19th April 2000
The meeting with the Indians. Our invited Indian consultant turned out
to be a big New Age woman who said she was Mohawk but looked white, had
dyed orange hair and wore a flowing print shirt around a bulk of gut. The
gardeners and Maquilla were sitting with the fire in its little box present
as one of the stations in the circle, when Rodney and Dave and an unknown
woman who turned out to be Rodney's wife Kat, showed up. Rodney is some
kind of cross between Indian and settler, I would say. He is as dark as
an Indian but his greased hair falls in curls and he dresses like a rancher,
cowboy boots, big belt buckle with a gut in a nylon plaid shirt straining
over it. Beaded cowhide vest for the occasion. What is the name of the look
he has - he's a shit-disturber, Maquilla said. He looked different at the
beginning of the meeting than at the end. A nasty aggressive look. Dave
we know from other meetings: a thin man with a hound's face, whose eyes
I often found fixed on me during the meeting. It was as if he was the reader
of their group, an ancillary person, in fact the unconscious. He speaks
very officially, does a lot of formal thanking. I don't respect him I suppose
for the sense of hanger-on there is about him. He is quite stupid, I think.
And yet he has that look of reading. He is non-native and has taken Tom
and Rodney as his elders. But he isn't white - he is a strange pale bronze
color with strings of pale orange hair. From an unguessable tribe.
The meeting was chaired by the youngest and whitest person there, Simcoe
from the Youth Alliance, with Susan in the chair next to her there as her
mentor. Simcoe has the smoothness of the privileged white - sleek blond
hair sliding around her head in layers as she turns her head, fine-grained
white skin, well-cut big mild eyes. She had the confident ditziness of the
well-born, neither reading the room well nor holding a firm line. She's
in training, I guessed. But also she was I suppose disarming in her pretty
Rodney launched his story at full energy - a group of people charged
him. He saw them and said, Oh geez, here they come. Five hundred years of
The circle was mostly women and they were thinking this would-be boss-man
is going to want to control the meeting. There was a little milling over
procedure. Simcoe did the right thing and asked everyone to speak in turn.
Joann with her voice of placid good sense said what would perfectly ease
his fantasy of being charged by land grabbers: she said we never think we
have the city in our pocket, they evicted us before and they can evict us
again. And then Muggs who had been visibly struggling with feeling, and
was sitting cross-legged on her chair in her meditation group pose, let
herself slowly into her actual passion about the wild area and her responsible
concern for the downtown East Side. She was magnificent. Maquilla in the
chair opposite lifted both hands in the gesture of acknowledgment when she
Hertha didn't want to speak. I said I agreed with Joann and Muggs. Susan
said the experience of the EYA is that things can be worked out. And then
Bell, who had crept in late, began. We were holding our breaths, because
Bell is fascist and racist and unconsidered in her speech. But she was good
- she was her little, old, self, wrinkled brown like a seed potato, telling
what it's like in her place next to the garden, awake at night hearing the
frogs or crickets or whatever they are stop sounding in the pond. It takes
fifteen minutes. It goes on all night.
Maquilla when it was her turn said, Here is this woman - what was your
name - Bell - do you mind saying how old you are? (Bell minded but she was
witty: I'm sixty-six but don't tell anyone.) Here is this woman working
all day raising food for the homeless and she has to keep running down to
chase the hookers and the junkies.
Maquilla was laying it on from very limited information. She said she
was a bundle carrier and had been dancing and sweating twenty years, and
that she's a seer and has been since she was a little girl. Having bad energy
like that in the sweat lodge is very dangerous to the participants, and
it is making anger between the gardeners and the natives.
Then there was the one male gardener, who is new and has a name that
suits him, Derrick. And then Kat, sitting solid with both feet planted,
bronze colored, with a rim of round flesh around her jaw so she had the
look of a moon or a fish, glasses, pure-blood Salish, visibly. She recited
her entitlement. She belongs to one of the three main families of the coast.
Her uncle up the valley is the whatever.
