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She fit her rhythms to his — me with Jim

To be with a beloved person is like having a blanket round your heart — from somewhere in Bridget Jones’s Diary, the screenplay

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Olivia Manning with Faro, Siamese, when a kitten

Dear friends and readers,

I have become friends with my cats. I pay attention, respond to their gestures, nudgings, eye contact, sitting on my lap, laying by my side, walking with me (sometimes in front); the boy brings strings for me to play with him with. Clary has this passion for dead leaves. They have very particular personalities: Ian loves to play, to hug, to put his paw gently on my arm and face to make sure I’m paying attention to him; he has come out of his shell over the past few months – this began when Caroline stayed with Jim for four days last year June. He will even growl at strangers when they come near the door. He has lost a whole pound since Jim died (I’ve lost nearly 30) and the Vet was worried. He is much more active than he once was and maybe he didn’t eat at first. For months afterward he didn’t hunt insects. Not that he’s anywhere as active as Clary. He can still sit still for hours. Clary, when genuinely up, awake, is a bundle of movement, trotting about, curious. She will make a cat loaf and sleeps deeply for hours too. When Jim died after the two day hysteria of his dying (when she ran back and forth from his bed, caw-cawing in the hall), she sat in his chair for two days and for weeks afterward seemed to be uncertain of herself. Only gradually did she transfer her deep attachment from him to me. Alertness, tenacity, interest are keys to her character. Jim would play with her on the bed. She licks away at me with her sandpaper tongue, forward, gentle, loving; she fits herself into the curvature of my shoulder and arm as I lie in bed in the morning. Both meow at me a lot. He hunts insects; she watches him. He tries to mate with her (though cannot) and she tolerates him for a while, and then she growls fiercely. They play-bite one another and wrestle when they are happy and comfortable.

Once a few years ago I came home from a long day’s teaching and rushed into my room and shut the door (partly because Jim insisted I keep the cats out of my study where the wires were). Jim came to the door and opened it and showed me a cat whose feelings looked so hurt. He said Clary seemed to have been waiting for me a full half-hour (I came home around the same time) and was so happy to see me, trotting after me, and then I shut the door in her face. How bad I felt. I sat in the front with her on my lap for an hour after that. And for weeks I tried to make up for it; in fact I never did that sort of thing again. Well I’ve made up for that now.

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ClaryCat in her cat bed on green pillow on a short cat tree right next to my bed at night

Now of course they have each a grey pillow for sitting on in my room right near me.

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Ian a couple of days ago on what was Jim’s chair behind my chair in my room

What a wild chase Yvette and I had putting them into their carriers for shots and nail trimmin at the Vet’s in July. We made the mistake of bringing down said carriers about ten minutes before setting out. They knew what they were for. Ian slipped out of his and then ran from place to place, and gradually we closed doors on spaces and cornered him. For Clary we had to take apart Yvette’s bed to get underneath to find her. Next time we’ll take out the carriers the day before and hide them in a closet. Ian mewed all the way there and back — and sometimes in the office too. Clary closed down into the smallest space possible wherever she was until we returned home.

I have this week read Olivia Manning’s Extraordinary Cats. It’s not as good as Doris Lessing’s On Cats. Indeed at first it seemed to me embarrassingly poor. Manning is a cat racist — when I bought the book I did not realize she meant by “Extraordinary Cats” cats that are inbred to be albinos (so-called Siamese) or with odd kinds of melanism (Burmese). Would she write a book praising aristocrats and making them superior to say working people? — it’s a precisely analogous stupidity. She also badmouths dogs and people who prefer dogs to cats, to which I say “If you meet a madman who says that he is a fish and that we are all fishes, do you take off your clothes to prove that you do not have fins?” (Milan Kundera).

After an initial section talking of how “mankind” has only begun to appreciate cats since it has become more liberal in spirit, less hateful and unselfish towards a small unbiddable, independent-minded animal, she launches into this eulogy on how superior Siamese cats are to ordinary cats. The reality is Siamese cats live shorter lives, are frailer, are in fact less fit (in the struggle for survival) than your plain tabbies and torties and so on. I know Siamese are said to be smarter, fiercer, more gentle and loving. Bosh. Some cats are to me more beautiful: I think my tabby prettier and more graceful than my tortoise but I do not derive moral qualities for him from his physical appearance and know I am being subjective. Would I like someone to value me because I sat more gracefully ….

I put the book down and thought about the problems of Manning’s Balkan and Levant Trilogies: they are snobbish, hard and oddly cold. WW2 seen from the viewpoint of the art-y elite of England. But the photos interested me, I had sent away to England (Amazon.uk) to get the book, and I remembered this must be behind the thinking that leads people to go to cat shows — deplorable though it might be.

Cover
Mine is an older copy with a lovely cover

I read on. The book not only improved, it became as insightful as Lessing’s about cats but in a different way, especially once Manning begins to talk about the relationship of cats to people. Manning accurately describes how they are there very vividly, individual presences with their own thought and feeling processes, subtle reactions and will give you devoted love if you give love to them. Manning’s favorite cats showed the difference between the women: Lessing’s are magnificent survivors against great odds; Manning’s are tender sensitive creatures. I became aware how much projection there is in Lessing’s book because I see it so obviously in Manning’s. Lessing has tough cats, Manning has vulnerable ones. At the book of the book there is a poem by Ted Hughes’s on “Esther’s Tomcats:” he projects too.

blackcat
At this point she does include photos of “ordinary” cats; this is Miou

Like Lessing, the central core of Manning’s book is a life history of specific cats she has owned and their personalities, how they interacted with other cats. She is (unexpectedly) more inward than Lessing. There are many fine deeply humane moments — a love of these animals that is deeply empathetic making the reader their valuable lives. Manning also offers real insights into the interrelationships of people and cats. I have good reason to see the truth of this in the last few months since I have given more of myself to my cats:

By now the reader may be saying, ‘This is ridiculous. She writes of cats as though they were humans.’ But are they so very different? The fact is that when an animal, any animal, enters one’s home, it becomes something more than an animal. The change is brought about not merely by human fantasy and human need: the animal itself is drawn out of its animal world and advances to meet our wider understanding.

I see this in both my cats — and observe their different personalities this way too. It’s in this section one sees why this book has some fame among cat lovers and those who value books on animals.

siamese
Manning’s first cat, Eebou

Manning’s genuine respect and love for animals emerges (it seems she inveighs against dogs and dog-people because she assumes dogs are elevated above cats as more worthy creatures). Her last section is on human cruelty to animals; she provides a history of prejudice against cats: how with old women they were seen as witches and when the woman was burnt, they were murdered carelessly.

