Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Aging

Everyone Has the Same Destination – The Question Is How Will You Make Your Journey

When I was in the 7th grade, a teacher wrote the following words on the blackboard: “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

That was almost half a century ago, and I was living in a little rural town in the cotton-growing part of the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri. Before that day, I had never heard of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I had not thought much about life outside of my little community. In many ways, that one teacher changed the course of my life. Her name was Miss King, and she challenged me to be more than I might have been had I never met her. God Bless Great Teachers, and God Bless Miss King for opening my eyes to the ever wondrous nuances of living life fully.

Miss King was an outstanding English teacher and after my 7th-grade year under her tutelage, grammar was never too difficult for me. That, in itself, was one of the greatest gifts that I ever received, but because I lived in a very small town, Miss King also taught me again in 10th grade. That year, she taught me English literature. That is when she opened my eyes to William Blake and to his Songs of Innocence and Experience.

I have always been interested in both writing and visual art, and I loved the fact that William Blake both wrote and illustrated his work. I became fascinated by the idea that one day I might write and illustrate my writing, too.  I also became interested in the message in Blake’s writing. Blake challenged mankind to have a depth feelings, and he warned against becoming emotionally old. William Blake was the subject of my first master’s thesis, and his work has fueled my own vision. I owe a great deal to William Blake, but I owe even more to Miss King, who introduced me to William Blake. It was because of Miss King that when I was 12 years old, I Hitched my own Wagon to a Star, and it was because of Miss King that my journey has not been like that of most people.

road-1072823_1920-RobertFrost

Miss King also introduced me to Robert Frost and through Miss King and Robert Frost, I began to realize that there was a path that led out of the cotton patches of my childhood. Thank goodness, that passage goes both ways. Although I have left my childhood home, I return to it daily through my writing. I have not turned my back on who I was, but because of who I once was and because of great teachers like Miss King, I learned to reach for other worlds. I learned to set goals, and I began walking toward those goals.

shoot-for-the-moon900

When I was in the 7th grade, I heard what Miss King was saying. I actually “got” what she was trying to teach my class. She was challenging us to aim for greatness in our lives. She was opening a door for us and encouraging us to begin the journey that would become the courses of our lives.  I will be the first to admit that I have not yet reached the moon of my own goals. In fact, it has taken me quite some time to decide exactly which path that I wanted to follow. But because very early in life, I aimed for the moon, my life has indeed been lighted by the stars. And that has made all the difference to me.

Several months ago, I wrote a simple little poem. Ostensibly, the poem was a recording of the way that I felt when I initially awoke one morning. Within a few hours of having written the verse, however, I realized that through a few, simple words, I had actually captured something about the way that I have decided to journey through my entire life.

silver-sheets

On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum

Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.

I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.

I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along

My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.

©Jacki Kellum  July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day – Let Your Freedom Ring!

Sail

Pulling Back the Veil on Illusions, Denial, & Narcissism

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

I am 67-years-old now, and as I look back through the string of events that have been woven together to create my life, I can see that much of my past behavior was  based on partial or cloudy bits of information–the illusions that I allowed to pose as truths to myself and that have often blinded me.

 methinks
My problem with illusions or delusions does not lie in my lack of thinking, however. I think constantly, and I strive to piece things together in a way that makes sense to me at the time. But in retrospect, I now realize that some of the things that I had long reasoned to be true were not actually true at all. In some cases, I have swallowed half-truths and have jumped into pits of denial and have floated there for a long while, only to figure things out later. What alarms me is that on some issues, I am probably still in denial. That is the nature of denial. When we are in denial, we do not realize that what we are thinking and believing is merely self-deception.
 senior-picture
In 1968, I graduated from high school. In the above photo, I am the second from the top left. I have long, blond hair. A young Joni Mitchell released the song Both Sides Now in October of 1968, and the young Jacki Kellum thought, “Yes. Joni Mitchell is brilliant. She has looked at life from every side imaginable. Her lyrics are inspired.”
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way

