Tag Archives: winter

Self-Portrait: Mid-Winter

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Self-portrait, oil on canvas paper, Jessica Lakis  (WIP)

I have to light a fire. Every morning I must clean and light a wood stove. Sweeping before and after fire-making.  I empty the soot and ash into a black metal can with a handle and shovel. (Is this what is called a “scuttle?”) I will empty the ash on the compost. I let the dog out with me while I gather the tinder and wood from under the kitchen porch over the basement entrance, where Stan has stacked it.  Hauling the wood up the curving basement stairs, all the stairs curve here, I trip a lot. It’s been below zero C for weeks. I detest the cold. I curse a good deal. Sometimes it’s my Father’s voice mixed with Walter White. “Jessie! Your mind isn’t on what you’re doing.” Fair enough.

After earning the Tom Hanks moment of achieving the early human magic of fire, tea or coffee may now be had. And that’s how about every day has begun for weeks. I place humidifiers and air cleaners to protect my assaulted sinuses and lungs. I long to open the windows. But still I must clean. I have finally begun to realize and actually do what I need to survive this bleak, blear of holidays and the long nothing afterwards.

For weeks I waited for Star Wars. Stan and I made a date of  seeing the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I adore. I even like Rose. She seems closer to me. I tingled to the new connection between Rey and Ben Solo (I suppose that’s what everyone calls Kylo Ren now). It’s unexpected and gorgeous. But a dark and heart-gutting story. Leia’s key role underlines how much I miss her, and will. My champion on screen and off, she’s gone forever. Nevertheless, my bright spot of December unleashes sobbing. I feel as though Star Wars has caught up with current events and the current mood. And I think of what Yoda tells Luke: failure the best teacher is.

Although I am back in therapy, my mood drops. I still had two weeks until Stan’s vacation. I begin to feel lonely and sad. I cry everyday, and every Sunday night sends me into a terror facing the loneliness of the next week when Stan goes back to work. All through the freezing weather and short days. I am tired of telling others that I don’t have the money for presents, so please don’t get me one. Even though Stan and I have permanently sworn off Christmas because we are both unbaptized nonbelievers, and we don’t have children, I am still sad. Like the O’Henry story, but neither of us has hair to sell or an expensive old watch to pawn. We instead spend our gift cards on gifts for each other. Trips to Michael’s! See Star Wars again. We are very happy.

I start recovering myself by doing more. I decide cheese sandwiches is not a healthy diet, and begin working on vegetarian cooking. Cooking in general. And Stan roasts a pork loin and eats it with my cabbage, potatoes and beans the week of the New Year. I shoot the old shithouse on the hill with a 20 gauge on New Year’s eve. I am ashamed that no one had shot the shithouse with a shotgun before. Stan throws M80s. It was dangerous, and fun.

Having found myself utterly without words to express what is happening to me, so I draw. My mother buys me a portable easel with a large, partitioned drawer. She’s also added a large tube of Titanium White, medium, and turpentine. So I begin to oil-paint. And without having used oils or drawn the human form for ages, I obviously attempt a self-portrait. I cannot correct the fractured skull I under-painted.

I start again. I suddenly realize that, better than the small makeup mirror, are selfies I take under the light I want. I suppose I never thought of it because I’m old. I began painting for an hour in the morning and one in the evening, to let the paint dry. The under-painting worked. Suddenly I’m doing classical thin to fat oil. What I learned in college and from my father over years rush back. Every piece of advice. Every admonition. Suddenly, a passable painting emerges from the cheap canvas paper. In the background I paint the design of the carpet at The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. It seems appropriate. I am proud, even seeing the flaws. Soon the crying drops away, and I just paint.

I become a happy hermit again. Oblivious to the problems outside my door. I chuckle at the ridiculous headlines of “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius,” which pops up as Breaking News from the NYT to my inbox. “President Trump declares self “very stable genius.” tee-hee-hee! The anxiety is a bit harder to ditch, but somehow I manage. Black box pinot noir contain four bottles of wine, and cost 22$. I add seltzer, and let myself have one or two in the evenings.  My tongue loosens with Stan, and we communicate and assist each other with each others’ “goals” for the New Year. We play games and “art” together. Talk about improvements to the house.

