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one step at a time

* Watch The Timber if you, like me, love love love these European takes on dark, folkloric, Jungian, moody Westerns. So symbolic. THE BEAR!!! Just adored this film. Very much exactly like The Dark Valley and Black Field.

* I'm trying to both keep track and not keep track of the more difficult conversations I'm having with my mother. Not as a grudge collector, but more as an assessment tool. My mother is not well, not coping well, and not projecting wellness of any kind, actually. It's depressing to the point of having it ache in one's bones, into the marrow depression. There doesn't seem to a thing anyone can say or do.

* OMG, now we're hearing that some of the ghost ship victims sent goodbye texts. I just cannot with that. It hurts my brain. Those of us who are millenials or love millenials know that this is 100% how it would happen.

* Instead of a Christmas song, have an automata swan -


* Spent many, many years attending hipster gatherings in warehouses. Squats and lofts in the industrial section of town. And yes, in Oak-town. RIP all those who lost their lives with such a panicked and frightening end. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

* I got talked out of my kitchen reno idea. :( For all good solid reasons, so....I'm okay with it. I think I'll go back to some of my original ideas of how to make this kitchen more functional and the first thing I do need is a gas cooktop. Then new countertops and sink....and hopefully hardwood throughout the downstairs which will include the kitchen.

* The spin bike is something amazing! I'm getting muscles where I didn't know muscles could be gotten! I'm glad I made this investment. I'm still walking but now have this added cardio and can work out on the rainy days. Of which we've been getting many.

* Feeling that "itch" to sit down and write something from start to finish of poetic worth. I haven't felt this way in months. Admittedly, I don't know what that "something" is but I've got a feeling that if I wait for it, it will reveal itself.

* This review knocked me breathless - Thinking At 36,000 Feet - and now I want to pick up this book. I hope it's half as good as the review.


It wasn’t the urgent, staccato-knocking of an emergency; the door and jamb and walls and windows all shaking as the sleeping occupant was woken to news so terrible it could not wait for morning. It wasn’t that. It was an unarticulated collection of raps and brushings, pauses and the attempts at a rim shot executed with knuckles and wood. So, she didn’t come awake with a hammering heart, but rather a muted, thudding sound of sleep dropping out of her head.

Joe was snoring beside her and she narrowed her eyes in the dark bedroom, the clock reading just past two. Closing time. She slipped out of bed, pulling the door closed quietly behind her, and padded down the hallway. A victorious laugh greeted the light being turned on in the foyer and she didn’t hesitate to unlock the front door and pull it open. She tried to look stern.

“Catfish,” she hissed at him.

He had his hand up, to knock again, but lowered it smiling and he stumbled past her, pausing in the entryway. “Is that an umbrella stand? I wish I had an umbrella! Just so I could put it, dripping wet, in that stand! Honestly? Are those umbrellas?” He laughed and made a beeline for the main room. “It’s dark in here, Goldie.” The sound of crashing into something and a muttered curse. “Illuminate please!”

She followed him, turning off one light and switching on the lamp beside the sofa. He stood as though orienteering the direction of his body in space before throwing himself down on the couch, feet up on one arm, head on the far end. She perched on the edge of a chair.

“Your boots are a mess,” she said and he conked the toes together in answer, mud falling loose to the floor.

“What is that you’re wearing, Goldie?”

“Pajamas?”

He snorted. “If you say so.”

“Shhhhh,” she quieted him and reached out for his feet, pushing her hands down hard on his brogue boots. “Stop.”

“Fine. I’ll clean it up. We’re whispering,” he waggled his eyebrows at her. “Who is it you’ve got in your bed now?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You know it’s Joe.”

“Joe?”

“Did you close down the bar?”

He nodded, lacing his fingers behind his head. "You should of been there, Goldfish, it was glorious."

“No one calls me Goldfish anymore, Catfish,” she smiled.

“No? What do they call you? Tell me they don’t call you late for dinner.”

“Hilarious."

"What’ve you got to quench a powerful thirst?” He sat up suddenly, feet dropping to the floor, gobs of mud skittering across the clean hardwood.

“A glass of water?” she asked him, pointedly ignoring the dirt.

“No,” he mock-shuddered.

“Warm milk?”

“Decidedly not.”

She stood and he followed her into the kitchen. Leveraging his body backwards up onto the counter, swinging the heels of his boots into the cabinets. She set a saucepan of milk on the stove. “Here,” she told him, “you can have this bottle of Guinness if you drink a glass of water first.”

“What are you, Mary Poppins for the inebriated?”

He took the glass in one hand, the bottle in the other, balancing each on his thighs. He watched as she stirred the milk keeping it off the boil, then poured it into a readied mug. He slid off the countertop, landing with a loud thud and she shot him a look. He grimaced an apology.

