volume 21 of the golden west: 2000-2001 september-january  work & days: a lifetime journal project  

2 December

... a strong sweep of one kind of emotional work, risking and then making my way through the panic fear of defeat. Many times.












A lot of desperate bookwork and technical thinking-through. TAing logic badly while revising and expanding. Part 1 small-time bullies in the philosophy department. Part 2 a bad visit with Tom, start imagining a land and mind project. Part 3 Image and Light opening and show, panel, harrowing negotiations with Kathleen Akins. Parts 4-6 thinking out difficulties in simulation, wide nets and sentience.

Mentioned: Marion Engle, Alva Noe, David Adams Richards, Sharon Butala, Hanna Strang, Ken Loach Bread and roses, Gordon Smith, Paul Almond Isabel, Nancy Tuana, Agnes Martin, Edmund Kilpatrick Man, Stuart Kauffman, Järvilehto, Kim Rossmo, Jane Siberry, Marjorie Grene, Bram Dijkstra, Traffic, Amat Choudry.

Vancouver, 4th September 2000

I was at the west window talking to Tom on the phone, looking over the dark roofs to the fading brightness at the horizon. A silent line of geese came over five feet above my roof, flying northwest. A lot of them. Could I count them from memory, no, but let's try eleven or twelve, the right number. I'm not done but I will be, I'm calmed down.

Marion Engle last night on Eleanor's show, archive tapes of her talking to Gzowski about Bear. Her voice - compare it to Atwood, Shields, Monroe - was round, clear and bright, like a hair in its roundness, not childish, not mannered, not light, not heavy, a beautiful self. They had excerpts of Bear read perfectly by someone else. The writing was wonderful. I must have rushed past it when I was thirty, thinking I knew everything in it. I didn't know how hard it is to write that well.


Very soon going to sit in the back room where it will be chilly and stark. This is a stressed passage. I'm pressed at heart, throat, brow. What am I doing in this fear zone, with these unpleasant people. I'm jangled by so small an amount of it. Can anything worth doing be done there, can anything worth having be found there? Yes, the afternoon in AQ4050, talking with Adam, Sean, Cindy, about Spinoza. Yes, the seminars with Kim [Sterelney]. Yes the moment hovering over Mary Tiles feeling comprehensive vision. Yes the moment coming through about perception not being representation. The vision I've made, altogether, the way I outgrew one collective cramp after another.

There is also, however, the endless, endless unwelcome. When I was young I was welcome, I worked and succeeded, I took myself through three days of stress per exam and one day for papers, and was not at odds with the system. Being at odds began at the Slade and is getting worse.

It says the institution is about control and has to be. I resist control and should. The institution is worth dealing with. So it is an endless tension. Everyone finds their own style in it. Evading it means living without influence. I have something I want to give. The question is, will the institution want it. Will it want it in the form I want to give it.

Sunday 10th

Looking at the moon listening to Willie Nelson by candlelight I have that achy breaky heart that's me with you, that's you sometimes, the moon riding high and alone, your hands when you were a young man playing guitar with that boy's light touch, lightness in the way you danced. I haven't said it yet, something you are at the core, young grace, the flinching in your eyes and that light core. I never feel you this way now, you don't like it when I do, it's women pressing on you, but I think it's my soul seeing yours, I think the ache is true, I think it's one soul feeling beauty and death in another.


But then the question is - should I feel it for anyone? Does Peter Horban have a soul? Is everyone's soul good? I can know it of anyone by asking - I see and feel them in a certain posture. Peter's a straight perpendicularity radiating will. Kathleen is a sideways spreading oval at the height of the shoulders quite soft, slightly pulsing. These souls are separate from ego, which I'm thinking of as a calculating faculty. My soul is that listening elegance of the head and nose. Louie's soul is safe and merry and shines outward very stably. Rob's is a light quirky alertness, not blended. Is that right? Luke is a warm brown soul quite low in his chest. Rowen is an ironic soul with a backward tilt of the head. Michael, interestingly, is a cynical soul, a curl of the lip on the left. The least loving of the souls I've seen. Zimmerman's soul is a headlong rushing point entirely blind. Dennis is a sinking settling embarrassed soul, no, more like caught out. Ray is not what I would have thought - it's a solid soul, dense, but what's the tone - disappointed, is it? Nathalie is a thin anxious wavery soul. Mary is a heavy truculent soul, the heaviest so far. Ed is a compressed bright star inside the head, incandescent from compression. David is a kind of slant, higher on the right. I have trouble seeing David, is there a reason? Being hard to see is part of what he is, is that it? Tony Nesbit a kind of rubbery soul.

