He’s digging my grave For the dragon he pays With our nest, now shaved Tumbling into the abyss I visit the comfort robes of the past Monogrammed in stone
The will to relive what’s past comes at night
And must be excluded by daylight.
Of HUMAN BONDAGE
The sky hasn’t decided if it will let clouds overturn the sun, and I haven’t decided if I will pack the stack of books on the floor. No, I don’t feel the drive to lift and organize, my bed is warm and the house is not as warm.
I brought my coffee and peanut butter and honey toast upstairs, on a tray, I happen to collect trays, reminiscent of times when women ate breakfast in bed. Propped upright, I explored a movie about uneven love, tragedy, and resurrection. Of Human Bondage lit my taste, featuring Bette Davis and Leslie Howard. —– FILM MADE IN 1930 IN GRISLY BLACK & WHITE. Uneven love. Days now remind me of reading 1984 in high school, and Fahrenheit 451 on film. We did evolve from a simplistic, hand-carved culture, built on rebars of freedom to a house full of furniture, relics, gadgets, screens, gates, and beeps. The beeps for me, make me jumpy, not seductively strolling around my apartment lighting candles in peace. I really do shimmy every time I hear the beep. I chose Sunday to shut down all communication with the mainland, take the longest bath I can stand, and write. I need a rest, like a chaise lounge on a spacious veranda with honeysuckle, wisteria, and lavender, and then a mile away is the ocean, let me swim again.
I feel artists, and their works are not featured in the media, or maybe it’s because my scrolling is stuck on the essentials of living. In times of war, people must have known, see it now or never. Over two million working artists in the country, so google says, and when was the last time you discussed it at dinner, with anyone. I haven’t, and I don’t know why? Pop-up thoughts on life.
When do we begin to lie about our life our feelings, our fears, our everything? I ask this because of simple observation, knowing when someone is not telling me their truth and I remain silent, it’s not my way to ask, why do you lie to me? My friends are not lying, it’s more like a social cultural mask. My wise father once told me ‘Tell them your sister or father just died, and they’ll respond, excellent because they do not want to hear your problems.’ But I do, I’ve always wanted to know the truth. Why should we shield our traumas and hardship, more than our triumphs and accomplishments? Do you know who does not lie? ART and SPORTS. That is why we listen to music, read books, go to galleries and museums, films, the theater, and ballet or other dance performances. I cannot comment on sports because I’m not a spectator although I do love basketball.
We, and I mean this in only a visceral sense, do not believe the politicians, news, social media, or advertisements. We want to, but deep in our inner truth, we know it is the manipulation of our individual thoughts. And that my friends is why I trust art to deepen my understanding of the human condition. Thank you to all the artists and athletes who share their pain and glory.
I read in one of my books on writing that the middle of the novel is where most writers face the demon. The beginning is a gallop, the end is a relief, but the middle wiggles in and out of your grasp. The middle of our lives reflects this same obscurity.
The middle of a life span reflects all we have accomplished and all we have left incomplete. This is what they call a mid-life crisis. I get it every year. I’ve finally accepted that my constant relocating, reinventing, and being restless is not going to be solved. At the bottom of the restlessness is the fear of finding rest more enjoyable than movement. This flotation of comedy rotated around me last night while I was standing out on the porch observing the peacefulness. The scenery of Ballston Spa is a comforting, historical beauty that comes from the harmony of architecture and nature. The flow of villagers downtown is along two main two-lane streets, all the shops, services and restaurants are a patchwork, and all the business owners know each other.
All I can think of is where I should go next. This is wholly a village of ancestral families, with defensible adaptation to the severe climate, simplicity, and uncomplicated lives. My discomfort comes from trying to assimilate.