The last third of Manning’s book deals with the cruel hostility to cats (shooting them) over history; one aspect is they are associated with ugly, lonely old women who keep them as companions (ahem). Another is resentment. Finally she is superbly accurate and right — an intelligent argument against animal experimentation; how animals are not analogous; how the cruelty of the cages and what is done to them shows how murderous and unfeeling people can be. This section at moments reminded me of Wiseman’s Primates. She demonstrates those who do these hideous things to helpless animals seeking love of doing it to further their careers. Like Goodall, she shows how little money is spent on animals and how the researcher lives in a comfortable house while the poor non-human is in a cold iron cage. I had a student once who wrote a paper showing how little is learned from rat torture. In this section Manning shows compassion for the rats too.

By contrast, Lessing opens her book with a ferocious chapter on how individuals and whole cultures shoot and drown cats with impunity. Lessing shows the wildness of those who hunt and kills; the sadistic enjoyment of injury and harm people feel. On the whole, Lessing’s book transcends her particular topic, the particular cat; she moves to be on the qualities her cats convey and manifest and so her book becomes about life itself. The quality the cat manifests is a quality other animals (humans anyone?) share. Manning’s remains on the quality as coming from a cat — she doesn’t reach down into that greater identification beyond categories (as I said she begins the book as an open cat racist, though by book’s end she has almost retrieved herself).

Manning’s book’s coda concludes with poems to and about cats. It’s too short. No TS Eliot, and she does not know the cat poetry of Elsa Morante and probably Marge Piercy is beyond her time. I include one by Piercy from her Memoir, Sleeping with Cats.

I am at once source
and sink of heat; give
and take. I am a vast
soft mountain of slow breathing.
The smells I exude soothe them:
the lingering odor of sex,
of soap, even of perfume,
its after-aroma sunk into skin
mingling with sweat and the traces
of food and drink.

They are curled into flowers
of fur, they are coiled
hot seashells of flesh
in my armpit, around my head
a dark sighing halo.
They are plastered to my side,
a poultice fixing sore muscles
better than a heating pad.
They snuggle up to my sex
purring. They embrace my feet.

Some cats I place like a pillow.
In the morning they rest where
I arranged them, still sleeping.
Some cats start at my head
and end between my legs
like a textbook lover. Some
slip out to prowl the living room
patrolling, restive, then
leap back to fight about
hegemony over my knees.

Every one of them cares
passionately where they sleep
and with whom.
Sleeping together is a euphemism
for people but tantamount
to marriage for cats.
Mammals together we snuggle
and snore through the cold nights
while the stars swing round
the pole and the great horned
owl hunts for flesh like ours.

*********************

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Ian among the bed pillows

*********************

Since I last wrote (about two weeks ago), I’ve kept as busy as I had the two weeks before. I go about 3 times a week in the earlier morning to the JCCNV, twice to a Dance Fusion workshop where I dance and do athletics in front of a mirror following a leader: imagine a bunch (35 or so) of women from age 40 to 70 attempting to do a passable imitation of a Michael Jackson video; once a week with a similar bunch of women doing water-arobics. I’ve walked in the evening with a friend twice (it’s not been that hot this summer); a few plays, a movie, again to the film club at Cinemart, this time to see Steve Coogan and Bill Brydon in A Trip to Italy — in which movie we at one point see a cat.

RosaBrettHayloft
Rosa Brett, The Hayloft (a relatively unknown Pre-Raphaelite woman painter and her cat)

I met someone from OLLI at GMU at a building not far from the main campus at GMU where starting in later September I’ll be teaching a course in The Gothic; she took my photo for a biography on-line. I had lunch with a student friend. I’m still seeing a grief support person at the Haven, but am going to switch to see a psychologist or social worker at Kaiser and in September join another grief support group, this time for 8 weeks, at Kaiser (on the advice of these people). I’ve even called yet a third contractor, this time a handyman to see if he will for a reasonable price paint the silly fasciaboard on my house, clean the gutters, paint the dismal (tottering) back porch and replace a handle on my screen door.

Of course that leaves a lot of time for reading with others (on listservs) and alone, writing, watching movies on line. We finished our read through of Jane Austen’s letters on a couple of lists; a thin and feeble excuse for a course (MOOC) on “Literature of the Country House” (from Sheffield); I’ve read Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s Sylph (which I hope to blog about); another novel expanded my understanding of the varieties of rape, this in war time, A Woman in Berlin. I am still watching the remarkable Breaking Bad and began my movie project again, again reading about screenplays, shooting scripts. Finished takig down the screenplay for The Jane Austen Book Club (verbatim, with all the stage film business I could). I wrote a review of Johnston’s Unusual Suspects, and it is to be published this fall. This Thursday I’ll have my first piano lesson ever.

None of this matters to my fundamental state which I’ve not got words to describe: I feel such a deep deep sense of Jim’s absence in everything I do, everywhere I go. It’s so complete and continuous there’s no getting on the other side to encompass it. I had some insight this week to why when I speak of my state of mind and condition to others, some people seem to misunderstand me or assert utterly unreal ideas about me or widows & widowers, nonsense about leading a “new” life (the grief support person said as how that is a common misconception) when one can only continue the life one had only now alone utterly feelingfully transformed and silent; about a “rich” life for the person that the dead person would be pleased about (I shook my head at that one); solemnly about needing time (but not too much) for recovery (as if there were such a thing, as if I was sick — reminding me of how years ago people talked of my pregnancy as if I was in some special semi-ill state). These concepts are social lies. There is nothing you process through to get to a meaningful end. You just carry on living a half life, for me one soothed because I’m surrounded by the comforts and books we gathered in the nest of our house.

A while back I bought and read an anthology of poems by widows, The Widows’ Handbook: Poetic Reflections on Grief and Survival, edited, collected by Jacqueline Lapidus and Lise Menn. Individual poems spoke all sorts of truths: I had not begun to imagine the very different ways men die, when in relationship to their wives or partners, and how they leave the woman. But there was imposed on these poems a structure which made the last section all about recovery, new lives, and so on. The anthology therefore exposed how the lie is done. It was an imposed structure. Therefore it’s not truly useful to a widow or someone who truly grieves for the death of a beloved central to her existence. These structures are put there to please those who have not had such experience (as yet or may not ever), do not want their complacency to be troubled, and the people making these books collude. Fictions centering on a widow often make them semi-hysterical: she is not getting better because she is half-mad. Again this is a distortion. The thing to keep your eye on is all the so-called sane behavior helps not one iota to change the fundamental reality of emptiness next to you, all around you, whatever you do, an awareness of this. All this reminds me of how when I was twice asked by reputable periodicals & blogsites would I write my life story, and I began to say what I would say I was told that unless I could produce something finally upbeat, they could not print it, not even on the Net.