Do people's souls change? It says no. Are they created by circumstance? No. Should one always speak directly to the soul?

Personalities work at odds with souls. Some of these people don't have personalities.


Crucified. Feeling if my thesis fails I'll die. Feeling there's no one who can help. No one willing. It's reactivation. Someone else wouldn't be feeling it like this, peril of death.


I'm stressed by the fear that it's bad - I'm very very stressed by that.


Where am I. Tuesday morning. Isn't this a long birth. It seems to be my heart that is the orifice.

Butala is being trashed by her neighbours for saying what she says about the land. Is there a similar motive in career philosophers? They want the use of something? They want to be justified in their abuse of something. They do not see they could have the use of something better. Cartesian separation, a prestige of denial. Very smart people who can separate enough to rise in those ranks. I'm less separated now; philosophy in me is not a completely isolated engine, but in transition still.


Butala on the radio saying science irritates the heck out of her, also saying twenty-five years of suffering got her ready to see and know what she sees and knows. Women know it more than men, middle-aged women. She had a relaxed, not-trying sound. She says what she knows, what she's earned. I don't quite like her sound but I recognize my state in it.

She didn't use to know any paleontologists but now she knows a lot of them, she said.


I had better talk about the humiliations of this life. I started to be an outsider at school when the postmodern stuff came in. I went from A's in general exams in three majors at once, and a philosophy medal and Woodrow Wilson nomination, to being insulted by Noel Burch and James Leahy at the Slade. What happened. Feminism. Or did I lose my edge when Roy clubbed me on the side of the head? The evidence sometimes is that I'm not smart anymore. The evidence sometimes is that I'm smarter and can go deeper than just about everybody working in philosophy now, but I'm smart in a groping integrated not-quick way. I don't know what to conclude. It's worrying. I wish there were a larger wiser person who could tell me. There's no one at school I can trust to ask.

8th October

There were two wonderful things this week. One was the wall of boughs at Goldie Lake, one was Gordon Smith's big painting at the VAG yesterday. The painting was better better better than anything in the gallery, purest illusion. I sat on the carpet in front of it feeling all the other paintings were summarized in it. A carved native profile, an extraordinary future kind of human, a patch of sky with two winged things in the light of their own world, a sort of white flower. The thing over all a twiggy hillside black and white with snow, a cave, everywhere cream and black alive with touches of green, blue, red. He was born in 1919, seventy seven years old. All I care about is extreme invention in that mode.

What about the boughs - different kinds of trees with their boughs shingling a wall top to bottom, lapped in amongst each other from different angles, very perfectly.


Say something about Ray and Kathleen. Ray is older, more square in shape both in his head and in his body. Being with him is a criss-crossed flummoxed sensation. He says things I don't get and I say things he doesn't get. And yet there's good will and liking. Being with Kathleen is like standing in a well of air that's alive independently of anything either of us say. It is as if she is wide open and responding in many places at the same time, visibly, taking hits and spreading ripples. She's not solid. She's paranoid, a queen bee and a backstabber, and interests me. I feel I can exist with her. I like to look at her. She's very tall and since she had her babies she's very broad in the hips. She has a long sharp nose and is plain-faced but it's as if one can feel a sheet of quivering rippling response that's invisibly superimposed over her whole head, or even, it seems, extended into the room.


Rowen in his lovely moment. After he talks to Zoelia on the phone he comes into my room and lies next to me on the bed. He wishes he didn't feel the way he does, heartache-y. He feels that way about any girl he meets, he says.

When he's excited he jerks up and down the kitchen floor. His hands are long and rubbery, not like mine and Luke's, that have the bone solid and articulated. He's graceful in his cargo pants and eagle teeshirt and well balanced haircut and blue black and white runners. His manner is rapid, direct, cooperative, confident, and something else I'm trying to see, something in the eyes that is like Ed, a neutral eye above a sharp cheekbone, an eye for advantage, do I mean? He has wonderful autonomy and energy in social things, phones people and sets things up, doesn't have social fear. Has work passion, chases what he likes to do. Reads long after I go to sleep, sitting with his thin chest bare under the reading lamp.


