Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How come Dusty Waters, a Ghost Story?






To give a more intimate context, I will discuss the origins of Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story...with Halloween around the corner within spitting distance, why not? There were fragments of ideas that boiled around in my brain for a very long time, since I was a little kid (I always wanted to write about ghosts and a haunted house...you know the old movie 13 Ghosts? There's a beginning for you to chew on...) I didn't start to write anything down until I came into that amazing sweet spot of creativity around 2001-2002—so, she was a long time in the making, but there are parts of her that were created in my imagination when I was quite a young little sponge running around during endless summer days doing the usual kid stuff and making up stories to tell my friends was part of my something to do, my mind was busy, busier than my body! I'd always begin with my hand to my heart swearing it was true! And from there I did my duty as a storyteller, usually pissing off my friends because I suckered them into believing the long elaborate lie that I just told (it's just a story you guys, sheesh!) My little ghost story, "Dusty Waters" was built upon the foundation of little stories that I used to tell my friends on those summer nights spent trespassing on the porch of an empty house we fondly called "The Witches House", smoking cigarettes and giggling ourselves silly...even running off screaming into the night once because the story I was telling just became too intense—something about a baby buried in the basement "...and her ghostly cries could be heard to this day" and perfectly timed (I couldn't have planned it if I tried), a baby in the house next door started to have a good cry about a crappy diaper—OMG it was hi-lar-ious! We ran and ran and ran—I never forgot it. Once I began to write the book I made a home for the stories in a larger story, the ghosts, the house, the girl born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, growing up with a war on the six o'clock news, the hippies at Woodstock (one of them happened to be her sister, she had a dirty, stinky good time, she returned home with stories and songs to share) and her brother's guitar that she learned to pick songs from the strings, so a folksinger was born.

The book is a ghost story. I’m compelled to challenge any misunderstanding that anyone may have about my intentions to call it such...everyone has their ideas of what a ghost story should be...well, this is mine. Yes, it is more than a ghost story, it’s not all about the ‘boo-factor’ of scary ghosts; it is a ghost story that is about life as much as it is about death and the afterlife. In life there are scarier things than ghosts, and most of the time, it's the living who are scary—the dead are beyond the living, some are poor souls caught in their final moments, and some have chosen to remain where they are in the existence in between here and moving on to wait, to watch, to witness.Tanglewood, the ancestral home of Dusty Waters is full of these spirits and the echoes of time—she can even hear the singing of the Chinese artisan who worked on carving the rosewood front door for the old mansion...and experience a brief moment of time where a young woman left her blue paint thumbprint on the wall while looking out the window.
 
This ghost story is the story that is not going to be told in the official “biography” of Dusty Waters being written by her old friend Katharine Tierney. Dusty Water’s has the gift to see them (or is it a curse?) She has a healthy respect for them, she has the right to be annoyed that they pester her with their existence; at times she is in danger of losing her mind because of their constant presence—that for me is a scary idea. Part of her ‘growing up’ is making peace with this ability, trying to understand them—their ‘why’, their ‘how come’. Her eventual intervention to help them move on by resolving the things that have haunted them beyond their physical existence is a gift that only someone with a brave heart can step in with an extended hand. It is a book about belief—whether it is belief in the existence of ghosts or God—in the end, it is imperative to believe in one’s self in order to live.

This ghost story is also about the ghosts of the past, history is what haunts us in subtle ways, the war in Vietnam has haunted us, the present day echoes are metaphorical spirits, poltergeists shaking their fingers, clanking chains of memory, only some of us are willing to take notice, see the parallels and try to make a difference—while there are the naysayers who declare there are no such thing as ghosts.

With all said here, I’ll never apologize for misleading anyone into their own expectations. John Steinbeck said it best of all when he was writing East of Eden: “It will not be what anyone expects and so the expecters will not like it. And until it gets to people who don't expect anything and are just willing to go along with the story, no one is likely to like this book.”

Goodness knows, when I started writing Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story I had no idea where it was going, self-doubts raged and waned throughout the process, every writer goes through this, and I made peace with it. I’ve put her out there to be read—there is a commitment in reading a book, more than looking at a picture that I made. To the ones who have already read it, I say “Thank you!” I really do appreciate it. If you haven’t read it yet, please feel free to take her for a test drive to see if you like what you read through the available samples via Goodreads and Amazon—she’s a different girl.