In the year 2000, I watched a fabulous All-Star Tribute to Joni Mithcell. Joni sang Both Sides Now again, and I was struck by the difference in the two recordings. I may have been reading too much into her latter performance, but to me, it seemed as though the much older Joni Mitchell was admitting that in 1968, she truly had not seen life from all sides and that it was only in the living of life that greater truth was revealed. In the latter performance, Mitchell had been sobered. It was obvious in Mitchell’s demeanor and in her voice, that thirty years after Joni Mitchell had seemed to see life from all sides, she had finally begun to truly see.

Once more, the contrast between what we think we know when we are young and what we actually do know is cliché. Unfortunately, there is no way to become older and wiser without becoming older and wiser.

If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain – Author Unknown

When we are living within cloud’s illusions, we do not know it. We have fooled ourselves and we often fool everyone around us, too. Ultimately, however, our denials become the masks that we wear–the false personas that we adopt, and at the very least, our masks blind us and force us to miss opportunities.

The Mask

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.” – Shel Silverstein

At times, denial is a type of defense mechanism that prevents us from realizing things that we cannot fully fathom–things that would cause us so very much emotional pain that we could not bear it. Yet, sometimes our denials are ways that we allow ourselves to misbehave–to allow ourselves to do things that we should not be doing.
“She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms—and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too—end up in their shadow.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Perhaps we want to elevate ourselves in our businesses, but we perceive that the others ahead of us are preventing our ascensions. We might do things to discredit those other people with the administration or with other clients. If we do that and KNOW that we are doing it, we are not in denial–we are merely mean. This type of mean manipulator has probably devised an invisibility cloak that allows him to slip in and out of people’s views. Thus, the very skillful manipulator can be greedy without appearing to others to be so. The most deceitful people are masters of disguise.

Great politicians often fall into this group of people. Salespersons also often fall into this group of people. When people can behave selfishly without being detected by others, they are excellent schemers. That type of person is probably not in denial at all. That type of person may have compartmentalized himself away from having to deal with anything that he does not want to acknowledge, but this is less a case of denial than it is a case of narcissism. Narcissists simply do not care about the people that they hurt or about how many people that they have forced off the road, to jockey themselves to the fronts of the lines. Narcissists may also be in denial, but a narcissist’s denial has evolved into a state of evil treachery. People can be in denial without being narcissists.

Image result for jacki kellum queen of denial

In 1968, I was valedictorian of my high school graduating class, and by most standards, I was quite bright. At the time, I believed that my valedictory address was inspired but fifty years later, I now realize that in 1968, “It’s cloud’s illusions I recall. I really did not know life–at all.”

10689791_10204853783767478_6662499494422107879_n

In the above photo, Jacki Kellum is on the far right playing the guitar in 1970

Some people seem to skip through life. They seem to scurry about, dodging all the bullets. As though living were an enormous belt line, some people seem to reach the end, without being scathed at all. Those people would not understand how and why Joni Mitchell had literally changed her tune over time. But I do. I have also begun to push back the veil on some of my own delusions, and in doing so, my voice has also changed.

Fifty years after I delivered my valedictory address, this Jacki Kellum would also sing a different song than she sang in 1968. If I knew then what life has taught me since 1968, I would merely stand before the crowd almost speechless. Breathless, bruised, scarred, hoarse, and with a cracking and trembling voice, I would simply bow my head and whisper, “I surrender.”

