volume 15 of the golden west: 1998 August-December  work & days: a lifetime journal project  








Summer working on a website. In autumn, drive to San Diego to work on my thesis. Part 1 songbird conference, take Tom to meet my folks. Part 2 journey to California along the coast, SSHRC postdoc application, living in the Golden West while Tom is still in Bellingham. Part 3 a room and garden in La Jolla. Part 4 Tom arrives fat and angry, moves into 324 at the Maryland.

Mentioned: Vanessa Redgrave in The tempest, Susan Oyama, Monty Roberts The man who listens to horses, Castenada The power of silence.

Vancouver August 15

Tuesday morning Tom and I at Granville Island threading through the crowds come upon two street musicians in front of the French bread place, father and daughter playing violins over a recorded orchestra. Vivaldi. He was East European, that tight intense smoked look of a gypsy man, anxious and tyrannical. She was Canadian, a small queen, slightly plump, jeans and teeshirt, light brown hair in a ballet bun, seventeen maybe. Anachronistic dignity. He was playing dramatically to the crowd. He had given himself the solo part though it was beyond him. She stood and moved in a way that was nothing but music. There was something about the way she faced the crowd, which had formed a wide circle. She was more alone than he was, she had more concentration. She was having to deal with what was sloppy in his playing. They were standing in different continents. I'm not sure I've got it. Her music was very strong.

We came round the circle and stood behind them. I was looking at the motion of her haunch, feeling something about the economy and precision of the whole body's production of a line of music when that is all it's doing. I looked up and saw a woman on the far side of the circle who had been watching me watch her.

August 16

Salish dreamers' taboos - a certain kind of person will honour inner instructions to avoid acts or substances other people find harmless. I have been like that, fighting to obey rules I don't know the use of. It has to do with preserving access.

These days I am negotiating with my own rules. My book/process helps me with that, because I'm not in a position to know whether taboo and emotional damage are different things. If you honour your taboos you go to the heart of your gift. If you ignore them you live as an ordinary person. Creator taboos are always in conflict with what you need as an ordinary person. If you obey them absolutely you'll die. Creator certainty is a relation to your gift, not to staying alive. So there always has to be negotiation. I haven't always understood this. The difference between creator taboos and emotional stops, it says, is that emotional stops are unconscious. If you release the emotional stops your aliveness can look after itself in the face of your creator taboos. You need great freedom when you have great discipline.

August 22

Patricia's party [Patricia Gruben]. I sat next to a man who had come with a remarkable, puzzling baby. The baby looked very small but not young. It looked like a fairy child. It had longish white hair and proportions like a grown person, a small head, small definite features, spidery white arms and legs, but it moved like a newborn, very weakly. How old is this person? I said to the father. Mindlessly. I hadn't figured out there was something wrong with it. He said "fifteen months" in a tone that said he was annoyed to be asked. I said "wow" and left it. He forgave me later.

Oregon September 14

I dreamed - lying under star-spangled firs with the ocean loud somewhere beyond pines and dunes - that I came downstairs in my house and found half an envelope folded over, stuffed through my mail slot. A pencil stub. No, a pencil broken in half. I understand the message, but who sent it? The pencil is silver. Where was it made? There's very fine print on it. Made in New York. Other specifications. I wake as if remembering that one morning recently when I came down on my way to do the sorts of things I've had to do, there really was a broken pencil, but that one yellow and in a clear plastic bag.

I lit a match and looked at the time. It was 5. I would make tea and go.

Driving fast through white fog with the radio muttering inaudible under the motor, still wondering, if it happened, why I would have forgotten it. As if suspecting witchcraft.

Last night it got dark at eight. I was asleep by nine but woke while I could still hear a campfire in another stall. There had been the sound of one short sharp sniff. An animal stepped out of the bushes next to me, the size of a large dog but silver grey. It hadn't noticed me. When I moved it startled and streaked through to the trail. It was lighter and faster than a dog.

