Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas, Blue Peninsula

Early morning, up from a deep langorous sleep
Things have shifted, a final advent window
unlatched to solve a mystery,
reveal a precious gift
that with it brings an unexpected end to wanderings
and in a single enveloping instant
an abiding sense of home.
I am in awe. I never expected to see
beyond the surface glisten
and now am drawn deep into the warm
miraculous depths, an end to one journey,
the start, perhaps, of another.

Andrew Wyeth, Master Bedroom, watercolor, c. 1965 (detail)
Joseph Cornell, Toward the "Blue Peninsula":
For Emily Dickinson
, box construction, c. 1952


It might be lonelier
Without the Loneliness -
I'm so accustomed to my Fate -
Perhaps the Other - Peace -

Would interrupt the Dark -
And crowd the little Room -
Too scant - by Cubits - to contain
The Sacrament - of Him -

I am not used to Hope -
It might intrude upon -
Its sweet parade - blaspheme the place -
Ordained to Suffering -

It might be easier
To fail - with Land in Sight -
Than gain - My Blue Peninsula -
To perish - of Delight -

Emily Dickinson, c. 1862

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Darlings, blogging will be scarce tonight, my computer's crashing.

But I do love you, and --

-- back now, some time later, computer still crashing
still love you
oh, as you know

listen, my ardent loved ones, blogging may be a bit scarce this week because the computer needs to be taken in for debugging to the local genius

I love you so much, my very dearest ones, I never let go of you for even a second, I adore you, adore you, adore you

And hey - don't worry - if my home computer's out of commission for a spell - I'll try to get myself to the little town library - where I got busted last week for blasting David Gray too loud on my tiny earphones!! -

oh how I love you, I can't even begin to count the ways

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

inhaling to Dover

Christmas Day. Inside the Hudson rail station, beautiful strains of classical guitar strummed very softly by a young man. I think of my beautiful friend in Finland who wishes to take it up, and how I've forgotten to tell him that I adore classical guitar. After the flurry of stress of trying to get out of the house with everything done, the music is extraordinarily tonic & soothing. The train arrives and I think I might thank the young man who I assume is going to New York along with the rest of us, but it seems that he's remaining in the station.

On the train. Long frozen river, like riding alongside the back of a great gray whale.

A collection of ghostly buildings - a house, a shed, a barn
in the woods above the river as the train races past
ancient clapboard shells stripped of paint and color
gray calcified walls meld against vapor sky
behind bare trees, the spectral apparitions
float above a matte rise of thick brown leaves
(lexicon: penumbral, tenebrous)


around 12:30. A hawk flies along the riverbank just south of Yonkers, glimpses of Manhattan skyline in sight.

1:11 p.m. On NJ Transit train, the conductor collects tickets.
A young woman seated behind me informs brightly, "I have to finish knitting this scarf before I get to Dover. I'll have to knit fast. I think I can do it!"

Do you wear perfume?

I haven't for a long time
but feel that I would like to once again.

(the garden of your kisses...)


Emily Dickinson's Herbarium, page __, c. 1844
Model Victorian conservatory, Maplewood, NJ, Dec. 2010
Andrew Wyeth, The Master Bedroom, c. 1965 (detail)
Display within model Victorian conservatory, Maplewood, NJ
Emily Dickinson's garden (recreation), NY Botanical Garden,
June 2010


Monday, December 27, 2010

la double vie de Gwynnie

11:12 p.m.. She's back! I woke up, went on the computer for a couple of minutes, and before heading back to bed thought, let me check at the back door one last time. There she was! She doesn't even seem that much worse for the wear, or that nonplussed, though the fur on her underside is icy, and she ran straight for the food. I woke D with the happy news. We couldn't be more thrilled and relieved. Claire, Rafe, & Penelope had been starting to look for Gwynnie, miss her in their ways, and as I sat at the computer a few minutes ago Claire & Penelope even seemed to be starting to cooperate/coordinate. Thank God Gwynnie's back. As much as I would love for everyone to get along, I wasn't quite ready for Claire & Penelope to become new BFF's. Love you all, my very dearests, XOXOXO. Feliz Navidad, dearest sprite.


Claire & Gwynnie

48 hours

My darlings, back home safe & sound. I lucked out yesterday evening, my Amtrak train home to Hudson was delayed - yes - by a frustrating hour just short of Riverdale where it stopped for seemingly interminable ever due to the need to "clean out switches so we can proceed north," as a weary conductor informed over the P.A. As frustrated and restless as I was and ready to come home, at this moment I count my blessings. I was comfortably on the train, as opposed to many thousands who became stranded at airports and train stations as a blizzard walloped our region. Went out for a walk around here this afternoon - the roads are plowed but in our driveway the snow is up to my knees.

Will blog more tomorrow. I have so many wonderful, incredible impressions from my weekend - but it was whirlwind, and I'm psychically recharging, and also things are a bit sad around here because one of our cats, Gwynnie, has gone inexplicably missing, we can't find her anywhere, and neither of us can quite with certainty remember precisely when we saw her last (yesterday evening for D - he thinks - this morning at the cat food plate ballet for me - or is that a small memory from any one of a zillion cat food plate ballets over the years?). The worst time ever for her to go missing. It's very severe out. No one let her out - did she dive out? That would be unlike her, she would have screeched to a halt at the freezing cold in the doorway. Anyway.

I love you very much. I had an amazing time this weekend. Now (@Sweden) if I could only figure out what I meant by NFSTOTTF_, as well as HTCCYL. Other messages came through loud & clear. XOXO.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

the lion, the witch (?), and the wardrobe

Very merry Christmas, darlings. Love you. XOXO

Friday, December 24, 2010

Up in the aerie, in a reflective mood this evening, it doesn't really feel like Christmas Eve to me, except perhaps vestigially, as much as on spiritual levels I'm at home with this holiday. There's turkey in the oven, smelling delicious here upstairs, all four cats are about, asleep. D bought me my train tickets for this weekend. His boss asked him today, so you're married - what are you getting your wife for Christmas? D - as he told me - gleefully replied: a train ticket out of town. To which I cracked up, that's really funny. Don't worry he added to his boss, there's a return too.

Imagining myself at my cousins' house tomorrow, a bit. I love them, but politically and in very many ways they are very different from me. They're very much the right wing authoritarian types, to an almost humorous degree. I chatted briefly with one of my cousins yesterday on the phone and she mentioned about hoping for snow, and I retorted, I just hope for the sun to come out it's been so gray, and - possibly I'm imagining this - she seemed to freeze a bit on the other end, titter a little nervously - and I thought, she completely knows I'm of - as they view it - "the other persuasion" and she's interpreted it as some sort of remark on climate change! Anyway, I'm feeling a bit Dmitri-Gurov about my impending visit, I'm looking forward to it, but when it comes to the inevitable questions - so what are you doing, how's it going, how's D, how's the house, etc., etc., etc., my psyche's feeling all nyet, nyet, nyet. Well I write. Are you published? No I have no interest in it. Publication is the auction of the soul. Of course I can't - won't - mention that I have a blog. [Insert film/radio sounds of conversational plane nosediving from a high altitude.] What the hell am I going to say? They are so Catholic. Well, I have my own very strong convictions and spiritual beliefs but I can't defend them orally to save my life. And my cousins, and their spouses - the entire lot of them, remarkably - are nothing if not great talkers. It's pretty funny. I just listen, and as I said, I do love them, ultimately they're just very friendly & kind & sort of oblivious & see what they want to see & ignore the rest - and so I make the cut I guess! I don't know. We have a lifelong history, which is very nice, of course.
He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth -- such, for instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club, his "lower race," his presence with his wife at anniversary festivities -- all that was open. And he judged of others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and always believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal life rested on secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account that civilised man was so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be respected.
It's funny, living here, I never feel that way, never that sense of utter double life. I mean, D and I at this point cohabit, and have huge differences, and he doesn't know every detail, and doesn't regularly read my blog - but he knows about it, we both know our mutual problem. But I'm in contact with so few other (or no other?) people other than regular kind readers of my blog - that I'm very unused to having to prevaricate or punt or deflect or cover.

I don't feel any anxiety over it, I'll manage tomorrow. They're all very smart, perhaps they each, for all their perpetual hewings to the party line, are each Dmitri Gurovs in their own right, or some of them anyway. One can hope.