“Let’s burn our masks at midnight
and as flickering flames ascend,
under the witness of star-clouds,
let us vow to reclaim our true selves.
Done with hiding and weary of lying,
we’ll reconcile without and within.
Then, like naked squint-eyed newborns,
we’ll greet the glorious birth of dawn;
blinking at the blazing, wondrous colors
we somehow failed to notice before.”
― John Mark Green

©Jacki Kellum June 24, 2017

 

Illusion

Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour – Thoughts on Letting Our Childen Go

Yesterday, I re-watched Steel Magnolias. Before the movie began, I knew that re-watching this film would make me cry, and I almost opted out of racking myself with that painful experience again. But I took the plunge, and I began to think about my own life. Julia  Roberts died in Steel Magnolias, and as a mother, I was tormented by the mother’s grief of losing her child to death. But I also began to consider that many parents lose their children in ways that do not involve dying. Children simply move on. They leave to marry and to begin their own homes or they leave to begin their own careers somewhere else. The bottom line is that our children leave. and as parents, we are left gripping the reality that we had simply been loaned a set of children–for just a short period of time–and that eventually, we were forced to let our children go.

“You can never go home again.” – Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe is correct in saying that once a child leaves, he can never really return to his childhood home again. Although most children keep in touch with their parents after they move away, they can never really return, and a decent mother doesn’t want her child to do so. But in some nagging, longing way, mothers remember and we ache for the days that we wrapped our children in soft, cotton blankets and brought them home from the hospitals. We remember their first steps. We remember baby food dripping from their chins, their highchairs, and from their hands and hair. We remember bathing our babies’ silky bodies and drying them and then laying them on top of our hearts–where we could feel them as they breathed. As mothers, we also remember slipping into our child’s room at night and at marveling at the sweetness of our sleeping child. We recall our children’s innocent but profound comments–the ones that allowed us to recall viewing life as only a child can view it. We remember the drawings and the paintings that they made as children, and we remember their going to school.

When my oldest child went to school, I grieved. Somehow I knew that both of our worlds had permanently shifted. For the first time, I realized that my child was not a doll. She was not mine, to keep. From that moment on, my child began slipping away from me and into herself. The transition has not been easy. I have discovered that it is often necessary for people to get mad before they can completely sever themselves, and that has happened in my family. I long for the day that my family can close its angry chapter and go to the next. That is the way that it is supposed to be: Our children are supposed to have their lives, and we are forced to have another. We know that, but still, we remember the fleeting moments that God loaned us our children, and we long.

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet….
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears….William Wordsworth
.

Jacki Kellum Garden May 2017

Although many mothers always long for the hours when their children were living in their homes, a wise mother will transition, too, and they will find another home where they will live into old age alone. I am thankful for the years that I was a parent, but I am also thankful for the ever-renewing well of life and for my ability to continually find a new life without my children nested around me. My garden has become my solace.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

August42015adj

Jacki Kellum Garden

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell …
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

Jacki Kellum Garden

Yesterday, my friend shared a slightly bent version of an old Chinese proverb:

If you want to be happy for a night, get drunk.
If you want to be happy for a year, get married.
If you want to be happy for life, plant a garden.

10568906_10204503980742621_1513890752537767546_n (1)

Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and hours that we spend agonizing because we do not feel accepted or appreciated or loved are simply hours lost. Because living can become painful and toxic, we need an antidote and a place to heal. My garden is where I go to be restored, and even during the winter, nature is my solace. My sunroom overlooks my side courtyard, and my greatest winter joy is to sit by my fireplace, watching the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home–the home that will carry me through life.

“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy

©Jacki Kellum June 9, 2017

Tender

The New Year’s Eve That I Finally Turned Into A Pumpkin

Growing old comes by seasons or degrees. Like the flowers and leaves of nature outside, our bodies and our minds change; and we become different creatures, according to our seasons. Those differences are nowhere more obvious than on New Year’s Eve.

fireworks-102971_1920

When I was a child, New Year’s Eve meant shooting fireworks. To this day, I love the smell of firecrackers and sparklers. Holding my wand of hot, twinkling magic, I would write my name and draw stars into the blue-black sky; and shooting Roman candles was the ultimate thrill:

My Roman Candle Minute
by Jacki Kellum

Silent Night, No Moon Light,
I point my wand at space.

I light a match and watch it glow,
I plant my feet in place.

First, an ember gnaws the string.
Boom! Then One! Two! Three!