2014ClaryCat
Clary in the dawn light

It was suggested to me that people can make such comments because they assumed I was talking to them with their views about death and dying in mind and were responding with socially approved utterances in turn. It’s true one makes a funeral for other people: I learned that twice in two years as I have paid for two funerals in the last two year’s (my mother died in August 2012). But we talk to validate and express ourselves, to reach out and find friends, bridge, be with people. The giving of advice is another reaction. As Jim said about having cancer and dying from it, you are on another side of a divide no one but someone else with cancer might understand. A great chasm of nothingness. It continues to be desolating and meaningless to be alive without him.

moderncat
Jean Metzinger (183-1956), The Cat, from Caroline Bugler’s The Cat: 3500 Years of the Cat in Art

Sylvia

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al-Shifa hospital

Dear friends and readers,

I had thought not to write separately on the ruthless on-going massacre of Palestinians in Gaza all this week and last (assault as of today still unrelenting). But I have been tempted and now am prompted to speak — even in this obscure blog — that the central reason for Hamas firing of rockets is not some mysterious, senseless act of a malicious group of people. From 2007 until today (seven years), Gaza strip has been turned into an “open-air prison.” The phrase “seige” derives from earlier wars where one side brought their armies up against a walled city and tried to starve those within out, leave them to disease, isolation, so that they will let the marauding army in. It is a blockade: no airplanes, no trains, no transportation in or out. Unemployment is over 50%. Goods are super-expensive; there can be no building of a life for Palestinians who live there (no family building of wealth, no futures for individuals) as long as this goes on. Water is at a premium. Before this latest attack started many Palestinians had but 4 hours of electricity a day. The Gaza strip is densely populated. It’s a ghetto being starved out.

Israel signed a treaty in 2010 in which as part of a compromise it promised to “lift the seige.” It made some feeble changes and then reversed itself. There was a treaty signed in 2012 by the Palestinian authorities with the US’s concurrence where a Unity government was to form, which while it would not include any Hamas individuals would honor their demands, one of which was to “lift the seige,” and in which both sides agreed to accept two states in the area, which would mean Palestine and Israel. When it became clear again, Israel did not mean to keep its word, the rockets began. Many Palestinians sympathize with Hamas and these rockets because they know what the rockets are aimed at: to call attention to the inhumane conditions they are forced to endure life under. The kidnapping of the three Israel boys was a pretext Netanyahu seized. He then practiced Orwellian doublespeak: he accuses Hamas of attacking Israel because it does not want Israel to exist; the reality is he has been doing all he can to destroy any Palestinian state from starting. That’s he destroys so many homes, houses, people, hit hospitals, schools, and now the one power plant. Everyone knows that the Palestinians have no where to flee from the bombs.

At this point the doublespeak of asserting it’s Hamas who is somehow killing all these people (using them as shields? where, how?) has become so laughable that it is only trotted out on Fox News. But the US mainstream media is not telling what this fight is about: the right of the people of Gaza to be left in peace to build a state and society of their own. Those who opine that what all want is peace in such a way as to suggest the both sides are equally in the wrong here and to ignore the real situation of the Palestinian do these people a disservice. If they give in again, they cannot survive. This is why Abbas, the Eygptian leader has made a condition of the rockets stopping the “lifting of the seige.” On the West Bank the settlements continue too (but that’s another aspect of destroying any remnants of Palestinian state). Al-Jazeera was hit; a UN school — Al-Jazeera reports fairly; the US is discussing on whether to accuse Natanyahu of crimes against humanity. Netanyahu was furious that the FAA wanted to stop flights to Tel Aviv because he wants the Palestinians to see that life for everyone else will carry on as it has for the last 7 years regardless of any journalism or any appalled apparently respected friends.

On the function of the tunnels the Israelis have been destroying in their ground assault: see how these have been essential in getting goods and services from outside Gaza to its people.

I also decided to bring this aspect of the conflict out because one of the translators of Dahlia Ravikovitch’s poetry sent them the following poem this morning. Chana Bloch wrote “it is just as biting” as “Get Out of Beirut.” My only qualification is that by calling attention to what often excites people’s sentimentality (helpless children, infants — some of which when bombed have have their bodies severed into bits which then arrive in different hospitals) we somehow make less of the deaths of adolescents (the 3 boys playing soccer on the beach), teenagers, older people, all the infrastructure of the country. So I include a link to an article from The Economist explaining why Israel must negotiate in good faith with the Palestinian people.

On the Attitude toward Children in Times of War

from Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch
trans.Chana Bloch & Chana Kronfeld (Norton 2009).

He who destroys thirty babies
it is as if he’d destroyed three hundred babies,
and toddlers too,
or even eight-and-a-half year olds;
in a year, God willing, they’d be soldiers
in the Palestine Liberation Army.

Benighted children,
at their age
they don’t even have a real world view.
And their future is shrouded, too:
refugee shacks, unwashed faces,
sewage flowing in the streets,
infected eyes,
a negative outlook on life.

And thus began the flight from city to village,
from village to burrows in the hills.
As when a man did flee from a lion,
as when he did flee from a bear,
as when he did flee from a cannon,
from an airplane, from our own troops.

He who destroys thirty babies,
it is as if he’d destroyed one thousand and thirty,
or one thousand and seventy,
thousand upon thousand.
And for that alone shall he find
no peace.

Author’s note: This is a variation on a poem by Natan Zach that deals [satirically] with the question of whether there were exaggerations in the number of children reported killed in the [1982] Lebanon War.
Lines 1-2, He who destroys: cf. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:5: “He who destroys a single human soul. . . , it is as if he had destroyed an entire world.”
Lines 16-17, As when a man: Amos 5:19, about the danger of apocalyptic yearnings.
See Netanyahu and Goebbels’ matching comments.

An information video interview of Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist.

Sylvia

Demonstration
A demonstration in NYC today by religious Jewish people on behalf of the Palestinians –

Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often
caused by bad men as they are by good men who
are silent when an opinion must be voiced

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been a long while since I wrote a political blog. I feel compelled to as in the past several weeks such horrific shameless slaughtering has been happening as well as (in the US) turn back on civil and legal rights for people of the US, that to carry on describing my particular experience of a death seems an egoistic blindness. This week I came across a number of genuinely explanatory essays on the killing and destruction as well as a group of essays pretending to show hopeful progress (on cancer) where there is no such thing. At the same time in the mainstream media, reporters have disgraced themselves by not reporting the full or real story of what is happening – I do not speak of the overt lies not only on Fox News but other channels where they are spoken and not contradicted (CNN, PBS, MSNBC).

The first essay is a must-read because so filled with information and perception and is by Owen Bennett-Jones, 36:14, 17 July 2014. Bennett-Jones expects you to know that for the last 40 years the US and its imperialist allies have overthrown every secular democratic leader that came to power (and there have been several, one in Iran in 1954) lest any kind of social or economic justice fro the average person out of the natural resources of this land interfere with the huge profits to be made by oil and other corporate companies ensconced in these lands. Bennett-Jones shows how Iraq had disintegrated, how the ISIS or ISIL triumph comes from a various disparate groups of local organizations. The indiscriminate reckless slaughtering (with suicide missions) is what many may come away remembering, and (perhaps) asking how groups of young men can become such crazed people, but what I suggest the reader notice is how Bennett-Jones shows that the Islamic religious regimes do not last precisely because of their continual resort to unrestrained extreme violence and because they do not provide what the majority of people of these regions want: peace, security and jobs. The latter, the article shows, the US and its backers in world banks had not only no interest in increasing but by privatizing corrupted what networks for jobs existed.