I was originally planning to take the 8:30 train, but will take the 10:30 instead. My cousin mentioned that her husband bought four large kielbasas. I had better get in a very good vigorous walk beforehand in that case - I shudder to imagine the impact that no walks for a couple of days coupled with kielbasa would have on my 51-year old precariously managed Slavic Venus figure.

Kisses darlings - especially you, and you.

Note: References to Dmitri Gurov, and the excerpt in blockquotes, are from Anton Chekhov's short story, "Lady with the Little Dog", linked to here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Good late afternoon, my darlings. Is it possible to miss someone I've never even met? So strange, a feeling of slight swerving unreality today, just so much strangeness, people I care about who are mysterious, behind the curtain all the time, and yet. Oh whatever. Feeling quite tired at the moment, but in a nice way. I never did make it out for a walk today, was on my feet much of the afternoon in the kitchen, getting through a small blizzard of cooking, inspired because I'll be going away for an overnight this weekend, to my aunt & cousins convening in Jersey, so D and I will have our Christmas tomorrow, which pretty much means that I'll be roasting half a turkey, but I made the stuffing today, with tons of chopped onion, celery, and mushrooms, and I made the dough for chocolate chip cookies which I'll bring down as my contribution (they'll be gone in about five minutes what with all the little children - wait, maybe not so little anymore, my cousins' children - running around my aunt's house), a peach crostata is in the oven, and I'm about to roast a chicken even though it's a bit redundant with turkey coming tomorrow. But as D pointed out, we'll eat half the chicken tonight, and he's right, it's not so overlapping. What was that craze a few years ago - turducken, turkey stuffed with a duck inside which is stuffed a chicken (good god). Okay, no duck, plus it's all deconstructed, what with the chicken first, a day ahead.

I'm looking forward to the train ride down on Saturday, just looking out the window... What is a Christmas for me without an Amtrak ride? I had a sorry history of that in college, at least two, possibly three different Christmases gone wrong where I found myself on an empty lonelyhearts train returning to Boston. (All these years later they've sort of merged in my mind, turducken style.) But this year it's different! (I say this brightly, Creslyn style - I love the way she does about-faces all the time, just adorable.) It's not bad, it's a train ride I'm actually planning & looking forward to, a different case altogether.

I should go check on the crostata, it's been a good half hour and the aroma is wafting up the stairs, and put the chicken in the oven...

Okay, done. So many people who I care about swirling in my mind - you know who you are, most of you - including a "local" U.S. Senator I'm really proud of ...

I'm not quite ready to wax all New-Yearsy yet, but I do find myself reflecting back on the year, and on relationships I was fortunate to form with very real people - yet people only on line, whom I haven't otherwise met. And yet I really connected with them. And/or I read their books, and mentioned them in my blog, and connected on that level... I don't know, too tired to be articulate at this moment, but it just means so much to me. I really do sense that there are people who think of me, care about me, and they in turn are so often - constantly - in my thoughts - I think of them - with constancy. True, I have yet to score a kiss, but: I don't feel alone, not at all, I love - you love - and, well, let's make do with that. Besides it's not the end of 2010 yet. Anything could still happen - as extraordinary little detonations happened all through the year for me. Little moments that at the time if I caught them as a little butterfly, didn't realize that they'd grow in importance, develop, evolve, into such nice, rich, rewarding, lovely relatings...

I'll launch this now, with the wish and hope that each one of you who means so very very much to me is having a wonderful time. Całuję i uściskam (Polish for XOXO) - Love, Belle

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not much to report tonight, considering not blogging at all. Up in the aerie, it's night, the lamp on my desk is on. Downloading Pet Shop Boys yet again, which crashed. Rafe snores raspingly in an armchair, and when he wakes he sneezes and snarfles. I've never seen anything like it. There is very good news from a friend, who received a bad scare from a false-positive of a test, which, taken to the next level, an M.D., turned out to be a scare caused possibly, my friend thinks, by stress. I am so glad he'll be okay - he had me going there for a bit too. I once spent a Christmas in the common lounge of the MIT math, or maybe applied math (fittingly enough), department. I was by myself, having been booted out, or booted myself out from my parents' house but having nowhere to go, except that I'd audited this Heidegger course (I had three hours on that Christmas Eve train ride to Boston to figure out a game plan), and so had become familiar with the labyrinthine corridors & rooms of that main pillared building, and so, somehow found safe haven on a sofa there by myself, just lying there all day, for a couple of days, I had nowhere to go, and MIT's common rooms, at least at the time, were rather commodious in accepting a wayward one like me. It was exceedingly lonesome, I was all by myself (of course), and yet at the same time - even at the time - I was grateful for the bit of safe haven. It was a separate room, with a door that locked behind me, so I felt a sense of vigilance (I mean, I was so isolated, so alone - what if a weirdo were to find me? what would I do?) but ultimately safe behind the glazed glass-fronted wood door, safe enough to drift off and on to sleep on the narrow settee, room illumined by day from wan winter light casting in from the east facing windows, and dark at night, or perhaps dimly lit by some wan moon. At some point on Christmas Day, hungry & thirsty (I didn't have any provisions) I scraped myself together, washed up in a public lavatory in the building (very very strange to have MIT - to myself), and took the Mass Ave bus up to Harvard Square (I think) - or maybe just Central Square - I don't remember. What I remember is going to one of the few cheap restaurants that was actually open - and having Chinese food on Christmas Day. Lonesome? Yeah, but you know, it wasn't so bad. I was doing it on my own terms, the ones I had the wherewithal to manage at that point, because being trapped in CT in my parents' cramped house was too much. It didn't help that in the time since I'd been in high school and spent a year in college, I'd developed a terrible smoking habit - and it only added to the stress at my parents' house that of course I couldn't smoke there, or even admit that I smoked (though I must have reeked of it, because I was forever sneaking out). Anyway. It was on my terms, sort of. It's strange the hells we pick. But sometimes the alternatives are worse.

It's funny, those college winter breaks, even all the foreign students, the ones from foreign countries, found a place to go, it seems. Once I left home for college my mother wanted me gone. She didn't like me coming back like a stray cat for Thanksgivings and Christmases. But I get booted out from the dorm at those times, Mother, I would say, I can't help it - where am I supposed to go?

Up in the aerie, cat snoring & rasping, wind chimes clanging, dinner will be pasta with a sauce of broccoli rabe...

Love you. And thank you - Applied Math common lounge.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For the winter solstice here in Hudson the sun made an appearance on this cold drear day only as it set. Now it's nightfall and up in the aerie somewhere near me though not in sight, Rafe is lightly, audibly, snoring.

I always hated it, many many years ago when I was growing up in Connecticut, when my father, sitting formally and dourly at the head of the dining table - say, at Christmas - would launch on intoned, incantatory words to the effect of "Thirty-five years ago tonight..." and there, on a joyous holiday, would ensue a terrible, bleak, lonesome, true tale of a brother and his younger sister (my father & aunt) somehow trying to make their way together across a Kazakhstanian steppe on Christmas Eve in the midst of World War II, in a carriage or sleigh, as I recall. I wanted to know the story, I did. But not at that moment, not at Christmas, not in the company of my family, my mother, my two brothers, my sister, not at the table, with an array of delicious food to be savored and devoured, decorated choinka in the next room lit, presents to be unwrapped.

(I wanted to know about his pain, I did, but not at that moment, no. But that's when he seemed to want to share it, as an announcement. It's funny, my aunt would tell her version - well, she's way more lighthearted - lights out when I'd be over at my cousins' summers for a sleepover, and she'd recount the epic tale, the family saga & lore, and I'd quiz her about it in the dark, her disembodied voice answering, or perhaps the opaque shape of her, sitting on her little daughter's bed, was visible as my eyes adjusted to the shadows. I was wrapped in a duvet whose cover my grandmother had created from soft cotton sheets. I'd ask for more details, struggle to understand, and if I shed a tear, chewed my lip, or had to struggle with emotion thinking of my father, it was under the safe, private cover of darkness, lying prone, my cousin M in the twin bed on the other side of the room so familiar with the account that she could just about tell it all herself though it was her mother, my aunt, who'd been the little girl on that carriage ride in subfreezing temperatures on the steppe - and where had been their parents, Babcia and Dziadzius? I never did wholly absorb the story. My aunt would patiently, soberly, kindly answer, no question was too basic or too stupid - but somehow the story was so enormous, so huge, so out of my context, growing up in Connecticut, that I could never ever, even the next day, remember the details, which wouldn't get talked about, not much anyway, at home with my family in Connecticut, except that it would rear its head on Wigilja, with that horrible tradition - since my family were largely awkward & allergic to one another - of breaking off a wafer and formally kissing everyone. Oh, ugh.)

