Wednesday, June 30, 2010

chronicles of a literal woman

Hello darling. Such a beautiful afternoon. Very cool out, I have a sweater draped over my shoulders. I may need to shut the bedroom windows for overnight. Took a short nap in my seagreen chenille sleeping sweater, the one I usually wear in dead of winter. I love that thing. I found it many years ago on a sales rack at Lord & T. on Fifth Avenue. It was marked ridiculously down - I think I paid around four dollars for it. There was a very nice clerk there I remember, hovering in the sales racks, who watched me as I exclaimed to her about the find. I don't have a sense of angels all that much in my life, but I think of her and wonder a bit. Thank you angel, that shrunken, oft-washed sweater has been much worn and slept in and kept me cozy for a number of years. I hadn't thought of it as a security blanket - but I suppose it has acquired that aspect. The first couple of years I owned it I wore it as a regular garment, with jeans... so many washings it shrank...

Bob Schneider's on now... love that song... come hold me, bring the bringdown, bring the bringdown baby... your smile, it's a beautiful thing, I bring it with me...

hands of desire - throw it all to your fire

I'm so glad you found your iphone. I was afraid you'd dropped it somewhere on the endless beach, or in the sea. I dreamed about you last night, very vivid. You called me on the telephone, from Provincetown. You wanted to get together and I said, a tad primly (a quality I recognized even in my dream) that I was committed to catsitting for a week... we reunited...

I open up Word to examine more details of my dream - endlessly slow to load - glance at handwritten notes in planning trip to city. I noted what I should "bringdown" - written as one word. Bringdown: eggs, OJ, roast chicken, pasta, pesto, farmstand veg., butter. And of course rosé, which goes without noting.

Now Allison Moorer's on, Broken Bird. Love that song. Today is Emily Norcross Dickinson's birthday - that is, the poet's mother's birthday. The Secret Life of E.D. facebook page people posted very intriguing, challenging thoughts. (It's a wonderful page, but it's so original that I wish they'd create their standalone website already - they certainly have the content, and the following.) They posted daguerrotype images of the two Emilys, mother & daughter, and there is a physical resemblance. I don't know anything about the mother and thus have never considered her. But I read a bit about her - well, more on that, perhaps, some other time.

Am in a dark room, at a computer. Wearing a tight low cut white tank top. My breasts are spilling out of it. I’m aroused. I try to rearrange myself, make the top tighter, contain my full breasts. The phone rings, a loud ringing. Someone picks it up. I sense that it’s for me. My mother calls up the stairs to me – tauntingly chants that it’s “darling.” I go to the phone [an extension upstairs, at an office table]. It’s __. I hear his beautiful familiar voice. Where are you. He’s in Provincetown. He quit Alaska he’d had enough. He wants to get together. I tell him that I’m committed to catsitting for the week. Can he come stay with me? We’re not communicating very well. He cuts in and out. The other line rings. It’s Brian (I think). I go back to trying to talk to ___. Not getting anywhere really, sometimes the line is dead, or he’s silent on the other end. ___'s brother comes in and sits next to me. He’s beaming. He looks just the same. I’m happy though surprised to see him, I smile in acknowledgment. I’m still on the phone, and the brother sits there beaming. He’s there because ___ is coming and he's happy that we'll finally be together. … ___ comes and there is to be a big feast, maybe a wedding for us (not sure) but certainly a feast to celebrate his return. Long table is being set up in yard. ___ wants to watch a video and so I take him to the stacks [airy, daylit, maybe even out of doors]. We peruse the books – there's a hardcover volume entitled Intense Love published by FS_, colorful paper jacket. I put the book aside (on an upper shelf to my left) a book I ordered and want to remember to read. I kiss him, I say I love you, and he says I love you, I have always loved you. I put my arms around him. He feels fantastic, just the same, magical, electric. I kiss his neck, lick his earlobe. He’s smiling, he’s wonderful. We start to make love, he enters me, and I put my leg up against the bookcase.
Penelope has joined me upstairs in the aerie. In the last couple of days one of the four cats (we're thinking Penelope) busted a small opening through a lower corner of the screen door from the porch - now the cats (Miss P anyway) let themselves in, come & go as they please. Maybe it's not toolmaking exactly - but it's some kind of sign of animal intelligence, problem-solving...

Will announces that we've just heard Chronicles of Literal Man, Rob Morsberger. It's an awesome song that I went downstairs specifically to turn up the volume on ... I'm still here you dirty bastards. I'm not even positive what he's singing about. Maybe not exactly, but close enough.

Love you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello darling. After five here. It's been a beautiful day, the heat and humidity broke, cracked open like an egg overnight, giving forth a crystalline, sunny, dry day while I wasn't looking.

I check the weather near where you are every day - sounds there like March here. And still no sign of night. Not even "civil" twilight. I love those precise distinctions... civil, then nautical, then astronomical twilight. Yes - those are the gradations, indeed - so beautiful to distinguish among them. (I'm relatively new to the concept - thus my excitement.) Now if we could only get civil authorities at the conservation area to be sensitive to the gradations as well. They have set the automatic gate to lock at 7 every night, which I'm sure effectively chases people out a good 10-15 minutes sooner. More to the point, ordinary citizens, especially those coming home from work, are arbitrarily denied the pleasure of witnessing the summer sun set behind the beautiful mountains. Sunset tonight? Let's see... 8:35 p.m. Civil twilight? 9:10 p.m., astronomical at 10:48. It's a computerized gate for pete's sake - I presume a staffer or volunteer could reset it without much trouble. People leave hopeful notes about that in the signin register (I did too, a while back) but so far (as far as I know, unless the situation's changed just in the last few days) the Powers that Be at the conservation area seem to have ignored them. Honestly - I'm not quick to pull out Marxist interpretations - but truly, that is really cluelessly elitist to me for them not to be sensitive to the desire of people in a public (or semi-public) park to see a sunset for goodness sake.

In all innocence to see a sunset. Or - in all innocence - to make out. How grateful were you and I once upon a time for being left blessedly alone to our amorous devices well after astronomical twilight at the arboretum? God it was cold in that car in winter. Sure wish you'd bought that heavyduty sleeping bag of a bolshevist winter coat many months sooner than you did.

(Belle, don't even go there - you'll depress yourself. Of course you had occasion to use it, in just that way.)

I'm going to the city for a few days. I thought I might leave tomorrow, but am inclined to postpone it a few days (doable). Thought about contacting a couple of old girlfriends to have lunch (such as K.) but am not in the mood. I can't tell them about my mad writing project. Can of worms. Plus nobody but nobody but you could possibly understand. I don't wish to explain myself, and if I even tried to I don't care to endure the inevitable visible facial flipswitch of disapproval. Nor do I wish to see either of them and not feel able to reveal that part of myself. That's a strain too. So - I will be in solitary in Brooklyn, too. It's all right. The change of scenery will still do me good. I was a little worried about internet access, especially over a long holiday weekend when libraries are closed. I emailed my friends this morning to see if I can use their computer (I never touch it, their Mac) and they got right back to me - of course, we'll leave you instructions on how to access the internet, plus here's how you do it - and then the husband sends me an email hours later saying, now why did my wife say that I'd leave you instructions on accessing the internet and then tell you exactly how to access the internet? And he reiterated the instructions & the invitation to - go ahead - click on Firefox, or Safari... They are so sweet. So, anyway, that's a source of anxiety out of the way, darling - the thought of not being able to communicate with you while I'm in the big bad city of 7 or 8 million (well, maybe 2-3 million on a holiday weekend, the seesaw end of the Hamptons sinking temporarily into the sea) - it was unbearable to think about it, and now I don't have to.

Wait - the people on your sea - they didn't simply migrate to a more fashionable watering hole did they? Have you considered that?

Darling, very many hugs & kisses. Thinking of you always, at all stages of Twilight, and I don't mean youthful vampire movies. XOXOXO

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hello darling. Oppressively humid today. I've felt laid low by it, low energy and spacey all day. We usually don't need air conditioning - today's an exception. I lounged around in my altogether and got a lot of reading done. That sounds so decadent and I suppose it is. Well, I did load & unload the dishwasher, made breakfast - no, not really, put slice of raisin walnut bread in toaster upon which I then melted a thin cold slice of camembert. (In my defense I usually make a full breakfast for D and me. He had to go somewhere early.) I did make lunch! Not one of my most inspired dishes, but used ingredients I had around: ground turkey, what I at first thought was swiss chard but then decided was kale (our neighbor gives us some of her CSA greens - greens is greens - I'm not sure what they are sometimes), chicken stock, and basmati left over from the other day. Then I lay down and read LLLG and the NYRB that came in the mail. I felt unpleasantly exhausted and wakeful at the same time, but I did manage to fall asleep for a few minutes - just that little start I get, the jerk of sleep does something to refresh me tremendously - like being rebooted.

This morning I got up around 7:40 and connected to the internet while brushing my teeth and in keeping with morning ritual checked the stat counter. And was amazed to see your hit, which must have come at virtually that instant. It was an unexpected delight at that hour (good morning darling) - though I wondered if it meant you had insomnia. If so I hope you were able to get back to sleep soon after.