I lose some of my cool when my Mom texts me, at an inopportune moment, with several times and dates to choose from to see my sister’s show.  I feel hassled and annoyed. And again someone wants to pay for the tickets I cannot afford. The internal drama and stress family issues cause me ensues. Does my sister still hold a grudge over me? Is she simply the same little sister who tortured me between play? My younger sister who convinced me to clean her room for her. Made me feel guilty unless I slept in her bed. And would wait at the top of the steps for me, then jump out and scare me. I was certain I’d find my end at the foot of those long wooden stairs. I get the distinct feeling that I’m someone she calls on a schedule, like a grandmom. I wonder if it’s possible to love without liking. Perhaps I am to her a childhood playmate from whom she has moved on, but calls on birthdays. But she never speaks of it to me, so I don’t know. My Mother wants to keep us together as a family.

That drama still ongoing, I have fitful desires to go outside because the temperature is just above freezing. I enjoy being the local hermit again. I race Abbey down the lane because it’s too cold to walk. And then there’s my four sets of curving stairs. One second floor bathroom. I suppose I’m exercising. I still dance in the morning or whenever I really feel the urge. I stretch to the rhythm of The Smiths. My body commanded to move as though I were leisurely yodeling, or growling and gargling over a sharp, embarrassing and private pain. I add The Pogues. Angrier displaced Irishmen. Infinitely unhappy, but determined to live while they can.

At last, I find myself able to write and paint at once. Something I haven’t done since high school. So, I suppose I’m managing myself better. Perhaps in a few months Scatman Crothers will have to save either Stan or myself. Save us both!

In the meantime, I have a fire to tend.

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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Nobody Told Me

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“Time wounds all Heals.” JL

 

There’d be days like these. Also, nobody told me that adults could get mono. I’ve slept for a week straight. A sleep of oblivion. I am the sleeping dead.

This is that Lenten time of year when we are forced to reflect upon ourselves, but how does one reflect through fever-sweat dreams? My Time is my most precious commodity. But what can I do with Time when I’ve lost why that is so precious? My mental capacity. I cannot think. If I cannot think, I am not…I am not myself at any rate.

All of this upsets me more because of the momentum I had built up in my writing. Gone. I have flashes of thoughts that disappear into a drugged fog. People talk at me, I can’t form a response. I can’t even watch movies.

All I can do is sit here with the soundtrack to Barry Lyndon, watch the snow and rain. There’s a cat on my lap. My dog sleeps. And but for a flute, all is silent.


What a Loverly Daze

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And if I seem a little strange, that’s because I am.

What a daze. What a loverly daze. Another snow today. Not the blizzard angry Thor thunder-snow sort, just a stay in and drink tea in jammies with books day. And, if you’re like me, you couldn’t resist some Smiths and writing in your journal. And if you are like me, well, where have you been? And if you’re not, that’s OK too.

Man, is there anything important or useful that can be done on a day such as this? I can’t imagine what or why you’d want to. I was impressed that I cleaned a bit and wrote a bit. Showered.

The journal writing was good. I can be even more personal, random and meaningless there than anywhere. And yet, that’s where I come from. As far as writing is concerned. My first journal was a Tinkerbell notebook from the 1st grade. I always wanted to write. I always wanted and kept a journal. Look in my Mom’s basement. Look in my wooden chest. A whole life in little bound books.  (*Get those back from Mom.)

And it’s not that my journals are going to rival Samuel Pepys’ or Thoreau’s. But they represent an actual thing I have accomplished. But more importantly, that’s where my voice comes from. I can wriggle through every crease in my mind, process it all, write through the thousands of voices I take in and come out sounding something like myself. And that’s gotta be something. For a writer.