As a side area of further information, don’t neglect Patrick Coburn on the battle for Baghdad in the same issue. Nothing has been done about a similar group of young men: Boko Haram. The difference between the US and these others is the US uses massive assault and extreme violence followed by periods of restraint when they go about to set in place their forms of unameliorated capitalism and conditions which allow their companies’ businesses to thrive. The Kurds are operating as a state because these companies are dealing with the Kurds for oil.

To grasp why the leader of Israel used the pretext of the kidnapping of Israeli young men and the resumption of rocket firing (the point of which is to call attention to and bring an end to the the seige and blockade which is destroying Gaza) by Hamas after the burning death (while alive) of a Palestinian boy, to begin killing and destruction in Gaza again (last time 2012); you need to know that Hamas has been accepted by the Palestinian groups in Gaza and was accepting the terms of a treaty that could have led to a Unity government and two states (one Palestine and the other Israel); this is what this Israeli gov’t is determined to prevent. First read Ira Chernas on Israel’s strategy and American mythology. Then for live talk an informative discussion. You can just read the transcript. I recently read an anthology recording the horrifying cruelty visited on Jewish people in the Lodz Ghetto during WW2, and myself had relatives and know of so many people murdered and enslaved during WW2, so when I read of the malicious bombing of the only rehab hospital in Gaza, it is deeply distressing. A people who have themselves known what it is to be subject to barbaric attempts at extermination have now at their head leaders doing this to the Palestinian people. The Israeli prime minister, his gov’t and his army do not think a Palestinian state has the right to exist. Orwell would not be surprised at the absurd doublespeak I have now heard repeated even on PBS that Hamas is responsible for this latest massacre.

Again filling in more information, insight, another from the LRG, much shorter than Bennett-Jones, Mouin Rabbani (much shorter), 36:15, July 31, 2014. Live coverage from Sharif Abel Kouddous on the night of the ground invasion of Gaza by the Israelis. Remember this place has been blockaded for years, occupied and as the first article pointed out starved. Helpless civilians who cannot fight back or protect themselves.

Holocaustsurvivor

Two other areas are making the news where we see the same lack of any pretense of regard for life or humanity. The immiseration of 52,000 (I think that’s the number usually cited) children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These are countries with a horrific murder rate and high incidence of extreme poverty, just now enduring drug wars made far worse by recent US intervention. This immediate reality in these three countries arises also from the overthrown of elected social-democracy regimes, installation of corrupt regimes backed by death squads. In this case Obama has tried to follow the law and, using funds he asked from Congress, to provide care and a long-term solution for these children. What is happening is the illegal and irresponsible deportation of these children with any adults who can be found belonging to them.

Some rightwing opponents have targeted shelters for these children. See also Amy Goodman’s essay on Jose Antonio Vargas.

A poem by the Israeli poet, Dahlia Ravikovitch:

Get out of Beirut

Take the knapsacks,
the clay jugs, the washtubs,
the Korans,
the battle fatigues,
the bravado, the broken soul,
and what’s left in the street, a little bread or meat,
and kids running around like chickens in the heat.
How many children do you have?
How many children did you have?
It’s hard to keep the children safe in times like these.
Not the way it used to be in the old country,
in the shade of the mosque, under the fig tree,
where you’d get the kids out of the house in the morning
and tuck them into bed at night.
Whatever’s not fragile, gather up in those sacks:
clothing, bedding, blankets, diapers,
some memento, perhaps,
a shiny artillery shell,
or a tool that has practical value,
and the babies with pus in their eyes
and the RPG kids.
We’d love to see you afloat in the water with no place to go
no port and no shore.
You won’t be welcome anywhere.
You’re human beings who were thrown out the door,
you’re people who don’t count anymore.
You’re human beings that nobody needs.
You’re a bunch of lice
crawling about
that pester and bite
till we all go nuts.

– translators Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

Spectacularly, a planeload of people was shot down over the Ukraine and everyone aboard died. The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with passengers from at least 10 countries on board, including 173 Dutch nationals, 44 Malaysians and 27 Australians. As many as 100 of the world’s leading AIDS researchers and advocates were reportedly on the plane en route to a conference in Australia, including the pioneering researcher and former president of the International AIDS Society, Joep Lange. The continued demonizing of Putin obscures that there is a second area in Ukraine right now being bombed: the US installed gov’t in Kiev has been inflicting death and destruction on the people of Ukraine in its area. the only discussion of this reality not so much as reported has been by Stephen Cohen on DemocracyNow.org; his recent article is the “Silence of American Hawks on the Kiev Atrocities.” See The Nation too if you are a subscriber. We must remember that NATO was seeking to displace the Russians in control of natural resources and labor in these areas.

This is not to deny that Russian or Moscow backed rebels are strongly implicated. Later addition (7/20, 1:17 pm): it’s emerged the people who shot down the plane were rebels with arms from the Russian gov’t: they are ill-prepared untrained people who did not understand they were shooting down a civilian plane and are now trying to prevent the UN from coming in; there are guidelines which airplane companies are advised to follow to avoid conflict and in this case the Malaysian airlines were not following the protocol (as were Air France, British Airways and others). This from a PBS report I found online. It is important if you want to understand what is going on not to demonize Putin, but rather understand there is a war going on in Ukraine where the US-backed Kiev gov’t is conducting war on recalcitrant cities and with the Russian-backed Ukraine gov’t. So the plane flew into a war zone — to save time and money on fuel.

sleeping

************
While on different planes of disregard for life or humanity, the first slanted news on research in cancer which is written to lull the reader into accepting the present situation as nobody’s fault and hopeless, and the second taking away rights by law from real vulnerable people and giving them to powerful people becauset they are incorporated:

I cannot resist pointing to a group of articles which purport to offer real progress in understanding cancer in the July 2014 issue of Scientific American. These articles differ from the others I’m point to tonight: they are the delusionary type one finds in the mainstream press. You know you are in falsifying territory by the opening paragraph which implies the reason we think there is a rise in deaths from cancer is that we are no longer dying from other diseases. Utterly wrong: there has been an exponential increase in cancers for all age groups, rare cancers no longer rare, far in excess of any decrease in deaths from diseases partly conquered. There’s been a 70 per cent rise in 20 years. Secondly it is presented as hopeless to eliminate the carcinogens in our environment. To the contrary read The Politics of Cancer Revisited.

The essays point to new findings in specifics of chemotherapy which may (may) help to predict outcomes for some sufferers from cancer, but as you make your way down the list, at the close you find what is important: no fundamental understanding of the underlying causes for malignant growth have been discovered: first and foremost no one can predict what will be the result of any particular cancer treatment to any person. Central to scientific understanding is to be able to predict.