She dealt with Maquilla without rancor but thoroughly. They always purify
the lodge. Many people have sweated in that lodge and no one has come to
Then we had come all the way around the circle, milled around for a while.
What do we do next. Rodney saying he was willing to do this and that, he'd
been willing when he came, he talked to Muggs at Carnegie, and so on. I
wanted to get to practical matters. I said there were six points that needed
dealing with and that I thought we could get to at this meeting.
Somewhere in there Tom De Wolf came in the door, that nice-looking man
with braids, glasses. Susan and Simcoe were suddenly concerned, something
procedural. He's supposed to join the circle. He does, uneasily. He says
a piece. Rodney and Kat are his elders, he'll never be where they are. He
just wants to pray. If people want to pray he lets them.
When he's done I want to go back to where we were. I say maybe we could
start with the question of smoke. If the firewood is wet or green it will
smoke but if it's dry it doesn't. Should we have some kind of covering for
the wood? Susan presses in behind me, unwisely and unnecessarily, could
the sweats be early in the morning or later at night?
At that point Tom gets up to leave. There are bad things happening here.
If I stay I will do something I'll regret. Rules and regulations. He's out
the door. Consternation. The protocol people seem to believe something has
happened that means the meeting is over. What am I, chopped liver? says
Rodney. Those of us who don't understand the point of protocol move on.
I go back to the six points: the wood, closing the gap in the blackberries,
the water line into the area, the entrance from the garden and should we
make it less visible, planting the cedars and willows, and how shall we
go about making a written agreement. We deal with them easily. Rodney by
now is relaxed, affable, saying he understands he was playing a movie and
he had got it wrong.
Maquilla has a concluding trick in her bag. Seven leaders of world religions
have lit candles before the new year and she has a candle that was lit from
a candle that was lit by a candle that was lit, etc. She has brought us
a candle, blue for healing, which she will light from her candle. And if
we have individual candles we can light them from that candle. Muggs pokes
around in the cupboard and finds all of us candles. Maquilla tells us what
the colors of our candles mean. Naturally I am not taking this seriously
since the leaders of seven world religions including the Dalai Lama, who
is the only one with enough glamour to be mentioned by name, have no credit
with me. Joann bemused to be told that peach is for renewal of love in her
life. My little stub was white for purification, which I'm muttering to
Hertha is a word that always worries me since I don't know what it is that's
being cleaned out, and it might be something I don't consider dirt.
I think the general feeling was that candles are nice and the hocus pocus
was harmless, except for Ros who wouldn't have a candle because, she said,
her family's religion makes significant use of candles. I didn't understand
the danger but I was interested that Ros who I think of as lightless, though
she's intelligent, refused even this lovely small affirmation of soul presence
in a circle of participation. Jewish or Catholic candles are never that
- they are lit in the places of ideology and signify something like abnegation
of individual self in support of some idea - the platform in front of a
saint or the branched candelabra of an intellectual hierarchy.
And there we all were in the garden house.
I've scratched this down on two mornings, aware how interesting it was
as an event and how well it could be written with much more care.
The children who sat opposite us on the trolley when we went for a ride
one Friday evening were a stringbean girl in a junior high prom dress, spangly
sleeveless bodice, white chiffon skirt, and a boy the same age, skateboard
shorts and sleeveless teeshirt. It had been his idea to jump on the trolley.
She sat putting her black hair up, scolding him. Jason you are such an idiot.
He looked at the two of us beaming. Can we turn around and come back the
same way? Yes, we said. She got up and jumped off after two stops. He followed
her grinning, a tanned boy with a cowlick.
They were us, Tom said yesterday when we were on the airport bus passing
through the zone near the train station. What I'd felt though I didn't realize
When I had just got to SD and was unpacking in his room he lay on the
bed and I put on and took off my new clothes to show him. When he saw the
leopard skin he blushed.
Outside the terminal on a bench, yesterday, I talked about reading his
Bellingham notebook. There was a moment when he unconsciously shifted himself
an inch closer to me. That was the moment I earned by going through the
process with myself while he was at work. He had been his old self solemnly
avowing and facetious. Frightening and distancing. And now quiet putting
his head on my shoulder. The card in his wallet with his lifetime list of
people he wants told if he dies. "My sons don't know me well, so they
should talk to some of the people named above."