I googled you too yesterday and found an interesting piece about the guy running part of the show - what a life! Opposite of mine. Hope he's a great cook and that you're all thriving under his Mary-Poppins-like care (by which I mean he does sound extraordinarily resourceful).

Which reminds me that I did make pesto today, from the most beautiful fresh, fragrant bunch of basil, just at its peak, before it goes off and gets acrid and anisey. I froze a stash of pesto to break out in winter (I make a point of laying in a good supply over summer) and will bring some down with me for quick dinners, stirred into pasta, while I'm in the city.

Sun has just broken through, for the first time in this dank, dark day. I wish we'd get a good hard storm.

Oh what else? I don't have the ripping wit (or whatever it was) that seized me yesterday. So I'm just typing and rambling, thinking of you, feeling close, connected with you.

A little more on Mabel - don't file away "nutjob" just yet. She wasn't just the dominatrix editor of Dickinson's poems, the girl who gets up early, stays up late, tours the facilities, cuts through red tape, wears a short skirt and a long long.... jacket. (I'm riffing on a great KZE song that cracks me up every time - reminds me of my horrible former Lady Macbeth boss, who as despicable as she was to work for had an undeniable powerful high-priestess sexual allure.) (Darn. I should know who does the song & just perused KZE playlists - drawing a blank. Sorry - Todd Snider?).

Anyway. Mabel. Yes she was instrumental in preserving ED's poems and getting them published, but with a twist. Mabel was obsessed with Austin's wife, Susan. She wished on some level to be Susan, to eradicate her entirely and replace her. Not just replace her as wife - become Mrs. Austin Dickinson - but also on some level E.D.'s best pal (which for many years Susan had been). For all Mabel's years in the Dickinson orbit E.D. never once granted her the privilege of so much as meeting her (amazing, really, the eloquence of that exquisitely sustained withholding). For a long time Emily had been in love with Susan, and many of her poems and letters were explicitly for Susan. So (years after) Mabel, confronted with packets of E.D.'s poems some of which clearly alluded to Susan - went into what I would call a narcissistic fury and xxxx'ed out the offending passages with heavy black ink.
Mabel begins to tamper with the overwhelming evidence of Emily's bond with Susan. A booklet containing 'One sister have I in the house/ And one a hedge away' is taken apart so as to remove the poem. Emily's sewing holes are cut to disguised the poem's place in the booklet, but though the page is thus mutilated, and torn in two places, it's not destroyed for the sake of another poem on the verso. Using black ink the mutilator scores out all the lines and, most heavily, the climax 'Sue --- forevermore!'
Wow. Talk about a divided self. Mabel wanted to (as Gordon writes) "replace Susan as the poet's intimate," and she destroyed primary documents, or one side of them anyway. It's interesting - another sort of person might have simply quietly removed the page without a trace - thereby losing two poems, not just the one. Mabel's fury shows - she leaves evidence of it. But unoffending poems on the reverse remain preserved. (That's professionalism!)

Nevertheless a number of very important poems that Mabel scratched out might well be lost to history if Susan herself hadn't independently saved letters and poems that over the years Emily had sent along to her "across the hedge" (the bound fascicles discovered in E.D.'s wooden chest after her death were E.D.'s project for posterity, fair copies relationally organized.)

There is the loveliest song on now, a beautiful lilting ballad, Mexican I think (La Fuerza/The Strength), that I just want to dance to, with you. It's flowing on and on, so romantic and I move and think of you and love you and imagine you by starlight and candlelight and moonlight and fireflylight and darkness and we move into each other's arms, sway to the beautiful voice and gentle guitars and dance...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hello darling. Sultry out, crack of thunder just now, brooding clouds. Minutes pass. I scan an article on Salon about how unnatural monogamy is to the human species, since the "dawn" of man. It unaccountably depresses me. I start to brood. I think about how promiscuity is promiscuity, whether one is straight or male. (And I do differentiate promiscuity from not being strictly monogamous.) I think about how before I met D and got married I did my share of playing the field, for a decade serially monogamous relationships of varying duration with occasional encounters (in between, never at the same time, I don't think) of ridiculously brief duration. All ages ago. Torrential rains come from the west. The blinds are getting wet. I close the windows. I google a couple of old flames. Feel a little dyspeptic - no, not because I'm Remembering Things Past but maybe that last bite of delicious crab cake after lunch was one bite too many. One of the old flames no longer wears a beard and he's 30 years older but yeah that's him. "Dr. and Mrs....." Wonder if he's still married to the fiancée he was engaged to all the while he was seeing me. (And this was back in college!!!) Heartened to read an eloquent response to silly article in Salon that to internally war against sleeping around is also as old as the dawn of man (whatever that is) due to our inherently conflicted natures. And that many women prefer essentially (if not necessarily exclusively) monogamous relationships, and view separation of love from sex as hollow, and that that's evolution at work too. I feel somewhat cheered by that. Rain ends. Glad I didn't bother watering. Sun comes back out. I open the windows again. Google another guy I really liked, the only (new) guy I ever fell for during my marriage, not that anything ever happened, I didn't do anything, he didn't, it was entirely in my head - but he was My Type. Discover he's left his position. Somehow am not surprised though of course don't know circumstances but can take a guess. Let's see, that he has ideas, and principles, and an understated, naturally elegant way, plus integrity --- all those fantastic qualities - perhaps worked against him. (?) Wild guess. Jerrice is on with Women of Note. I'm glad she's playing a lot of broody French songs, and what's on now - what language is that - is it Hebrew? All these compoundings of broodiness - like the piling on of double negatives - they're turning into positives - I'm starting to feel oddly cheered. I like that Mabel and David at least sometimes sported together. He was really into her. They helped each other's careers. He traveled a lot but he scheduled his visits home for when she wasn't fertile. (And this is before she was trying to have Austin Dickinson's baby, I think.) Did I mention that she wasn't a nutjob? Maybe let's not use the term nutjob. How about champion opportunist and manipulator? And yet, not all bad. She was one of the few readers of Emily's poems who understood their genius. She learned to typewrite (a new word in the 1880s), and set about, after Emily's death and with the active acquiescence of sister Lavinia, to type up the poems from Emily's loopy, crabbed barely comprehensible hand [that's me talking - I tried to read a few of her short lines at the NYBG library exhibit and gave up, could hardly make them out]. Mabel was a huge champion, for not entirely selfless - and yet not entirely selfish - reasons. She set about the project with professional determination and rigor (enlisting husband who sorted through Emily's scraps of paper) and was instrumental in getting the first volume published, which - to the surprise of major publishers (such as Houghton Mifflin) who'd declined her entreaties - was instantly a surprise bestseller. Editors such as Higginson just didn't get Emily's discordant phrasing & jarring punctuation. Mabel met with Higginson who hemmed and hawed. Mabel, a performer who at the piano could and did sing like a bird in the hopes of enticing various prey, proceeded to read aloud, apparently in a very musical, natural, compelling way where the sound & sense came through, a number of Emily's poems and Higginson saw the light. Her outfit perhaps helped. Lyndall Gordon describes Mabel, at that fateful meeting with Higginson, as (let's see, page 258, brethren) "moulded in a corset perfectly judged between womanly yield and ladylike tightness, she leant a little forward in performance mode..." Wow. I read that sentence over a couple of times. I consider my own outfit, possibly on me more womanly tightness and ladylike yield...

I don't understand it, not really. How did I get here? Up in the aerie with an ice filled glass, typing away, about to launch, full of love and kisses for you summering on the Cape like an aristocratic or bourgeois laze-a-bout. I love you anyway, even if you were always a scoundrel with your charming smile and wood boat. Oh wait - no, sorry darling, thinking of someone else entirely for a moment. Being a local female poet has its compensations. Love you - You. Dashes upon dashes and improbable Caps, all over you dearest, bearded (or not?) loveable You || --- Yeah///

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hello darling, great relief to be back up in the aerie with an icefilled glass of rosé. Just went through a storm of cooking in the kitchen. Everything's under control - now. I stopped by farmstands this morning and wasn't quite prepared for the fact that they're in full swing now. So I came away with tons of beautiful produce, which was all very rhapsodic and picturesque and fun and agriculturally and communitarially correct and all that, until I got home with all the bags and realized - oh s***, now I have to deal with it all. And I hadn't thought it through (not that I usually do, actually). On top of it, I'd decided to stew the neighbor's chicken so I asked D to chop it into pieces for me which he did. What I didn't think about was that a 7-pound bird - that, for me, is 2 chickens. My largest pan holds one chicken. I was trying to brown two birds in one pan - two times the work. Plus, whatever sauce I made with it - was I going to want - what - 6 or 8 meals of it? Dear God. I should have roasted the thing, and tasted the meat for itself, without spices. I miscalculated that.