Many years ago, in the summer of 1987, I was seated in a café in Monaco, truly, and a man that I was traveling with told me, “You have to make a choice.” He embarked on a long discussion about choices we make in life and how everything depends on these choices: how you live and with whom, and what you do. He pointed out to me over my first really authentic Salad Niçoise that I was an oblivious example of a woman refusing to choose. I was more interested in the salad, the yachts, the casino around the corner, and the fact that I didn’t have an evening gown to wear to dinner. I listened without argument or insult, but I was disturbed by what he said. I didn’t understand completely, but he was older and had much experience and conviction. That conversation now fits into the mid-life crisis, the comedy of errors in my life, and maybe in yours, and just how much travesty we can ignore. For my fault, as it WAS, I did not want to sign, commit, or make final decisions. I wanted it all to be a temporary placement that allows me the freedom to change.
Ihave lost track of my European friend, but if he met me today, he would say, “You have not changed at all.” So that is why I was standing there in the darkness on the porch and laughing like a silly girl because it is true. I have not changed at all.
The choice facing us at mid-life is making a change now, risking losing all we have accomplished, compiled, and attached, or throwing the dice.
Beyond the obvious changes in activity, relationships, and scenery are the internal travels. They are not so easily engaged. You cannot wake up one day and say, “I ‘m off to become more compassionate, or more practical, or more generous.” These journeys are taken when other factors play into our lives, such as when we get sick, demoted, or experience a trauma.
It is a very subtle inconsistency. When I unplug all the voices and listen to the one that understands, that is when I write. The middle of the story and the middle of life is the same. We and our characters have to make a choice.
You see a chime, the moment it responds to a breeze, the sound is beautiful, like Chopin’s Nocturne 1. Sounds that accompany a descending light mist, or setting sun, but the chime improvises its sounds and movements when a vivacious wind girdles its ether. This abstraction reminds me of sensitivity. It can be soft and gentle, nurturing to the souls of those less peaceful, but when the velocity of attack hits, sensitivity is a walloping eruption of rage, drifting on uncontrollable. I’ve been punitively and cordially of being too sensitive. There are more good reasons to alter my sensitivity than not to, but the one reason that hovers above all else is that everything we do, feel and act in life needs revision. We should never stop evolving into more thoughtful, loving, or wise human beings. Every day, there is an opportunity to leap into saintly hood. It is the same with my writing it can be better.
The next adventure is closing in on me as foreclosure is over the June horizon. The dismantling of possessions brings me some sort of twisted alignment to my life. Picking and choosing what to pack, eliminating what Dodger and I bought together, and vacillating over treasures that are now more weight than worth. If I am ever to rest in one address, I’m sure it will be a headstone and a plot of dirt. I chose a destiny to relocate, and so the highway off-ramp will evolve, I just have to be patient.
It is the inner self that concerns me, and how I will adjust and adapt to leaving my favorite house. When I was thirty, I was afraid of getting married, and when I was forty, I was afraid of not having children. Now that I am sixty-nine, I have a fear that once was my chant, the idea of moving.
The word coddiwomple is English slang, defined as “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. If you are anything like me you may be coddiwompling your way through life, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
I looked at the list. The list looks back at me; trivial, trite, redundant, so I turn on the news. The sky has taken the bail, the air is earnest spring, clouds and impending rain like a suspense novel you just started reading.
The list is still in front of me. Call the bank for the fourth time this week. Their new and highly improved website refuses to give me access. Find the copy of the passport application I just submitted. Next, pack up winter clothes and replace them with spring-summer. This obligation irritated me until late afternoon, and then in one swift harmonious leap, I packed up the winter clothes and removed them from my eyesight. Then, I heard a breeze, a solid applicable one that needed to blow through the winter staleness. I opened all the doors and windows that I can open, and let the house breathe. I’ve been quarantined since a week ago Saturday with Covid. It was not as agonizing as I’d imagined. Two days of annoying muscle and nerve pain, and flopping over four or five times a day to sleep. Today, I will use my energy to cross off the mindless tasks.