Honestly, voice is key. If you can nail you, you can nail anyone. What more is my voice than a grand amalgam of every voice and influence I’ve ever taken in since I was born? That’s a lot of voices. All of those people, characters, movies, books, the poems and songs, the interwebs.  All condensed and focused through the lens of me.

And while, yes, I might fall into your “journal keeping” stereotype. It’s a thing I’d suggest all writers do. It’s the easiest, least pressure way to just write a little, every day every day every day. And journals don’t all have to be the mole-skin or Red Book of Westmarch type of journal. Go to the dollar store. Use a legal pad. Start a new notebook on your computer, on your phone. Just write. It’s not precious or for posterity. It’s for you.

Have a cup of tea. Play your favorite music. Scribble lines in the margins. Keep your favorite quotes in the pages. Write down something you just heard in a movie or on that TV show. Just put some writing on some paper or pixels. You’ll feel better I swear. Even if better means you just want to wallow. Wallow away. No one’s there to judge.

And if you are like me, then remember, I may wear black on the outside ’cause black is how I feel on the inside, but I have a heck of a time doing it. You know, just being me. Go be you, and choose any color you like.

 

 

 

 

 


I Don’t Want to Go Out

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Never gonna fall

I want to stay in…get things done.

Bowie understands. As usual. And people who love winter can go do their lumberjack and I’m OK thing. Just leave me be. I don’t want to go out. I’m sick and things aren’t getting done that I want to do. I’ve figured out a few things though.

Firstly, my goal of writing an outline in a week was not attainable. I realized this the other day. Someone asked me what was the best way to refine their writing project. So I gave them the old schpiel. Find a few words that describe the basic themes. Words like Love, Revenge, Ambition, Betrayal, Wonder, Coming of Age — the basic stuff we all get: sex, death and all the stuff in between. Fix a genre with one or two sub-categories (sci-fi action/drama). And explain the plot in one or two sentences (A college-kid must decide whether his Uncle killed his father, and struggles with how to react to that knowledge, while tearing the lives around him apart). It’s Jaws meets Terminator. What have you. Basic stuff.

And then it hit me, that I needed a dose of my own medicine on the writing front. I’ve been looking too carefully at the individual parts and the esoteric stuff that I’d lost perspective on my own story, and I need to go back and do this to my tale again.

So, that’s my new focus for this week. Would i’twere so simple. I just can’t seem to feel well. People want me to do stuff and go outside. And as usual, I’m convinced I have walking pneumonia, and I’m slowly dying. But aside from my hypochondria and feeling less sociable than usual (which is never particularly social), I’m becoming less than pleased.

Last year, I put too much on hold because of “life”– not even my own. That made me feel like a good human being for tic. But when my own health took revenge in a bout of bronchitis, I figured I’d outdid the “others” thing. Then there was the holiday we do not mention. And now I’ve gotten back to work, people still want to do stuff like that’s normal in February because they’re insane and my body is in revolt again.

I think the best thing for me to do is stay in my pajamas until April. Going outside makes me sick. Activity gives me asthma attacks. My sinuses don’t like the dry air. So I’m staying in, getting better and getting some things done for me. I just don’t care about going outside. I don’t care about much that isn’t in my sphere of interests on a good day. So, I’m not over-extending what little brain power I have left. Just let me write and play Battlefront and color and leave me be. Also there’s my violin. Jeez, I have a lot to do. How am I’m supposed to take care of outside stuff. I feed myself and my animals. I walk my dog. What else do you want from me world?!

When the spring comes, I will feel better. Although that’s another bad time for the allergies, but I don’t mind it because it’s nice out. I’ll still find ways to ignore people and stuff. But this is what I’m rocking for now. Don’t believe in modern love or winter.

 


Big and Loud

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Just how I like ’em!

Instead of only binge-watching TV series this winter, I have been watching a ton of movies. Which is great. That’s one of the things winter is for right? I got a whole new living room simply in preparation for this winter. I wanted to get snowed in and watch some movies. Score!