(Darlings - aren't you glad I'm getting such a tale out of my system before Christmas?)

Anyway - in frank contrast to the sorts of dinners I grew up with, which usually ended in acrimony & tears (and when I became college age - with me put on an Amtrak train late on Christmas Eves, back to Back Bay) - tonight I have a "thirty-five years ago tonight" story - but it's a fond, lovely memory.

I vividly remember a very long time ago having dinner with the family of my first boyfriend, when I was 16. It was a cold winter evening, long dining table lit by candlelight, and my boyfriend's father, a gracious and charming older gentleman originally from an evidently civilized small city below the Mason-Dixon Line (he spoke many years later with the lilting cadences of his Southern upbringing), exclaimed that he was so happy that tonight was the solstice, saying that it was the happiest day of the year for him because it meant Spring was coming. He said it with such sudden, unexpected exuberance that we all laughed, and I remember looking across the table at him with pleasure and wonder that this man could take such joy out of such a simple thing, and express it, and I took very great pleasure from his joy, and from that moment.

So - happy winter solstice, darlings - especially you, "former paramour." I remember that evening well. Do you? Your mother presiding, with her wonderful cooking - I wonder if it was beef bourguignon, and perhaps salad with avocado, to which at your house I'd become acquainted...

Spring is coming!

Love you. XOXO

Monday, December 20, 2010

(a.m.) Outside the windows grizzled land and pallid sky merge in blanched monochrome, ancient looming backyard ash stripped of color, leaves in ghostly tatters. Indoors I've arranged for little flickering fires in every room: vases of blood-orange lilies and flaming apricot and yellow alstroemerias licked with tiny pen-and-ink stripes of red. At the feeders a scarlet-capped woodpecker clings to the suet while a single cardinal, vibrant and pure, perches on a branch. A pot of summer roast tomatoes defrosts on the pellet stove, behind whose sealed glass portal a hot blaze warms the solarium. Melting tomato aroma wafts up the stairs. At the back of the stove pizza dough rises in a cranberry ceramic bowl. I started it several days ago and for a while it seemed unpromising - the dough was unpleasantly thick and dry, hard to manipulate. Had I messed up the proportions somehow? Was the room too cold? I wet the surface of the dough a bit and worked it in my hands, letting it rest a day, did it again, and now, on the third or fourth day (I've lost count - but the recipe is forgiving as that) the dough has risen and is light, soft and plump as a pillow, a pleasure to punch down and manually knead. Lunch will be homemade pizza (tomatoes, baby spinach, fresh mozzarella, and parmesan). And now after all the parched gray and the keeping of all sorts of home fires burning - the sun's out.

(p.m.) Started a well-received recent novel called Skippy Dies, prompted to reserve it from the library when someone in Pittsburgh last week googled a line I'd once quoted, thus landing on my blog: "It is they that become reality's building blocks, its particles, its exchangers of energy, the teeming producers of all that complication." The quote from the novel (by Paul Murray) has to do with string theory, and in my post, as I recall, I riffed that E.D. was a perfect closed loop muse of an "O" while others, the rest of us, are the short lonely sticky strings "who become reality's building blocks." I'm glad my blog may be good for something. No - facetiousness aside, it's true - however lame some of my posts are, at least I'm trying - I am trying to create something out of, not exactly nothing, but the dust motes and flotsam & jetsam and marked down produce of my day. It wouldn't exist otherwise, would it, except for Borges' theoretical library, no - someone does have to sit and write it down and think it through however lamely, it isn't just a monkey at a typewriter or a piece of scrap wood that looks like a cow - that isn't art. One must carve that vulva. On a prehistoric Venus figurine I mean. It doesn't just carve itself.

On that note, of leaping loopy connections,

(1) thank you Tim, the one who gets off the parkway to host Sunday afternoons at KZE, with your nice selection of a last song before 5, something about swinging from a trapeze (nice ping-pong return - at least so I took it).

(2) another little shoutout - to Mr. Magia Posthuma in Denmark. I'm in the middle now of a firsthand account, in the November 2010 Harpers, about hunting down vampires in Serbia. I keep thinking of you, and it's lame of me not to leave a comment on your blog to alert you to it (but I have no link to the article, and surely someone else must have let you know). Anyway, I think you'd find it of interest, or certainly relevant to your inquiries - and - well, seasons' greetings, dear sir, to one vampire hunter of sorts, from another.

Not to be so literal, but today I stood at the tiny kitchen window portal and tried to get a snapshot of the cardinal, to no avail. Which reminds me that last night I dreamt that I was somehow on the periphery of an elaborate game show production, where (as I noted in my separate dream journal) a very tall, young, beautiful, Asian woman proved to everyone that she wished to change her circumstances, so she entered and spun around in a very small, narrow revolving door, a portal which seemed to signify change. And there were flashing lights and fanfares and judges marveling and the audience cheering and applauding as the young woman beamed.

Anyway, so I stood at the window looking out at the birds. Who knows if from Valhalla God isn't looking at me, hoping that, like a cardinal, I'll flash my feathers - say something - anything...

Love you all so very much, my very dearests, you know just who you are.


Kisses never need editing, in the quiet darkness of the settee in the aerie at the Slaviansky Bazzar Hotel, just the slightest intuitive refinements and adjustments as we exchange energy, explore, reveal marvels, produce all that symphonic complication and joy...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I have reason to be grateful to someone who is very inspiring to me, spiritually, in a way that makes sense to me, isn't full of jargon and hackneyed phrases, who is rather scholarly and sober about it. I've been thinking about my own sense of spirituality, all I can say - well, no I can say more, but I'm typing haltingly, as I think - is that I have a growing determination, or cast, or way of looking at things, or approaching them, that rejects the denial of god or divinity in all things. I know I've just put that negatively, but I feel that it's the culture I'm in, or the milieu in which I was raised, nihilism, in a way, was a goal, "heart" (in its myriad forms) to be scoffed at. And I will be the first to scoff at sentimentality, I absolutely detest false, horrible, conventional, noises of sentimentality that usually, to my mind - well, are so false, so hollow, no not hollow, they conceal or quash down huge amounts of anger.

Darlings, I'm having a hard time a bit tonight. No, not really, I'm in a good mood, just feeling a little self-conscious and cowed at my inability to express whatever it is that I'm feeling. I do love E.D., she's the opposite (as I found myself thinking on my walk late this afternoon) of a certain renowned eminence grise "local" poet (whose initials are J.A.) who, I confess, I have not read so much of, but sometimes I find him too obscure, too cerebral - not heartfelt. E.D. I've dipped into with purpose this weekend, and whatever her playful love of riddles and elliptical ways of putting things - she really isn't playing games for the sake of clever games. Rather, she understands that truth is best captured "slant" (her word). But games for the sake of clever, erudite games - that's something else. I don't mean it as an either/or. Mr. J.A. has his moments. Just not always. Maybe its with his fawning acolytes that I take issue.

E.D. genuinely feels terror and finds a way to encapsulate it, in a letter to Higginson, in some of her poems. I had a terror - since September - I could tell to none - and so I sing, as the Boy does by the Burying Ground - because I am afraid - (25 April 1862).

She sounds like Ophelia there, and she has so much to be afraid of. This is not an abstracted, deracinated, alienated fear, as in Eliot (and I love Eliot - though at this very moment, perhaps less so).

It is rare that I have encountered anyone whom I truly view as spiritual, as sage, as truly good, as searching, as connected, as having a sense of how to connect. He knows how to pray, he credits his grandmother, clearly a strong remarkable woman who loved her grandson very much, for teaching him how.

I don't really know how to pray. I'll make a joke of it. I sent him the Pet Shop Boys link, not so that he'd lighten up - well, maybe a bit. (No it wasn't so much that, as that I couldn't feign scholarly seriousness - I really was playing that song over & over again - why shouldn't he know about it? I wasn't trying to make a point, let alone suggest - "lighten up." I'm the queen of - not exactly lightened up.) I do pray, and I do think hard, it's just that I'm not as concentrated and focused. I wasn't taught how to pray, and I had loving grandparents who weren't nihilists, and parents who tried in their way - but were nihilists. They didn't really see the value in things, not in little things - it was all as things "should be" - could be, could have been, should have been - not what "is," or was - what is or was, was never good enough, and what I'm trying to get at - as much as I struggle with a sense of great disappointment and missed opportunities for important things I really wished I could have had, but got away like a big slippery fish I thought I'd had in my hands - is that it is good enough, this typing to phantoms whom I adore, several of them now at least, whom I love in different ways.

