BEING THE ADVENTURES OF A SEMI-NOMADIC POLYMATH ARTIST, MUSICIAN & WRITER
Essays, poems, and collected ruminations are being collated and compiled in a parallel journal at Dragoncave. I never know what I'm going to write about next, so if you desire to keep up with what I'm writing and thinking about, you really need to read both journals. Some overlap may occur without prior warning; sorry about that.
836. 7 July 2008, Beloit, WI
For my Fourth weekend, my sister and brother-in-law and I drove around Lake Michigan from southern Wisconsin up to Muskegon, MI.
Passing through Chicago was very surreal, because I drove through the city on the holiday itself, and there was no traffic! It was actually disorienting how fast I got to downtown, past the airports, over the Skyway, and into Indiana. I think that's the fastest I've ever driven through Chicago. It was very surreal, like one of those end of the world scenarios where the population has all gone away.
We got to Grand Haven, where my cousin lives, the one cousin on my mother's side of the family who I like and respect. (The rest have been problematic at best, and actively avoided at worst. What do you say to a cousin who sues your mother and her sister for an unearned inheritance when your grandparents die? Some things I am not yet enlightened enough to be able to simply forgive.) This one cousin married a nice man, and they have three great kids. I stayed with them over the weekend, while my sister and bro-in-law stayed at a hotel with his parents.
The purpose of this weekend was closure: completion; an end to a long process. On Saturday we buried both of my parents' ashes in the cemetery in Muskegon, their plot being near my mother's parents' graves. Their ashes were in these beautiful hardwood boxes, and we placed roses on each of them. Roses, a favorite flower, which my Dad always grew, and which I now grow, too. (My pink rose, planted in March, has now put out three new blossoms, and is thriving. The other rosebushes, including the one transplanted from my Dad's garden, are still recovering from the move, I guess.) My Dad's favorite color was red, and my Mom's favorite color was yellow; so we put a red rose on his box, and a yellow rose on Mom's. There was also a stand of red and yellow flowers mixed together. When we held my Dad's funeral 13 months ago, we covered his casket with red flowers, and one yellow rose in the middle, to symbolize his connection to Mom. When we held Mom's funeral 7 months ago, we reversed the arrangement's colors. I have a red rose and a yellow rose, dried and in a jar, from each funeral display. After the graveside memorial service for my parents, I also left a white rose each on my grandparents' grave markers. I took photos of everything, afterwards.
The service was very short: just our pastor friend, one of our parents' oldest friends, read the service, and said a few words. There were something over twenty people in attendance, including friends who were with Mom and Dad with the mission in India, and all the cousins on Mom's side of the family, and other friends, and my brother-in-laws parents and one other brother. It was a bright sunny day. We then went to a local coffeeshop and sat and socialized for hours. Then, later, we all had dinner together at a great restaurant overlooking the harbor at Grand Haven, where the Grand River flows into Lake Michigan. Great food, a lot more talk.
I got very overstimulated during the day. It was disorienting, because after months and months of work, and preparations, and planning, and cleaning and sorting, and moving, and everything else, it was all over in fifteen minutes. It was too fast. Today the movers came to take the Mom's piano out of the old house, to pack it for shipping off to Holland, where my sister and her husband live. I want to buy my own piano, now, too, maybe in a few months. Something small and light. Maybe one of those Yamaha Clavinovas.
Yesterday, I lingered around Muskegon, taking in the sights, visiting places I had strong memories of, then ended the day by crossing the Lake on the Express Ferry. That morning we toured the old Milwaukee Clipper, the old steam-engine ferryboat that ran from the 1930s into the 1970s, which is docked on Muskegon Lake. My Dad took that ferry boat twice a month from Milwaukee, where he was in medical college, to visit my Mom in Muskegon. They had met in Lansing, when they were both at State for college. So, touring the old ferry was both fascinating and nostalgic.
I also went and visited Our Savior's Lutheran Church, the church that my grandfather, a master carpenter and construction foreman, had built in the early 1950s, and which my aunt was married in. Then I went to see the house that Grandpa had built for his family, finished in 1924 or 1925. A house still strong and study, and only blocks from Muskegon Lake, and the ferry.
I also went out to Lake Michigan, the beach on the water that I remembered playing on as a kid. I needed to linger in Muskegon for awhile, to absorb the sense of completion that the weekend was all about. I know I will go back to visit again within the year, when we install the grave marker for my parents.
It was all over so quickly, after all the work and stress of months and years. I never thought I'd make it to this place. I'm still not sure I have. A lot of emotion came up for me, and I arrived back in my own new home, my condo, wrung out, exhausted, stressed, angst-ridden, and too wired to go to bed early, even though I could have used the extra sleep.
Now, I have the task of restarting my own life, after putting it on hold for a couple of years.
I feel like I am completely starting all over again. I have to start a new career, which I have been doing, with the DVD business I have with my partners in Chicago. I have a new home, which I am still moving into. But in two days, I travel to Florida for two weeks, a convention of LGBT choruses, then some solo travel time. I've bought a new home, and I now will be gone for 6 out of the next 8 weeksgo figure. But I need to travel. I've been locked up here for too long, now.
I am starting over as an artist, as a person, in a new life, a new career.
In August, I'm going to Burning Man. I got my ticket in the mail last week. I want to meet a lot more radical artists; I think I'll probably blend in, although I might stand out a bit as another naked fat guy. I want to meet some men at Burning Man, and have some sexual adventures. I want to experience the desert in all its extremes. I want to make art there, and trade my own art for the art of others. (It's a barter and participation economy.) Walking naked at night across the flat playa under the stars. Dressing up for dinner in a sarong I made myself.
So, that was my weekend. I'm really tired. I have a lot to do before I leave for Florida. I spent all day doing errands today, and I'm exhausted. But not too tired to jerk off before bed, which will actually help me sleep better.
Maybe I'll meet someone on the road in the next few weeks. maybe we'll have some fun together. Or maybe I'll have some solitude and quiet. It all sounds inviting, just now. Tomorrow, packing and more sorting, and getting the house ready for a two-week absence. May the road rise to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back. May you be blessed. I bless and forgive every inch of this road. I sleep the dreams of roads, and the road dreams it goes on forever, beyond the next hill, on into the dark, and into the mountains. This is all I ever wanted. Here it is, rising before me. I'm still disoriented, I still have a lot of grieving and recovery to do. And the time to start is now. Maybe I could stand to take a few days and just Do Nothing. But that's not going to happen till I get back from Florida. And that's okay. The road is always there, waiting, running on ahead, into the light.
835. 6 July 2008, Beloit, WI
After three days in Michigan, to bury my parents ashesstrangely heavy in their beautiful wooden cases, and red velvet wrapsa ceremony that was quick and elegant, and soon overI took the ferry back across Lake Michigan today, and am back here. Im feeling very mixed.
After so much effort, so much work, it was all too quick. So quick, this ending, now done, that I had no time to think about it. The day moved too fast, and was over too soon. Then my family was gone, and I was alone. I came back on the ferry with friends, but was mostly quiet, being very tired.
Now the house will be done, too, when the shippers come tomorrow to crate up the piano for its journey to Europe, later in the month. Thats all ready to go, now. I have at least recorded a lot of new music on it. I left that last session, though, thinking I would probably have to buy some kind of piano for myself, now; if only a good electronic one.
Everything came to an end this weekend so suddenly that I feel disoriented. Im reeling, emotionally. I have no idea how to deal with this, except to just keep moving forward with my next trip plans: forward momentum, indeed.
It was too quick of an ending, after all that build-up. Months of it. Leading to ten minutes at graveside, on a sunny day, and an afternoon and dinner with everyone who was there, all talking. I got seriously overstimulated. I still feel overstmulated, even though Im so tired now, I can barely stay awake.