In the end I have two different chicken dishes going on the stove. This is what it might feel like to run a multi-ethnic restaurant. I have a pot of Hungarian chicken paprikash (to pair with farmstand green beans), and another with a melange of cauliflower, onion, carrot and Indian spices (to pair with basmati rice). On top of that I blanched and froze cauldrons of spinach and swiss chard. All while watching yet more episodes of Big Love. Some of the wives in that series are dressed in old-fashioned full-length granny dresses. I was in my pink cotton bra and shorts, moving about the kitchen. Some of the wives are trying to bust out and get careers, while I busted out of mine (What I wanted most? Love. Work didn't get me that. Work was okay, the money was fine of course, but I always felt very apart from it. I'd get homesick at the office. I wouldn't mind a part-time job though. I never meant to permanently slam a bank vault door shut. Why can't a girl, constructed of halves - go by halves?)

Better check basmati - it's fragrant - in a minute or two it'll be burnt. Be right back.

Didn't get much reading done today, a few pages of Lives with L.G. (On the KZE overnight playlist, by the way - Willie Nelson's Pistol-Packin' Mama.) I thought about it on my walk this morning though. Hodgepodge of thoughts. My post got messed up yesterday for some reason, whole sections kept disappearing, and I was trying to recreate them from memory. So one thing I had written that vanished was that latter-day biographers of E.D. and her circle are aware that Mabel Loomis Todd, her husband, David, and Emily's brother, Austin were involved in an intimate, committed (to a point) ménage à trois, was that Mabel and Austin were "strict recorders" of their assignations, noting them in transparently coded fashion in their respective diaries. (David, expert at covering his tracks, scrupulously recorded everything but his amorous affairs, though perhaps there was a trail of female diarists in his wake.)

Another thought was that on the Secret Life of E.D. page there's an intriguing notion that's been posited, that E.D. would be more comfortable in our century than in her own. I instinctively don't agree, or perhaps not the way it's phrased. I think that without question, a century and a half later, her poems I think are more accessible because modernism sprang up in the interim. T.S. Eliot has this premise that there are no original poets, that each one stands on the shoulders of his (I doubt he thought her) predecessors. With E.D., curiously, she's so out of the traditional notion of time, we understand her better in light of poets who came after her - modernists such as Eliot.

(Hmmmm, smelling the chicken paprikash - or maybe it's the Indian spices. Better run downstairs again. Just checked "recent pageload activity" - darling, you've been right at the top since yesterday evening, which I love. Do I need page hits from a googlebot in Mountain View, or from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (the page hits between your page hit from yesterday and the day before), I ask you?)

Would E.D. herself as a person be more "at home" today? She'd have proper treatment for her epilepsy I'm sure, so that might cease to be a barrier between her and the world. But an original thinker such as herself, who needs huge reserves of "alone time" - unless she was independently wealthy (which would require a lot more money than today) - she'd have a hard time living her life in precisely her own terms as it seems (under her circumstances) that she did.

I think about Mabel Loomis Todd , whom Lyndall Gordon refers to as a "New Woman" of the 19th century, smart, savvy, go-getting... E.D. is "out of time" as an artist (as all truly great artists are, perhaps?), while sister Lavinia was of old school passive, trusting woman. I think Mabel Todd, with her ambitions, might feel more comfortable in our age - she'd rise, perhaps, to the top of a corporate ladder. I know that in my post yesterday I made (distortions to keep things brief) her out to be a nutjob, and one thing I didn't intend was to sound prurient or breathy about their unconventional amorous accommodations. I'm sort of envious of it. These people truly loved one another - David and Austin, too, bonded in their mutual love for the same woman. Surely an arrangement such as that - there's something touching about it, I think - would be very hard to pull off today, wouldn't it? Our age seems more heavily "policed" in such matters, driving things if anything, even more underground.

And, yeah, in that age, that social class (it seems) they liked to play around. While Mabel was putting her sights on Austin, David was also happily occupied.
David Todd's tolerance [of Mabel's relationship with Austin] puzzled Susan. Knowing nothing of his sexual marksmanship, she dismissed him as ineffectual.... Mabel took care to keep her husband [David] in play. Her next move was to bring in a Boston cousin: plump, well-kept Caroline (Caro) Andrews, her rump encased in a striped black taffeta skirt. It rustled as she walked. Glossy black braids crowned her head and a wide collar of lace, edged with a frill covered her shoulders. Caro was the daughter of a Congregational minister of Cambridgeport, and before her marriage had been on the editorial staff of a magazine. Bored with marriage to a wealthy merchant, she was typical David Todd prey. He immediately took up with Caro, whose apt middle name was Lovejoy. She came to stay on 16 April 1885 and that very evening David invited her to his observatory, while Mabel 'fixed the furnace' and entertained Austin. Caro and David, she notes, 'came back very late.' The following day, her diary goes on, 'David & Mrs. Andrews, Mr. Dickinson & I had a lovely drive all morning. Windy & fresh.' In the evening Mabel had a 'tremendous' little conversation with her husband and then the following day, while David took Caro away until five in the afternoon, Mabel had another conversation with Austin in the Todds' parlour. This involved 'Revelations' she does not reveal, but it appears that a 'strange relation' with Caro ensued, which Mabel dared not write out except to say (in her more reflective journal) it was 'more remarkable & almost unbelievable than any novel I ever read or dreamed of'. Mabel's excitement was such that she hardly ate. The editor of the lovers' letters has suggested a four-way relationship, and it looks as though attraction developed between the two women. Caro's visit, Mabel goes on, activated 'the whole beautiful rounding-out of some halves of things.' Caro then invited Mabel to accompany her and her husband when they sailed for Europe in June 1885.
Darling, this post is completely stream-of-consciousness and I'm just letting it rip, reluctant to edit too much, at least for tonight.

So this desperate over-educated housewife got her hair trimmed a bit today, in prep for going to the city for a few days, starting Wednesday I think. I don't even know what I'm going to do there. What's at the museums? I have no idea.

Missing you, as you can well imagine. Oh, and not in just that way, in that deeper way.

I'm the one, it seems, who's forever out of her time and place. Grrrrrr.

I hope all is going well with you, darling. Have a wonderful long day's journey into... dawn. Kisses.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hello dearest. Up in the aerie. Hot and sunny today but not humid. I took advantage of a reserve of energy and scrubbed the upstairs bath. Which knocked me out so I took a short nap. Feel better and am glad for clean bath. Also did laundry and made a pasta dish for lunch, with turkey sausage, chicken stock, plum tomatoes, and organic swiss chard. Received text message from D: "chicken on porch." Neighbor's chickens met their butcher the other day and neighbor dropped one off for us (D chicken-sat once or twice, making sure they were in enough feed & water while neighbors were in the city). A nearly 7-pound bird. Wow. Will roast tomorrow. The birds were free-range in neighbor's backyard, ran all over the place. Plenty of exercise. Might meat be tough as a result? Perhaps should cut up and stew. Let's see, Sicilian Spiced Chicken, or lemon chicken, or chicken with Indian spices and spinach and basmati, or...

Have been reading more of Lives Like Loaded Guns. I can hardly put it down. It's one of the most engrossing and unblinkered biographical treatments I've ever read. I just finished two chapters, "Emily's Stand" and "Lady Macbeth of Amherst," that center on a young, attractive woman, Mabel Loomis Todd, who is married to David Todd, her devoted albeit serially philandering husband. They move to Amherst, where David takes an astronomy position, which takes him "chasing eclipses" and sporting with whomever. Mabel sets her sights on the Dickinsons. Emily rebuffs Mabel's overtures with poetic riddles, sheathed blades worthy of Hamlet. But Austin, Emily's brother, then in his 50s, long married to Sue, crumbles before Mabel's charm offensive. Before long they have assignations in the house where Emily with caretaking sister Lavinia lives, which rather cramps Emily's freeranging about the house while Austin and Mabel are locked for hours of a morning or afternoon in the dining room. Austin, treasurer of Amherst College, is in a position to assist David Todd professionally (he's invented a precursor of a motion picture camera and is forever trying to record solar eclipses - but clouds and even the ash cover of a Mount Fuji eruption thwart him!). Austin is also instrumental in having built a nearby house for Mr. and Mrs. Todd. The house is designed and built with exterior stairs to the second floor. Messrs. Todd and Dickinson come & go freely. It's a ménage à trois, replete with (in Gordon's terms) voyeurism and group sex. t in reporting this in breathless fashion. What I'm really appreciating is the unblinkered description of exceedingly complicated adult lives, not to say messy, full of pain, maybe even madness (Mabel - "Lady Macbeth" - sounds unhinged in her mad obsession to replace Sue on this earth - by any means necessary - as Mrs. Dickinson). It reads like a great novel, such as by Edith Wharton or Henry James, or because the setting is unified (the houses are in close proximity in Amherst), a play by, say, Ibsen or Shakespeare.

