Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rocks in the Dark

Recently I picked up work on a poem I'd not been able to write previous to this year, a poem about a suicide attempt. It often helps, I find, to read other poets' work touching on the subject matter or the style or tone of whatever poem I'm working on at a given time. Marcus's poem, which I posted yesterday, is one I read when I sat down with his two books, The Broken World and Roman Fever. His books aren't easy to read, certainly aren't cheery little volumes of pert glee, but they are reassuring--reassuring because they address deeply emotional subject matter with an unblinking eye and a calm in the midst of the sorrow and darkness, a calm that speaks to a stable center being possible despite whatever pain or tragedy may come hurtling into our lives to rip them apart.

I've known this center of stability. I've stood there before while huge chunks of my life crumbled and fell from structures I'd once considered unshakable: an area of my identity I'd considered impeccably "normal," my marriage, my ability to choose to do the right thing, my own motivations. The universe blew to dust around me, but somewhere in the center was a place of solidity. It wasn't an island paradise of warm fuzzies, that's for sure. More like a sterile rock in the middle of a frenzied sea. It held, though. It held true.

A large part of me wants to live there, on that rock that feels sterile but is secure. I suspect I'd find it to be not so devoid of life or comfort at all, if I could hold myself there in stillness and acceptance. I'm afraid to try too determinedly, though. The times I've known it most strongly have been through periods of intense pain and personal devastation. Does it even exist without the mind and/or heart's necessity for it? And if it does, is it possible to go there, to dwell there, without hurting at every breath taken?

Tonight Scott is upstairs working in the study; the girls are in bed. I'm sitting in a darkened room at my desk. The windows to my left are open, admitting cool night air, cricket song and the multi-pitched trilling of tree frogs. A fan runs somewhere in the house. The refrigerator hums. The Great Golden Sun Cat has draped his weight across my thighs and lashes my legs lightly with his tail. On the porch, Tongue Depressor Kitty is calling me to come take another look at the little leopard frog she's caught, to praise her and admire her prowess. What more could I want? Why delve into deep places where light grows dim and flickers?

Because. There's something there. There's something there. There's something there.

And it's important.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday Quote: Your Protest

"Let the excellence of your work be your protest."

--Dr. William Lane

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Anniversary

Sunday morning Great Scott woke up miserably sick. Miserably sick. (Is it something about our anniversary?!?!) The girls and I left him sleeping and tiptoed out of the house to church, where we arrived (as usual) about five minutes late. My mother pulled into the parking space next to ours. "Your father isn't coming this morning," she said, as she climbed out of her car. "A wrong load of feed got delivered yesterday, and he's taken one of the guys out to the customer's farm to shovel it out of their barn." Not an unusual happening.

I remember thinking that August wasn't a particularly good time to be up in the roof of a barn shoveling grain. Dad's done it lots of times, but he isn't in his twenties or thirties any more, and it would be rough on him. As one of the two partners who run the milling business, and given his age, he really shouldn't be doing any shoveling at all, but I knew my father, and I knew he wouldn't ask any of the regular hands to do anything he wasn't going to help with himself. Mom's call later that afternoon caught me off guard but didn't particularly shock me. "Your father's collapsed. They're airlifting him to St. John's."

The rest of Sunday seems like a month ago. Or a year. Or a lifetime. Not that there was ever any particular feeling of panic, really. Dad was in solid spirits when we got to the hospital. He was calm, good-natured and fairly serious with an occasional mildly mischievious comment thrown in. The doctors confirmed a mild heart attack. An angiogram was scheduled for Monday afternoon. Mom and I didn't leave the hospital until nearly eleven, not for medical reasons, but because we'd innocently granted my dad the pen and paper he'd requested, and he kept giving Mom, his business partner and their manager lists of things they needed to know and take care of. Mom, Jody and Steve stood around in the ICU waiting room grinning, shaking their heads and comparing: "I got seven pages; how many'd he give you?"