Ill keep making. Art, music, words; usually not in that order. I dont care right now if anyone likes it, or not. Im not making art to please others, but because its like breathing for me: when I dont make art, I turn blue and suffer, and eventually fall over. Its not that anybody cares, or even that I might care that they care; I dont. Its not even necessary to care. But you have to keep doing it. Right now, Im less interested in ever in sharing my poetry, my art, my music, my spirit. Im not interested in sharing it, because everyone thinks theyre a critic who can give good critique; most actually cant, and its presumptuous of them to believe so. I get called arrogant and pretentious, too: but thats usually because somebody doesnt like a solid argument Ive made, but they cant refute it; they can only attack the person, because the argument is solid.
So, tonight I feel prickly. A little edgy, a little uncertain, a little wistful, a little bit fearful about the blank unknown that is the future, now that everything really is pretty much done and over with. Its been months and months and months of pushing really really hard, and being exhausted, and finding that edge, and going over it, a few times, and feeling close to dying more than once. And then its done. Done so fast, you reel.
Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If thats all there is, my friend,
then lets keep dancing . . . .
Lieber & Stoller
834. 3 July 2008, Beloit, WI
For the past many months, since my parents died, first one, then the other, I have been enmeshed in clearing out their house to ready it for sale and get rid of lots of stuff. Two full moving truck loads went to the estate sale people. My sister came back from Holland to help with this, although I still lived with it for many months, while she was able to be here only every other month this year. Still, that's more than she's usually able to come, and it's been a major stress on her life, as well as mine. It's been months and months of work. I've been recovering from my own illness and exhaustion, a few major dietary changes (gluten free since January 4), the grief process for both my parents, having to sort through 27 years of their belongings, then also sort through my own belongings, buy a house, move into it, and empty out the old house.
Tonight, I am done. Really, finally done. If you had asked me this in April, I would have said, I would never get here. It was too daunting, too overwhelming. I literally had to take it, not one day at a time, but one drawer at a time, one box at a time. We're all exhausted.
Tomorrow, we all get in the car and drive to Muskegon, MI, where will be having a graveside service and interring both of my parents' ashes into the cemetery near where my grandparents are buried. I will be driving all day, then on Saturday it will be a full day of emotion, closure, reminiscing, a dinner with the twenty people who will be there for the day, and so on. On Sunday I take the Lake Michigan Ferry back across the Lake, and to home. Next Wednesday, I begin the drive to Florida for a week at the GALA Choral Conference in Miami.
But tonight, for the fourth or fifth time since I had Mom's piano tuned in Aprilthe piano I grew up playing, I found photos in al the sorting of me playing this same piano in the early 1970s, in my early teens; and I was a real redhead then LOLI spent some time recording music. I played piano for many, many years, then stopped playing for awhile, partly since I just didn't have access to one anymore. My instrument these past few years has been Chapman Stick; also, bass guitar, and other more portable instruments. Plus singing in various gay men's choruses around the country, wherever I happened to be living. I have recorded several new piano improv pieces, some of which I've put on my podcast, others of which are more fragments, not finished pieces. But in this process, I've also composed and recorded at least three new, finished pieces, including one I just stumbled onto tonight, that worked itself into a piece. I was surprised, I hadn't expected that tonight. The piano's been going out of tune quickly, the past week or so, so much of what I recorded tonight I'll probably have to re-record later on. But I am very, very satisfied with this project.
On Monday, the piano gets crated up to be shipped to Holland, where my sister lives, and now the piano will live, too. My brother in law is a professional musician, too, so it's going to a good home. There was never any question that the piano would stay in the family. At first, I found it hard to let go of; but then, I realized that what I needed was time with the piano, time to photograph it, time to create good new memories with it, to make new music with it, and to make these recordings; after which, I could let the physical instrument itself go. It's not like I never visit my family in Holland, either, so the piano and I will meet up again, in future.
But I've made so much new music in the past month or soand written no significant new poetry, just a couple of haikuI was thinking tonight that I might have to buy a piano for my new home. Not a grand piano, like Mom's, but maybe a good upright, or a terrific-sounding spinet. I can probably afford that, and I can make space for it, too. I have to think about this some more, and plot and plan.
Tonight, I am writing this in a strange, good, sad mood. This long process of emptying out my parents' house, which seemed impossible, interminable, never-ending, is finally over. It's done. In a couple of days, another kind of closure, as we bury their ashes.
And then, my own new life begins again. I am both joyous and fearful. Hope/fear are so closely linked. I will be traveling a lot during the next few months, taking that roadtrip vacation I haven't been able to take for years, since I moved back here to take care of my ailing parents. Now I have to start my own life over again. I both look forward to that, and know it could be hard and stressful, in its own way. I haven't had a "real job" in awhile, so no credit rating, etc. There are a lot of uncertainties about it, and a lot of things I still don't know how to deal with. Being a first time homeowner is also overwhelming, in and of itself. I transplanted Dad's pink rosebush to my new home earlier this week, and some other plants. I have a lot more to do.
What sustains me tonight is the music I just made. I have to pack for the trip, tonight, too. But I'm taking a few moments to just sit and reflect, and write about it.
833. 3 July 2008, Beloit, WI
Nightmares last night. Ive had intense dreams for several days, coupled with being very stressed, some kind of low-grade summer flu, and Im in the second day of a bad headache that wont quit. Just the other day I was saying to someone that Id had no real migraines in months; so much for that, cause Ive got one with a vengeance now, and it wont quit.
832. 29 June 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive just transplanted three hosta of various types, a pink rosebush, and a couple of flats of periwinkle, from my fathers garden at his old house, to my new house. Its taken a couple of hours of hard physical labor, and despite this being a cool cloudy day, Ive just had my second shower of the day. Dirt and sweat, honest labor. My arms are sore along their backs, and I have various aches and pains everywhere. But for the first time since we finished clearing out the old houseand I have avoided going back for the past several days, because the last couple of times have been too overwhelmed with strong feelings, for meI do not feel overwhelmed with emotion. I feel all right, rather than wanting to cry. At least for now.
The skies are darker now, and the plants I replanted and resoiled and watered today are going to get more rain, later. Hopefully that will give them all a good start in their new homes, around my own new home.
I recorded several more piano pieces on my mothers piano this afternoon. The piano itself is going to get crated up for shipping in a couple of weeks, so I am focusing on this project over all others creative.
I am not writing any poems right now. Frankly, I havent been in the mood for poetry for months. The urge has been drowned under all the things weve had to do, and all the stress of getting everything done. There are still things to do, but now I am focusing on plans for the future, instead of being drowned in boxes containing the past. I am wanting to move forward.
Having recorded a lot of piano improvs today, I feel satiated. Creatively satisfied. Ive been wanting to do this for weeks, since my last recording session, and time has been too full, weve been too busy, and at the end of the day, Ive had no energy left for any of it. I am still finding myself having to pace myself, in terms of energy. When I run out, Im done for the day. So, since it very important to me to get more of this piano work done, I am moving it up to afternoons, instead of trying to do it at night, when everything else has been finished.
My garden looks good, driving into the condo, now.
The last few times, I have taken off all my clothes and played piano in the nude. Today I took some photos of the playing and recording process and setup. You cant tell Im nude in the pictures, but I am. I started to do this partly for comfort, and partly to reduce incidental noise. No extra sounds made by clothe rustling, or necklaces chiming, or shoes squeaking on the pedals. It is also just a lot more comfortable. I feel naked before my creator, and while participating in this co-creation. So it seems perfectly natural.
The piano is starting to go out of tune, again. I can hear it in the playbacks. Thats not a surprise. When it was tuned in April, we had every reason to believe that it would need it again, because it had been so long untuned. Now its starting to go. It mars the music Im trying to make, somewhat, now. At the same time, I can treat these new improvs as pieces working towards bigger pieces, as sketches. I might re-record some of them later. I might even transcribe one or two of them. And Im not going to bother to have the piano tuned again, now, only to be shipped away less than a month later.