Would such an arrangement be possible today? I don't know. Funny, I'm watching Season 3 of Big Love now, which is reminiscent (wonderful HBO comedy-drama series about a Mormon polygamous family in the Utah 'burbs; each wife has her own house, all on the same street, and share their husband according to a scheduled rotation). Well, I don't know what to say. It just seems that Victorian architecture (warrens of rooms, many with multiple means of access & egress; front & back staircases, and the like) along with Victorian town planning (houses in close proximity) made such pre-nuclear family arrangements and assignations discreet and doable.

Darling, I have no big finish on this. It's feeling more humid again, and I just can't seem to get my thoughts quite straight today. The beauty of a blog. I try, but I remind myself - it doesn't have to be perfect. Ah, I will let you go for now Mr. "United States." Love you.


Experiencing weird glitches as I try to edit this post. Much of the story of Mabel & David & Austin keeps disappearing as I do minor edits. I've had to reconstruct the paragraph a couple of times now. What's going on? Am I not supposed to include this content? Should I take the hint? But why should I have to? I don't get it. But if by the time you're reading this the gremlins have had their way again and you're not quite getting what I was writing about...
June 13. These days around five o'clock, or 4:30, or quarter to in the afternoon, dawn breaks, the welcome aurora from the west. One sun begins to sink while the other comes instantly to light. I won't see it for a while, and shall have to imagine that at midnight here the sun somewhere blazes, doesn't set at midnight there, and even in its eternal, powerful restless glow I sometimes flash across its mind.
Good morning darling. I've decided to believe that it's you. I don't know for certain, I just have to decide that it's so. Not a matter of faith, but of determination. Proof would be nice but I'll have to do without it.

Scanning WKZE overnight playlist, song titles that buoy me: Satellite Sky (Priscilla Herdman) and Alaska (Strangefolk).
So you see?

Beautiful morning. Humidity broke. Pink strawberry pancakes for breakfast. Back from walk. Wild rosa rugosa in bloom. Hawks, mystery birds, and small planes wheeling. River shimmery. Mountains blue. Mood no longer so. Must shower again to remove bug spray. Miss Miss Dior. Love you dearly. Basketful along the wire.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sun is shining, humidity's dropping, I should be happy but I'm not. Page hits I thought were from Dearly Beloved turned out to be from somewhere in Manhattan. So I've been blogging to a non-existent, nonreading ghost the last few days. Also, am in Chapter 8, "Split in the Family," of the Lyndall Gordon, and reading it is like gazing at myself in the mirror. The players - there's nothing original about them. I recognize them. I'm in a variation (at least in my own mind). Talk about Fatal Attractions. Oh, I'm just having a really hard time today, feeling - I don't know, if Every Day I Write the Book, then Henry James and Edith Wharton had me beat by over a century, and the Amherst Real-Life Players (with imports such as Mabel Todd Loomis and her keenly philandering husband, David Todd) - I'm just having a very hard time right now.

Unlike our quartet of cats. It's been animal roundup week around here. Neighbor's chickens picked up last night for slaughtering. Today we rounded up three of our 4 cats for their yearly checkups and shots. Rafe yawned & waved buh-bye to the girls who were appalled to be unceremoniously dropped headfirst into catcarriers and put in a last-century car.

Oh anyway, they're all back, right as rain, stegasaurus clumps of matted fur shaved off their backs, delighted to be back home.

I believe I felt that earthquake earlier this afternoon. Mild trembling. I was in the aerie, at the computer. Unaccountable disturbance. "Heads up." (Hate that phrase.) And then I forgot all about it until I checked news headlines. Yeah - okay, that's what it was. Well, okay.

So I'm sorry to have to come around to the sober reality-check that a page hit from "United States" isn't some soaring satellite hit over Our airspace, but in fact has more pedestrian GPS pinnings in Florida and midtown Manhattan.

Ah, I know this post is unpolished, but it's very much the mood I'm in.

I should have stuck to my knitting, whatever that was. Sorry Dearest Darling ever mailed the book 2 years ago that set this whole stupid thing in motion. I was much better off ignorant.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the new way

Hello darling, up in the aerie, dishwasher's running, baked two sheets of chocolate chip cookies and roasted farmstand beets at the same time. Overcast all day, drizzling now. After my walk I drove to the supermarket, arriving just as Creslyn said, "John Lennon - next" which meant after a good two-minute break. I groaned and had a mind to drive around just to hear the song. Instead more prudently I took my time finding just the right parking spot and sat in the car until the Lennon came on. Ah, Watching the Wheels. Good one. Worth waiting for.
People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings
to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k.
well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice
designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine
watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels
go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people asking questions lost in confusion
Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions
Well they shake their heads and
they look at me as if I've lost my mind
I tell them there's no hurry
I'm just sitting here doing time

I'm just sitting here watching
the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go

John Lennon, among others, feels like a guiding spirit to me. Whatever doubletalk I got as a kid I was subtly dissauded from going there. In other words bohemian style was okay - good lamb's clothing - but in actuality I was expected to be an ultra-competitive high-achiever, which in the end - as many hoops as I jumped through (and mind you, I didn't always mind jumping) - I didn't turn out to be.

It reminds me of the binding of Chinese girls' feet. In the name of one set of values I was subtly dissuaded away from what came naturally to me and had value. F*** that. Now I'm there. Whatever I learned was wrong, a hell of a lot of it. I'm not really complaining. It's more like, phew, glad I got it at some point and am okay with myself now.

John Lennon got it.

As I sat in the parking lot appreciating his unique singing voice and taking in his words (that's poetry isn't it? beyond "mere" lyrics that is - add him to the list with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell) I thought about his assassination and how all these years later (that is, speaking for myself, older, wiser, more aware) there is almost an air of retrospective inevitability as much as I hate to give credence to such a thing. I was in college when it happened, my senior year I think, it was after dark and I was in my dorm room when the news broke on the hallway. I have to tell you, I was so out of touch culturally (I wrote papers to Brahms LPs played on my portable stereo, that's how I was) that while I knew it was a significant event (gawd, it sounds so cold to write that, seemingly so Lilith-like, unfeeling) I didn't know his music or his role within the Beatles dynamic well enough to really get it.

I'm still no Beatles expert but KZE plays a number of John Lennon's songs often and I recognize a kindred spirit. I stop now and I listen. He got it a long time ago, and now I do too, all these years later, at age 50, useless false forms behind me forever.

I read a great line the other day, by the novelist Muriel Spark:
"I think Hell is empty and all the devils are here." When I first saw the quote I thought about doing a separate post just on it, with images of the likes of -- oh well, I don't want spammy page hits so I'll let you fill in the blanks.

But I do feel - and have felt so since I was a young child - that here on earth, as we go through our days, go through the seasons, perhaps especially as we anticipate signs of Spring - this is all due to God, He created this Heaven, our Earth.

So as I struggle to write this post - Perhaps Heaven is empty too, the angels here. No, I don't believe that. I don't think it's an equation that needs to be balanced in that way. I believe there is a Heaven in some way, a pantheon, the idea, the Oversoul, the projector that gets played again and again in multi-dimensional scalar fashion, in spider webs, cat's cradle games, Shakespearean plays, people's lives, recurring archetypes....

I don't believe that Heaven is empty. But I do know, in my deepening appreciation of John Lennon, that earth is missing an angel. Thank you, KZE, for playing his immortal songs.

Saw that D's car was in the driveway so I brought out a plate of cookies for him to bring over to the neighbor. He was already over there. I handed him the plate, and he handed me two that she had just baked. Nice cookie exchange.

Dinner will be grilled cornish hens with roast beets and neighbor's CSA share of romaine - because toddlers don't eat lettuce.

Peace, Love and BBQ!
Good morning darling. I wanted to put my arms around you and tell you how pleasant it's been to lie in bed just now, slowly waking up, taking my time. Soft gray morning, peaceful. I lie in bed stretched out, light quilt tucked up to my neck, the perfect weight. Birds outside the windows sing, incidental asides befitting a becalmed morning. The fan whirs overhead, pale curtains against drawn shades pleasantly stir. It's soothing to gaze at the graceful swaying folds. Delicious still hour and I can linger. My body aches but I put that thought aside. I savor instead the sensation of the length of my body, curves smooth down the line, skin soft, limbs extended. My thoughts tangle, spar, compete for attention, demanding their second's due. I put them aside. I rest. My breaths are calm and even. The curtains lightly move and I think of you, asleep so far away.

Dominique Browning writes of listening to the peal of sonorous church bells while she was in Santa Fe the other day. I remember how much I used to enjoy the carillon bells at college, joyous midday concerts that rang out over campus as I returned to the dorm for lunch, or headed out for a class. She spent a year there too, I read. I'm sure she recalls those bells, and the presiding Gothic tower. I climbed to the top of it once, with my friend Nicole I think. We squeezed our way up the narrow winding stairs to the space at the summit, and looked out over the bright sonorous world, paisley autumn colors ablaze all around.

