volume 23 of the golden west: 2001 may-november  work & days: a lifetime journal project  










This one is livelier again. Reading mind and land stuff, two visits to San Diego. Part 2 Louie buys an apartment, I visit Tom, interview for [a US college] job. Part 3 first residency at [the college] in Vermont. Part 4 the Trade Towers are hit. Part 5 in San Diego making a garden.

Mentioned: Marianne Williams, Robin Allott, Steven Lewis, Deborah Rose, Freya Mathews, Patricia Goldman-Rakic, de Chardin, Charlene Spretnak's Resurgence, Char Davies, Bertolucci, Oliver Shore of Restless Urban Primitive, Charles Sorbie, Richard Misrach The sky book, Anne Carson The beauty of the husband, Kathleen Hill The anointed, Momaday, Wendell Berry, Thomas Berry, Sharon Butala, Judith Stapleton, Rob Gurwitt Circus Smirkus, Susan Point, Gail Anderson-Dargatz A recipe for bees, Hilary Brace, Carl Fudge, Emily Joyce, Chan Schatz, Michael Leyton, Chris Day Architecture for the soul, Richard Nelson, John Haines, Homer-Dixon, Lloyd Frank Wright, Jam Ismail diction air, Laura Sewall, Ursula Le Guin, David Rimmer.

 May 22 2001

It was beautiful last evening driving from the airport. There were the mountains blue and small in a line along the north edge of the delta. There were the towers of soft leaves on the boulevard. The greens and blues were standing silent in open, open space, in pale gold evening light. I was liking the muscularity and rhythm of driving, looking in the mirror, signaling, shoulder checking, pushing across into the next lane. The car window was open and I heard the motor growl in acceleration the way I haven't heard it since last fall. Meantime Louie and I were not liking each other.


The Mennonite self is stunned into a kind of nonresponse. It is a blankness in relation to the physical and emotional presence of the other person. It's from social control. By someone in particular? A small group of men. Tribal? Yes. It's control to preserve a culture in which people like them can be in control? Yes. So it's stupid. Yes. Frank didn't have the cultural tools to name it. Neither did my dad. The boss men are people who made a cynical decision. They didn't believe but they saw the use of it. Religion for them was an entirely cynical use of mythological levers. It's not about money, it's not about cultural survival, it is simply and solely about maintaining control. That bespeaks a deep despair. Which comes from male rupture. So Grandpa K's tears when I rebelled were tears of powerlessness not tears of piety. Did Oma know it? Yes. In the end she knew it all. She laughed.


Solutions that don't factor in irrationality aren't solutions. Educate the intelligent. Make a world for them, keep finding more of what can be used only by very few. Let the rest be subsumed in cultural order that uses irrationality. Make a permeable border between the two orders so the best can always find their way out. That's what there was and partly is.

11 June

I'm here in the dark silver late afternoon, moony and pang-y about Luke. He's where I most feel the precariousness of life. He's still alive, he's alright. Hearing his stories about work it is as if I am watching him on a tightrope very high above the ground, alone in his life, balancing a very long pole. But it's not the job, it's aliveness at all. I feel the knife edge for me only when I'm on long road trips. I always feel it for him. I feel it for no one else. Peril.

His spirit is very beautiful to me. It is as if I and my whole unwise love for Roy and Roy's lightness are in perfect solution in him. So I feel it, in his intelligence, love and humor. His kind of intelligence, love and humor. His language and the space of attention around it. Really I feel something like that for my mother too (but don't go there).

I'm interested in what he makes of himself, and want to see it as long as I can. I want him to have time to complete himself well. It has nothing to do with genes. I don't care if he never has children. I want his lovely being to find its best way. My parents have no such sense, and I have it in the self born with him. Is that it? There are mysteries. The person I leapt to make, who became a self in me, added his being to mine.

There's more. Genetic alchemy. My father's beauty, his sex, his business imagination, are brought through into Luke without the malice and meanness. My mother's social observation is there without her heaviness and ignorance. Roy's humor is there without his psychopathy. Roy's love for him, and mine, are in him. The freedoms we took in our era are taken to polish in him. He had all our music and more. He's much further into the world than I have gone. With heart. That completion is what is in peril. I don't mean he's the end of the line or more than I am, but he is a person I chose to make in a height of intuition, at great cost (also to him), and brilliantly, I believe. People don't speak this way about making children but in this power we are gods and should be willing to know it.


