Thursday, January 31, 2013

C.S. Lewis

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
-C.S. Lewis

Twyla Tharpe

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
-Twyla Tharpe

Stormy Weather

The predawn wind was like a hurricane and shook the windows. It made me roll over and dream a lot. I dreamed I was at an animal adoption fair and I adopted a blond long-eared hound the same size as Lily, to be Lily's friend. The hound in the dream had hurt its ears, and the black stitches were exposed.

Today is the 4th anniversary of Lily's adoption.

This morning Bill got up at 4:30 as usual. He was at his computer having tea and around 5 AM there was a BOOM and then a blackout. The city was dark, a stormy blur with windy horizontal rain, unusually warm. Luckily Bill knew where a flashlight was. He came up to tell me there was either a neighborhood blackout or we're ALL delinquent on our electric bills. I was still in bed but realized I should help him prepare for his day. All I could hear was the wind, and the house was shaking. I opened the curtains and got dressed by the battery-powered light over the neighbor's back door. It was offering just enough light into our bedroom. Every little bit helped. How metaphoric. I guided Lily down the linoleum stairs in the dark.

Then I found my new Christmas-gift flashlight in the hall, just where I had left it. I followed Bill around holding the super bright LED flashlight while he showered and dressed and removed lint from his pants and packed his lunch and made peanut butter sandwiches and cold coffee for breakfast.

I almost called my pal in the neighborhood nearby to celebrate the blackout, but I feared waking her up. Instead I sat in my chair and wrote in my notebook by flashlight, enjoying the silence and the sunlight coming up.

The lights came back on 7:40 AM with another BOOM. I reset the clocks and turned off the printers and amplifiers which come on when the power goes out and then comes back on again. I made coffee and warmed up some oatmeal. The power went out again briefly. I reset the clocks again.

The lights went off once again while I wrote this on the computer - but it was saved in time. Many people we know have had day-long and week-long blackouts after hurricanes! Jeez, I am bellyaching over a two-and-a-half-hour one. What a baby.

I turned on WOON AM radio to hear news about the blackout. They were busy reciting all the day's school lunches for Northern RI! Hilarious and adorable. Super-local radio.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I dreamed my high school art teacher was conducting a class. She was asking us "If you are driving in your car with a bushel of apples in the trunk and you don't know what kind of apples they are do you pull over and go look and taste them or do you immediately call up the person who put them there?"

J.D. Salinger

Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They're always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.
-J.D. Salinger, Nine Stories

It's partly true, too, but it isn't all true. People always think something's all true.
-J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Richard Brautigan

I will be very careful the next time I fall in love, she told herself. Also, she had made a promise to herself that she intended on keeping. She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive or fun they could be. They weren't worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it.
She wanted her next lover to be a broom.
-Richard Brautigan

J.D. Salinger

Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.
-J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stephen King

Common tools go on top. The commonest of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary. In this case, you can happily pack what you have without the slightest bit of guilt and inferiority. As the whore said to the bashful sailor, “It ain’t how much you’ve got, honey, it’s how you use it."
-Stephen King, On Writing

It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around. -Stephen King, On Writing


I dreamed a male masseuse massaged my sore left arm and it turned to jello. Later I spotted him, wearing nothing but his tattoos, working at an easel on a flat factory rooftop outside my window. I realized he was a plein-air painter.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Laurie Colwin

Fulfillment leaves an empty space where longing used to be.
-Laurie Colwin, The Lone Pilgrim

Stephen King

The scariest moment is always just before you start.
-Stephen King, On Writing

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.
-Stephen King, On Writing

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.
-Stephen King, On Writing

May Sarton

Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.
-May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Saturday, January 26, 2013


You already have the precious mixture that will make you well. Use it!

The cure for pain is in the pain!

Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments.

Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled.
So wild flowers will come up
Where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender.


There was a dusting of snow last night, a fine sandy powder that is slippery. I swept the front and back stairs and the sidewalk. My broom trails created a pretty design. I took Lily for a walk in the 20+ degree sunshine - it was warmer than what it has been lately. I was grateful to get out a bit further than in the past few days, walking all the way to Precious Blood Cemetery. I saw another couple walking and said hello. The woman wore bright red knitted gloves. The pond was in view, frozen solid. The sunshine bounced off the snow. I was wearing sunglasses. When my fingers started to cry in pain from the cold we headed back. When we got home Lily curled up in front of the quartz heater next to the cat.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I Dreamed

I dreamed I was the daughter of a wolf.

