Sunday, January 26, 2014

HOW DID I GET HERE AND OTHER QUESTIONS

Emmy tries on my new shirt.
The day started out sunny and bright, made brighter, of course, by the several inches of snow still everywhere. I haven't been outside today, but it was getting icy yesterday. I ventured out in the mid-afternoon just to walk around a thrift store (there are sooooo many of them around here), hit the grocery store for the few things I need to make parsnip-mushroom-barley soup (tonight or tomorrow), and stock up on cat food and Greenies. Yes, always Greenies.

The thrift store, which is next to a Costco, was packed. Why cannot I not remember to NOT go to these places on weekends? It's a huge store, though, so that wasn't really a problem. I was judicious in my purchases as I was foolishly using credit, only buying a book (a great cookbook I had never even heard of called A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider … thus far, it seems like a welcome addition to my small cache of cookbooks), a beautiful blue-and-white checked linen shirt (planning for spring and summer?) and a huge wool scarf that I took apart. It was good wool and perfect for a reknitting project.

By the time I was out of the thrift store, it was seriously snowing. By the time, I got out of the Stop and Shop, the storm was peaking. I just love the snow though. I love the transformation beyond our control. It's beautiful and quiet. And you can drive slowly and carefully. However, I was rear-ended at a stop light. The young, very pregnant, woman who hit me was extremely upset. She wasn't going very fast and only clipped the rear bumper and taillight before she slid into a soft bank of snow. 

I didn't think I was upset although it means a big pain in the ass and distraction for me. Research on a place to do the repairs and logistics of getting it fixed. Oh well, no one was hurt. The car wasn't trashed. The woman and her husband (who showed up as she called him immediately) seem very responsible, so, I guess I will breathe deeply and get on to the next.

It is snowing lightly again now. If it were raining it would be a drizzle, but I don't know the snow term for this … maybe flurries? Although it is coming down pretty steadily. Emmylou thinks she should be on the damned table, so we play another round of bad kitty.

Yes, nattering. Being so alone is mostly good, if somewhat lonely at times. It is calm enough, maybe particularly after the emotional storms with B2, for confusing elements of my existence to fall into place. While working with C&J, one of the things I mentioned, (and perhaps I mentioned it here before, too), was a profound sense of not having "a place." I mean this in more than a geographical location. I am unsure of and confused about where I am, who I am, what I am, and the ancillary wtf and what to do questions too. 

Besides being a delusional Romantic with a strong and wide streak of denial, I think my uncomfortable upbringing in Boys' Town left me with certain inabilities to understand myself or answer those questions. The pin-ups and porno my dad had around didn't concern me or apply to me or … somehow I had to divorce or disassociate myself from those images, those judgments, … but then, what to take its place? I existed outside of the house rules, the home environment. I wasn't to perceive things nor ask about or for things my father didn't want to talk about or give to me. 

I wasn't a boy so I didn't get certain privileges that brothers got (although they would swear I was a little princess) like getting to leave with my dad when pesky relatives came to visit my mom (my father hated my mother's family with the exception of Harold, another Navy man), or getting my father's hand-me-down technology toys (walkie-talkies, transistor radios, tape recorders, for example). 

So part of me was invisible, and I didn't matter much, so I was a bit free to operate outside of parental control. I got myself into a good university despite my father's refusal to help. I pursued my interests. I lived where I wanted to, which was far away from my childhood home. 

So, all of this to say, that I have been thinking about this, my early experiences, and seeing how they tie in with a number of critical issues in my life: some ill-advised and thoughtless financial and career decisions, depression, some inability to care passionately about myself and what happens to me, some deadly blind-spots, and host of other things that might have brought me to my current state. 

This little missal is but a draft. I'm just giving a snapshot of what I've been mentally and emotionally up to in my weeks of relative silence. Part of this, too, was precipitated by a long letter from my friend PEM who had been out of touch for quite a while. Herewith, a snippet: 

I only started reading your last two blogs, but I realized immediately that our lives have once again merged into an amazingly similar pattern.  The poem you posted so perfectly captured how heart-broken I have become.  "Normal" human relationships have caused endless sorrow, so I find myself seeking out the "things" I love in order to feel as if I have a reason to live.  On most days, I am successful.  I immerse myself in my cooking and baking, my gardening (in season), reading, and my scrapbooking (my winter sport).  But some days, I just want to go to the garage and turn on the gas.  How did I get here - sick, sad, and alone???

