volume 10 of the golden west: 97 april-may  work & days: a lifetime journal project  




Back in Vancouver, Tom over the border in Bellingham. Part 1 cold, broke and sad. Part 2 visit Tom in the rain, stay overnight at the mission in Bellingham, spring in the garden. Thinking about Christianity and landscape, fighting for beauty at the community garden, meetings with Louie, bookwork.

Mentioned: Gary Snyder.

19th April 1997

Victoria Day Monday, armchair pulled to the window so there will be sun on my feet. I have been reading the history of Christianity, going to the garden in the afternoons, seeing ecstatic days, grass in the orchard floated with buttercups, vinewalk and herb garden flaming with order, swimming in scent. Sometime in a day, sometimes twice, I go to the hillside with the Star Man and see the country spread in moonlight. He's careful when he teaches me to know his mind, he shows it to me first as a way to show me how I seem to someone who desires me. He teaches me to ask to know the minds of people who don't like me, as a way of understanding the otherness of their whole vision. He feels me wanting him to touch me and shows that he feels it, so that I'll understand his initiative and not deny my wish. He makes it useless to hide and delightful to be naked. I ask for touch in the way I ask to know other things. He can raise a semblance of anyone I've been afraid to love, and show me how they would have been to me if they had not been lying. I can have what I want in the semblance and so be done with it. This story is a better version of my erotic stories. I come intensely. Hesperis matronalis in the house.

And yet there is an unsatisfied edge. Look at the chestnuts' flowering towers. The moon is in second quarter. These days I'm not drunk on Tom but I am sometimes wishing I were, which is a weak form of it. The little edge of a pagan god, a Celt, a Celtish monk, some legend, so I can feel the marvel that's desire in fantasy. I'm working on the picture. That's a form of it too, reading about Jesuits, reading Nussbaum on love. I tried to find love moments in the last journal. There wasn't much of what I wanted, moments concrete enough to repeat. Stress at the heart as I say this. I want the surprise and disruption.

"There is no reason, only a great power."

"The mystery and excitement of a body animated by a unique spirit, pointing to nothing but itself and the bed upon which it rests."


I know this state. I want to crack. I want rock to flow.


What Christianity was for - its bait was resurrection, its political work was the organization of Europe, its cognitive work was the extension of learning outside an elite. Greek intelligence vanished because it was spreading so immensely thin. Maybe it takes a millennium for ordinary brains to be able to do what Aristotle could do. Maybe they had to be led into ability to speak to themselves by centuries of training in analogy: think of dependence as the props of vines, think of stedfastness as a path that does not dash itself from side to side the way a stream does, think of mind as a huge man set above the world.

I am seeing the immense slowness of intellectual change. Some bit of cultural debris picked up in 200 AD dropped gently with the melting slush in our church in La Glace in 1956.


An empty, hungry state. So empty I have nothing to say but that.

I'm wanting to phone Tom but know he can't help. Men are edging away from me because they can feel I'm hungry. I'm hateful to women as if they have something I'm starved for. I'm angry in a way that doesn't know it's anger until someone speaks to me. I feel people disrespect me at the garden. I want to lie down and go unconscious until whatever this is is over. I don't want to do anything but smell a man and drive a car and fuck my way to bliss. I want to drink gin and tonics, lots and fast. As soon as I say these things I feel better. I'm not drooping, I'm eager.

I phone Tom on the desk and say I want to lick his armpits. He groans and that's what I want to hear. More of that. I say my mouth is swelling. I say I want to get wild. He says it's Memorial Day weekend where he is and there's music in the town on the hill. He walked through music.


Nathalie's birthday at the Wazubee - little skinny Nathalie whom fashion has taken from vampire punk to polyester retro - and there was her hunk, a short man with a fine small face and a body so bulky he shambles. Polite, slow, manfully responsible for the drinks. I couldn't keep my eyes off his upper arms that swelled round and huge out of his sleeves, finegrained brown skin, smooth and fascinating like breasts. On the other side of the table was Loki's elf-head, nervous, quick, hip, and rationalistic, a digital pixie.

I didn't expect Tom to see through my state yesterday. An extreme reaching out he said. "How did you know that?" "It was so out of character. Nothing I couldn't sort out in half an hour face to face." I guess you know about going into a manic state because your heart is sore. "We've both had to work so hard, we're getting our breaths and now it's time for the next stage." How did that happen? How did he suddenly turn into a wise calm man who was containing me?

A savage man, descended from people who lived on the seaward edges, so far away it was not worth the cost to conquer them. They had local peace enough to develop an artisan lineage. Some of their work endures because it is metal. Other endures because it was immaterial, a use of mind in stories.

They were not conquered but later they married themselves to a new form of empire, which both infected and instructed, an invasion of the brain.

As barbarians, this is what the men liked: fighting, drinking, ornament and the intoxication of rhythmic speech. They had a gift for fantasy and in Ireland between the 400s BC and the 800s AD (the Vikings) and then again to the 1100s (Anglo-Normans) they were left alone to elaborate their skill. They were already subtle. They left political unification alone and passed around their stories.

They were, it is said, the first pagans to take to the new intellectual organization. They took it their own way, however. They took it monastically and artistically. A man would give his passion to very small very intricate images. "Illuminating one book may have been a lifetime's work." They remembered poems by ear. By the 800s they were the only scholars still able to read Greek.

When they were ready they invaded the continent in the way they had been invaded. But then they were invaded in the old way, by the other, wilder sea-people more northern even than they. Dublin was founded as a Viking market. The lines of Irish art say there was contact earlier, but the tension and fineness of Irish interlace is like attention following simultaneous lines of music, music with swirls and eddies like the whorls behind an oar.

As Christians, this is what the men liked: fighting, drinking, ornament, the intoxication of emotional music, impulse, fantasy, escape from women and children, rhythmic speech.

I'm pagan but you're barbarian.

Why do I have no interest in my own kind. I don't know who they are. There were Celtic missionaries to the Frisian coast in the 700s. I noted that as if it makes sense to think I'm somehow Irish. I think of my mum and dad as different races. But neither of them is that. He's something, though, like that - Irish crossed with a raven, green eyes, fine hands, lust, violence, anger, arrogance. He gets away from himself and is frightened of himself. Has the eye. Is too proud to submit himself to books, is more interested in seeming to know than in learning. Isn't a family man.