Bouts of anger. Anger at people, at situations, and comedies of error. Ive been suppressing my anger all day, and its been making me sit close to that edge. I dont like this edge, but I dont like to suppress my anger, either. Paradox. Who cares. Its done. Tomorrow, I can forgive, and move on. Tonight, though, Im not ready to forgive. Maybe soon. Not just this minute.
831. 28 June 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive been progressing towards making my house my home. Today I spent most of the day working on putting together the studio/creative room, from setting up the studio computer to hanging a couple of guitars on hangers in the closet, and putting some of the art on the walls. I burned a few CDs, I worked in iTunes a little bit, and I pounded nails and drilled holes and screwed screws. Its moving right along.
In the past week or so Ive made the main floor on my condo into a living space. Almost no boxes left to go through, at least out in the public spaces. The basement is cluttered, but fairly organized. There are still a lot of boxes to go through, but most of them are sorted into consolidated areas of the basement. At least things that are in piles are in piles all together, rather than scattered everywhere.
Weve been going through the family history archives, and Ive photographed a great deal of that material, in preparation of giving some of it away, and to preserve more of it. I have a lot more to do of this, but the major first sorting is done, and its put away in labeled bins and trunks; and it now takes up less space than it did before.
Ive gotten some of my household chores done, a few repairs done. The water softener is now working pretty well. There are more things to do.
Tomorrow I plan again to spend doing things for myself, around the house. Im going to try to transplant a few plants, do some other chores, and get busy on some other stuff. Its all starting to look like someone lives here, rather than as a dumping ground for someone who just moved in here. Psychologically, I cant even tell you how much better that makes everything here feel; even when other shit is driving me nuts, I still feel good about this.
830. 21 June 2008, Beloit, WI
My dreams last night were again disturbing, emotional, difficult. Ive been feeling a lot of strong feelings the past few days, and havent always realized it. Then it catches up with me, and it all becomes too much. Im feeling that way this morning. Its going to be a full, busy, day, two parties to attend before D. arrives from Holland. The past few days weve been in my basement, going through the family archives: photos, scrapbooks, family bibles in several different languages, framed photos of ancestors, lots of written materials, both my and my sisters baby photos and scrapbooks, and lots more. Ive taken photos of some of the most interesting and special of the photos and papers. It was exciting and made us laugh at timesbut it was still stressful, and I didnt realize it till later just how stressful. This is harder to do than you realize. Photos of your dead parents, and their parents. Photos of my father as a boy, with his father, who died young of typhoid. Photos of our life in India. Its harder on you, emotionally, than you know. Right now, at least, I feel exhausted and emotional. I cant look at any more photos. At least we got everything sorted and back into trunks and bins in a more organized fashion; so that, later, when we go through them again, we can find them more easily. It will be the project of a few years to digitize, scan, and photograph everything. That preserves it more permanently, for the family history, and it also allows me to make duplicate copies for every relative who wants them.
And I need to get on with my own life, and not spend all my time in the past. So, if the trunks and bins sit there unopened for several months, now, thats just fine.
829. 20 June 2008, Beloit, WI
In my dreams late this morning, I was in a large city at night; I was little turned around in my directions and disoriented; my Dad came to get me and take me along to a holiday gathering somewhere in the city; he was cheerful and upbeat throughout, even when I was confused; I didnt know where we were at first, but then, behind some tall buildings down a hill, there was the capitol dome (this night city was some combination of Madison and San Francisco, it looked like); we were walking through empty night streets; then, at a place, like an old club, a venerable building with Victorian furnishings, we went in, and he said hello to the people there who were preparing for a show; they all seemed to know him; I kept off to the side; behind a curtain we put down the packages of gifts we had been carrying, and Dad went off by himself; I spent some time in the building; there was a huge storm, with the sky overhead going black; after the storm, I went out to where our car was parked across the street; but during the storm, the window had been smashed, the car broken into, and all the gifts had been stolen; everything else was still there, although lots of my belongings had been strewn next to the broken window on the ground, and were soaked because of the storm.
828. 14 June 2008, Beloit, WI
Feeling chafed all day. A whole day driving in which people seemed to go out of their way to get in my way, go too slow, and generally cause problems. I own to impatience, and little tolerance. I had things to do, and places to get to, and limited time; people wasting my time for no good reason, or for their reasons. I get tired of people who think their time is more valuable than anyone elses; assuming theyre even paying attention to anyone else, so wrapped up as they are in their own little worlds.
827. 14 June 2008, Beloit, WI
Yesterday morning the trash man came to the old house and emptied out the basement and the garage. I pulled in after he had left to see a stark and empty garage as I had never seen it before. We stood inside it, contemplating its emptiness, and our voices echoed off the walls. A large empty space with an echo. The basement was empty of virtually all remaining trash; just a box of rocks of mine that I need to dispose of, or look through and keep one or two, probably dating from my days of studying geology in college.
This morning is cool and clear and sunny, at least it is right here, right now. Weve had huge and dangerous storms all week, although right here weve been on the edges rather than in the center of events. An hours drive north from here there has been catastrophic flooding on many rivers and lakes. I heard a news report that the low levels of water in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan have begun to rise back to more normal levels. I remember seeing how low the water levels were when I was up there last year, and I remember comparing that in mind to childhood memories of the Great Lakes being much higher.
Ive traveled the world, but the Great Lakes feel like home ground in ways that I dont often feel about places, in my long-rootless existence. Theres a comfortable familiarity to the Great Lakes that is the only referent I have for what other people mean when they talk about their hometowns. I suppose its typical of me that I would have a hometown feeling for something more diffuse and grandiose and non-local than an actual village or city, somewhere. Then again, I did spend a lot of my childhood in Michigan, a place surrounded by the Great Lakes, which affect the weather, commerce, and everything else, so that the presence of the Lakes is never far from mind, when you live there.
So, the old house, suddenly, is almost done. I have been recording more piano music there in the evenings, and will continue to do so. I have edited some of what Ive played there, improvised or composed, and put it all on the podcast. I dont consider this great music, necessarily, but it is both a door opening and a door closing. Soon, I wont have access to a good piano whenever I want to play and record, and Ill have to turn back to other ways of making music. I have been neglecting all my others instruments, to focus on the piano, for some time. It deserves this attention, of course, before it leaves my life and is shipped off to another country. I am making memories, as well as music. For myself, this is a kind of closure. Ive recently found some old photographs of me playing this piano in Ann Arbor, when it was new, and I was young. It brings up mixed feelings. Letting this piano go is difficult for me, but I am resigned to it. And for as much time as I haveand really, thats all we ever have, is a little bit of timeI am creating as much as I am able in partnership with its keys and strings, and the now empty room in the now empty house in which it still stands, a last memory of those who lived there so long.
826. 10 June 2008, Beloit, WI
Yesterday was a very hard day, emotionally. I can barely talk about it. The aftermath lingers. I did about two hours of Reiki and releasing work this morning, before finally getting out of bed. I wept a lot yesterday, and broke some glass, because I needed to break something. I dont even know where to begin, and not sure I want to.
825. 8 June 2008, Beloit, WI
Mom and Dad were both in parts of my dreams last night. So was the daughter of Raymond Chandler, who I got to talk to finally, and tell her I was a fan of his writing. My dreams were vivid but unfocused; nothing really visionary going on. Still, when presences are there, you pay attention.
The skies last night were growly, and more rains fell. There are flash flood warnings west and south of here. Who needs to water the plants, in all this rain? The weather forecast is for a full week of thunderstorms. Its hot and humid, and the weather keeps recycling into storms that shed rain, then the water on the ground evaporates in the heat, and clouds build up again, and it all recycles. It makes for violent, dramatic skies; when theyre not a solid sheet of pale gray, that is.