What else. The second poke, after I'd run away to the Thriftilodge and
come back, where I felt every stroke.
A couple of days of anguish after that. I stayed with it and showed it
to him though it felt unacceptable. He held me and snuffled in my ear and
told me a brilliant story about a dog that was supposed to sleep on my porch
but got the door open and crept up the stairs and drank in the toilet bowl
and clambered (there's no word for that motion) onto the bed trying not
to wake me and then had the excruciating problem of having to turn around
before lying down. He was all the way into the dog.
When I said I'd watch the Laker's game his body opened up into its best
furry bliss. He lay holding me stroking the skin of my upper arm. That was
what made me feel every stroke next morning.
An old woman, very bulky. I find her refrigerator full of old bread in
transparent plastic bags of different sizes. Nothing but bread. Brown bread.
I talk to her expecting to find her senile but she is lucid. She says she's
living half in the earth.
What's it like today. The day itself is fresh blue and green, lambent.
I began at 5:30 with the précis of the intro - two long sections
from last spring, parts of the intro I wrote in Eliz's guesthouse and at
the table in Borrego. Put them into the computer and went downtown and printed
them. I'm not writing yet. Don't know how to patch and piece, which this
process so much is. A feeling of being without present grip. And
yet writing all of it fresh is unthinkable. I'm not the person of the best
of the writing. There are different stances and intentions, which are different
voices. In some I'm the artist, in some the academic philosopher, in some
the true unpublishable soul. I can be synoptic, my thorough way (here waiting
for Tom to phone, cos it's seven) of making an outline from the parts assembled.
Not sure that's the way. I feel I ought to be holding my hands open saying
tell me what to write and I'll write it, not trying to arrange a fridge
full of old bread. It's wrong not to have faith in the moment. And yet a
long project is about accumulating and improving - using the best of what
was found in many times - maybe. There have been times with true impulse.
I'm at a different time now. Alright. Which time. The rounding off and completing
time. The presenting time. Thinking how to present. Alright. To whom. Listen
and you'll hear to whom. Okay, I believe that. It's a kind of time I've
never had. Don't assume how to do it. Is this right so far? Be candid to
be credible, don't inflate. Find the best of the writing and get to that
Back a week and I'm ready. Long table dragged upstairs has the parts
of the intro on it. Money for two and a half months. All the outlines in
their piles. A quiet house. Happy stability with Tom. Friends for evenings.
Summer light, warm rooms. A working bike and car and body.
The moment to bring it through. It's no longer too soon. I'm no longer
dragging myself to it, starved for another life. The project is whole enough
so I don't have to keep myself back from succeeding because it would distract
me from what I still need to find. I can stand on this. I am what I was
intending to be. Or I am about to be.
The guy on CBC last night talking about what's meant by rich color. If
a green is made by mixing blue and yellow pigments rather than with plain
green pigments, more of the light in a room will be reflected, the atmosphere
of the room will have more wavelengths active. That was a beautiful description.
There will be more reactive surface for the reflection of other colors in
Victoria Day morning. I'll go unplug that refrigerator. Unplug the radio
too, it has a hum even when it's off. Better now. I can hear the space in
the alley, water boiling in the kitchen.
Then sunshine on the blue wall. It has begun to be the season when there
are flowers in the house. Dame's rocket. The best of the rose scents. I
want to say raspberry smell but it isn't. The smell has a raspberry color
though the rose doesn't. (It's Kathleen Harrop, I think. Medium pink.)
Still working among tones. I've set together bits from everything I've
written, including grant applications. I have personal simplicity next to
compressed impressor text next to neutral limpid explication (Brain and
imagining and the first SSHRC application). Hack academic passages.
In the papers I wrote under pressure there's a swift humor that arrives
later in. It's not just tone. The voices are interested in different things.
The hack academic is dutifully making transitions, setting up points. Personal
simplicity (Leaving the land, parts of Brain and metaphor)
is pleasing and easy to read. The child likes it. The professors don't.