I once read that the writer Margaret Drabble (I believe it was her) is impatient with the notion of family members severing relations with one another when, after all, we will all die one day, in due course cut off for good. It's hubris to thus metaphorically kill off relatives - redundant and untimely "double deaths," I believe she deemed such estrangements. On a brisk, no-nonsense, resolutely unempathetic level she is correct, of course. I don't disagree with her. And yet - that's how it happens. Self-preservation. There isn't always love, or even like, among family members. There are people I once loved, or wanted to, and no longer. I have crossed to the other side on that, and am better off for it than with longing for love when it was simply not to be had. It was not there to be had. In no mood to go back.

And then there's someone whom I haven't seen in decades, whom I love dearly, who is closest of all to my heart. Ironic. I can't explain it.*

I think of E.D. and her intimate family relationships. Over time there were disagreements, misunderstandings, feuds even, yes, but it also seems that throughout their lives they mattered to one another. They remained close as though they understood that one day they would never see one another again. Or did they think they would? Perhaps because they believed they wouldn't they cherished so deeply in this life. For eternity, E.D. desired union with her Master.

I lie alone in bed, thinking of ghosts, and loving you.

*Postscript. I couldn't explain it not for lack of words, but because I didn't understand. But I received an eloquent page hit this morning, which speaks to me - offers an answer. It's from Birkenhead, Cheshire, United Kingdom, landing on my archived blog via the search engine phrase - morgan freeman i am the keeper of my soul.

I am the keeper of my soul. Yes - that is it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy summer solstice, darling. I think of you in that place of nonstop day with tomorrow no shorter. I imagine you and your crew as tiny figures on a vast landscape, miniature molded action figures. You wear colorful space suits and helmets. The air is cold but the sun is strong and so is the wind. The set is minimalist, as is the action, a cross between Sartre's No Exit and the reality show Survivor. Or a Beckett play maybe, barren stage surrounded by ocean. Spare dialogue. Has anyone been voted off yet? Don't be silly. We're all team players. We're here to figure out what happened to the ones who were voted, chased or force-migrated off. What happened to them? What did they do while - like us - they were here? Dig we must.

On your end of course reality is immediate and pedestrian. It's a typical day at the "office." There's plenty of oxygen and it's a balmy 43 degrees. Breakfast is long past, lunch too maybe, too soon to ask what's for dinner but someone does anyway. Someone's knees hurt. Another complains of a sore back. A third surreptitiously checks his or her cellphone all the time. One is ridiculously obsessive about proper methodology, prompting another to make exasperated eyerolls when the person isn't looking.

I wonder about mundane details. Do you all put in a set number of hours in a given working day? Where do you sleep? What do folks do in the "off-hours" - besides, what - sleep, read, write, text home. Is the food decent? Is privacy possible? Is there ever a day off? But if so - what would one do with it?

I suppose I might ask precisely the same questions of deployed troops anywhere.

After five now, up in the aerie, etc. Walked at the conservation area (getting good about the bug spray), came back home, showered again, donned skirt outfit (hot sunny day), packed Rafe in catcarrier & car, drove down Route 9, then down Warren Street, left on 9J, over Rip Van Winkle bridge, then down some road that leads to downtown Catskill where I parked and went into HSBC to deposit checks, then back to car to continue to vet with Rafe who needed yet another steroid shot for his inflamed gums. Returned over bridge, stopped at supermarket, found half-price fresh wild caught salmon plus a discounted lamb shank (starting to collect them again in anticipation of future fancy braised dish with roast garlic & orzo.)

Read more of Lives Like Loaded Guns. That Lyndall Gordon is a regular Agatha Christie, demystifying E.D. Oh well, there's still plenty of mystery and wonder left. You know, the Victorian age doesn't sound half-bad, not if you had means anyway. Apparently epilepsy ran through E.D.'s family, and in Amherst three family members were (or are now thought to have been) afflicted. Each was paired with a family member who became their lifelong essential caregiver. Thus sister Lavinia lived with E.D. and took care of her and Guarded Her Secret. On one level it sounds so terribly repressed and restrictive, but I don't know. My family, for example, is so completely blasted out of interconnectedness (Lives Like Loaded Cannons), that I admire and rather envy the close familial ties that bound a Victorian family such as Dickinson's, and provided roles in an era when (particularly for an unmarried woman, even one of means) it was exceedingly difficult to self-invent. How nice, perhaps, to slip into an essential, loving, bonded role. (And theirs, the two sisters, did seem loving - not its nightmare flipside Whatever Happened to Baby Jane - perhaps that movie was propaganda to hasten the demise of such familial arrangements!)

E.D. seems to me to have had extraordinarily deep personal connections - 20th century alienation was not a problem for her. Of course that's a later concept, but still.

Dickinson's family system encompassed close connections and allowed room for newcomers, cherished gems who might become part of the inner circle. This seems richer to me an idea than the brutalist mid-20th century concept of strictly circumscribed "nuclear" family.

So, 1830-1886 E.D. predates the "nuclear family" model, and late 20th-21st century me - I believe I postdate it. Though I'm a first generation American of a family system that got completely disturbed by trauma of all kinds. So maybe it's not a fair equation.

But still, Jane Jacobs saw it coming - the demise of the "nuclear family" (demise brought about due to the imperative, in recent decades, of the two-earner couple to make ends meet). But maybe - good riddance? Because what predated it - intergenerational, flexible connections - seems like a much stronger model.

Tried to nap and couldn't. Feel achey and tired. I feel guilty writing this, compared to what you might be feeling if you've been on your hands and knees.

I sit in the aerie and look northwestward, out the west-facing windows. I guess very imprecisely where my gaze would have to be for it to form a line that if drawn from here to there I could send kisses (baskets thereof) along the wire. My own private supply line to you - forget those earthbound flights!

Perhaps I'm a miniature in your mind! xoxoxoxo

Have a good High Midnight, darling.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Darling love, a fado is on now, making me feel all amorous for you as I sit here perhaps not so prettily in wilting heat in a pink cotton bra that could possibly pass as a swimsuit top if I needed to step outside. It's been steamy, and I just need to get it out of my system but I have recently experienced two wonderful moments unexpectedly (always - unexpectedly) hearing David Gray's Stella the Artist. One was last Saturday afternoon, after the little town library book sale. Driving to Chatham for camembert I lost the KZE signal, as I knew I would. There was nothing on the Woodstock station, and whatever was on AMC (local NPR) I wasn't in the mood. I shut off the radio. Driving, country lanes, deep thoughts, verdant green, shade, asphalt road, hands gripping steering wheel, thoughts of you, of Roget's Thesaurus, of E.D., etc., etc. Enough of that. Turned radio back on - the Woodstock station which has a very strong signal (stronger than KZE's). And I heard it. The first, almost tentative drum/synthesizer beats, unmistakable: Stella. I was ecstatic. Especially so because I came in right at the very first note. I hate to miss so much as a beat of it - it ruins it. I need the whole thing. I hear the startup and I think - could it be, yeah, wait, check, maybe not - because once in a while I've been wrong - but yeah, there it was. And I just cranked the song and bellowed as many of the lyrics as I could recall.

No need to be modest. Which brings me to yesterday afternoon. I had the house to myself and it was just too hot to put an apron over my clothes to clean up the kitchen. So I did as the neighbor's toddler girl does - I took it all off. Did all sorts of kitchen cleanup, loaded the washer, straightened this and that - all in the nude. So liberating. I went for the chores with an unusual enthusiasm, feeling comfortable and unencumbered and knowing that my reward would simply be a lovely cleansing shower followed by the donning of my nice new skirt outfit.

Stella doesn't come on every 10 minutes. They don't play it every day. Sometimes days go by and I don't hear it.

But yesterday, in the heat and me in the nude it came on - the unmistakable preamble - and I was delighted. I kept away from the windows and moved my body and played silly air guitar and bellowed lyrics and laughed and when it was all done I went upstairs and took a nice long cool shower.

Oh Jerrice, thank you, now another fado.

Dearest love, many many kisses. Love you.
Good morning darling. Very sticky this morning, overcast. The air smells like garbage, stagnant, unpleasant. One of the neighbor's toddlers is sobbing. He catches his breath in a high-wire asthmatic gasp after each dramatic cry. Particularly grating under these climactic conditions. (At the moment 36 and overcast where you are doesn't sound so bad.) Drinking coffee and eating cherry strudel that I made with leftover filo sheets.

Have been reading a biography of E.D. (Lives Like Loaded Guns). The author Lyndall Gordon makes the case that Dickinson may have been epileptic, prone to seizures. Intriguing. There's a part of me that wants to resist believing that, I suppose because I find it too neat and reductionist. Gordon herself says that it doesn't account for E.D.'s genius (though perhaps a certain visionary capacity), but that it could explain her extreme reclusiveness (fear of having a seizure in front of others), wearing of white (highly sanitary conditions were thought to be of help, the way doctors and nurses wear white), consultations with leading physicians in Boston and Cambridge, having a particular prescription filled there rather than in Amherst (didn't want hometown tongues wagging over glycerine, which was a treatment for the disease, which unfortunately had a stigma attached to it), etc. Perhaps I resist this medical explanation because I felt (or wanted to believe) that E.D.'s entire way of being was itself a poetic expression. I don't wish it to be reduced to coping with this disorder. Well, if it is true then - poor woman truly, though at the same time she was very fortunate to be so sheltered and protected by her family all her life. And if these attributes are how she coped with her disorder - then she did so with uncommon grace.