What these articles show is we are still in a state of knowledge like that of the Ptolomeic picture of the universe. As astronomers added real information on bits and pieces of this and that place in the sky, a cumbrous and confusing picture emerged. Only when Copernicus revolutionized the perspective did everything fall into place. Until Darwin perceived and understood how natural selection worked (based on Lyell’s finding that the natural world is undergoing continual change and there are “laws” controlling the patterns of these changes) we were left with books like Vestiges of Creation, a Ptolomeic-like density of detail with no predictive or analogous capability. It is true that as researchers delve into this or that chemotherapy or operation someone may stumble upon or work out answers.

Anyone who has read any history of medicine will know that the result of this person’s findings which will threaten the huge income of the drug companies and doctors doing these expensive operations (the admiral called these “shows of force”) cutting away the cancers (which often don’t work and leave the person mutilated as he endures death) will find him or herself under severe attack or the subject of ridicule and dismissal. The reason for the startling lack of progress in medicine over the centuries is those making money or at the head of a craft or profession do all they can to maintain the status quo.

I do feel my beloved husband was treated as an excrescence (and thus part of Ravikovitch’s poem) as soon as it was ascertained he had a lethal cancer; before that we had a pretense of concern. There was money to be made on him for an operation, and then the shows of force to enact.

As to the Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby, see Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times. The principle that we should have a neutral public space where no religion controls what can be done or is done and none shall be allowed to impose its vision on others is being systematically effaced. Since that decision, the court has gone on to increase the numbers of companies who can refuse to grant insurance to cover women’s various contraceptive needs.

Here as a live conversation is Bill Moyers’ talking to Greenhouse and Dahlia Lithwick.

Sylvia

16EllenJimLaura1980
July 1980: Jim, me, Laura Caroline at Shorehaven (beach/pool club in the Bronx, now destroyed)

Dear friends and readers,

Another week lived through. I find the thought that comes to me as the days pass me is now I am doing this alone for the first time, now I am here alone for the first time, now there, traveling on the Metro and parking the car, like I’m toting up, counting each, sort of adding on. If I stand still and say and feel my loneliness, it becomes too much to bear. The car is (as I knew it would be) a central machine for me: I am finding that I do better, do not feel the same desperation, ontological desolation, if I go out and am among people. Breaking up the day. This means I am doing much less literary work towards projects but I find I can’t bury myself in these projects as I once could when the Admiral was beside me, or there for me to turn to and be with for breaks, interludes (sometimes lasting a couple of weeks, sometimes just an hour’s walk). I can’t post or blog less for that is a way of being with friends and acquaintances. Life is not yet getting a rhythm of sorts but one is slowly emerging.

Not that I’m transitioning — that’s another of these grating phrases that impose a sameness upon a set of people, a generalizing interpretive device that falls like snow on individual emotional and psycho-social experience. I am not a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, but a complicated psychology getting through existing on. Part of it is I am finding pleasures and small fulfillments, I am also trying to do what I did with him, honoring him. Two weeks ago now when I saw Yvette trying to play the piano again, making a video of herself singing on the piano on-line, I made an appointment with a piano tuner. He came quickly and spent a long morning here. We talked and he showed me a website to find piano teachers on. When he finished the piano sounded bright and lovely again. It was not only Jim’s but also my father’s. My father bought it in the 1970s and tried to learn to play. He did not stick with it, but it was his and he gave it to us. I remember the day it arrived in a moving van. I took Yvette to a music store to buy a composition book; she looked for songs to sing but the items are not arranged by voice type, as in Mezzo Soprano, but rather famous shows or singers. So she did not succeed in buying anything. The people working there were all so helpful (music stores have a had time lasting since the Internet) and I was shown a modern digitalized piano which at the flick of a switch turns into an organ, and another, into a harpsichord. It helps the person compose, records what is composed, does not need tuning. Well I’m glad I have the wooden one, Spinet (now I know what brand, when it was made and by whom) and will keep it. All this to say this Wednesday I’m meeting with a piano teacher in Arlington (not far, I can find it) to start lessons, maybe. I can dance well but have no ear for real. Still for 3 years I took guitar lessons and I will see if I can find some pleasure in doing this (if the woman is willing to teach me) and keeping the piano alive again. Yvette was never one to practice; I’ll see if I do.

I did give up on any kind of garden and the mowing man I’ve had for years has mulched and planted grass. He was shocked to be told Jim was dead. “The last time I saw him, he looked fine and strong.” Here was one place where I was the one interacting with the workmen. The point of the two garden patches was to have flowers with Jim for our retirement. Without him I’m back to not knowing in the least how to grow anything. In the southeast Bronx we had many problems but vegetation was not one of them. I also solved the problem of the cable box: last week the exterminator killed the wasps and destroyed the nest, and now after visiting the Comcast office (bringing the death certificate), and 5 phone calls over a day Comcast finally sent a man to nail the cover on my Comcast box (attached to the front of my house) so I won’t lose connection to the Internet and TV. It was not as funny as it should have been when someone visiting here was worried that I don’t have vegetation of some sort (say a bush) in front of the box “to hide it.” Such people put cloth around their piano’s legs in Victorian times and in NYC would nail shut inner glass doors between rooms and paint them so as to pretend the doors were part of the wall. when Jim and I lived in a rent-control apartment in NYC (1970s), we hired someone to put the glass doors back to their original shape and walked between the rooms.

I discovered also how nice people are if you become a member of whatever it is. I am now a member of the Folger Library and have bought tickets for two Globe performances (the London company) which are coming to the Folger: for Hamlet this July and for King Lear this September. Caroline was over here, and encouraged me to get a subscription. I know if you have one, you can change your tickets around. She said if Yvette didn’t want to go with me to all four, she would make it her business to come to any Yvette didn’t want. She was eager for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; another of the non-Shakespeare plays had people directing and performing whom she once knew and she wanted to go to that. The Folger woman has sent me a packet of coming lectures, poetry readings, concerts — rehearsals one can go to. It’s car to Metro and walk 5 minutes or so.

I joined the Jewish Community Center — a very friendly place, where I was offered a tour of the rooms filled with different sorts of equipment. I succeeded in finding something I like and can do. It’s called Dance Fusion Workshop. About 30 women for an hour follow a younger woman half-dancing, half-exercising to strongly rhythmic music — modern, All that Jazz, At the Hop, You Make Me Want to Shout, Frank Sinatra among them. I wonder if the woman realize most of the music is by men and about having sex with women; the two by women have one singer apologizing to a male (what she is sorry for we are not told), but the other shoots a man dead at the close of the piece because he is leaving her and is ever so nonchalant. Is anyone but me listening to what an all woman group dance and exercise to? I don’t know. I have tried the waterarobics and in theory ought to enjoy it: I used to love to swim when young; it was better than going a psychiatrist and I went twice a week with a friend to a Y in mid-Manhattan. I have lost all body strength and can’t get far if I swim, but still like the water. At any rate, it’s not working out so well as my feet seize up (spasms) from trying to follow the woman at the front — she is not in the water. This one has vapid Broadway Musicals and John Philip Souza! It brought me right back to high school where we would march and parade to John Philip Souza music whenever the girls in the small gym (where I spent my entire time in Junior High and High School, a subset of girls, some pregnant) joined the girls in the big (a couple of hundred girls who did stuff in teams). I’ll try another form of this class in two weeks; it is said to use Latin music. I don’t want a tour lest it be an attempt to get me to hire a trainer. I like how one can join in or not as the weeks of each “semester” pass.

