Saturday, July 18, 2015

Wordsworth

I have always loved Wordsworth...OK always dating back to when I was nine and I copied out Lucy Gray from the Golden Treasury as a holiday exercise. I loved it because I found the poem mysterious and uncanny. The little girl, the "sweetest thing that ever grew beside a human door", disappearing into the mist with a lantern to light her mother through the snow...nothing of her ever being found. And yet, she kept on walking those hills with that lantern, singing her solitary song, for all eternity. The poem seemed vaguely prophetic. Wordsworth lost both his daughters before he and his wife died, both octogenarians, although Mary, his wife, was very nearly a nonagenarian.

So when Anna pointed out a biography of him (I had been idly considering getting a biography on my Kindle...all expensive) for RM5, naturally, I snapped it up. I knew he was a Lake poet. I knew there was some fight with Byron (I had read the Don Juan stanzas relating to Wordsworth and Southey), I knew about his friendship with Coleridge which broke down because really, no one can be friends with a drug addict, but his life in entirety, no I didn't know much. He was supposed to have had an affair with his sister Dorothy who loved him so much and was his amanuensis? I did read the Alfoxden and Grasmere diaries when I was in Hua Hin (I think I thought it in 2010 but let it lie unread on my shelf for three years before I picked it up, along with The Prelude). So yeah, I knew a little bit.

The Hunter Davies biography, the first to be merely a recounting of what happened throughout his life, without attempting literary criticism (although he did talk about how the various volumes of poetry were received and what the reviewers (most of them severely unkind) said.

I just finished it. Wow. His turbulent, restless youth. His dreams with Coleridge and his sister. His settling down once he had married and had children and becoming so conservative and didactic that people reacted to that rather than his poems per se. The tragedies in his life, starting with the deaths of his father and mother, and later his brother John. Wordsworth lost three children before he died - his daughter Catherine, in infancy, his son Thomas, a young schoolboy, and then his favourite daughter Dora after she had married. This last death seems to have finished him. He saw his contemporaries, even the poets of a generation after - Keats, Byron, Shelly - who died at 26, 30 and 36 respectively, perish before him. He saw Coleridge die, Charles Lamb, Sir Walter Scott...and he felt very old and sad about it.

But because he lived primarily in the West Country, because he was in the habit of taking long walks, living temperately and close to nature (simple living, high thinking), he survived a long, long time. He died at 80. His sister Dorothy (who had been an active and cheerful person before she had taken leave of her senses and become an invalid, died at 83 and his wife Mary, perhaps, the most temperate of them all as she was not given to passions, died at 89, having seen the publication of The Prelude, which was published posthumously, and his biography, a delicate matter, as there were incidents in his life that Wordsworth would rather have not been shared with the public.

Such as his affair with Annette Vallon, a Frenchwoman at Orleans from a good family, during the time of the Revolution, when Wordsworth was there in the early days. Their alliance (which from Annette's letters was more than just a passing fancy to her; she loved him all her life, and never demanded anything save that he come back and legitimise their union, produced a child, Caroline. So, there is a branch of direct descendants in both France and England. How interesting. I don't think Wordsworth behaved very well towards Annette. He didn't go for Caroline's wedding. And when he did meet her and she called him "father", he thought that was "indelicate".

What I liked most about this biography is that it didn't seek to paint Wordsworth in one way or another. People are various and they keep changing. They are usually a mixture of saint and sinner. Perhaps in Wordsworth's case, the sinner part was shocking (his alliance with Annette was discovered in the 1920s, when some letters were discovered at a post office, unsent, from Annette to Wordsworth) because his biographies painted him a rather dour, uncompromising figure who laid down the law as to what poetry is and was supposed to be, and got everyone else's back up.

The journal that was most severe on him was The Edinburgh Review and its reviews were so castigating that a weaker man may have committed suicide. Yet the editor, Jeffrey who later became Lord Jeffrey, said he quite liked Wordsworth's poetry and actually kept a copy of Lyrical Ballads (one of his early volumes, done in collaboration with Coleridge) on his desk. He said the reviews were to keep Wordsworth in his place so he didn't get above himself. What the reviews did, however, was to ensure that he did not make any money from his poetry (roughly about £7 a year for 20 years) so he was forced to take other work. And it was here that he drew the most criticism. The young man was a revolutionary. The middle aged one pandered to the nobility and aristocracy and spied for them. He had gone from being a radical to being the Toriest of Tories, something that the younger poets, especially, couldn't forgive him for.