I don't know how to pray, not formally. But maybe in a slant kind of way, I always knew how, and am regaining that ability. I felt myself to be a mother to myself one day this fall, the week I was diagnosed with and fevered from Lyme Disease (all treated & abated now). Now I feel as though I have to become my own grandmother, in a sense, learn to hew to what's warm and loving and true. No, not literally, I don't have to become my own grandmother - but to heed that sort of aspect or voice in myself - and my friend helps bring it out in me, because he's had lessons in it, from his grandmother, in a way that I never did, that got shunted, shut out, but he can help show me, because he's been shown how, and he lives it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

it doesn't often snow in royal David's city

Up in the aerie, musing, reflecting, listening to a Pet Shop Boys Christmas song over and over, searched for and found on the12534 from a year ago (dear Mr. N.F.S. I hope all's well with you). I love the way it mashes up a disco beat with melancholic oh-so-true lyrics, along with carillons, trumpets and strains of traditional carols. Brilliant, just brilliant. Doesn't often snow at Christmas the way it's meant to do...

But I'll still have a ball at Christmas because I'll be with you.

Very much love. XOXO

Friday, December 17, 2010

I had a bit of money in my pocket so I spent it all at once just about, in town, nearly $20 for a small box of 8 exquisite holiday cards, $12 for French camembert, and $3.50 for a delectable crisp airy light artisanal baguette -- "baguette" doesn't convey (we're accustomed to the word signifying, usually, an insipid loaf) the textured, in spots overbaked, beautifully rough hewn quality -- which was divine, at home, with a bit of the camembert pressed between. Stopped by Olana in the hope of finding holiday cards (I think I did the same last year too, to no avail) but nothing really spoke to me, so I went into town, and enjoyed pretending that I had money. Which today, I actually did, a bit, and so felt entitled to step into a few shops, and play lady of the manor, in a very modest, quiet way. At the cheese shop another lady of the manor was carrying forth in a Big Loud Way, announcing to all the world (insular microcosm of cheese shop) her dreams and plans and whatnot of all the holiday get-togethers she's hosting next week - honestly, she was babbling mindlessly, talking *at* whoever, whatever. She was placing an order for something or other with a lovely clerk behind the counter, and banshee woman adopted a practiced stupid stricken look on her face (that horrible downturned cast of frown, as though something horrible has happened which it hasn't)  when the clerk patiently explained that the woman needs to finalize her order by no, not Wednesday afternoon, but Sunday evening Monday morning the latest so that the shop is able to place accurate orders for provisions with their vendors, etc., etc. The nouveau-riche woman's husband (because she was nouveau-riche, was she not? I'm sure of it, she didn't seem to have an ounce of grace) was in tow, and he simply looked bewildered, dragged along for the ride, or for his credit card, or whatever. He didn't look like a Titan of Industry or anything, though, just sort of an aging Joe a bit out of his depths with his fancy-fancying new wife (as I imagine). I stood my turn in line patiently, surveying the scene, and then finally it was my turn, only a guy tried to cut in front of me, and I said, no I was here first, and another clerk, an older woman arbited and said yes that's true she was, and the guy seemed to sulk and let me of course have my little turn (ever so quick, just the one pre-packaged French camembert) and absolutely refused to have eye contact with me, in any kind of friendly, gracious manner. As in, oh yes of course you were ahead of me... I mean, even if he hadn't noticed - because it's not as though there was a line, per se, but he entered the shop a good 10 minutes after me, and there weren't so many people there - and, well, shouldn't one be expected to notice?

Is there any hope for the planet, when the privileged cannot behave with grace & aplomb in a little cheese shop? Not that they were so bad, but come on.

Also I would like to know why, as I drive along the roads here, and wind up behind someone who's about to make a turn, usually a right-hand one, why they must slow to a crawl, come to a virtual stand-still, and then ever so slowly, gingerly make the turn. True, D says, as I fly down Route 9, why do you actually speed up before slowing down to make the turn onto our little road? But, heck, at least I get off the road right away, I don't hem & haw about it endlessly! And by the way, those painted lines on the side of the road, whatever they are, they're not turning lanes, and these crayon-within-the-lines types treat them as such.

Yeah, I'm off on a bit of a rant. Is it the same everywhere with the driving, or just here? Today was worse than usual, it seemed as though everyone was doing it, everyone I was stuck behind anyway - why?

The cards I bought are beautiful, and I look forward to penning a few tomorrow and getting them off in the mail. Also today I started some pizza dough, which is rising at the back of the pellet stove. I see that Rafe is upstairs in the aerie now - he just sneezed. Dinner will be Alaskan cod and rice, and spooned on top will be caponata, a melange of farmstand vegetables from late summer - eggplant, peppers, tomato, and the like.

I enjoyed shopping local today. I look forward to doing it more often, say, when I manage to "monetize" my blog. Yeah right! "Publication is the auction of the soul," wrote Emily, ruling dispositively on the subject with her usual conviction, and I count myself in a similar camp. I prefer to give it away. I know just what she means, one (me) wishes to write what one (me) wishes, without regard to the world of commerce, to "what sells."

What a lofty, airy position I've taken, trapeze artist in training flying through the air at the side of the West Side Highway. Here I am on the river, flying through the air, without a safety net... That's not right either, but I do enjoy being aloft, and there wasn't a reason D couldn't have been either, the way we were for a long time, and the sort of person I'd like to be with again. That's the beauty of, if not capitalism, then of capital - one can swing in the air from branch to branch - not be down in the mines

What? I must place my final order by Monday morning the latest? Feigning practiced stricken look.

Good Lord.

That's not the sort of freedom-from-capital I mean, or the sort that shows up with Christmas bonuses to buy decorative objects at auctions. I mean the freedom to write what she wishes - publish, without auction, her soul.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dusting of snow overnight, the plow rumbled through before dawn, and this morning it was icy around here. I had the car for a bit so I bundled up and drove to the park where it was surprisingly balmy & green, whereas I had expected a snow-covered expanse and was mentally (& with wool hat and wound scarf) bracing myself against icy blasts off the mountains. No such thing, the air was mild and calm, the sun springlike, surprisingly since it's not even officially winter yet. Several of the regulars were there, on their walkabouts with or without dogs, taking in the sun. The unexpected ease in temperature and the bright warm light lifted my spirits. On the way back home Creslyn put on Stella the Artist, which I love to hear anytime, but maybe especially when I'm by myself in the car driving and can sing along to it (afterward I said, as always, thank you Creslyn - or sometimes it's Rick, or Will, depending on who puts it on). I know just about all the lyrics now, only one or two la-la's in places. It is nice to know all the words of a song, the closest I come these days to memorizing verse. There is a liberating feeling of ownership & mastery, to be able to confidently sing along. Actually, it's just plain cool. Look - I'll prove to you how much I love this song - I've memorized the lyrics! Also, there is the aspect of being able to mentally, any time I wish, caress the details - "I felt the sting of my own rebuke/Come spinning back like a boomerang" - how great is that? Or, the leaping, homophonic juxtapositions of, "As the daylight creeps/And the floorboard creaks/And your poor heart leaps." Homophonic - is that the word I mean? It's been so long since I formally studied literature - I know there's a term... assonance, I think it's assonance. When the vowel sounds are in agreement, even if the consonants that would make it a perfect rhyme aren't. Assonance is fantastic - it's this unexpected brilliant almost non sequitur of an exciting related association - without the tedium, sometimes (not to mention infinitely reduced possibilities) of being limited to an exact rhyme. Another lyricist who blows me away - Bob Schneider. I don't have all the lyrics down yet for 40 Dogs: Romeo & Juliet, but I do have patches, increasing in size - in a good way, not like the diminishing ice shelves in the Arctics.
You're the color of a sideways look from an undercover cop in a comic book
You're the color of a storm in June,
You're the color of the moon.
You're the color of the night, that's right,
Color of a fight, you move me
You're the color of the colored part of The Wizard of Oz movie
Feeling tired & achey, despite short (but deep) nap, leftover chicken paprikash will be dinner, pellet stove is blazing, with Rafe taking the cure in front of it. Poor Rafe, our marmalade cat, who's had the weirdest wheezing horrible cold or flu for the past couple of weeks. It doesn't seem to go away. D took him to the vet a few days ago, and is giving him antibiotics, and still he sounds - and I'm not trying to be cutesy - like "snuffleupagous," just that snorting, and wheezing, and sneezing, and oozing, and coughing. He is such a trouper, that cat. That's what I meant about him being physically afflicted - all the time - he's got a condition that causes his gums to become inflamed every couple of weeks, which necessitates a trip across the river to the vet for him to get a steroid shot which alleviates the symptoms. I wonder if the steroids have made him more susceptible, or less able to shake off, the "common cold." Rafe is very fortunate to have D and me, that one of us is around to take him to the vet (usually D, but not always). I mean, what if we both had taxing jobs, and children - and a chronically ill cat on top of that? Who could manage that?