Meghan Daum

Confessing means asking the reader for something - for forgiveness, for punishment, for some kind of response that makes you feel less alone. Honesty means offering something to the reader - a piece of yourself or a set of suggestions. Honesty means making the reader feel less alone. Honesty is inherently generous. Confession is inherently needy and intrusive.
-Meghan Daum


Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Daedalus tried his wings first, but before taking off from the island, warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea, but to follow his path of flight.
-Wikipedia, Icarus Myth

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Greetings From the Ice Cave

I was lying in bed under double quilts, thinking. Lily wanted me to get up - she put her paws up on my side of the bed each time she heard me roll over. My nipples responding to the cold felt like two fragile skyscrapers. Thank god for bras! The windows were covered with ice crystals. The edges of the ice looked like hairy insect legs. Bread dough was rising, closed off in the next room, hidden from Sammy the cat.

Lily is looking mature. Her cream color has turned white on her snout and her hair is thinning slightly around her eyes. She will be 6 in March. I am grateful that she is healthy. She is such a kind and gentle spirit.

Just now I am cooking up a huge crock-pot of un-hulled barley and wheat berries. I freeze small batches of it for quick-defrosting for suppers and it has become a new way of life. Having this mixture of grain hot with vegetables or tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan on top is hearty and delicious.

It is bright and sunny out and at Lily's urging we walked to poop alley, behind the ball field. After ten minutes my fingers were screaming in pain and so we headed right home. I normally don't like to feel like I can't go out but this is an emergency of extreme temperatures.

I pulled the second layer of curtains closed on the two large living room windows. The curtains are dark olive-y green. They came with the house. This is the way the room was when we first saw it, the curtains drawn all day, the frightened-old-lady look. The double layer covering the glass makes it feel like nighttime, but the room is noticeably warmer. I much prefer to let the daylight in but this sub-zero temperature hurts.

I feel like I am making a physical and emotional nest in an ice cave. I am. I've put a fleece blanket over Lily with only her head poking out. She hasn't protested.

My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet.
-Edith Wharton

In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
-Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!
-Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.
-Edith Wharton

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


It's a windy 25 degrees out so I am keeping the living room curtains closed for fear of losing the precious bit of 50 degree warmth inside. I wonder if it is still considered solitude when the radio is on and Lily-dog is on the couch in the next room. Is it solitude when the voices in my head are chattering like a tree full of starlings? No matter, it's time to shower and put on warm dry socks. I put together a batch of bread dough. While that was incubating I chopped up celery, black olives, carrots and garlic. I warmed up three cans worth of diced tomatoes then I added in my home-grown and dried basil, two bay leaves and oregano. I drizzled in olive oil. The sauce is simmering now, bringing a scented hope to my home.


I dreamed of a person who had a face that was made from two faces - one light and one dark, fused, with a seam down the center.

James Baldwin

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.
-James Baldwin

In my case, I think my exile saved my life, for it inexorably confirmed something which Americans appear to have great difficulty accepting. Which is, simply, this: a man is not a man until he is able and willing to accept his own vision of the world, no matter how radically this vision departs from others.
-James Baldwin


I dreamed it was Halloween and big red-headed Rosie was out on the sidewalk wearing a cadmium-yellow comedic mask. In the dream her mask clashed with her bright orange hair and I told her I was in no mood for chocolate.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Among Friends

I saw Ray today when I turned the corner to throw trash into the dumpster behind the restaurant. He was right there all bundled up in a hooded navy ski jacket and blue scarf. He said hello to Lily and me and went immediately back to concentrating on his task, picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot. It's cold, I don't have on my thermals, he said. You don't? His pants were sagging off his rear. I looked over and he was bent at the waist and his bare white butt was shining high up at the sky. Ray, you must be cold. Do you have a belt? I asked. I left it at home, he said, standing back up while simultaneously hitching up his blue-jeans. I pictured him shocking someone who doesn't know him and then getting arrested for indecent exposure. Ray, you're among friends here but you should go get your belt. I know, he said. He lives close by. Okay Ray, great to see you, bye. Ray went back to picking up butts and Lily and I walked home.


She read about the cats with cameras attached to their collars and couldn't resist the idea of being a voyeur to her beloved's feline activities. She removed his black leather silver-studded collar while he was asleep and replaced it with an identical one. Except this one had a very tiny camera in place of the fourth stud from the buckle.