Next on the list, are estimates on the spring cleanup of five hundred or more dead stalks, leaves, bushes, etc to make Follies ready for spring. Internal conversation goes like this, I should do it myself, save the hundreds they will charge, but where do I empty all the leaves? The village has rules about placing leaves on the street. Too physical, back to the list.
Submissions for publication, are the most tedious and necessary acts if you are a writer. Nope, not in the mood for that. So I took a drive along a country road, with the top down, and listened to Joe Bataan, a waist-twisting Salsa boogaloo disco singer. I turned around after fifteen minutes, even Joe cannot spring my spirit to life.
My relationship with the world is not dependent on what happens to me. It is with Ukraine. My heartbeat is in slow motion as I watch the latest news feed from Zelensky. He is holding a press conference this Saturday. It lasted two hours or more. As the camera scanned the packed room of reporters; expressions rooted in awe, admiration, eagerness, and razor-sharp comprehension I thought, they resemble a child’s face the first time a book is read aloud. Within the hour’s conference, a news blip surfaced. Blinken and Austin will meet with Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday. My suspicion is they were watching.
As I sat down to dinner, I thought of the announcement earlier that day, “One loaf of bread fed forty people in a bomb shelter. How do we live within the torture, death, and starvation? How do we get up and laugh or enjoy an outing? For me, I have not found a way.
“I’ve asked myself again and again whether it wouldn’t have been better if we hadn’t gone into hiding; if we were dead now and didn’t have to go through this misery, especially so that the others could be spared the burden. But we all shrink from this thought. We still love life, we haven’t yet forgotten the voice of nature, and we keep hoping, hoping for…everything.”
July 6, 1944, From the Diary of Ann Frank
“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
I am not comparing the Holocaust to Putin’s genocide, what I am comparing is humanity,. It’s evil and it’s virtue.
A non-profit Humanitarian Relief Aid Van bringing medicine, food, water, and clothing was pulled over by The Russian Army. Fifteen volunteers were removed and brought into custody. The news reported the destination, punishment, and length of stay are unknown. Imagine…. I cannot because I’m fearful when I get on a plane. This is one that was reported. People from all over the world, literally, have abandoned their own lives, families, and work to fill the emptiness, starvation, pain, and fear in Ukraine. One of these valiants is a Doctor, and he left his practice in the Midwest to save patients in Ukraine. A fairly new organization, SAVEOURALLIES. ORG, was contacted about a journalist who suffered extensive injuries was rescued by this organization and returned to the USA for treatment. He is recovering. We will hear his story when he is ready to speak.
One-quarter of the forty million that escaped Ukrain are now homeless. Today the government announced we will accept one hundred thousand refugees. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We accept over two hundred thousand refugee immigrants a month from all over the world at the southern border, how does that figure on the side of fair?
Another puzzling decision by the government was in taking Iran off the terrorist list. I haven’t heard any reporter asking that question at a Press House briefing, I’m waiting for an explanation.
The Mayor of Kyiv, an ex-pro boxer is on the street of his city, surveying the damage. His face is wide, with dominant features that remind me of a face made in clay, hardened, seriously angry without the visible expression, said “ Act now.” And to paraphrase, as the camera shifts to the burning buildings behind him, and the grounds of rubble, he says this, “You can see on your television what’s happening. We need help.”
In Russia, over ten thousand peaceful, young protestors were forcibly taken into custody after the soldiers shot rifles within several feet of the crowd as they scattered running in all directions. They know the consequences; jail time, fines, interrogation, but they don’t know the details and I imagine each prisoner is penalized in different ways.
The spokesperson for Putin said this on camera, “ If there is a threat to our country we will use nuclear war.” Stalin starved four million people, Hitler tortured till death six million Jews and thousands of sympathetic accomplices.