Monday's tests revealed partial blockages and signs of another one or more that had likely caused Sunday's problem. Three stents were put in. By the time Mom, my sister and I finished hearing the doctor's report and got back to Dad's room, he was finishing off his dinner, and he showed my sister his favorite trick with the monitors. By breathing in a series of sharp and irregular gasps, he could make the monitor's respiration line leap in a series of jagged peaks and valleys. He found this tremendously entertaining: "Look. I can make it draw Mickey Mouse!" (Oh, alright, I'll admit, we all found it pretty funny, in a warped sort of way.)

Today I'm home and weary beyond bone tired. I've not felt particularly stressed the last two days. No worrying or panic, no what-if's chasing themselves in circles around my mind. Just a lot of waiting, listening, learning and considering. Very calm stuff. Now, though, it's as if all the tension and turmoil that hasn't been emotionally manifested has somehow transformed itself into sheer physical exaustion. Probably not particularly unusual.

And the anniversary? I'm really glad Scott and I hadn't made special plans, that we'd decided to just wait until the next weekend the girls went to their grandmother's. He did bring home a dozen red rosebuds Saturday night, and their slow bloom has been a deeply felt thing for me to see over the past two or three days. Scott's been really uckily ill, and he's taken care of the girls and his own first couple of teachers' days of the new school year all on his own, regardless, without a single complaint. We haven't really seen each other enough to talk, but late every night when I've walked in, the whole household darkened and asleep, these roses have been standing quietly, beautifully opening at my place on the table, bearing witness to his love.

Thank you, Sweetheart. I love you, too. Happy Anniversary.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Fifteen Years Ago

On August 14th, 1990, Scott and I stood under the spreading limbs of an old tree in Phelps Grove Park in Springfield, Missouri and were wed. Fifteen years is a long time, I suppose. Sometimes it seems like forever. But sometimes I look at him and wonder who this man is standing in my kitchen helping himself to my Nuke Loops. Then I remember, "Oh yeah. He's the guy who pays for the Nuke Loops!"

Last year our anniversary celebration was preempted by my having the flu. This year we have no idea what to do. He's finishing up work from last school year and begins his new year on Monday. Today is the first day since last Monday that I've not run a fever, so I don't feel much like getting out yet. Most likely we'll take a nap tomorrow. Maybe there's something sad about spending one's fifteenth wedding anniversary at home napping, but part of me finds the idea pretty cozy.

I know we'll make a point of going out to eat in a week or two, and we'll probably end up in a bookstore somewhere, each making appreciative noises over what treasures the other finds. This is how we began--making faces at each other over the table in a restaurant and prowling Springfield's used book stores (once he convinced me to go out with him at all, that is). It was a good start.

After fifteen years, it's still good.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday Quote: Poem Excerpt

From "Dogfish"

. . .

You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story--
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

. . .

---Mary Oliver

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Great Scott!: (tapping his extremely well toasted--i.e. hard and very dark brown--sloppy joe bun) "Yeah! Ummm Hmmm! Just the way I like 'em!"

Cindy: (gratefully) You are such a good man!

Great Scott!: (cheerful and matter-of-fact) "I'm a lyin' coward! :::big smile:::

I definitely married the right man.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Summer Cold. Just Shoot Me Now.

Achy ears.
Sore throat.

Self-pity. The best symptom of the bunch.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday Quote: On Purpose

I believe that every one of us has a personal mission--a mission to contribute something positive through being who we are. Woodrow Wilson said, "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."

. . .According to George Bernard Shaw, "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

---as quoted by Sunny Schlenger
in Organizing for the Spirit

This is SO Not Politically Correct!

But it's a whole lot of fun!

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Mushroom Cloud of Tranquility. What's yours?

Sister Mushroom Cloud of Tranquility. . .I really like that.

Keeps to the Rabid Galadriel theme, too, come to think of it...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Tonight I played with two different personality doohickeys for fun. The results are faintly discombobulating...

You are Galadriel!

Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

And then there's this:


You Are Rabies!

Also known as Hydrophobia, you tend to be exciting
and spontaneous. Energetic and daring, your
friends value your ability to eat things after
the five second rule has expired. While you are
greatly appreciated for your ability to take
chances, you have been known to "bite the
hand that feeds you." You have a great
sense of humor when you can manage to wipe the
foam off of your mouth.