Sunday. I'm slow starting today. The green outside. Ten days more. Yesterday a day over the moon, I tore into ch 5 and in the aft put on the purple Tibetan shirt and my high tech cargo pants and cruised the Drive in four o'clock heat with the window down blasting R&B. Cherry season.


I was lying down after work listening to the radio and thought, what if Tom really has got his big sexual energy back. I was asking myself and the answer came back swift and certain. I went into a little giddy tizzy. I quivered and giggled and went all-over joyful and had a hot flash.


Then I was in the bathroom running water to rinse clothes. In among this and that I thought of Michael, wondering whether he got the envelope of drawings I sent him. That very instant the phone rang. Rowen thinking he's phoning Jim. We have a sweet conversation. I'm naked on the floor scrambling through newspapers looking for a web address in the evening light. He tells me about a web game he's joined, called Graal. His avatar name is Gemineye. Other than that, he's working at the oyster farm. Is he going to work with Michael, I ask. No, he's taking the boat on his own. He has a dark farmer's tan from the light off the water. I can hear Michael in his voice in a way I never have. A soft quirk.

It's the solstice. Tinted sky like solstice evenings at home.


I drop a clipping about the Nature Trust at David's. On his windowsill there is a white bakelite stove knob, weathered, with a weathered pale green indicator strip. There is also a small black stone very polished, an irregular piece of rust quite coarse, a tiny piece of paper purple faded to silver, a small block of wood, a white seal ring. Laid across this collection a child's toothbrush, weathered pale green plastic, with its name in worn-off gold letters: Delicate Action.

1st July

I want to tell about a woman I was watching. She was a young mother waiting with her husband and little daughter for the New York flight. She had short dark hair, a boy's cut. She looked Jewish. Her husband must have been Israeli, I thought, because he was a physical man, her height, jeans, belt, shirt. He was walking the little girl around the room between his knees. The little one was less than a year, not walking on her own but plowing forward holding his hands. The young woman was slim but broad shouldered, and she was standing at the center of the space laughing, watching another very little girl learning to walk, staggering ahead of her tall blond father, widelegged, committed, falling, getting up. The young woman was graceful. Now I'm thinking of it I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone else who is. Her shoulders moved with her knees. It was about feeling. She was wearing navy slacks, a sweater. She wasn't selling herself. She was sound. She was safe. She was whole. She was seeing.

Their flight was called and they went lightly together through the gate.

19th August

Halfway between O'Hare and Vancouver I began to see blue-white flashes above the wing. People around me were watching Crocodile Dundee in LA, reading, settled in. We were flying in black night over a surface of thick lumpy cloud. More flashes. They were lighting what looked to be a snow-covered mountain poking through cloud on the horizon to the north. Sheet lightening. More and more flashes, along the horizon at first but then beginning to appear at a forty-five degree angle down from the body of the plane. I couldn't hear thunder but there would sometimes be a little buffet from a shock wave. The light would sometimes run like a fluid as well as expanding like an explosion. It would illuminate the cloud surface as it moved. We were probably over Kansas and the mountain peak must have been a jut of cloud.

When I was leaving the plane at Vancouver I stopped to talk to the pilot, who looked up from fastening his briefcase.

"Is flying through lightening dangerous?"


He had one of those honest intelligent capable quiet faces. I liked his voice. What about it. The way he said "very." Behind him the cockpit with its narrow strip of window above the panel.


Rowen on the water, having taken his friend home in the boat, is in the dark - waxing half moon - seeing fishes phosphorescent around him, different sizes, different depths. He forgot to take the flashlight. There was water in the diesel line and he had to be fiddling with fuel gadgets while he drifted. Was he scared? Nervous, yes.

11 September

A male war: "Somebody's going to pay a very high price for doing this." They are saying 'democracy' and meaning American hegemony.


In the afternoon at Harbour Center there was a TV set up in the concourse and I sat with students on the floor watching the towers fall.

The disaster junkies are feeding, feeding, on every shred. 'Continuing coverage.' That, and everywhere the massive expensive barring of doors after the horse has flown.


Something I'm feeling as a good thing in the endless press coverage is a curiosity in people about the possibilities of being. What is it like to be someone on the hundredth floor above a fire that will not be put out. What is it like to be standing at the back of a passenger plane you know is being aimed like a missile. What's it like to get a cell phone call from such a person. What's it like to be a young man who has taken all the necessary steps to enact an event that will be written large enough to read a thousand years from now. What was it like driving a rented car to the airport, silent with a companion of the mission, looking at the world for the last time.