My sleep schedule is still all over the map, but I am getting enough hours of sleep, most nights. last night, I was asleep by midnight, and awoke at 7:30, to write this, having slept the night through without interruption. Some nights Ive been so tired Ive gone to bed even earlier, and awoken later. Other nights, Ive had bouts of insomnia, and was up in the middle of the night, only to go back to bed for a few hours. So, I still have no regular sleep schedule.
They say this happens after a life-changing event, no matter what you feel about it. Patterns and cycles and rhythms change. They say sleep disruption is common during an extended grief process, no matter what youre feeling from day to day. As with my creative cycles, I resist trying to impose my will on it, or trying to impose a fixed schedule. I resist trying to coerce of force my natural cycles into a fixed schedule; that seems to me more harmful than helpful,
I choose to let it play out the way it will. I choose to practice, as much as is feasible, the Zen ideal of eat when youre hungry, sleep when youre tired. I think of the wandering Chinese sage-poet, Yang Wan-Li, who is said to have slept under the sky whenever he was tired on his travels, just simply stopping wherever he was, lying down in his robes, and going to sleep. Im not able to be quite that carefree, but Yang can still be a role model and a guide, as well as one of my favorite ancient poets.
824. 7 June 2008, Beloit, WI
In the past month, taking breaks and seeking changes of pace, Ive been to four movies in the theatre: more than Id been to in the theatre in the past 18 months combined. Thats partly because theres more movies this summer that are interesting to me, that I would actually want to go see in the theatre. I have to say: last years crop of movies was dismal beyond belief. Only three or four the entire year. It was telling when all the movies nominated for the Academy Award from last year were downers, depressing stories about dysfunction and assassination. What a bleak year that was. This year has been a lot more fun. A couple of superhero flicks, mostly well done. P. and I went and saw Kung Fu Panda today, the animated film, and laughed all the way through; we really enjoyed it.
When we came out of the movie theatre, the wind was blowing hard and the sky was darkening. The instant we stepped onto the asphalt to go out to the car in the parking lot, it began to rain, fat heavy drops. We started to walk fast to the car. Halfway, there was a huge bolt of lightning, right overhead, with no delay whatsoever between flash and the sound of thunder. The land around us was lit up with bright electro-violet light: that color of lightning you can only see when youre too close to the strike. (Its the ultraviolet tinge to the ionized plasma made by all those millions of volts creating a channel through the atmosphere.) It was literally right overhead, one of the louder strikes Ive heard in my life. And Ive been in storms where lightning hit very close by before, and Ive been in two tornadoes. Remarkably, we kept our cool, and got to the car, got in, and drove home, not too wet. The downpour was fierce and hard and heavy for about ten minutes, during which time the rain gauge said a full quarter-inch had fallen. Then it was over, and the evening sky cleared some, although the clouds continued to move very fast. We were a little excited by the experience, a little jittery. Later on, coming off the weather high, I needed to take a nap.
Quite a powerful experience.
823. 7 June 2008, Beloit, WI
In the past few days Ive written a few poems, after long silence. They feel like fragments, nothing coherent or solid among them. Like tentative, secret steps towards starting over. My art continues to change, after the life-changing events of the past year. Im not going to try to exert control over the changes; Im watching what happens, just like everyone else.
In the next few days, P. will also move out of the old house, and Ill be able to go over there to an empty and quiet house, to record more piano music, and to just sit and be with the silence and emptiness.
It was within the last two days that I suddenly became aware that I am essentially moved out, and essentially moved in, into my new home. Oh, there are still things to move around. But a few days ago I hired a couple friends to come over and help me move the rest of the mass bulk of boxes in the garage down to the basement. Almost everythings in the basement that is supposed to be, and I have more space in the garage again. I am still organizing, and putting things in their final places, where they are going to live; that will take some more weeks, and its something I enjoy doing. Organizing is fun, even when theres a lot more to do.
822. 6 June 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
not from a surfeit of feeling
but an overabundance.
not from a lack of remembrance
but from too many moments.
not from too little time
but still never enough.
even some unknown friend
fallen sudden in basic travail.
cant say what it matters to say
before no more can be heard.
its not even time to go when
its time to go, and gone, gone.
All Im good for are fragments. Something unsaid. Silence is best. Times when late at night the fires inside wake up and need saltwater tears to quench and cushion. Someone you knew not well but thought of as friend, brings out everything, all of the, all the passed, gone, arisen, waiting, come back to speak. Words pass through the air outside, stir candles as though words spoken made air move past the night table. Into stillness. What ends war when war is brought to its own end. State of silence. And what will you dream.
821. 6 June 2008, Beloit, WI
A long dream sequence, one I have had before on occasion, that is mysterious to me; several of my friends are in this dream, as though gathered together purposefully. The dream begins in a school or college; we walk out to the buses, through throngs of people going similar places, and board the buses, which drive us into the big city. Our destination is a huge, ancient cathedral; it is in use, and we are expected and let in, but there is both a functional and a museum quality to the place. It is on a busy main street, but inside the building you cant hear the outside world. We are here for a purpose; its a field trip, but we each have a project to complete here; making a piece of art in response; or finishing one; or making a performance piece; or writing a dissertation. The cathedral is essential to the process, but it remains mysterious exactly how.
I know Ive had this dream before, at least two or three times, but I dont remember when. I have been there before, in my dreams, even though in the dream itself I am there for the first time. I explore. I go off on my own, and dont want to have lots of contact with the others. At one point, I go outside, walk around the building and look at it from many angles; then I re-enter through a small separate portico building in front, which is unused and falling apart. Throughout, I am shadowed by a friend; but I dont want to talk, I am feeling too inward, so I ignore him or her, and continue on, while they follow.
The tone of this dream is quiet, thoughtful, even if there are moments of activity and violence. The overall shape of the dream is that its aiming towards some resolution. But I dont know what that resolution is, as each time the dream has ended when I awoke. I dont know the ending. Id like to.
in spruce and cedar
outside my window a sparrow
touches branch for a moment
then flitters on
two days of strong wind
and heavy rains, the cedars
look wet still, dancing under
constantly shifting skies
I sit and write beneath
cedar, spruce, crabapple, pine
the lawn lush and dark
after so much rain
wind tosses the sparrows away
and my hair into my eyes
820. 3 June 2008, Beloit, WI
And suddenly its done. No more work in the old house that I must rush to do, that I must break my knees over, no more hauling, no more carrying around of boxes, sorting and deciding and trashing. Still lots of work to do at the new house, but all of it mine to do now, as and when I will.
Yesterday, with help, we moved about half of the claustrophobic piles of boxes that were in the garage down to the basement; the rest will follow later in the week, leaving in the garage only tools and camping gear and outdoor furniture and a few other things that belong in the garage. Last night, after a long rest in the afternoon, I began to put things away in the basement; if not their permanent homes, their temporary and useful ones. I dug into the piles of boxes and made them smaller. I began to sort what is here, now, into piles to be addressed later on. I still have sorting and purging to do. I ended having to move it all over, now, to get the old house finished on time to be sold this summer. If Id had two more months in which to sort through things, I would have moved less over. But then, I can continue to purge from here, and reduce my life to smaller scale. I dont want a basement as cluttered as my parents basement became. I want less and less Stuff in my life. Ill sort through the magazines and save one tenth of their pages, just the articles and pictures I want. I have file cabinets that will make sorting and filing much smoother from now on. Even my library of books will gradually be reduced, over time. All of these projects will continue.
opening the rock with a hammerblow
fragments of white jasper chert and dolomite
skitter away across the tableland
suddenly its done: no more
sorting and carting, no more choosing
sides to be thrown aside, kept, given
finding stones in the basement
realizing I am not my familys first collector of
rare and unusual geologic beauty
my mother kept perfect stones
as doorstops and regulators
ovoid hearts found next to boxes of candles
a veined gabbro block on a storeroom shelf
living alone in the broken darkness
and suddenly its done: no more
boxes to sort, move, store, put away
just bills to pay, new arrangements to gather in
On the flip side, though, there is still more to do over there. But its odds and ends, its picking up last little things that got overlooked or hidden behind doors, its finishing up what is essentially done.