What Disease Are You?
brought to you by

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'm So Envious!

An author of one of those fluffy-little-books-that-have-a-lot-of-wisdom-in-them-for-such-a-fluffy-little-book recommends making a list of the things you'd be jealous of in your own life, were it not yours. The idea being that we take a lot for granted. Given my present circumstances, it seems like a good time to tackle the assignment.

Reasons why, if I weren't me, I'd be envious of me:

1. Her marriage, her only marriage, has lasted nearly fifteen years and is stronger for past struggles.

2. Her husband is a funny and thoughtful man. (He is! Yesterday he brought home a copy of the Weekly World News with a story about giant bats attacking airplanes, just to cheer her up. Now that's self-sacrificing for a man who teaches journalism for a living!)

3. She has beautiful children who worship the ground she walks on ("Oh, Mommy, you spoil us! You are the best Mommy in the world! Mommy, I luuuuuv you! Can I have a snack now?")

4. Her cat sits on her lap when she's on the computer.

5. Her library--she has exquisite taste in books!

6. Her monstrous oak rolltop desk.

7. She lives in the middle of nowhere, complete with birdsong, fields, woods, creeks, and wildlife. (She saw two humongous deer this morning on her walk, as a matter of fact, and an owl yesterday.)

8. She gets to stay home while her husband works, and he's ok with that.

9. She has lovely hair (long, dark--not really greying yet, soft, thick, and generally well behaved).

10. She talks to God as if He were a real person, one close enough to be vulnerable with and to be slightly (ok, sometimes more than slightly) sassy with.

11. She and her husband share most of their passions (books, spirituallity, books, chocolate, books, language, books, words, books, outdoors, books).

12. She has a solid family and good relationships with its members (thinking extended family, here: her amazingly gifted brother and sister, her parents and her grandmother).

13. She has good relationships with her in-laws and is sincerely fond of them (especially the two warped brothers-in-law and Lauren).

14. She has a quirky sense of humor.

15. Her friends are the oddest and most fascinating collection you'd ever wish to run across, and all of them incredibly exceptional people.

16. She has a lot of knowledge and curiosity; she's interested in and researches nearly everything.

17. She often has unusual insight into people and situations.

18. Her yard is full of flowers and huge, old trees.

19. She has a green thumb with houseplants (african violets, geraniums, cyclamen, orchids, begonias, ivy, anthurium).

20. Her writing.

As I'm writing this, I'm seeing that I really do take most of these things for granted most of the time. Furthermore, I'm finding it's the simplest things that give me the most pleasure and comfort when I'm down: the yard, the woods, the cat, the husband (I'll be in trouble for that remark when he reads this. Ah, well. It adds spice. ;) )

Monday, August 01, 2005

Taking Steps

Sometimes I don't know if I'm going forward or backward. Often I suspect doing both simultaneously isn't beyond possibility. Like now, for instance. My moods have been increasing in intensity lately: restlessness, drivenness, sentimentality, teariness, emotional exaustion, false guilt, self-condemnation, discouragement sliding toward depression, pressured. I hate this. In such moods, the mere fact of their existence becomes perceived confirmation of my complete failure as a human being. Sheer hogwash, of course, but knowing doesn't alleviate feeling, unfortunately.

There are things I can do that have proven effective in lessening the severity of these moods and/or decreasing the length of their existence. Things I've been avoiding but that I have to admit have become necessary. So this morning I got out of bed much earlier than has been the norm this summer, and I walked for an hour. Hard. Tonight I will try to go to bed around ten instead of the 2 a.m. average I've been running for the last two weeks. I am trying very, very, very hard to stay away from sugar, corn and wheat products, and I am trying to focus on the very simple, very ordinary tasks of the everyday variety: laundry, dishes, bedmaking, bathing, putting in my contacts, brushing my hair. Yes, these things take enormous focus right now, believe it or not.

There is nothing quite so humbling for a Very Intelligent Person as having one's mind stage a coup that leaves one nearly incapable of tasks even the dimmest person can perform with ease. Grrrr.