A bit of novel trivia—

Dusty’s birthday is on Halloween.

The photo for the front cover was taken by me in the mid-late 1980's at the Fox Sister's homestead site just before the house was torn down after a fire. (It wasn't the original house, that was at Lily Dale...it burned down too.)








Friday, October 3, 2014

Inspirations - where did The Fractured Hues of White Light come from?

The Fractured Hues of White Light by Laura J. W. Ryan, Field Stone Press, 2010
Every now and then I am asked about where I get my ideas for my books or what inspired me to write a book…I can go on and on about inspiration just because it’s such a vast landscape of ideas - the ones that get used and the ones that don’t get used, but are waiting their turn… so for this, I tried to narrow it down to one book…

The Fractured Hues of White Light  has its origins from a paper about Autism that I wrote for a child psychology class in college. Because the subject was so remarkable, I wrote a poem and included it in the paper, which my professor liked quite a bit, but whatever, it was something that stuck with me (heck if I know where the paper is, but the poem, I still have, and I find it every time I clean my desk.)

I let the idea of autism roll around in my noggin for years—YEARS—1981-ish until the year 2000 when I started scribbling the first notes about a high-functioning autistic young woman. It all started with a conversation—most of my books come from this sort of bantering back and forth between characters, at first with no names, no identity—just a conversation. From that fragment of talk, I developed the characters, Samantha and Guthrie Ryder.

Samantha is an artist with a special talent for copying the greatest hits of art history only in miniature. As a result, she became the subject of ‘human interest’ stories, locally, and then nationally. I know, it’s a strange thing to achieve recognition for—she’s aware of the absurdity of it. From the time she was a little kid, her father exploited her talent to make money, she concluded early on that if rich people are stupid enough to lay out thousands of dollars to pay for a miniature copy of Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted by some little kid they see as some kind of idiot savant, then why not? Every time she’s commissioned to paint “repeats” such as the Mona Lisa, she makes it smaller than the last time she made it (she imagines it will be the size of a postage stamp someday.) Changing the size slightly makes it “different” enough so she doesn’t get bored making it.

It seems she has a good life, but the crux is what she’s missing—she wants to paint something of her own. In the first drafts, the original conversation between Samantha and Guthrie was partially about this (and many other things, some of them silly) while they’re on a journey out west. Why were they out there, where did they come from, and what their relationship is supposed to be became a study about the meaning of love. How does an autistic woman express that emotion? Not that well—tho’ she tries very hard to express her feelings. Her obsessive-compulsive fixations cause an emotional upheaval that is overwhelming not only for her, but also for the recipient of her attention. Her sketchbooks are filled with the portraits of the people in her life who she loves, Lenore (her mother), Whitley (her father), Helena (her half-sister), Guthrie (who is her step-brother from her father’s previous marriage), and her friend, Sylvester. The quirk to her autism is her keen observation of faces and expressions—while she may not respond appropriately to the emotions of others, she’s studying them all the time, and is conscious of what is conveyed by an individual’s expressions. Often, the portraits become entangled in a mesh of pencil lines—random marks made and followed and will go on to the next page filling the paper edge to edge—these drawings are her natural self-expression, but because she’s never been encouraged to focus on making art from her own ideas, she doesn’t see their importance.

These issues were the basic backbone of the book, the rest evolved over time. The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of “unexpected” emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. This book turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to The Fractured Hues of White Light—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

My Thoughts Regarding "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut





(The first line of first page.) All this happened, more or less.

So it goes. Fatalist, but not defeatist. You have to laugh at yourself or you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t…am I wrong?

Vonnegut, what a quirky guy, he was our late end of the 20th Century Mark Twain—the biting humor can make my eyes water—if only I could be so adroit in my observations of the world—I try, really I do. I just love his way of telling it like it is and then going over the edge of reality into aliens and time traveling. Was it all about PSTD—surviving as a POW in Germany during the bombing of Dresden is nightmarish enough—why not?