Actually, I wondered when BF and I went shopping for TVs if his choice weren’t a bit in the gauche, over-sized way. I’m glad I decided to trust him on that. If you love movies, get a big frickin TV! Duh me.

Anyhow, every time I get a bigger TV, I have to rewatch everything ever again. Well the big ones: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia, The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, Star Wars, Citizen Kane, you get the, uh, picture. And WOW! It’s like seeing the film again for the first time, but better.

You can see all of these wonderful things going on that you maybe never noticed or forgot. I spent a lot of The Shining finding continuity errors in Shelley Duvall’s cigarette, while simultaneously registering the full shock of that vision of horror unfold in all its steadi-cam glory. Watching Kane, I really felt how large and looming a presence the character of Charles Kane truly is. Orson Welles is always shot from below. Or in giant extreme close-ups of his face. The end when he’s looming over Joseph Cotton felt so intimidating in the newspaper room. Xanadu felt vast and empty. And I could just cry over being able to really appreciate the depth of field thing…

Movies are just meant to be on a big screen. That sounds like a tautology, but when I was a kid I was watching pan and scan VHS copies of Star Wars! So this is a big deal. Yes, I did have the opportunity of seeing several re-releases and smaller venue showings of some amazing movies, and of course I remember the agony of the wait between Lord of the Rings movies. But, for most of my life, I’ve experienced some of the best films ever all wrong. Finally I can appreciate the films they were meant to be.

The sound helped too. I finally got to feel that shock-wave of Sauron’s destruction in the prologue of Fellowship of the Ring again. Yeeesss. I was giggling at how cool the Star Wars sound effects truly are. And 2001 has awesome sound design! I never knew this! Blew my mind to hear it properly . . . for the first time! It’s sad that I didn’t know this. But now I got to experience it. I’m just grateful. It’s like touching god for a film geek.

Personally, I think TV ruined film for a long time. Visually and technically marvelous films gave way to smaller, less imaginative films due to the technological limitations of home entertainment. But now that just about anyone can appreciate the true intention of films with stunning audio/visual at home, that has effected new movies. Since Interstellar, The Martian, Inside Out, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mad Max: Fury Road can be appreciated just as well, if not in some manner better, on a TV screen, I’d imagine that has an effect on what movies are getting made. Can’t hurt Star Wars. Heck, they could just re-release the Original Trilogy WITHOUT the later “special” effects added over the years. I’d buy that along with just about everyone.

But it’s not only spectacle films that benefit, necessarily. Although, that’s definitely happening. Movies with careful cinematography and craft will benefit as well. I’d rather see Woody Allen’s Manhattan in all that glorious black and white on a large screen. Not to mention that score! Birdman, Ex Machina give me this vibe.

Hey, movies are what they are because of the format in which they’re meant to be viewed: BIG and LOUD. That’s why MGM made so much money off of Gone with the Wind. It’s huge and colorful with swelling music and dramatic dialogue delivery. There’s a ton to look at and take it. It’s gorgeous and thrilling, big and loud. You know if you don’t dig that sort of thing, you probably don’t like movies.

Heading into February, I still have a long list of films to watch and re-watch. I gotta through my guys Fellini and Kurosawa. I’m actually really looking forward to one of my personal (and I’m not sure why!) films, Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Ok, I love it because it’s perfect. Everything is perfect. The casting, the tone, the cadence, the production design, the music… the lighting. And I like what it has to say. It also makes me really root for the French Revolution to hurry up and happen.

Anyhow, what have you guys been watching or planning to watch? Now’s the time!

 


JKHOA 2.3 I am Beat

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Albert Camus

Probably ought to have qualified my announcement that I have the Plague. I call any illness plague because I’m really into the plague. It’s true. Goes back to my childhood and my Dad. I remember being about 15 when he threw Camus’ book at me with the statement, “Read this if you want to understand human nature.” (It was a soft-cover.)

