Monday, August 11, 2014

THE GOLD POCKET WATCH AND THE FLY SWATTER

CHARON’S GIFT

My father-in-law from the country of the dead
sends me a gift, my inheritance:
an envelope stuffed with banknotes,
and a purse burdened with coins.

The banknotes rustle in sepia
scrolled in Cyrillic alphabet.
Maybe it’s Tzarist rubles,
or money from beyond

the ghetto of time.
See, he gives it back:
his passage to America,
the slaughterhouses of Chicago.

I weigh the purse in my hands,
afraid to look inside:
whose face
will be on those coins?

Still the coins should be worth
the trouble of dying —
even coppers dropped
into the blind pools of beggars’ caps.

Pa, the old miser, starting with a crate
of horseradish hawked
on a street corner in Milwaukee —
From his butcher shop he kept

the tall white scale to weigh the souls.
Those too heavy with regret
are hung from meat hooks to forget
that bundle of love letters

before they married someone else.
Those too light from thinking life
is a joke
are pressed with stone like sauerkraut.
With frost-red fingers he taps the coins:

“The best deal in town —
you can have these for a song,”
he says, hoarder and herder,
his voice cracked

with millennia of hardship
and drink, worn out
with the passage from shore to shore.
And all our faces on those coins —

see, he gives them back:
each coin the story of a life.

~ Oriana © 2014





 


Ah, the stranger-than-fiction stories of our lives . . .  But how would we summarize them? I pondered this question as I viewed the stern command of a writing exercise:

SUMMARIZE YOUR LIFE IN TWO OR THREE SENTENCES

Need I say that I went on for pages and pages? I’d write one short paragraph, but soon see a new one bubble up like a golden koi to the surface of my mind. Everything depended on the point of view. Should I present myself as a recovering Catholic or a recovered depressive? An immigrant recovering from the bitterness and the immigrant trauma of which most people know nothing: the loss of the familiar? Or should I rather present myself an achiever dropping ambition in favor of unbridled hedonism (even in the best-case scenario, there are no restaurants in heaven)? A reluctant convert from poetry to prose, and much happier for it? One way or another, it’s a story of liberation.

Or the story of disappointment. It’s funny when it’s not tragic, the way all my expectations, big and small, have been pulverized by the wrecking ball of reality. Sometimes the reality turned out to be larger and more interesting than the fantasy. Sometimes only shattering.

But, unexpectedly after so much shattering, the fulfillment of one dream: a big house all to myself, filled with art and beautiful plants.

Which more accurately summarizes my life: the shattering of dreams, or the fulfillment of dreams? My life as a story of disappointment or a story of liberation? Apparently both.

DRAMATIC CHANGE is one central theme; A SHIFT TOWARD OPPOSITES (Jung would like that — enantiodromia — typical of the “second half of life”). From ambition to hedonism, from living for the future to living for the now; from poetry to prose (a more spacious and permissive medium), from tormenting myself to nurturing myself; from religion to atheism and thus from pie in the sky to trying to create a micro-paradise here, in my patio.

Let me try again. My life revolves around two extremes: dramatic change and invariable stability. On the one hand there is a devout Catholic becoming an outspoken atheist and a chronic depressive turning into an unbridled hedonist (by my own intellectually promiscuous definition). On the other hand, there is invariant stability since childhood in my love of reading and learning, and love of beauty and the desire to create beauty — only the outlets have changed (latest: beautiful plants — the return of coleus, the arrival of rex begonias).

I realize that someone could say that Catholic versus atheist isn't really an opposition, just two sides of a coin: my capacity for a whole-hearted dedication to any ideal. The "coin" is my passionate intensity, easily subverted by the Catholic cult of suffering (“god sends suffering to those he loves” — oh yeah?) But the depressive to hedonist shift cannot be subsumed that way: it took a life-changing insight (and it also took an insight to make me step out of the medieval stench of the church into fresh springtime air -- it's one of the most beautiful memories of my life).

Insight: perhaps my intellect saved me after all — from my misdirected, passionate intensity. But then even my rationality is fervent.

