Tag Archive | melancholy

My Life on a Space Station



What would my life be like if I lived on a space station? I mean a station orbiting high above the earth, rolling gently through our galaxy, rocketing into outer space. I mean an enclosed world all to myself, a world with no one but me.

On my space station, there’d be no conflict. No arguments, no yelling. Peace, calm, my mind at rest. Would it be freeing? Would I feel like I did as a child at the end of each summer, waiting in boredom for school to start again? It could be an eternity of boredom.

I’d need to stay busy, I suppose, or go mad. Ballroom dancing? Fun, but not without a partner. Gardening might be essential for survival, but I doubt I would find joy in weeding. I’d need to exercise. Treadmill, yoga. And meditation. I could watch my own navel.

How would I spend my time? Would I bring the complete works of Shakespeare with me to fill the hours? Would I choose great literature, opera, ballet? Mozart? Yum Yum and Van Gogh, Monet? Star Trek? Anne-girl and her Gilbert? Jo and Beth, Meg, Amy? The Big Bang Theory? Would I study string theory, quantum physics? The stars? Or would I discover them for what they all are, points of light too far away to reach.

Why would I choose to live by myself, in the middle of nothing, without company from any other human being? Would the melancholy become intolerable? I might crave affection to distraction. I might get all the way out there, billions of miles from anyone, only to find that I miss humanity. Of course I would miss my children. I would miss Paris, and the beauty of a New England autumn, the Acropolis and Rome. Mont Ste. Michele, Giverny. Would I miss you? Would I grow old and in the utter silence of a frozen universe, think of you?



In Limbo


I am nothing if not consistent. I consistently come back to the same place year after year after year. No, it’s not the fried clam shack. No, it’s not the ice cream stand. It’s not even the wine shop. Though I frequent them often, it’s none of these fine establishments of New England culture and cuisine that catches and holds me.

No, where I come back to time and again is limbo. Not the biblical limbo, not Dante’s limbo. No, it’s not exactly hell. Just a frustrating, all enveloping while it lasts, depressing state of emotional turmoil.

I visit a place that never changes. It’s the place where I feel bad about myself. It’s the place where I wonder what my life could be. No matter how accomplished I’ve become, no matter how well activities in my life are progressing, no matter how much proof there is that I lead a solid, productive existence. A dozen things go right. And then, for no good reason and with no warning, I’m back in limbo.

In limbo I experience melancholy. A sadness sweeps over me. I feel a yearning, a desire for something different, for a better life than I now have. I am one of the most privileged people on earth, and I know it. Why is it that I can’t be happy with what I have? Why do I get these spells of downheartedness? A strange sensation washes over my skin, leaving me wistful, longing for something to change. It’s like the cold wind that comes in autumn after a long, warm summer. It prickles your skin and makes you wake up. Makes you turn direction. Reflects your thoughts toward winter.

This feeling – it’s wondering, it’s longing, it’s yearning, it’s aching to reach for something but I don’t know what it is and I can’t find it anywhere. Like Carole King’s Tapestry….”my life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue, an everlasting vision of an ever changing view…a tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.” The vision is there, but my tapestry is complex, with so many folds and turns and twists, hidden alleyways and dead ends and false turns, that I can’t see what might be there before me. I am consumed with the present, and leave no time for pondering. I don’t see the places that will trip me up.

What’s it all about? sang Dionne Warwick. Is it just for the moment we live? I suppose my limbo place makes me pay attention to the pitfalls and shortcomings and disasters that are in me. I guess limbo serves a purpose. But perhaps I’d be happier if my emotional habits didn’t include always returning to that one sad place where I wonder what is wrong. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I move ahead? Where is it that I long to go?


Melancholy in the Pines




There is no good reason for my melancholy tonight. It just happens sometimes.