A Canopy of shooting stars
Arches over me.

Silent Night, No Moon Light,
A twist of smoke puffs now.

I’ve had my fun–
My star-struck gun–
My Sixty-Second Wow!

Copyright My Roman Candle Minute Jacki Kellum December 10, 2015

Soon, I traded my childhood fireworks for New Year’s Eve parties. By the time that I was 17, I was convinced that if I didn’t have a date and someone to kiss at midnight, I should crawl into a cave and hide there until January 2.

By the time that I was 30-years-old, I began having ambiguous feelings about New Year’s Eve and the proper way to celebrate it. My children were babies then. If I wanted to go out and party, I would need to find a babysitter who was willing to work past late, and I was married to someone who didn’t enjoy socializing and parties. I began staying home on New Year’s Eve, but there was an omnipresent, nagging voice telling me that I should be somewhere else–and doing something much more festive.

Those years merged into the days when my children became firework-shooting age. The smells of firecrackers and sparklers returned, and Roman candles arched across my lawn once more. Because my children were widely spaced in years, that period lasted for a while. Meanwhile, my ex-husband and I divorced, and New Year’s traditions and many other ideals went up in smoke. It became simpler to stay home on New Year’s Eve, but I still felt twinges of doubt about missing the party. I already realized that my home is where I preferred to be on New Year’s Eve, but didn’t They–the others around–expect more of me.

Time marched onward, and now, the carousel has spun almost around. By the time that I was 60-years-old, my children have had left home, and my grandchildren were far away. I had not gotten so timeworn that I tucked myself in by 8:00 pm, and I was usually wide awake at midnight. That was the case last New Year’s Eve.

Promptly at midnight, my pre-teen neighbors began shooting their Roman candles. With a boom, a whistle, and a fizz, 2015 became 2016. I was propped up on my pillow, and my soft, cotton sheets were gathered around me. My quilt was pulled across my toes, and my dog was curled by my side. I sipped a glass of wine and smiled. Ahhhh! I had finally realized that the perfect way to celebrate the coming of a new year was when I was safe and snug, at home.

I turned off my light and slept.

The next day would be the beginning of a whole new season.

Copyright Jacki Kellum January 1, 2016

Smoke

Writing about Houses and Objects Inside Houses -Quotes from the Book Great House by Nicole Krauss

Please Note: The following summary is a spoiler. My primary reason for studying this book was to note how an object of furniture can play a significant role in both a story and a book. I also read this book as a study of books told from multiple perspectives.

On one level, Nicole Krauss’s book Great House is about an old writing desk that had nineteen drawers. On another level, the book is a series of stories about the family who had originally owned the desk, and the desk becomes the  common thread of the stories. Great House is told from multiple perspectives.

I Part 1 of the book and in the subsection “All Rise,” the year is 1972 and Nadia, a writer, acquires the desk from the fictional Chilean poet Daniel Varsky, who suggests that the desk may originally have belonged to Lorca, who was an actual person.

In 1972, Nadia takes possession of Varsky’s furniture, including his desk. She had recently divorced, and she had no furniture. She agreed to keep Varsky’s furniture until he returned for it.

A few years later, Varsky was assassinated.

In 1999, a person claiming to be named Leah Weisz and the daughter of Daniel Varsky called, saying that she wanted to reclaim her father’s desk.

While waiting for the person who called herself Leah to come and take the desk away, Nadia realizes that the desk was more than a piece of furniture to her and says the following about it:

“I looked across the room at the wooden desk at which I had written seven novels, and on whose surface, in the cone of light cast by a lamp, lay the piles of pages and notes that were to constitute an eighth. One drawer was slightly ajar, one of the nineteen drawers, some small and some large, whose odd number and strange array, I realized now, on the cusp of their being suddenly taken from me, had come to signify a kind of guiding if mysterious order in my life, an order than when m work was going well, took on an almost mystical quality. Nineteen drawers of varying size some below the desktop and some above, whose [p. 30] mundane occupations (stamps here, paper clips there) had a far more complex design, the blueprint of the mind formed over tens of thousands of days of thinking while staring at them, as if they held the conclusion to a stubborn sentence, the culminating phrase, the radical break from everything I had ever written that would at last lead to the book I had always wanted, and always failed, to write. Those drawers represented a singular logic deeply embedded, a pattern of consciousness that could be articulated in no other way but their precise number and arrangement.” Krauss, Nicole. Great House, pgs. 30-31.