So what is it: dramatic change or astonishing stability? Apparently both. 


*

Since I already mentioned Jung, I might as well quote what he said at the end of his life: “I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all those things at once and cannot add up the sum.”

And since I'm in the mood for quotations, there is of course dear old Heraclitus, who saw the battle of opposites everywhere: Polemos pater panton ~ contradiction begets everything.




TWO OBJECTS OF GREAT VALUE

Such, then, is the morass of trying to summarize oneself using abstractions. The wisdom of imaginative writers is the use of images instead.

I’ve inherited two antique objects of great value: my father-in-law’s gold pocket-watch, which I keep next to my computer as an amulet, and a plastic fly swatter.

The watch doesn’t work; the fly swatter does.

The watch is 14-carat gold, monogrammed, embossed with art-nouveau flowers and a butterfly with delicate antennae. “I could sell it for you,” C said — so typical of him. But I want to keep it. If I bought a matching gold chain, I could wear it as an unusual pendant. But would I really want to wear  it as a pendant? No. I pick it up now and then and fondle it, a yet undiagnosed form  of deviance.

The fly swatter, on the other hand, which probably cost a dollar or so when bought some decades ago, works beyond expectation. The wire handle is the perfect length; the swatting part curves at just the right angle to deliver a deadly slap. You could say it’s over-engineered.

It’s a product of the Laidlow Corporation in Metropolis, Illinois. Metropolis, IL has a population of 2,000. There is something incredibly American about this little town being named Metropolis — in all earnestness, I believe. It’s part of the pioneer tradition to use grandiose names like “Olympus Drive” or “National City” (which isn’t even a city).

Metropolis, IL has a statue of Superman as its main civic monument, and the Superman Museum, since Superman was said to come from a city called Metropolis. 

But I digress. It’s likely that fly-swatter manufacture is no longer the leading industry in Metropolis. Much of the population lives below the poverty level. The Superman Museum, devoted to a fictional character and pretending that this is the Metropolis where the Man of Steel was born, is the only attraction. A fake hometown of a successful figment of the human imagination — oh weep for Metropolis.

Of course the real weeping should be for the millions killed in the name of this or that figment of the imagination believed by “the faithful” to be the one true god.

*

Now, I don’t mind the slow buzz of two or three flies making their overpasses, delighting me with unexpected harmonizing. But four is a crowd, and one is, for some reason, unbearable. 



Ah, and the aerial combat, followed by the survival of the fittest. And then the last mad waltz of the lone survivor, the last buzz.


Wait! The following day, as you contemplate the kitchen tile strewn with corpses of flies, the fittest of the fittest silently glides by. Yes, silently. This is the newly evolved stealth fly that has learned to hide well and fly low without buzzing. How can a fly fly without buzzing? Doesn’t it use a simple on-off rotary micro-motor that causes inevitable buzzing? Don’t ask. All I offer is personal testimony: the stealth fly exists, I have seen it and failed to annihilate it.

I’ve even written a poem praising flies, and I suspect it’s the only such poem in the both the known and unknown universe:

IN DEFENSE OF FLIES

What I miss in screen-shuttered
America is flies. The blue harmonies
of their companionable buzz.
Iridescent, dung-loving
and pear-loving flies,
gemlike in sapphire richness. 

Flies are not mosquitoes —
they do not whine like the Furies.
They do not bite. A slow fly
on a Sunday afternoon
is a
Symbolist masterpiece, 
a perfection of provincial boredom.

Flies walking around the great sad eyes
of horses and cows: one of the most soulful
sights on earth. The flies’ own
fabulous eyes —thousands of facets,
tens of thousands — a fly
is a kaleidoscope with wings.

And is there a child
whose heart does not leap up
when she beholds a fly
marching straight up a wall,
then upside down on the ceiling —
or flies like planets inside a lamp shade?

Dear Teacher: When we get rid of
flies, children develop asthma.

~ Oriana © 2014




In spite of this tribute, I’ve become a skilled user of my humble fly swatter, my only weapon of mass destruction.

