volume 1 of the golden west: 1994 july-december  work & days: a lifetime journal project  








The first volume of The Golden West begins two weeks before a camping trip to the Fraser Canyon at High Bar. Have given up on Ken Sallett but am still grieving and pondering. Reading in the history of the concept of imagining, looking at the Romantics in light of connectionist cognitive science. Start the PhD at SFU in September.

The camping trip is in part 2. In part 3 a week in Montreal at the Absences de l'image film and video festival. Show of We made this photos at the Van East theatre with Louie in part 4.

Mentioned: Story Musgrave, Marion Woodman, Northrop Frye, Rebecca West, Aristotle, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Nicole Gingras, Jean Waite, High Bar Reserve, CISR.

July 31st

This background of depression I must not lose sight of in my sparky coping. But there is also the presence in me that quietly says, never stops saying, What is it like to be? What is it like to live? What is it like to be a one in the world?

September 22nd

In the garden, more than any other time it is when every leaf and every weed counts in vistas supernally beautiful. I can sit down anywhere and look across and through and see everything brewed in the same gold-powder light, leaf and leaf and leaf and grass and grass and sumac berry over there and orange amaranth stalk and silk tree fringe. The dust in the light. The way the color-change is adjusted by it. It isn't mist, it isn't dust, I don't know what it is, but it has mist's quality of seeming to be made of speck-lamps that illuminate leaves not from the far sky but from all around, not the strong cold light of a mist, but a near warm honey light.

Oct 10

Ordinary things for some: teaching, speaking to strangers, sticking it out with Louie, learning Unix, being in a show, having money in the bank. Those are the hard things. The whole history of the philosophy of imagining, that is the easy thing and if I go there now I will be able to see through almost anything. I'll be happy and go till I fade four hours from now.

16 Nov

Five o'clock. I've been awake since three. Here I am - that's how it feels. Radio music. I heard a gust of wind hit the west window and then heard it arrive in the tree outside the east window. I am happy. Making a second cup of tea. I was reading earlier in this book. Is there more than one kind of pleasure in that? Pleasure in the fit of my language. I have always had that. And pleasure it brings back. But something else - pleasure imagining it will be read. That is suspect. Is it? What if I knew it would die with me? Would I make myself a public writer? It has been a gamble, dangerous. If this is finally my writing it may be writing that has never had to learn to write. Or it may be writing written in the best way. Or writing written in the best way and spilled into space without ever having passed through other people. I mean dying the short way. If a private public writer is what I want to be I would have to do something in some other area that made me famous. People read even Virginia looking to be part of a famous life. But not Dorothy [Richardson], people read Dorothy to be part of a large-enough life.

Nov 19

Oh what is it, I'm really in pain but it's the dumb kind, trapped under the diaphragm. I woke at five and sat sore and slow trying to find something and unable. Went back to sleep. I was cold. It is raining with the sound of a machine. Dark silver winter. That is alright. But these days the spasm at the solar has been constant. It is a brightness, a kind of density of brightness, like a metal. Like chrome. Why is it unpleasant. Because it is frozen. It is a contraction. I'm at a loss. Which loss is it. Why won't this one tell me what it is?

Nov 19

I put my hand on his belly. "You're hard." I give the head of his hard-on a disrespectful squeeze. "Up to the belly" he says (something like that), meaning, Pretty big, huh. "Partway," I say.

Nov 26

It's almost unpopulated. A million coyotes. I love the way the plane rides, as if solely by the grain of the fine vibration I think my body likes. The grain of the voice. Its voice. La graine de la voix, he says they say.

15th December

Ursula Le Guin is going to give a talk about writing. She asks someone to write her a paragraph to work with. I am near the front and I volunteer as fast as I can. I begin to compose it. I don't have any paper. I write it on the wall:

A woman is standing looking north. The sky is ... I want to say it is yellow, but should I say 'intensely?' ... intensely yellow. What else am I seeing, the spires of hollyhocks black against the light, will I say that? Maybe not. I want to describe a child running out into the garden to find the woman. I see the black shape of a bush. By the time the child finds her I think it will be completely dark. How will I manage the transition of light? And so on.

16th Dec

Last night working with Louie on the writing dream, I encapsulated in anxiety about writing, was like an egg, sealed inside a bated immobile slightly translucent space. Slowly, dimly, I found the relevance of the phrase I had just used. Her book had said I should write an hour a day, read once a week. If you read to the wrong people you'll write for the wrong people, I said. Who are the right people, she asks. " I am thinking there aren't any right people."

So I'm in a shell saying there aren't any right people. I'm a little girl in a hospital bed and there are only wrong people. What does it have to do with writing? Reading. - That's what comes to me, I'm not sure of it, but she read to me, and when she read to me it was like being a baby, trust. Then I went away (that's a euphemism: she went away) and when I came back, even when she read to me it wasn't trust. But when I learned to read I had it again.

And writing? Writing my journal it's the same. Saying it I'm feeling it, the sense of confident trust. Writing letters had it sometimes. It bridges. That's why I don't forgive my mother for wanting greeting cards and why I don't forgive Jamila for not wanting my letters. When I love someone I want to give them the parts of my journal that are about them.

What about the audience, do you want to give them anything, Louie asks. "I hate the audience. The audience is like the kids in my [elementary school] class. They're stupid."