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The glare from a blank document fades very gradually, in direct proportion to the arrival of morning’s light. It’s a very slow process. Almost as slow as this search for a word. The glare cuts through the dark room, casting it’s eerie spell on my white coffee cup, my white cigarette pack, my white lighter, and my white keyboard, where my fingers rest so tentatively. White smoke drifts into dark corners. Everything’s in stark contrast; waiting for dawn to define the day. Will there be color, or just shades of gray? I sit here, quietly waiting, after another sleepless night.
I looked for her in all the usual places. I hadn’t noticed her outdoors, huddled in her wheelchair; smoking with the other patients. I walked the long halls, peeking in lunch rooms, community rooms, and rehab rooms. The staff pointed to a conference room where her Dad silently watched her as she cried, confused; trying to remember, trying to explain, trying to understand. She hadn’t meant to kill anyone. She thought her wings would take her over and above the stop signs and red lights. High enough to leave behind the road blocks and obstructions that always blocked her way.
Some nights anger enters out of nowhere. It comes in the back door like the cold winter wind, hangs heavy, permeates the air, travels through the heating ducts till it fills every room. Gathers on the window and freezes as it drips down towards the floor. I almost slip on it with every step I take. It fills my lungs, and cramps my stomach tight. The dogs hide from it; one in the closet, one behind the couch. I follow it up and down the stairs, hoping I can grab hold of it and throw it back into the darkness.
I had a dream about a kitchen with a blue floor. No shades covered the windows. A black cat yawned, lazy, lounging in the morning light. It was just a dream, but it felt like home. I dreamt I made a garden in the back yard. A strange dream; all the ingredients were there. There were rocks of all shapes and sizes; there was slate and tile. I planted peony trees. Afterwards, I sat in my garden, Watching them flower.
I like rosehips dangling on bare branches against a background of fresh white snow. All the neighbors have lavish Christmas light displays; I have red rosehips. An artificial tree is wrapped in plastic in the basement. I used to send out Christmas Cards. When Christmas lost meaning, I started to make my own; for a few years I made woodblock prints, for a few years I tried collage. Last year I cut up all the cards I received, rearranged them, and sent them back in pieces. I’m not sending cards this year. I just might gather the fallen rosehips though.
I started three paintings. Every few days, I scrape away the dried paint and start over. Miniature landscapes of roads leading nowhere, with signs warning of elusive dangers ahead. Flash flood warning. Do not enter. Keep out. There are no traveler’s on these lonely roads. They wind through sparse deserts and barren mountains, spaces that lies between one place and another. In the distance I paint dust tornado’s and unexplainable explosions. Smoke signals dissipating in a cloudless sky, where you can see the heat pulsing upwards from the plains. I want to drive past the signs into the danger zone.
I watched a movie last night called “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing.” One line from the movie resonates in my mind. “Faith is the antithesis of proof.”
firm belief in something for which there is no proof
Late Latin, from Greek, literally, opposition
the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact
So faith is a mysterious force. You can have faith in the unknown, but once you accept its truth or factuality faith is no longer possible. I wonder, maybe some things are better left unknown.
I had another strange dream last night. It was about my husband’s secret life. He has another identity. He spends his days in an alternate reality. I don’t fit there. I used to try contacting him when he was in that other world. I called and tried to lure him back. All my attempts were filtered through answering machines and beepers. After awhile I gave up. At night he comes home to me, but sits patiently waiting to return. It’s a wild, exotic world; it’s a place where he can laugh aloud and feel free. He’d like to live there.
I have over thirty empty sketchbooks. Some have watercolor paper, some are all black. Six of them have linen covers. Some are spiral bound. One is red with lined paper; one is leather with handmade paper. I have a hundred empty cigar boxes. Twenty-five are wood. Some of them have hinges. I have 50 blank canvases, all different sizes, heavy duty construction. I have every type of colored pencil, pastels, oil sticks, watercolors, and inks. I have a huge room with high ceilings and lots of light. I don’t have any inspiration motivation, or concentration. I don’t have a life.
I’m not responding in the usual manner today. One can only wonder. I’m taking my camera along in any case. I remember the old house; there was a Virgin Mary statue in a neighbor’s back yard. I used to gaze at that statue as I stood by the sink washing dishes. I thought if I watched long enough, she might animate and levitate. She stayed stone cold still. Once I found a robin’s egg at my secret spot in the alley behind grandma’s house. She sent it to a hatchery, she said. I waited patiently for days. Nothing ever happened.
I read an article about the vanishing horizon. I want an unobstructed view of the sunset, but telephone lines and buildings are always in the way. I have to drive miles to see the horizon line. I’ve been collecting sunset photos for over a year. It’s frustrating to walk to the window and realize that somewhere behind all that, something beautiful is occurring. By the time I grab my camera, start the car, and drive those miles, it’s already over. At the place where nothing is in sight, I feel centered. Only then, do I feel a sense of self.
