While roaming the interwebs this morning, I came across an article in Rolling Stone - "15 Great Songs You Didn't Know Sia Wrote." I like Sia very much, so I listened. Of the songs listed, the best (in my opinion) is Christina Aguilera, Bound to You(from the movie, Burlesque).
If I could sing, I would like to be able to sing like Christina. She's just marvelous.
It was a lovely day today. Sunny, warm, breezy. I left the back door open for several hours, and Elderly Three-toothed Dog stretched out in, and blended quite nicely with, the brown of the lawn. I wore a short sleeve shirt when I ran my errands, and was not at all cold. Marvelous.
It was just the kind of day that is just right for poking around in the desert, or for going for an evening constitutional, or for sitting out on the patio after dinner -- the kinds of things that we would do with Cherished Friend when he lived here in this corner of the desert.
That made him seem Very Far Away today.
Missing someone is a funny thing. It's a personal, unilateral sensation, an echo of familiarity in which there is an absent component. As has been said (in various permutations by Commander Data and other denizens of the Star Trek universe): My mental pathways have become accustomed to your sensory input patterns. And despite distance and time, we still occasionally travel those mental pathways, and it is then that it's clear that certain sensory input patterns which we associate with those pathways are not there.
That's a semi-technical description of what is, ultimately, a visceral feeling of absence.
Roads diverge. We are well aware of the ever-spreading pathways of the Offspring as they travel their own roads to and through school; we think of our siblings and our relatives, all so far away, in their own little worlds; and of our Cherished Friend, in his own corner of the desert. It's a small planet, and yet it is infinitely spacious when distance separates us from those who are important to us.
My mother jokes on occasion that she hasn't forgiven me for moving away from home when Beloved Husband and I got married. (Within six years of getting married, we did ultimately move rather far -- some 2,000 miles from the town where I grew up.) That joke, though intended to be harmless, makes me sad. I can never, even in jest, begrudge another's actions in that way. We all have our own lives to make for ourselves. Pathways sometimes lead away, and farther and farther away, from those who are (metaphorically) closest to us. Such it is.
The last thing I want in this one life I have, is to tie someone to me through some kind of guilt or sense of obligation towards me. They owe nothing to anyone but themselves. If the people whom I hold close in my heart move away from me, so be it. They must go forth and find where their paths lead. What I wish most for them is not that they remain nearby to me, but that that they find their own happiness. If they are happy, then I will be happy for them, too.
All that being said, I will say this one thing tonight: I am looking forward to the next time the weather is like this, and we have a chance to poke around in the desert, or go for an evening constitutional, or sit out on the patio after dinner, with our Cherished Friend.
In the wake of David Bowie's return to the stars, we are seeing much more of his music floating around the interwebs. Behold the classic, Cat People (Putting out Fire). I saw the 1982 movie of the same name, eons and eons ago. Nastassja Kinski was quite sensual, as I recall. What struck me most about the movie, though, was the use of this song. Perhaps it was David Bowie's voice that was the most sensual parts of the entire film -- nested within the drums and the slow beginning, were his deep, slow words, building relentlessly. Ooooo.
I was thinking the other day that is has been a very long time since I visited the ocean. Or sat out under the stars and the moon. It would be lovely to do either one. And to do both at the same time -- ah, yes.
We are the the night ocean filled with glints of light. We are the space between the fish and the moon, while we sit here together. -- Rumi, A Year With Rumi
There was this tiny amusement park of sorts that we visited a few times when I was very young. Where exactly it was, I cannot recall. I remember there was a tuffet that one could sit upon like Miss Muffet, and that sitting would cause a large spider with a painted face, a top hat, and an insufficient number of legs to descend nearby. There was even a flying shoe ride -- which I do not remember, but which was captured in a few photographs. It was humble but enjoyable family fun.
I was perusing the pictures in the computer, and found this particular photograph. I cannot recall whether I've posted it before; even if I have, though, it bears repeating. I enjoy everything about it -- the composition, the lighting, the subject. Lovely.
I wonder what the bird is thinking? I think, perhaps, that it is composing haiku.
One foot stance - I perch Upon the stone pagoda, Watching dragonflies.
I wondered: what is the most valuable thing I have learned from Mom?