Whatever, sometimes a writer has to do what a writer has to do to tell the story, making up shit as we go along, and throw in a few aliens to make a point—

So it goes—this phrase occurs 106 times (Don't be silly, I didn’t count them, I discovered that bit ‘o trivial trivia on the internet.) There were times I wanted to run screaming into the night only because he’s right. And it’s because he’s right and has the audacity to bite the reader in the nose one time too many with truths in disguise of fiction that this book is very often “banned” for its being indecent, anti-Christian—irreverent in its relevance, if that makes any sense. Banning books because of their content makes no sense to me whatsoever—(come on, ban one of my books!) Just that it is still considered controversial sings its impertinence to be timeless. Individuals (or groups) who initiate the banning of certain books are insecure in their beliefs and just can’t stand someone else having an opinion that goes against their grain—get a hold of yourself. Please. It’s only a book—a book for goodness sake—not just any book—shhh, listen, hear the words? It’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

So it goes.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My thoughts after reading "Waiting for the Barbarians" by J. M. Coetzee

The Barbarians are us—how many times do the people with power go out to the wilderness and feel compelled to conquer and dominate—and then dare to torture and humiliate innocent people—and then—only then—when it happens to them (justly deserved, what goes around comes around, baby), they are appalled by the cruelty that humans are capable of when unchecked—the rule of law and justice ignored.

Waiting for the Barbarians is a simple story—yet with incredible depth that will shake you to your core—you’d have to be heartless not to be moved. I flinched a great deal—immersed in sadness—the writing is gorgeous—there is beauty in ugliness when it’s done right.  The Magistrate of an outpost of an unnamed land that is part of the simply named Empire, the world is obviously described by its landscape—the oasis, the desert, the lake, the reeds, the mountains—the people mostly unnamed, the girl, the child, the grandson of the cook—of course the cook, only Colonel Joll, an official from the Third Bureau of the Civil Guard from the Capital, is named. He’s the bad guy you see—made bad ass because his main feature happens to be the sunglasses he wears—the obstructed view into his eyes makes him unnerving and the reference to how these new inventions prevent wrinkles around the eyes. He’s arrogant and vain, never a good sign. The main character, referred to only as the Magistrate, is an elder, he knows the people, the town, this land, he has an interest in culture and artifacts found in the ruins, and he has an understanding of the aboriginals and the nomadic “barbarians” that no one from the Capital could possibly comprehend as they do not share in the experience. The Magistrate soon finds himself a victim of his knowledge, of his experience, of his interests, and of his serenity. He is accused of disloyalty—treason. The human spirit can be broken and the body abused beyond recognition, yet life goes on in spite of pain, in spite of horrors that no human should have to ever endure.

It seemed troubling to me to be reading this book while the world we live in is currently so full of unrest, Ukraine, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, our border with Mexico is a landscape of human struggle, and within our own United States—an Empire in its own right with far reaching influence all over the world—there is unrest in a Missouri community called Ferguson in which a white police officer shot and killed a black teenager one summer night—initially because he was walking in the middle of the street, drawing attention to himself—a senseless death. No matter what he had allegedly done before or during the incident that wound up taking his life, Michael Brown did not deserve to die like that—not like that. No one does. 

The Barbarians are us—humans consciously do harm to another human being if they feel it is just—justice. Justice is blind—and sometimes, she looks the other way when she catches a glimpse from under the blindfold—the rule of law manipulated by those in power. It’s terrifying because the power can shift and suddenly the good guys are bad guys and the ones formerly known as bad guys are the good guys, and suddenly, life is not so simple. The Barbarians are at the gate—it depends on who you are, who the “barbarians” are in your eyes—in your mind.

First I get lies, you see—this is what happens—first lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truthPain is truth; all else is subject to doubt…The Empire does not require that its servants love each other, merely that they perform their duty. P. 6

I am a country magistrate, a responsible official in the service of the Empire, serving out my days on this lazy frontier, waiting to retire…When I pass away I hope to merit three lines of small print in the Imperial gazette. I have not asked for more than a quiet life in quiet times. P. 9

The space about us here is merely space, no meaner or grander than the space above the shacks and tenements and temples and offices of the capital. Space is space, life is life, everywhere the same. P. 18

I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end. P. 23


Saturday, August 23, 2014

My thoughts about "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino



Invisible Cities is full of a poetic sense of place—presented as Marco Polo’s detailed accounts about cities in Kublai Kahn’s crumbling empire—I see them as I read them, each chapter contains truths gleaned from the observations of the human experience. It is a book of layers—intricate, sedimentary points of view—cities constructed of the ephemeral and ethereal –cities and memory, cities and desire, and signs, and names—thin cities, trading cities, continuous cities, hidden cities—cities and eyes, cities and the sky, cities and the dead—lyrical and imaginative. Each peopled with the living and dead, rich and poor, happy or sad, and each person experiences life based on what they have going on within their own skin. The details are extraordinary and lovely—even the ugly is tenderly described, there can be beauty in ugliness if you tell it right. 

