Friday, February 24, 2017

Letter to a Critically Ill Friend Who Has No Fight Left

Dear M:

I don't know, quite, how you are physically feeling.  I say "quite" because I've had excruciating but brief experiences with ventilators for surgery, and long and worse experiences with nasal-gastric tubes after surgery.  I know what it is to keep on only because of my dog.  I know a little about wanting to die but my body itself has never taken me to that brink.

That is a betrayal indeed.  It's bad enough that mood disorders threaten the ice we skate on, but to have one's body, in the prime of life, exhaust itself and one's spirits, is beyond understanding.

You say you have no will to fight after this intensive bout of a week.  You're allowed that statement and that feeling.  You're physically and spiritually exhausted -- or perhaps bankrupt is a better word.  At a negative balance.  No one but you can state your feelings in this critical time.

But here is what I would say in a poem if I had the calm and wherewith all to write a poem:

There is a murre squawking over the division of the remains of a perch.  The murre is drab under the tarnished sky; the perch is the color of sand.  The tide is rising and the murre, arguing with a plover, will have to win or lose this argument quickly or the perch will be submerged & sucked back to see.

You are on a rock, watching this.  Behind you, on the hill leading to the car park, sheep sorrel is in pathetic bloom but there are wild roses enough to think of coming back to pick the hips for jelly, for tea.  The roses are massy and cheerful beyond countenance, but you will stop on your climb back up the asphalt path to study them, then to study one.
It is a pale, pale pink, almost white; a clean bell to crawl into but for the shaggy gold stamen that promises everything and wants only one: the pollen of another wild rose.  You will wonder if it's doomed to wither unfertilized or if bees have been ineluctably drawn to that fat wreath of pollen and the nearly invisible stigma where its life might begin another season.

It is windy.  It's always windy on the Cape.

But it hasn't rained.

There are other visitors here: locals out for a stroll, a very few tourists narrating their iPhone videos.  "This is the dramatic scenery of Cape..." And his wife fills in, "...Kiwanda" to finish the panoramic shot.

They haven't read, or haven't understood that what lies before them shouldn't exist.  Only Haystack Rock, stern and dark as a priest in the confessional, keeps the storms from gobbling the beach and the soft stone around you.  It's big, Haystack.  But big enough to preserve the place you sit since Mesolithic times?

I tell you now, here, that is when sheep were domesticated, and goats.  The ice was receding from Sweden and Denmark, making way for pastry and Hans Christian Anderson.  Jericho was thriving.  The Sahara was as wet and fertile as the Rogue Valley.

I'm a handy one at quick research and a pocketful of unrelated facts.

But imagine: trading deer meat for two sheep.  The warmth, the softening of the lanolin in a hardscrabble life.  Practicing the trombone in the rock tower soldier's keep in Jericho.

Every epoch has its new pleasures and discoveries and unwitting consequences.

Which is why you will study the pink-fading-to-white rose: are there bees enough to have made love to this particular, unremarkable rose that only you will know with such intimacy that you will never forget it?

Somethings are beyond the camera lens.  Beyond words.  This is communion.  It will become a part of you.  It will grow in you,  It will die with you.  You are its witness even though its purpose is only to receive the pollen of the last rose visited.  In this, the rose is at odds with itself: the survival of color and perfume, the survival of having been scrutinized among all its sisters, loved so well for a few moments that it will stain your eyelids as you fall asleep tonight,

This is a true story that hasn't been lived yet.

You will leave knowing the murre has eaten, that drab holds wild roses, wild thoughts, the wilderness of you.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


So my upstairs neighbor is screaming obscenities about shutting the fuck up, possibly to his upstairs neighbors, changing my mind about which list to start first.

I wanted to start with my favorite things -- I've been so wrapped up in politics that I want to remind myself of the good & the silly -- but X Man upstairs ruined that moment for the moment. So here is

Things I Hate

  1. Neighbors screaming.
  2. Awful music pouring out of cars.
  3. People posting their agenda on my Facebook wall.
  4. The woman on Twitter who says American women's rights are luxury problems (which is why women in so many Third World countries marched yesterday: ever hear of the slippery slope???)
  5. Worrying about money.
  6. Worrying about friends too far away to help gracefully.
  7. Not having my friends all in one place.
  8. Myself, when I'm not careful about food.
  9. The repeating cast of characters in my dreams.  I think they come back because I actually suffer some PTSD around them.
  10. Wondering why I had two bosses I loathed & whether they were crazy or I was.
  11. Children bouncing on ceilings.
  12. Being left out of things that are important to me.
  13. Introversion.  Depression.  Agoraphobia.  For anyone who suffers from them.
  14. The salt tracked into my apartment over the winter months.
  15. Inertia.
  16. Fear of writing.
  17. The noise of jet skis, snow mobiles, four-wheelers.
  18. Not being able to talk to my father.
  19. Stains.
  20. January.
  21. How often I have to clean the bathroom.
  22. Reaching out to someone to repair a friendship, thinking we have done so only to never hear from the person again.
Silly Things That Make Me Laugh
  1. My underwear drawer.  My brother busts his gut when I talk about what I've recently added to it.  Today there is an empty, open bottle of almond extract, left-over grated orange rind & a coffee bag in it, Jim.  I smell like a fucking Christmas cookie.
  2. Daisy rolling in the grass.
  3. Wondering every time a bell fell off my Christmas tree if an angel had died.
  4. How songs transmogrify in my head.  "I Have Confidence," from The Sound of Music, is really easy to turn into a song of sadism when it's on your brain for 16 hours.
  5. The recent of a weary business man reading the newspaper on a subway platform.  Below him is a weary business rat reading the newspaper on the little shelf just above the tracks.
  6. The scene in Patton when the general turns to his bull terrier & says, "You're not William.  You're Willie."
  7. I had a double-header of Christmas awe & shock last month.  I gave my secret shoe whore nephew a pair of Ralph Lauren blue suede bucks with lime green soles.  He was over the moon for them in absolute surprise.  My other nephew, who is an out-of-the-closet shoe whore, was flabbergasted.  We didn't know whose face to watch.
  8. Taking lint out of the dryer.
  9. Cartoons & pictures by & about introverts.  Yesterday a woman carried a sign saying, "Even introverts march."
  10. My love of polishing silver.