Today the official statement from the White House declared Putin had committed war crimes, but ” IT’S UNDER INVESTIGATION, IT’S AN ONGOING PROCESS AND, WE ARE COLLECTING THE EVIDENCE.” Okay, shoot me if I’m wrong. We need more than a thousand innocent people: children, mothers’ fathers’, grandparents, buried in dirt pits because the funeral homes are completely full, that doesn’t count as evidence?
The latest poll on the USA population opinion revealed that seventy-five percent of us are worried about NUCLEAR WAR.
Today is day eleven of the war in Ukraine. A friend invited me to join her and her mother for brunch. I declined. The Tavern where they are going is always crowded, the acoustics embellish the conversations, and they will order cocktails. I have no appetite for either. By declining, it allows me to concentrate on developments in Ukraine. Today eight cruise missiles bombed a civilian airport in Vinnytsia. Evacuees promised safe passage out of a small village near Kyiv ran as bombs dropped outside while they gathered in a church waiting to escape. Maripol has no heat or water.
I’m cooking fresh vegetables, cheese, sausage, and it looks back at me and I feel spoiled. I don’t mean this self-punishment is for everyone. It is for me because four years ago I was an expectant, selfish, high-maintenance gal. I threw her out the window. I stopped her because circumstances, maybe God, said, Stop.
My father was born in Kyiv in 1907. His family escaped the pogroms against the Jewish people when he was six years old. Maybe that is why my compassion for these people is limitless.
THE HISTORY CHANNEL
“ Pogroms (create havoc and massacre) came into frequent use as a term around 1881 after anti-Semitic violence erupted following the assassination of Czar Alexander II.
Anti-Jewish groups claimed the government had approved reprisals against Jews. The first violence broke out in Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine, and then spread to 30 other towns, including Kyiv.”
The world we knew twelve days ago is a memory, a global chapter in every history book. Again, it is a time to embrace our freedom, our loved ones, our pride. Have you noticed the smash and grab crimes are in a ceasefire, senseless crimes in the streets are either unreported or in recess?
I ROSE AT 3:00 AM to turn the heat on, pick up my writing journal, and discern the week’s theme. I wonder for a moment if I should boil water for tea or coffee, and settle on decaf. The street is hollowed like a tunnel, the light of day is shining in some distant country, and the sky appears tinted with primer. Somewhere someone is dressing for work, breathing by the tick of the clock until he or she ( can’t figure out the right pronouns) must report for work.
The draft of sleep lingers in my eyes, and my feet shuffle on the wood floors while I grind the beans and think through the remains of the week. There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpectedly and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly, and deliver something unpleasant, like sickness, or separation. The sensations leading up to my theme jilted my creativity, and the pages I wrote were jammed with contradictions, maybe they still are.
Thoughts begin to form and ruminate, what is important? The theme of my week began when I finally was in the Dentists office. It’s been a year, and at sixty that was enough. Now Dr. FX’s office calls me every six months because I am over sixty-five. Still can’t really grasp my age. When I was thirty-something sixty-eight seemed very old. Do you remember that?
Dr. FX is the Music Man dressed in a white tunic. When he comes into my cubicle, he sort of prances on his toes and gives me an elbow safe bump.
“ Hello, oh I see,” as he looks into my mouth that has been open too long and my cheeks start to stiffen. The hygienist takes that white suck-up tube out of my mouth.
“ She has some tarter that I can’t remove so I suggest she come back because her gums are so sensitive and nonvaccine her for the water treatment .”
Dr. FX nods and bounces out of the room. Now she begins to sort of authoritatively advise me again that I have serious tarter. I think this is the third time.
“ I think I got a little lazy flossing during covid.”
“And I also started snacking on those crunchy health bars at night.”
“That wouldn’t cause that.”
Now I am ready to leave and I’m elated to get out. The receptionist starts talking and advising me about Dental Insurance and she leaves her desk and meets me in the waiting room, and starts stretching.
“ I have to do this as much as I can, sitting in that chair all day long.”