Yesterday I referred to Rafe as having the "magic jacket" - that's a Buffy reference - haplessly charming Xander acquires a magic jacket that causes all the women to fall in love with him. That's how it is around here - Gwynnie, Claire, and now too Penelope (newest to the tribe) are in love with him.

My dear, I hope you're having a wonderful birthday, yes I remember. Imagine that you and I are together, I've put the lights out for a moment, and I've baked you a little cake, maybe even just a cupcake, because the ages we are we're watching our weight, and there's a little candle on the cake, one I've planned in advance for the advent of your birthday, and I ask you to close your eyes in the darkness, and I put a match to the little wick on the tiny candle on the little cupcake, and I bring it over to you on a little plate, and your eyes are still closed, and then you open your eyes, and you see the little flame flicker and light the space around the two of us in a russet glow, and I stand in front of you holding the plate with the little cake and the single tiny melting candle and say make a wish, and you close your eyes again and think and smile and inhale and - pheeeeww - blow out the candle, and now the space, way up in the tiny silent aerie of the Slaviansky Bazaar Hotel, is entirely dark again, and our eyes adjust to the darkness, street lights from below and the moon glowing above all shining into the unlit room and without turning on any lights, or even tasting a morsel let alone mouthful, not of cake, your little wish for that moment comes true, and mine too

blowing out this candle, darling

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Darlings, I'm at very low ebb this evening, perhaps a reflection of the shortest days of the year. And yet everything is very cozy and bright here. I sit at my desk typing in lamplight, the painted plank upstairs space a veritable dorm suite of independent, cohabiting feline kindred spirits. I looked over the website of a women's college in western Massachusetts, one I didn't attend, but it brought back such cozy memories of when I was a young woman that age, and I looked over the English Department's course offerings, and thought, wow, I would have done well to have had an education like that, organized thematically that is, Ophelia, How to Read a Poem. I graduated from a Seven Sister school, for which I'm very grateful. I say this, and for some reason - not sure why, true I have had more than a couple ice-filled glasses at this time - I think of Richard Holbrooke, and how I read today that he had collapsed in Hillary Clinton's office, while in a meeting with her. What a shock that must have been for her. And now he's dead. The man had a very elegant mind. Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, I believe. That - Leonardo's conception - is my idea of an ideal man.

I don't know. Right now, this moment, listening to the rebooted computer whir, wind chimes jangling faintly outside, water gurling heat in the pipes. What am I feeling? I'm not even sure. I'm starting to feel frozen over, ossified, hardened. Yes, and no. I started a post a little while ago, thinking about - oh, I don't know, I've been married for a very long time and it's not working anymore. I used to wear a wedding ring. And I lost the original one accidentally, in a computer room at a city agency, and then we went down Chambers Street and bought another - the largest size they had supposedly - and still it was too small. But I wore it for a while, maybe years. And then I took it off, and I suppose it's in a dresser drawer, probably the top one where I keep oddball things. I still have a crease at the base of my ring finger on my left hand though, as though I'd only recently removed the ring. But I haven't worn it in years now.

I'm glad for my upstairs aerie space, happy cats all around - not exclusively female - Rafe, physically afflicted cat with the magic jacket comes around. D is downstairs, putting the finishing touches, that is monitoring, dinner that I set up earlier - one pan of quartered chicken breast seasoned with sprinkled dried tarragon; another (upon which, without washing, premade chocolate chip cookie dollops had baked after lunch, which D waited for before heading back into town), with beautiful orange-colored root vegetables - roughly cubed chunks of sweet potato, carrot, butternut squash, red onion, plus minced garlic, and olive oil.

A beautiful flat package, long-anticipated, arrived in the mail today, the postman delivered it into my hands, and we - D, the postman, and I - chatted about how frigid it is outside, the icy driveway, the postman's inadequate jacket - and I exclaimed about how the package is from Finland and the postal guy was totally cool about it as he stood shivering, the three of us in the culminating confluence of convergences, where I was in the car ready to back out the driveway, and D had come home and was filling the house (or some portal thereof) with kerosene, and I would have pulled out except that the mailtruck was obstinately in the road behind me and simply refused to budge even though I right then wanted to pull out to drive to the library, and mailtruck still didn't budge, and I was getting snottily bugged and p-o'd, and D is there with a nozzle of can stuck in the side of the house, and finally I shut off the motor, and D put down the can, and D mouthed to me - oh wow, the package from Finland? - and I was like, yeah, I guess so, and I shut the motor, and got out of the car, and the mailman delivered the package straight into my arms and I signed for it with a crappy ballpoint pen that barely functioned (though perhaps, given the temperature, it was merely that the ink had frozen). And we - or I - said to the postman, oh wow, from Finland, it's a woodcut of Emily, and the rural postman stood there beaming in his inadequate winter wear as D chatted him up, glad I think to have delivered the special package. Because he delivers our mail every day, and it's the usual, usually, bills, and fliers, the occasional NYRB and alumnae magazine, maybe even he today - as we all stood together - virtually grasping hands in the bright cold - knew that this was a very special, special package.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Light snow fell overnight, enough to send the town plow over our dead end road, so loud as it zoomed scraping past that I woke in a lurched panic that a jet was about to land on our house. A little later I looked out the kitchen window, and before even fixing myself breakfast (my current omelet, feta, spinach usual) I slipped a fleece over my nightwear (current favorite: ivory cashmere sweater set with tiny pearl buttons (!) and blue knit leggings - I could just about serve a queen tea in that getup) and trudged over the slippery crunchy driveway to the shed for birdseed, and then over to the back of the house to fill the near-empty feeders.

Night is falling fast and I've got a pot of chicken paprikash simmering on the stove, which we'll have spooned over wide egg noodles. That's a dish I grew up with. Spent a couple of hours today figuring out how to redline Word documents using a text markup function that automatically colors changes in red and shows strikethroughs on proposed deletions, and copy-edited a page of My Friend in Finland's fairy tale, which is absolutely wonderful and delightful in every way, but whose printed text was marred by a myriad of tiny spelling & grammatical errors, of the "its" versus "it's" variety for the most part. It's an interesting exercise, careful copy-editing, one doesn't wish to overdo it - render King Jamesian poetry to flatfooted vernacular - and yet - on certain suggested changes, where does one draw the line? So it was an intriguing mental puzzle, plus an exercise in grammatical diplomacy, to not overdo it, to try to draw the line between clarity and correct English, and to not trample on style, or voice (even if the voice is colored by excellent though not-quite-perfect English, but perhaps that imperfection is to be preserved, as on a clothes tag that says that the natural web and weave and odd thread is to be regarded as part of the inherent beauty of the garment... I have no formal editorial training, and would be very curious how a professional editor would approach the same text. But as I said, to reassure My Friend in Finland, his fairy tale is beautiful - a golden egg, truly - what I'm talking about is small, sideline technical considerations regarding another's text).

Finished reading my first Muriel Spark novel ever, with a sense of respect and admiration, if not quite love. I know that the word "mordant" is used to describe her tone. It's just not really where my head and heart and spirit are these days. Mine are closer to the tone, perhaps, of a heartbreakingly beautiful love poem and love letter that E.D. wrote to her brother Austin's wife, Susan Dickinson, with whom Emily had fallen deeply in love. Thank you, Lenore, for posting these exemplars on your beautiful Secret Life facebook page today - I hadn't read them before - or, if I had, hadn't focused on them quite so intently, since you offered them in beautiful isolation so that one might properly contemplate them (what I find so hard in confronting The Complete Poems or even The Selected Letters - no, truly, on a daily basis, simply one or two, judiciously offered, will do... But I've always been that way - I cannot stand to be made to choose one dress from a rack of a hundred - but show me three or four, and I'll happily light on one).