I’ve also now gone three times to the Capital Fringe Festival. I’ve seen two remarkable plays, the masterpiece Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard, very well done (a reasonable number of people at the Goethe Institute in DC), and a very witty development supposedly from Austen’s Emma: Miss Emma’s Making-matching Agency for Literary Characters by Alexandra Petri. Yvette has blogged about this one (see further comment), and I hope to tonight on Austen Reveries. The third was a play supposed to be a re-write of Shaw: Everything I Do by John Becker. Demoralizing. I couldn’t make up my mind whether I was to take the story straight or see it as a burlesque on the hideous relationships of people sexually and US foreign policy (intertwined by the story). One thread has this young woman begging this young man to marry her after she has had a miscarriage (which is presented with a gravity you’d think she’d given birth to a dead baby), and we are not to take his reluctance as a sign she should have nothing to do with him. It was Shaw-like in the talk-y-ness.

But my experience was really all about getting there. For the first time in all the years I’ve been going with Jim I realized some of the theaters are not easy to get to. There is much in DC that is beyond the Metro. Miss Emma and Everything I do were in the Atlas theater, an old movie-house in a neighborhood that is very slowly gentrifying. The admiral and I have been there many times, and with Yvette, to see HD operas, plays, some stores are also inside transformed into theaters. We saw Marat/Sade one summer. I never thought about how we got there: he drove us and sometimes it was a problem parking the car, but he did it and I just sat next to him. When we’d get out of wherever we were he knew where we were (often I did not) and I just walked with him.

I don’t have any sense of community though by now I’ve seen a couple of the same people twice — remarkable that given I’m going to only 7 of 3 and 1/2 weeks of events. Jim bought sometimes as many as 14 — and for rock shows and concerts in a central tent where one can get coffee and from a bar drinks by the central office. There is where we probably felt the sense of a community

How changed all is. The smallest thing of my days are utterly changed because he is not here; just this sort of thing confronts me continually. Well, I used my google maps and quickly discovered that some of the turns come at places in the highway not well marked, not signed a separate number (feeder roads): I usually miss these and get all messed up afterward. Even with a GPS. Yvette said we did have trouble parking. After much nervous stress I decided on public transportation as the lesser evil. I now have my car so no problem getting to the Metro (the worst of public transportation are Virginia buses). I used a cab to get to the place after I got off the Metro where it was a busy intersection (Gallery Place, Chinatown so-called) and an Uber cab to get back to the Metro. Each thing that happens in my life it seems teaches me that when Jim was here nothing seemed a problem because he did it, and now he’s gone each step is arduous. I went partly because I’d have been so angry at myself to say I couldn’t reach it — and it would augur worse for future attempts to go anywhere. I did manage it. The first trip to the Atlas was an anxiety-producing as going deep into Arlington two weeks ago to find a library where a JASNA meeting was held. The second time not so bad, but I don’t think I’ll go a third to this place as the after all the play is not that appealing and I have to take Yvette to the doctor that afternoon and that will be enough for me. So for me going too far from home is out for now. What seems nothing to others is an ordeal for me.

I knew he did all the planning after consulting me if I wanted to go — it was rare I didn’t. I liked what he liked and once there was HD opera and subtitles for the other operas, I liked these too. But I never realized quite how true the little sentence is used to say to people about my life was: I live by being by his side. (Where he wanted to go we went, where I wanted to go if he could, he came with me, took me there. I did some deciding — and had influence — as when we were able to buy this house because of my friendly correspondence with the landlady — but it was he who found and dared to rent a private house in a pretty neighborhood for us originally.)

All this still leaves a lot of time — so I’m working on my review of Unusual Suspects and when I get absorbed into it, I am okay and at peace. An introductory essay on Eleanor Sleath’s Orphan of the Rhine for a Valancourt Press edition (close reading and biography) with a bibliography has been accepted by Valancourt for a coming edition of this Northanger novel of which there are only two extant copies in the world! When I finish the review I’ll have to decide whether to do another on an interesting film study on how censorship has affected films or devote August to my book project, A Place of Refuge: The Jane Austen Film Canon. I so enjoy studying the films closely I probably will do the latter. I wrote a biography for the coming early fall course at OLLI at GMU in the gothic and will be going to Tallwood, the place where they meet for a belated sort of interview. Again the car a sine qua non. Mornings I read for listserv reading and talk and write and read friends’ letters; evening eat with Yvette, watch Amy Goodman and PBS reports; night blog and watch movies.

Sometimes I do blog during the day — like now, on Sunday late morning after food shopping with Yvette. She has a dinner with her social club this afternoon: I’ll drive her there and pick her up.

I listen to Nadia May reading aloud George Eliot’s Middlemarch in my car. I can’t resist it — it is such a comfort to me. If something has disturbed me, and I’m now calming down, and in the car I put it on and feel relief. I sometimes think the only moments of contentment I know come when I am watching Andrew Davies’s Middlemarch. The depth of feeling reaches my aching need.

When all activity ceases I am back to Square one, missing him achingly, realizing how impoverished all these experiences are without his talk, his presence, his fun.

Philip Larkin’s Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
-The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused-nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing
more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try.
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
Specious stuff that says no rational thing
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear-no sight, no sound
No touch or taste or smell, nothing
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision.
Asmall unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision,
Most things may never happen: this one will
And realisation of it rages out
in furnace-fear when we are caught without
people or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room
takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know.
Have always known, know that we can’t escape

Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready
to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

****************

He’s writing the poem out of fear of death. Part of my problem is I don’t want to die. And so I know death-in-life. We have Larkin’s poems which Jim read through and knew several quite well. He didn’t like Larkin personally (and we haven’t got the letters), but he did admire the poems. They spoke to him.

I write this because I haven’t got him to talk to. I can’t reach him to tell him how many things I now wish I had done differently; that I had paid more attention to him, really been with him more during his retirement years. I came onto the Net because I missed my father. How I’m on the Net is a function of what he was too.

Still the cartoon remains true:

Bookspowerful

Sylvia

He was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow (coined from Cassandra Austen speaking of Jane two days after she died)

sous-le-sable
Charlotte Rampling (she was a favorite actress for the Admiral) in Sous la Sable, a film club choice (which I saw some 14 years ago but have not forgotten), about a woman who wakes from a nap on the beach to find her husband who she last saw going in to bathe gone …

Dear friends and readers,

Some people take showers; I do water therapy. This month hits hard since during the first 3/4s of it last year (I can date the first day of doubt, July 17th when he had a mysterious pain on his side), we thought he was getting better and would live for a few years yet — maybe in my deluded hopes more.