There are infinite lessons shared between mother and daughter, and those lessons span a lifetime and beyond. There are the small pieces of advice that seem quite practical and useful: "the three most important things are a good haircut, a good bra, and good shoes." Then there are the larger lessons that are difficult to distill into pithy sayings: those are the lessons have taught me about what kind of person I want to be -- what kind of wife, what kind of mother, what kind of friend.
One thing stands out among all of the things that Mom has taught me, though:
Expand your vocabulary.
This may at first seem trite, almost silly, in the grand scheme of life lessons. For me, though, it is tremendous -- because words are tremendous. Each word is a cell in the body of what I write, and brings with it subtlety and nuance and power. Words: they are magnificent. And I am ever so glad to have learned their value.
She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. ― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
Thanks to the fellow blogger who brought this quotation of Kahlil Gibran to my attention.
Sometimes, especially in the deep night under the full moon, we feel that elusive yearning more strongly than ever. It is piercing; brilliant; devastating. And though we would at times cry for relief from its affliction, in truth, we cannot imagine our existence without it.
If love were in the flesh I would burn it out with hot irons and be at peace. But it is in the soul, unreachable. -- Kahlil Gibran
The northeast of the United States, including many of the Atlantic states, is under watch for a tremendous humongous record-shattering snow storm. I find myself secretly wishing that I could be there - to have the marvelous muffled quiet of the snow, the glare and the cold, the quick sweat of shoveling, and the excuse to bake 8,000 muffins.
This small mountain of snow was found upon the kitchen counter in December of 2009. I have always been entertained by what the young Offspring have done to enjoy the rare snowfall here in this desert land.
Behold, this magnificent story about a marvelous creature -- the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis -- thought to be extinct but then miraculously found on a single plant on a craggy remote rock island. It is a triumph of science and human effort and most of all, perseverance of a fascinating species. "Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides For 80 Years." Excellent.
I do hope that you are not too anxious.... they will be dazzled by your intelligence and appreciative of your good looks... a great combination.
On the one hand, it sounds like a compliment. On the other hand, it does not.
The last time Herself spoke to long-standing Acquaintance, Acquaintance asked whether Herself was anxious. Herself did not say "yes, I'm anxious" - for the word does not fit. Rather, she commented that it is complex to undertake something completely new like the Project. Despite this, Acquaintance continues to use the word "anxious" - and this repetition of a word that Acquaintance uses so frequently to describe her own state of nervousness about a variety of things seems, in Herself's mind, an attempt to forge a commonality of anxiety between Herself and Acquaintance. No. That will not be done.
And what of Herself's "good looks"? Well, given that the Project is a professional opportunity, it's not something that warrants recognition or appreciation of appearance. More to the point, though, Acquaintance has previously provided some other commentary that calls into question the use of the phrase, "good looks." Herself still remembers the occasion when Acquaintance warned her by stating, "You'd better be careful. [Beloved Husband] works in an office where women dress nicely and sexily every day." So which is it? Is it that Herself needs to be careful lest other more attractive women supplant Beloved Husband's affections for her, or is it that others will in fact appreciate her attractiveness? (I suppose the two are not mutually exclusive.)
We know. It's just a compliment. Or at least that's what Acquaintance would state, if Herself tried to point out that it was an odd manner of complimenting.
Perhaps Herself should give up trying to understand why Acquaintance says the things she does. And perhaps Herself should stop attempting to fashion a response that would issuade Acquaintance from saying similar things in the future. It is futile to do so.
Sometimes, a cabin all alone in the woods seems to be what is needed the most.
Herself conducts alumni interviews for her alma mater, and it is now interviewing season. This is the -- thirteenth? fourteenth? -- umpteenth year that she has spoken to a multitude of bright and eager students, asking them questions about their plans, their hopes, and their interests, in an effort to get a glimpse of their personality. Would they be a good fit for the rigors of the school? Would they take advantage of the many marvelous opportunities they would find before them? Would they be an asset to their peers, to the community? It's quite the tricky job to put a young person at ease, to ask the right questions to help them to speak about their passions and their dreams, and to somehow capture this little piece of their personality in a written report for the Admissions Committee, all within an hour or two. And in the grand scheme of things, the report may not be given much weight. Still, Herself tries, every year, to make a difference.
She recently spoke to a young woman who had moved to the southwest after living her first decade in the northeast. The young woman said that when she went back to the northeast to visit, she was struck by how much "the sky is smaller there."
Ah. Yes, it is.