I really miss having someone, a preceptor, a particular object of my love, to whom to direct my writings, and to give them impetus, drive, passion - raison d'être - as one of Sparks' May of Teck Club "girls of slender means" (the one who does 'brain work' in publishing) says.

I heard from someone today, he responded to a message I'd sent inquiring after him (since, after an absence of several months, he has come back to looking in on my blog). I'm glad he responded but it's clear that his heart is not there for me, there is simply no point in my waxing or in any other way feeling or projecting effusiveness towards him anymore. There's nothing left, nothing but memories like fusty old pearl buttons on an ancient soft sweater. As I read Lenore's selection of a single E.D. poem and a love letter for Susan, I found myself envying E.D.'s ardor, how it does make for incredibly beautiful, rapturous writing - in the right hands - hers is no purple prose. E.D. is nothing if not heartfelt. That's what I'd like - I've been there - and I'm not dead -

Monday, December 13, 2010

Temperature dropping, wind rising, chimes clanging. Dome might have been better than globe, was the first word I thought of in fact, then started to think of architecture, of structures, edifices (Winter Garden - now), but that was too formal so - snowglobes. Not a satellite, but rather God observing the misty scene in the snowglobe. Is scrim right? More thoroughly permeated and atmospheric than that. So: dome? Variant. Or not. No, not. My cake plate has a covered glass dome much like the hummingbird's. Perhaps I can do something with that sometime. Is that a bell jar? Or an inverted one?

Can you tell I have nothing tonight? My friend in Finland sent me a wonderful story, a fairy tale he'd written, and I was astounded by it. It made me wish I had a big lavishly illustrated version, and a child on my lap to read it aloud to.

Went for a brisk walk at the park today, a bit like Catherine marching around empty windswept heaths. Except this Catherine worked out with weights as she walked, and laughed lunatically when she thought of lines such as, "do you believe in the Virgin birth?," "no, I studied existentialism in college a lot and somehow it never came up."

Reading Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means, several pages every day - with the circularity, repetition, dailiness, tense quickening - a ticking fuse of a story. Today - quite literally - the bomb went off, reminding me very much on a small scale but uncannily still, of 9/11. The casual everydayness, ungrasping horror, uncertainty in the face of the inevitable, lurching doom. I had no designer gown to turn inside out and save, but that night D and I, though shaken, drank wine as usual, and ate dinner, Chilean sea bass, before it became incorrect to do so. So how bad am I?

The day my mother died I found myself stranded at my father's house for the night and I hadn't packed anything to wear. My lizard siblings were there, having descended from remote parts for the occasion. I found myself, for the overnight, rummaging through my mother's dresser and the closet where she kept her bedclothes, and selecting a gingham cotton gown and matching robe. Garments that, in fact, I had bought for her, in her company at Macy's, shopping for fresh bedclothes hours, or perhaps the day before she was to be checked into the hospital for surgery, not that that should matter, or that my siblings would have known - and perhaps in writing this story here I should omit that, perhaps I'm too much loading the story by saying that - but on the other hand, though they were my mother's nightclothes, not often worn I don't believe, somehow I was familiar with their provenance, so to speak, and so felt perhaps a little more comfortable slipping into them the very night of her death, than with any other, more worn garments in her closet.

My brother, a year younger than me, draped on an armchair in the living room as I came downstairs, in particular was disgusted and instantly attributed all sorts of nefariously acquisitive motives to me, as if I'd been raiding my mother's closet. For her Macy's nightgown. So that I didn't have to sleep in my clothes that night.

That was a strange time. Months earlier I'd bought tickets, four of them, for friends of D's and mine and ourselves, to see Maggie Smith in a play on Broadway. My mother's funeral turned out to be on the very day of the performance that I had tickets for. I saw this coming, days in advance, and under the exceedingly awkward circumstances, offered my father the tickets. He'd been housebound with my mother, who died of cancer, for a long time. My siblings were coming in from all parts. Why don't they all go?

And they did, the four of them, piled into a car and went, and I was left by myself in the dark house (why do I remember it as dark? surely there were lights, or perhaps I kept them off) and me with my mother's tortoiseshell cat who'd been rather neglected in my mother's dying and was grateful for a bit of attention as I absently sat against the fridge and stroked and brushed her. And then I borrowed a very, very warm winter parka of my mother's from the downstairs closet and went out into the frigid night to smoke a cigarette and to look up at all the stars in the Connecticut sky, stars I could rarely see living in Brooklyn, city of interminable lights, nocturnal glow, and they all came back from the play having enjoyed it (and my father was happy for the break, and to have a nice moment with some of his grown children), and I simply (because at the time I had a job, and money) bought tickets to see the play another time, and did, and Maggie Smith was wonderful, and I did quietly appropriate the winter parka of my mother's because - well, I couldn't say exactly, perhaps for wrong reasons - but it was warm, and I wore it for a number of winters, and it did always feel like hers, that it was her coat - I'd had no role in its provenance - until either I outgrew it, having gained weight, or it wore out, which in the end was a good thing, and a relief, but had been the warmest thing I could find that cold night by myself in my father's house, smoking, thrusting my hands deep in the quilted pockets, first one hand then the other as I smoked, and looking up at the black firmament, picking out, way up above, Orion's Belt and all the twinkling stars.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The world outside
is cold and gray
scrim of even pall
within a vast globe of glass.
Elsewhere on the planet
somewhere skies are blue
maybe even
miles above
right here

image: Joseph Cornell, Observations of a Satellite,
1956, box construction

for C.B., and for Jerrice

Gaudete Sunday

Good morning darlings. The world outside is cold and gray, scrim of even pall within a vast globe of glass. Elsewhere on the planet somewhere skies are blue - maybe even, miles above, right here...
Outside the windows rain patters and pours, but within the walls of this old, cross-gabled house all is cozy, calm, and warm. I have become the mistress of arranging little slumber parties for my cats - witness here, as the peaceable feline kingdom drifts and gently snores to seasonal sounds of Celtic harp and flute on the stereo.

I myself am still lingering in my robe. Have just enjoyed, for the third day in a row, my new favorite breakfast, a small softly cooked omelet with feta melted and folded into the middle, on a bed of lightly wilted spinach. I should have taken a picture, but thought of it too late plus am not much of a food stylist. But
as I go over my little week in review this quiet Sunday morning, I post for the record a photo of Asian dumplings I made. They may not look like much but were delicious, made of shrimp, scallion, cilantro, minced ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and fresh lime, wrapped in Vietnamese dumpling skins, hard seashell pearl discs that magically softened when placed for a matter of seconds in a pan of hot water.

Happy, or blessed
Third Sunday of Advent
Lighting kyntillät for you
against the gray,
rejoicing in your presence
and in the warm even light.

images: Jarkko Pylväs: Adventti Kynttilät, watercolors, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My dearest, six p.m., up in the aerie, painstakingly restoring computer files. But cheered from sweet message from friend in Finland, so the sun broke through the rain, so to speak. I'm okay now. And, really, I had a lovely afternoon, attended a reading of a new play by a playwright who resides here. (I started writing "local" playwright, but he isn't that, I'm sure - nothing in this ultra-well-connected region, of whom I seem to be a (comparatively - compared to lithe, indoor-sunglass-wearing size 2's I mean) corpulent ghost hovering in the margins, is "local" within a certain layer of the atmosphere here.) I really enjoyed the play. At times it was a bit tough, for me, in the sense that reminded me of when I was a child going to church, sitting in a hard pew, knowing I'd have to be there for a long while, trying to get into it but finding my mind starting to wander, trying to prevent a yawn. And by noting this, I don't mean any negative comment whatsoever on the gentleman's play - it's more a function of my restlessness. It's the first reading of this type I believe I've ever attended, where it's a panel of actors each with a thick binder of draft play in front of them, reading it out, so it is a bit of a challenge for the listener in the audience to conjure such amenities (under the circumstances, given the reading in a simple plain hall, a small converted church that seems now, judging from thumbtacked posters and vestibule bulletin-board postings, mostly to be a ballet school for young girls) the scene, lighting, sound effects (wind instrument music, choppers), actors' movements on stage and their gestures. That all said, by the end of it, and in the car coming back home as I thought about it, I was so impressed with anyone's ability to craft a full-length play (and this one, I'm sure, has legs, though still a work-in-progress, it's clearly in penultimate drafts and is full of - oh, depth and breadth). I'm being overly general - partly due to my tiredness, and partly because I don't want my local "cover" blown by mentioning specifics, and also because the subject of the play concerned - of all things - your field, though not the region you study.

