Ghosts and others

31 05 2010

When I was running yesterday, I saw a woman with red hair, black sunglasses, a black coat and black flats.   She wasn’t young but not particularly old.  One hand was in her pocket the other held a cigarette.  When she carried the cigarette to her lips I wanted to be her–and as I ran by, the cigarette flowed across my path and I breathed in deeply.

Whose is the grave beneath the hill

Were he alive, thy death he’d be

I mention this only because it is strange.  I don’t smoke…and yes I tried cigarettes when I was young, but they never took (I was lucky in that way).  But there was something evoked that I wanted at that moment.

they are born another way

When I was running today, I saw a dead baby robin, very young, fallen from its nest.  For an instant I was inside that curled being–that moment of life before dying.

Wren for women Robin for man

I also saw a crushed snail.  I tried to feel my way inside, but it was hard. And then I did, the slowdeath.  I gave it a petal for remembrance

rosemary is for

And then the flickering black-capped chickadee–full of life and vibrant. And the gigantic tree, her arms stretched and reaching and strong.

I remember

Some of what I am writing here is about ghosts–we all have them, don’t we?  But the rest is about being something.  An excess of empathy.  I’m not sure what the use of this is–I still feel sad, hours later, about that little dead bird–but it’s dead.  Sincerely and fully no longer alive nor subject to suffering.

and they did

and it drowned every one

So, what purpose my feeling it.  Or you feeling it, when you feel this sort of thing. (The whole mirror neuron thing)  None–only to make me, to make you, feel less complacent, I suppose.  Because none of what I feel, the curled sense, falling, crush, is real.  I am writing this but I do not expect you to believe I am writing as the bird, or that I am any closer to understanding the existence of that nestling or that snail.  It is something run amock.

I am no closer to knowing that bird covered in oil, and I feel it on me but I don’t really because I couldn’t possibly get close to feeling it but I still feel sick because of the being inside sort of thing.

Am I living or dead, am I leaves or grass?

There was a crow with a worm; and in another time and place, a hawk carrying a snake across the sky and I found myself inside of each; I found myself separated from each by an abyss.


quotes are by

Lady Charlotte Guest, Francis Ponge, Norman Iles, Natalya Gorbanevskaya


But of course…

24 05 2010

everything really is between the words, or out of the words, or not of the words.

Words threaten what we

Nothing I’ve written in the last two postings (or ever) is the full expression of everything it is meant to be.

The word fishes for something that is not a word.

In writing I come around to what feels like an answer but it is not.  And stepping away, only the errors, or misinterpretations


are what is left.


quotes by Dan Beachy-Quick and Clarice Lispector

Anniversary of Sorts; Addendum

21 05 2010

These actions do not bind me, Arjuna.

A clarification has occurred to me.

I stand apart from them all.

In my discussion of protection against suicide and depression I talked about the fullness of the world–my filling up with the world.  My attachments.

the unwise cling to their actions,/watching for results

Of course, I also mentioned the importance of yoga as a component my own mental health (so to speak).  In some sense, there is a direct opposition between the goals of the sort of yoga I practice (in the practice itself and the texts and teachings I have absorbed).  The goal is to relinquish attachment.  In some forms yoga, that means one dies and is reborn with nothing–becoming a sadhu.

the wise /are free of attachments, and act/for the well-being of the whole world

I have not withdrawn myself.  I am (clearly) not a holy-person.  But, at the same time, I do not think for me that the finding a way of  survival through those parts of the world that inspire love is necessarily mean conflict.  In my life, right now, I can, at moments release attachments within the world of connection that I find myself.  And it becomes not a killing of relationships but a recognition and valuing of the other as something both deeply intertwined with me and utterly independent.  In this way, these things I love people, other animals, plants, sun, sea, etc…exist without the need for me to control any aspects of them.  Those tiny moments where I am able to practice that place of being detached with compassion free me from fear of emotion and action.

Knowing the Self, sustaining/the self by the Self, Arjuna,/kill the difficult-to-conquer/enemy called desire.