Melancholy in the Pines

I miss you
Umbrella pines
Pistachio trees
Green olives hanging
In front of my eyes
And cypress, so tall
And slim and graceful
An Italian dream
And the pomegranate bushes
Heavy with the fruit of Eve
Don’t take a bite
Vesuvius will open up
And swallow you
And keep you silent for eons
For two thousand years or more
And you’ll suffer for it
The gods are harsh
They’ll punish you
For being a strong and independent woman
Who knows her mind
Who wants a bite of that apple
That pomegranate apple
From that tempting tree
I can’t blame you
There is a world of temptation
In the olive branches
In the pines
There is melancholy in the pines

I miss you
Cypress trees
Unripe Greek pistachios
Waiting to burst
Pomegranate promise



It can’t rain all the time


This jumbo jet is taking off

In the bleary rain
Shear be damned
It’s taking off
Into that wild
Looking high to the sky
Into the nimbus
Past those heavy molecules
Crossing the grit and grimy
Gassy ion particles
This aero flight
Seeks the invisible light
And the untouched horizon
Pot o’ gold
Red to violet
That vast array
Aurora borealis
Or bust
That sparkle in the eye
This biplane is outta here
Through the hung over sleaze
Past the sleet
And dreary haze
Of thunderheads past
Trip up, or is it down?
Either way
It can’t rain all the time



Today I’ve been thinking about my brother, who died by his own hand, some 25 years ago. He shot himself in the mouth. He was young. Life was full ahead of him if only he could have waited for worthy moments to come his way. Like me, he was an impulsive and impatient fellow, filled with miseries of his own making. Expecting more and terribly disappointed when his life didn’t conform to his imaginings. Calm and dispassionate in his demeanor. Consumed in his heart with jealousy for a rewarding life that never matched his actual existence.

Especially when we are young, we make oh, so many mistakes. We find it hard to justify the waiting. We demand a quick and logical, sequential pattern to our coming of age. We don’t understand that nature doesn’t march forward in straight, perfect lines. Often we are forced to step back or to the side and start again. The agony can be palpable.

“She walked closer to the flames.

I don’t have God. I don’t pray to the blue lights, or the cigarette gods, or the god of good fortune, or even to the goddess Persephone who raises the cruel spring.

It isn’t Persephone’s fault the spring brings chaos and disharmony. She ate three of Hades’ pomegranate seeds – big deal. That’s no reason to bind her to hell. That’s no reason to give up on her. Hades is the mean one, the gross and disgusting pig of an underworld god. Persephone isn’t much more than a child, Hades, though she looks adult. She’s just a girl, Hades. Leave Persephone be.

Glory moved to a spot where the sparks flew straight out into the night air. She raised her hand to them, and let them hit her fingers. She felt tingles but no pain.”

Not every young adult experiences the kind of melancholy expressed in PERSEPHONE IN HELL. Not every young person destroys himself in a fit of despair. But some do. My memories live with me. The agony is palpable.





Why prefer a sunny day?rain

When the rain
Is infinitely more interesting
Wets the window sills
If you’re brave enough to leave the gaps open
If you won’t care that the flooring below gets damp
Tap taps sound on the gable, on the shingles, on the asphalt
On the wood dormers and eaves
All the better to hear the beauty raps
Rap, tap

Smells of natural effects
Earth worms reaching out for air
(Otherwise you never see them)
And shiny spider webs
Invisible in the dry
That pop from the lawn like tiny pinwheels
In crystal post-shower light
Oily slick spots on the pavement
Form psychedelic rainbows

The rain pulls color up from every leaf
And stick of grassy cover
Every surface more vivid
Recalling the green of Ireland

Grabs the sorrow up from me
Deposits it on my arms and thighs
My wet, prickly, sensitive layer
Clear water thoughts apparent
Vulnerable, questioning
Sitting on my skin

And there’s usually some wind accompanying the drops
The majestic wind
Rap, tap, wild howls
Branches swaying, leaves blowing
Sometimes a downpour
Pelting rain

Or drowsy, dreary, dripping melancholy
My frequent friend

Always mesmerizing
Always enchanting
Never dull like the sun
That relentless boring bright