Living through it again the time presents itself as the first July without Jim here by my side, or, as twice happened, when he went to England for a few weeks, emailing me on and off during the day and the phone call each morning as he drove to work because once he was let into the compound no phone calls out were permitted. (Yes he could drive on the left; he was working for NATO.) How affectionate were his emails, how relieved I would feel each morning to hear his voice. He has departed and left a deserted sky.

Cassandra’s well-known words capture that intense lack I feel. Only someone who has lost someone genuinely beloved — can know how just about every moment, everything I do is changed, felt differently, quite apart from all the many things changed to become difficult or quickly fraught. Yvette and I did think maybe to go for 3-4 days to New York City this middle August, but after sitting in front of our computers and considering it, we put it off to mid-November. It will be cooler, New York City is now lovely in November, she will be able at long last to go inside the Metropolitan Opera for real, good plays are on, and it’ll be near Thanksgiving so maybe when that arrives, we will at least have been taken out of ourselves just before.

I am just now reading two excellent books on the reform movement in later 18th century England that was ruthlessly crushed by those running the English parliament, those in charge of local counties, those with power and influence to get many others to destroy people’s lives directly and indirectly: Albert Goodwin’s Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution. Were he here I’d have talked with him about it, how so many of the ideas and needs voiced in the 19th century by the chartists (universal manhood suffrage, equal representation across boroughs) are right here, and he’d have been able to tell me so much more than I know as I read for he knew a lot about this era, from Burke to Paine, to the kind of skullduggery politicking followed by Charles James Fox and the ruthless war-mongering of Pitt the Younger, his equivalent quiet Reign of Terror and starve them out politics. Jim would have supplied quips, jokes, made the reading so much richer and I could have told him things he was interested in and would like to know. Maybe he would have looked into John Bugg’s Five Long Winters and the remarkable M. Ray Adams’s quietly prophetic Studies in the Literary Background of English Radicalism, with special reference to the French Revolution. In 1947 Adams wrote of the vilification then of Enlightenment thinkers and their legacy and the real world results of this then and predicted more was to come. I’ve been reading reviews of John Barrell’s Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s: where Princess Diana’s successful attempt to be familiar (though she could not take care of herself when divorced from the protections of the monarchy) is compared to George III’s failure, the problems of taxing hair powder, and where John Barrell in his Dark Side of Rural Landscape talks about the smooth erasures of museum policies which refuse to recognize how the poor are depicted in Gainsborough, Morland, John Constable. I could have showed Jim the pictures too: he loved to look at and understood the pictures the way I do.

Morland
George Morland, The Door of a Village Inn (detail)

He liked 18th century poetry!

We’d have laughed together; and noow there is no one to talk to of this with even minimally, only silence.

Owl by Robert Mezey

Nightlong waiting and listening, being schooled
To long lying awake without thoughts,
I hear him calling from the other world.
A long silence, and then two flutey notes-
The cry of nobody, but urgent, cool,
Full of foreboding. He’s in the cedar tree
Not twenty feet beyond my window sill;
The other world is very far away.
When, towards morning, he ceases, the
    air seems
More visible, although it’s not yet light,
The black sky drained and all our
    speechless dreams
Fading into thought. Lord of the night,
Thy kingdom in which everything is one,
Come, speak to me, speak to me once again

Sylvia

A first dream

IanJuly2014
Ian this morning

Dear friends and readers,

Some time in the early dawn hours of this morning I dreamed of Jim and woke to remember that I had done so. I dreamed he had come with me to the film club this Sunday; he hadn’t wanted to, but found he liked it after all, and when we were driving back — me next to him, me driving — I asked him if he would like to come and see another film for next time and he said yes. I felt glad he was going to come. This is the first time this has happened since he died.

This morning Ian too cuddled himself up against two pillows catty-cornered amid the quilt which I bought for him last year around this time — thinking he would use it for his separate bed. I imagines what Jim would have said had he seen that cat there like that — in an affectionate teasing voice, “You look very comfortable there, don’t you … ” — a kind of stance and comic-affectionate tone he took in part from his mother.

I did drive to the NVJCC this morning and discovered I find Tai Chi stressful: not relaxing. I gather this is unusual — except that maybe those who do react the way I do don’t tell. I could see the gestures we were practicing, learning, imitating, came from aggressive-protective fighting, the names gave this away, and the teacher enacted a sudden aggressive gesture at someone who had taken the course before and she countered with a protective one. I wouldn’t have liked that. While there didn’t seem to be much exercise, yet from the way we were asked to turn and our legs and bodies and put weight down, my left knee began to hurt (I have arthritis in both knees probably) and my back felt stiff and tight. I just can’t swing it about; I don’t loosen upon command. I realize I don’t move it much and am subject to low back pain. The teacher offered an exercise but like the other things he did, there was not much explanation, or I didn’t understand it very well. I found myself holding my hands as I stood there inbetween. So although Tai Chi looks so beautiful, uplifting, relaxing in Calendar Girls, after all there is Patrick Doyle’s score, the place high on a sunny hill (we were in an over-air-conditioned auditorium), the wonderful women actresses. I did like the waterarobics and found the 3 minute relaxation exercise afterward was relaxing; and there is another kind of swimming class and two different exercise ones to choose from too. So I have other choices. There’s Yoga too, but it’s at night.

I am just now listening on my Macbook Pro to the beautiful score that is found on the CD of Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, music by Dario Marianelli, piano played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. I have played the Patrick Doyle score of Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility today too.

Most of the rest is much like the opening; Marianelli lacks the deep feel of order I take from Doyle’s music, that rhythm, but he fills the silence with flowing beauty:

From the opening in the film; “Dawn” is its raison d’etre:

Dawn

Opening
Keira Knightley is seen in an (improbably) plain brown dress reading a copy of an old book whose running headers seem to read First Impressions

Sylvia

Carrying on

I miss him.

photo
The notebook is now Yvette’s

Dear friends and readers,

This week I remembered how the Admiral read aloud three of Kipling’s Just So stories to Caroline when we had no TV; how he read aloud to me and I to him when we were first married and living in Leeds, and then it was a volume of Virginia Woolf’s letters. That was a happy memory, one I can now scarcely believe happened but it did. And I remembered too how my father read aloud to me Dickens, RLStevenson.

Now that I have my driver’s license back over the last two weeks: Yvette and I have been able to keep a busier schedule and be around people more. We’ve a weekly shopping schedule, and this week I went to my new grief support counselor, saw and talked with my financial advisor and consultant (two hours!), joined the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia and went for my first session of Waterarobics (I did enjoy it, especially the relaxation exercises at the close); joined the Cinemart theater’s Sunday film club (once every three weeks) and saw a truly great 2 and 1/2 hour film by Jan Poellen, The Last Sentence, went out to lunch at Clyde’s (well-known local restaurant for office lunches) with a friend, went to a JASNA meeting (suggested really doing charades as an alternative for the ball); and took (with Yvette) wildly protesting cat (Ian, who escaped out of his carrier after desperate chases around the house to put him in it) and quietly mewing one (Clary) to Vet.