California September 15th

I gave up on that creekside spot and got back on the road in the dark. Big white stars, transport trucks, climbs and descents. I was thinking of Luke: vol de nuit.

At Laytonville campground, a spot on the hill, ten dollars, a shower included. The office a trailer. I filled out the registration form tottering and trembling. The young girl of the household sitting on the floor, on trailer shag, doing her homework. A TV on. Then my bed alongside the car so it would cut off the far reach of a yardlight. It was warm. I put out a hand from my bed and patted the left rear tire. Thank you, darling. It was cooling, refitting its metals. Patted my body too. I was attending my aches and buzzes, too stupid with fatigue to have a thought about the stars.

Golden West Hotel September 25

I was lying in the dark waiting for the alarm to go off, remembering - listing - times with you in Bellingham and Vancouver. Not only good times. I wanted to be doing it with you, so that, when we're both back here those times don't disappear into a pocket or oxbow, lost from the story.

When we were saying goodbye in the car in Fairhaven, you were stroking my head in your perfect way. You were saying something about being on the same wavelength, your form of confirming ritual, which is lovely of you, and I said abruptly Even if we're not on the same wavelength, it doesn't matter, for me you are it, you're the one. I took the risk, as it felt, marveling. It's wonderful not to have to be looking anymore. In fact I still feel us to be a connection full of marvels. When you're in manic pour I can't stand you, and I have no use for your canned lowbrow facetious act, and I'm frustrated by the lag time your ADD and especially your ADD denial put into practical matters, which affect basic quality of our life together, and even our ability to be together at all; but altogether I'm interested in the enterprise and my heart honors you to the depths.

That said, what's next.

There's sweet California light on the tree, in the sky of seven o'clock. Churning of motors dense and dark but invisible in the sweet translucent day.

Pittosporum probably.

October 14

Pokez. Mexican food for breakfast is what makes sense.

There's the jacaranda across the street - fronds tip up like cedar - but soft as fern - flowers in mauve bouquets as if laid down on piles of the fronds - which move in what I'm feeling is a fanciful way. Flouncy, that half-stirred mix of lift, ripple, and what is it? - the way the tips are both newer lighter green, and tip't up - what is it about that tender rising tip - as if it's curious and hunting. Buoyant. The whole canopy stirs most at its surface - mobility increases from center out, but it's not exactly that - it's nonlinear - there's a fulcrum at the lowest point in the curve, it accelerates from there. Now I've got it - the flipping up and mobility at the tip starts quite close to the outside of the tree.

Little things to note. Vanessa Redgrove as Ariel, the tape I've been listening to on headphones at night. I listen syllable by syllable to her. She's spirit - so much lighter and more inflected than the people - like the flouncy tips, I could say - systematically related but taken to another order. She is love woman too, promised freedom, but meantime accomplishing by fantasy.

October 15

Spirit servants in Shakespeare - he stood there four hundred years ago so much more secular than most are now - here it says saecculum, observed but once in an age. What does that have to do with present rather than deferred or obedient life?

"That bankrupt sleep" - Emily Dickinson took the method. He's like a place, like Trafalgar Square, where I can be certain everyone I admire has stood.

November 12

Today I'm remembering Tom as a dragon - big, old, grey, harsh, armoured, heavy, with dragon eyes - loveless eyes - dragon's irritated autocracy, out of my way small thing - dragon's aloneness, battle scars, solely mineral universe - primitive and robotic, not before but beyond human - once long ago he was a beautiful human boy - and he's not soulless now, but the soul there is is cold like outer space, blank, coldly angry, a will to be nothing but command.

I'm thinking this dragon soul is normal manhood, which is to my sense of it too far beyond childhood, like the cold minerality of an extinct planet. Women stop sooner, they don't go on past adulthood into the mechanical, like the transformer-warriors who were Rowen's dolls, a man who becomes a tank or a fighter plane.

From my point of view it is appalling, but to them it's destiny welcomed. When it isn't welcomed there is an unfinished man, like many who won't accept to be made metal and so are weak. Like Tom when he drank to confuse the process of stiffening.