I had a bout of insomnia last night, too, and now, in the afternoon, after an hour or two of loose end hunting, Im tired and want only to nap for awhile. The day is gloomy and dark, with rain and wind; were just on the northern edge of a major storm that is pummeling the states south of here, yesterday with baseball-sized hail in some areas. My mood is tired and a little bleak. I am going to spend the rest of the day at the new house, putting things away, and organizing the space here. I havent done any of that for weeks, as the focus has been on moving out of the old house, and getting everything over there finished. The rest of today, though, needs to be different: doing something different, which is itself a form of break, or respite, from what Ive been doing. I am starting to remember that the rest of the world still exists, after all these weeks of being unable to do anything but ignore it, because Ive needed to be so focused on closing down the old house, and moving. I have things to do, Im sure, that I will be reminded of tomorrow. For today, though, I need some time away from it all.
819. 1 June 2008, Beloit, WI
A hot sunny day. P. and I moved over a whole bunch more stuff, and made further progress with emptying out the house. I also went through most of the rest of the tools in the garage, and made choices, then gave some to the neighbors.
Last night was the Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus concert in Madison. It went pretty well, only one or two glitches. I wore my new rainbow suspenders. I was complimented by an audience member for singing the entire concert from memory. I guess I stood out on stage a little, because I was the only one not carrying a music folder, and holding it open even when not using it. I didnt intend to stand out, but I do take some pride in my good memory for music. I was really tired after the concert, and we came home right away, had a celebratory drink, then went to bed early.
818. 30 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Today is Dads birthday; he would have been 82. I had intense dreams last night. Today I spent most of the day finishing cleaning my belongings out of my parents house, and finishing up the basement rooms. I am now completely moved out of my old bedroom and bathroom; not all the stuff is over here at the new house yet, although its in process. We also put out a huge amount of trash and recycling for the garbage and recycling people to pick up in the morning. So thats a marker of how much weve gotten done, even when it feels like its not enough.
Finishing up my room was surprisingly upsetting for me, emotionally. It is the end of a period of life, the end of a place Ill never sleep in again, and the end of other things, too. It was only later in the day that I realized this was also Dads birthday. Its not that Id forgotten, but that Id been thinking about everything else. I had a meltdown in the middle of the day, rage and crying both. Truly a mess.
I have felt so often lately that this moving and closing down process is endless, unending, unendurable. I passed exhaustion and not being able to cope a very long time ago. But I can look at what we have gotten done, the huge pile of trash and recycling is evidence of that at least, and feel at least that progress has been made. Someday I might start to feel like I have a life again, and feel good about it. But I still cant see that right now, Im too immersed in everything. My new garage is no longer the pristine space it was when I first moved in here, either; it is now full to the brim with Stuff. Some of that will get moved to the basement, the rest of better sorted and stored. Its all still in process. I just feel cramped and overwhelmed some nights, when I come home. And until I can clear up more space in there, it will be hard to set up a workspace for some craft projects. All works in progress, for now.
817. 29 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Were back on the weather rollercoaster, yesterday sunny if cool, this morning just cold and dreary. Spring has been cold and dreary so far this year, with only a few days edging towards actual summer temperatures. All the rains have led to continued flooding, downstream in the Mississippi watershed; which of course includes most of the central part of the continent. The old song The Water is Wide is playing on continuous loop in my mind this morning. The water is wide, I cannot get oer, and neither have I wings to fly. . . .
We drank Cosmopolitans on the deck last evening and talked, then came in and had dinner. I had found a gluten-free frozen pizza brand last time we went shopping, and had that for my meal; it was very good, and Ill seek it out again.
I went to bed early last night, after a trying day, and slept deeply. Catching up on the sleep Ive missed the preceding few days. My dreams were active and lucid, a lot of traveling and bad weather. My last dreams before waking were very pleasantly erotic.
Ive lost a lot of time, lately. Ive been so focused, and unable to break away, from the process of moving myself and closing down the old house, that Ive neglected a lot of things I should have responded to right away. I hope to be able to catch up, but things are still going to fall through the cracks. One of my fears is that something really important will fall through the cracks, and mess things up later. Im doing the best I can, and everyone just has to settle for that. I cant do any better than I am, right now.
816. 28 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Im having a lot of emotion today, a lot of anger and anxiety. Not that anyone cares. The message Im getting from the outside world today is that Im being selfish, and dont have the time to slack off and take care of my own feelings. Im feeling pushed, again, into Lots of messages that what I feel doesnt matter, and Id better buckle down and get to work, no matter what I think and feel.
Feeling isolated and cut off, like I have to do this all on my own. At the moment, Im going to indulge my emotions, in order to let them pass through, and move on.
Im worried about money, again. A recurring anxiety that I have to deal with, that no one really seems to understand. Not even asking them to indulge me.
Feeling completely blocked and stifled by outside forces from doing what I want to do creatively. Havent picked up the Stick to play in weeks. Havent made any new music, or new art, or new poems, in what feels like forever. Its probably only been weeks, but it feels like forever, and the back-pressure is driving me crazy. Been too focused, too nose on the grinding wheel, too often told that I need to get it all done before I can indulge myself with things I want to do, versus things I must do, or that need to get done.
Mixed messages. People telling me I need to take some downtime to take care of myself, then judging me, often silently, when I take the time I need. Mixed messages.
815. 25 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Feeling sour this morning, after a good storm last night. The rain cleared the air of the heavy pollen that has been bothering me for many days, and watered my garden. I enjoy a good storm, and last nights was loud and dramatic without feeling, to me at least, all that threatening. Perhaps that was more because I was so tired last night that I was trembling, and just didnt care what happened anymore.
My sourness this morning is mostly emotional. Ive been saying for days that I wish this process of clearing out my parents house and moving my own household was done. Ive been at it for months, on a daily basis, with almost no breaks, and Im burned out.
Yesterday we discovered in the garage the old wooden toolbox, painted black, with a leather strap, that was my grandfathers. Master carpenter that he was, he probably made this box himself, and used it to carry his tools to those worksites where he was a construction foreman, during all those years in Muskegon. I didnt even know the toolbox existed anymore; I gather my father had taken possession of it when my grandfather died, but it had been hidden on a lower shelf in the garage for decades, and I cant say that anyone remembered it was there, anymore. The tools inside are in good condition, for not having been used much in the past two decades, if at all. There are other tools around the house that I need to gather, a random collection of my fathers and my grandfathers tools, many of them of uncertain provenance, many of them well-used antiques, and some of them almost brand-new. Ive been wanting to return to many of my old craft projects, now that my life is my own again, like candlemaking and small wood-building projects. I have several bookshelves all through the house, but I can do better, make something more customized and specific to my needs.
I burst into tears when we found this toolbox, and it was in my hands. I just started crying. I still feel very fragile this morning. A couple of days ago I fell off the ladder in the garage, nothing major but I now have to be doubly aware of my bad knee, which I reinjured. Ive been banging my hands and head on various objects; I dont know where the limits of my physical self are anymore. Im now so tired, so exhausted, that Im starting to hurt myself. Yesterday I drove home from rehearsal through night-blinded monsoon rains so heavy that they flooded the interstate in several places. I arrived home so exhausted I was trembling.
In the grief support group they talked about how hard it is to close down a dead parents home, and thats true. Its emotionally easier to be in my new home than the old. I find it debilitating to have to make decisions, sort through boxes, move Stuff around, decide what to do when and where. Ive been doing that for so long that I want nothing more than to be done with it. But I cant let myself just stop, because there are things that do have to be done. I want to quit, and be done with it all. I felt this way when I was moving from St. Paul, and it was terrible; and in that move I lost things of value, including my own few tools, which I left behind in the garage, it was so difficult and I was so stressed out. I feel that way again, now. Maybe even worse, because the scale is bigger than it was then. But since that move, and then moving back from California to Wisconsin, then moving things around in the house for Dad, like moving his office, I realized this morning that I have been continuously moving house for almost four years. I really need to end this, now, today, because Im already past the point of exhaustion and collapse.