My dearest, have you moved? I wonder about your reappearance, and Mr. iPhone's disappearance, though his reappearance again this morning (and no sign of those server-proxy hits from Houston or Woodstock). So often I feel this sense of unreality - why wouldn't I? Ah, whatever. My friend in Finland is sweet and real enough, though of the age that when I do the calculations, was born around the very same time that you and I were dating - and whatever sort of perimenopausal girl I am, I am simply not that sort of girl. But he's awfully sweet - heck, he at least writes email messages, which is more than I can say for - well, at least 1 or 2 others, depending on whether they're the same guy or not.

Yes, I'm babbling. I'm tired. Should go downstairs and see about boiling cauliflower. Oh, yuck. I promise a much better post tomorrow. Oh, I shouldn't promise any such thing. I'll see what happens.

Launching for now. Love you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bleak, cold and gray this morning, one hundred miles west of Amherst, but on the The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson facebook page - radiant emanations - in honor of Emily Dickinson, born 180 years ago today. The wonderful creator, Lenore, has asked the 3,000 strong members of her page to change their avatars to an image of Emily for the occasion - just imagine!, she wrote, invoking John Lennon, if everyone's Emily for a day - and when I mentioned this to D yesterday, he made a quip about an "army of Emilies," or "Emily's Army." But a pacific army - and a talented one. One member created a ravishing vintage Victorian birthday card replete with Emily's daguerrotype image surrounded by roses, doves, and hands offering posies; members have been posting their favorite Dickinson poems; and several have posted original verses of their own for the occasion, I've read at least two wonderful ones so far, one by Yuriy, another by Roelof. Best birthday bash ever - and everyone's invited - imagine!
There is a legend (as Sewall observes, "it is probably little more than that but may contain a grain of truth") ... A painter and paper hanger in Amherst [named Lafayette Stebbings] says that at the time [her second baby was expected, Mrs. Edward Dickinson] wanted to have her bedroom painted but the Hon. Edward Dickinson would not allow her to have it done -- nevertheless she went secretly to the paper hanger and asked him to come and paper her bedroom. This he did, while [the baby] was being born." In truth, almost nobody cares whether a bedroom was being redecorated during Emily Dickinson's birth... Under these circumstances a baby entered the world on December 10, 1830, the second child of the Edward Dickinsons. A girl -- Emily Elizabeth Dickinson.
Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Emily Dickinson
The above paragraph is ambiguous, it seems to me. Whose bedroom did baby Emily's mother wish painted or papered? Surely not the mother's, while she was giving birth. So perhaps it was the baby's room. I can only take off imaginally from this scant fragment...

Online, I check the Mid-Hudson Valley library system's catalog. Jay Leyda's two-volume work, The Years and Hours of Emily Dickinson, from which (according to a footnote) Wolff takes this anecdote, is "checked in" at the Woodstock branch, miles away across the river. I call the library, explain my question, mention that today's Emily's birthday ("Oh!" I hear on the other end), and the librarian kindly & gamely goes to the stacks, retrieves the book, and looks up the passage on Leyda's page 16. But the passage doesn't clear up the ambiguity.

It was my precarious luck that the paper hanger arrived with his ladder and materials a few hours before Mother was delivered of me. And I woke with a shout to the bright yellow weave of tulips on Mother's wall. - Jerome Charyn, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, p. 49
Message, late this afternoon, from Belle to Lenore
Dear Lenore, I have been thinking of you all day long, and checking your page frequently - so, so wonderful! I have been trying to work up a post on the subject - "words come halting forth," as yet. I am intrigued by the notion of Emily's mother having her room wallpapered, as it happened, on the very day of Emily's birth. Biographer Cynthia Griffin Wolff writes, "In truth, almost nobody cares whether a bedroom was being redecorated during Emily Dickinson's birth." Oh, I don't know - I'm pretty intrigued! And I see that Jerome picked up on that detail too, in Secret Life - writing, "And I woke with a shout to the bright yellow weave of tulips on Mother's wall." (Beautiful line - is there one in Secret Life that isn't - no, of course not, just as in, say, Chopin, there isn't a single imperfect phrase to be found.) I am wondering about the yellow tulips though - because in my mind's eye I'm picturing roses, since Emily Norcross Dickinson loved them so... anyway. Let me get going on it again, and see if I can get someplace with it...
By this hour I realize that wondering whose bedroom it was - mama's, or baby's - has been a red herring all along. Reading a few more pages of Wolff I realize that Emily Norcross Dickinson shared a room with her infant daughter. Mrs. Dickinson wrote to her husband, Edward, who was visiting Boston when the baby was about six months old:
I have retired to my chamber for a little space to converse with you, with my little companion [the baby Emily] on the bed asleep...
My dearest, I have retired to my aerie for a little space to converse with you. I don't have a big finish to this post. I wish I did. I feel fair to bursting with a radiant poetic emanation, if I had one in me. I think of my friend in Minnesota, Amelia, when I think of a spirited woman with a much-desired and cherished baby by her side. I think of Mrs. Dickinson well aware, whatever her age, of cold, bleak, gray New England winters, and how starved for travel - physical, or in her own mind - she was. And she wanted something more for baby Emily, born on a cold winter day - who knows if it was sunny, or gray, or with peeks of sun? Mrs. Dickinson arranged for floral wallpaper - a garden in the room - that would sustain her, and that baby Emily when she opened her eyes and looked, no matter the time of year, no matter what prone helpless solitary position in a cradle, might open her eyes and glimpse - Paradise on the wall, glimpses of meadow, scenes that might stereoscopically merge even, clambering roses and trellises, vines and butterflies, gently repeating (not crazy making, as in Gilman) glimpses of a summer garden to come, or if high summer, an Eden within one's walls. Mrs. Dickinson gave baby Emily the gift of art, with fierce strength and urgency - it simply must be now, it is what I wish above all else for my infant daughter, named after myself, whom I don't even know, but, oh stranger, here is my wish for you, what I didn't have, but for you, always, ever, a garden --

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mixed day of sun & clouds, and I'm just referring to my little mood swings all day. (It seems that I am still "peri.") Up in the aerie, past the gloaming, rebooting Firefox files that crashed when I opened HuffPo, the loss of carefully downloaded Bob Schneider/David Gray songs, plus the knowledge that it would take a good half-hour to simply come online again, never mind overnight downloading of songs, caused me to burst into tears. Also, five p.m. is a bad time for the computer to crash on me, because that's when I'm trying to chill and mellow out and listen to myself and slow my heartrate and my racing mind and try to come up with something to write...

I haven't been in the mood to involve myself in TV shows or movies in quite a while, but disc 1 of the second season of "In Treatment" came in Netflix, and I've been watching it, and it prompted unexpectedly strong feelings in me. I've been in therapy, off and on at different points in my life. I have mixed feelings about it, for my experience I mean, what was "ailing" me. But this morning watching an episode I remembered a time in early 2001 when I was miserable at work and feeling stuck & depressed and I thought that maybe talking to someone might help so I made an appointment and went, and as I recall had an intake interview or two with a nice, pleasant, well-meaning young woman (younger than me). Her office was tiny, her chair jammed against a wall, desk in the middle, and me in a chair jammed up against the desk. (I doubt my memory is altogether accurate - the office was possibly a bit larger than that - perhaps there was a chair or two behind me. But I just remember being jammed up against her desk.)

Anyway, what I was really remembering was that I guess this intake junior counselor then (as I'm sure she was required) referred me for an appointment with the chief psychiatrist, I think (as I recall now, nearly 10 years later) to put me on the proper protocol, or whatever. So I made the appointment, and kept it, and met with this chief psychiatrist, an iron woman, woman made of iron, strong, unyielding, hard. And she was very aggressive towards me in her questioning. I don't recall particulars at this point - except that she seemed unusually (from my previous experience) brisk & harsh in her questioning, looking at me skeptically as I answered, signalling with her body language and facial expressions that I was in some sort of denial. I felt confused - I mean, I was just this bummed out, stuck woman who was seeking some counseling for depression/anxiety/torpor, or what have you - pretty garden variety, if existential (thus bespeaking perhaps a certain class?)