He is not bound; yet he neither trembles in fear nor suffers injury.


Quotes are from The Bhagavad Gītā and The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad

Anniversary of Sorts, Just Passed

18 05 2010

But one is lost in any case.  There is no escape

They never ask why build

It was just over 20 years ago that I was admitted to the ICU of a mental health clinic.  I was in ICU for 3 days and then spent 2 weeks in the regular residential clinic before being discharged back to the world.  I returned to school and completed my quarter of science and literature classes as though I had not, a couple weeks before, broken a window and started sawing at my wrists with shards of glass.

subdue this fearful agitation

It’s all more dramatic in text than in actuality.  This is why I’ve prefer not to write about it although the hospital itself and the people (that woman and that woman and that man and the doors) stay in my head, wanting to creep out.   I cannot help but shape the words when the reality was totally banal.  It was a cry for help not even a real attempt–for certainly, had I intended more severity, I would not have screwed around with thick dull pieces of glass.

No deep retreat conceals the soul, you need no knife at all to root it out, no deeply driven wound to find the vital parts

It is only by strange circumstance that I remembered that this year is the 20th anniversary of one of my interludes with insanity. Within the few weeks, I’ve encountered two books and a newspaper article that directly pertain to depression and suicidal ideation (to use the DSM IV term).

1.  Kay Redfield Jamison’s Night Falls Fast, understanding suicide.  The book was $1 at the recent Seattle Friends of the Library Book Sale and I could not help myself.  Jamieson is one of the most perceptive writers, in my opinion, about depression, art and bipolar illness.  I’m in the middle of the book.  It is a good one.

2.  A graphic storybook called Ocean of Despair by Thor Harris, the percussionist for Shearwater (whose album The Golden Archipelago, I just explored in several blogposts).  While this is a very personal book as Harris explicitly details his own severe struggle, it has moments that very clearly express the senses of agitation and active torment that often characterize severe depression when laced with anxiety.

3.  The weekly The Stranger’s cover story about suicide, To Be or Not to Be by Brendan Kiley.  Kiley’s article is a very honest investigation of suicide, including the roots of Christian opposition to suicide (Augustine and the early Church’s concern about the popularity of martyrdom; NOT the Bible), suicide and the elderly, suicide prevention and the concern that actually writing or talking about suicide will cause people to commit suicide.  As is typical with articles in The Stranger there is a heated discussion in the comments following the article online.  These are worth reading because they beautifully illustrate the range of response to the idea of suicide.

I assume it is because I’ve been reading these lately that I’ve been reminded of one period of time where I was in that space where

mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain

and could not still it–sleep, of course, is unavailable, and there is

this almost terrible energy…nothing seems to help

I have stolen the words of other people because I cannot write about it right or correctly and they already have.  The details of this episode (the only in which I’ve ended up in hospital) seem unimportant.  Only that I’ve always been with issues regarding self loathing.  One might explain it with genetics but even more clearly all of the surgeries I had as a child and young adult–all the folks, before I could speak, well meaning I’m sure, that approached me with a soft voice and then cut, or pierced, or squeezed or emerged out of the utterly fearful haze of anesthesia as disembodied voices, as creatures.

a Cleaving in my Mind–/As if my Brain had split

The fact I’d often chosen to cut myself, just a little bit, to let the bad feeling out, is probably not unrelated to the fact that, to cure me, the doctors had to cut me.

Sequences ravelled out of Sound

At any rate.  I’ve moved past this–though I periodically lacerate myself with negative thoughts I don’t actually cut myself.  My family, my husband, my therapy, my meds, my yoga, my babies and just some hard work have all served to bring me to a different place, where I don’t need the knife.