This biography also took pains to point out that whatever had been his relationship with his sister (and it was pretty ambiguous - when I was reading the DW journals, I was struck by the violence of her emotions, vis a vis her brother) he was passionately in love with his wife...with a love that grew through the years. Their habits were regular, they never squabbled or said an angry word to each other and they were each other's support. Of course, because the household included his sister, Dorothy, and her sister, Sarah...it was said that he had not one but three wives, in the broadest sense of the word. All three ladies chivvied around him, looked after him, did his secretarial work and whatever else he needed. This was one of the things Coleridge most envied about him.

I liked this biography...the telling of his long years...the changes that time wrought in him. The biographer was obviously a fan. He softened Wordsworth's faults, without excusing them.

I feel like moving on to Barbara Pym next.

Receding into shadow

I miss you Mum. You pop up into my mind constantly, maybe because I think I am finally letting you go, and you are receding. So now, whatever life I choose to have, I will have to decide for myself. I've never been good at that, have I? But maybe that's OK. I can trudge on making whatever mistakes I am bound to make, falling and then getting up all over again to make mistakes, other mistakes, better mistakes...failing better, as someone once said.

My life is a mess and I allowed it to get this way. I feel tired all the time and this lack of energy has made me curl up into an uncomfortable corner, sweating because it is too hot, swatting the mosquitoes that tend to land on my sweaty flesh and take their fill, watching feel good Hallmark movies instead of sleeping because there are so many things I am trying to avoid thinking about.

And then, there's the work I could do but choose not to do.

And then I want to go out and watch a movie or write a letter in a cafe or do something at least, rather than sitting here, doing nothing, feeling lost and tired and cranky and hot.

The dogs: I love them and they frustrate me. On the one hand, I do not want the responsibility for them and on the other, I cannot bear to abandon them the way they were abandoned before.

Elliott is old and tired. He has cloudy spots in his eyes and he no longer runs like an antelope. Heck, he no longer runs at all, and if made to walk quickly, he starts wheezing.

And I don't know what I want to do with the rest of my life. The fount of creativity starts and stops...and right now, it's definitely stopped. I try to do what I am supposed to do, get by on the bare minimum and what I lack is soul, and what I lack is the real deal.

I don't know at which point my life got derailed. There is a point, no doubt, but I didn't see it while it was happening. I can only look back on it now, at this point, and wonder.

Has it derailed completely? Is there any such thing as a final ending? Is that what death is? Mother, looking at yours, I think you left so many things unfinished. You know, the way Michael Jackson did. But your body gave out before you could finish them.

And I wonder how lonely you must have been in that house by yourself. It always makes me cry to think about that. There is nothing I can do to change that now. But that house, it scares me and I avoid it. It has become like this dark thing looming in the shadows, and the more it looms, the more I avoid it.

I avoid a lot of things, but I guess if you've been watching, you've kind of noticed that already.

But as I said, even if you were watching before, I don't think you're watching anymore, or at least, less and less.

I feel you receding and this is good. You need to go get on with whatever you need to get on with. I cannot keep calling on you.

Mum I don't know how to live but I'm going to have to figure it out myself.

I love you. I always will.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This Silence

There is a silence out there, a silence, and I don't know how far it stretches, or how deep it goes. A silence, that encompasses everyone and everything. My phone, it does not buzz, at least, it does not buzz with messages or mail from the people I want to hear from.

Elliott is pretty sick.

I need to inject some cough mixture down his throat.

I need to write letters. There are letters to be written.

Trying to transcribe the story I have written I realise that it's all wrong and I don't like it. I am trying to figure out where I go from here.

Today, I discovered Aruna Shields.

Today I took Bruno to get his stitches removed. His testicles are infected. I have to squeeze them and apply a cream. And give him two sets of antibiotics - one targeted at the aerobic bacteria and one at the anaerobic bacteria. He is due to visit the vet again next week. Sigh. He is not a restful travelling companion.

Sometimes I wish there were someone else in the car, someone to hold the dog or dogs as I take them to the vet.

But there is no one.

No one who stays. No one who calls. No one who sticks around.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Calm Despair

I didn't abandon you, you know. You left. And if I didn't pester you, it was not because I didn't love you, but because I was tired. I had work to deal with. I had my own stuff. And I figured you would resurface when you ready to.

And you did. A picture of calm despair. To pay back the money you owed. The money I had forgotten you owed. The money you could have kept. You were tying up loose ends, it was clear to see. No you hadn't come to see me. I stood there in my towel, dripping wet, conditioner still in my hair and asked you to wait until I had washed it off and put on some clothes.

But no, you wouldn't.

I called after you. Asked if we could meet up sometime. You said to call you. But you switched off your phone. The prompt told me your number was "unavailable". So I sent you a text. You answered that. With words that told me...just how bad things were. You could no longer pretend, keep up appearances.

Everything was lost, everything dissolved, everything torn to shreds.