John Gardner called Calvino a Fabulist—one of the best—I have to agree, he knew how to tell a good story or depending on the way you look at it—a darn good lie. Kublai Kahn called out Marco Polo at one point none too happy about being fed bullshit—Marco Polo calmly and ever so politely told him to shut the fuck up and listen—or not. He didn’t have to tell him anything, he could go anywhere to tell his stories, so the Great Khan let him continue as they mused together about their own existence and perused maps of the world as they knew it—or not. (Yes, it can make your head hurt thinking about it.)

Goodness knows many stories are truths fed through veins full of the blood of lies. Calvino trespasses beyond the conventional telling of a story, running headlong into meadows and streets of metaphysical experiences—the uncertainty of existence, the limitations of reality do make it seem pointless at times, yet the whimsy of exploring outside the usual parameters and delving into the imagination is a beautiful thing if you can grasp it—hold on tight—you are now a mental traveler, step off the sidewalk, walk in the grass—enjoy the view, it is profound standing on the cliff edge of the things you never seen before—or thought. The intensity of Calvino’s writing is for dreamers who are awake—more awake than others—sometimes too much knowledge paralyzes our natural innocence—even as I read, I heard voices of naysayers squawking , “No, that’s not how it is—where it is—what it is—where are you going with this? Come on, man, knock me over the head with the truth of what was…” Sometimes reading a good book is about trust. I have learned to step into a Calvino book as if ignorant of everything, and simply believed—there is more joy this way.  A good writer is a master of telling yarns. A yarn—I always loved that term—imagining that a story is a big ball of yarn, twisted and pulled, some layers tight, some loose, overlapping every which way, burying the beginning, but the end is loose and likely to come unraveled if not tucked in neatly or already attached to the knitting needle—taking shape. A ball of yarn—a novel in the making. 

…Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is a wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.—Page 8

It is the mood of the beholder which gives the city of Zemrude its form. If you go by whistling, your nose a-tilt behind the whistle, you will know it from below: window sills, flapping curtains, fountains. If you walk along hanging your head, your nails dug into the palms of your hands, your gaze will be held on the ground, in the gutters, the manhole covers, the fish scales, wastepaper. You cannot say that one aspect of the city is truer than the other...—Page 66

In Raissa, life is not happy. People wring their hands as they walk in the streets, curse the crying children, lean on the railings over the river and press their fists to their temples…Inside the houses it is worse, and you do not have to enter to learn this: in the summer the windows resound with quarrels and broken dishes…And yet, in Raissa, at every moment there is a child in a window who laughs seeing a dog that has jumped on a shed to bite into a piece of polenta dropped by a stonemason who has shouted from the top of the scaffolding, “Darling, let me dip into it,” to a young serving maid…Also in Raissa, city of sadness, there runs an invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment, then unravels, then is stretched again between moving points as it draws new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence. –these four pieces are smatterings from pages 148-149.

In Beersheba’s beliefs there is an element of truth and one of error. It is true that the city is accompanied by two projections of itself, one celestial and one infernal; but the citizens are mistaken about their consistency…This is the celestial city, and in its heavens long-tailed comets fly past, released to rotate in space from the only free and happy action of the citizens of Beersheba, a city which, only when it shits, is not miserly, calculating, greedy.—these two pieces are from pages 112-113
From my words you will have reached the conclusion that the real Berenice is a temporal succession of different cities, alternately just and unjust. But what I wanted to warn you about is something else: all the future Berenices are already present in this instant, wrapped one within the other, confined, crammed, inextricable.—Page 163