He considered himself a “Beat”.  He had returned from Korea and went to art school in the mid-50s, so that was his era. He explained to me that because he could never learn everything, read every book, go everywhere, and do everything in his life, that he was beat from the start. He tried to give me a better shot than he had.

I remember when he’d play music or a movie, he’d shout in his 1st Sergeant way “Listen! Listen! Listen!”,  “Pay attention!” and “Focus!” at the climatic moments of say: Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma or The Beatles’ A Day in the Life, or at that iconic bone to space station cut in 2001. I found it irritating at the time, but I did develop the habit of listening,  paying attention and focus.

The result has been two-fold. First, I learn fast because I’m paying attention. But dear me, it’s never enough. Now I have to learn everything about everything I learn about. But you know what I’ve realized? I’m beat.

One person simply cannot learn, master and do it all. It clutters the “brain attic” and diverts attention. At some point you simply have to accept not knowing, not being the best and not giving a damn. So you have to give up on some aspects of life, the Universe and everything. You have to choose what matters. You cannot care about it all.

In Camus’ The Plague we find characters quarantined in an isolated port town on the edge of North Africa surrounded by only desert and sea. They have limited choices in the face of the hand life has dealt them, bubonic plague (because sometimes life just sucks for no reason).  Some people use the chaos for their own benefit, some have internal limitations that keep them from doing as much as they could, others rage against the unfairness of the situation, some try to keep up appearances. But eventually an odd kinship grows up around a Doctor and a group of misfits who are willing to put themselves out there in whatever capacity they have to fight for the life of their town and its people.

My favorite character is M. Grand. Grand is a low-level civil servant, but the only person still willing to do his job after all the other officials have either fled or died. He keeps all of the statistics by neighborhood, issues necessary permits and generally keeps the town running.  All while continuing his secret labor, working on his great novel. He carefully re-writes its first sentence every day. He tells the Doctor that he’s even gone back to the original Latin roots of words to get at their essence. His apartment, bereft of love since his wife left him, is full of his notes for his life’s work. His dream is that one day he’ll submit to a publisher, that publisher will complete his manuscript (apparently aloud to a room of rapt listeners), stand, and declare “Gentlemen, hats off!”

Of course, Grand is taken with the plague. And he burns all of his manuscript and notes. It is the low-point of the book. But he is given the first of a new serum, and he lives. And he continues his book.

Of course, the Doctor, the hero, who has coordinated every effort and done all he could, watches many tearful reunions after the quarantine on the town is lifted. But there will be none for him. His wife, who’d been sent away to a medical facility before the book began, has died. No tearful reunions. No life’s ambitions renewed. Just his work.

Pay attention. This is important. Listen. We’re all beat from the start. We all live under the sword. Focus on what you can and must do. Learn whatever you can while you still have time. Never burn your manuscript. Ultimately you do not know. None of us do. We may all be beat, but go down swinging.

 

 

 


JKHOA Pt. 2.2 Netflix & Plague

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Care for a dance?

I have the plague. If I post tomorrow, you’ll know I lived. If I don’t please, someone, stab me in the brain. My door is the one with the white cross painted on it. And now back to my chess game.

This message is brought to you by cold medicine and Netflix.


JKHOA Pt. 2 Snow Day Geek

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Ladies, gentlemen: the most beautiful image ever. http:www.doctormacro.com. Enjoy!

If you saw radar maps of Snowmaggedon or Snowzilla — or whatever hashtag you prefer — I was right under the part of the map that displayed a graphic of an angry weather deity suffering from dysentery. I rather enjoyed the storm, but today I became enlisted in said deity’s personal sanitation crew. I mean I shoveled, but it was closer to mining. I’ve lived most of my adult life in either Philly or Costa Rica. So I’m not a practiced hand. But I was out talking and working with other people. It was weird. But not necessarily bad.

The lady who lives next door had her kids and grandkids marshaled up. She was like George C. Scott in the part of Patton when he clears up the traffic, except with a white Maltese instead of a pit-bull. My other neighbor just moved here from Los Angeles. He carefully cleaned all the icy patches with a windshield scraper. He explained to me that he hadn’t thought to buy a shovel. But he seemed to be getting a get kick out of it.

