Monday, October 24, 2011

Sadness, Happiness, Peace ... and Elliott

"Depressing" isn't a word I would use to describe my music. But there is some sadness in it -- there has to be, so that the happiness in it will matter. ~ Elliott Smith (Aug. 6, 1969 -- Oct. 21, 2003)

I'd say you make a perfect
Angel in the snow
All crushed out on the way you are
Better stop before it goes too far
Don't you know that I love you
Sometimes I feel like only a cold still life
That fell down here to lay beside you

Don't you know that I love you
Sometimes I feel like only a cold still life
Only a frozen still life
That fell down here to lay beside you

In light of Elliott's death anniversary last Friday, I've been thinking about the above quote -- the ensuing song is a favorite of mine as well -- which I've always personally identified with in my own life. For me, I tend to feel things intensely on both ends of the emotional spectrum, which can obviously be both amazing and wonderful as well as crippling. But as Elliott so perfectly put it, in feeling the down times, I'm able to better able to appreciate the good ones.

In my recent weeks of self analyzation, which have had me feeling both empowered and completely ragged, I've been thinking about how people in my life have often told me I somehow bring a calmness or peace to them, or this feeling of being a safe space to open up in. It's funny, as I'm definitely an anxious person in general, but I've noticed that oftentimes, when someone is out of sorts, the anxious part of me somehow just shuts down and there I am, calm and grounded to help rein them in. I have friends who have provided me with this same feeling when I've been the one out of sorts. I guess it falls back to my Sway post, having those relationships and friendships that ebb and flow with each other. 

However, thinking about feeling things on one end of the spectrum as well as the other led me to think about how sometimes, I yearn to just find a balance between the two. I've achieved this by meditation or actively practicing various ways to relax and ground myself, but it's been a long time since I've truly felt inner peace. I know that's something that will always have to be worked at, and that's why I've lost it in the recent weeks, but sometimes I wish I could experience that feeling where the mere presence of someone awashes me with some serenity. There have been moments where I've had that, but enough has happened between then and now for me to be generally uneasy around most people, or unsure of what is going on inside me. And I guess, tying things back into Elliott's quote, feeling this way has me sometimes yearning for and appreciating the days when I did feel peace, when someone was able to give me peace.

However, even on these down days, I've continued to breathe in the vapors of hope that are always surrounding me. Because I'm pretty sure -- as I work through the hard stuff, the haunting good memories and my present-day challenges -- I'll eventually find that inner peace again, and when I do, I'm going to make damn sure I hold onto it, because the person that will eventually add to the peace and solace inside me ... he deserves it, too.


Sunday, October 16, 2011


"The feeling of Sunday is the same everywhere, heavy, melancholy, standing still."  ~Jean Rhys

(Haunting Emilie Autumn cover)

Downtrodden, melancholy you are
Veiled in mourning, dew drops of sorrow
Mesmerizing in your doleful whispers against my ear
Someone once told me, we'd change that
One day you'd be something to look forward to
One day you'd be something good in my heart
It's silly really, to be so weary of a day
To have this unexplainable foreboding when you're near
But Sundays ... you're a fickle thing
And hope is an avenue you cannot smother
So, perhaps "we" won't change that
But maybe, just maybe ... I will.


Friday, October 14, 2011


“I believe one has to escape oneself to discover oneself.” ~ Rabih Alameddine

The other night, I had a wine glass in my hand that was half full, my body immersed into a couch as I waited to watch a movie. I stared at it for what felt like an eternity, studying the fingerprints ... my fingerprints, creating a sheen over its once translucent surface. The burgundy liquid swished from side to side as I slowly twirled the stem of the glass, momentarily mesmerized. I felt lost that day ... I feel lost today. But as I stared at that glass, studying my fingerprints, my identity smeared on that glass for all to see -- it mocked me. I wished, in that moment, rediscovering my identity were really that simple. And as I continued to swirl the wine around, I imagined it washing my fingerprints away, as thought wiping clean my very existence. I pictured the glass submerged in a cleansing, crimson sea, leaving behind trails of its potent, aged, grape-fill scent. And then, just as quickly, I was pulled from my trance back into reality.

And when I glanced back down at my glass, the prints were still there. It was in that moment I realized my existence was there to stay ... and no matter how often I felt lost, I'd always remain and find my way back to those prints once more.