Well, how did I get here? I've been attempting to answer. Thanks for listening. Now, to make that parsnip-mushroom-barley soup and get to that mountain of ironing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BEFORE YESTERDAY AND YESTERDAY

Cooder was on my head this morning.
"She loved to tell the story of her high-school civic teacher who always voted for Norman Thomas. Had the woman thrown her vote away? Not at all! She'd voted her principles. That's what mattered, not winning, not losing. In fact, maybe losing was better. Losing was honorable, proved you had principles. Winning was power. And power proved nothing but itself."

- Patricia Hampl, The Florist's Daughter

I've just been contemplative. And I continue to be so. Nothing is particularly wrong. I am not depressed or unable to function in any way. I am just processing, thinking, parsing various facets of myself, as well as possible avenues of action.

Today, I did some serious shoveling of snow. Not something a gal from Southern or cosmopolitan Northern California has to learn to deal with. The snow here this morning was quite light and fluffy, therefore being quite easy to shovel. I wasn't even going to bother until a Bostonian friend mentioned the lightness and ease of the morning shovel. I then realized that the more it melted, the more water heavy and slushy it would become. And there is some art to snow shoveling. There are some things to know like what direction is the wind blowing. And is the snow icy yet? 

There have been other things to think about, muse about in the last few days. For now, I am ready for a sleep. Great poem this morning.











In Betweenness


is it a good thing to find 
two empty pages between the day 
before yesterday & yesterday 
when trying to make room 
for the blue opera afternoon 
of today a sunday like any sunday 
in may? 
there is no one could tell 
or judge though my own 
obsession with the in between 
should dictate the answer 
& thus let me rejoice at being able 
to insert today between the 
day before yesterday & yesterday
as if it were the yeast of night 
allowed these spaces to open 
(do not say holes to grow) 
in the spongy tissue of this 
my papery time-space discon- 
tinuum-- 
leaven of earth leaven of writing 
of running writing to earth 
in these in betweenesses that now 
please as much as the opera in ear 
that asks que dieu vous le rende dans 
l'autre monde but the desire is to stay right 
here in this world this in between even as 
the sound changes the radio sings son 
vada o resti intanto non partirai 
di qua 
exactly my feeling sheltered on these 
pages now filled and pushing up against 
yesterday 




Thursday, January 16, 2014

SOME VELVET MORNING

I sprung for some early signs of Spring.
Where to begin? Where to begin? Actually, I am pretty sure that is where I started this blog three years ago, with that question or one like it. 

Today, I just wanted to share some beautiful writing. I'll admit that I went kicking and screaming into Joseph Roth's The Radetzky March with the Kermit Place Readers. In the long run, I did find it valuable. It is also memorable as the meeting that day was very small and it was the last one that our passed-along comrade participated in at full, and charming, force. 

Whilst in Brooklyn, I came across the next volume in Roth's trilogy, The Emperor's Tomb, in the library and picked it up. And "picking at it" pretty much describes how I have been reading it. Roth was (is?) a superb writer. This is from the point of view of a young Austrian fellow signing up to fight in WW1.

They came straight out of embraces, and they had the sense that they had already performed the critical part of their warriors' duties. They had set a date for their weddings. Each of them had lined up some girl or other to marry, even if it wasn't a proper match but a chance hook-up of a kind that in those times for unknown reasons seemed to come fluttering along from who knew where, not unlike moths fluttering in through an open window on a summer night to our tables and beds and mantelpieces — fluttering, flighty, effortless, devoted, the velvety gifts of a brief and generous night.

Velvety gifts of a brief and generous night? That's plain old poetry.



We did not have a particularly velvety night last night, but it was foggy/misty and that had its own charm.







Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THE STAGE THEY'VE CREATED

Emmylou's tail fur is just about grown back in. She had another quick bout with fleas and, as she is allergic to them, lost a lot of fur in a short period of time. She's whipping it around these days. She is more companionable to me these days than Cooder, at least during the day. Cooder usually sleeps on my pillows (or head) at night, but Emmy moves from room to room (and thank the goddess I have that luxury right now) as I change my workspace.