Which object is of greater value? Utilitarian Reader, I see you shamelessly raise your hand to vote for the fly swatter. And, Capitalist Reader, I hear you offering to sell the watch for me — maybe ten years from now, when the price of gold hits a new high and the watch is one hundred years old — or more.

But the only truth is that I need both the watch and the fly swatter. A woman doesn’t live by gold alone — nor by a plastic fly swatter in its brief glory of slap-slap, then sagging in a kitchen corner.

As for the symbolism of the pocket watch — it’s beautiful but it doesn’t work — I don’t see it as negative. My watch is timeless.




 


PS: A DEAL WITH GOD
 
“My gold pocket watch is unique,” I said to C. “There is none like it in the world. I would never sell it for money.” “But,” I continued, “if it were possible to make a deal with god, then I'd sacrifice the watch in exchange for the Pulitzer Prize.”

“It’s not only the watch that you’d sacrifice,” C replied, “but also the fly swatter.”

“Oh no,” I said. “If I sacrificed both the watch and the fly swatter, I’d want the Nobel Prize.”

##


PPS: THE CHAIN OF GENERATIONS

The fly swatter has been extremely durable, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it last and last: a low-tech classic that has its own class. The pocket watch, needless to say, can last for centuries, and that’s just where a certain melancholy steals in: it has outlasted my father-in-law (how wonderful that he didn’t sell it during the Great Depression); it has outlasted his son; it will outlast me. 


And it's strangely symbolic that I detached the chain. Loosed time from the chain. 

But sometimes I suspect I'd love the tiny seconds hand run around and around. 



I’d love to give it to someone who will treasure it — not only because of the gold and the art-nouveau embossing and monogram, but because of all the history it represents. I can’t imagine anyone treasuring it as much as I do, precisely because I have a sense of history as well as an appreciation of beauty and symbolism. I’d like to meet someone who is in some ways a younger me. I’ve even had the outrageous thought that if I’d found the watch sooner, I would have been spared years of depression. A counter-thought is I found the watch at precisely the right time of my life. It shows me a connection with the stream of time. So much has happened — oceans of grief — yet beauty remains and keeps saving the world.
 

###

WHICH YOU ARE YOU GOING TO BE?

Darlene:

Wonderful dichotomies here. Is this like Freud’s “divided mind”?

 
Oriana:

Freud used the concept to account for resistance to therapy. A part of us wants to be healed, while another part loves the suffering. Popular culture seized on this: the thin person inside the fat one, the miser inside the rich man. The hyper-achiever inside the slacker. The calm wise woman inside the drama queen (oh, hello!). 


What’s going on here? I think it’s competing neural networks. For me the beauty of it is that we are more sane than we think. We know more than we think. It’s a matter of recognizing and reinforcing the preferred networks. For me, this happens in solitude. I must have a complete quiet and respite from social harassment (even if it’s pleasant company) to gain clarity about the great squabbling parliament in my head. If I don’t like the thoughts I hear, I know that opposite one will rise up if I simply remember there is no single, coherent me: a reason to rejoice because then I can decide which me I'm going to be.

But perhaps it’s wrong to be fixated on the self. It’s rather something out there that we connect with. On a shamelessly slim pretext, let me quote this poem:

BEGIN ENIGMATIC


near Lassen Volcanic Park 


In the morning I like not to know


who I am, which me I’m going to be.

One is an artist only for a moment.

The rest is fumbling.

A life of fumbling, 


and how exquisite!

Over the ruddy lava ridge,

jet contrails like a lucent centipede.

“There is no poem,”


a friend announces like a prophet.

“There’s only the delight of failure.
”
Note the lure in “failure.”

Note, at night, the crickets 


around the lily pond,
a field of pulsing love;


the moon like a medallion 


hung in tallest pine.


There is no poem:

there is only the aerial 

moment of divine surprise.


A cat leaps, the soul is found. 


Meaning not self, but beauty.