After a week, she had a day off to view the pussy-footage. She mixed up her favorite beverage of half coffee and half Bailey's Irish cream, put on her magenta fuzzy hysteria-socks and curled up on her big blue couch with her laptop.

Okay, porch, tires, garbage cans, blackness. Blackness, blackness. Boy, is this bo-ring. She accelerated the speed. She turned on the tinkly jazz station. This could be the big week of my tiger stalking nothing. Not even a spider or an ant, let alone a mouse. Shit, this is worse than watching sports. She groaned.

Oops. Where are we now? She muttered backing up and slowing down. A kitchen, I recognize those kitchen chair legs. Oh my god that star-burst yellow linoleum is Doris' kitchen. Her heart started beating hard, adrenalin rushing. Doris is feeding him? That bitch. Wet food, too. What an idiot. Oh there's Doris what the hell is she wearing? A pink slinky bathrobe, nice. She could see Doris' red toenails poking out of pink fuzzy slippers. "Are you going to wait until later or try it again now, my prince charming", said Doris. Who is she talking to? Is she talking to my Romeo? Her pulse was a loud banging in her ears. Her face flushed. What day was this, Tuesday? What time was it? Two thirty seven PM. She's not speaking to my Romeo, she's talking to a hairy leg. I know that snake. That's my husband's ankle tattoo. That's my husband, Max. There he is - Maxwell Samuel Davies sitting at the table bare-chested in his boxers. Nice work, Romeo.

Camus, Flynn, Styron

We must know that we can never escape the common misery and that our only justification, if indeed there is a justification, is to speak up, insofar as we can, for those who cannot do so.
-Albert Camus

If I had a whole day, I would write for an hour and then be completely exhausted. I would actually fall asleep on the floor of my studio for twenty minutes to half an hour. I’d reach some sort of an impasse, a psychic impasse, where I just couldn’t move forward in the writing. I would sleep and I would have a dream, and in the dream I would figure out where to go in the writing. Then I would wake up and start writing from that point. It was really this sort of accessing of the unconscious in some way. I would write for another hour and then I would fall asleep again, it would just keep happening. I’d do that maybe four times over one day. That part was an excavation.
-Nick Flynn

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.
-William Styron, Conversations with William Styron

Andrew Solomon

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality and my life, as I write this, is vital even when sad. I may wake up sometime next year without my mind again; it is not likely to stick around all the time. Meanwhile, however, I have discovered what I would have to call a soul, a part of myself I could never have imagined until one day, seven years ago, when hell came to pay me a surprise visit. It's a precious discovery. Almost every day I feel momentary flashes of hopelessness and wonder every time whether I am slipping. For a petrifying instant here and there, a lightning-quick flash, I want a car to run me over...I hate these feelings, but I know that they have driven me to look deeper at life, to find and cling to reasons for living, I cannot find it in me to regret entirely the course my life has taken. Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment's reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy?
-Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

That, in essence, is the catastrophe of suicide for those who survive: not only the loss of someone, but the loss of the chance to persuade that person to act differently, the loss of the chance to connect.
-Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Then I repeated these words to my spirits: 'Leave me be; give me peace; and let me do the work of my life. I will never forget you.' Something about that incantation was particularly appealing to me. 'I will never forget you'-- as though one had to address the pride of the spirits, as though one wanted them to feel good about being exorcised.
-Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Michael Sims

Just as etymology demonstrates that history lies fossilized in our very utterance, so does the body preserve a record of the past in its structure and behavior.
-Michael Sims, Adams Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form (p91)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Third Base

It wasn't my plan to be trapped behind the pond by the two older boys. I screamed after they molested me, and they jumped the tall chain link fence and ran away so fast it was as if my voice animated them.

The next day I was outside during gym class playing baseball. I was anxious, standing in the outfield, thinking that now I'd have to admit that I'd been to third base when the kids ask me. First base was kissing, second base was feeling up, and third base was fingers. I saw two police cars pull up in front of my elementary school and two men in suits walk up the three sets of granite stairs. After gym class I was escorted by my favorite teacher to the principal's office. I hoped he wouldn't ask for any details as we walked the halls.

The principal, vice-principle, and detectives were waiting for me: "Tell us what happened." I was silent. Someone said this is too much, let her go. After school I met with one detective. That was better, and I told him the whole story.

A Theory

When I was a teenager our family therapist said there's a new theory out there that says we all choose our own parents. I couldn't imagine why I would choose such punishment.