Do they dislike it for a good reason? It's not tight-knit enough. What does
'tightly written' mean. Presumably it's a speed. It's fast but light. Perception
without representation took it further. That was my best tone but it
was too good. The professors can't read it. I have to be readable, this
Really my best ever tone is the best of the journal tones, always a relation
of writing and having been there.
My first four paragraphs are good. It should follow from that.
I'm still floundering. I haven't found the voice. Straight in is the
only way to find it. I can't go straight in on this one, there's too much.
Is there a solution? Finish the writing by reserving action, it says. Leave
some fixing till later. Do what I can now and go on. Be swift. The voice
will come from the whole? Yes.
With Louie for an hour sitting on her floor. It was getting dark. She
told about an evening at Ina's where six people brought four cuts of music
each and they sipped a joint. She was instantly body - nipples and ass (where
have you been?!) - and then the music. She didn't care what anyone thought
of her. There was a lag between language and everything else, she thought,
which makes the language anxious. But the music she had brought, a violinist
Hansi recommended: the recording was so good she could hear the woman breathing.
After a while that was all she heard. It was the sound of skill, someone
staying with it.
In the last ten minutes, when it was already dark and a rectangle of
yellow light had appeared on the yellow carpet between us, I found myself
having moved a few feet forward. I was talking about what it was like to
write yesterday. What I can do with Louie and nowhere else, that becoming
of my whole self, the journal self.
I told her about the two CBC stories that belong with her story about
the violinist's breathing. Peter Brooks saying the audience is seeing you
and then gradually seeing something else too. The color consultant saying
a wall color made with many different pigments will be able to reflect many
more wavelengths into the room, so the atmosphere will be full.
What it is about the violinist's breathing is also that you hear the
breathing by becoming it, and when you become it you become the pacing of
the skill, something about the skill.
How does the paint with more kinds of molecular structure belong. Well,
metaphorically. The more kinds of structure intersecting in the brain. (Turrell
on color.) It's a picture I can use to set up a structure that can be touched
Have I got the point? It says no. It's like an anchor story. It's about
the book. It's about who I am. I've made myself in many topics and they
reflect to the middle, and everything reflected interacts. And from that
live interacting I am making.
What's the center of what I'm saying - how to understand representation
- 'communication' really - and thereby thinking - as a tissue of perceiving/acting
and imagining. That perceiving requires becoming something - not becoming
the thing, but becoming something specific to the thing. That imagining
is also that.
It's raining. I'm tired, I think. The delicious rasp in tea. My writing/reading
drug I discovered - now I realize - in those ecstatic mornings reading Anna
Karenina with tea and bread and honey in Mrs O'Hare's rooming house
on Walton Road.
Yesterday sinking into my break-nap, not sinking easily, working to sink,
I got to the state where I feel atmospheres. I thought of Rudy's Liz and
felt immediately the reach of light and air outside her door in Alberta.
Something about making a culture. Dorothy Richardson founded a culture,
I mean made its root or something of the sort, though the culture hasn't
sprung up. It has in me.
I was thinking about women's culture as I got out of bed and peed and
made tea. Women studying business and engineering are like Chine Acheba
going to university and studying English literature. It's necessary but
there is something else to be made that is the strong flowering from the
native root. I don't like to be such a hack in my metaphor but I'm seeing
a flower something like the naked lily that shoots up without leaves (but
a single flower not a clump), conspicuous and quite sudden. Pink. It comes
up through other plants' leaves. But DR is not a bulb. She's more like a
"Louie and I were driving east," etc. Beginning by imagining
the world with the men removed, the men having left their bridges, high
rises, highways, surgical technologies etc.
Yesterday in the offices of the Vancouver School Board, a large room
with a warren of chest-high grey cubicles, each with an educated woman in
her 30s or 40s, a computer and a small cork board with six or seven greeting
cards tacked up. The collection of stupid sentimental images seemed declarations
of the beings of the women who work there. I could hear the same girl-culture
dreary flabby false-personal tone in the talk.