~ Oriana © 2014




21 comments:

  1. O,
    YOU are wonderful for handling (beautifully) the not-so easy reality-world of buzzing, maddening flies!

    Hello, good to be back. Fall has arrived in the fullness of a morning chill. NM is a glory to behold in all her seasons, (especially for me, the fall lover...did you know it arrives mainly for me?). The leaves are turning yellow to gold soon to be brown soon to be gone, the nakedness of silent winter, then.

    Okay, back to flies and watches. My favorite topics. I have an old silver watch hanging from my light near the computer, too, time stopped at 7:50 (am or pm?) or ten to eight, however I choose to think it. Don't know the history, but love the timelessness of its stubborn hesitation to keep ticking.

    I used to madly and gladly kill flies, the swatter a favorite. Especially when painting, the annoyance simply overtook my calm and I would start a rampage on the colony that lived in the little stone house where I worked (in Italy), I was merciless. Five years later, I let them alone. Why kill them when they are just being themselves? And because they annoy me? Way too self absorbed an attitude for me. But don't get me wrong, I still curse at them, just don't kill them. But then they don't enter in droves into my house, either, because then I might have to pick up the swatter. But where is it? Oh, I don't have one. I was select when I did have one, like you, appreciating the length of the handle, the curve of the net for a perfectly martial kill, like the tennis racket sweet spot on the ball.

    All this to say hello to you and to let you know how joyous it is to read your mind once again and your poetry. LOVE the poem on flies! To a perfection you get it.

    Understand the dichotomous mind. Thank you for that meditation on Freud and the Jung quote.

    Will peruse your site now for more of you.
    Therese

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  2. Oh, just discovered George Meredith, Modern Love, and and a Mexican poet, Jaime Torres Bodet.
    T

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  3. Welcome back, Therese! Thanks for recurring again — like an electromagnetic wave, but capricious rather than bound by the laws of time. Of course it’s only fitting that you too have a timeless watch.

    I could also say that Therese is a refreshing incursion, not an invasion. Normally I can sustain contact with “kindred minds” only for so long — it’s just too intense. The brain can produce only so much voltage.

    Pondering the fly poem, I am suddenly tempted to say, “It’s the 19th century in a Russian novel,/ the characters are talking about the worst/ thing they have done in their lives.” But since I'm keeping it fairly close to a joke, I could only go so far. Am no longer possessed by the writing demon-daimon the way I used to be.

    No sign of autumn here yet. I'm waiting for the first morning mist, then a very subtle scent in the air. In California one has to be very attuned to notice the elusive seasons. But you already know that.

    For the next blog, I am pondering William James on the once-born and the twice-born, the once-born being temperamentally happy and unafraid of divine punishment. And that, I think, is America: hell fires are for others, never for the self.

    I keep my best basil indoors. It’s just too thirsty to fend for itself in the larger world. Once I'm able to drive without pain (I badly injured my GOOD leg, and sitting is painful), I’ll drive to the upscale nurseries in pursuit of the purple basil.

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  4. Capricious, perhaps, won't totally deny it. Most likely not bound by the laws of time, to be sure. Like very much the sound of purple basil. Sorry about your leg.

    Look forward to your post on William James (teacher at one time of Gertrude Stein before she fled to Paris). Just finished Portrait of an Artist, for the third time, but each time I reenter Joyce, my jaw hangs: the economy, like a calligrapher, a few strokes for the painting rather than the impasto of Van Gogh (that 's Faulkner). So I revisit. Ulysses next for like V. Woolf have never been able to get past the first 300 pages, but am now committed to it as my winter read after reading a bio on Nora Barnacle.

    Per the Russian characters, we only have to pick up Brothers K to read of the worst things those characters have done. Still totally enamored by the great D.

    Now where were we, oh yes, purple basil. And fall. And flies. Great to hear you again, O. And the temperamentally happy Americans, unafraid of divine punishment, but we pay a price for that temperament, like denial. Hmmm. Can't wait to read your thoughts on it.

    Anyhow.
    Hear Cal is in a drought, that subtle fall as yet unannounced. I miss the ocean.