Very rambly post this morning, befitting my mood. (Not every post will be poetic. I look at the one from yesterday and shudder - overwritten. Oh well.) How are you darling? I hope everything's going well. Thinking of you very much. Later.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dearest love, I’ve been thinking of you there on your bleak, windswept ridge, so chilly out. I hope it has been possible to organize a delicious, fortifying cup of hot coffee to get your day started. I fantasize about being there with you, witnessing the forsaken place and its mysteries. I’m not the rugged type, I wouldn’t last long. But the landscape, especially with the thought of you in it, stirs my imagination.

I think of a summer I spent once in Maine while on break from school. I was a chambermaid at a seaside inn. One day after finishing my duties I set out for a walk down the lane to the beach. When I arrived at the lip of the ocean (visible from afar from the inn when the tide was out, much closer when it was in) the beach was utterly fogbound, under a dome of thick, all-encompassing murk. I could barely see in front of me. I kept to the wet sand, stayed parallel to shore, and heard the waves sounding, the waters lapping. Yet the sea in its overwhelming vastness was invisible. It was just me and my taking one step and then the next onto firm sand and chill mist dampening my skin and clothes. I could have turned back and of course it occurred to me to. (It had been merely and safely overcast at the inn and the narrow sand lane, and probably was now too.) It was spooky on the beach. Hardly anyone was there. And yet I knew others were there. The spookiness added a frisson, a thrilling dash of what I decided (despite my fondness of horror films) was manageable danger. It wasn't a "beach day." The vacationing tourists were gone that day and the beach was deserted. But a few other intrepid souls were out, taking in the ghostly atmospherics. Once or twice a person appeared, an apparition suddenly up close, visible for an intimate moment before vanishing, enfolded again in the vaporous dark.

My senses were heightened. I wanted to absorb every detail of the experience whole, give myself to it so that I could conjure it later. I stepped further into swirling nothingness, the encompassing dome of gray. English major that I had declared myself to be I was acquainted with Wallace Stevens and his words ran through my head as I walked further along (not turning back -- soon, but not yet), my footfalls matching his cadences and the heavings of the boundless surround,

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean

In my imagination I'm walking with you along the sand, surveying the contours of a vast, ancient ridge, admiring other contours too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wife Without the Sign

I'd probably like her. There’s a story there. It’s just another story. That’s the limit of a blog. At least if you’re playing Scheherezade and depend on the daily page hits of a former lover to deliver emotional sustenance. It would have starved a gnat – to live so small as I. If I wish to consider her I have to do so in a fictional space.

And I don’t wish to come across as one of the frozen-on-the-vine women of the type that Judi Dench excels in wounded stiff upper lippedness to play.

The woman has good teeth, a nice smile. She wears a sleek jacket, of synthetic fiber, closefitting, zipped, reminiscent of sealskin, an animal’s pelt. There is a view of snow-covered mountains behind her. She’s slim, trim. Small on top. The formfitting garment shows this.

She’s always wearing dark glasses against the sun, in any image I’ve seen of her. (No, there is one, in which she's mirthful and forever looking down - but I've never seen her eyes. No, that's not true either, I've just thought of another.)

I wonder who took the picture. Perhaps she leads a double life. Perhaps it’s her lover at whom she’s smiling so warmly, chastely, professionally on the mountained ground. (Unlikely I think.) One doesn’t need to imagine that it’s a vacation shot, a trip to Gstaad, Squaw Valley, Sun Valley or Lake Placid. No, for all we know they have just stopped on the way home from the deli, at the park.

She stands against a chain and it’s interesting how it horizontally bifurcates the photo. She grasps at the chain with one hand (that we see - perhaps both), a nervous gesture it seems to me, belying her perfectly oval, open face - no, not so open, always those opaque glasses in whose reflected image, blown up, the photographer cannot be glimpsed.

If this were a horror film, say, The Omen, it’d be an ominous steeple or lightning rod coming vertically down in the image signifying the imminent lopping off of the next victim’s head.

Why do I torture myself? What is the point?

image: detail of mural by artist David Fichter,
West Cemetery (grave site of Emily Dickinson),
Amherst, MA


Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Post in Tweets

He was leaving for 2 months & she felt sad that she would no longer see the lantern light that each evening he placed in his window for her.

She wondered how she would occupy herself in his absence. Her days centered on composing poetic letters that told of her day & of her love.

Her love for him, rekindled after nearly 35 years, had woken in her a long-buried desire to write. His reappearance had been her awakening.

He had journeyed far, to a barren, desolate land at the end of the earth where there was no internet. He would not see any daily missives.

She didn’t wish to blog in his absence. Her posts were meant for him & there was no point if he couldn’t read them. He was her ideal reader.

She considered keeping up her routine. But on his return after 62 days he could hardly be expected to read the accrued reams & reams. Yikes!

What might be charming & delightful to read in 1 or 2 little bites a day would be an unwelcome, formidable avalanche if served all at once.

Besides she felt that she herself could use a break. How many times could a girl write, up in the aerie, nice walk today, now drinking rosé?

Perhaps she could dream up an alternate writing project for while he was gone, something different to pass the time, engage and fulfill her.

She pondered on her morning walk. A 2-month project. He set his mind to it and published book after scholarly book. Could she write a novel?

She’d think more about this intriguing possibility. For now she wanted a fun deft way to keep her blog going for the summer - not just quit.

She thought about his return. He’d hit her blog & she wanted him to be able to read a page or two in an easy go & feel pleasantly caught up.

She thought about him now. She’d read there’d been a mild earthquake last evening - hours before he arrived! Today he continued his journey.

The earthquake – what a strange coincidence. Good it happened before he arrived. He, focused, would shrug it off. She hoped he’d slept well.

Sky darkening. Soon - rain. Next door toddlers squealing, chickens clucking. 4 pm. Alaskan cod defrosting, to fry for dinner. Coincidence.

So anyway she remembered about a movie she’d seen, Memento. Backwards Down the Number Line, a Phish song. Reverse faux-tweets, à la Twitter.

She’d compose a series of tweets – 62 - & post them in reverse chron order so when the time came he could read down the page & get the gist.

Wow - that’s a lot of tweets. That’s like a Twitter novel, & she’s doing all on Day 1 to free her up for other writings for rest of summer.

She briefly considered series of haikus but even when 1st introduced in elementary school never loved the form. Proper respect 4 it though.

Has noticed that Bob Dole-like is referring to herself in 3rd person, Dearest as “he.” It is like a Twitter novel, in 3rd person omniscient.

Up in aerie, went for walk, sweater on shoulders, drinking rosé, KZE on, Coltrane Giant Steps, B4, Roseanne Cash, Take Chains From My Heart.

Do Emily Dickinson poems keep to 140 chrctrs or less? May check if/when run short of ideas. Twitter rule: 140 characters max, incl. spaces.

It would have starved a Gnat — To live so small as I-- And yet I was a living Child – With – Food’s necessity. 111 and not end of poem.

Following morning. Page hit from top of the world! Made my day, thank you so much darling. Sorry I didn’t post yesterday. Love you!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Note scribbled overnight: ambiguity stole into it like a cold draft seeping under the door

Rest of the morning hasn't gone much better. Having a hard time today. Woke up feeling very anxious and now it's afternoon and despite a walk and doing laundry I haven't been able to shake it. Such an unpleasant feeling, dis-ease. I wish I could leave it.

D comes home for lunch and I have the car for a while. I change from shorts to jeans and survey myself in the mirror before going out.
Ugh, I look fat today. Maybe I'm getting my period.
D laughs. Yeah, I think.
What do you mean?
Call it male intuition, he replies.
Maybe that's what's accounting for the gnawing amorphous sick feeling.

I decide to treat myself to a latté at a café in town. I order, then survey the room and select a seat, a high stool in the storefront window. I arrange myself and open my pocketsize journal. On the other side of the glass from me an old man with very pale skin and a gold watch outside is reading. I peer at the title of his book from my lofty perch. A History of the Age of the Spanish Empire. He's smoking. Hasn't killed him yet but it's a major turnoff. Despite his lofty tome which he doesn't seem too into he doesn't look interesting. Pinkie rings no matter how discreet are not a good idea. Nor are effeminate gold watches. To my left (behind me, so he escapes my unsparing gaze), a bearded gentleman, younger than me, sits at a table intently typing into his laptop. He looks as though he's been settled there a while, maybe hours. I look out the window. Passersby walk past and I realize that my being seated on this stool in the window betrays not the most flattering view of my jeaned crotch and knees. I glance below the countertop on which I've opened my journal and poised my pen. Oh darn, the storefront glazing continues below my waist - anyone passing by can see anything. I rearrange myself, draw my knees together into what I hope is a more flattering position, matching the stately comportment I've managed waist-up. Your latté is ready, says the barista from across the clean bright room. It has a pretty design that I didn't expect. Pretty! I say. He smiles.