The second Segment, “True Kindness,” introduces Dov, Dov’s son, and Dov’s brother Uri. In this segment, we are also introduced to the house:

“WE STOOOD in the hall of the house that had once been all of our house, a house that had been filled with life, every last room of it brimming with laughter, arguments, tears, dust the smell of food, pain, desire, anger, and silence, too, the tightly coiled silence of people pressed up against each other in what is called a family.” Krauss, Nicole. Great House, p. 106.

The brothers leave the house, and twenty-five years later, one returns:

“And just like that you walked back into the house that you had left so long ago. I heard your footsteps slowly ascend the stairs.

“Were they the lepers, Dov, those other kids? It that why you held yourself apart? Or was it you And the two of us, closed up together in this house–are the saved or the condemned?”

“A long silence while you must have stood at the threshold of your old room. Then the creak of the floorboards, and the sound of your door closing again after twenty-five years.”  Krauss, Nicole. Great House, p. 113.

In the third section, “Swimming Holes,” we discover that the desk is in the apartment of Lotte Berg, who lived in England. Her apartment overlooked a section of bombed ruins:  

“Many times I saw Lotte staring at those ruins with their solitary chimneys. The first time I visited her room I was amazed at how little was in it. She’d been in England for almost ten years by then, but, aside from her desk, there were only a few sticks of plain furniture, and much later I came to understand that in a certain way the walls and ceiling of her own room were as nonexistent to here as those across the street.

” Her desk, however, was something else entirely. In that simple, small room it overshadowed everything else like some sort of grotesque, threatening monster, clinging to most of one wall and bullying the other pathetic bit of furniture to the far corner, where they seemed to cling together, as if under some sinister magnetic force. It was made of dark wood and above the writing surface was a wall of drawers, drawers of totally impractical sizes, like the desk of a medieval sorcerer. Except that every last drawer was empty, something that I discovered one evening while waiting for Lotte, who had gone down the hall to use the lavatory, and which somehow made the desk, the specter of that enormous desk, really more like a ship than a desk, a ship riding a pitch-black sea in the dead of a moonless night with no hope of land in any direction, even more unnerving. It [p. 126] was, I always thought, a very masculine desk. At times, or from time to time when I came to  pick her up, I even felt a kind of strange, inexplicable jealousy overtake me when she opened the door and there, hovering behind her, threatening to swallow her up, was that tremendous body of furniture.

“‘One day I got up the courage to ask her where she had found it. She was as poor as a church mouse….her answer plunged me into despair: It was a gift, she said. …nothing more was said on the subject.” Krauss, Nicole. Great House, pgs. 126-27.

Lotte moves into the apartment of her lover [the narrator of this section], who had hoped that she would leave the desk behind, but she did not.

“I heard a pounding at the door, and there it was, resting on the landing, its dark, almost ebony, wood gleaming with a vengeance.”  Krauss, Nicole. Great House, p. 130.

A young man named Daniel Varsky visited Lotte, and she gave the desk to him. Lotte’s lover didn’t undertand why, but he discovered that Lotte had given up her own son who was about the same age as Daniel Varsky.

In the fourth section, the year is 1998, and  Isabel oIzzy, the narrator of this story, meets and falls in love with Yoav Weisz. Yoav and his sister Leah were living in England in a Victorian house owned by their father George Weisz. He was an antique dealer, and he spent most of his time traveling to buy antiques. While the father was away, the narrator lived in the house with Yoav and Leah. 

