volume 13 of the golden west: 1998 february - april  work & days: a lifetime journal project  






Bellingham visits, Joyce. Tom and Joe connect. Part 2 I give the Leaving the land paper at Presentation House. Part 3 , visit with Cheryl.

Mentioned: Sally Potter Tango Lesson, Norman Rush Mating, Why men hate women, Michael Benedikt Cyberspace, Constable, Grease, Brand The media lab.

15 February

I'd like you to read this book but I can see you won't. In it a man constructs the point of view of a woman he enjoys. Her interest in him, her whole feeling for him, is in my sense of it perfectly true. He's giving his wife the gift of his interest in her at the same time as indulging his interest in himself. He looks like Paul Churchland and Dan Dennett and Stan Brakhage. It seems he is not afraid to know anything about her thoughts. He is so released into his own powers he can afford to be feminist in curiosity.

This is a thing I mind about you - that you are not released enough to be curious, investigative. I keep believing it is a woman writing, and when I remember it is Norman Rush having learned these things from delighting in his wife I am so happy I laugh out loud at his jokes. The woman tackles him. She does. He has the spirit of my interest in you exactly.

This is the best nearly the only novel I've read in a year. The last one was Cynthia Shearer. I'm leaving out The Raj Quartet. Love, again doesn't count. These years I skim unless it's as good as this. Maybe in five or ten years you'll be ready to read this book. I want somebody to read it. About you - I think you've got that freedom in you. I think your inside is rich. I wish I could write a book like this, with so much of my knowledge in it.

Compare it to Barbara/Sara's book. Oh! Psychoflab. Psycho-cellulose. Think of Dineson or Gordimer, a writer has to be very boiled-down, pathologically so. No white space.

And yet I don't like Rush's voice when I hear it in me. It's speedy and facetious.

18 Feb

I am jealous of Louie. She's looking beautiful, she's pink and bright-eyed and very trim and energetic. She's making a lot of money and owns her apartment. She's having yogically mysterious and splendid sex, though with soggy Lydia. She had a trip to South Africa where her large family adored her. She's a popular teacher, she's getting to be a very good teacher. Her writing is being published in good magazines, and this is writing she produces in an offhand way once a week. I love to look at her face. She's all honed and alive and sexy. She's only forty, not fifty-three as I will be in two weeks. Except for the last, she earns all of it by constant energized effort, she never sags, she doesn't waste time the way I do. She doesn't work in the lonely wastes. She's used to being prosperous and well thought of.

22 Feb

Sandra's James spoke first after lunch. A wild man, not tall. Dark-faced, joking. Unfinished. He began with an invocation in Cree, claiming the powers, Sandra said later. Compared to the white guys he was playful, present, abrupt, experimental. He cleared his throat many times, a loud harsh sound. There is a word in Cree for a small stand of tamarack growing on just this kind of a slope. He pronounced it a couple of times. On the prairies in autumn there's a time when the sky is blue and the leaves are yellow. There's a word in Cree for the way that makes you feel. Yes, I was thinking, if you are in one place for 11,000 years you'll have words for things about that place. But then James got tempted by the fact that he was standing behind a pulpit and he started preaching about the end of the world.

I followed him. I had understood that I was frightened by the presence of the fast-talking men and I was not going to be able to start strongly, so I gave myself some room to be what I was by saying I was going to start from childhood and was not going to be able to speak quickly or fluently, that I wanted to speak from a part of myself that is not the talking part. Having said that, I could hear the fear in my voice, and I could hesitate for words, and I could start in the place where it started.

There's a hill over there, a slough down there. A poplar bluff in the east and, in the north, trees all the way up. A little girl sitting in church watching the lit-up dust rise above the window sill. Saying, this guy is not entitled to preach at me, because he can't see me, he doesn't want to see me. And he's telling lies. It is not a heavenly father who creates and sustains us. It is we who suffer. It is our mother who bleeds. It is the land that creates and sustains us.

I went on about the community there is, people engaged in learning the invisible art of perception. Some of them are artists, but what they are engaged in has more to do with learning to perceive, I said. The creation story I like is the one that says we evolve. What I like about it is that it says the land creates itself and it creates us along with it. That means perception is the complement of the land.

And then I said seven things, very compressed evidently, about what's good in the new theory of perception. The ways perception is virtuosic. That we are a very early civilization, very primitive - that in our tradition we are still living in the vast penumbra of a hideous philosophy that misdescribes us and has not begun to discover the resources of perception. That I can safely measure my eyes against the land. If I'm in a good state it will be more than beautiful, there will be a sense of love and bliss, and if I am not in a good state I'll notice that I'm not there. That's it. Thank you Sandra, thank you Karen and Maria.