    Have yourself (without too much pain in your leg) a beautiful day, O.
    T

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  5. Actually there is already some autumn here, since drought stresses leafy trees. And we have those — sycamores and liquidambar. The leaves are curling, losing their green. It’s just the start.

    Nothing will bring back the cool and moist Polish summers. Those are gone forever, I hear, due to global warming.

    Going to the beautiful Coronado library today, but it won’t be a sit-down browsing orgy, just a quick standing only half-an-hour or so.

    People who strike me as really temperamentally happy are Hispanics more so than white Americans. And no they don’t always have a happy family life. That will be its own section. They know how to live around pain and humiliation, sometimes through joking. My father was good at that.

    I can hardly wait to be recovered. Many plans. Yours in pursuit of the purple basil —

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  6. I checked out the Coronado library online since I have never been there; it is beautiful. I am happiest when at the SF library checking out books and shopping at the co-op, both of which I'll be doing tomorrow. I am really just a girl with a book.

    BTW: How was your non sit-down standing only, non orgy trip? And the leg?

    I agree about the temperament of the Hispanics, happy, but with problems (is there any other way to happiness?). The issue, as I see it in Americans, is that they do not understand tragedy, in the Greek sense. We are much too, 'let's be happy and solve everything with psch 101 classes', which in itself is not problematic if you understand tragedy. What are your thoughts on it, or would you rather save it for the post?

    And so much lost already due to global warming.

    Rereading Faulkner's 'Sanctuary' for my own personal homework for a short story I'm writing (which I started eight years ago and am now onto again). He is a slow starter, then Wham, he introduces Temple and the story flies from there. Intense.

    Off then, and WILL be back, as I am in the shadows, O, as I've mentioned before, lurking, a voyeur, if you will. Yours in pursuit of the next great read!
    T

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  7. November, dear T, November. I have a feeling that I’ll be a sit-down comic by then, and not a stand-up tragic.

    OK, a tragedienne, I suppose, but you know about the parallel construction.

    My strong right knee has been terrific in this ordeal of no functional right thigh. I can stand for a brief while on my right leg. The knee takes over from what the quadriceps used to do.

    Am saving my tragedy thoughts for the blog. Just one thought: this assumption that everyone goes to paradise, so not to worry, a happy ending. The children killed at Sandyhook — the parents will see them again, right? And in a “better place.” So, no long-term tragedy. No need to reform gun laws or mental health. See you in heaven!

    Which, for me, is November and beyond.

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  8. I love that, O: a sit-down comic and not a stand-up tragic.

    It's to do with Fate. It seems in the modern western world we are so far from understanding a sense of Fate, so tragedy is beyond comprehension. In Homer's world we are asked to accept the gods having their way with Helen, Ulysses and so on. There is no huge 'why is this happening to me' clause, it is what it is.

    Won't say more than that because it's a huge dialog, but I trust YOU are going to do this entire topic justice, as you are very much more well read than I (seriously).

    Can't wait.
    How is the purple basil hunt going?
    T

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  10. Today — oh, there is no conveying the triumph! — I managed to put a sock on my right foot. On the first try! It was slow and painful, but not excruciatingly painful. Not a howling kind of pain and falling back on the bed in the sweat of agony. I'm progressing by the day. Sitting remains uncomfortable — but again, not excruciatingly painful as at first. I can finally type two-buttocked posts, as long as the cushion is thick enough, and I don’t sit too long on that swollen right thigh.

    First thing this morning I chanced to read “Lasciate ogni speranza” and was seized with a terrible lust to learn Italian. Nearby Southwestern College has a beginning class. But do I even belong in a class? I learn languages, especially Romance languages, in a voracious gifted child manner — poetry and opera. Italian has more richness than Spanish (except for Borges).

    Well, we’ll see if the lust persists. The lust is more general, for enlarging my life. But maybe not by branching out into the new but rather building on what’s already there. Alas, I have to think in terms of mortality: how much time left, and how best to use it.

    There is also the huge Q of knee replacement. Surely in November I’ll be more mobile and can see an ortho. I’d love to be able to take long walks again. I'm not asking for being able to hike in the mountains: that’s probably expecting too much. And I'm mindful that the surgery, if I am even a candidate, has a certain mortality rate: blood clots. The recovery is nasty, I know.