The dementors were a-knocking last night and this morning. I took some extra sleeping med (non-narcotic or anything) so I would not go into any bummerspin as I slept. I did oversleep and started the day in a dozy panic. Somehow though — maybe it was a little bit of "meditation" I did with my warm honey drink? — I found myself being greatly productive. I moved forward on several networking ideas, talked on the telephone, scheduled some things … and have good ideas for tomorrow. 

It rained all day, so I didn't get in any outside exercise, although I had two long telephone calls through which I walked around the house most of the time. I am also finding it hard to behave around food, which I attribute, a bit, this time around to being a bit lonely. I am happy to be here, but it is somewhat isolated. So it goes. I'll just have to figure out better things to binge on (food-wise). 

And!! I got a very lovely and fabulous Christmas present in the mail from Manuel. It's a book called My Ideal Bookshelf. Completely yummy and lovely for browsing. Hmm … maybe I should read a page or two next time I want to eat pretzels off schedule. I liked, for example, what Jennifer Egan (Visit from the Goon Squad [overrated in my opinion]) said:

"My goal as a writer is to do as much as possible at one time. Life itself is so cacophonous and complex. It's not that I want to create a cacophony, but I want to do justice to the complexity around us. I don't want to oversimplify it. I want to take one thing and build from that, and then keep building, until I begin to approximate the complexity of the world and our perceptions of it."

Interesting. 

And Tom Delvan, an interior designer, said about the movie The Ice Storm,

"Everyone was embracing that slightly dysfunctional modern aesthetic. There's a part that still makes me laugh. Sigourney Weaver's character is walking out of her house in heels, and she slips. The reality of their lives doesn't match the stage they've created for themselves."

Now that is close to one of my biggest internal … struggles? … that sounds more negative than I would prefer to characterize it. But I am attempting to reconcile who I think I am or who I thought I was, and/or who I want(ed) to be with what is actually going on. Throwing off my "rose-colored" glasses (now, don't any of you who think I generally wear the dark glasses of negativity laugh here) of romanticism and denial and escapism is a constant activity for me. Trying to live with what I have and what I am. And then the bigger thing of getting a real handle on what "that" is.

Tomorrow's forecast is for clouds, but I should be able to get out. But first, I have to do the sleep thing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

JUST A TWINGE EVERY NOW AND THEN

It's all okay here, I'm just quiet. I woke up very early, which is not a bad thing, for the second day in a row. I got up and worked, so I am making progress on that small front.

JV gave me an autographed copy of Billy Collins' latest, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems. I've been dipping into here and there. And as I don't have many words right now, let me share some of Mr. Collins'. 

AIMLESS LOVE

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor's window,
and later for a bowl of broth
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door 
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cut across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home it its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.




This poem reminded me of how I take pictures often, just looking for the flash of beauty, the change of context, the moment of seeing. 

I was feeling a moment of existential panic today. I decided I had better take that energy and see if I could work it off in a walk. I tried to find a public park or some place a little different nearby, but nothing was really nearby. I did find a big park about 20 minutes away and drove over there, but I could hear a very busy street or highway the whole time. The important thing is that I tried and that my impulse was to get out and move instead of nap. Action not escape.

I'm going to go watch the Fred Wiseman documentary about UC Berkeley. 


 




Friday, January 10, 2014

WE'RE GONE BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHERE

Another quiet, cold day. Although it was drizzly and misty, I took a 40-minute walk. The fresh air was rather bracing. I walked without listening to music or a book or anything else. I suppose it was a kind of walking meditation, as I continue to scour my mental walls, looking for breaks and cracks and possibilities for changes in my behavior. And to change my constant personal refrains about failure, aging, ineptitude, and all of that. 

My "spiritual advisors", C&J, and I talked last weekend about being in what we will call my "power." I feel that left me so long ago I cannot remember, at all, what it feels like, felt like. They suggested an addition to my morning cup of honey sweetness, an extender to that practice. This would be "I'm in my power and I ___________." I cannot say that I addressed this directly, did not add this to my practice, but I did think of it from time to time. 

And I thought about it quite a bit on my walk. We all see those admonitions to follow our bliss and our passion and to find what we love and do it. That mostly smacks of American delusional thinking. I am not convinced that the majority of the world thinks this or follows this advice. It seems mighty mighty privileged to me.