She followed him back into the main room, warming her hands on the cup, shoulders hunched slightly.

“Can I smoke in here?”

She scowled at him dramatically.

“Oh, seriously?” He was dismissive.

“Fine, but open that window. And I don’t have an ashtray, you’ll have to use the fire grate.”

“Thought you collected them? Big, heavy, crystal things? You could bash someone’s brains in with one of them.”

“That was a long time ago. I wonder what happened to all of those ashtrays.”

“Gone the way of our good looks and wild nights?”

She shrugged. “Speak for yourself. And is it bash someone’s brains in or bash someone’s brains out?”

“Does the house burn down or does it burn up?”

She pondered this, watching him closely as he drained the water glass and set it on top of a book on the coffee table. She winced. “That’s a first edition.”

He popped his eyes at her, and she reached for a coaster, waiting for him to lift the glass. He smoked and she debated plucking the cigarette from between his fingers and hitting it herself but finally let better sense prevail. She had tucked her body into the oversized chair, knees up to her chin, sipping at the milk. He was alternating between the sofa and pacing, telling stories so funny she thought she would surely wake Joe with her laughter.

“You’re dozing, darling,” he said softly, quite close to her ear and she opened her eyes with a start. He was sitting again and leaning towards her, prizing the mug out of her hands and setting it down. On a coaster, she noted.

“Switch!” he commanded and he moved aside, indicating the sofa with a flourish, and she stood and then laid down, the cushions warm and body-fluffed. “Here,” he snapped out a woolen black watch plaid throw folded neatly over the back of the couch, tucking it down around her shoulders and hips and feet. “You’re tired.”

Her eyes were closed again. “I am. It’s gone three, you idiot. Aren’t you?”

“Naw. Not me. I’ll let myself out. What a terrible hostess you are, Goldie.”

“Kiss me goodbye,” she whispered.

She felt his lips on her forehead. He smelled of earth and rain and wool. It reminded her of something she had forgotten. Then the light was turned off, darkness heavy on her eyelids, and the sound of the front door closing.


“Why are you sleeping on the couch?” Joe asked, as she woke to his voice and pulled herself to a seated position looking around bleary, shrugging a small weight of sadness off her shoulders. The morning sun bright, a mug of half-drunk milk on the coffee table. No empty water glass, no opened bottle of Guinness, no dried mud on the floor.
* It is almost December and I'm counting down because....I like beginnings and endings and I've assigned December 1st as a Beginning. And I need one. Not a restart because that's currently not an option of any kind. Although I do remember the "restarts" of my younger self, some self-imposed, some forced upon me from circumstance, and I don't think I could survive a Beginning of that sort any more. In this life. So, looking forward to Thursday! :) I'm going to spend the first part of this week readying myself. Cryptic, yes? But most of the preparations are mental and emotional, labeling and compartmentalizing, dusting and sorting, and leaving a nice clear quiet spot in the midst of all this current mess.

* Thanksgiving was part and parcel of the current "mess". I'm making a concerted effort to NOT analyse it to the death any longer....but yeah. Family. We did discover, in a cook-off, that D's deep-fried turkey was a zillion times tastier than my roasted bird. Also, when no one is capable of lending a helping hand to the clean-up, it takes five dishwasher loads and three days of hand-drying to work one's way through all that. Yesterday we spent the entire day with Kidling2's gf's family and the no-drama zone went a considerable way towards me finishing the long holiday on a positive note! Note to self:  let it go, smile, be warm, be open-hearted.

* We watched netflix's Paranoid the past two nights and enjoyed it muchly. Story was melodramatic and the ending anti-climatic, but then aren't all these detective shows? Not sure what that is about or what it means in a conversation on writing crime thrillers. The characters were interesting and their side stories compelling. And the German arc was a great bonus! What are you guys watching? I'm kind of feeling like a The Killing rewatch only because I miss Joel Kinneman's Stephen Holder. Maybe I'll begin my annual watch of the numerous interpretations of A Christmas Carol early....

* Listening to quite a bit of David Whyte and his inspirational Jungian poetry-based talks. Even though my beloved thistle_verse and I traveled far to see him speak in person only to discover he's a bit of a dinosaur goofball, I forgive him. His spoken word cds are deeply moving and truly affecting. What To Remember When Waking is the ultimate collection, if you're interested!


“The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
The houses are all gone under the sea.
The dancers are all gone under the hill.” ~ TS Eliot

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on their journeys.” ~ Charles Dickens

“Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making?” ~ Hamlet

“The meaning of life is that it ends.” ~ anon.