    Pursuit of the purple basil awaits cooler weather (especially after this sudden influx of Florida-like wet heat due to the hurricane in the south of Baja), along with more comfortable sitting that would permit longer drives. The gods must be willing, or what you call fate — all that we can’t control. The gods as trauma as well as luck.

    But my blog will not be about fate. It will be mainly about William James and the “once-born” who think that god is good and that they are innately good too — not about fate, and certainly not fate in the sense of predestination. We live in a probabilistic universe. Fate will be mentioned in the sense of circumstances rather than blaming oneself. The gods having their sport with us, or god’s wager with Ha-Shatan? That’s in other posts. For now no Jung, no theology.

    I still keep dreaming of seeing a comment from you on my Facebook page so I could include you in the Poetry Salon. It’s awkward and restrictive to communicate via the blog, and others aren’t really gaining the benefit of your comments on a variety of subjects. Here you are, a woman capable of much more than posting pictures of cats, a woman with a rich mind . . . Such women are needed.

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  11. O,

    Perhaps one day I will take the plunge with Facebook, and I apologize for the awkwardness for you with this kind of communication however much I gain. I suppose it's selfish of me and yet I cannot seem to make the leap. Forgive me my weak spot.

    I am a woman of deep passions and need to live with limited distractions or I am troubled and get not the work done that needs to get done. One day we will meet because I would rather attend a poetry salon where you would be, than the virtual world of engagement. I want/need eye contact, the exquisite exchange of energy from a living, breathing body before me. I am essentially Erotic in the grand sense of that word, needing to feel the 'other'. Not very modern of me, and too intense for most, but I am not lonely or alone for those I do interact with give me that sustenance. They are few.

    I am a dreamer, so realize this is slim pickins' (meeting you and talking poetry in a non-virtual salon) and most likely won't happen. And yet.

    I live with limitations that ask my life for what is most essential. Living with MS has taught me the grand lesson of harnessing Time, like you said, because of mortality, only so many minutes, days, months, years. At 53yrs old, I cherish this lesson like never before.

    I'm so happy there is progress and less pain with the leg! (Worth an exclamation). And Italian is, for me, the most beautiful language to live inside of and loved learning it while living there (not nearly as fluent as I would like to be) but because I did live there my pronunciation is good, even fooled most Italians who thought I was Italian (am dark and mom was born in Cairo, Egypt, so it's close enough). "Leave every hope." Where did you find this?

    And I give English lessons on Skype to ongoing students in Italy (friends). They hold the $$ for me there in the case I return sometime, soon, hopefully.

    To bed now with Faulkner (although he was probably a lousy lover...haha).

    Un abbraccio forte e spero che ci sentiamo,
    Thereza

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  13. I used to have the same fear of becoming scattered — Facebook is notoriously addictive, and for the most part it IS a waste of time. Then you discover a few people whose pages are worth visiting. Once you learn to be selective, Facebook can be enriching. You could dip your toes and give it a limited trial. On the other hand, given that you are also dealing with MS (can you walk? do you end up in the hospital now and then? ~ no need to answer if you’d rather not), I understand that you want to be especially careful with your time. It is the greatest wealth we have.

    Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate is the famous inscription over the gates of the Inferno (Dante, Canto III, line 9). It’s as famous as the opening tercet:

    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.

    I have a poem inspired by the first line:

    NEL MEZZO DEL CAMMIN

    The dark forest doesn’t frighten me.
    How tenderly they touch me,
    sudden fingers of ferns;
    what a shelter of mercy,
    dappled softness of cedar and pine.

    But this is California: what forest?
    Wet wilderness of horizon in the west.
    Across the waves’ black sheen,
    Venus lays a slender path of light,
    making love with the ocean as if

    Logos and Eros were one.
    A man wobbles out of
    Jack O’Hearts Saloon,
    and begs, Give me a smile.
    Just one little smile.