Nevertheless, the moment got me thinking about a tendency I have that I really haven't talked to many people about in detail, if at all. Sometimes, I mentally "leave" during times I'm overwhelmed, which may be a blessing or a curse, depending on the situation. I'm often always in my own little world in some ways ... and always have been since I was a child, staring off, pondering life,  thinking about the next story I'll write, trying to figure out other people's stories.

But that kind of escape into another world is not the kind I've recently come to grips with in myself. Because there were times, in my recent past, where I would literally feel as though I'd left myself for a few moments, as though I was no longer present. It's a defense mechanism and it happened when whatever was going on around me was too much for me to handle, or was a situation I was desperate to escape, but couldn't physically leave ... so I mentally left. It still happens now sometimes, even if for just a few moments when I feel filled to the brim without an ounce of space left in me.

To try and put it into words -- more for myself to comprehend than anyone else right at this moment -- what usually happened in the past was I'd try to verbalize that I'd reached that point, but inside, I was too weak to actually do something about it, so I just remained frozen in place, looking down or at some nondescript object. And if I'm being honest, I still do that. I always joke with people that the moment I have no fight in me about something, even if it's just not teasing someone back who is teasing me, that's when they should worry.

Well, joking aside, that's kind of true in a lot of ways. Because in those moments, when I "leave," even if it's just for a few seconds like I've done recently, I'm unresponsive with a blank stare ... and whatever I'm looking at, I kind of melt into. And whatever is happening or being said begins to blur in the background. It's hard to explain, but it's literally a feeling like I'm bursting at the seams, crying out from the inside, yet feeling muted. And then my brain just shuts off momentarily.

The question becomes, is this a good or bad thing? Is it simply my mind trying to protect itself the way it was in the past or is it simply me running, escaping? Is it an instinct I have to overcome somehow or does it still have purpose? I don't know. Perhaps it's a little of both.

Either way, it's something I've just now begun to analyze about myself, something I've only more recently noticed. I know I'll begin to find some of these answers, as I tend to do upon discovery of the questions themselves, but for whatever reason, vulnerable as it may make me, it's something I've decided to share.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Leaf

My good friend Sandy Ward (who's awesome raindrop picture I posted on my Comforts ... Poetry post) came across this idea a writer and photographer were doing in tandem where the photographer would take a random picture and the writer would have to weave a story around it. Well, we've decided to steal said idea and do something similar once a week. I haven't a clue where this is going to take me, but I'll just start writing ...

The Leaf

They were walking along one day when she came across it. Like a stark shot of sunlight amidst shadows, it pressed against the damp log. Its edges were frayed, its delicate stem intertwined with the bark, its veins spotted with age and wear, but the yellow maple leaf was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.

She broke stride and unclasped their hands to walk over and gently peel it from its lonely dwelling and into her warm hand. Slowly, she brought it to her nose and inhaled. It felt as though the core of the earth itself filtered into her lungs.

He stood, several feet away, smiling softly at her, examining the way a single sunbeam streamed through the burnished tree branches, casting a glowing aura around her dark, wavy tendrils. Her sun-kissed cheeks and closed eyelids looked iridescent in the light as she took another deep breath against the leaf. He took a step backward, leaning against the tree as he propped up his right leg, crossed his arms and drank her in. Finally, as if coming to from a long, dream-filled doze, she opened her eyelids and found his eyes. She quickly blushed under their intensely penetrating gaze and bashfully looked down, lowering her arms while still cradling the leaf.

A nearly translucent mist existed her flush lips as they spread into a deep smile.

"We can add this to our collection," she said in a gravelly whisper before reaching into her knapsack, draped over her right hip, and pulling out her leather bound journal.

She opened it to a blank page and gingerly laid the leaf between the flaps before shutting it and tucking it away. The corners of his mouth pulled back into a warm smile, yet his piercing eyes never wavered from hers. Once again, she coyly looked away and into the distance, furrowing her brow in faux concentration. This caused him to finally break, softly chuckling before stretching his arm out to her, beckoning her to come back over to the leaf-covered trail so they could continue their walk. She practically skipped over to him, a playful bounce in her step that only deepened his smile and swelled his heart. He let out a long, steady exhale that could have passed for utopian contentment as she looped her arm in his and they continued on.

A moment later, they heard a faint rustling in the woods near them and spotted a female deer with a baby fawn next to her, dusted with white spots. The deer both raised their heads, ears and eyes fiercely alert to the couple, yet unmoving. The man and woman continued the standoff for a few more moments, mesmerized by the gentle grace and beauty of the creatures staring back at them, before slowly walking on, intent on not disturbing them any further.

