Thursday, August 18, 2011

The vengeance of invisibility

There is only one person in the world that I talk to without any intellectual reservation. At eleven I wrote a poem about being the dancing doll and all that I was would be hidden safe inside me.  That was for my father.  But I was at a family gathering last night and heard that apparently twitterers and face Booker and bloggers are illiterates who are incapable of putting sentences together.  So I guess never getting "over" the problem of not showing myself (now I hide behind dark humor - apparently my family is unaware that one of the best predictors of native intelligence is humor - one of the many things, like the suffering of the poor for instance, that they are oblivious to) is probably a good thing.  These twits have obviously never tried to Twitter.  It takes a PhD in Haiku to say something funny or intelligent in 140 words or less!

Anyway, that is why I have a blog with only one follower (who I know never checks it.  She is being kind.  He He.  See, she doesn't even know that I know that. LOL!  I get a really perverse kick out of all this.)  Don't get me wrong, I love her.  I mean I really do and she is the safest of the unsafe which is pretty much everyone except the one person who will go unnamed....but that person knows who that person is.  I'm so cutely obtuse!

So a blog that no one reads is a place to be completely real, everything you can be, and no one knows.

This is just a whisper of a long thought..

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Naked in Time Square

You can say anything here and no one will ever know.
It's like standing naked in Time Square with the lights out.

Odd and amazing...

Speaking so loudly to no one....



A green headed duck sits in the water by the stone steps. He is floating by as his spouse pecks at the bubble foam that gathers at the water's edge. He is quacking at her as she floats by, complacent, ignoring him, her grayness to his bright flair a pragmatic counterpoint.
Two empty cup sit on the rocks, remnants of ice still leaving a chill around the rim. Two straws, expectant, point off to the horizon. In the empty spaces you can still hear the echo of two lovers.
And still the waves lap softly on the stone steps, gray and rounded, sleak and glazed with age.

The Thing inside that is you...

The boats are bobbing like tiny colorful corks out past the peer, one of those ancient, sturdy ones made of thick planks, jutting out thirty feet into the bay. It is six thirty, morning in late June. No one but the usual sputtering sea gulls walk the beach....

wait..I just realized. This particular beach is always deserted. It is the far end of a State Park that you have to backpack four miles into before reaching the ocean. Northeast. The beach is rocky, not with pebbles but with huge boulders of every variety and shape rising and receding as the waves rush over them, stroking them smooth as ice, shimmering in the fragile morning light. If you are agile you might lob yourself from one to the next, helped by other small ones. But take care not to chose those that have grown slippery from moss. Only the rocks that have the constant brush of the ocean are safe unless they are tall enough to escape it altogether. for every rock there is a pool, some mildly stagnant, some a constant quiet flow, the seaweed ungulating first in one direction and then delicately back only to turn again as the waves change.
A bit of time has past. The sun has risen and already that smell of heating earth, drying out of nature is filling the air. Your face begins to feel the suns touch. As you look out to the ocean's edge you have to squint a little.

The aloneness is total.

It is almost frightening for a moment. But as you stay, the thing inside that is you, standing on that huge rock, on one long deserted beach which stretches out on either side to two wavering gray lines, with miles of humanless forest at your back, with microscopic creatures swimming and crawling around you, surrounded by so many undisturbed things, there comes the peace, the letting go and filling up and you feel the oneness of the connections of all beings and their comfort, their tears. And looking out at those dark, angry waves so unstoppable, you think that there just might be a God.

(Yeah, yeah, okay a Higher power or whatever/whoever you may feel that to be. Or you can delete the last line. I suppose it's self evident.)

Watching Prejudice crush a soul

During my years as a psychotherapist I watched as young men and women were denegrated and shamed because of their basic psysiological attraction to someone of their own sex. I watched as they struggled and fought to overcome the ugly messages of an ignorant and intolerant society that said, "If you are not like me, you are bad and evil'. I fought along with them as they tried to learn to love themselves for what they were, to find a place in their identities that would allow them to love someone, have a home with someone, have children with someone and be happy and proud of their ability to form attachments and make life long committments - as so many of us just take for granted. Many times I failed and I have no doubt that I have lost some of those precious people to AIDS because they felt such shame, they would not protect themselves and could not let themselves have the life that we all need and that we all deserve.

Some of the best people I met in my work were gay. I don't say this lightly. It takes a very special person to crawl their way out from under the garbage that our world has slung at them. It take work and introspection. It takes bravery to stand up to a parent who looks at you with horror because of what you are. It takes bravery to accept yourself in the face of a potential complete rejection by your family, some friends and your culture. It takes a wonderful character to be joyful and complete and forgiving in the face of all this. These folks are our friends, our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors. I rejoice in their taking their rightful place in the world. We will all be better people for knowing someone who has been through this and come out the other side a whole and proud person.