The father is haunted by memories of his own childhood home before the Nazis took away his parents and stole its lavish furnishings. George Weisz is obsessed with finding all of the furniture again. George Weisz discovers that Nadia has the desk in New York, and He sent Leah there to reclaim it.

During this segment, we discover that Leah and Yoav’s mother had died when Leah was seven and Yoav was eight. For years, their father essentially locked them in their home and removed them from society. During this time, the family moved a lot, and the family’s lifestyle becomes questionable.

We discover in this section that George Weisz uses a walking stick that has a silver ram at the top. 

At the beginning of Part Two the brothers Uri and Dov are living in Israel. Cov has become increasingly sullen, and people like Uri. Do announces that he is moving to England. In this segment, Dov and Uri’s father is the narrator, and he expresses his grief about how Do had become more and more disenchanted with and withdrawn from life. The father comments that Dov had even given up on his decision to beDov and Uri’s father is a judge, and from the time that we first met Nadia, she seems to be telling her story to a judge.

In the second segment of Part Two, “All Rise,” Nadia has gone to Jerusalem. It seems that she has a need to reconnect with the desk, and Leah had left her address as living at Ha’Oren Street in Israel.

In Israel, Nadia meets a young man named Adam, who she thinks looks very much like Daniel Varsky. She also thought that Leah had looked like Varsky. Adam becomes Nadia’s driver and drives her to the address at Ha’Oren Street. The man there says that he doesn’t know anything about the desk, and that no one named Leah is at his house. That man is Leah’s father George Weisz. He walks with Weisz’s walking stick.

Adam robs Nadia, and Nadia, in turn, takes Adam’s roommate’s car and begins driving. En route, she runs over the judge, who is now in the hospital. Nadia is at his bedside telling him this story.

In the next segment of Part Two, also titled “Swimming Holes,” Lotte dies and her husband of fifty years begins consulting a man name Gottlieb about the creation of his will. The lover tells Gottlieb about Lotte’s desk:

“To call it a desk is to say too little. The word conjures some homely, unassuming article of the work or domesticity, a selfless and practical object that is always poised to offer up its back for its owner to make use of, and which, when not in use, occupies its allotted space with humility. Well, I told Gottlieb, you can cancel that image immediately. This desk was something else entirely: an enormous, foreboding thing that bore down on the occupants of the room in inhabited, pretending to be inanimate but, like a Venus flytrap, ready to pounce on them and digest them via one of its many little terrible drawers. Perhaps you think I’m making a caricature of it. I don’t blame you. You’d have to have seen the desk with your own eyes to understand that what I’m telling you is perfectly [p. 370] accurate. It took up almost half of her rented room. The first time she allowed me to stay the night with her in that tiny pathetic bed that cowered in the shadow of the desk, I woke up in a cold sweat. It loomed above us, a dark and shapeless form.”  Krauss, Nicole. Great House, pgs. 370-71.

Lotte’s husband wants Gottlieb to find Lotte’s son, and Gottlieb did find the names and address of the people who had adopted the child. Lotte’s husband, who is finally named Arthur Bender, goes to Liverpool to try to meet the son, but when he speak’s to the adoptive mother, the mother tells Bender that her son had died twenty-seven years earlier.

In the end, George Weisz realizes that his daughter Lotte had double-crossed him and that instead of delivering the desk to her father in Israel, she had hid it from him by  locking it in a New York City Storage Unit. George Weisz tracks down the address where the desk is stored, he pays $1,000 to spend only one hour with the desk:

“I opened the door. The room was cold, and had no window. For an instant I almost believed I would find my father stooped over the desk, his pen moving across the page. But the tremendous desk stood alone, mute and uncomprehending. Three or four drawers hung open, all of them empty. But the one I locked as a child, sixty-six years later was locked still. I reached out and touched the surface of the desk. There were a few scratches, but otherwise those who had sat at it had left no mark. ” Krauss, Nicole. Great House, p. 431.

