr, so I have added him to my blogroll, Poietes’ Recommended Reading.

Music by Tom Waits, “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)”


                   

dreaminginthedeepsouth: (via The Literature Collection: Light made from nothing: poems: The difficult simplicity of certain contemplations) By Susan Elbe

~ Susan Elbe, from Light Made from Nothing: Poems (couldn’t find a better copy but wanted to use, sorry)

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.” ~ Carl Schurz

Sun Reflected in Frosty River

 

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks on the Road

Well, we survived Thanksgiving and my mother’s lovely running critical commentary throughout dinner. Had a bit of a snafu though: Alexis overslept because her electricity went out during the night, so her alarm did not go off, and as a result, the turkey went into the oven rather late. Since it was a 20-pound turkey, we didn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m., which doesn’t really bother most of us because we tend to eat late, but my mother was beside herself.

I called her at 2:30 to tell her that everything was going to be late and suggested that she eat a small meal, but that didn’t stop the bitching. “What do you mean . . . why? . . . how did her electricity go out in the middle of the night . . . I’ve never heard of such a thing . . . I can’t believe this . . .” Unfortunately, we could not cook the turkey here as we are still without natural gas, and our oven is a beautiful, large gas oven that is sitting unused, but that my friends, is a different saga.

This couple couldn't take the time to put on clothes

So the waiting became too much for eldest son as he had an urgent need to get to his girlfriend’s house; we sent him on his way with our blessings and suggested that he check back in later, although he didn’t.  In spite of the delay, dinner was delicious, not way too much food as it used to be, and we had open-faced hot turkey sandwiches on Friday night for dinner.

The madness that is Black Friday did not leave the country unscathed. No stampedes at Wal Marts this year because the stores allowed shoppers into the building; the catch was that no one was allowed to touch the early bird specials until 5 a.m. Everything was on pallets and covered with plastic. I know about this not because I was there (Wal Mart the day after Thanksgiving? me? shudder), but because Alexis’s friend Jennifer went and was out by 5:40 a.m. in time to go to work. Amazing.

I didn’t read any stories about fights in the aisles or mayhem, and the American consumer seemed to be more willing to part with dwindling cash, somewhat. Preliminary data show that shoppers deposited almost $41.2 billion into retail coffers (oh to have just .001 percent of that), this according to the National Retail Federation.  But the madness that normally plagues the pages of the news seemed to be less this year.

There was a shooting in which a man killed his adult sisters and a 6-year-old cousin on Thanksgiving day; another man locked his children in the trunk of his Trans Am while he ran into a sporting goods store (“They like to play in the trunk”). However, the most horrific thing that happened over the holiday weekend state side was the shooting of four Seattle police officers in a coffee shop early Sunday morning. The officers were sitting at a table with their laptops preparing their day when 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked in and opened fire. No other patrons were shot, only the officers. For more details on this story, click here.

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

A Salvation Army Kettle

Oh, and one more on holiday cheer and good will towards all: In Toledo, Ohio, a man grabbed a Salvation Army kettle full of donations and pushed the bell ringer to the ground. Supposedly the man said, “I can’t stand you and your bell-ringing. I hate Christmas.” Clearly, this year’s winner for the Ebenezer Scrooge award. Personally, I love to see the kettles, but I miss seeing real Salvation Army members ringing the bells. I always try to put something in at least a few kettles each year.

And by the way, the rumor that bell-ringers receive part of the kettle coffers is absolutely false. Bell-ringing is done by civic organizations, scout troops, schools, etc, but the Salvation Army does employ people from shelters to be bell-ringers. These needy individuals receive minimum wage to stand out in the cold, snow, and rain collecting donations that are used to fund the Salvation Army’ s many charitable programs, including shelters, meal programs, after-school programs, to name but a few.

“You’re the love of my life
And the breath in my prayers
Take my hand, lead me there” ~ Dave Matthews Band

So with the one holiday over and the big one looming, Corey and I are in a kind of stasis. The bills continue to pile up, and the money continues to be non-existent. We have a huge payment due to the power company in just a few days, and absolutely no way to pay it. It’s hard to think about putting up Christmas lights when there might not be electricity to power them.