Let's help those who continue to struggle to be free and feel accepted so that we lose no one else.

Purple scent

I can smell the strong scent of my grandmother's lilacs.
It has been a while, overcome by the blade of chainsaw.

Breezes floats in one window and out the other
a puff and then a gust
playing with me
trying to remind me why I love this place.

Even with the memories
Especially with the memories.
Those that are mine alone.

The first sight of a pure white Lady Slipper.
Walks around the lake
in early Spring
in the time when no one was here.

Smells and God everywhere.
Not a sound.
Beautiful solitude
Lungs and eyes pulling in a breath of peace.

A child completely, restfully alone.

Old rich pines, leaning in poetic directions
send shafts of primitive light
echoing over and over along the floor
of ancient rotting wood.

"Don't clear those fallen trees", she said,
"They are a habitat for animals".
And so they stay, huge and dark.

blocking my path and reminding me that

I am smelling the lilacs again today. 


It slips through your fingers like glass.
You never know how sorry you will be till it's gone.
You never know how much you will miss it until it is no longer there.

What if you hadn't been..there.

How different would it be
And the wind still rushes through the tops of the trees
like there was a forever

and if you hush, quietly
you will not make great waves

and no one will know.

A weird thought for the day...

Is it just me or do all people suddenly stop sometimes and think, "Good grief, I don't think anyone really knows me at all." Maybe it's a "getting a year older" thing that everyone has now and then. Or maybe I better get rid of these hundreds of journals that I have lying around cluttering up the attic, the closet, the cabin, or some people might feel..confused (?) when I kick the old big one.....a clinical psychologist supervisor once told me that I was the most hidden person he had ever met after reading some of my writing. (He'd supervised me for four bloody years!) Am I really only real on paper?? What a weird thought.....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Words that go in opposite directions...

This morning I was sitting on the porch with my usual headache, achy,sore throat crankiness and the sun was out.  I have been looking for the light and I have lost it and it is like having no soul if that is in any way a decent is like rapture has left me; it is like passion has left me.  It's a dead, icky feeling...

Anyway, I was looking out at the grass and onto the field with it's thousands of dandelions, wild violets, the forget-me-nots that each year sneak stealthfully into the yard from the garden and my first thought was "Jesus, the guys should have mowed the lawn last week, it looks like crap."  And I had that sinking, anxious feeling that I get each spring when my husband's messes crowd out the beauty of the place and my angry meanness tortures him into cleaning up and putting it all away and I am left with an ugly feeling inside... So I took another gulp of my coffee which I no longer drink with sugar (I need the sweetness lately) and I just gazed at the profusion that is always the result of the luscious Vermont rains and gave it up.  I began to feel better.  I noticed that I still didn't feel the light, it didn't engulf me as it has in the past...clearly I have been away too long...but I did feel better.  It suddenly occurred to me then that I had used the words "seen the light" and I realized that my interpretation of those words were so different from the traditional, judgmental, "HAVE YOU SEEN THE LIGHT!!" that I have, in the past, been attacked with on college campuses and in airline terminals, that I was appalled that I would even think to use the same phrase.

But, wow, maybe without even knowing it their interpretation is just an over thought bastardization of the pure experience that I think of when I think about the light.  (See now I am being judgmental because I don't think you should force these sorts of things on other people. Sorry, no apology, just admission.)  I think of it quite literally.  It is a light.  It starts out small and grows.  It is like no other light in the world.  Lots of movies have shown it when people die so I know others have experienced it.  I know that lots of people who have had near death experiences have felt it.  I have only seen it in two dreams.   But it isn't the seeing that is like no other thing in the world.  It is what it feels like.  I feel it .... or I should say, I used to feel it often.  The first time I felt it was under excruciating emotional pain and I was praying (or should I say begging) frantically for help.  And it came.  It was as if someone had been dispatched, very practically, to help.  There was a presence, I don't think someone I had known...but maybe slightly...and then a cloak of the most unbelievable comfort engulfed me.  It came around me and entered me and suddenly I felt the most amazing sense of peace (not like any earthly peace) and it just held me, infusing me with this feeling that is truly inexplicable and unexplainable but so powerful that I have never been the same person since.  I had the experience once more  under similar circumstances and it was just the same.  I had it twice in dreams where I saw the light.  After that I used to try and look for the feeling.  For me it hides in the tiny little oneness of immediate experience, almost exclusively in solitude. I have felt it through the pure wonder of children..when a child leans down and places his sweet hand in a new clear puddle of water, enchanted by the ripples that flow out from his fingers. I feel it usually in nature. I have found a watered down version in meditation.  I can't force it...I can look for it.  Sometimes it finds me.  Sometimes I know the presence.  Catherine once held my hand.  It was so real, that it brought back the memory of her as if she had never gone.  I could feel the slightly pudgy, glossy softness of her hand in mine, a certain firmness of touch that was exclusively Catherine's. I do not think it was imagined.  I wasn't even thinking of her but I was sad and she was reassuring.  It was gone in a minute. I can't hold on to it.  I think it is a gift.  A short visit from a friend you loved dearly, who still loves you despite all your flaws. Flaws don't matter in the light.

