volume 5 of the golden west: january - may 1996  work & days: a lifetime journal project  






Back at school in Vancouver. Agonies of Tom not writing and lying about having mailed something. Work with Joyce, a lot of bookwork toward the end, research on addiction in part 3. Sound course with Barry Truax, writing about sound and the brain. Rowen visits, good bits about Louie.

Mentioned: George Herbert, Coleridge, Judith Stapleton, Jan-Marie Martell, Tom Clancy, Jessica Dubroff. A lot of sound and music notes. Section on philosophic method.



5th February

Here is a man whose mother died so long ago that he has a lot saved to tell her. Here is a woman who has not been able to give anything to her father since she was two: she has a lot to tell him, a lot to show him. Both of these people know how far they can fall. They know they can be felled. They can fall apart. They are children who can't help laying open their hearts. They are not sure grief won't kill them if they are betrayed. They are in a terrific balance together. Neither is providing the safety of refusing. The word 'courage' means that they are going together toward always deeper risk that can never be other than individual. It can happen that either of them will come to a moment where it seems they must choose between dying and betraying. At that moment they may find help, or they may not. It could be accidental. They could fail at the same time and then one would have to be betrayer and the other betrayed. Or the one being betrayed could save the betrayer just in time. It could be that there are points of danger that can be passed. Or it could be that failure is written into their structures, each set for its own time, its own limit of capability, so no blame should come to the one whose limit arrives first. Or these are two people whose longing to give and show and tell is so great that once released and once accepted it will carry them through every fear.


There's something I have to figure out, what to do when he's in that overriding insisting formulaic state, which most of the time on the phone he is. What happens to me is I feel I'm being shut down, shut up, held down. I hear myself sound girlish trying to break in on it. I heard myself silly last night. I go away and talk to Louie or Rob and hear myself warm and smart expanding in the space they hold open for me, and then there's Tom, who says he's my man, not holding even a crack of space open for me, in fact thrusting at me with sentences so hard and fast with so little present in them - they are so long prepared - that I feel battered. I go away lonely.

You are insisting because for some reason you have to. What is your reason? - My heart warms this way as soon as I place myself on your side. When my heart warms I'm not lonely. This is a key.

When I see the way you're desperate and I'm not seeing it, the wind comes suddenly from another direction. In this one thing I don't learn fast. I have to learn the same thing again and again. But every time I learn it shining love comes into me.


There is something we aren't used to, don't name, almost don't notice, about the way some of us are shape-shifters. That I can shift into that black thicknecked gorgon-philosopher is a power I've worked for, only, as always was, I worry if I move too far away from love woman. That's who I want to look like, that's who I look like in states of body love. Gorgon philosopher doesn't care what she looks like. She's satisfied with the precision of her fine control over a landscape of ultraviolet detail.

So here it is: how do I get ready to move back and forth, daily maybe, between the twenty-five year old woman hotly in love with a man who's delicious, abrupt and bossy, and the helicopter empress-monster who is in complete liberty.

March 2nd

The reason I like to see you smoking, I thought as I came up the wild area path with the wheelbarrow, is that a fire in your hand is a magic coincidence of you and your emblem.

So you'll sit smoking looking at the pond, and I'll be in my plots seeing you through the multiflora whips and against the water's glitter. You'll be surveying what's there in a spirit I can predict exactly - but can I say it. You have a way of being pleased that is particular to you. It's quiet. It's complete satisfaction. You sit back. It's quiet but it's quiet in a way that's something else banked. "I was a happy dog." It's satisfaction but it's beyond satisfaction into joy - but it's too quiet to be joy - calling up each of these words to scrutinize its emotional tone. There's no one word for what you particularly are - but you've always been that, you've always come back to being that - you've been that since you were a baby. It's your way of feeling fortune smile on you.


What angel comes when I crash, a shining black angel with black iridescence. Not a mean angel, an angel that looks into my eyes with nothing but compassion, the angel Agony who says, Be clear. Not for him. For another reason. Accept the stake through the heart. Don't run. Stand in your place which is just precisely this one, where you let yourself hear what the youngest one in you gave up on. Feel it as if it's true - feel it. Be as unsafe as that. Know it is false. See who is saying it and why. Don't run. You can't know what you are building.

6th March

I am in despair - that is the name of it - I'm in despair not in pride - my heart is trembling. I am not strong enough. I am panting with pain. He is not able to support me to support him. The life of a woman with a man is unbearable to me and it has also been unbearable to me to be without it.

I don't trust him. He is asking me to give him unearned trust so he can feel he's trustworthy. I don't trust him. That's the fact. I'm in unbearable insecurity.

22nd March

Last night a lifetime's perfect half hour, Rowen Luke and I on the floor playing boules with marbles on the blue blanket. I'd fed them toast, Luke had a good day and brought me money he owes, the San Diego lamp shone beautifully on the beautiful floor, we were all winning.

4th April

"Have that superiority talk to heart." "You're a pretty girl but you can't take care of yourself." "Perfect," Joyce says. "Now be heart and speak to that superior one. Really be heart." I was kneeling holding the superior one.

Is there time in this life for marriage, I ask. This life is marriage, she says. Okay, but ...? Relationships are about work, she says, you hold the space for me while I bring my junk and then I hold the space for you while you ... . And you pick the person according to whether they can do that? Yes.

April 21

Louie says, It has been such a luxury to be completely sure of someone's essence, I don't think I'll ever have that again. We were thanking each other. I said I wouldn't have been able to get to him if I hadn't fought with her about men. You had to compete with me, she says. I say it was more than that: I had to be able to say no to her understanding, support, warmth. A good story, well fought. We found someone we could do it with and we did it. Seven years. Her persistence. My mercilessness. We had what the other lacked and we plunged each other into trouble. She's tempered through and through. She says I am - I don't know in what way but I think maybe the confidence I have in - something - my working assessment. My intimacy. She heard me out. I heard her out.