My Favorite Things
  1. The Alaskan socks that couldn't fit in ANY boot that my father gave me.  I can walk outside in these suckers & they don't itch.  Must be full of seal lanolin or something. 
  2. My apartment.  It's still so novel it's like playing house.
  3. Taking pictures.  I'm lonely for taking pictures.
  4. Le Pens.
  5. The reader who responded to my Christmas post yesterday (who inspired me to write a new post, although I decided to avoid politics) saying she had mascara running down her face.
  6. When Daisy lays down with me and flops her head on my thigh.
  7. Being butt-to-butt with Daisy.
  8. The 9-month-old black Mastiff, Cora, who barks for me every time she walks by my apartment.
  9. Being asked out to lunch.
  10. Certain recipes that are a lot of chopping but are healthy & amazing.  Always worth the effort I don't want to put into them.
  11. Starting to read a book & knowing it's THE book.
  12. The book conversation I had on Facebook last night,
  13. Bach.
  14. Roku.
  15. Being clean.  Clean sheets.  A clean kitchen. Note to self: Should do that more often.
  16. Planning & giving dinner parties.
  17. Getting a new piece of one of the three china sets I own, or a new crystal glass/goblet (My china matches, my crystal doesn't.  I like it that way.)
  18. My friend Tom.
  19. My friends F, C, K, E, C, S, L, S, A, G, A, S. D.  D features highly on the list.  We get it.
  20. Bill Maher.
  21. Online jigsaw puzzles.
  22. The bulbs I tossed in glasses of water that are now in bloom.
  23. Sofa pillows.

This Week's Bucket List (Gulp!)
  1. Groceries, green & clean.
  2. Go to Radius & get painting.
  3. Recycling.
  4. Try once again to choose photos for bathroom.
  5. Dry cleaning.
  6. Gas up car.
  7. Deal with health insurance.
  8. Call shrink.
  9. Try once again to get stains out of various things.
  10. Write blog for Psychology Today.
  11. Get some art supplies for spice jars & garden tins.
  12. Send paperwork for my brother's military records.
The Bucket List I Should Be Paying Attention to:
  1. Preamble or first chapter or whatever you want to call it of the novel I need to write.
  2. Put shims under my filing cabinet & put files in.
  3. Sort receipts for taxes.
  4. Start short story I have in mind.  I wonder if I could write two stories a month & sell them for, say, $2.00 to interested parties?  I don't think I'm young or good enough any more to find paying lit mags that would accept my junk.
  5. Gather & approach possible clients.
  6. What I eat.
  7. Reading the Mahabharata.
  8. Reading Middlemarch.
  9. Editing partial memoir manuscript.
  10. Walking.  Walking Daisy.
  11. Get help with laptop.  Get help hanging what-not shelves.  Get help assembling cube thingy.
  12. Get help.
  13. Write & ask for return of my share of the china a former friend & I were collecting.

Things That Weird Me Out:
  1. Taking the National Geographic DNA test & finding out I'm half German, half Dutch.  I don't mind the Dutch part but the German -- ?  So common, for one thing.  So...culpable.  So Not Irish, so Not Polish.
  2. My brother's bio-relatives.  I think he likes them more than me.  He knows more about himself than I can.
  3. Daisy is 13-and-a-half.
  4. How the dishwasher kind of collects dirt so that I have to clean what I wash AND clean the dish washer.
  5. Killing my chives because they got flattened when I watered them.  Buck up, kids!
  6. How much I care about What Happened in November.
  7. How tired I get after a social encounter.  It took me three weeks to get over Christmas -- & I'm German, for God's sake.
  8. Not being able to find words.  I needed the word "filibuster" last night in order to have an amazing conversation with myself.  It came to me this morning.
  9. Mushrooms.  Sardines.  Anchovies.  Fish with tentacles people expect me to eat.
  10. Being single.
  11. Once they were my best friends but we lost touch...
  12. Getting obsessed.

Things I Wish I Weren't:
  1. Barely middle class.
  2. Jealous.
  3. Angry at myself.  Angry at not doing, accomplishing as much as I should have in 60 years.
  4. Scared & mournful about Daisy.
  5. Scared of writing.
  6. Scared of leaving the house.
  7. Scared of asking for help.
  8. Scared of my moods.  Scared a mood will grow like a fungus & the next thing will be punching myself in the face.
  9. Snacky at night,
  10. Exercise-hating.
  11. Needy.
  12. Obsessed with failure.
  13. Stuck in Montana for the foreseeable future.
  14. Expecting thanks & praise.
  15. Insecure about whether my family & friends really like me or just feel sorry for me.
  16. A procrastinator.
  17. Self-absorbed.
So there you have it.  No mascara damage I think & at least I did this, today, when the sky & the ground are exactly the same colors.