    Next time I will give him
    that smile. Stop saving it
    for the Right Person.
    I will even blow him a kiss.
    Because more and more I hear

    that whisper hidden in the wind,
    unquiet like the rustling of the leaves
    and palm fronds rasping,
    clapping before before a storm: my God,
    how much longer have I got?

    And the whisper keeps growing louder each year: what is essential? what is important? And what has to be done, regardless, a chore, an unavoidable drain of time — but the IRS, for instance, has its own priorities? And the stomach starts angry growling if not fed . . .

    As you probably know, Thérèse is French; the Italian version is Teresa. It also happens to be the Polish version of the name, my mother’s and my own confirmation name (for whatever it’s worth — two atheists briefly infatuated with the Little Flower). It would be a pleasure for me to call you Teresa, but I feel I need your permission.

    Italian sounds like a voluptuous pleasure, always evocative of la dolce vita. That they could even come up with the phrase shows what heretics they were. Oh, by the way, have you seen La Grande Belleza? Flawed by gorgeous. It made me think: that’s precisely what I want in life: la grande belleza.

    Am contemplating a red hibiscus in front of the living-room window. Already have a gold one. And annuals are, ultimately, too symbolic.

    Abbracci, O

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  14. Will write longer soon but burst out laughing at "Italian sounds like a voluptuous pleasure, always evocative of la dolce vita. That they could even come up with the phrase shows what heretics they were." So true! And they still are heretics, living side by side with the Pope and living however they damn well please.....nothing like a little heresy to keep life fresh.

    When I read Dante the Italian is on the left page and I glance at the words and phrases to keep learning. I just mentioned to a friend today that we should learn Latin together (he speaks fluent Spanish).

    My mother's name was Celeste (she passed in 2005) and went to all French schools in Cairo, and my father was a French and Latin professor---he too has passed). I was named after 'the little flower' so smiled when I read that, my name spelled exactly like hers on my birth certificate, accents and all, both parents devout Catholics, so we all were named after saints (five of us). I still have a halo at 53 (haha). And I loved being called Teresa while living in Italy, so please, if ever we speak, you have my permission. I signed off Thereza because I'm attached to the h in my name and made a hybrid.

    Thank you for asking about MS. I am quite ambulatory, doing very well, no hospitals for me except when I had my one and only (want to keep it that way!) huge relapse in '09 in Italy and then ended up in a clinic in Bologna with a very fine neurologist and was on cortisone for a few days. It worked. And five years later I have only slight imbalance issues and cannot take long walks (tough for someone like me who used to run marathons). No regrets, O, no self-pity in my corner of the world, only a joyful, soulful melancholic with a smile on her face.
    I have been living with MS nearly eighteen years and am grateful I live with such wellness through diet and
    exercise (I have an elliptical, weights etc) don't take the drugs, never have, and no compromising in any corner of my soul, as much as is possible, which keeps me from internalizing stress and staying as centered as I can even when s--- hits the fan.

    I wrote, well, I hesitate to call it a poem because I am no poet, but let us say essay-type poem, called "Unmanageable Beauty" and here is the link if you would wish to read it (was published in an online journal):
    http://yjhm.yale.edu/poetry/twolfe20110520.htm

    Now back to your poem and rich mind. Someday I make dip my toes, like I do when I enter a lake, never taking a full immediate plunge, always warming up to the water on the shore. So may it be with FB...qui sa.
    Thereza

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  15. Thank you for sharing the moving poem. I'm so glad Daniel was there for you.

    18 years with MS, including that terrible year. I've also been watching The Roosevelts and their extraordinary personal misfortunes. The amazing endurance. Words are not adequate.

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  16. Good morning, O,

    I really like your poem, and as all your poems, the more I read it the more it quietly grows inside me.

    That the forest is a "what a shelter of mercy" is exquisite.

    "But this is California: what forest?" a great sudden turn, like in music, in your poem.


    Logos and Eros were one.
    A man wobbles out of
    Jack O’Hearts Saloon,
    and begs, Give me a smile.
    Just one little smile.