I know my love doesn't count.

But it's there.

And if we don't ever meet again, I want you to read this and know this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blue Horses

I came into work bright and early today. Well, relatively. I have a story in my inbox to clear or rather overhaul and I am trying to feed myself full of mental vitamins to tackle this gargantuan task. I seem to like clearing less and less.So I brought my copy of Blue Horses with me, a book of poetry by Mary Oliver. I bought it at the Harvard bookshop while I was in Boston. Lovely!

So I dip into it, read a poem about a heron and a frog (the first one) and then I will look at the transcript of the interview that was sent to me (it contained good stuff), read the story she sent me again...and figure out what I want to extract from it to shape and structure my Asean story.

I wish I had something profound to say here, but I don't.

Just that I woke up heavy hearted, feeling extraordinarily sad. I have given up trying to assign reasons for why I feel what I feel and what I am picking up on.

Hopefully the feeling will dissolve during the day...if you feel your sadness instead of trying to hide from it, usually it moves through your body, as energy does. It's only trapped energy that turns toxic.

Later for you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Scattered

When something feels evil, trust your gut instinct. It's almost always right. And when people make you feel guilty for feeling what you feel, trust it more. Every time someone has made me feel guilty (or maybe, I made myself feel that) for being put off and disgusted by a person, that person has turned out to be bad news after all.

Evil people can be like toads sort of camouflaged in the garden, brown and ugly and really, so uninteresting that you fail to notice them. But there they are, behind the scenes, dripping poison into your little world. In this case it only worked part way. It didn't really work out as she planned. I am glad for it. I am glad she exposed herself enough to be kicked out. And I hope she really got the job she told everyone that she got. Because if she didn't, well, she will have a lot of time to sit around feeling hard done by and sending her poisonous thoughts my way.

These people tire me. And I need to buy one of those magic stones that say, back to sender, back to sender, right back to sender.

I've spent a lazy day on the sofa watching movies on iTunes. Cake (with Jennifer Aniston), Jiro Dreams of Sushi (I feel asleep while it was going on and only woke up at the end...the voice over was so soothing), Renaissance Man (which I really loved, although I disagreed with their reading of Hamlet whom I persist in thinking was a complete bastard!). I updated my other blog. I put in some stitches to the tapestry I am doing for Kat. (I stopped working on that for the longest time). I started on a letter to Nessa. I took Elliot for his walk and fed him (and the two doggies whom I forgot were chewy little buggers - they have destroyed one pair of my shoes and other slippers outside which I had better get rid off before Dadda comes back).

I thought they would be happy to be locked within our gate but they started crying wanting to go out. I think my neighbour was taking Sam and Sydney out for a walk and they always follow. Julie said she would ask her friend Sharad if his aunt would take them on her large estate (although she already has five dogs there).

Things seem so scattered lately. The moment I get back into KL I tense up and have difficulty sleeping. My room is a mess so I don't sleep there. Instead, I put on the aircon and sleep in the hall. The days are unbearable hot and turgid. I flip idly through books registering nothing. I try to write letters but nothing sticks.

I am wondering now whether this lack of focus has anything to do with the cellular waves that are flooding the space around me. What if I were to go somewhere uncovered by all this telecommunications equipment. Would I then be able to think again? Would I then have peace?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

And just like that, March is upon us.

It's late and I'm tired. I've gone through one pullout (with a fine-tooth comb) and now I have to do the same for another. My eyes are scratchy and I just want to go home curl up in bed and watch an inane movie over iTunes or YouTube or whatever. Either that or read Love, Nina and then fall asleep.

Funnily enough, although it's just Tuesday, it feels like it's been a hard week.

Yesterday, I lost my phone and my morning pages diary.

Today, I found it again.

I guess I'll just keep that old nose to the grindstone until I'm done with what I have to do.

(Enthusiasm, where are you? Passion, likewise? Did you creep out the backdoor as I was editing pages and pages, with no clear idea where or when or how?)

If Mum was alive, I would call her now to chat. I'd say, yeah, been busy Mum, but will be done by today. Then maybe make plans to go back to JB to hang out with her.

If Mum were alive...

Somehow I think I am going to sleepwalk through the following days, stuck on autopilot, not seeing and not really caring. Not really there, if you know what I mean.

What I need to do is make lists and start doing practical things towards planning my trip because...well, it's creeping closer.

Without any warning, March is upon us. The ides of March. The time for take-off. Such things, such things.

And although it is March and speaks of tempests and tsunamis, floods and conflagrations, I would prefer to be calm, serene, mindful, untroubled.

Maybe I'll re-read Seeds from a Birch Tree again.

Or the Long Quiet Highway.

Later.

Sunday, March 01, 2015