I’m not tall, or strong, or particularly inclined towards physical labor. I’m a clutz. My BF calls me the “fainting goat” because I just lose my balance and start to fall while standing perfectly still on even ground. So I was glad to have my new neighbor to chat (pretend I was still shoveling) with. His name is Jerry, and he’s a retired aerospace engineer. He worked for NASA in the mid-seventies, and knows a man who walked on the moon. Yeah. And I knew we’d be fast friends when he asked me “I don’t know if you ever think about transporters…?” “I think about transporters ALL THE TIME.”

Seriously, gentlemen, that is the best pick-up line I’ve ever heard. We talked about the physics and computational issues etc. of transporters for about an hour. I think I might have a crush.  He’s friends with one of the twelve human beings to have stepped on the moon. And he enjoys talking about transporters. We both felt jipped by the actual year 2001 because it wasn’t, well, you know, like 2001. And one of his early designs is in the National Space and Aeronautics museum. Like the ones that hang from the ceiling. Be still my heart.

What was I talking about before I drifted into a nerd hole? Oh yeah, #Blizzard2016. Yesterday I tore it up in an epic game of Civilization with the BF. History tells us that the Poles were instrumental in holding back all sorts of Muslim invasion of Europe. Well, let me just say, I played as Harun Al-Rashid of Arabia, and I corrected that error. My empire is the most literate, cultured, wealthy and well equipped Wonder of the World. I hope Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal would approve. There were street lights in Damascus! Baghdad was a center of science. Mecca made Paris look like a Neandertal shelter. It seems I’ve crawled back into that nerd hole.

So, fun! Enjoyed Snowmaggedon. Today begins week two of my 500 word a day thing for this blog, but taking off Thursday, most like. Did you folks enjoy your snow days? Everyone all safe and tired from shoveling? Is tomorrow Monday? Are these my hands?

Peace and love, LLAP, and May the Force be with you…always.

Jess

 


JKHOA 1.6 Midpoint

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The Road goes ever on and on . . .

So, last Friday I gave myself the challenge of writing 500 words a day on this blog every day for two weeks, no rolling on Shabbas. Half way in, what have I learnt so far? Well, for one, I’m taking a weekday off next week because I need a week day of. That’s my reason. What? That day will be Thursday or Friday. Other than that, I had a hell of a time. In both senses.

First: I really did have fun. It was a hoot. Glad I did this. I needed a jump-start. I got out a bunch of brain backwash that was just building up in there like soap scum on the tub. You know how when you need to clean the bathroom, and every time you go in there, you’re like “God, I gotta clean this.” But you don’t. Then one day you get skeeved by the idea of taking a shower or brushing your teeth. And you’re like “Right! This is on!” And you scrub the crap out of that tub, and then you’re like “Ah! I can feel like I’m getting clean again in here.” That’s kind of how my brain feels.

Secondly: Hey feedback! That’s really cool. I’m thankful for all of it. Especially everyone who’s just shown interest in my brain drivel, or pushed me to consider new ideas and ways to expand upon my work. I enjoyed all the conversations I’ve had with folks over the past week. It’s good. I’m not as social as some (most) folks. So that part is good for me. Talk to people, Jess! Most don’t bite.

Number three, all the rest of my other goals-stuffs and things are lining up around this small enterprise. I’m managing my time better. I’m making sure that everything is in place so that I can take care of me, my life, my dog (she got super-walkies the past few days after a few neglectful ones — and she’s the best listener and has some great ideas too. Thanks Molly!). I’m sleeping better. I’m making an effort to eat before 5 pm. I’ve had to do some yoga and walk to work out the back issues, and that also helps my thought processes. Hell, I even cleaned the house. I haven’t been that productive since before the day we don’t speak of.