Then there was the endless boring audience discussion. I was on a couch with the devil, not looking at him [head of Emily Carr art school]. Irritated with him. At one point he was saying we give the plants existence, we name them. I said when I was growing up there were twenty kinds of flowers we didn't have names for, it has nothing to do with naming. But we see them, we give them meaning, he said. We don't give them meaning, that is so lordly, I said. The blond woman in the second row laughed.

Many people in the audience were feeling a little too empowered by the event and they felt free to speak at length without distinction. Oh well. I fidgeted. We were sitting on chairs and sofas belonging to the stage set for a play that's on in the evenings, I forgot to say. The men of the party told long stories. Rod noticed Ron had had his bud nipped by me and was uncharacteristically silent, so he helped him out with an appreciative mention and then he was on full gallop again. Well, maybe not full. I was tired. I wanted to quit.

28th Feb

I went to a Friday colloquium at the department yesterday. There were twenty people, twenty from the pinched right end of the bell curve, sitting along a probably teak table in a carpeted library with windows onto the most perfect mountain view in North America, Burnaby Mountain holding the university on a shelf high over the Sound, with alder brush screening every last street or house. At the head of the table sat a man brought from San Diego for the purpose of addressing us. Healthy, well kept, brown hair just beginning to grey, good sweater, thick wedding ring, a nice-looking man who jogs, offering us his apparently cutting-edge remarks on Socrates and Aristotle on love and friendship. He was replying to a paper by another such man, more famous than he. Is loving our friend for himself consistent with loving and fostering virtue in him? was the question.

Brink has found a way to say it so the answer comes out yes. Vlastos said no. This went on for an hour. I didn't stay for the discussion. I was seething. Sitting there with my arms around my knees I was thinking how little it would take to violate such an event. If I lay down under the table for instance.

I've thought something similar during David's Philos 100 lectures. There is a piano at the front of that lecture hall. Imagine sitting down to it during one of his idiotic complacent analytic philosophy lectures and playing Mozart, or rock'n'roll. He would have to try to reason with me.

That reminds me, Phil yesterday in eager consternation looking both ways when he comes into a corridor. He is being stalked and harassed, he says. A young woman is putting letters under his door, "increasingly personal." He was telling me this midway down the third floor corridor, where I met him on his way to consult the campus shrink. He stopped in midflow. He had to run. She had just appeared at the far end of the hall. I was going that way. She backed into the stairwell as I got to the elevator. I followed her and had a look. A pretty young woman, good jacket, day pack, who looked angry. I'm thinking Phil's fear, and his pleasure in the self importance of the fear, is something like his helplessness with [his daughter] Adrienne. There's something fishy about it.

8 March

I said there has to be a countermovement, it has to come from women, it is going to be slow, it has to do with capacities of body.

Everybody sees it differently, everyone is right, she was saying. No, there are ways that don't work, I was saying. I heard myself dogmatic, optimistic, not a bit East Coast, not a bit art community.

Marion said Sandra's symposium was terrible, the only good thing was Rod Slemmons, Cheryl says. - There is this in Cheryl, she will not run against the community, and her community is built on a paranoid narrowing against heart and simplicity. We are animal and spirit, she says, the toy worlds of the cut-off guys are necessary defense against unbearable truth. I say, No, life isn't unbearable, there is what we need to come through if we are willing to know.

Dear you Tom, this is why I'm with you, you haven't consented to mistrust life or yourself.

13 March

Introducing the mind-body section of the course yesterday - the second tutorial, the smart one - seeing the semicircle of faces listening very close.

Haven't talked about Joyce on Wednesday. I showed her my early love protests that I'm very wonderful and he should want to tell me all about himself and ask me all about myself, and if he doesn't write me letters it means he doesn't love me. She said, No it doesn't mean that. He hasn't taken care of his creative part as well as you have taken care of yours. He likes that flame in you but he's afraid of it. When he likes himself better he'll want to write you. I said, He's doing it, he's on the road, it's very beautiful to see. She said, That - what you're feeling now - that's love.

12 April

After he missed the bus and we came back and lay down I could see the beauty of the sky's evening colors, which seemed a kind of beauty I have never seen before. The way, in fact, this spring's touches of first color - new leaf's greens and bronzes and khakis and browns hung together in misted bits in the trees - have seemed to belong to a fairyland of a new kind. The sky last night was pink and blue vapour, shaped vapour and smudged vapour, dark grey-blue and strong greyish-rose with pale green-blue in the few patches of open sky. (I know these color descriptions don't read.)

19 April

Last night with the lights off sweeping the dial. Dark end of the street and Desperado, songs I feel as yours, as you. I'm instantly deep in love, lying with you on your single bed in the dark, feeling your loneliness the way I hardly feel my own. I don't think I can say this. The songs with which you told me you, the love with which I feel it as a man's life and honour you for your willingness to be it, for your having brought it to me raw.