Another note about the Charlie Rose interview with the Danish-Macedonian chef, René Redzepi. Redzepi offers a beautifully composed plate of oysters and cabbage in winter, when oysters are in season and cabbage is (I suppose) ahoyed from cold storage. Charlie Rose showed an image. The elemental ingredients appear eloquent and spare as ice floes in an arctic sea, or as fragments on a slide under a microscope (designs registering mysterious on the round lit white as one adjusts one's eye). Redzepi commented that his dish is one that could have appeared on a menu in his part of the world one hundred years ago (or a thousand). His cuisine is specific to time and place, which quietly, obversely (that is how it works, divinity) lends it a timeless quality. I think again of Emily Dickinson's dried flower album (herbarium) and a reason why I'm so taken with it. It is composed of plant materials that she herself either grew and harvested, or foraged from field or forest. This inductive explorer (in an age before cars, jet planes, and refrigerated trucking) was in corporeal respects as local as it gets. She was born 1830 and composed the album at age 14 - so let's say 1845, one hundred sixty-five years ago and it's preserved - or at least images of it are (the original itself I imagine is entombed in a cold, dark vault at Harvard). It's timeless and speaks to me and if I cared to I might be able (since I live in a region not far from and similar to Amherst) to put together just such a book.

In the shower this morning I thought what a comfort it would be to believe in the sort of God who puts his arms around me and makes me feel better. I would like to believe in such a God, my life would be easier, but a side of me won't allow it. But people have had to I suppose imagine just that sort of comforting God just to cope. If I believed in such a God, could summon him for myself, could soothe myself by summoning him in just this way, I would never wake up with the feeling of ambiguity stealing in like a cold draft seeping under the door.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hi darling, you've been right at the very top of my statcounter page all day which I'm so happy about - no hits from, say, Palm Springs, California; Killeen, Texas; Toulouse, Mid-Pyrennes, France; or Serra, Espirito Santo, Brazil. The Madonna of the Carnation hits have stopped as mysteriously as they started. I connect (if only in my imagination) a Concord, Mass. hit the other day to my having mentioned Ralph Waldo Emerson. I take it as a nod from him, considering that the google search that led to my blog was "we come at the age's most uncertain hour." I am sure he would believe so if he were here to see what's going on in the world. Of course he would be appalled.

Muggy today, then a good rainstorm in the afternoon, sun is breaking through now. I bought cherries at the market and watched Big Love while pitting and halving them. I'll bake pie tomorrow. D did a lot of planting (bless him) in the garden this morning, zinnias to replace those lost to frost, echinacea for a gap in the border, broccoli rabe, and a section of "walking" onion ripped out of the ground and handed to D by one of his friendly clients who gardens. The plant resembles a sturdy scallion. It grows tall, forms bulblets, gets top-heavy, tips to the ground, the bulblets take root, send up another tall stem, etc. Isn't that cool?

I did about 45 minutes of weeding just now, out of need and also out of guilt. I didn't enjoy it but it didn't kill me either.

Ironed yet more curtains (!) while watching Charlie Rose. Very interesting young chef on, René Redzepi, chef-owner of a highly regarded restaurant in Copenhagen. (His person reflects a narratively complex latter-day European diaspora in his having been born in Denmark (his parents emigrated from the former Yugoslavia), raised in Macedonia, and returned to Denmark.)

I like Redzepi's simple philosophy, and not to see E.D. absolutely everywhere, but his approach seems so beautiful and poetic that indeed I did. Kindred spirits. Rose showed a few images of the chef's dishes. They're simply and beautifully composed, reminiscent of Dickinson's striking herbarium arrangements. The chef emphasizes "time and place" in his cuisine. He commented that there's a homogeneity to certain internationally high-echelon restaurants, the same music, the same - I don't know what - willingness to oblige a weight-conscious philistine with a plate of plain steamed broccoli no matter what the innovative destination chef might have up his or her sleeve - I guess a certain high-flying set demands things a certain predictable way wherever they go.

Redzepi's not into that. He believes that if you're in the North of Europe, where he is, the restaurant experience he offers should reflect just that. So his cuisine reveals "place" in that he offers flora and fauna native to the regional land and ocean waters, and "time" in that he offers what is at the optimal time, in season, to be harvested, hunted, fished, or foraged. One beautiful composition involved blueberries surrounded by other plants that naturally grow with and at the same time as blueberries. (I think that the botanically-minded E.D. would be delighted.) Redzepi rhetorically asked Rose: "What grows with blueberries?" Me, standing there ironing, reflecting on my own garden, said aloud to the TV, with ignorant accuracy, "Weeds." Well, people, those weeds have names, and some of them are edible. I might even have wild sorrel, which when in Copenhagen will set you back when paired with blueberries.

Redzepi's restaurant, Noma, has 40 seats with only one seating per evening, is booked solid months in advance, and the prix fixe at about $160. He looked a little uncomfortable when Charlie Rose inquired after such mercenary details. This art doesn't come cheap, and Redzepi prefaced by saying that to begin with Denmark is not an inexpensive place.

But again, his poetic vision and sensibility is really very direct, simple, natural. I don't know. I was impressed. D suggested to me this morning that I catch the interview, and I can see why he did. I also responded very strongly when Redzepi spoke of how he views his cooking as a gift, that he cooks to give, because he likes to give, the act of offering, giving, loving. That is very much what has inspired me to write all the letters over the past two years. And E.D. wrote for specific readers as well. I have such a different notion of art now, on the creative side, than when I was on the analytic side as a critiquing English major. Nothing freezes me up more creatively than the notion that I Should Be Creating Great Art. No, I would like to express where I am, in my Time and my Place, and to offer it as a gift, with the sincerest hope that you might enjoy it and come back for more.

Kisses and other amuses-bouches, dearest.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

time difference

Thinking of you on the penultimate eve of your departure. You must be very busy, blazing about to get everything done. I remember you going into bursts of overdrive, I don't imagine that's changed. It's how you get so much done, in part. I remember you bought a long, very heavy coat for your very first trip, going into winter. I watched, increasingly from the periphery, as you, chatting with your brother, planned and packed and prepared. You were gone long before you left. I cried at Turn of River. I have come to surmise that in the end you chose who you did because you sensed the person (especially after the initial mess) had stout qualities: the ability to not miss you to the point of pain, and to cast a blind eye -- so long as never formally confronted - the one hard rule, sharply fought, no uncertain terms -- against stuff that I never could have. I sense what the person got in return, and can imagine what the person may have given up (though it was, I think, endurable). You got what you required, and what was required. But - what got quashed? I picked someone who I felt wouldn't drive me crazy, but there was a heavy price to pay.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How do I love thee? Let me 87.10 the 7.4s

Hello darling. Up in the aerie. Peaceful hour, blank and still outside. Muggy. Dishwasher is running. It sounds like a B52 bomber. But the thing works so I'm not complaining. Drinking rosé. Cream-colored sweater is draped on my shoulders. My hair is down. I look through my reading glasses. I type fast. The desk lamp is on. A hardcover edition of Roget's International Thesaurus, Third Edition (copyright 1962) sits on my desk. Pounced on it at the library booksale this afternoon, used but in great condition for $1. I am happy to have a replacement for my brittle paperback which has split into several pieces held together with a rubber band that I'm constantly misplacing. I'm happy for the larger print in this new copy, also.

My old version was arranged in alphabetical order like a dictionary. I like the ur-organization of my new version (which predates my old "21st Century Thesaurus," published 1993), the logical numerical categorization of every idea. I found that daunting in my youth for some reason, but now I'm grooving on it. Have already gone back to change a word from a post earlier today - white to alabaster. I'm going to have quite a productive relationship with this book, more so perhaps than did the original owner, a G.S. Vance who inscribed it 1-27-75. I think he may not have been a wordsmith because the book is hardly used. (Or perhaps he too, if a young lad, was intimidated by the complex format.) I have politely but firmly put a few lines through his name and inscribed my own, with today's date.

Roget's International Thesaurus. My new best friend, I believe. It is really fun to gambol from 848.5 to 934.13, to 930.13 - all in the name of love, my darling 929.12.

What else today. Went to the library, came back with an armload of E.D. books that were waiting for me on reserve, including Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds. Even with my proneness to distraction it has instantly seized me, a real page turner, so immediate and well told. Now this is an exciting biography, or a precisely aimed angle to biography. I am often discouraged by biographies that begin with the birth of the subject's great-great-grandparents ever so far from the action of which I am excited to read. This book Gets Right Down To It. I had a brief chat with the head librarian this afternoon who told me she'd ordered a book I'd requested for the regional system, The Gardens of Emily Dickinson, by Judith Farr. Today I suggested to her a good volume of E.D.'s letters, along with Richard Sewall's biography of E.D., which back in the 70s won a National Book Award. Having started the Lyndall Gordon, I'm regretting now that I mentioned the Sewall and noted it on a scrap of paper for her. Gordon writes, on page 8, "Richard B. Sewall... filled in a detailed background in his two-volume Life of Emily Dickinson (1974), where the poet is not born until the second volume." OMG. Please head librarian, maybe just acquire Volume 2. Or skip it altogether. It's okay.