I’ve had other problematic episodes, including one that found me at Emily Dickinson’s gravestone hoping she’d pop up and tell me about perseverance; however, I’ve worked very hard to come to a different (safer) place.  The more hostages to fortune one has, the more compulsion one has to protect oneself in order to protect them.  Having children, especially, will do that. For their sakes, I have no right to go off the deep end so I’d better take my meds and do my yoga and go to therapy if needs be and, if it gets too out of hand, get myself committed so they can take all the dangerous objects away from me.  When a person opens a door on suicide as an option, the door doesn’t close.  However, and I would say this to anyone who has opened that door, one can stopped rebelling against the things that might help keep it away.    It is not a weakness to ask for support–nor is it romantic or strong to try to vanish–I say this because, silly as it seems, the little voice that pops into one’s head at particular times says “weak, weak, vanish, be strong and disappear, everything you know is a lie.”

The thought behind, I strove to join/Unto the thought before

And anyway, what the children do is they make me want to see what is going to happen. And the world makes me want to see what will happen.  The newly excavated hole in the snag in our yard makes me want to see what will happen as well; so do the seedlings that appear to be sunflowers.  And the ocean which is out there.

I know that depression takes all this away, but the more I build it, the more structures I put into play, the more experiences I have inside me that give me this glimpse of life the less likely depression will be successful when when it tries to take everything away.

I should add, with all the work I’ve done, I’ve also been very lucky.

And it has not been like that for others–like Virginia Woolf, like Paul Celan, like [insert name here], and like Walter Benjamin–hostage to bad luck, dead on the French border in the fall of 1940.

My dog looked at me from the darkness.

Trust in the world


It is worth having this wherever it might be seen


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Quotes are by Emily Dickinson, Clarice Lispector, Anne Sexton, Seneca, William Styron, Edgar Allen Poe

The Golden Archipelago, The Dossier–final post

3 05 2010

Before the war we had only the surface

Of the earth and the seas

After it we’ll have the depths

Subterranean and aerial space

Masters of the helm

This will be my final post exploring Shearwater’s The Golden Archipelago.

I saw the first wave

and the flares that fall

This is a good thing.  In the “active doing” of this project I have been neglectful.   I now, at least, understand my compulsion.   Had Shearwater not created the Dossier to accompany the album, I certainly would not have embarked upon this series of explorations.  While I am always inclined to try to interpret lyrics, there is something about a piece of music, a song, an album, that feels closed to my further exploration.  It is a sense of you’ve got to hear it because I cannot describe what music does.

Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.

The  Dossier, on the other hand, when combined with the music, creates an open sort of space.  Now I have somewhere to go.  Of course, I also have somewhere I feel compelled to go.  It may be my age (or not, now that I’m 40 I’m inclined to blame everything on my age) but in order to feel as though I’ve engaged the Dossier, I had to write about it.  To conduct a little research project.

time past time present

present in time future

time future contained

What I wonder does that mean about an album versus and album+dossier?  I would be perfectly happy with the experience of listening to The Golden Archipelago–I think it is a beautiful album.  But now, post exploration of the Dossier, each song seems to crack open a whole series of intersecting (radial) and here I cannot find the right word.  Let’s just say that I cannot listen to the album (and certainly could not experience the recent live show in Seattle) without a sort of racing of images and words and etc.  based not on my own experiences but on my experiences of the experiences of others.

From the Beyond of this earth

I do not like feeling inclined to weep. It makes me annoyed.

oh my

I’m not sure how different this is from the way I’ve interacted with other albums.  Except that, now I’ve completed the mini research, it is somewhat harder/a more intense experience for me to listen to the album than it was before.  Because everything is tied up into so many other things.

There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.

I suppose this is a sort of intellectual version of listening to the same music over and over when one is undergoing some emotionally intense experience–there is no way to listen to the music without it being overlaid with the sense of the, very personal, experience.  Over time, sometimes, one can go back without it being so hard.  But not always

eyes on the waves

and a god below the water line

the last shower of fire wheels

Anyway, because the emotions are less personal, and more generalized–or more intellectual, it is a different thing.  But not entirely.

over the fields

the radial lines

that bind the waking

to the hidden life of  the empire

It has been a strange project because I feel as though I’ve been moving in a partially illuminated darkness–that there are “right” answers, but I’m not sure I’m anywhere near them.  This is, as I’ve mentioned before, because the album and Dossier are based on Jonathan Meiburg’s experiences.  So they are based in actual singular context, but not in the typical “context” with which we can dissect much music (relationships eg. to name an oldie Diamonds and Rust).  Rather, they are based in personal experience of natural and historical contexts.  They are about a single person’s encounter with a variety of the other and the buried history.