Gustave Flaubert

The man is nothing, the work - all
L'homme n'est rien, l'oeuvre – tout
-Gustave Flaubert, Letter to George Sand (December 1875)

Exuberance is better than taste…
Mieux vaut l'exubérance que le goût.
-Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education (1869) Pt. 1 Ch. 4

The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him.
-Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie (March 18, 1857)

Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
-Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Madame Louise Colet (August 14, 1853)

The idea of bringing someone into the world fills me with horror. I would curse myself if I were a father. A son of mine! Oh no, no, no! May my entire flesh perish and may I transmit to no one the aggravations and the disgrace of existence.
-Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Madame Louise Colet (December 11, 1852)

One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form.
-Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Madame Louise Colet (August 12, 1846)

Wendy Button

You’d look at me and never know that sometimes my fight against the urge to die is so tough the only way I get through it is second by second; I live by the second hand.
-Wendy Button, NYT

William Styron

In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come - not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity - but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience - one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devastation would be lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words.”
-William Styron, Darkness Visible

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pat Conroy

I prayed hard and only gradually became aware that this fierce praying was a way of finding prologue and entrance into my own writing. This came as both astonishment and relief. When I thought God had abandoned me, I discovered that He had simply given me a different voice to praise the inexhaustible beauty of the made world.
-Pat Conroy

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.
-Pat Conroy

But no one walks out of his family without reprisals: a family is too disciplined an army to offer compassion to its deserters.
-Pat Conroy, Beach Music

I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment.
-Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.
-Pat Conroy, Beach Music


All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches you by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

David Satcher

I'm convinced that we can shape a different future for this country as it relates to mental health and as it relates to suicide.
-David Satcher

Listening for an Inch

I told my friend, who also experiences a steep mood cycle, that during the dark times the measurements are completely different for me. An inch is huge. I just get up and shower and I gain an inch. I put on my shoes and walk and gain another. I mix up a batch of bread dough and there's another. Make a cup of tea and there's another. By the end of the day I've lifted up a few inches, bringing some lift to the despondent days. The challenge is listening for the little lift.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

James Taylor

When you write a song, it may come from a personal space, but it very seldom actually represents you. It comes out of a sort of mood of melancholy, somehow. It's almost theatrical.
-James Taylor

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

May Sarton

With the return of cheerfulness I feel a sense of loss. The poems no longer flow out. I am more "normal" again, no longer that fountain of tears and intense feeling that I have been for months. Balance is achieved, or nearly. But at what price? Now I must write letters and try to clear the desk . . .
-May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (page 49)

Later on in the night I reached a quite different level of being. I was thinking about solitude, its supreme value. Here in Nelson I have been close to suicide more than once, and more than once have been close to a mystical experience of unity with the universe. The two states resemble each other: one has no wall, one is absolutely naked and diminished to essence. Then death would be the rejection of life because we cannot let go what we wish so hard to keep, but have to let go if we are to continue to grow.
-May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (page 57)

. . . my life seems dazzling to many people in its productivity, in what it communicates that is human and fulfilled, and hence fulfilling. But the truth is that whatever good effect my work may have comes, rather, from my own sense of isolation and vulnerability.
-May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (page 115)

I Dreamed

I dreamed I was on my bicycle holding a diner teacup. I wasn't pedaling because my bicycle was being towed by a bus. I was 25 feet behind the bus connected by a rope.

I dreamed I found a kitten in a ladies room bathroom garbage can. He looked like my orange and white cat. I was thinking he must be dehydrated I picked him up and fed him water and and he drank out of a tiny white paper cup.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Paul Simon

As soon as your mind knows that it’s on and it’s supposed to produce some lines, either it doesn’t or it produces things that are very predictable. And that’s why I say I’m not interested in writing something that I thought about. I’m interested in discovering where my mind wants to go, or what object it wants to pick up.
-Paul Simon, Songtalk, 1991

I'm not in it for the money. I like music. I love to write music. I can't imagine myself not playing or singing or writing. It would just drive me crazy if I didn't.
-Paul Simon

Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.
-Paul Simon

I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called ‘Mother and Child Reunion.’ It’s chicken and eggs. And I said, ‘Oh, I love that title. I got to use that one.’
-Paul Simon, Rolling Stone, 1972

Simon and Garfunkel had a peculiar type of groupie. We had the poetic groupies. The girls that followed us around weren’t necessarily looking to sleep with us as much as they were looking to read their poetry or discuss literature or play their own songs.
-Paul Simon, Rolling Stone, 1972

I Dreamed

I dreamed I was at my painter friends house and I was surprised that his cats and dogs all had human facial expressions.