"The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the teacup opens A lane to the land of the dead."

-W.H. Auden

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Vespers

After last week's grim visit to the eastward road, I found myself unsettled in a way I could not shake. The place had got into my bones, like a sickness does. The sense of dread grew and grew. Everything felt bad. I began to wonder if my life had any purpose besides fear and sorrow.

Yesterday, I realized I'd had enough. It had to stop. I longed for something, a piece of magic, some undeniable sign that a universe existed beyond this mood.

If a landscape had got me into this, it made sense that a landscape might get me out. I decided to go west this time. Things had always felt a bit friendlier out there. Maybe I could have a chat with the Genius Loci while I was as it. Ask if there was any meaning left in the world.
It was nearly as cold and no less cloudy than it was on the 20th, but somehow the light in that direction looked golden and warm. Perhaps it was a good sign. It was nearly sunset, though, so whatever I'd meant to do must be done quickly. Remote country roads are not the best place to be after dark.

I took a right and headed out on my journey. I wasn't sure how far I was going, but figured I'd know when I got there.
There was a time when this road was almost as familiar as my own. Childhood friends lived here once. Old signs still marked the place of lovers' meetings. But that was long ago, and the memories of it squeezed my heart. So much time passed, so many people gone. There's a certain loneliness that comes to a tourist spot when the season is over, a sort of silence, and this road is no exception.

In all the times I'd come, there is one day that stands out in my mind. It was all autumn silence then, too, the mist, the color, the leaves and the rocks. Even the river was hushed. I was suffering a broken heart that day, the kind that never really mends. The radio was playing Peter Murphy's Cuts You Up and suddenly it all made sense. A haunted hour and a haunting song. I'd never forgotten it.
This came to mind as I was driving, that teenage heartsick ache. Time seemed to slide out from under me. I didn't intend to be maudlin, but suddenly I was desperate to hear that song again. It was the right sort of day for it. But unless I could call music from the air, it wasn't likely to happen. 30 year old alt-rock doesn't have much place on the radio.

At the fork in the road, I took another right. Here was the stone gate at the first crossing, marking where Susan used to live. There was the winding drive that once lead to Melissa's home. We used to hang out there, Missy and Teal and me. We'd sit on the river bank, the canyon echoing laughter.
I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. The whole point in coming here had been to quietly listen to the landscape, but the further I drove, the more I was stricken with old memories - this house, that cliff, that bend in the road. I was losing the thread.

The sun was going down. I pulled into a gravel lay-by to park and walked down to the water. As I did, the red leaf of a sycamore floated down and seemed to hover motionless in front of me far longer than it should have. I thought, well, then, this must be the place.
 
I sat and listened, and watched the sunset colors on the water. All was peaceful. I saw no visions nor heard any voices, only the sound of the river. Still, I did not feel alone. Then somehow I knew it was time to go, so I got up and -somewhat regretful to leave - went back to the car.

When I got in, I don't have to tell you what song was playing on the radio, do I? That it was Cuts You Up by Peter Murphy? Because of course it was, and you may have seen it coming but it was an complete and utter shock to me. And that's how I knew, with absolute certainty, that my strange, silent prayer for meaning had been heard.

Maybe it seems like a little thing, but it was much more than enough. 

Sometimes it's enough to know that someone is listening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Landscape Dreams Uneasy

It's that time of year when the horrors begin to creep. Not the thrill of Halloween or the romance of falling leaves, but the cold landscape sleeping.

If you can call it sleep.

You can feel trouble gathering out here in the country, between the lowering skies and the rocks that jut out like bones. It's not personal, it's just November, and the Goddess of Thorns will not make it easy.
In the cities, it's safer. All those people and the lights and the shops. You can ignore the hostility that seethes beneath the surface, the landscape that wants rid of you.
It's tired. It's had enough. If you listen closely, you can almost hear it moan. It's not personal. You mustn't think I haven't tried to be friends. But I was born here - I know it like my the back of my hand.

The bleached grass, the bone chill, the grim specter of the sleeping land.
It always makes me sick to my stomach, this feeling. It gives me the cold grue and no mistake. Yet I tried not to fight it today, tried to see what it would teach me.

In my mind, I could see miles of limestone and windblown earth, swept by overwhelming dread.

I never did like the sight of those hills in the distance.
There are certain cold days when the clouds are low and the atmosphere wraps you like a blanket, safe from the landscape's uneasy dreams. But not today. Most definitely not today.
Days like today are the thorns and spines and psychic wounds that come with the dying of the year.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Black Madonna

After this week's frost, as I sat watching my usual patch of woods, I saw the suggestion of a dark figure watching back.