I listen to the radio partly as if jihad assassins are listening. I notice the softness and openness of the speakers. The assassins are being given every quiver of the psychological effect of their action, every economic consequence. They are not being denied any particle of their success, and yet it is being given to them in a sweet-heartedness that shows the ways they have not yet succeeded.

What else I notice, relief that people are less corrupt, less trivial because they are aware of real danger and opposition. It is as if a soft mentality has been fertilized by its ferocious contrary. I want to know about the attackers, I want everyone to know as much as possible about them. I would want the numbers they care about: civilian deaths in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, (Latin America), and the rest, as a result of US initiative. The distribution of US pop culture is warfare, from their point of view. I want intelligence to come of this, a more comprehensive view.

Yelling broke out on a CBC panel last night because a Jewish American woman said America was the land of freedom, etc. Latin Americans on the panel shouted that the US had sponsored the repressive regimes of a list of South American countries, each of these regimes responsible for many deaths. The paradox made plain was internal liberty supported by external murder, and a population living like rich children of a mob boss choosing to be unaware of their father's source of wealth. I want a seminar on the other side. I want the media to be that seminar.

No one is mentioning the suppression of women by the Taliban and in general by religious authoritarians. No one is noticing that the attack was homosexual, missile to tower. There's a surge of male prestige in the story, Bush, Guiliani, firefighters and policemen, bin Ladin, and the highjackers, whose organization, piloting skill, commitment and success are very frankly praised.

Tom tonight is saying he is keeping a distance, not getting entrained. He is understanding he doesn't have to feel guilty that he isn't joining what seems to him a pervasive false consciousness.

I said I feel a philosopher's responsibility to watch the language being used.

9 October

The paper yesterday had big head shots of Bush and bin Laden counterposed across two pages, Bush a weasel-eyed pinch-mouthed hard-suited soulless little jerk, and bin Laden stately, fluid, soft-mouthed, dressed in white, with large, soft, glowing eyes. Bush on the right, bin Laden on the left.

Talking to Tom last night about the war. He says the start of the bombing raids was timed to coincide with Sunday/holiday weekend football, so that men gathered in living rooms together and the thousands of fans in stadiums became war rallies chanting USA, USA.

There's a question I have about peace. I can see that the circumstance of peace on this continent - my whole lifetime - allowed long slow completion of something. At the same time, for those others it allows Britney Spears, SUVs, the Hollywood culture, the decadent worlds of Architectural Digest and fashion advertising. Is that culture the sign of lack of war? It looks for sensation, which war and deprivation give.


A man addressing a panel on CBC, upset, Middle Eastern accent, says Why will no one acknowledge the truth, that the promulgation of US economic interests is terrorism. He gets cut off. Michael Enright sweeps on to another questioner.

The notion of terrorism is rhetorical in the circumstance. Economic imperialism brings civilian deaths by the million, and instills distress in civilian populations. It disrupts cultures. Generation by generation traditional peoples are not able to live in ways that suit their bodies and their existing forms of intelligence. Their environments are ruined. At the same time, empire opens the small societies and makes minds of new kinds. The minds we are exist because empires rode out roughly into foreign land.

So what should we say. This rebellion against empire, empire's reprisal, conflagration contained or running toward overthrow, rebels dreaming of an empire of their own, millions dying either way, ease and fine minds in the heart of empire, devastation on the fringes.


As I was going to bed last night, the door - here I'm pausing realizing that in the twenty-some years I've written journal in this house I've never mentioned the device there is on the door, not a knocker, not a bell, a sort of grater that is wound and rasps - there was a grating at the door and from the top of the stairs I saw David's tall thin shadow on the glass. I went down and let him and his bike into the hall.

He'd come to bring me a book. We had a half hour's visit in the kitchen, he in the green chair and I showing him the California acorns, the bit of white sage, the rose geraniums, the architecture book. As I was seeing him to the top of the stairs after, he was looking sideways, with pleasure I knew, at the blue and white and yellow in my bedroom, in light from the California lamp with its lit red shade. I was feeling how much I've liked this friendship, the boy/old man who is my best companion in this kind of pleasure, who when he visits never stays too long.

San Diego 7 November

Tom and I have been natural as days. We had half an hour this morning before he had to begin his work glide. He woke on the floor and found me sitting on the chair by the window. This woman wants a poke, he thought. If so, I didn't know it, but I was willing to be nice. Twenty minutes later I was coming, with little squeaky screamy sounds I have never heard from my mouth. Hearing them, Tom got very solid and went poke poke poke and came too. We were pleased with ourselves. I am pleased now, up the small of my back and into my shoulders.