Money stress is dragging on, the bank and the federal loans office disagreeing and sending me back and forth. Food is dwindling. There's supper for Rowen, milk for tea in the morning, but no money to park tomorrow, no bus fare to get down the hill. Rent the day after tomorrow.

Meantime Mercury retrograde did spit out Rowen's game software, Rowen came home from the library and found it on the top step of the stairs. Sat with the sun shining sideways into his pointed tea-colored eyes, popping bubble wrap, happy, happy, hugging his package.

6 November

I woke at 5 with a stressed middle and thought the panel must have been hard, enduring Colin and David each taking half an hour of the total hour and a half while the women and the queer sat silent. When it was time for me to take it away, I did. I disagree with McLuhan, I said, the media are not nature. The eye altering alters all, Colin said. No, the eye altering alters eyes. There's more all that isn't altered, I said.

Silence of 6:30. I've lit a candle. It's winter now. Light candles, have flowers in the house. From the west window I see two white columns of vapor rising from office towers into a common cloud shining and spreading in an open sky.

Benedikt on Kahn: "a particular spirit and seriousness about the making of a building and an optimism about how science, creativity, and good work in all its forms can fashion one, generous, world in which the numinous and the ordinary are identical." On adding to the Salk, 93


I need to know more about the kind of trouble I am in, and why I am in it. I am in a take-down zone without a protector and with not enough combat savvy. I've done what I had to do but I did not get permission. I'm seen as a flake in both my communities, because I don't pitch what I'm doing to the place where the others are.

Now - what do I think of it myself - there are gassy places in the middle - the writing isn't up to my best - the vision is correct - it's comprehensive - it would inspire people.

Locally I am so completely out of the loop that I'm in danger of not getting my doc. Internationally I keep finding I've anticipated an aspect that's coming into sight, and I've connected it wider and founded it deeper. That means I am going to have trouble even with the people who agree with me in their aspects.

How do I deal with the limitations of the gatekeepers. I have to see them plainly. And then what? Is Laiwan right? She said start where they are.


Should I quit so that I do not have to submit to being judged by people who can't see me? Should I take it through to its bitter conclusion and let them fail me? I'm scalded with fear at the heart.

What do I say after that. I want there to be someone in the university I could pour out my heart to. I trust none of them. I'm in a position of depending on people I can't trust. It's harrowing. I go on valiantly but I'm not hard. Somewhere I am being harrowed. I took every step in good faith, I made every break-through steadily, I took every crash. I am less championed, much less, than when I was twenty-three at Queen's. Am I less able than I was? Or have I gone out of range? I don't know. Somehow I'm rejected and it's true rejection because I have shown my hand.

It feels like January doesn't it. I'm alone. A lion-hearted frightened child inexplicably punished with total exile. There is no one.


During the lecture I had a sharp pain at the heart and had to go out and walk up and down breathing. It's panic at Kathleen saying she would flunk me. She has done me physical harm.


I've zoomed through three books on deep ecology, philosophy of place, and pragmatism and environmentalism, and seen a community of men blathering in all the same voice, a charmless dead voice without love, humor, outrage, perception, but with much mention of other men and their 'positions'.

That's not land and mind. Land and mind by example. Someone said what I was thinking yesterday: that what is important is (for instance Gordon Smith or Ursula Le Guin) showing us what it's like to be someone who is formed in relation to land or nature. No, what I was actually thinking was that the value of a work of art could be understood as its evidence of a formed person, a person formed in relation to nature.

The forming of persons is the specifically human part of environmental value.

An epistemology for art, an epistemology for deep ecology, an epistemology for therapy, all have to be cognitive and contact-based. This is my intuitive theory of art enfolded in organism-environment contact theory. I'm not interested in art that doesn't demonstrate a person in developed contact.