Going to bed late, having had an evening. Good talk with Louie. We started
in the hall, where the sun was all the difference after two days of rain.
Blue green red yellow. Life, life. We sat on the pink carpet and she told
me a dream. When the sun left us we went into my room, where it was warm
and smelled of roses, and sat on the bed and I talked about work. We went
to Santos Tapas as it was starting to get dark on the Drive, and then to
her house when it was night. I lay on the bed and she sat on the floor and
read me her story about her breakdown. And then brought me home.
1. Her dream. She's in a bus. I'm in the center of the seat, she's on
my right. The new woman is on my left. Tom sits facing the three of us.
I am all wrapped up with the new woman, who is a tall strong healthy young
woman. Louie begins to feel unbearably neglected. She says, Can I talk to
you in Afrikaans.
We are traveling in Russia. She steps out of the bus into a blizzard.
Swirls and windmills of snow. She sees a woman she thinks she knows. It
must be Elise, who she hasn't seen in ten years. The woman is wearing a
red silk coverall and is made up like a prostitute. What are you doing these
days? The woman says, I'm the murderer. Then she's gone.
Louie has to leave me but without me she'll die. How can she get home?
There is a young dykey woman with short hair. Maybe she can get home with
her. But the woman looks at the two of us, Louie streaked with tears, speaking
Africaans, and says no. And is gone.
She sees an old woman in a cage. It's my mother. A tall regal woman ninety
years old, Mother Russia. She steps into the cage to say hello. The old
woman speaks to her in French. She feels immediately calm in the atmosphere
of old civilization. What the woman says is, Peutetre qu'il serrait possible
d'entrer dans les chambres delicates. Then she's gone.
Louie is desperate. She must go away alone. If she goes away she'll die.
But she cannot stay with the pain. She strikes out into the blizzard. She
sees just snow and people's legs. She's going to die. She howls in agony,
sobs and sobs. What has she done. She calls me. Ell-llie. She knows
she has gone too far. The snow is too thick. But when she turns around there
I am leaning calmly on a fence.
2. What I said about my work. I said what I want to do next is write
a book about the childhood of the philosopher. I blushed after I had said
it, sat holding my hand to my cheek.
3. Her story about her breakdown written fast and plainly without her
usual verbal rebellion, just telling the story of depression, crisis, starving
herself, fooling people, and coming to the moment when she phones her mother
crying and says, I can't do it any more, I give up, and has to be seen in
the shame of failure and be taken to a doctor who offers her shelter in
Lying down for a half hour in the aft. The wonderful deliberate process
of sinking into the ether. I always have to begin with tight and sore places.
Shoulders. The anxious arch of the back of the neck. I glom into the tight
places and feel them with all my sentient might. Then there's a second where
I realize I've settled. I'm in a denser but less personal zone. It's not
a place but a texture. In that density there are clearings where I see or
remember or feeling something. A woman today: I saw her head and thought
it was like an intimation of contact. She was a middle aged woman with a
French look, dyed light-auburn hair. I also was thinking that Edelman's
idea of the sentient subnet explains the way I am living - what it means
to say the ego is a front or interface. And what it means to discover a
larger self that can communicate with the interface as well as through it.
What integration means - something like global mapping being joined with
dynamic core. The way this finding so much later is the reward of taking
on the painful struggle when I was 32, of accepting that there is nonconscious
control. And so much search to find what it might mean. Now this larger
self who is my loving teacher.
A beautiful person came and installed my printer. He had the Chinese
youngness that made him look fifteen though he's in fourth year at SFU.
A slight birdy boy with coarse short hair and a fine scar on his cheek.
Laiwan's star hands. A person without masculinity, who can't be imagined
ever having it, who is living in himself bright as a bird in a bush. He
came into the back room and said, This is great. (Oh shouldn't I live with
such people.) He said, The theme of your house is tables.
This is the way to live, dedicated and close to myself. Roses in the
house. Good food of many colors easily made. The gym. Established friends.
Memory forming. Large change ahead but great quiet now. Ease with money.