I can only hope she means well.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Gravity Wave

Things that make me happy:

The fact that one morning above a baseball field in Iowa, a weather cam captured these marvelous clouds.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Web of November

The other morning, I dreamt the town was covered in spiderwebs, including a massive one in the sky.  This was a good dream, which is a bit of a surprise. I'm not the biggest fan of spiders.

After reading up on it, I understood a bit better. A spiderweb can be a sign of creation and self-determination. After all, the spider creates the web under its own power. Which is something I'd been thinking about, one way or another. How much I act versus how much I'm simply reacting to others.

Spoiler alert: not enough and way too much.

And of course there is also Indra's Web. Or maybe there is only Indra's Web. Who knows?

The months of November and December are always difficult ones, and this autumn is determined to be nothing but rain and fog. The only thing to do is keep walking.

In the meantime, I think about making my own web, weaving thoughts and actions into something useful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Phantom Arrives Upon A Storm

Another attempt to illustrate a dream.

Autumn, 1990. Not long before Halloween. I dreamed that I was walking to the mailbox at the end of our road. It was after 6 and the air was violet. Night was about to fall.

A fierce wind kicked up and blew my hair all around. I paused at the corner where our street met the main road and looked out toward the horizon. A storm was approaching from the west. I shivered. The wind was cold.

The sky was darkening by the second, but I didn't move. There was an ominous feeling, and as I looked at the clouds I knew that there were things in them, strange and otherworldly things moving in with the weather.

"The phantom arrives upon the storm"  I said, to no one in particular. The wind began to howl.

When I woke up, a cold wind was battering my windows. I wondered (still wonder, really) if the phantom hadn't arrived after all.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Small Solace

It's October now, but the Summer of Ill Luck refuses to give up its bony grasp. My brother is in the hospital, in intensive care. Despite seeming perfectly fine on Saturday, by Monday he was on a ventilator, suffering multiple serious conditions. There's no knowing at this point if he will recover.

This of course has been distressing to the family, my youngest not the least, and it's causing him to act out. And then there is my mother, whose state of mind is not good. And there's my spouse's health, and my teenager's moods, and the bills to pay and those other fears I never talk about. This leaves me in the position where I often find myself - having to prioritize my worries.

It's a crappy state of affairs when you have to decide what scary thing to focus on first.

Crappy, but hardly new.

In times like these, I find myself I find myself running the same old internet search - how to find solace in times of trouble. The results are always the same, too - references to Bible verses or comfort food. Being a chronic dieter who went to Christian school, these things leave me more than cold. They leave me feeling hopeless and alone.

So the internet having let me down, I turn back the way I always have, to the small, seemingly meaningless things that tie me to the material world.

The sound of a branch tapping in the wind. The red light on the radio tower that blinks all night. The hum of the power lines, or scratch of dry leaves on the ground.

I'm not the only one who finds comfort in such things. My friend and I used to intone "the strawberries, the bowl of milk" ala the Seventh Seal, knowing that it wasn't about the strawberries or the milk, but the solace of simple objects during the dark night of the soul. The focus on the thing that is not your despair.

We all have our ways, I suppose. My cousin watches the original Planet of the Apes whenever she feels desperate. I prefer that episode of Doctor Who, Partners in Crime. Grandpa Wilf at his allotment, always watching the sky. But to each their own.

There are things I like to think about.

I like that the Vatican has an observatory, and that the time and date website thinks, for some reasons, that I am in a town 20 miles away. The sight of moths fluttering in the lamplight, and hot tea after midnight. Taillights receding into the distance. Weather reports for small towns. Articles about gardening. The knowledge that the road stretches beyond the horizon.

All together, it makes a sort of sacred space, albeit it a strange one, full of the most ordinary things. The strawberries. The bowl of milk.

Ordinary, but still sacred. The small solace, the respite, however brief, from the suffering of existence.

update - In the several days it's taken to write this post, my brother's condition has improved and it looks like he will live, though he will need major surgery. He's able to communicate enough to complain now, so that at least is normal.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Candy-Colored Carnival

As per local tradition, on the heels of the harvest moon comes the carnival. Aliens seemed to be a theme this year. You know times are tough when people are volunteering to be abducted.
 Glittering neon gears competed with the brilliant sky.
And while we weren't quite lost in the funhouse...
 ...we were quite lost in the mirror maze.
We had corn dogs and funnel cake, and bought a space hopper for the youngin. And then at last we walked back, through the dark streets, past the silent school and the glowing lamps and the dry leaves skidding along the pavement.