But still, I tried to find the fire I once had, the enthusiasm. The passion. Employers and co-workers were quite attracted to that enthusiasm and confidence. Touching some of that, whatever that was, would likely help me out of this long, deep trough of poverty and underachievement, under-utilization of self.

And what would I do if I could? To what do I really want to apply myself? Where do I feel whole and engaged? Where DID I feel whole and engaged? I must say I could not get in touch with that. I couldn't remember or, rather, if I could remember, it was as if it were distanced, someone else's experience or memory. Nothing within me.

I don't think I am depressed. All in all, I feel a bit lifted. I have a bit more energy, a bit more focus. I mean, hell, I made it through The Brothers Karamazov and Within a Budding Grove in the last twelve months. 

Cooder cannot get enough Greenies. I have a food dish and water for the kittehs up here for their convenience and it does get eaten, but I am not sure Cooder is living on much else. I think her sense of smell is diminishing and Greenies must be powerful. Sigh. I don't really know what it means, if it means anything. Maybe she's just bored. She finally doesn't smell at all and she is relaxed and much more the cuddly night kitty. The cats are very much enjoying a calm, warm, and stable environment.

The other morning, before I went to California, I was in the subway station early, on my way to Housing Court to file suit against B2 for throwing me out. I was in a strange and slightly elated mood, possibly because I was acting in my own self-interest, taking a stand against a major bully. At any rate, the station was busy in that holiday, early morning groggy way. A not-so-good musician was playing guitar down the way. And the song he played brought tears to my eyes. The Only Living Boy in New York.







Thursday, January 9, 2014

WAITING IS A KIND OF DANCING



Cooder takes a break from Proust. But she's almost done!
I was too sleepy to write last night. I hit the pillows at 9:30 and hoped to fall asleep without benefit of sleeping medication. Although I was dozy, I couldn't quite hit the slumber point, so, after my mom checked in on her iPhone (raht on!), I watched some of The Angel's Share. Now, what am I rambling about? Oh, just that I managed to get to bed earlier and woke up earlier and am now working on changing some of my habits. 

I had to fight off the great desire to have pizza instead of protein for breakfast. I got one from Mama Lombardi's in Holbrook last night. And it was good (although it would have been better had it been hotter and it would have been hotter had the kitchen folk been attending to orders instead of flirting and fooling around). 

It's late now, and, unlike last night, I am more awake than I should be at 11:38. I've been weaning myself away from the screens, but I find myself listening to books and not being productive in the ways I should be. I'm almost finished with The Ruby in the Smoke. The reader is first-rate, although I rather feel that as the main character is a female, a female narrator over-all would be better.

The weather was clement enough to walk to the post office again, so I did get some exercise. I am still having trouble getting my food consumption down to pre-holiday levels, but today was better than yesterday and yesterday was better than the day before that. There were other Christmas casualties in the neighborhood. 



One of my favorite poets, Jane Hirschfield, is the current editor of the poem of the day, so it is no wonder that I liked this one.


Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
 
 
The days unfold
like maps. Fresh dirt
in the garden, black
as cake, grows warm.

The roses perform
a silent recital,
each playing its part
from memory. I wait

for my father the way
men wait for a train.
I wait for my father
the way a dancer

waits for music.
My mother is a curtain
in the window.
She calls me in

to fit my shadow
for a suit. I keep still
as she pinches the tape
around its wrist.

Around her neck
my mother's pearls
clink like teeth.
Your shadow grows

faster than you do,
she says. She says
that waiting is
a kind of dancing.

At night I dance
with the stillness.
My blood waits
behind my chest

like a man behind
a locked door.
My father waits
in another country.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

AND IT IS YOURS

Well, the worst part of the polar vortex, for me, at least, was losing cable/internet connectivity for half the day. That rather slowed down the job search and working. Never fear, though! I used that time to take the recycling out (there's a lot as JV cleaned some of the basement) and back (not recycling time yet) and going to Trader Joe's. And this time, I did not get terribly lost. The mental map of the area is forming!

Niece K called this morning and we had a long catch-up, a follow-up to our December visit. I sent her this picture of the new sheets on the bed. Looks like a good place to be on -4 degree day. However, I did not tarry there.

I did finish the soup which was and is terrific. I will be eating for several days. It's nice to be comfortable in a kitchen again after my painful and aborted Brooklyn sojourn. The kitchen table here is large and the room is sunny so it is a good place to sit and work. 