3rd December

A dancer at the solo show last night. What was it about him that went straight to the groin. He was my type - tall, dark-haired, Scottish - wearing a white shirt rolled at the sleeves, pants with pleats at the waist. He had chosen to dance to Bach. He danced slowly, he'd stand and then move. The dancing was like going into a brief series of stretched poses. He carried himself with young seriousness. He looked to me as if he were dancing the process of working. I mean my process of working - thinking - the pause and then the act, again and again. It was the clear seriousness of the intelligent boy, presented with a sobriety that made everyone else seem to be trying too hard. He was moving in an air of entitlement they didn't have, meaning that he could seem to be alone. The entitlement was just a freedom from the need to convince. He was immediately and continuously sexual, I felt, and the little sexy firebird gay boy was vulnerable but not sexual. What's the difference. Containment. What I felt in Mexico with Tom. What I felt when I was being Dave Carter in Joyce's office, centered flow. He was demonstrating a state. [Edmund Kilpatrick, Man]


This kind of thinking is a sort of all-over groping. A field is groping in its parts.

The intelligence and stability of perception, the phantasmagorical frailty of theory.

An understanding, sort of, of male motive spoiling men's theory often.


A preacher on the radio last night said that something he describes as paganism worships the creation rather than the creator. The odd thing is that it is the deists who worship the creature, because they understand the creator in terms of themselves. That is, the sense they have of themselves as egos who will and rule and sometimes make. Without asking how making is made.

Paganism as I understand it - I am a pagan in this sense - worships nature as its own creator and thereby ours - worships in many ways - for instance by studying - and by mindfully being-in.


I turned on the radio and heard women singing In the bleak midwinter. They were singing it informally, as if they were at a kitchen table. The voices were overlayered in a way I can't describe. Single socks in a drawer is what I'm seeing. It was Jane Siberry.

14 January

A Christian Scientist on the radio saying that after a car accident she went day to day asking what she should do.

The parts of religion that make sense.

I'm a dedicated anticleric and a tender worshipper. When they say love and trust I understand. When they search the silly scriptures for rules I'm disgusted. The institutional virus is patriarchy. I mean by that, unexamined male motive, male rupture, shut-down defense against early love: guns, preachers, prohibitions, prurience and hypocrisy that follow prohibitions, violent control, ruined capability, stupid, hapless populations, ugly towns, spoiled landscapes. Religions are power politics for men. But older women get religion, why? Jan-Marie, Joyce, Diana, Daphne. They are all Buddhists after menopause. What does it mean that they tolerate the male bosses of Buddhism?


I was lying awake in the dark remembering Oma and Clearbrook Road. I was seeing the house, the brown radio on the corner of the counter next to Opa's chair at the kitchen table. The feeling of their success, that house and land, young people driving up and parking on the yard, fruit trees, nut trees, grape vines, current bushes, bright floors and a dining room window to the south. How they made that wealth from nothing, with eight children, in thirty years. Oma's humor and Opa's command. The clean order their work achieved.

When I was thinking of it I felt something for an instant. It was as if the center of gravity of the time and place. I felt something drop in my body. I thought of Grandpa Epp's place in that time and felt it drop further. This is not sayable.


On the Christian station out of Blaine, last night, the Darwin's Black Box guy who has written a book called The wedge of truth instructing conservative Christians on how to 'win the war' to, for instance, have creation taught in schools. The liberal arts no longer teach value, he said, meaning that the universities themselves are discrediting the humanism that pushed back the clerics. There are two things, he said, first that there is a creator, and second that it is possible to be in a wrong relation with him. His argument for creation was a code argument: the proteins in a cell are so complex there is no way they could organize themselves. There have to be instructions written into the cell. Begin with the weaknesses in Darwinism, he said. There will be other things they will be ready to hear later.


Buddhist slash paganist slash humanist slash post-post-modernist.


The way Tom's voice relaxes. I listen to him laugh, I feel how far he's come. I realize as I say this that I would like it too and don't have it. I listened to work stories, which I like. His moves with the men behind the desk, his scene. He's thinking like a leader. That was what needed to come next. I'm pleased with our work, I know it is mine too.

I want to say, and yet. Should I say, and yet? Yes. What do I want. Something for me. To feel that central relaxing into the pleasure of myself in company, so I have many things to tell and give and show. What I keep alive in the journal because I have it nowhere else.