My sourness is burnout. Its also fear of not being to get it all done, and fear that Im going to miss some important detail thats going to fuck me over later on for having been missed. (This fear even applies to bills for the new house.) Its a desire to be done with all this turbulence of (continuous) moving. Its hatred of feeling pushed to meet so many deadlines. Its as Ive been saying: the movers transferred the bulk of my belongings, but that was only the beginning of the process. There are a million little details, and every day seems like nothing ventured, nothing accomplished. Thats an emotional illusion, of course, which is dispelled when you sit down and write down what youve actually done: cleared out most of the garage, sorted through more boxes of old papers and discarded most of them, moved over valuable and fragile artwork, cleaned out the storage closets. Tomorrow the estate auction people will come again to take more objects for another round of estate sale, and the old house will be both emptier yet, and all that much easier to make those last few decisions. But today is a holiday weekend, and I am working harder than ever while everyone else has a day off. And its not done yet. I cant imagine that it ever will be. Ive been doing it for so long that I cant even believe that it will ever be over and done with. That seems impossible, because moving has become the existential reality of a life well-traveled. Some of that is just the Stuff. IF I were truly to live nomadically, I wouldnt have nearly as much Stuff. If I could take all my music and art and carry it on a single portable hard-drive, I would.
814. 18 May 2008, Beloit, WI
I slept a couple of extra hours this morning, after waking once as usual in the early morning; the first time I have slept this long in months. My dreams were full of large groups. A massed mens chorus here, a smaller choir there and I am in the audience. At one point we are all traveling on a bus over treacherous roads; the road becomes worse and worse, and the bus plunges over the side of the ridge; then I make it never happened and the bus doesnt go over the edge, and we all go on in safety.
Last night I brought over to the new house and set up my WiFi network, which was easier than I thought it might be. Now I can bring over my other computers and get them settled in to their new homes in the studio room and basement. Ive neglected all my email and other contacts because of moving.
813. 15 May 2008, Beloit, WI
The movers will be here shortly, so I am shortening my morning meditation and reading time, but taking what time I can. Yesterday the sun same out later and the day warmed to a nice level. Today its already sunny this morning.
I needed to examine my fears yesterday so that they did not dominate me, or the day. I managed to get a lot done, and was in a better mood all day. Today I expect to be hectic and probably scattered. We will mostly direct traffic, though, rather than do things ourselves. And I dont know how long it will take them. They may be faster at it than we can imagine, being moving professionals.
Theyre here already, early. I do not want to feel pushed or rushed today. I want things to go smooth and unhurried. I want to be the calm center of the whirlwind. Wish me luck.
It took the movers nine and a half hours to move everything to my new home. Three of them worked hard all day long to get it done. I wasnt able to take the large Avanti display case, as none of us could figure out how to get it apart safely, then back together. I will eventually have to buy another unit for the living room, since I wont have this one anymore. It will go to the estate sale. The move was expensive for me, but well worth it. I had run out of time, or I would have sorted through some more stuff and moved less; but you do what you have to do. Its all worth it. Once I get settled in better, itll probably feel good. I probably have kept too much Stuff, even so, and will sort through and get rid of more of it over time. I have every intention of not doing what my parents did: moving boxes from house to house, intact, unopened, never sorting through them or looking at them. I wont be keeping every greeting card ever sent to me, either. I still have boxes of magazines to go through, and Ill reduce that pile over time. Its all a process.
The wild turkeys were upset with the truck in the driveway blocking their route, and complained loudly. One of the movers is a turkey hunter, and he gobbled back at them, which confused them and upset them more, but they moved on with no further incident. It was pretty funny to listen to the encounter from inside the house, though. Pam wrote a couple of haiku about it, which I have permission to reprint here:
Turkeys attack the
movers as they dismantle
our ancestral home.
On the front lawn two
species collidegobble, bristle,
face off, then move on.
© 2008 Pam Barick
The youngest of the three movers is a college kid. This was only his second day on the job, and he got to move my huge amount of stuff. Incredible! P. asked him what he had learned from the job so far. He paused and looked serious, and said, To stay in school. That was the best line of the whole day, in my opinion.
812. 14 May 2008, Beloit, WI
After two warm sunny days, cold and cloudy again. Tomorrow the movers come to transfer the bulk mass of my living to my new home. Theyll move the furniture, the heaviest boxes, which I am still packing, and whatever else I can get them to move. Theyll do this and that, and then Ill start to settle in. But there were still be a million little things to do at the old house, to clean up and sort through and dispose of, and remember to bring over here. A lot of this is my stuff, now. And also to get rid of, one way or another.
Yesterday I had another big emotional meltdown, and felt really vaporized by days end. I went to bed early, unable to say awake, and slept a little later than normal. I hit that wall again. I was having feelings of desperation and having to do it all myself. I was even flashing back to moving from St. Paul in 2004, which until now was the worst move Id ever done, the hardest and most exhausting. In that move I lost things that I needed, because I was too far gone to remember all the details; I am having that same fear now, that there is some important detail that Im going to miss, and screw up. And there are so many details to this process, Im continually overwhelmed and scared and frustrated and paralyzed. I broke down in tears at the last grief support group meeting yesterday evening, and that was it for the day; nothing else could be done.
This morning Im still frightened by it all, afraid I cant possible make these deadlines, and get everything done, afraid that I cant get it ready what needs to get ready for the movers. Theres too much. How can I ever make it through? I dont know. I cant imagine today will be any better than yesterday; I feel like Im in hell, and the best I can do is endure the suffering. It infuriates me, even as it beats me down. I am spinning my feelings out in so many directions, and wasting a lot of energy on them, and I cant seem to stop it. At least not right now. Well, this is the big push, the final phase of the old housewhich itself brings up huge emotional loadsand it is going to be tough. Everyone tells me Im doing well, and I cant take that in. That seems like fiction, or lies. I feel like Im drowning. I feel like Im dying under the weight of it. Life has never hurt quite so much as it does now. And I cant share any of this; people dont understand. They want to fix the situation, or soothe me, and they are unable to just let it be. I can forgive them, eventually, for being unable to understand. But the rest of it is harder to get past, because it triggers rage and frustration in me. It makes me react in ways I dont even like. But my reactions are necessary. Theyre not wrong, or dysfunctional, theyre where Im at right now. And in all this time, I still havent really had time to grieve for either of my parents. Ive been too busy, too overwhelmed. I still dont feel like I have any of my old energy back; I still feel as if Im carrying a load of bricks around every day; I still feel drained and tired and sore. If Im resentful, its not because I want to be. Its because I feel like Im drowning. This morning, even here in my new home, where I usually feel energized rather than drained, this morning I am paralyzed with feelings and want nothing more than to crawl back into bed and hide.
Im doing the best I can. Who says its not good enough? Where does that constant voice come from, that voice of perfectionism? Is it from my parents voices? Some of it, but perhaps not all of it. I am also learning that I cant talk about this with my remaining family; I can feel it, but I cant discuss it. I just have to endure in silence, while Im doing other things. I want to be comforted, but theres no one I can go to for comfort; no one outside myself, and none of the Powers in the world. I still feel inconsolable. And short of time; theres always Too Much To Do, and never enough time. I feel like Im being hurt because I cant stop now and take a day off, and just cry into my pillow, or sleep all day, or think about something else. This proves of moving and closing down my parents house is doubly hard because I feel forced to do it sooner than I am able to. I feel pushed, I feel forced, I feel abused. There is no slow growth of healing time, and so the scars just feel like theyre being ripped deeper. Who can you say this to, without them taking it personally, and misunderstanding? No one. Nobody at the bank, or in my remaining family, seems to get this. I have much more music I want to record on the piano, but that opportunity may already be gone. I have made one or two good new pieces on it, and perhaps I ought to be content. But I dont feel content, I feel frustrated with the shortness of time.