Anyway, to make a long story short - it seems that the junior intake counselor had somehow checked the wrong box on a form, whereby the chief psychiatrist the entire time thought I had been referred there by a court! By which I mean, the legal system. That I was in some sort of legal trouble, and was there because I was required to be - by a Judge. Somehow, I figured out during the awkward & unpleasant interview that the chief psychiatrist was somehow under a misapprehension and I said to her - wait - I'm here voluntarily, I sought counseling because I feel depressed - and she shot me the hardest skeptical look of "yeah, denial, heard that before" - she didn't believe me whatsoever.

Anyway, I never went back, and in fact have never sought therapy since. The clinic realized the snafu, the glitch - and tried calling me back - seriously, like 87 times (as mentioned in the "In Treatment" episode) but I never responded, never went back, decided to deal on my own again. Not long afterward 9/11 happened, and whatever my mood problems were, the entire city was in a psychic wreck, I certainly wasn't going to seek counseling again.

Anyway, it was just a very strange occurrence. But I did wonder about that chief psychiatrist, and I felt a lack of respect towards her, that she couldn't seem to see me, read me as a person in her own right, form her own judgment, acknowledge that there might be a (crucial) error in the intake form. But also - let's say I had been referred to the clinic by a court - what's with the mean, harsh, hardline questioning - is that really a help? I don't know. Forms of justice. I thought I had done a credible job presenting as a depressed middle-aged woman - which I was!!!


Anyway - not bummed anymore, not in that way anyway. I've long since (in the intervening years) figured out that my problem was just not fitting into what's expected of me - trying to be righthanded when I'm naturally lefthanded, metaphorically speaking. Ah, whatever.

I went through my paces at the park thinking about that episode, and spent a lot of the rest of the day cooking & cleaning. I made shrimp shu-mai again, from a recent Times recipe, and am quite impressed that I was able to pull it off, the mysteries of Asian dumplings - made plain. Afterward I thoroughly vacuumed & dusted the entire upstairs, and cleaned the bathroom.

All day long I thought about a beautiful poem my friend in Finland sent to me that he wrote - I really loved it. The little connection he & I have forged means a lot to me. So strange though, in a way - if I were to make a list of people who I care about these days - mostly virtual, in relation to me - what might a "chief psychiatrist" make of that? (I have no fear of the kind opinion of one, however) -

And I've had thoughts about Emily Dickinson, on this evening before - 180 years ago tonight - the day that baby Emily was born.

Water is gurgling in the pipes now, and I'm glad to be here, up in the aerie - a very clean, now, aerie - and and and

Launching without proofing, or otherwise going back, I'm afraid. Take it in the spirit (I hope) of Oscar Wilde's dictum "the best picture of a fuzzy picture - is a fuzzy picture."

Yours, Warmly,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My dearest, thank you for the advent candle in the window precisely at five, just for me, even if you are otherwise, in your darkened house, invisible. I like the Finnish spelling - Adventti Kynttilä (my tongue trips over the t's - I wonder if each 't' is pronounced, like little road bumps causing one to slow down and savor the syllables that form each word) and had occasion to include in a short message to my Finnish friend today, I'm too still in the warm atmosphere of your Adventii Kynttilä - what a wonderful tradition, it deserves far more play than it seems to get over here in the States - quiet beautiful Advent somehow gets buried in all the noise.

I don't have much for you tonight my dearest. A sliver - tiny scythe - of moon, is to the left of the neighbor's towering pine, David to the pine's Goliath, at least from my perspective, from the aerie window. Because of course the moon, merely obscured by - what? - oh yes, behemoth shadow of the earth, isn't it, is huge and pale and alabaster and on the moon the neighbor's monster pine would be nothing in comparison...

When I woke this morning there was a dusting of snow on the ground. Later I went for a walk in the park, in a bit of a squall, but by the time I'd done the figure eight around the sun had come out and the park brightened and started turning green again and my mood brightened accordingly. Not that my mood was off - but I'm very affected by the light, and I find a dark morning, with a landscape in shades of utter black and white, very oppressive, and I start counting the months (oy) til spring, let's see, January 8, February 8, March 8, April 8 - dear God, no, please no, not four months of this. And of course it isn't really. But those breaks of sun make it - that, and flowers all over the house, and after the New Year, like Emily, I will force bulbs religiously - advent candles to summon spring, in herbaceous form.

I felt fortunate at the park though, to be able to collect beautifully cut short lengths of firewood. I saw the supply coming. Perhaps about ten days ago there was a fierce windstorm. I'd gone for a walk in the midst of it and out of prudence as the storm raged (it wasn't raining at that point, just very windy) I stayed out of the woods, especially a particularly short section to which it already looks as though great violence has been done, with massive trees uprooted, even in summer looking ravaged and sieged and very tumultuous - it's really quite mysterious - the petrified aftermath of a maelstrom. My instincts proved correct, because the following day there was a massive, huge, enormous, ancient hardwood tree of some sort that had split near the base and come crashing down across the path during the storm. On my walk that day, I had to venture a few feet off the path to where the trunk was low enough that I could simply grasp and clamber over it. Right-brain me was awed by tiny me and big huge toppled It, and left-brain me foresaw - a stack of firewood sometime in the near future in the parking lot. The other day a bulldozer appeared over the mowed meadow (are we done chopping everything down yet?) and today - the beautiful supply.

And so that's it, at least for now, darling, you know I could go on and on if I needed to in tortuous, endless knit-scarf fashion go on and on. But I won't.

I'm trying to get a message through to you sings - who? - on KZE. Yes, exactly. Love you. I always have.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the price to be exacted, for the chance

Peeks of sun - thus blue skies - glint through gray. I warm my hands on a cup of hot tea, sweetly fragrant, tart with lemon, savor the feel of light cashmere garments that caress my bare arms and breasts, nipples taut

--exquisite homemade shrimp shu-mai yesterday, songs of songwriting poets Bob Schneider and David Gray carefully downloaded, savored, again listened to (the color of the ghost of a moonbeam; summer sky is blushing pink), but I don't wish to use them up, spend them, but oh the way they write; downstairs, laundry, sheets awhirl, discounted chicken sausage cooking, must put together dry pancake mix to go with half-price bananas, I love I love I love, can it be, my mind a jumbled miscellany, tangled clot of rainbow threads in unkempt sewing basket--

Stamens of ripening lilies on my desk reach upward expressively. If I touch or so much as breathe on them they'll fall off, crumble into indelible stain, henna powder. I look up stamen, it's from the Latin - remarkably, for thread.

It seems he's returned, in a way, as suddenly as, months ago, he'd disappeared, the other evening a page hit from a server called "Object Muse." Am I that to him? Perhaps. I thought about this in my shower and a line came to me: No answers will be forthcoming. After I dressed I jotted it down, and lines after that, without a word, forever out of reach, a jay calls, I'll never know why.

Yesterday a different thought, as I walked with weights in the park: if I could have one wish it would be to see him again, just once. And then I thought - what if I did? Would that really be enough? Is that consistent with acquisitive human nature? But I thought, as I marched - yes, that would be enough. That would be the wish to be granted. What would I give for that wish? Honestly, the thought absurdly came to me - my life, I would give my life. So melodramatic! I wasn't feeling melodramatic or depressed though. It just felt like - that's what I would like the very most, and if that were granted, then what would be the point beyond that? But I'm sure that isn't consistent with my human nature - I would wish more life, anyway - I believe I am acquisitive - that way. And yet, that thought did come to me - that formula, that high priced exchange. One must give something up, as in a fairy tale. What fairy tale? Why do I say that? But it does seem that one must always give something up, for the chance.

This morning I heard a jay call - was it looking for its mate? No answers will be forthcoming. Do jays mate for life? Neither my Audubon (pages crinkled, possibly from the time I fell out of a canoe on the East Branch of the Delaware River) nor my Sibley's says.

Did he give something up, in exchange for something else he desired, or needed to do, in disappearing? Has the bargain been fulfilled, so now he can come back?

No answers will be forthcoming.

Wish, part-granted.