After nineteen years in the desert, Herself has grown accustomed to the expanses of emptiness, the mountains in the distance and the weather patterns that can be seen miles and miles away. These are some of the most beautiful aspects of the desert. The trees of the northeast, although also quite lovely, can be confining. They make the sky smaller.
We do love the bigger sky here. In fact, Herself's favorite part of the drive to visit Cherished Friend is indeed that tremendous sky -- the miles slip away so soothingly underneath it.
I would love to be out under that sky at night. Oh, the stars. Perhaps someday, soon.
Oh, Alan Rickman. Your voice, your intelligence, your tremendous body of work -- you were a secret crush for me and so many of my lady friends. We are oddly bereft even though we never had the opportunity to meet you in person. Whether villian or hero or somewhere in between, your characters held such a tremendous range: cunning, witty, romantic, flawed, and beautiful. Always.
Thank you, and Godspeed.
(The internet tells us the quote was not actually his. No matter. It still somehow fits.)
Once more, the moon is a glorious, low-hanging amber crescent in the cloudless sky this evening. How I wish I could take a photograph that would do it justice.
In roaming through my pictures in the computer, though, I did come across a picture of the moon from a trip into the desert from a few years ago. Beautiful. Ah, to be back there again, for just a moment.
I think once more of Italo Calvino, The Distance of the Moon. My return was sweet, my home refound, but my thoughts were filled only with grief at having lost her, and my eyes gazed at the Moon, forever beyond my reach, as I sought her. And I saw her. She was there where I had left her, lying on a beach directly over our heads, and she said nothing. She was the color of the Moon; she held the harp at her side and moved one hand now and then in slow arpeggios. I could distinguish the shape of her bosom, her arms, her thighs, just as I remember them now, just as now, when the Moon has become that flat, remote circle, I still look for her as soon as the first sliver appears in the sky, and the more it waxes, the more clearly I imagine I can see her, her or something of her, but only her, in a hundred, a thousand different vistas, she who makes the Moon the Moon and, whenever she is full, sets the dogs to howling all night long, and me with them.
Herself will, with a 95% certainty, be starting a new and exciting project next week. (We shall henceforth call it, the Project.) The Project will involve a great deal of work; at the same time, it's also sort of a creative endeavor, and in that respect, she's looking forward to the Project. It's also rather terrifying. And did we mention the great deal of work? Oh, dear.
She's preparing, and still trying to maintain the household and do her Regular Work, and thinking about other Worrisome things, like the upcoming appointment of an extended-family member to find out the results of some tricky medical tests. And there are the few small tasks -- putting away the overnight bag she used when she went to visit Cherished Friend, tidying up Offspring the First's room -- that remind her that some of her favorite people are far away, and that Offspring the Second will be leaving to go back to school far away at the end of the week, and it's all exhausting and why can't they all be here playing Scrabble and cooking things and enjoying being not-busy together?
But the moon was a thin crescent hung low in the sky over the orange glow of the sunset last night, and it was beautiful.
We hope that everything will eventually be all right. We shall see.
Icon David Bowie has passed away. His music was such a feature of my youth. Godspeed, Mr. Bowie, and thank you. I watch the ripples change their size But never leave the stream Of warm impermanence and So the days float through my eyes But still the days seem the same
Offspring the First is nursing a broken heart. (Alas, my poor child. Fear not. There will be more love in the future, even though it seems impossible now.) And so, for her, a bit of Strong Woman music: P!nk,Timebomb.
I don't want to be precious I don't want to feel stress Life is for the living, But not a living hell So take it, take this, Oh, you can have all of me Take it, take this Here, you can have everything I don't want to be flawless When I go I want the cuts to show So take it, take this Oh, you can have all of me Break it, take it Oh, f*ck it, have everything
It's only love, give it away (It's only love) You'll probably get it back again (It's only love) It's simple, it's a silly thing Throw it away like a boomerang I wish we all could lighten up It's only love not a time bomb
It is getting dark. In the low mists over the hills, an orange glow broods, as if the trees are on fire. Bats are flooding out from the hundreds of caves that perforate these mountainsides. I watch them plunge into the mists without any hesitation, trusting in the echoes and silences in which they fly.