A glass of red wine warms me up on a cold December night. On the way home from dinner, it’s hard to distinguish between the Christmas light displays and the fast food signs. They’re similarly garish and overly bright. The waxing moon looks right, but just a sliver of something natural.
I look for wisps of foggy spirit sightings, sightings of Christmas’ past and present. O Holy Night, enfold me in oblivious darkness. I’m tired. I feel depressed, as I search for signs of joy in this suburban landscape. A melody surreal, with it’s fleeting message of harmony and peace.
I was hesitant to make plans for today; my favorite cousin told me Friday the 13th is a good day, so I might as well. Anything can happen. Yesterday I saw a black cat carefully creeping alongside a fence. Maybe my bad luck left with that cat. A friend called last night; she said she feels pressure from a heavy shroud of sadness encircling the world. Everyone she knows is having troubled times. She thinks something really bad is pending. She thinks the world is coming to an end. Everything is happening so fast, yet nothing is happening at all.
On my dining room table boxes sit full of faded photos, waiting to be sorted and distributed to their designated recipients. Historical references of family functions; they provide evidence of genealogical roots. Stamped tickets confirm forgotten passages from foreign ports; ports identified by colorful, exotic postcards with brief, obscure messages written on the back side. Torn valentines express long lost love. Funeral announcements declare deaths deliverance. Markers of meaningful moments are mounted in tattered albums; albums whose covers have severed spines. Calendars with days crossed off, circled, and skipped over. Commemorations, communions, and cards from strangers and unidentified remote relatives.
It isn’t hard to be alone. I’ve practiced daily for a long time. I can sit quietly for hours, listening to passing cars and the overgrown branch that scrapes against the brick wall by the back door. I like the sound of the pigeons walking on the roof. If I’m really quiet, I can even hear the wind swirling the leaves in semicircles in the yard; and their rustling against the dry grasses as they fall. I hear the humming of the furnace fan before the hot air hurries up the heat ducts, slithering, almost slinking through the slatted vents.
I wish for hot days beneath a scorching summer sun. I’d find a rocky beach up north and walk for miles, stopping now and then to splash in the cool water. I’d pile rocks beneath a corner of my towel. I’d soak up sun until my bone marrow melts, and my skin turns copper brown. I’d sit alone and watch the sun go down. Later I’d make my shirt a sling with the arms for handles, and carry my rock treasures back to the car. Back home I’d rinse them in the colander, and admire the many varieties I’d found.
So you have a new attitude, everything is different today. Suddenly you’re worried. You think it’s so easy to change directions. I’m about a mile down a one way road; and already starting to like the scenery. Lately I’ve been anticipating where it goes. We started out together, then you just lagged further and further behind; guess you musta got lost in your own private reverie. Left me to wander these dark crooked streets, looking for some light, while you stayed lurking in the shadows. Maybe I should just go this way for awhile, Who knows if u-turns are legal?
Everyday I drive through the little town where I was born, right past the hospital I know so well. Christmas holly and strands of white lights encircle the old pillars that lend their stately grace to the grand entry. Around the corner, Grandma’s old place has a new coat of paint, but my memories circle round the yard, radiating outwards towards the familiar trees, houses, streets and alleys, till they reach downtown. I park, exit my car, and breathe them in deeply; noticing the changes, yet many things still the same. Gargoyles staring down from the county building, watching me.
Tonight I lay curled in the oversized chair, my legs stretched out on the ottoman, watching another movie. Most nights are the same, you sleeping on the futon 10 minutes into it, sometimes catching up the next day, sometimes missing it altogether. You’d prefer channel surfing, remote control in hand, never settling on anything in particular, skimming the surface. Five minutes for cops, seven for nightly news, ten for investigative reports, two or three for weather, sometimes up to 15 minutes spent on intriguing animal antics. Either way, the results are the same. Another night passes, full moon or not.
I walked down the basement stairs to find water drifting towards the drain on the cold, concrete floor. There was no area left dry. The cardboard boxes full of books and photos greedily absorbed much of it. Years of paintings and portfolios lay stacked haphazardly against the walls, canvas and paper soaked and seeping with the wetness. Carpets and throw rugs dripping and drenched. Could be it’s a sign. Maybe it’s time to discard all those old transgressions. Maybe it’s time to let go of the past. I’ve grown away from so much of it. It’s time to reinvent myself.
Making Christmas cookies, just you and me, all day rolling, cutting, baking; listening to piano renditions of Christmas Carols, soft and haunting versions of slow, sad favorites, “O Holy Night,” “A Child is Born.” Frosting of blue, red, yellow, green, purple, and light icy blue highlights. Toothpicks for painting snowman’s eyes and smiles, lights on crispy Christmas trees. Stars and bells, candles and Santa faces. Later listening to Joni Mitchell’s “River,” feeling just a tinge of familiar melancholy. Traveling the dark side streets all alone, late at night after driving you back home, I savor these yearly rituals of ours.