And with that we mark another ritual of the turning of the year.

The Doorway to Autumn


Last Monday, as I was standing on the corner waiting for the harvest moon to rise, an otherworldly feeling began to settle over our street. You know the kind of thing. A sense of whispers just out of the range of hearing, the feeling that a door has opened somewhere.

Ah, I thought, the spirit of Autumn moves across the land.

Before long, my spouse drove past on his way to an errand. He rolled down his window and asked - looking very puzzled - if here had been a dog with me just a moment before. I said "no, why do you ask?" He said, "because I could have sworn I saw Bambi standing right next to you."

Bambi, our dog who passed away in August.

I like to think she had come through the doorway to Autumn and stayed with me to watch the moonrise.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Summer Of Ill Luck

The season is coming to an end, and while I try to count my blessings, there's no denying it's been a summer of ill luck. One of those times when things are just wrong.

It started in the spring, really, or maybe even in winter, but it was the summer when this oppressive atmosphere - a sort of emotional miasma, you might call it - reached its fullness and refused to budge. Perhaps it began as early as last year, when the hurricanes hit and so many were left to suffer. In a way, it's felt like hurricane weather ever since.

Whatever the reason, I can sense the stirrings of desperation beneath the roiling uncertainty. The hippies have a term for it - bad vibes.

Which isn't to say there was no beauty, or nothing good. Even hard times offer their moments of softness, if you look closely enough.

Here are a few pictures to (hopefully) prove my point.




There is a quote from Yoko Ono  - "The sky is always there for me, while my life  has been going through many, many changes.When I look up at the sky, it gives me a nice feeling, like looking at an old friend."

This is how I'm trying to think of things. No matter what happens, the sky - one way or another - will always be with us.

In the meantime, we await a happier season.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cosmic Dancer

Being that today is the anniversary of Marc Bolan's death, I was reminded of this odd little T-Rex related synchronicity between my friend Heinrich and me, circa 2004.

For reasons unknown, I'd had the song Cosmic Dancer stuck in my head all day. It's not exactly a radio staple, and it was more than 30 years old by then, but nevertheless there it was.

Later that day, Heinrich came by and we went for a walk. Suddenly he burst out singing Cosmic Dancer - and what's more it was the exact line that had kept running through my mind. I asked him about it and he said "oh, I was listening to that album this morning. Isn't it great?"

It was just a small thing, but a coincidence so vanishingly unlikely that it reminds me that such things may truly be cosmic after all.


image credit: NASA

Monday, September 3, 2018

Ebony Eyes

September third, oh so many years ago. My cousin and me, after my sister's wedding, running and sliding around the polished floors of the reception hall while this song was playing. We've never forgotten it.

Our formal dresses were as tacky as the decor in this video. Such were the ways of the 70's.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Found objects - a glass bottle unearthed from the old family farm, and a wild turkey feather with a golden sheen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

etc.

I'm still despondent over the loss of my dog, so this week's post is simply a list of the best* Led Zeppelin songs.

1. Four Sticks
2. When the Levee Breaks
3. The Immigrant Song
4. Achilles Last Stand
5. Hots On For Nowhere
6. Ramble On
7. The Wanton Song
8. In My Time Of Dying
9. In The Evening
10. Gallows Pole

*Subject to change at a whim
Feel free to argue amongst yourselves.

Rumor has it that my Internet will be returning next week, so Goddess willing, I will be back here, being weird and creepy again before too long.

We'll see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

R.I.P. Bambi, The Goodest Of Good Girls

Bambi taking me for a walk.
After many years of loyal and faithful service as a good girl, our beloved friend Bambi passed away this week after a sudden illness.

She's finally escaped that leash at last.

The world seems so much darker without her.

Monday, August 13, 2018

For Old Time's Sake...

...and to celebrate the most blog posts I've ever made in a single year, here's a picture of the abandoned McCabe-Carruth Funeral home in Victoria, Texas, circa 2003.

It's since been restored and made into offices, which - last I heard - no one will rent for long, because, well...you know.

You may not want to look too closely at those windows, by the way. No telling what might be looking back.