Are all of us the same, I wonder, navigating our lives by interpreting the silences between words spoken, analyzing the returning echoes of our memory in order to chart the terrain, in order to make sense of the world around us? ― Tan Twan Eng
When one is an adult (and oftentimes, even when one is still a child), one must sometimes do things that one does not want to do, or that make one uncomfortable or even unhappy. There are societal obligations, niceties that must be performed, and occasions and performances (both deliberate and secretive).
Sometimes, I am required to spend time with a person who taxes my inner resources to the extreme. That sounds rather exaggerated, you may think. Not so. There is an individual who -- without delving into any details -- triggers my fight-or-flight instincts merely by being present. As a result of years of history, I do not feel safe in the same room as this individual. Physically, there is no risk of harm (excepting any physical discomfort I might feel from the individual stepping into my personal space). Emotionally, all I can sense is danger.
Why? Because there will be Words: a passive-aggressive quip; a direct put-down disguised as "I'm only kidding" so its harm can be denied; an overt criticism of my possessions or my decisions or my activities, or my friendships, or my dreams; minimization of my concerns and turning of the conversation back towards themselves; didactic commentary; a "joke" about how I have never been forgiven for some perceived slight from decades ago; statements to demonstrate the erudite nature of the individual and to contrast unfavorably my simple tastes; observations mocking other people or particular social groups in a manner designed to make me uncomfortable; pointed questions to highlight my deficiencies. I never know what form the Words will take, and frequently, the Words will be so unexpected or bizarre that I cannot even begin to formulate an appropriate reply.
I normally love words -- but not words from this individual. Those words are shuriken. Ugly Words.
When I am in danger from Ugly Words, I try to protect myself. I try to make sure I am not alone with the individual and the Ugly Words (although I cannot use the Offspring as shield; rather, I put myself between them and the Ugly Words -- for better that I, than they, be impaled). I reach out to those who might understand, to try to the describe the Ugly Words, so that the Words will not take root. I try to strike up a conversation, however brief, with my Safe People, for a moment of respite from the exhausting alert-protective stance I need to hold.
Sometimes, though, my Safe People are not available. And sometimes they do not hear, or do not understand, or cannot or will not reach back to me. Perhaps they do not realize the danger I feel myself to be in. Perhaps they have their own battles to wage and are unable to spare any of their own strength to give to me. Perhaps I have not explained myself fully to enable them to see what I need -- after all, I cannot bring myself to say, "HELP ME," for what if they were to say "no"?
I tell myself that it's not because they don't care, that they do not help me. And I choose to believe that, because to believe otherwise would be to impale myself on my own Ugly Words.
They just Don't Know. That is what I tell myself.
And I am Alone.
Sometimes, when things are especially difficult, I think of a picture of myself at about age three. I see that little girl, with her bangs and small face. I tell her: it is OK. I am here for you. And I imagine holding her hand.
I'm (still) plowing my way through old episodes of The X Files as I use my elliptical trainer. I enjoyed the show quite a bit when it first aired from 1993-2002 -- sweet fanciful Moses, that seems so long ago -- and am enjoying it even more now, as I can usually watch an entire episode uninterrupted by the needs of others (the Offspring were all infants/toddlers/elementary school-aged over the course of time when the show first aired).
Yesterday's episode was "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose". In this episode, Mr. Bruckman is clairvoyant in a highly specific manner: he can foresee how people die. The questions posed several times during the episode included, "Do you want to know how you die?" and "How do I die?" It's a superbly written and acted episode, dryly funny at times and ultimately quite poignant.
I thought about the episode late last night while awake due to the decongestant I'd taken for my querulous sinuses. And I came to the conclusion: No, I would not want to know in advance how I will die. (Unless I were facing a terminal illness -- in which case, yes, I would want to know the details of the path to the end.)
Our days are all numbered. Vagaries of genes and of environent, of accident and of good luck, make it impossible to guess how many days there shall be. We can play the odds, beat the odds, be on tail ends of a bell curve. No way to know. We hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And so it goes.
I'm reminded of a line from the television series, Kung Fu, in which Caine states:
Before we wake, we cannot know that what we dreamed does not exist. Before we die, we cannot know that death is not the greatest joy.
If only it would be that simple, to embrace that final repose with joy. I cannot imagine. I'm not ready yet. With a bit of grace and good fortune, I will have quite some time before I need to be ready.
Ah, mortality. It sometimes weighs heavily in the heart of middle-age. We shall see what the Universe has in store for us.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.