Life is short. And time flies on transient wings. We all go under the hill, together as fellow-passengers. This is what I know of life. And it is precious and if we strive towards humility then we can make the speeding days be filled with gratitude and wonder. It does not burden us to lift others, it does not lessen us to make more of others. We can have our tribe, our closest heart’s loves, but we must also extend our compassion and empathy to the world at large – all living things will die. Even our beloved sun and planet.

These sentiments feel like bumper stickerisms because we’ve been trying for tens of thousands of years to speak to this knowledge, this experience, this humanizing collectivism. We want reassurance and guidance that we are acting appropriately to our lives and the lives of others.

There is comfort in acknowledging the shared experience of our lives. And the shared knowledge of our imminent deaths. Our dyings unite us in the question of what the meaning of our lives is and what it can be, should be. We are united, past, present, future with what we make of this strange consciousness. Our aliveness.



When we chose knowledge, death became part of that awareness. This knowledge must surely then denote a responsibility. To life.

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I have tried to embrace this knowing. Cerebrally and visceraly.

Understanding that death is part and parcel of life is a struggle. It can make us feel alive, but it can also put us in a headlock, cutting off all oxygen to the brain, panicking us. Take care, great care with what makes you feel alive.

(We are fellow travelers, friend. Alone but not alone at all. There is comfort to be found in this shared journey.)



I am caretaker to a human skull. It is a deeply profound stewardship. This encumbrance is a kind of gift. If you will. The subjection of my life to this other, now deceased, life and in its turn, the skull holds me in thralldom. Symbol and container of philosophical, spiritual, existential and wholly physical struggle.

The memento mori should not paralyze but rather remind so that we can act with mindfulness. And joy.

Bring joy. To all things, bring joy.

***
I woke in the earliest parts of this morning from a dreamscape that was part of my childhood - my maternal grandfather's front yard. The year when my father was in Vietnam and my mother had moved into her parents home (a suburban ranch-style they had retired to, not the Boston Irish tenament building she had grown up in) to wait for my father's return home. She took her three small children and a newborn. This was the year that my grandmother died unexpectedly and my aunt succumbed to her battle with cancer. This was the year I was taught how to look for four-leaf clovers and was told about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In the dream it is Autumn and my grandfather has forbidden us children to jump in the huge mounds of raked leaves because he is systematically lighting each pile on fire. We are bundled for the weather and following him around the yard. All up and down the wide broad street are small smoky fires in front yards where the neighbours are burning their own leaves and yard waste. I am asking my grandfather why he is burning the leaves. (We had been taught to fear fire. It was just recently that I learned my uncle did not lose his fingers by "playing with matches" but rather lost them in the the war.) My grandfather has stopped and is leaning on a pitchfork giving me his full attention. In the dream I realize he is about to impart something very, very important. But in the way of dreams, it is suddenly a beautiful Spring morning and I am overcome with a feeling of suffused warmth and hope. The sunlight is pouring on me and I am tingling with joy. The sun is filtering through green leaves. I try to move and at that point am made aware of my situation. I AM THE LEAVES.
RIP Gwen Ifill.

So sad to hear this expected/unexpected news yesterday. I liked the way PBS eulogized her...but felt it was a bit too cheerful? Which leads me to the conclusion that her inner circle had long known how ill she was. I did wonder, on election night, where she was....She was a force! And a role model for anyone wanting to throw themselves into the pit of hell that is journalism, but especially for women. The year I briefly flirted with a journalism degree to please my mother was the year that she became a shining star in my cosmos. She was young and radical then. I guess she still was yesterday, too. Tried to never miss Washington Week. It was a great bookend to The McLaughlin Group. I must be old.

* Spent yesterday down at the "old house" so that D could help my father deal with all the firearms. It was a long but satisfying day. It's better when D is involved. His calm efficiency goes a long way towards maintaining the status quo. And yes, my mother did appear to be stunned by the beauty of the "new house" last Saturday. Both of my parents admitted that they could not remember a thing from that whirlwind week when they made an offer that was accepted. Because the house was a model, the pictures online were not actually their house, so the only visuals they had were hazy memories and my cellphone pix. So, Saturday was a kind of revelation. She needs to fall in love with this house, see it as a home, a new beginning of sorts. I feel more assured now that that will indeed happen. But it doesn't lessen the work that is still required to make this move this Friday and Saturday. *overwhelmed*

* D and Kidling2 returned from the seas on Sunday with rock fish and crab. We had an impromptu crab feed that evening, hosted by Kidling2's girlfriend and her family and I think this is beginning to be "serious".

* Also brought a few crabs and filet down to my parents yesterday and that's the fourth "clean" meal I've provided for them in a week's time. I'm happy to be able to do that but do wish my mother would relearn what she knows about food.

* Can you tell I'm beginning to get antsy? Trying to reclaim, reassert?

* What have you guys been watching and/or reading that has not a whit to do with American politics? I've been reading Sicario fanfic and itching to write one of my own.