Thinking of Tom like the flare when a match lights. Tea. The difference
the beautiful lamp makes any time I turn it on. Porch washed, overwintered
nasturtiums blooming on it. Months more.
Nothing in me this morning. Here's the day. It's grey but it doesn't
matter, I won't see it anyway. Tea is my friend. Big hot cup and then another.
People from anywhere in my life pop into the field, as if there's a scan
operating in a leisurely way. It casts up the result of its mulling. Mulling
is what happens in the back room.
Should I be writing the last chapter as I go. What the envisioning has
been good for.
The real last chapter is journal.
Write a parallel book. The childhood of the philosopher. It's
a journal. It has future in it. It's a novel. It's a woman coming through.
What will philosophy be like when women do it with all their might. Is this
it? Is a lot of it written already? This book is its reference volume.
How confident should I be, speaking in a little knowledge. There's enough
to see how it's going to go - yes. Theory of mind as it will go for the
next five hundred years. I've seen the lay of it; I have no doubt. What
to do with the fact that no one will believe I've seen it. Tell small parts
of it at a time. But this project is to tell all of it at once. Understand
that it won't be seen, but do it and keep adding to it.
Why am I writing it. Because there's a simple and clear way of understanding
mind and I have worked it through. There's a way the best will want to go
if they hear it.
A spider's line questing outside the window - the shine that shows it
stretching and shrinking, bobbing and slipping sideways, shooting suddenly
David phoned as I was starting to put the day's work to bed. He had a
chicken in the oven and did I want to go somewhere and eat it with him.
I did, joyfully.
Iona Park in the long reaches of thick pollution haze. We sat at the
river's edge watching the traffic of log salvage tugs, barge tugs plowing
the water. There was fire's heat from the side, pleasantly weak. Silver
light on the reeds, that effect I don't know to explain. A sweet-clover
bush getting its feet wet in the creeping tide. The line of the North Shore
mountains, glamorous BC. A glitter on the sea, the sun an hour from the
horizon as we left, declining into the unclouded baking incandescence of
I'm very free with David, very easy. I know what he's good for and not
and have no assignment to change him. He's lovely company, can tell me things
about the boats, has a pruner on his belt to cut flowers, prizes me, is
a light local voice in my ear, marvels at my stories, drives his red Toyota
Tercel station wagon fast with the sun roof open, is a sweet boy with his
fine red hair just cut and his thin-nosed face so so old, and his long teeth
meeting at a forward slope like a horse's.
There was a clunk as I lay falling asleep last night. I went to the window
and saw him on a bicycle in the alley riding away. He had pushed a little
bag through the mail slot with balsam poplar lip salve in it.
When I told David the story of Louie and me imagining all the men gone
he wanted it to happen. He wanted me to write the book.
These mornings I have been getting straight up and going to the computer,
but let's see whether there's anything in me. Heart pain these two nights.
Maybe it was missing Luke but it had a more global feel. An ache about the
young dying into age. The random ricketing around there has been in his
and my lives, passionate unmeaning. His box of photos, people he's met,
women he's had feelings for, the manic twenties. Personal connections are
nothing. The only thing that matters is talent well used, so I'm feeling.
People without it are nothing, they're energy spilt into vacuum, they're
beauty for nothing, or horrible deformity for nothing.
As I sat talking to Tom through the hours last night there was a moment
telling him about my table where I saw the light patch on the wall - the
one thrown by the upper pane, which is war glass - a net of light lines,
complex with cells and some sweeps. A breeze had started as we spoke and
trees at a distance, the poplars next to the school yard maybe, were running
a shadow across the net, which had the effect of erasing and highlighting,
but very partially, because there was light being collected into the lines
from more than one point. So there was a small rectangle on the wall above
me squirming as I said I talk to my unconscious when I lay things
out on the table. I said it's like my brain is showing me itself. Then I
sighed, and now, as I wrote it, I sighed again.
The question is, how does the brain know that about itself? It's as if
it can recognize itself in a mirror. But 'recognize' would mean something
different than it usually does.
There was a new moon the width of a thread after the sun set last night.
I think it's called Being about.