I thought I could fly on and on, wings spread wide, gliding with ease through blue skies. Then the storms came, one after another, rain beating my wings, making me tired, forcing me down. Why does it get so hard? Lightning flashes, thunder roars, frightening small, timid animals as they scurry for shelter to dry recesses and cubbyholes, safely out of sight. Why can’t I just hide? With forceful determination I continue, feathers matted or broken, falling into the viscous mud, stamped down, trampled on, and ground into the swirling heart of the mess. My broken wings may never mend.
Half way around the world today has already happened. Events travel backwards to reach me. I sit here, waiting in the past. Tia Sierra, you were already born as I lay sleeping; somewhere in last night’s forgotten dreams I saw your birth. Yesterday, my head ached with longing to see your arrival. I knew the phone would ring when I awoke, and I would hear the distant echos of ecstatic voices. Voices telling of the ease of your birth, laughing, as they describe your beauty. I imagine your newborn eyes on the ride home, squinting out the harsh Australian sun.
This dull ache in my head wants to linger. I snuggled deep into all the blankets and pillows, drugged, searching behind my eyelids for one pinpoint of cobalt blue light that could possibly grow and cover over this persistent pain. I sent the pseudo revelers on their way. I awoke to blessed silence, the pain slightly receding now, but not quite finished with me yet. I thought of you as I made my Christmas Eve dinner, boiling eggs (perfect this time), dry toast, and juicing fresh citrus fruits. I’ve never been alone Christmas Eve before. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.
A few minutes more and Christmas will be past. The little ones were up and down, high on sugar, but overtired, as we sat around the table playing games till we were tired too. Everyone had gifts to open and good food with plenty left for a lazy day tomorrow. I took photographs. I’m like the Christmas ghost, the one who won’t be seen in the photo album. I cooked, I shopped, I cleaned, and I was loved; I just wasn’t present, no, not really, I was somewhere else, somewhere far away, without a family, a past, or a future.
I’m always running behind. Every night there’s another traumatic event, leaving me drained and weeping. Why are the stars always misaligned? I look for a message of hope and renewal, and find only destruction and ruins amidst this chaos. Mistrust breeds and hate seethes out of your pores, like the sticky sweat dripping off the newly convicted. Now you’re imprisoned here within these four walls, no way out. Captivated by my cruel intentions, condemned to witness the disintegration of all our dreams and desires. I am the evil warrior, my lance penetrating your heart, as you lay bleeding and dying.
I have your postcards on my corkboard. I think of you everyday. Maybe because you remind me that worse hands are dealt. It’s fate. There’s no logic or reason. I watched, angry and helpless as logic and reason left my Mom and son. Mom burned out so slow, but my son’s fire went out like a candle flame quickly pinched between a finger and thumb; like a bucket of cold water thrown on the campfire, leaving him cold and lost in some dark hell he imagined. Her eyes grew blank, but his reflect pain. Your eyes are so sad sometimes.
The flu comes to you in the middle of the night. Your forehead dampens, and your stomach twists tight, violently rejecting every morsel. Afterwards, you lay ravaged, shivering and cold beneath the covers. Your heart pounds and your head aches with fever. Shooting pains travel up and down your legs and you sleep, hoping you will wake up later magically healed. Sleep is uneasy, you awaken every few hours to lingering symptoms, cold sweats and soreness everywhere. The next morning, although your back still hurts, your stomach still tender, and head still aching slightly, you’re so glad to be alive.
I feel like the spoon that gets caught up in the blades of the blender, tossed around and clanging as all that acidic fruit-juice splatters all over, and the handle jerking away from a good grip. I feel like the high heel shoe strap that keeps slipping off the back of your ankle; the shoes you didn’t really want to walk in all the way across the wet parking lot, bending over after every other step to pull it back up and out from under your foot. Guess I feel all mixed up and a little more than slightly irritated.
I heard sleet striking the window with that shivery, sliding sound it makes as it runs down the glass, and you sat huddled in your cold truck in the garage, trying to sleep. What a way to fend off the frustration from another fight. I thought you’d left when you didn’t come back inside, but when I saw you still parked there, I ran through all the rooms looking before I came out and convinced you to come back to bed. We’re a dysfunctional duo, a discordant duet, a troubled twosome, you and I.
Is there hope for next year?
This was a year of regrets and I’m not sorry it’s over. Oh, there were highpoints; enough time passes and there’s some goodness in spite of the general malaise. A fresh start would be welcome. I’m going to open all the blinds and let the sunlight pour into this gloomy abode. I’m going to burn incense and practice magic. I’ll make a spiral out of fossils I’ve found, with a long tail that trails up the stairs to my bedroom. I’ll paint abstractions and keep a journal of prose. I’ll paste symbols on postcards and mail them to exotic places.
The Tip Jar