    And yet another sudden turn, towards tenderness, towards the same mercy your forest gave you. Really beautiful.

    "Stop saving it
    for the Right Person."

    Indeed.
    Reminds me that there is not 'right time', 'right person' and so on. We could wait a lifetime and not live.

    *
    Yes, I am grateful forever that Daniel was there for me in the face of such adversity.

    Don't know anything about the Roosevelt, but don't have to look far to see the amazing endurance in the
    the world, i.e. Syria and so on.

    A great chill this morning, hedging ever nearer to the silence of winter.
    T


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  17. Ah, T, how I envy you that “great chill” in the morning. You know California, so you probably remember that our September is usually hotter than our June. And we never get the “silence of winter” — here winter is the season of life, though diminished now because of the drought.

    What I welcome most is the greater energy I feel every time the weather starts getting cooler, and there is that wonderful scent of autumn — however subtle in these parts. Yes, the leaves are turning, especially liquidambar. The sycamore leaves are already shriveled and dry.

    The new blog is emerging. As usual, I have to fight the tendency to put too much in — in this case, a section on Blake. No, no, no — I want to stick to William James. I won’t even go into “fate.” It seems my cup always runneth over.

    The bliss of the coming coolness and overcast means health to me, and an expansion of activities. There is so much I want to do. “Energy is eternal delight.”

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  18. PS: Sad news: The fly swatter broke while I was trying to execute a “new-wave” fly. I had to reach for a book. It happened to be “God Is a Trauma.” Just now I executed another fly, and the handiest book — I am not making this up — turned out to be Eavan Boland’s “In a Time of Violence.”

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  19. I am on the floor laughing! especially those titles!!! YOU are too hilarious, O. Thanks for brightening my day. But did you have to clean the book covers?

    Can't wait for your new post. I know, me too, on so much 'we' want to do', echoing 'Energy is eternal delight'...that is my feeling exactly, my personal motto. All seems to come down to energy, and what I would call 'vital' energy, hence a careful diet of no sugar, which zaps vital energy (adrenals et al). I can say in all sincerity that I am never sick, and I know that's diet (but what irony that I live with a disease!...but living well, or in wellness).

    My sad news: The chill of this fine morning did not last. Stepped out to add water to the bird bath and it must be 90 out...yuk. Can't even go to our small-town farmer's market this afternoon it's so warm. My house is straw bale so is nice and cool, thankfully. And yes, I do remember Sept in California, but then there was the ocean. Oh, the ocean.

    Good news: Will be in this year's 33rd annual art studio tour (Nov 1-2). Not showing out of my house yet, but will show a few works in the old mission building in town.

    I'm staying tuned for more O!
    Teresa (I can let go the h for you).

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  20. Cara Teresa,

    Molto grazie for dropping the H for me! Teresa as in tesoro.

    Meanwhile there is a leak — or at least my neighbor tells me I have a leak . . . And I was thinking how rough it is on a woman, and would it be worth it to live with a man . . . I quickly came to my senses with these two resolutions 1) no man is worth the trouble 2) I don’t need a domestic partner; I need a reliable handyman.

    My most recent one disappeared almost as soon as he appeared; a neighbor sighed and said, “That’s how handymen are. They disappear.” And the one before the escape artist was just too windy. I have another reference, and I mustn't delay. So much for plans to dedicate myself to art, much as I’d love to deal only with ideas and beauty.

    The new blog is almost ready. O

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  21. Oh yes, the old handy man/domestic partner mix up...glad you came to your senses. I live on my landlord's farm so they are here immediately I need them. Daniel is handy but lives in Santa Fe (we've been separated two years).

    I came to the disturbing conclusion that I am going to have to start a FB page for my book...you know, develop a platform is what everyone wants these days. I am loathe to do it but who knows, knowing my capricious yet slow self I'll probably like it and thrive there.

    My cat shredded a succulent while trying to get to the bottom feeder (Achilles) in my small tank, the little scoundrel feline. Well, out to fix the plant and take advantage of this morning's chill.

    William James where art thou? (No pressure).
    Teresa

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