©Jacki Kellum September 28, 2016

Jacki Kellum Read This Book September 28, 2016

Romanticism – William Blake – Songs of Innocence: the Concept of the Child & Anaïs Nin On An Extraordinary Life

William Blake was a champion of Romanticism, and his work was dedicated to elevating the lifestyles of the people that he believed had been ruined by the Industrial Revolution. He was especially moved to help the children. His poem The Chimney Sweeper, published in 1789, was a reaction against the practice of forcing young children to be chimney sweepers, a practice that caused the children to become deformed and to die young.

Image result for blake chimney sweeper

The Chimney Sweeper:
BY WILLIAM BLAKE

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”

And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

William Blake is considered to be one of the earliest voices of the Romantic period, and his Songs of Innocence and Experience are characteristic of the Romantic thought that the child was of value and that he deserved to be protected from the greedy of designs of mankind.

Many years ago, I carefully examined the writings and the images created by William Blake, who wrote in the late 1700’s. In a manner of speaking, Blake was one of the earliest people to become preoccupied with aging, but his concern was not that of outward appearances. He was interested in the aging of the spirit. Generally speaking, I would say that the interests of people in the 21st Century are exactly the opposite of those of William Blake. William Blake was a Romanticist. Most people today are Realists. Today, most people are concerned about their outward signs of aging, and they allow their spirits to wither and die.

During the late 1700’s,  the Realists were the people who liked the changes that had been brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The Realists liked mechanization, standardization, and outwardness. The Romanticists were a reaction against the Industrial Revolution, clutching to the Imagination as the key to Inwardness. and the key to inner peace and happiness.

The Romantic viewpoint echoes Taoism, which urges a return to the Way. In his 1955 translation of the Tao Te Ching, Raymond Blakney provided the following definition of the Tao:

“Tao – A road, a path, the way by which people travel, the way of nature, and finally, the Way of reality.”

The Romantics would view the Realists as superficial. The Romantics believe that the Realists limit their life-views to the external or the obvious, like that of reading the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper, People magazine, etc., rather than that of seeking inner wisdom or growth. Linear in viewpoint, the Realists establish a goal early in life, and they spend the remainder of their lives marching or plodding toward that goal. The Realist essentially wears blinders to anything but the outer, and the Realist wants no distractions or changes along the way. He merely wants to move from point A to point B.

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” – James Oppenheim

On the other hand, the Romantic is focused inwardly; and he embarks upon a path toward the inward. The Tao said that this was a seeking of the Way.

In Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching, the following is said:

“There are ways but the Way is uncharted “[in other words, there is no direct line point A to point B–there is not even a map].
“The secret waits for the insight” [What is essential is within]
“Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.” [If you are moving only from point A to some pre-established point B, you are only looking at the surface–at what can readily be viewed and charted–like statistics].
Again to the first line. “There are ways. . .”

In his later work, William Blake described a type of Heaven and a Hell that he perceived as the lifestyles of the Romanticist versus the Realist. He said that the people who are led by their spirits or their imaginations are in Heaven and that the people who only see the obvious are in Hell. TS Eliot wrote The Waste Land, and it is a similar description of the results of limiting one’s life- view as outwardly and thus, limiting the nourishment of the spirit. William Blake created the Christ-like figure Los, who was the embodiment of the Imagination. The Imagination [Los] leads one to Heaven and away from the Waste  Land experiences of Hell.

So what does this all have to do with the aging crisis?

William Blake’s earlier writings were the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience. In the Songs of Innocence, Blake described an idyllic place where people who are always young reside. They are the people who have not been hardened by life. In the Songs of Experience, he described the hellish place where people who have been hardened by life are trapped. These are the people who, regardless of their physical age, are old. The people who have not been hardened by life’s experiences are  the forever young. [Peter Pan?]