Given the interconnectivity issue, I didn't get a lot of employment research done. I did use the time to read. I seem to be weaning myself from moving images a bit. I was in a bit of despair as I have not really been able to concentrate on reading for awhile now. I haven't had that fantastic sense of losing myself in a narrative. Well, that's not exactly true as I am on the nineteenth and last disc of Cutting for Stone. But I just like being read to. 


Cooder enjoyed my extra reading time today. That's a thing cats can be good for, reading company. Emmylou is less likely to get so close, but perhaps that is because Cooder is so often nearby.

I did work on resolutions and such. Funny for that kind of internal, concentrated work I am better using analog methods. I don't feel the necessary intimacy with a computer. 

I must admit to feelings of loss and panic again. Time is ticking along and I am still confused and unsure of what to do, which direction is "home" … I had this conversation a bit with C&J, wondering what "my place" is on all sorts of levels, and why I had not yet been able to find it. 

Manifest Destiny
by Cynthia Lowen
 
 
The god I'd left behind sent one last email 
before returning to his people. 
 
That summer was sixty-five degrees and fluorescent. 
I was working at a law firm. 
 
The logical mind thinks, 
You'll be paid for your suffering. 
 
Paradise is of this earth 
and it is yours, 
said the copy-machine. 
 
The impenetrable old growth of paper on my desk 
begged to be made 
irrelevant. 
 
When I took off my skirt-suit I felt like my mother, or myself
 
done pretending 
to be my mother. 
 
I stood at the edge 
of a New World. 
 
I stared up the long rocky coast.
 
Whichever way was something to bump against 
I pressed on in that direction. 
 
It was like a sickness. 
It was like the uncontrollable urge 
to eat dirt.

 Right, where is, what is my "manifest destiny"?



Cooder seems clear about HER manifest destiny.





Monday, January 6, 2014

THE QUICK PARTICULAR JIG

(Soundtrack for today: Don't Dream It's Over. Not a clue where this came from as I didn't know any lyrics save for "hey now, hey now" …)

The kitchen smells sooooo good. I finished off the batch of Spicy Tomato Soup today. With temperatures so low tomorrow (around 12 here), I figured I needed more soup so I made another batch. This time I added four roasted red bell peppers (on sale!) and roasted onions and thyme instead of basil. I also threw in a Jarlsberg cheese rind. I am boiling a bit more before I turn it off for the night. Tomorrow, it goes in the blender and then gets strained for a smooth consistency. I will let you all know how it goes. It's a pleasure to just breathe in here.


It was a very quiet day. Other than talking to the cats and on the 'phone, I was silent. The beautiful sheets my niece Karen gave me for Christmas arrived in the mail, so I washed them and put them on the bed. Something else to look forward to. 

Cooder is finally calming down a bit after her disorienting days in lock-up and coming back to a place she didn't know all that well. They like having space, although they will stay with me upstairs if that is where I am working. Today, I was downstairs in the kitchen more, attending to laundry and such. 

I did manage to walk for 40 minutes. Getting back to reasonable eating, even more reasonable drinking, and exercise will be a challenge here. I walked to the post office which will perhaps be a destination walk, although it is not particularly scenic. I looked online for local hiking and did not (yet) come up with much nearby. There are the Sans Souci woods where I walked on New Years' Day and got a bit lost. It's too small and bounded by fences to get terribly lost. It was rainy and given that it is swampy on a good day, I thought to preserve my snow boots.

Finding things to photograph on my walks will be even more of a challenge. I came up with these today: 


I hadn't seen these cabbages in this state before. Quite beautiful. Almost like snowflakes. 

I flipped open The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry and came upon this.

So Graven

Simplicity so graven hurts the sense.
The monumental and the simple break
And the great tables shatter down in deed.

Every year the quick particular jig
Of unresolved event moves in mind,
And there's the trick simplicity has to win.

— Josephine Miles

I don't know that I had ever heard of Josephine Miles as a poet before. I guess that is a good portent of a year of poetry. I did spend more time contemplating resolutions, but have yet to commit them to paper. 

The kitchen clock is ticking toward 12:00 and I should to bed.

My friend Iris bakes and decorates cakes for fun. She just took a class and I thought the results were rather spectacular. Fondant flowers!