Number four. I’ve been back to work on my other projects as well. I needed the self-inflicted ass-kicking.  It’s been a tough past half year. And I was getting all anxious and pissy because I wasn’t doing what I apparently need to do, which was get back to work. So I’m sure the people around me appreciate the less pissy part. Besides, if I dump all my excess brain energy here, I’m a lot more mellow IRL. (That’s “In real life”, Mom.)

So yeah, brain juices are flowing. I’m feeling better overall (although I think I have a cold). The people around me aren’t as afraid of me, and I’m feeling cool and groovy with them as well. I’ve enjoyed talking to new folks too. My neglected work is no longer neglected. Molly is also pleased to have her long talkie-walkies again. She’s such a help. And, finally, I have to thank my Mom for giving me this topic to write about over the phone while she was shopping at BJ’s  I was stuck. Thanks Mom Now when are you going to take the challenge with me? Your story needs to happen, too. I think we can manage better together.

Happy blizzard 2016 everyone. Hope you’re someplace warm and cozy with something or someone you love. No you cannot borrow Molly. I don’t care how much you need the touch of another being. You can have the cat though.

* I must say, this is the perfect day for the Master and Commander soundtrack. Why is that nobody ever talks about how awesome that movie is? It’s just like this magical thing only a few people know about and love.


Jess Kicks Her Own Ass Pt. 1.2

 

I knew him well, Horatio!

Alas! I know this feeling well, Horatio!

I suppose I’ll address the issue of my “negativity” or “pessimism”, along with some other words I’ve been hearing in relation to my writing and other media, comments, etc lately  (really, “emo?). These claims have a certain validity, but I’d hardly call my muse “the tombstone”, as someone recently observed. Mostly it’s just winter, and frankly I’m against it. I enjoy freedom of movement and the outdoors. My most cathartic moments are generally spent out of doors with my dog and my man. But let’s sing a song of momento mori today.

I want to feel something in life, even if that be something be “bad.” I don’t even necessarily care for that word or the notion of “negative emotions.”  There’s a time for The Beatles and there’s a time for Mozart’s Requiem or even just a sad etude. Winter naturally reminds us of death. And there’s been more than a few reasons to mourn lately. Bowie has left us for the stars. And Alan Rickman is sneering on us from some celestial plane of infinitely languid condescension.  So what’s so wrong with a bit of sad?

Not a thing. Say I. And dear me, how could I be alone? Why go around with a silly grin plastered on your face everyday unless you fear some unbearable evil will befall if your smile should slip? I’ve never seen anything wrong with celebrating an old cemetery, a moment passed, a shiny yellow memory that’s gotten blue on it. How would we ever know Joy without Sadness? Right my fellow Pixar fans?

I don’t advocate dwelling in grief, sorrow or despair. But ignoring these emotions seems to me far more perilous a thing than letting them grow inside until they own you without your realizing. When your fear of your own Dark Side dictates your very life because you’ve neglected it, then what? If we had no reminders of that eternal loss, our own mortality, how can we be expected to handle the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to?

Denying the Dark is every bit as dangerous as ignoring the Light. That’s why we can experience both. Evolution teaches us that nothing evolves without a reason because nature doesn’t waste energy. All of our emotions are there for a cause, and a very good one. They’re how we learn to live as a human being and survive the process.

I recently heard a phrase I liked. “When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.” ( Ursula K. Le Guin, The Earthsea Cycle) I don’t know the context of the quote, but I do know that the the Light and the Shadow are always with us. Shakespeare wrote sonnets of loss, and it never dimmed the brilliance of his humor. But it occurs to me that all life navigates that in-between world of mirth and joy, darkness and sorrow.

Why not choose winter, when the light is cold and Persephone still walks in the underworld, to meditate on those quiet, and not so quiet, shadow moments? Just don’t live there. The Spring will come.

And on the next sunny day, “Let’s go where we’re happy. I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates. Keats and Yeats are on your side. But Wilde is on mine.” (The Smiths, Cemetery Gates)

PS – I’m still with Johnny Cash on wearing black though.  I’ve got that which passeth show. Good grief!


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