Feathers and Leaves

Just the usual, wandering downtown, watching the wind blow feathers and leaves on a cloudy afternoon.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Forlorn Nightgown

Due to cable problems, I've been without internet service for a while. In the meantime, I've kept myself busy taking pictures of my nightgown flapping forlornly on the line. Of  course. What else would I be doing? 

At the very least it gives the neighbors something to gossip about.

;)

Night Garden

A hummingbird moth flits through the shrubbery at 4 AM. Or maybe it's really a tiny little fairy, who knows. It's cool either way.

Royal Wedding


 In the wee hours of July 29, 1981, crowds had gathered in London to watch the wedding procession of Lady Diana Spencer and the Prince Of Wales. Meanwhile, in the states, I was asleep under the night sky, dreaming of luminous moths in the tall prairie grass.

The image has stayed with me ever since, these unrelated events forever linked in some amorphous fashion.

Occasionally, the mysteries of childhood are fated to remain mysterious.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Twilight Rainbow




Summer twilight, after a storm.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Signs And Symbols

Back in March, I posted about an unnerving dream I'd had. Most of what I wrote then concerned my rather fraught relationship with an old schoolmate who'd appeared in the dream, but in the months since, other elements of the dream have gained prominence. Below, I've excerpted the parts concerning the dream itself. The original post is here.

...


March 31, 2018 

Last night's dream was an unsettling one. Not a nightmare really, but unnerving somehow. I am still unsure what it means.

A winter storm was coming, a blizzard the likes of which we'd never seen. It hadn't arrived yet, but everyone was warned to be prepared. I was at home, alone. Where everyone else had gone I've no idea - it didn't seem to matter. You know how it is in dreams.

I looked around - the house was dark, and not warm, but the walls were sturdy and I figured I'd be all right if I chose to stay. At the same time, I'd had an offer - who knows how it came - from a group of hippies who had set up a tent site on the edge of town. They were nice tents - more like yurts, really, specially insulated and heated - in which to ride out the storm.  There were 200 tents, the hippies said, and they had one for me if I wanted it.

I was doubtful at first. I didn't even know these people, and maybe it was best to keep to myself, but the hippies convinced me it was better not to be alone, especially in a storm like this.

The tents were set up in a field below mission hill, all of them bright white. All the people were dressed in white as well, although there was no obvious reason for this. It occurred to me that when the snow came we'd all be camouflaged, invisible to any predatory eye, though whether this was intentional or not, there is no way to know.

I was shown to my tent, which was indeed very nice, and put on my warm white clothes. I then went out to wander among the people in the field. All of them were strangers, and as usual I was feeling shy. Starting conversations has never been my strong point.

After making a few nodding acquaintances, I was surprised to be introduced to someone I already knew, a woman named Lori.


[...]

I shook [...] Lori's hand and said "I don't know if you remember me." She said, "oh, of course I do" and I replied "well, we have known each other since the age of 7."

Just then, though, my hand began to bleed, ghastly red dripping all over our clean white clothes. I apologized, although I couldn't quite explain it. "It's no problem" Lori was saying, but by then I had noticed that the blood had run into the lines of my palm - the left palm, the lines that mark the potential with which you were born.

That's when I woke up.



...


It was in April that the parent/child separation policy went into effect for migrants on the border, and June when the first tent city/children's detention camp went up in Tornillo, Texas. This has caused an immense amount of distress in the state as well as the country. Indeed, I've had a sick headache just about every day since then. All the same, when I saw the pictures of the tents, I couldn't help but recall the dream. The scenario was different, but the imagery was strikingly similar. 

I found this similarity interesting, but not necessarily relevant, until I learned of all the protest marches being planned. The marchers are requested to wear white. That spooked me a bit. White clothes - was this only a coincidence? Considering this, I became concerned about the final disturbing image in the dream, my spontaneously bleeding palm. 

Today, there was a protest at the capitol, and i happened to see the news footage on TV. There was a banner being carried by some of the marchers - it's the one at the top of the page. It wasn't evident at first glance that it was a small red hand print inside a larger yellow one - it first looked to me like a bleeding palm, outlining the fate lines of the left hand.

I still don't know what to make of this. As a coincidence, it seems vanishingly unlikely. Perhaps these are images that happened to filter back to my psyche from the future, and my dreaming mind folded them into a story. I can't pretend to know. but I confess I am concerned. 

In any case, I expect the road ahead will require courage of us all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Evil Eye

Votive tree
Amulets to ward against the evil eye. I have the feeling we need all we can get.