Before the trail wound down to where they were parked, he stopped and turned toward her, bringing her in for a gentle kiss as he untangled his left arm from hers and cupped her face in both his hands, deepening the kiss. He opened his eyes and gazed down at hers, still shut against the red hues of the leaves in a dreamlike trance, her lips slightly parted with a hint of a smile. Finally she opened them and he saw they were glistening with emotion.

The leaf, momentarily forgotten as she thought, he's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

No words were spoken for fear of bursting the surreal bubble they found themselves in. But like all moments, it was whisked away by the tepid fall breeze and they turned to walk toward the car, both inhaling the sweet, earthy air one last time.

Once home, she scampered to the den, grabbed the worn, chipped stepping stool her grandpa had made for her when she was a little girl, stepped up to the top shelf and plucked out the large, burlap book at the end of the row. Meanwhile, her fiance put away their coats and strolled into the den just as she hopped off the bench and pulled out her journal. Carefully, she removed the yellow leaf, now dried a bit and practically glowing against her skin as she opened the burlap bound book and sifted through the laminated pages of autumn leaves they'd collected over the years. Finally, she found an open page and placed the leaf over top of it, carrying the entire book to the window sill and leaving it open against the rays of sun pouring through.

"We really ought to wait until it completely dries," she said, as though he knew nothing about preserving leaves.

It only made him love her more as he walked over and enveloped her in his arms, bringing his nose to just above her ear and breathing her scent in.

"I can't wait to fill that entire book," he softly whispered into her ear, causing gentle butterflies in her stomach.

Many autumns later ...

Feeling the crunch of decaying leaves giving way beneath his boots and cane, he ambled on, noticing now more than ever the slight hitch in his step. His wool cap vibrated against the breeze, much brisker than it had been those many years prior. He took a different path this time, however, spotting a fallen tree across the trail ahead.

As he drew nearer, his misty breath slightly wheezing with each stride, he decided to stop a moment and sit on the log, betraying its age with a slight crack under his weight. As he collected himself, something caught his attention out of the corner of his left eye. He turned his gaze toward it and saw, buried in a hollowed out section of the wet log, a tattered orange leaf. Without another thought, he reached in and gently pulled it out, one of its corners slightly tearing. He held it flat in his palm, examining it, bruised and browning by its slow demise, its stem curving toward the pulse in his wrist. He then looked at his other hand, resting on his knee, bruised and spotted with age as well. He tenderly brought the leaf to his nose and lips, shutting his eyelids against the trees, causing tears to roll down each of his cheeks and glisten against the pale light shedding through graying skies.

After a few minutes, he brought the sleeve of his coat to his nose, sniffling against it before wiping away remaining tears with his chapped fingers. With great effort and the help of his steadfast wooden cane, he rose from the log, stepping over it and continued down the path with the leaf in hand. He stopped just before the clearing and peered into the woods, hearing a rustle in the leaves ... or perhaps merely a phantom rustle. There was nothing.

Once in the clearing, he limped over to the right, pulling the bundle under his arms closer to his heart. He spotted the arched headstone, crowned by a wreath of autumn leaves and cloaked in the morning fog. He stopped a few feet away and just stared at the wreath, holding strong throughout the season's rough worn rainstorms.

"I found something today," he said, his voice slightly cracking. "It was buried in the hollow of a tree trunk in the path. If I'd have known better, I'd swear you left it there, tucked away, just for me."

He paused then, feeling the warmth of fresh tears trek down his cheeks, falling to the dead leaves beneath him. He walked over and pulled the plastic off a wood-chapped stepping stool, never having the heart to refinish it. Feeling his bones crack, he leaned his weight against the cane as he descended, sitting just to the right of her grave before pulling forth the leaf. He took the bundle from under his arm and laid it on his lap, removing the cloth it was wrapped in.

Tentatively, he opened the burlap cover, revealing the first leaf they'd ever found together, it's blazing crimson color as breathtaking as it was that day, lying atop shrubbery hidden in the shadows. But she spotted it. She had always spotted them.

In a trance-like state, he meticulously turned each page. Every leaf, every vein, marking, scar, bruising, shape igniting a separate memory -- like an ember catching flame once more. Tears softly fell onto the plastic pages as he continuing turning them, until he finally reached a clear one -- the final one. Just as he was about to place the leaf in the open sleeve, he paused and glanced up at his wife's weathered gravestone.