“Oh, of course,” I raise my arms and swing my hips beside hers. I walked out into a day of clouds and a peek a boo sun feeling a mood change, a spark of energy from a few moments of improvisational dancing. We all crave an irreplaceable swarming of joy, that comes unexpectedly. I was awakened to my detachment from feeling truly alive.
Writing with a pen is so different from the keyboard, journaling is always with a pen, but columns are on the keyboard. I understand what tranquilizes all the peripheral complaints, mental pains, and wounds that lie dormant or at least manageable. Without thinking of the tormented hours, I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. My desk is sealed into a corner of the bedroom, next to a double pane window (original 1885) forty feet in length. It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or a Moorish Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, or recall of the experience that gives it relevance.
I return to the porch for one more gulp of landscape that I share with the stars. The street is unfamiliar, a temporary scene like a bus stop, and I am merely waiting to move on. Some of the neighbors are friendly, some have no interest, one kind of spies on me when he thinks I’m not looking. There’s a reason for that but it’s too much of a separate story right now.
If I continue to roam around the task of writing this story, the intensity of irritation will escalate, my neck and shoulders will not loosen, my walk will be feigned, my smile forced, my heart longing for padding, my ego striving for recognition in the wrong places, and my soul roaming the hallways at 3:00 in the morning. I read a quote the other day on some website, to paraphrase: When I’m writing I know I can’t do anything else. The theme of the week is to bring back LouLou, a clownish, spirited, curious, joy seeker.
Let this not be a scorched with boredom bla bla piece of writing as all the elements are with me this Sunday. No one is mowing their lawn, the sky is a metal grey shield against sunlight, a light freckly kind of rain falls outside, and Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s sublime mix plays into my pulse.
In upstate New York, an overwhelming enthusiasm erupts for pumpkins, apples, and cider doughnuts. Advertisements appear in my Saratoga news feed of festivals at the local farms, homemade apple cider, witches and hayrides, pick your own pumpkins, and doughnut-eating contests.
Instead of smirking at this unfamiliar custom, I took a ride out to Lakeside Farms Cider Mill to riddle my sensibilities and get into the autumn groove. It’s a short distance away but, after you make the third turn off the main road, the gladiator trees blushing with yellow and gold formed a canopy over my convertible. It reminded me of an amusement park ride. My mood melted with the colors and as I pulled into the driveway of Lakeside, packed as if the Rolling Stones were going to perform my internal stick shift went into submission. I’m guessing the farm sits on several acres, and on one side is a field of grass, with pathways to walk, and then as I moved closer to a small brown barn, I noticed a witch outfitted for the children standing with her pitchfork.
Shoppers with carts passed filled with pumpkins and apples, and as I looked for a shopping cart, a woman noticed my puzzled expression. “You lookin’ for a cart?”
“Yes, where do I find one?”
“There’s an empty one behind you.” I felt dumb as gum and thanked her. Then I had the choice of going into the open farmhouse where a display of a dozen diverse kinds of apples stacked in crates, farm-fresh vegetables, pumpkins of all sizes, and an assortment of Apple Brown Betty mixes neatly placed on shelves next to jars of honey, preserves, syrup, and pancake mixes.
It is now a full-blown bumper car amusement ride as carts are pushed by shoppers unaware of colliding with other carts. Children are jumping up and down, and screeching with sugar craving desire. I cannot decide which aisle to choose. First, an eggplant that wasn’t the size of a dinner platter, then a few green chilis, and sexy plump tomatoes. I could have chosen a dozen more items. Since I am single, my lesson has been learned not to overbuy only to throw it away.
Apples were tied in bags, a dozen the smallest amount, so I chose one bag of Cortland amongst the other twenty-five kinds of apples! Macintosh, Macoun, Gala, Empire, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, etc.
I knew I was in the jive when I bought a two-pound sack of Buttermilk pancake mix, a jar of Vermont Syrup, and a jug of Apple Cider. At the counter, in line with half a dozen others, the clerk whom I’m sure was part of the family greeted me.