This all has nothing to do with religion.  I feel strongly about certain things as a result of these experiences but I know that I know nothing and won't until I die.  I am convinced that it is completely beyond our comprehension.  That we live tiny narrow lives with pin point vision, locked in our own silly convictions and we will not know anything until we die and then with the light, the feeling of the light, none of it will matter anymore.

The only reason that any of this is worth thinking about is that the feeling of the light is so euphoric, it changes perspective so greatly about the whole world and it is so easily lost, so fleeting, that I think staying close to it is important.  I'm pretty sure most of us don't do that.  I don't.  I am fragile.  I need a special environment for it, I think.  But I don't really know anything, just like everyone else.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Northern Vermont

Northern Vermont

I used to love this northern rugged place.  For me, there were no distractions from the solitude.  I was almost invisible as a child in the summer home where my grandmother ran her household with such precision and utter sameness that the silences around those routines gave me a freedom and an aloneness that was real but never lonely.
There were no clubs and no connections that I ought to be a part of. No guilt for feeling different, for maybe being different. No awkward social interactions.  No worrying that I wasn’t showing up, or was staying too long, or not staying long enough, or talking too much about too little, or not talking enough or saying the wrong thing about something too intimate, or not being intimate enough – well, no that wouldn’t be a problem.  Politeness can be terrifying.  You never know what is going on underneath, what will be said when you leave.
But when I was young I had only the sky in this place, the soggy earth, the mint and moss, the rotting trees interspersed with Lady Slippers and Larkspur; the rain both quiet and ferocious, and frequent.  When I walked I could feel the cool oiled earth of the dirt road beneath my feet, always barefooted as my mother demanded for my health.
I was a ragged child with messy hair and banged up knees. But it didn’t matter as it does now.  I had no friend then to remark with surprise that I wasn’t wearing sweat pants today.  Back then I walked alone for miles along the edges of the woods, in the puddles, caught frogs and crayfish in the brooks and bogs where the tadpoles used to be.  I watched the cool mud oozing through my feet, the cold lake water that washed it off.  I could jump from rock to submerged rock, catching crawfish in a cup.  And in the woods by my grandmother’s house the trees were still young enough that moss grew in abundance, like a pillow top mattress.  I would lie on it, looking through the trees into the bluest sky while my fingers massaged its dark greenness.  A branch cracked, birds sang.  A chipmunk caused a minuscule rumpus and was gone. The trees swayed, the leaves created a feathered lullaby.
I used to jump from haystacks three stories high, smelling of goat.  Leon was the goat man over in the big barn by Eligo Pond.  He and the goats smelled the same.  He was a very quiet man who looked as if he had very quiet thoughts. I felt safe with Leon. 
I wandered alone mostly, often for miles.  And I dreamed of nothing in particular except the feel of things, the smell, the color.  Standing at the top of one of Teddy Herbert’s hills I could see all the way past Cousin Jane’s house, with its strange and fancy people to the lake with its color of dark coldness, the waves coming and going all helter skelter, duping the sailors with their flightiness.  I could see the distant village, the beach and beyond up to Stannard Mountain where the colors turned purple in the evening dusk and the world looked mysterious and amazingly large.
I would stand there with everything else so far away, but with my own feet rooted in the soft hay covered field, the woodsy breeze brushing the hair playfully against my face now and then. I would stand there silently, unmoving for long periods of time and experience a million things, a million safe, soft, and peaceful things.

And yet today, no one who had passed by as I watched the early Spring stream splashing it’s exhilarating way over rocks and stumps, listened to my own footsteps as they tromped along the now sandy road, as I closed my eyes and took in the smell of the pungent earth and felt sun on my face, would have understood why it was that I cried.