He felt something inside him shift, like death's whisper, a knowing ... only it did not scare him as he continued to look at her beautiful name etched into the granite stone. He closed his eyes and pictured her that day she discovered a fall leaf much like this one, only a radiant yellow and filled with more life. He saw her dark eyes glisten against the sunbeam before she closed them to the leaf's scent. His old heart swelled so much, it hurt.  He let out a deep exhale, laced with love, yet tethered with anguish and despair as he cracked his heavy eyelids open and brought them back to the leaf in his hand.

Before placing it inside the sleeve, he laid the leaf on his lap, studied it a moment, then carefully tied its stem into a knot. He lifted it to his nose one last time, gently bringing his lips against it in a kiss before placing it in the plastic sleeve. This last one would not be ironed. It would succumb to the ails of oxygen and age, just as it should, he thought, before looking back at her headstone.

"We finally finished it ... my darling," he said, straining against the knot of sorrow burrowed in his throat.

He closed the book and wrapped it back up with the cloth as he gradually got back to his feet and covered the stool back up. However, just before he turned to go, something stopped him, bringing his eyes back to the brown, dead leaves beneath his shoes. The overcast skies ebbed, letting a beam of sunlight shine down near her tombstone. He saw something buried there beneath a mound of dull, amber leaves. Using his cane, he bent down to uncover it. And as he pulled the last decaying leaf aside, there it was, brilliant as the sun.

A yellow maple leaf.

~ C ~

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stormy Weather

In light of the sad clouds, the sullen, sunken leaves and drippy streets ... in light of a teary heart and damp skin, Billie casts me into the wind:

I think we can all do with a haunted love story on days like this:

Stormy weather. The skies filled with dissonant tears, finally bursting like an eroded pipe. You could almost taste the rust, see its carmine hues mixed in the dew drops ... or perhaps it was blood, trickling down the veins of the leaves ... or was it the veins in her wrist, over the faint pulse in her neck. She was mesmerized by the rain's ability to augment the sweet smell of decaying leaves mixed with earth, enhancing every separate strand of scent. As she listened to Billie Holiday's "Stormy Weather," she slowly moved forward and back on her old, wooden rocking chair, feeling each creak reverberate through the porch floorboards. It had been a long few days. Hell, it had been a long few years. Her own bones, still reasonably young, creaked with every movement, betraying the wears of stress and tension curled into the hollows of her marrow.

"Life is bare, gloom and mis'ry everywhere/Stormy weather/Just can't get my poorself together/I'm weary all the time/So weary all the time/When he went away, the blues walked in and met me/If he stays away, old rockin' chair will get me ..."

Tired, she felt so tired inside. Like she could never quite get enough sleep. As though the sleep she got never reached her insides, never put to rest her bones or settled her mind. Her dreamless nights never eased her heart or calmed her soul. It was this time of year she missed him most, when the veil was thinnest, when the moon was brimming. During most of those days, she hardly recognized her dark eyes in the mirror, searching for answers.

"All I do is pray the Lord above will let me walk in the sun once more/Can't go on, ev'ry thing I had is gone/Stormy weather ..."

But none of that mattered the moment the wind picked up around her, fluttering her dark tendrils, now streaked with a few silver strands. It filled her with his warm scent, pulsing her chair forward, lifting her to her bare feet, softly grinding the floorboards beneath them. Billie's quivering chords danced against her eardrums as she began to sway back and forth with him. His spirit dipping below her hips, wrapping around her back, along her spine, caressing her chin.

This cannot be ...

It flowed between her fingers and a tear rolled over her left cheek bone, gathering at her jawline. She felt the air grow concentrated, softly blowing against her skin, evaporating the remnants of her sorrow. Her body was gently pulled forward, before released into a twirl, her arm arched above her head. The stars began to shimmer in the distance as the crippled, stiff crimson and yellow leaves rustled along the worn porch steps and banister, adding extra rhythm to their dance. She felt her toes press against the aged floorboards as the damp sweet and salty fragrance of his skin enveloped her senses, puncturing her heart with familiar elation and deep melancholy. Suddenly the air shifted again as the melody slowly winded down.

"Stormy weather/Since my man and I ain't together/Keeps rainin' all the time ..."

She was swept forward again, her body in a slight backward bend held on the breeze. She closed her eyes to the moonlight, feeling the air press against her soft lips ... grazing her ear in a tender whisper, before vanishing on the wind.

She sank to her feet, letting another tear roll down. Only this time, it met its death ...

In the dimple of her smile.

~ C ~