Idol Season 10 Week 0 – introductions

My father is ill. Cancer we are being told caused by Agent Orange. My mother is losing her mind. There are four of us children, one of whom has estranged herself and her family.

The home my parents have lived in for forty years is on the market. It is a two-hour drive from me and my youngest sister. My father has been desperately trying to convince my mother to leave this house and move closer to us, to buy something new, to shed the old skin, get used to a new skin. She has refused for the past five years. Vehemently. He has taken to referring to their home as The Mausoleum. At one time, that was amusing.

Early last month the house sold just as they were preparing to take it off the market for the winter. My father bought a new house within three days of accepting the offer on the old house. This lightning-fast action was a tell. This was the beginning of my mother falling completely apart. Forty years of accumulated memories felt like safety to her. We began packing up the house. The impossibility of voluntary change has made everything involuntary and necessary for her and for those who are trying desperately to help.

There is no help but that you can offer to yourself.

Night after night of panic attacks. Weekend after weekend of packing and loading and storing. And the sale fell through. My mother’s relief was palatable. My father refused to back out of the purchase of the new house. Things became unbearable. Ten days ago, my father was hospitalized with a severe condition, a side effect to the chemotherapy. Therapy which is a bodily punishment.

My sister flew across the country for solidarity. I don’t think we would have survived this week without her. We are as though the living dead. I cannot speak to this reaction. I don’t know why all hope has been stripped out of our lives, I don’t understand why any positivity is met at once with a crushing negative response. So many lessons with knowledge gleaned that is essentially useless.

A house of light and warmth has been reduced. Boxes are stacked to the ceiling, walls bare, shelves empty. My father insisted on being discharged. He has returned to the house he hates with oxygen and endless medication bottles. He’s on a bed downstairs and claims to be overjoyed that he will never again see the second floor of his home. Yesterday a wheelchair was ordered while he sat silent in the other room.

His mind is as it ever was, his body forsakes him hourly. Her mind is betraying her.

Everything changes. Nothing will remain the same.

***

Now is the time of my harrowing.

The seasons change, my body is the earth. The winnowing, the harvesting; then harrowed but left fallow. I can produce nothing.

I am changing. Becoming more, becoming less. My heart’s loves are changing, as well. My tribe is enduring a life passage, a season. A phase is upon us. And strangely, this is an event which has no ray of hope, no sliver of sunshine breaking through the cracks. The hopelessness is overwhelming, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

The metaphors.

We are within the chrysalis, the lives we lived before becoming a strange recollection of another body, a different experience.

My universe is cold and growing dark, each star that I have long used to guide my way is burning to ash, the lights winking out. One by one. The vault of heaven lowers, the velvet black shroud envelops.


My maternal grandfather spent months building a hard-rock maple cradle in anticipation of the birth of my second sibling. The third of four girls. She has grown and estranged herself. My mother cannot see the cradle without weeping, but she cannot bear to part with it. It has fallen to me to care for it. One of those symbolic items which human beings bear the weight of upon their spiritual shoulders, carrying it through one life before the reverential passing of it to another’s back. The cradle is beautiful but it is grief-laden.

Last night I dreamt my father was in a strangely-lit hospital where all the patients were lying prone in sleep-like comas from which they would not awaken again, in this life. In the dream, I was stricken, not for my father but for my mother. I fetched the cradle and my first sibling and I gently placed my father into it as one would a slumbering infant. We then appointed ourselves guardians, rocking the cradle each time we paused beside it as we went about the daily chores and movements of our lives.

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a brief update and The Real LJ Idol

* Sad. Worried. Tense. Things are upside down out here IRL. I can't talk about it right now. My father is in the hospital. My mother is not well. They are simultaneously selling and buying a house. I can't even begin to speak to the chaos that has enveloped all of us.

* But Life goes on, doesn't it? I want to talk to the writers on the flist - don't make me call each one of you out by name! - about therealljidol. You all know that I've been involved in this amazing writing competition for the past few years. And it IS amazing!!! Like all things, it has a shadow side, no question, but I feel that the dark aspect of Idol is worth struggling through because of all the light that will be pouring down upon you. I believe in Idol because I have personally reaped the benefits of writing to prompts, reading other amazing responses to prompts, and participating with words on a competitive level. I have seen friends benefit as well.

I urge you fellow writers to spend a few mintues reading over the FAQs and considering joining up. If you have questions - ask! If you have concerns - share!

FAQS - http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/945497.html

Sign-ups - http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/945807.html
therealljidol Season 10 has arrived! I'm going to partake and I hope it helps with the distractions and sadnesses. I recommend this intense writing competition to all of the writers on my flist. I would love to write and read alongside each one of you!

Sign ups are here.