I knew I needed him for basic help in life: well I now manage some of these basic things by myself — which includes doing bills, managing taxes. I can now get to the bank again. I have a professional level PC and a IT man who can enter by remote control and helps me out whenever I need it (he will come to the house too). Those things I cannot do and do not need to do I never will, whatever the loss I must endure it. The worst still is driving alone in unfamiliar routes and to unfamiliar places — but familiar streets hurt bad too. Then listening to a great intelligent novel beautifully read aloud helps. I still remember him sitting beside me and how I never thought about where we were, how we got there and back. It’s so lonely in these vast anonymous roads. What an ugly world the highways and cement overpasses make. People have showed me Road Scholar: I get anxiety attacks trying to find a library in Arlington I’ve not been to before. Have to say a direction aloud over and over as I go, and then when I reach the new direction say that. At any rate I’m not ready for it.I have avoided anguish since a week ago last Thursday — again partly prompted from the fool flat back screen TV — and will try to avoid in future. PBS is making it easier for me: I tried to watch the new Mystery Masterpiece programs: they are violent drek, cynical in the stupidest ways. Trash wastelands.

As to plans, I bought 7 different events (plays, concerts, music events) for the Capitol Fringe Festival over 3 weeks in July; if I’m not too late I’ll buy for July 5th, a matinee of a supposed hilarious satire on these increasingly debased ubiquitous crime-police procedural programs at Signature (we’ll get there by cab as here is no parking). I could find only one matinee for Wolf Trap for us and it conflicts with one of Yvette’s social club days: I cannot see myself driving back on the highways at night (it’s a complicated route); Castleton festival and the Shenandoah Shakespeare out of reach. I did look at the schedules and have thought about the fall at the Kennedy Center and Folger Shakespeare Library.

An exterminator was here, so wasps and bees nests all gone; the landscape and mowing man will grass over the two small plots I had planned for flowers for Jim and I; and tomorrow a man will come to tune the piano. It was my father’s and then Jim’s. I’ve cleared the his song books off of it as Yvette has begun to sing and play again. Here she is singing so beautifully. I mean to retrieve it and take good care of it as what is left from my father and Jim. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take lessons to keep the piano alive. I have good precedent in Jane Austen. I have a website to explore and am told music stores today which survive are like bookstores: make worlds of social music to participate in.

I will force myself to look at Angie’s list and Yellow Pages later this week to find a handyman to do another needed thing for the house. One thing at a time. I do dislike doing these things because of bad experiences with contractors over the years.

While at home by myself I have my early morning time reading — sometimes for as much as nearly 3 hours. I read again and watch movies at night and try to blog (like now). Central day time: I wrote my introductory essay for the Valancourt edition of one of the Northanger Novels and am reading towards a review of Kenneth Johnston’s Unusual Suspects as well as making efforts at the edition of Smith’s Ethelinde (I’m proof reading the text and doing arduous notes) and slowly watching and taking down the screenplay for the marvelous The Jane Austen Book Club. I have my good online friends, am still reading with others, talking on-line thoughtful conversation. I listen to music on NPR.

All this no longer keeps at bay the central fact of my life now: that the Admiral no longer exists. In a way I wish he had not said he wanted to be cremated, for at last his body would exist even as a corpse. Now nothing but the dust in that urn. What I find I’m facing for the first time fully is how much I miss him, his company his conversation, his ideas, his wit, his quiet kindness. I am still blocked off from him in the sense that I can’t imagine specifics; I still have trouble remembering what it was we talked so much of — night after night over wine and coffee, during the day over lunch, walking, doing things together. I don’t look at his letters lest I go wild with grief for him: they were so filled with affection for me, he valued me, my ways, my character, he thought me pretty still because he loved me. The last time now will be when I put that flapper dress on for Caroline’s wedding and I saw his eyes light up as he looked at me; I pleased him. August 3rd. I can’t ever hear his voice again. He had lost a good deal of it after that operation which mutilated him and then shortened and rendered wretched the rest of his time.

I am left in the silence. I imagine this is what it is for other widows and widowers. I miss him all the time now. When I wake, I am aware of it, when I fall asleep, coming in, going out. He said among his last words that he did not want to die. I sometimes think what we might have been doing this summer. Last year at this time on this day I was hoping he’d live for even years to come. He’d make it to 70 at least. I didn’t think about whether he’d live to be old, just that he might have more life, more pleasure eventually. We thought he was getting better. We were taking our daily walks. Walking for life, for strength.

As to what killed him: as individual after individual is killed off by cancer much earlier than they needed to die, there is no core constituency, no sizable body of people identifying with one another, no organization adapted for political intervention, no where to intervene it seems — well there is (for a start these powerful medical institutions and insurances companies); the people to act must be those left, but each lives isolated outside these seeming family and job clans; the world constructed to be that way. The world is not constructed for widows of 67 to find true companionship. Maybe you are not supposed to seek it, not supposed to want it. Remember (someone said to me this week) what other people want and do not want.

Talking of flirting on one listserv this week I wrote: I can recognize it, but it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know how to cope with what is a sort of game. When I was younger I did try to reciprocate in kind and was elephantine, ludicrous. So I think now — for the most part it has not happened in a long time — what I used to do was just look at the person sufficiently hard and silent to convey the idea of “please stop.” I am in accord with the person who cannot understand why people play such games with one another. I experience flirting as a distraction which gets in the way of getting to know the person. Whether you like or are satisfied with it, depends not only on whether you can pull it off (and one feature of an Aspergers/autistic personality is not to be able to because performances manipulate the unwritten rules), but what you seek to get out of a relationship or friendship and what you long to put into it.

Cats as a species seem to be constructed differently. Both have become so much more affectionate to me, and I interact with them as personalities. They love reciprocation. Maybe that’s why some people keep them. It is to be remembered they have been bred this way (by taking them too early from their mothers?)

Do those couples who love one another exist much of the time in the reflected gaze of the other? Honestly I’m not sure I still don’t feel he’s there somehow. His presence is in my mind. And though he’s not there literally it’s a comfort to me to feel this even if I can’t reach him and miss him so.

I am very sad tonight because last year at this time we both hoped he would live. We didn’t think he’d make it to 80, but we hoped for 75. He would be weak, he would not be able to eat and drink as he had, but he would have a number more years of life: we even dreamed of going to England once more, just spend a lot of money to make him comfortable. Now he’s gone forever. Damn all those who hurt him directly, all those who were indifferent to his sufferings and made them worse, those who never told us about the dangers of acid reflex, and all those who pollute the environment and are responsible for doing nothing about this epidemic.

Sylvia

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