I could fiddle around all day with more quotes gleened from dog-eared pages, but I will stop here—I highly recommend this book and Calvino’s other works just because they are good for you—for us to read and enjoy them for what they are—he has left this world behind, but he left us with these beautiful treasures. What a gift he was given, and what a gift he gave to us.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My thoughts about "Bone" by Fae Myenne Ng



We were a family of three girls. By Chinese standards, that wasn’t lucky. In Chinatown, everyone knew our story. Outsiders jerked their chins, looked at us, shook their heads. We heard things. (p. 1)

Ona, the middle daughter, jumped off the Nam. Leila, her older sister, journeys backwards in her memory about what happened in Salmon Alley, trying to grasp the why—how come? The story is told in a manner that is like a non-linear slide through time, reading the past through Lei’s recollections—or perhaps, the book is in order if it is read starting with the last chapter, I only think of this because Chinese is read back to front/ right to left, if this was intentional, it is an provocative element for telling the story. Either way—it is unsettling to arrive at the beginning of the next chapter and realize it isn’t the continuation of the one previous (which some readers have complained that it’s annoying—I’m flexible as a reader so I’m not likely to get too ruffled over such things, I caught on quick that it is meant to be so.) This is how I experienced the book—life is befuddling—we muddle through, some of us do a little better than others, but not everyone leaves this world unscathed—not everyone has the coping skills to handle most of the shit that life slings at us, much of our time is spent dwelling on what happened to get us to HERE, the present. The past is our bones, our foundation—for good or bad. Our minds wander and trip through memories of a bunch of shit we cannot change—we live with it and move on to the new version of normal.

To have a sister (or daughter) commit suicide is an unthinkable loss—that has to be one of the harshest losses for a family to endure. For the loved ones, there is no answer why, not really. For Ona to suddenly make the choice to end her life—there was no time to think about how taking her life will affect those left behind—chances are, if she did think of it, she wouldn’t have jumped. Who knows how many times she was on the edge before she finally stepped off. No one knew, no one had a clue, no one expected it. She’s gone and all that’s left are questions. The whole family struggles with explanation and understanding—they are two distinct constructs of comprehension—one is a revelation, the other a perception—the explanation would be painful if Ona herself documented her reasons in a note—something concrete that could be pointed to THERE, the reason, but there is no explanation. The understanding—this is a sympathetic discovery that each of them must face on their own terms as individuals. The family is left with tatters of old world superstitions such as the bones of Leon’s “paper father” that have not been put to rest in China as promised or it is a punishment for Mah’s infidelity. Family strife/ family love—families travel on journeys both pleasant and unpleasant—it is part of the human experience.

Here’s another bone for the gossipmongers…(p. 1)

I must note here, the symbolic meaning of bones—mortality (of course) and then there are our skeletons in the closet—but it is truth as in the truest part of ourselves that are lasting, our bones will last long after our flesh is gone. Our bones are the memories that we leave behind.

“To bones.”
“Bones,” I repeated. This was a funny that got sad, and knowing it, I kept laughing…
(page 30)

“Bones are sweeter than you know,” she [Mah] always said…”Clean bones…no waste.” (pages 31)

Bone is spare—concise language, it is sad and sweet, it’s beautiful.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The F-Bomb


Yup, this is my little book…independently published in 2009, Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story is an interesting girl… Occasionally I will “channel” my character, Dusty Waters, the guitar slinging folksinger born in the  bookend years of the Boomer Generation…so last night, I wrote a poe-em in the vein of her righteous indignation…I call it The F-Bomb and it goes like this:

Bitch—and I call you "Bitch" with affection, ya dig?
Let me tell you this—this bit of wisdom—
when you reach fifty-two years old
you will have seen, heard, and experienced enough
things to make you drop an F-bomb before 9AM,
maybe earlier than that, depending on what it is. I swear,
ever since Watergate, I can spit nails, and I was just
a youngin’ then—so imagine what I must spit now since
9/11, right? Don’t get me started on that noise—I swear
my head can just about pop off my body sometimes—I’m
sorry to say, it hasn’t gotten better. I’m sorry for you cuz
shit is fucked up and stuff, so by the time you’re
fifty-two years old, I can’t imagine—I’ll be long gone by then,
moved on to my next thing—while you are stuck here with the
mess of life, such as it is. Let me warn you, you are more vulnerable
as you get older—it isn’t just age or illness that takes you out,
it’s the young who unwittingly come in and take from you
everything you’ve worked so hard for all your adult life—
twenty-five or thirty years of experience—service—
easily undermined by someone so new they squeak when
you run your finger down ‘em—not that I’m complaining or anything,
Bitch—I’ll tell you now, I’d rather die with my boots on than sitting
behind a desk being a ‘point n’ click’ despot with nothing
better to do than shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes,
crinkle up their nose, make excuses, and become argumentative
when they can’t answer a fucking question. My question.
Fuck it anyway—it’s not important. I’ve worked hard all my life—
I have kicked ass as a one-woman army—and I have lived a good one
in spite of the downs that can outnumber the ups on any given day.
Life is precarious enough, so, fuck people like that—they are negligible
debris in the grand scheme of things. Seriously. It doesn’t matter.
Don’t dwell on the negative—grab onto the positive and hold on tight.
In my fifty-two years, I’ve known that what matters is
my corner of the world, my family, and my home are my wealth.
Bitch, I do hope you can have a place to call home—
a patch of the world of your own—your own mind.
Know thyself—as they say—ya dig?
From one bitch to another, be good to yourself.
Be strong. Be yourself. Love and love hard—yourself,
your family, your home. Be at peace.
Drop an F-bomb as needed so your head
doesn’t pop off your body—trust me on this—no one will
show up to wash your mouth out with soap.

8/1/2014-LJWR

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Melymbrosia by Virginia Woolf

Jeepers, I wish my first drafts of a novel turned out this good. Granted, it is rough—raw in places, and there are things that develop in later drafts that grow from knowledge and time, and so The Voyage Out grew from Melymbrosia as it should have. I can see why VW’s male friends cringed and insisted that she tone it down. (Here is where I must remind readers that it is a book of their time, not ours.) I read it from my size 6 ½’s in the 21st century and thought, “Really? That’s pretty tame.” Maybe because I’m so cynical at this point in my life, I’m just numb to it all—who knows. Whatever. It’s been a long time since I read The Voyage Out so I had to dig out my copy and poke through it while I wrote this bit and admired it for what it is, fleshed out to a density that was typical of her early novels. I noted that Hewet never had his revelation of “dreams and realities” until The Voyage Out—it’s the same musing that Ralph Denham had about Katharine Hilbery in Night and Day (the original title was Dreams and Realities.) So it is interesting to see the overlapping of themes between the two novels—how often do we imagine a person being a certain way, thinking certain thoughts, creating a mold and filling the qualities of our dreams into it, and then when faced with the real person the mold is shattered completely and we feel certain that they do not love us in the same way as we love them.

The title Melymbrosia is a mystery, apparently, VW never gave an explanation for it—Louise DeSalvo speculates in her introduction (which you must read after reading the book) that perhaps it is a combination of the Greek words for honey and ambrosia, but I wonder if it is instead, melancholy and ambrosia—a strange combination—sadness, gloominess, miserable moodiness, delicious, delightful, intoxicating loveliness—the beauty and the terror, the sublime. In my opinion, it is sort of in the vein of the sublime as in “the beauty and the terror”. It’s a Victorian aesthetic that creeps into British writing ever since the Romantic era. Mr. Dalloway suggested that Rachel should read Burke, tho’ he mused over the more political books about the French and the American Revolutions, but I thought Burke’s book, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) was more appropriate for this journey. " WHATEVER is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling. I say the strongest emotion, because I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the part of pleasure. Without all doubt, the torments which we may be made to suffer are much greater in their effect on the body and mind, than any pleasure which the most learned voluptuary could suggest, or than the liveliest imagination, and the most sound and exquisitely sensible body, could enjoy. " Burke believed that the sublime—such as vastness, infinity, magnificence of a stormy ocean or an unexplored landscape—has the power to destroy, it was something that could incite terror, and yet, “pleasure” enters into this intense emotion, as in a sense of being “ravished”, the passion of fear (especially the fear of death.) It is a complex human experience—ambiguous in its nature. The tension between representation (imagination) and concepts (reason); the waffling of harmony and disharmony, pleasure and displeasure, anguish and joy—there and back again—all very human feelings. Virginia Woolf knows the language of the sublime, and perhaps she felt it much too keenly—when writers write, their emotional spigots are on full blast, it’s exhausting to say the least, rummaging around within the inner depths and dragging out a treasure of words—

“—while the gulls are squawking above, the sea is running round the world, and the plants are opening on earth? I live, I die; the sea comes over me; it’s the blue that lasts.” – page 42

Sublime.