So that’s what I mean about stasis. We cannot really do anything as far as decorating until the living room undergoes a major clearing, but that is dependent upon painting the bedroom, and I had forgotten that one of the reasons that we didn’t move  the very heavy bureau into the bedroom before this is that the bedroom needs to be carpeted. Once that huge dresser is in place, it’s going to be very hard to move it. So do we wait to paint until we can carpet so that we move everything once? Do we move everything twice? And who is this we I speak of, Kemosabe . . .

I must admit that my recent renewed addiction to home renovation shows is not helping with my complete dissatisfaction with the state of our house. There are so many things that we could do to make the house better, less cluttered, easier to get around in if we just had a little cash. Having said that, using cash for renovations has to take a backseat to using it for bills, so once again, the infamous Catch 22 comes into play.

Oh well, moving along . . .

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us, and the hands of those who come after us.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett's Hands

I have been thinking of hands lately. Don’t ask my why, but  I have. Hands that are moving through the air. Sunlight glowing through hands. Babies’ hands. My children’s hands, which are very much like my own. I have very long fingers, which was great when it came to playing the piano, and all three of my children have long thin fingers.

I remember my father’s hands. He had a degenerative condition in his right hand that caused the muscle to atrophy, so much so that he had to use his left hand to turn the ignition in his 1966 Ford Falcon.  I remember more than once looking at my father’s hands, so bent and worn with age and work, and being just amazed at how much those hands had accomplished over the years.

I really don’t remember anything that my father couldn’t do when he tried. He built things around the house, sewed things, fixed things, worked on his car (all of the time), and maintained the engines on those huge cargo ships that traveled all over the world. I know that my father was very good at his job because he had ship captains who routinely requested him.

In the end, when he was in the hospital, it was his hands that I watched. So small and shrunken, they knitted the sheets to and fro. This man who was never really still his entire life was working even in the midst of his morphine dreams. Watching that automatic movement day after day almost broke me.

But my thoughts about hands are not all painful. In my mind’s eye I see a pre-school craft project that Alexis made: a piece of muslin with small green handprints in a circle, forming a wreath. I still have that. Brett’s hands, specifically his thumb, which he sucked when he was a baby. I never really fretted that he sucked his thumb because I knew that he would stop when he was ready. Nine-year-old Eamonn’s long fingers scooped around a basketball, his slightly crooked smile as he stood for his team picture.

These memories are good memories. I can take the memory of my father’s hands when it is balanced against these memories from my children’s earlier days.

My hands when I had long manicured nails

I look down at my own hands as they skate aross the keys: long, thin fingers, the one vein on each hand that has always been prominent, cuticles a bit ragged from worrying them unconsciously. These hands have touched piano keys and computer keys; they have brushed my daughter’s long hair and finger-combed my son’s waves. These hands have held four babies, cupped their small heads and massaged their backs. These hands have polished a thousand pieces of furniture and cleaned thousands of dishes. They have planted countless flowers and strung colored lights year after year.

These hands are my strength and my weakness: For everything that these hands have allowed me to do, they have also felt the pain of being idle at times when doing something, anything, would have helped.

These hands stroked the soft dark hair on my daughter’s head as she lay dying in my arms, but these hands could not stop death. These hands held my father’s small, curled hands as he lay sleeping in a hospital bed, but these hands could not keep the pain at bay nor force death to wait.

These hands have held newborn babies, and puppies seconds from their mother’s womb. They have stroked the flanks of a chestnut mare and loosened the bolts in an engine. They have turned the pages of thousands of books and held countless cups of tea and coffee. Each morning, these hands move across a face that belies its age, while fingers probe for wrinkles that have yet to appear. These hands stroke Corey’s cheek when he is asleep, and rub the belly of my fat, spoiled dog as he lays snoring by my side.

Everything that is or has been me is within these hands, and when I hold them up to my eyes when the summer sun beats down relentlessly, my fingers seem to glow with life, and I am reminded of that scene in the old movie Ladyhawke when Isabeau raises her hands to the morning sun just before she transforms into the hawk.

I have my father’s hands. My desire is that when I am in the dusk of my life, my hands will have created more than they have destroyed, that they will have caressed more than they have repelled, that they will have calmed more than they have worried, and that they will have written a million words, filled with the myriad sides of myself, my life, and those who have used their own hands to help me, guide me, hold me, and teach me along the way.

More later. Peace.

This video of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” somehow seemed appropriate.