I am definitely a Romanticist, and I know many people who have not reached the age of thirty yet, who are old. Even though they have no wrinkles and even though their hair has not turned gray, they have begun to wither from inside. They no longer feel. They no longer imagine. They no longer see any magic life. In my opinion, that is the true aging crisis. The true crisis is that too many people have allowed themselves to become emotionally old.

Anaïs Nin also wrote about the people who live in Blake’s Experienced World or T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land:

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Jacki Kellum Thoughts on Time and Aging

In 1965, I was 15-years-old, and The Rolling Stones released the song Time Is On My Side. That was over a half a century ago, and much has changed since then. When I was 15-years-od, I believed that Time WAS on My Side, but I don’t feel that way now. Now, I feel as though Time is a luxury, and the tragedy has to do with the fact that I wasted an enormous amount of time in the process of discovering that truth. As Joni Mitchell says, “So Many Things I Would Have Done, but Clouds Got In My Way….[but] I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now.”

Both Sids Now
by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
When I consider that Joni Mitchell was only 24-years-old when Judy Collins first released her song Both Sides Now, the lyrics amaze me. By the time that I was 24-years-old, I had almost died in a car accident that left me with several permanent scars, and in that regard, I had experienced more of life’s bitter truths than most yet 24-year-olds had discovered, but I still didn’t have a clue about all of the illusions and the delusions that I would eventually unveil. When I was 24-years-old, I still had not seen life from both sides now, and neither had Joni Mitchell.
I’ll post videos of Joni Mitchell when she initially sang Both Sides Now in her twenties and when she sang it again much later in life, and when you compare the videos, you begin to understand how much the passage of time changes us. It sobers us. Over the course of time, we experience disappointments, and we watch people die. Even worse, we watch relationships die when the people involved are still alive. In another of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant songs, she called life a game–The Circle Game.
The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Joni Mitchell’ song The Circle Game is a masterpiece, but it doesn’t tell the entire story either. As soon as the boy reaches the age of twenty, the song ends:
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty…
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
When I first heard this song, I was also turning twenty, and frankly, I am glad that I didn’t realize then how much both the voice of that tune and I would change over the next several years. The greatest of life’s games is that we don’t realize how precious the moments and the opportunities of youth actually are. During the times of our youths, the greatest of life’s misunderstandings is that we believe that we will be young forever.
artmatic-voyager-114205
One of life’s greatest disappointments lies within discovering that Time itself is an illusion and that living is like chasing after a mirage. We waste too much of our lives looking too far ahead at something that seems to be golden and grand, but when we get there, that golden somethingness isn’t there at all. It was merely a shiny reflection in the sand.
“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” – Willa Cather
I don’t want to pretend that art and writing are more than they actually, but in the almost final analysis, I can honestly say that my ability to create is the way that I begin to make sense of life’s Circle Game and the way that I have managed slow my own aging down and have prevented myself from spinning completely out of orbit. I will and I won’t remind everyone of the very true observation that youth is wasted on the young. That has been said so very many times and by so very many people that I am not sure who said it first.
“All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.” – J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan
I simply suffice it by saying that Time is a Luxury, but it is a luxury that will eventually run out. Ultimately, you will also be standing in the October of your own life singing my song Winter Comes Too Soon.
©Jacki Kellum August 8, 2016
Capture

Winter Comes Too Soon
A Picture Book Manuscript by Jacki Kellum

There’s a frenzy in my garden,
Squirrels can’t get enough.
Birds are looking frantically
For seeds and nuts and stuff.

The corn is dry and shriveled now,
A vine has reached the top.
Fading leaves are bending low,
And little pumpkins drop.

The monarchs moved to Mexico,
And geese are leaving, too.
The spider leaves a lacy web,
Her net is etched with dew.

Shadows creep across the lawn,
But there’s a big, bright moon.
Everything in my yard knows
That winter comes too soon.

Copyright Jacki Kellum October 8, 2015

 

Luxury

Follow-JackiKellum

© 2017 Jacki Kellum

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