Darling, I'm going to miss you, as nutty as that sounds. Perhaps why I'm being so prolix today (591.12, though I hope not 882.8).

So very many....

osculations? no way (unless glabrous)

very very many 930.3's, as always my darling love. Have a delightful evening.

An Old Chatham Minute

some sheep

black sheep

two sheep

one sheep

no sheep

The End

white dress

grey morning
dark still house
I'm wrapped in a sweater
zipped, cream
I stand at the window
look at the peppermint growing in its pot
eat strawberries out of my hand
followed by a bit of cookie
steady rain falls
and yet I feel, I don't know
as if something should happen
reaching for something to happen
the walk won't, not in this weather
good day for a movie
anything playing?
read an essay on Walt Whitman this morning
I haven't read enough of him
raining hard now
pearl cascades slip
down the windowpanes
I wish
I wish
I wish
In my dream last night I read a short poem
by E.D.
the words were vivid and made sense
but it's gone now - darn!
now that would be something, to capture a poem in a dream
drops patter on the flagstones
drum on the roof
pelt the driveway
thunder trembles
a car door slams
footfall on the steps
screen door slaps
icemaker shudders out a single rattling cube
hello - I'm back
I think I'll take the car.

On Big Love this morning
the girl who looks like Buffy's younger sister
runs after the car that leaves without her
she beats on the hood as the car pulls away
the prom king stands in the moon roof
and looks back at her
she stops in the middle of the road
in her long white dress and her long dark hair
and stands there
then she starts to walk slowly
avoiding the puddle from a sprinkler
that would soak her alabaster hem

Friday, June 11, 2010

Impressions jotted down on my walk this morning:

two-tone mountains
teal and pale French blue
favorite crayon colors
the river a shimmering glass

Later, got caught in a traffic jam on Warren Street.
An industrial rail track
runs through it.

Beautiful late afternoon now. Up in the aerie. Dinner is organized, ready to go in the oven soon, chicken, out-of-season root vegetables (I am in the mood for roasted butternut squash, carrot, onion, and garlic) and russets.

Had the car for a while this morning. In between walk and traffic jam stopped at a couple of farmstands. I am happy they are coming back into swing, the familiar faces of farmers' wives, everyone a bit older, me included, new faces too, a farmer's young son, I imagine, of whom I asked about kohlrabi (50 cents) which he shyly and helpfully suggested slicing raw into salad or a cole slaw.

Warm up here. I have just put my hair up with my hands and reached into a drawer for a clip. I am so happy to be able to do that, and even happier to wear it down. I can't believe I threw my youth away wearing my hair too short. I love it longer. It's a really nice style for me. I vow never to cut it short-short ever again.

Are you still wearing a beard? I wish I could feel it against me, the soft wonderful brush, cushion for your lips, your tongue...

It's amazing how expressive one's hair is. I'm wearing my hair longer now, and it's deliberate, expressive of how I feel, maybe even a philosophy. When I was younger - my hair expressed my confusion mostly. Bad perms, spikey hair at times, overly short cuts, expensive highlights. I do still color my hair, now. I'm not going gray, not yet anyway. Instead, the natural color as I've gotten older has gotten dark and rather dank. Coloring it improves the body, and it's a more flattering shade, not so different from my natural one. I do it myself, easy enough, and what a lot of money saved. I can hardly believe how much money I used to spend on highlights and a cut in the city - and to what avail? What a racket, truly.

A few days ago I was in a local department store (when I was buying my new skirt outfit) a young clerk came up to me, shyly doing her job informing about a cosmetics promotion. I hope I didn't come off obnoxious to the sweet girl (I doubt she was out of her teens) but I felt so happy to smile and say, kindly I hope (but from my lofty ladder of years) I don't wear make-up anymore - I'm free! She smiled and simply turned away. Where I live is not hipster NYC, where I might have had to endure a disapproving once-over reinforced with a withering look flung back with laser eye-contact over a haughtily turned shoulder. (Oh yeah - my current next door neighbor comes to mind, though maybe - maybe - even she is mellowing out.)

Ah, Miss Dior though, that I do miss. I would go back to that, for moments with you.

So, what else at the farmstands? Let's see at H. Farms, morning glories to send up the, the, the - what is the word for it, the freestanding teepee like structure up which one sends vines? I stopped there for zinnia seedlings (I had lost mine to a frost) but they were all out. Bought nicotiana, plus a four-pack of broccoli-rabe since we like it so much. Swiss chard from them also, plus a quart of strawberries. At the other farmstand, garlic scapes, a head of broccoli, kohlrabi, and an arms length of beautiful fragrant dill.

Then it was off to the supermarket where I did my shopping in my accustomed fashion, which is to go around the perimeter (fresh vegetables, meat, dairy) and look for the bright yellow "managers special" stickers. I buy what's marked down. That's how I do menu planning. I came away with great stuff today, organic mixed spring greens, sliced mushrooms, "artisanal" (sorta) bread (jalapeno cheese, rosemary, and ciabatta), catfish, wild-caught sea scallops labeled - ominously, now - "from Mexico."

That's how this crazy poet tries to earn her keep, by being ever so frugal in the housekeeping department. We eat incredibly well. D was home for lunch - and what a lunch with the delicious sauteed catfish with salad and ciabatta, and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.

Dearest, I don't have a big finish for this post. I'd better go down and attend to next steps with dinner. I hope all is well with you. And so forth, as you very well know.

Two minutes later -- back from downstairs, where I put in the chickens and potatoes into preheated oven.

I'm two hours ahead of you, and now the light is mellowed and sparkly. Very unpoetic, but it reminds me of Seven-Up or Fresca. Just that tingly and effervescent. I should get out there and bask in it (it's not too strong), along with the quartet of cats who all seem to be getting along and hanging out together. It's a process, it really is.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Think of You

Hi darling. A hard, pounding rain broke out a couple of hours ago. I wanted to capture it for you. I love a good summer rain. You can't tell from this picture, except for maybe gauzy spots, but it was an abundant, bursting, sensuous monsoon pour. Cats wanted in. I took the picture from the sheltered porch. It's of the kitchen garden, which mostly D tends though I water it. Vegetables grow in the four square raised beds, there's a rose border in front, and within the rabbit fencing a raspberry bush that I got at a discount grocer a couple of years ago for $1.99 is thriving, along with straggly and more expensive blueberry bushes to the right. The raspberry bush produces and in the past I've picked berries from it, two or three for the bowl, one for me. For this suburban/urban transplant, it feels like an amazing achievement to grow my own especially considering how expensive they are even in season. In the past the blueberry bushes - varietals that ripen at staggered times over a long season - have produced too. But mostly the birds get them first because while D & I talk a lot about netting this against birds and that against deer, somehow it doesn't get done.

It was cold, damp sweater weather much of the day. But now the sun has broken out and it's instantly summery again. I've peeled off my sweater and opened the windows.

What did I do today? Went for a walk at the conservation area. It's buggy there. Ran into a regular, the older gentleman with his floppy dog. He remarked on the bugs. I concurred. "But I hate the odor of bug spray," I said. He said that he puts it on just where he perspires, indicating his neck and wrists. "It's no Miss Dior," I said. We continued on our separate ways.

Spent time in the kitchen (Season 3 DVD of Big Love on in the background), baked chocolate chip cookies, made blue-cheese yogurt dressing, washed and spun lettuce, pulled out chickens to defrost, loaded the dishwasher and ran it. Upstairs I ironed a few more curtains.

Now I hear a noisy small plane, reminding me of when I lived in Brooklyn and helicopters constantly crossed overhead. Once I saw one from the terrace that I knew must contain the Pope! We lived by a LaGuardia flight path too, so jets were always sailing past, stately slow and silent, fronts up at a slight tilt.

One day I sat on the terrace, feet up. I closed my eyes for a while and when I opened them again and looked up at the sky at that very moment a large water bird, a heron or egret, flew overhead. How serendipitous - that precise moment. I don't believe I've ever seen another one in Brooklyn, not right in the old neighborhood anyway.

I was so glad to get your lantern flicker this morning, I felt immeasurably lightened.

Dinner is cheese tortellini with homemade basil pesto (one of my favorite things), leftover chicken, and salad. I should go to the supermarket tomorrow - I'm running out of basics. Let's see: Worcestershire, OJ, walnuts, butter, feta, camembert... A jaunt out to Old Chatham for cheese might be in order.

A John Gorka song is on now. I think of you, all night long... summer sky... climbing roses... watched the sea... memory... you're on my mind the whole night through... all the way in a lonesome city all the time you're gone I think of you. And when I hear the soft wind blowing like an angel's voice from a far off shore..... I think of you as the night goes by you're on my mind the whole night through... all the time you're gone... I think of you all the time you're gone... I think of you, I think of you....