“How are you today?” He said this as if he was on stage speaking loud enough for an auditorium of guests.
“I’m doing very well, and you?” I don’t usually project an openly loving tone but he sort of earned my delight. With all that I bought, the bill was twenty-eight dollars. I used to spend that at Sprouts in Los Angeles for half the items.
Next, the bakery for those tantalizing apple cider doughnuts. Now I go indoors to a converted barn where they serve food and more grocery items. Another reason for this jaunt was to pick up a dozen doughnuts for the seven firemen who answered my call this week when my basement began to flood. We had so much rain my sump pumps gave up, and the water was just about to fill the hot water heaters in the pit. After they hosed out all the water, we chatted outdoors. Someone mentioned breakfast time. I chimed in,
“Let me guess, cider doughnut!” A round of laughter and oh yes, they all love them. They would not take any money and so I thought I’d buy them what they love.
The sandwich line was twenty groups long. I squeezed in next to the bakery and was called on right away.
“What can we get for you today?” Another gleeful greeting from a woman who looked like she grew up next to the oven. I looked at the selection of pastries oozing with sugar, cream, icing the works.
“A dozen cider doughnut in a box please-it’s a gift.”
“Sugar glazed pleased. And six cinnamons in a bag.”
With a cart loaded up, I suddenly realized I would have to wheel it all the way to my car over puddles, chipped brick, and steps. Instead, I used my less-than sturdy arms. As I walked along leaning slightly to the right (my left arm hasn’t behaved since I fell on the stairs) my LA persona surrendered to old-fashioned, no dieting, family-friendly shopping at Lakeside.
As soon as I entered my kitchen, I dug into the bag of doughnuts, poured a cup of coffee, and dunked.
Truth is out of style, it rather went the way of 600-page novels, bicycles built for two, print magazines, street theater and many other authenticates we don’t have the will or patience to seek. We take shortcuts and improvise our way through the encrypted labyrinth of electronic modernism. We are in revolution, it’s been coined Cancel Culture, that’s just a tagline. Our Democrats and Republicans, are trafficking disinformation. Not a day goes by that a political analyst or news anchor doesn’t say it. They wand me up.. and I line it down with opera and wine. Be creative, I say is the best booster.
I FEEL A SENSE OF GUILT to seek pleasure, amusement and escape. This weekend fifty-seven innocent people shot in Chicago; Nyiah Courtney, a beautiful six-year old in W.DC, a violent riot in Los Angeles, a woman and son robbed before falling down a flight of concrete stairs at the Subway station in NYC, and in Tucson: “The gunman parked his silver SUV by the park, got out of the car and opened fire on the two paramedics who were inside the ambulance, Magnus said. The 20-year-old male EMT who was sitting in the driver’s seat was struck in the head and the 21-year-old female EMT who was in the passenger’s seat was shot in the arm and chest.” Bullets’ targeting fans outside the Washington DC Stadium will be what everyone remembers.
That’s all I could handle this morning. So, why aren’t I talking about it with friends? ‘ I don’t watch the news anymore’ is what I hear and so my feelings remain unspoken. Maybe because I do not have a family, or the man I could love, and so my emotions stretch to a world of strangers in pain and agony.
It is not depression that leads my day, it is mild shock, anger, and a halo of sadness for the cloud of hate, crime, corruption, and divisive storm looming over.
My heart is especially raw for the youth, embarking on adulthood, the unsolved immigration crisis, and knee-jerk mask attacks on one another.
The words of condolences: ‘We pray for your family, you are in our hearts’, lasts how long? Do they get a phone call from a Lawmaker or Member of Congress? It seems laws have to be passed. Instead, all I see is a game of power. A solid gesture by the government to rename streets after the victims, a monument, or a wall with their names, so we never forget is my suggestion.