Because of all of this, I am both drawn to, and afraid I will misinterpret, the work.

I am life breathed in the radiant lie

god made me

But in doing this project, I’ve experienced the Dossier and the music in a way, for me, impossible otherwise.  I no longer have the sense that I’ve received something that I might experience, but that I cannot quite reach.  I’ve experienced it, in  my own way–personally, with errors and misinterpretations, but experienced, nonetheless.

that dreams of us

down to the waterline

And now that I’ve finished, the water is slick with oil, and everything is still and motionless, until the wind, waves and tide carry it in.  I’d love to move but am anchored to shore, and anyway, there is nowhere to go that won’t suffer from my footsteps.  In my completion, forgive my clumsiness.

You’re so much alone in this lovely world

as for that

you cannot know


Germany, England, Tierra del Fuego, Darwin, Johnny Rook, Pirates of the Air, islands of plastic, seas of petroleum, Krakatoa, Hana, leprosy, nuclear weapons, trench, pathway, cassowary, liana, rainforest, sea, reef, stone, shore, rock, hand, cut, snow, ice, 40, 50, quail, crown, golden, discovery, Plüschow, Victoria, Wilhelm, Bligh, Christian, midway, Midway, Chatham, godhead, stone, rock, shore, reef, sail, sheet, leeward, windward, the foam, the cutting fin, the play, they play, in the dance, in the silent music, in the feather, in my hand, this child, this life

The wanderers came last night

all the time to come

with your arms at your sides


Crape is charmed

hurl your empire’s crown

old lives

something good there was

in how you gazed

wherever men can look at the ocean too

But no one wants to be

in the silence of the islands

the generals’ eyes

Come back from the endless labor

look down on the rolling waves

that strike on the crumbling reef

you who dance in the sun without

stirring the dust

as the body dies

what is left of the heart

burns white

We part with the River at the Flood though

though with the same

Waters we have often played

by gathering the holy light

I shore these fragments

and weather

a castaway life

the rising fear

the hollowness

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable

the lantern

the stars in their moorings

Up the cliff, down, till I’m lonely, lost

you live again

the roaring wall of the eye

sailed to the world

27 September 1940

from an insular life

these are pearls

the sun’s red blooming

that were

the gulls on the frozen ropes

his eyes

lights on the floor

they are gone for life


The sea betrayed countless soldiers

Engulfs my cries

drowned gods

may all things bear a new name

Send back the uniforms

send back the generous reich

28 June 1914

a forever life

1 September 1939

is an infinite lie

28 April 1789

hung wide

14 July 1789


no light on the western shore


no sign of the ships at anchor

ancient fields

slope and rise


sun in our eyes

August 26 1883

rushing of leaves

the straining

dusting of white

till he sees the other side

the horses


blast away

eyes are


stave off suicide


civilian lives

through violence

the changing guards

the grinding away

at their furious marching

gives us back to our lives

turn homeword


If you doubted my Snow—for a moment—

you never will—again—I know

the world blooms for the last time

bandages pulled from the eyes

the bloodstream of heaven and earth

the airstream is under the waves

the heart’s grown brutal from the fare

we need the eyes that can still weep

the glorious brightness of the moon itself!

on the burning river I have started the catalogue,

your world

before it was quite unsheathed from reality

the oceans

explode into invisible steam

make of your

compassion a

crisper instrument, you will need its blade

Fall down, heart, from the tree of time,

With your hand you should have dug into the sandbank

or tied yourself to the cliff with a strand of hair

The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.

may all things bear a new name


Quotes are from Shearwater, Walter Benjamin, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Ingeborg Bachmann, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jorie Graham, Friedrich Hölderlin, Thomas Hardy, William Shakespeare, Dorothy Wordsworth