After all this is done, and the days dont seem to go so excruciatingly slow anymore, perhaps I can think about tomorrow again. But not right now. Im struggling with the load of grief on top of everything else, and its a crippling weight. I no longer expect anyone to care or understand, I feel very alone in all this, and I no longer care. Trying to explain my feelings just doesnt get through. Even those who have tried to be most supportive have failed to do so. What no one gets it that I really need to be selfish, for a while, and I really dont care about the dramas of everyone else, not right now. This is my time, time for me to get through everything I can. If I am to be so alone in my grief, then I also need my aloneness to be my time, in which to focus on MY needs, and not the rest of the world. The world will still be there, later. For now, though, its a fucking disaster, and Im not even going to try to ask for help anymore; it never seems to be there when I need it, so Ive learned to not ask for it. That old paradox, all too familiar and uncomforting.
Well, I guess all I can do today is just try to get through it. I have no greater ambition. Not one day at a time, but one box at a time. I dont even have the strength to think about tomorrow, or the many tomorrows to come, or survival. All I can muster is the bare minimum needed to get through today. It feels like its going to hurt, no matter what I do. I just ache all through my very being.
811. 11 May 2008, Beloit, WI
A dreary, cold, rainy morning. Yesterday B. and I went to see the new Iron Man movie; it was quite a bit of fun, a good break from work and worry. Then we all went out to dinner, and had some good laughs. Its important to rest and restore myself, even when theres work to be done, or Im no good to the work done later. It doesnt do any good to beat yourself by overwork. My knees feel better this morning, for example, after not having lifted and carried heavy boxes for two or three days. Despite the gloomy weather, I feel like getting back to work now.
The flowering crabapple trees in front and in back on the new house are in full bloom, bright pink and white respectively. The white tree in the neighbors front yard is losing its petals, a white carpet strewn on the green lawn. I planted roses out back last weekend, and theyre doing well. There were wrens building a nest in the my corner tree yesterday. Just around the corner of my house, a lilac bush is beginning to open and flower. Is this what returning to life feels like?
Im having a meltdown because theres too much to do, its costing me too much money, time and energy, Im supposed to get three things done, and each one of them is going to take all my time. Im stuck between a rock and a hammer, feeling like Im about to be flattened.
810. 9 May 2008, Beloit, WI
I woke up early again, still feeling jittery from yesterdays anxieties and pushes. Then I did a lot of Reiki, and clearing and releasing, on the couch. I slept some more, and woke up feeling positive, good, even joyful. No more limbo about moving: the move will be on the 15th, a week from yesterday. The man from the moving company was here yesterday to look things over, give me an estimate, and tell us what works best for them. Most of it is obvious: empty out the storage cabinets, have clear pathways, etc. The obvious. And after that, Ill be over at my new home, and coming back to the old home to work, not to be mired in it. Its hard to get a break, when youre sleeping here in the midst of it. Its like you never stop working, and never get a mental break. All of that is very true. And moving all the big items will be a big enough step, that whats left ought to be easier to deal with, in general.
809. 8 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Vivid dreams, but not visions. The contents dont stick with me. I wake up thinking about the movie Brokeback Mountain.
Last night we went to a monthly Hospice potluck dinner. There was enough there that I could eat that I went back for seconds, and ate my fill. It was good food, and good conversation, talking to people I got to know as the dinner time passed. Maybe Ill do these periodically, if not every month.
I feel like Im fighting off a cold or flu today. I feel like crap, and have since yesterday. I ran out of energy yesterday. Its still early morning, and maybe Ill build up a head of steam, but the prospect of lifting heavy boxes all day long is daunting at the moment. I dont know if I can do it. This isnt even about taking things day to day, its hour to hour, drawer to drawer, moment to moment. I cant predict how Ill feel tomorrow, much less an hour from now.
808. 6 May 2008, Beloit, WI
I feel very emotional coming out of the Hospice grief support group tonight. Towards the end of the session, I suddenly found myself feeling my feelings, and opening up about things that I never thought Id talk about. Like those times when I didnt care if I lived or died, put myself into risky situations, and left it in the hands of the gods. Im still here, still alive; so there must be some purpose left, some meaning. So often, I work with people for the Powers That Be, and I rarely get to hear the end of the story, or know the outcome. Im still here, and Im glad Im still here. I want to be here. The question was asked: What do you think the message from the spirits was, that they kept me alive, even when I put myself in dangerous situations, and let them decide if I was going to live or die? I had a really hard time asking that question. I found myself talking around it, rather than being able to articulate it directly. This stuff is hard for me to talk about, even now. A work in progress.
Yet I feel really emotional right now. That was unexpected, and has caught me by surprise, this evening. Its supposed to storm tonight; its been supposed to for days; but the past two days have been sunny, humid, in the upper 70s, even the low 80s. Actual spring-summer days.
Ive been emotional all evening. That really woke something in me, that needed to flow out, I guess. Suicide kept coming up all evening, too, in discussions with people, and on a TV show I watched with P. later. I feel like I understand that edge, having been there. I dont feel like Id try to intervene, but I also would try to talk them out of it, if at all possible. My rule has been: do nothing for 24 hours, then see how you feel. I think thats a reasonable cooling off period. Most people are out of their minds when they get to that edge, and many change their minds in the middle of it.
807. 6 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Skimming Thomas Mertons Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander this morning, listening to his prophets voice in the wilderness of unreason and commercial culture, its easy to believe that its all for naught. But then he also says that it is worth the struggle, which I agree with. The struggle is not to flee from the world so much as it is transform it. First we have to live in the desert, and vomit out all the lies that we have bought into and lived with for so long. The monastery can be the desert; but the image that Merton uses that sticks with this moment is that the monastery can be a waystation rather than the desert itself, and keep the person trapped in-between, with one foot still in the world, and one foot in reaching for the desert. Better to pass out of the monastery into the true desert, than be caught in-between.
This is a good reminder to me, to keep going. I am still in-between. It is hard not to feel overwhelmed, in this process of moving and sorting through my and parents Stuff, not to want to leave it all at the kerb, or burn away all material attachments. But then I run across objects I am still attached to, and not ready to let go of. This process moves me again towards the life of simplicity, the life of contentment to be found in the deserta contentment that is the last thing the advertising industry wants you to feel, they thrive on dissatisfaction and feed on desire. This contentment is a place without new needs, new desires. It does not mean that all the old desires will be instantly dissolved. But you can at least start by not making new attachments, creating new desires. Let things fall away as they will.
P. got here yesterday, and so were moving forward. I got a lot done again yesterday, although there remains much to do. I need to think about the bulk of moving things that I need to hire movers to do.
806. 4 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Its late at night. I just finished recording on piano the piece that I had begun to compose and record a few nights ago, that was tentative then, but is done now. Tonight I played it the best I am able. I am tempted to call it a Requiem, but what I did instead was look for a line from one of my favorite poets, one who has given me many lines as titles for music: Odysseas Elytis. There is a line in his 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech: . . . the essential has remained. It remains. That is the title. It is a piece that is in memoriam for my parents. I just finished rendering it, and am posting it to the podcast. This is the first, best music I can make, for now, for the memory of my parents. It is as close as I can come to those unnamable feelings that have been lurking around the edges. It is the best I can do, for now. I may re-record it at another time.
I feel close to tears, now, having brought up all those feelings, in order to channel them into the music. But I also feel done, and able now to sleep. Tomorrow, all the gods willing, we get to rise up, and try again.