In Search of a fellow writer in the deep dark woods

In Search of a fellow writer in the deep dark woods

It’s amazing how you can misread life when you want to.  When our child died (no, this is not fiction) my husband said, “Why don’t we move to Northern Vermont and become failed writers together?”  I suppose I was in too much of a haze of pain to give it much thought.  Instead I created a fantasy of mammoth proportions and rode it like a wave across the country to the cold and beautiful North East Kingdom.  Even though Jane Kenyon died at an appallingly young age of cancer, I still had a love affair with her life.  She was married to fellow poet Donald Hall.  They lived in New Hampshire.  Together they woke up each day, drank their coffee as they read the paper and exchanged loving witticisms.  They read their poetry to each other.  They loved each other’s work.  They went to their separate desks and worked until lunch where they shared their thoughts, insecurities, frustrations and then began again, refreshed.  I understand that this is a romantic delusion; that Jane Kenyon suffered from depression which undoubtedly made life difficult.  But at least they treated chores and flat tires and breakdowns in domestic functions as intrusions.  Their work was their life.
My husband, you know, the “failed writer” has instead, taken to the land.  Every moment is given to sugaring or farmers’ markets or the biggest organic garden in town or a new invention.  I feared that we’d be arrested when the Feds saw our electric bill because my husband was trying to grow arugula in the basement (I swear, arugula, yes I know, he’s nuts.  I figured it cost about $30 dollars an ounce and it didn’t even make you high).  The problem is that the rental (there’s a rental on the property), the fields, the trees, the falling down farm house we live in, the snow…oh dear God the snow…still four feet of it, and crashing off the roof and tearing up the lilacs, the thousands of square feet of flower gardens (came with the damn place), my hubby’s new, amazing and oh so visible organic vegetable garden, the four acres of lawn….and it goes on and on…amount to sixty hours of work in the summer and almost a full time job in winter too.  Did I mention that the nearest supermarket is forty minutes away, along with the first decent restaurant and movie theater.  The decent refers to the restaurant, for a good movie you usually have to drive an hour.  Did I mention that the sun only shines here about forty percent of the time?  I’m actually prescribed vitamin D pills.  The small town life adds another pressure too.  Go for that quiet walk and three people stop you to chat.  Make yourself scarce and you find out when someone tells a friend who tells your friend that you have become a recluse. 
I got more writing done when I worked “outside the home” and was a renting single parent of two high maintenance teens.  What do you suppose is the operative word here?  Single?  Worked? Or Renting?  Single:  What little time I had was mine and I made all the decisions.  Worked:  There was a set in stone schedule and…oh my God, what a wonderful thought…a finite number of work hours.  Renting:  NO Maintenance. 
The view here ain’t worth it folks, trust me on this!  Unless your partner has won the Booker Award don’t move to the country unless you have no gardens or lawns and no aspirations to do anything but write.  And you have to be able to say no even if the roof is falling in.  I’m not kidding. I spent four hours of my writing time shoveling snow off the roof last week. This stuff is constant.  There is no place like the earth and acres to distract you from your work. And one gets increasingly discouraged.
Sadly, there is also nothing else more inspiring, at least for me.  Way back up in the woods, even on the damn snow shoes, there is a huge cluster of white birch surrounded by dense pines, where the quiet is so still that a clump of snow falling startles you.  That’s where you find it.  It’s the going home that’s hard.
So what am I looking for?  I come from a family of writers, editors, hell, a vice president of a prestigious publishing house, a friend who’s published over sixty romances, a son finishing his MFA at Columbia so I can get help if I need it. (The illustriousness of this can work against you too, trust me.)  My son is a stunningly good ideas man, knows how to critique in a professional manner and actually likes my writing.
I suppose I should mention that I have finished two novels (romance) but I couldn’t get them right.  It takes a special talent I don’t have.  I have two more novels, one at 150 pages, the other at 250 pages.  I also have two partials (150 pgs ea) for intrigues and a collection of essays and poetry which put together tells the story of “The Boys on Second Street”.  I have had two agents in my life time.  I have had for the most part, excellent feedback (except for making the heroes in my romances overweight or too intellectual – woops).  After all that, I have had only two poems published in my career, in college, because the professor made us submit.  I’m a lousy poet by the way, but I just love writing the stuff!
So I guess what I need is a “failed writer” (the failed part takes the pressure off, not the dedication) to keep me company, love my stuff, exchange bits and pieces, love the quiet places with me and help me dump the junk.  I need literary affection, to give and receive it.  I need a schedule and an excuse. Like: 
 “I have to write now.  I have a strong commitment with a fellow writer through the internet!!!”  (I could actually get away with that, I think.)
 All of this without giving up my hubby because honestly, how can you give up a guy who grows Arugula in the basement in the dead of winter?

Friday, April 22, 2011

An impulsive act

I decided to do this as I was getting into bed.  It is now too late to enter the mini essays I have been writing lately.  This seemed as good a place as any to put them.  I suppose they become more legit.  I don't always have to be writing on my book, right?!  More later.