volume 20 of the golden west: 2000 april-september  work & days: a lifetime journal project  












Part 1 San Diego for Tom's birthday, squally visit. From part 2 one hundred and ten days of writing discipline, stretching to finish. Happiness and extreme stress. I realize it's called Being about.

Mentioned: Susan Brownmiller In our time, Susan Faludi Stiffed: the betrayal of the American man, Aganetha Dyck, Sharon Butala, Daphne Marlatt, Olga Broumas, Cornelia Oberlander, George Walley, Yasunari Kawabata Snow country.

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 youngness.

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 history.

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 finished.

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 harm.

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.

11th May

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 it.

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 speed.


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 the room.


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 time.

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 off later.

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 Japanese radish.

"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 a hospital.

7 June

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.

July 17

A spider's line questing outside the window - the shine that shows it stretching and shrinking, bobbing and slipping sideways, shooting suddenly upward.


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 these evenings.

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.

2nd August

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.