805. 4 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Feeling a little murky this morning. Still observing my own processes, but this morning its a little clouded after the past two days, which seemed fuller of clarity and purpose. I went to bed before midnight, completely tired out, but I woke up before dawn, and chose to write and work on photos for an hour, before going back to bed. Then I slept fitfully for awhile. This recurring insomnia tires me out for other things; I know it must be part of the overall grieving process, added to the disruption of moving, and the emotions of closing down my parents house. I slept pretty well for a week, then another night of insomnia. I guess its not predictable. I just have to slog through it, and cope as best as I can. I feel bleary this morning, but I note that I dont feel drowned in emotion, tears, weeping. Oh, its there, and I can summon it, but its not stopping me.
The birds were calling in the pre-dawn blue light, calling loud enough to be heard through the windows. The wild turkeys were gobbling loudly, as part of the usual bird chorus. A clear sign of spring. Everybody is calling out their territories and mating songs. The robins are incredibly loud this time of year, with piercing voices from high in the trees. The woods are thickening with green, as leaves bud out and grow large on every branch. The last of the winter oak leaves have fallen, to make way for new buds. Pollen has started to fall in long chains from every tree. So begins the living cycle of another year.
804. 3 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive been sleeping almost exactly eight hours this past week, not setting an alarm, just getting up when I wake up. This morning I knew Id slept the full time, and for once I didnt jerk awake with my mind already racing. Im still sore this morning, but its that kind of sore that lets you know youve had a good workout.
I recorded two new piano improvs last night. It took awhile to get set up, but I did what I wanted to do. One of the new pieces is self-confident, and already on the podcast: midnight wing. The other piece was a bit tentative, but theres something really good about it; I might try to record that one again. I have finally set up the mics and mixer by the piano, where I will leave them set up at least for a day or two, while I record as much as I can before Pam arrives. It is quieter late at night, but I dont mind the right kind of ambient noise, if its birds or rain instead of traffic sounds.
It does look like its going to rain today. I think Ill give myself a workout and haul boxes of books. Appropriate supportive footwear required.
Im discovering a kind of pattern: One day working at full capacity, alternating with days working at around half-capacity. Yesterday I did get a lot done, and I do feel good about it. Today, not as much, and Im getting a later start, and doing less. Still, humping those heavy boxes of books around has been giving me an aerobic workout that sets the heart going in healthy ways. Im also realizing that I do need caffeine to get me through, in some form or another. Thats all fine, its what it is, for now, and maybe not forever.
I went over and built a couple more bookshelves, then I took over and unloaded a dozen books of books. Feels like barely a dent, but its a lot. I also did some grocery shopping, then came home and loaded up the car again with more boxes while I cooked myself a steak for dinner. Steak and chips, that was dinner. I didnt feel like cooking, but I really needed to eat something. Sore and tired describes my day, again, but also again, I feel pretty good, like I actually got something done, and also like I survived the day. Its one day at a time, thats all we can do.
803. 2 May 2008, Beloit, WI
Its night, Im sore as hell after working all day, but Im feeling really good emotionally, and I intend to bliss out with some chocolate ice cream now. The past two days, R. has helped me box up and pack and load the car to move Stuff over to the new house. Then I usually drive over and unload it all myself, and put it away. Ive moved some storage units into the basement, and Ive stocked them with a lot of the nice glass and kitchen stuff from Mom that Im keeping. Ive decided to keep the main floor of the house minimalist and uncluttered, and store the rest of the clutter in the basement, out of sight. That means Ill be putting books down there on shelves, making that back area into a rec room, and adding shelving units along the walls. I have fantasized about making the rec room area into a secondary library, but also putting the spare TV down there, and maybe getting a dart board to put on the wall. Theres time to plan for that, once Ive moved.
Unloading the carloads of Stuff is not nearly as hard for me as loading up, so Im mostly able to do that myself. Over at the new house I feel energized; at the old house, I feel depleted and drained and paralyzed and overwhelmed. Every time we take down a painting, or move something, or pack something up, theres an emotional load on top of everything else; couple that with the ongoing depression and tiredness brought on by grief, and it can be really hard some days. It can get completely overwhelming, and exhausting. It helps me a lot to have someone here to help me: one other person around keeps me on track, keeps me focused. I guess you can say, though, that if Im this sore and tired, it must have been a good day. I guess it was. I started out angry today, feeling really angry at the pressure on me to get this all done; but I turned it to work. I feel awake and strong enough to do more, but I do ache. Ill see what I can manage, while the focus and the energy last. I feel strong; when was the last time I felt this way? Seems like forever.
The leaves on the trees are beginning to fill out. I bought on a whim today a couple of new rosebushes to plant, very cheap. There was rain this morning, but then the sun came out and it was a dramatic sky all afternoon and evening, but no more rain.
We loaded books into boxes today. I cleared off several shelves, and moved them over to the new house. Ill move as many of the boxes of books tomorrow as I can, and probably another shelf or two. I also bought and built new bookshelves. I spent time moving Stuff around in the new house, too. Its easy when Im there; its just harder at the old house, because of all thats left to do, and the emotional drag. I took my shirt off and got fairly sweaty doing the work. I think I might take another shower before bed tonight. When I was building the shelves, I was thinking about a haiku I wrote probably ten years ago, doing some similar tasks on a hot, sweaty day in summer:
in midsummer record heat
I make new bookshelves!
Im surprised that feel very good tonight, like Ive actually accomplished something. The benefit of sore muscles is that its evidence of accomplishment. Feeling like this is so unusual, these days, its a little surprising. Am I maybe over the emotional crest of that hill, and coasting down the other side? Its too soon to tell. I have no expectations that Ill still feel good tomorrow; so for tonight I intend to enjoy it, and not worry about it. Im in a mood to listen to or make music, or write. While my energy lasts, Ill try to do something creative with the rest of the evening.
802. 30 April 2008, Beloit, WI
If you dont want to hear this, dont read it.
Tired of this rollercoaster. Tired of feeling like every time I open up to the possibility of actually enjoying life, I get slammed down again. It does feel very personal, and I dont care if that makes me paranoid. I feel abandoned again and again by people who say theyre going to help me, then, often for very understandable reasons, dont. Who do you trust? Im feeling very much like this is all on me, and that I cant deal with it, because Im losing my ability to trust. Ive tried to believe that the world is trying t support me and help me outand it feels like every time I open up my heart to that possibility, I get a spear through it. That happened again last night: a lesser version of the spear through the heart that was the basement flooding again, but nonetheless I feel like shit anyway. Im really tired of feeling this way. I just want to crawl into a hole and not come out again till its all over. Of course, thats impossible, because the lesson here is that, once again, you cant rely on anybody but yourself, you cant depend on people, people let you down, and theres never anyone to help when it really matters. Sorry, cant sit around waiting for people to decide theyve available again; got to get it done now.
Once again, I feel scraped raw, and paralyzed, and unable to do anything about it. Because its more than I can handle on my own, and I reach for help; but then the proffered help evaporates, and Im left on my own again. Im really tired of this Catch-22, and this recurring cycle of asking and not receiving. It makes one not want to bother to ask anymore. I need help now, dammit, not at everyone elses convenience. Im sick to death of waiting on other people, Im sick to death of trusting people who turn out to be faithless. Ive had enough of that. It makes me not want to bother, not want to ask for help, ever again. Which cycles around the whole problem, again.
The only way out of this that I can see right now is just to burn it all down and disappear.
801. 29 April 2008, Beloit, WI
I slept deeply and well, despite the as yet strange environs. I jerked awake suddenly, though, as I have been doing lately, unable to get back to sleep. I lay in the warm blankets and thought about things, though. I havent turned up the heat very high as yet, and I havent brought over a lot of bedding yet, either; so the cool mornings weve been having this past week or so make it a little chilly here this morning. But I dont mind. It feels good to be here, this morning. It does feel like camping out, because of the cool, and also because of the need to get going sooner rather than later. Ill have my first shower here, and some orange juice, then I need to go over to the other house before driving to Milwaukee, to see if there are any messages.
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