My Dad


 
 William E. Wilkinson, April 5, 1927-Juy 13, 2014

My father passed away on July 13th, he was 87. It seems unreal to me being without both of my parents—we as children are defined by their being there, and now I feel orphaned as there isn’t that one more step above me to turn to…or to tell about something that happened…or to call and ask “How are you?” Sometimes I dial the number just to hear its familiar ring.

He slipped away rather quickly once he started failing on the 11th, he had been in hospice care since April, and although he was frail, he seemed in good spirits and was doing well with the additional care provided by the hospice volunteers and nurses who visited with him at the nursing home. There's a strange false sense of security in knowing that he's being well cared for that made us think, he might continue on status quo...but on Friday he stopped eating, Saturday he was running a fever, was listless, and not talking; by Sunday he was completely unresponsive. He would occasionally crack open an eye to look—in response to our voices in the room or a touch, but the gaze that I saw was far away—he knew we were there. There was no struggle, he passed peacefully in the bliss of a deep sleep...the way it should be if one has a choice.

He was a patient man, gentle and kind, loving and loveable. He had the best laugh, a good belly laugh that was distinct. He loved to read, and made it fun for me to learn while sitting in his lap having a story read to me, and he'd talk to me about the story, almost like a story separate from the one we read, explaining the how come of things. He was also talented in drawing, he saw me struggling to make a picture of a lion once, and he showed me how as he made marks with swift, sure strokes with the pencil. I was so stunned that he was so good at it. He taught me how to take pictures and he built a darkroom in the basement so we could develop and print our pictures. I see the directions for developing a roll of black and white film that I wrote out in my girlish penmanship years ago still hanging by the stationary sink, a relic most revered by him because I wrote it down. His patience was most appreciated when he drove me on his Wednesday afternoons off from the store to take me to my weekly horseback riding lesson at Terry Ho Stables in Phelps NY. I had no idea how he learned of the place and arranged for these lessons, but this was something that he wanted me to have because I kept pestering for a horse, and he wanted to make sure I knew how to handle one first. So he sat in the truck for the hour, reading a book while waiting. Sometimes I'd see him by the rail watching, or strolling around with his camera taking pictures of the horses and landscape. When he did buy me a horse, we drove to many farms to look at several ones, he called on several advertisements in the paper, some were already sold. Hajji Baba was acquired August 1, 1975, I was 13. Which meant more time spent sitting in the truck while I rode my horse and did all the chores to take care of him. 
He taught me how to drive...in addition to driver education at school, he took me around to learn parallel parking and all the other moves necessary to pass my road test. Sadly, I just had gotten my license when I sold Hajji Baba in March 1980, Daddy was with me that sad day when we loaded Hajji into the truck and saw him off, he let me drive home.

When I got pregnant, before I told them the news, he knew by looking at me that I had the little bun in the oven. He called me up and told me "You need to take good care of yourself, you have something very special inside you that depends on you to be good to yourself." It was very sweet.

I don't know where the time goes, but it's gone.

We’re still cleaning out the house that he built of their 61 years of life together—there is so much stuff. It’s hard enough to go there every Saturday to work on it when one has a house and a full time job to attend to…there has to be time for one’s self too. Of course, over the last nearly three years, there have been various illnesses and life interruptions that make going there impossible.

As I resettle myself into this latest version of normal, I find that I’m still editing the same book that I was working on the night that I learned my mother was taken to the hospital almost three years ago on August 2nd. (If I were diligent enough, I could find the exact file that I was making changes to that moment when I telephoned home on my normal Tuesday at 7PM to check in and say "Hello, what's up?") I'm superstitious enough to wonder if the book is cursed or maybe there's a reason for it, all that has happened has provided me with the additional angst I need to finish it properly...or something.

William and William

At Three
Boot camp

On furlough visiting home

Shanghai

Fooling around as young sailors do

Home and the new car

At home

On my wedding day


Bill and Janie 1950