volume 9 of the golden west: 1996-97 october-march  work & days: a lifetime journal project  








A lively volume. Part 1, large effort on the metaphor paper, Luke's story of running away when he was 10. Part 2 train stories, Golden West again, New Years, Nicole Gingras edits the metaphor paper for a book, restaurant reviewing. Part 3 move to the Maryland Hotel, a proofreader meddles with my text, another restaurant review, reading Goldstein, Bowlby and Winnicott on dissociation and attachment. Part 4 Gilles Fauconnier's linguistics seminar at UCSD, I give Tom an ultimatum and he agrees to come north with me, I meet Babette Mongolte.

Mentioned: Dire Straits, Bobby Wong, Suzanne Langer, Dorothy Dinnerstein, Coleridge. David Adams Richards' For those who hunt the wounded down. Donohue's In the open: diary of a homeless alcoholic. Donna Williams Like color to the blind. Goldstein The organism. Cynthia Shearer The wonder book of the air. Darwin's letters. The Raj quartet. Lucy Rees Maze.

5th December Thursday

It's five in the morning. Look at this little writing. Look at my cowboy boots toeing out in the hall. Hanging back at the top of the writing day. Make another cup of tea. All these sheets of notes, red, blue and green. In twenty years I will be seventy years old. These days I'm sometimes making note of daily things as if I won't have them much longer.

It's an irony that when we were kids, we were pushed to give up the body and when we are grown up the stresses of the body are such that we give it up voluntarily because it's hard. It isn't the body that's the temptation.

San Diego 2nd January

Goldstein, The organism, thinking about neural damage. "All damage severs parts from the organism, or to put it more precisely, divides the organism into parts." Encumbrance and retardation of the course of excitation, dedifferentiation in structural organization, defective equalization. Maybe it takes more to make it happen and then it happens slower; the effect may be too strong and go on too long. There may be loss of accuracy, discrimination. A function is isolated. It can be reversed or can vacillate between opposites (like extension and retraction).

Alright - what I mainly take from Goldstein (whose collaborator was Gelb) is the neurological imagining of the other things I think about - emotional damage, talent, difference among people, perceptual invention.

He learned from Goethe and cites him - Urpflanze.

17th January

What should I think about what happened yesterday. A fax with my text rewritten. I went straight into a rage, sat down with it and restored it. Phrase by phrase I discovered why I had done it the way I did. I didn't find out how to explain what the revision had ruined until I spoke to Nicole. The proofreader changed it, she said. It seemed to her to read better. There were places she had to read a paragraph three times. She asked Suzanne whether Daniel's version was faithful to my meaning and Suzanne said yes.

I agreed. Mostly he had the drift but what he took out in his conventionalizing and smoothing was - I realized - the body of the writing. The rhythm, changes in speed, long rounding-up snake breaths and short here-I-stand breaths. The gestural drama of punctuation. The ways sentences do what they say. The precision I demonstrate by modulating a verb.

And something else I do with my diction. I'm colloquial, a simple mind. I don't say it in a schooled way. The marks of sophistication I set up are more sophisticated than that. Look at Coleridge: I supply a prototype. A young tone with electrifying precision of word choice. What he and I understand is that the grey sludges of the schooled voice cannot see through. There's more to know about this. Tom does something like it with his street voice. The schooled voice is a bachelor.

This is what Daniel would have done with the paragraph I just wrote:

I construct indicators of sophistication which are more sophisticated than that. Consider Coleridge: his writing is an example of the qualities I wish to emulate. He creates a youthful tone while choosing words whose precision of meaning is exciting. I, like Coleridge, understand that the ponderousness of scholarly diction cannot penetrate to the heart of the matter. There is more to be known about this question. Incidentally, Tom is able to achieve a similar effect by employing street-based idioms. Diction which betrays its educational background is like an unmarried person, in the sense that it lacks the effective presence of nonverbal (and thus 'nonphysical') aspects of meaning.

It's a translation, huh.

Do I feel better? I still feel savage.

It's as though I was hoping someone would find me by recognizing me, my quality, in the text. When Daniel got done with it the people who should find me would not know it was me. Something like that. I don't so much mind what happens in the English-French translation because I will not be in it anyway. But that my English should be messed with is appalling to me as if I feel it is my only hope. I don't quite understand it, but reared up to defend my very self. Not that I think it is so brilliant, but there is something about the way I can be with myself in writing. I'm seeing that the presence together of selves is what I want from writing. Why should I care to make statements to strangers. If they aren't able to use the computer I set up, they will use something else. Only the people like me need me, and people who don't yet know they are like me. The love I have for the people who've given me what I can use, and for the people who can use what I give. But only in these corners where we are few. I don't love people who love the herb garden. I am defending something unusual my brain can do.

I'll write a little report on work. Reading Bowlby after Goldstein, revising both in the direction of my vague connectionism. Goldstein says an organism that suffers damage is disorganized and reestablishes whatever organization it can. It may have to do this by restricting what it perceives and behaves toward. What we think of as symptoms can be thought of as the forms of order the organism now finds possible.

Bowlby says attachment is a basic fact of human function. Our organization assumes it - we're evolved to be attached and to recover attachment when we lose it. We don't handle real loss well. (In evolution's time we didn't survive early childhood loss.) Any loss of attachment is a major disorganization. Goldstein calls such disorganization catastrophe. Attachment catastrophe is a physical disruption the way a stroke or contusion is. It's an injury to the brain. Net organization that worked isn't working any more. The brain has shaped itself to be with this place, this person. It is not multipurpose - the young brain is customized and becomes more flexible by developing work-arounds and alternate mode-shifts, among other things.

What attachment is I don't know. In small children it becomes more specific as the brain becomes more organized. Keeping a sense of the parent's presence when she isn't visible, so the child knows how to look for her, takes a complex coordination of perceiving/imagining, acting/not acting, talking/not talking. This complexity is keyed to the recurring sensory presence of the parent - smell, taste, sound, sight, touch, rhythms. When the primary parent is lost that recurring external organizer fails. Attachment figures go on being a way people retain organization.

Bowlby says, look at what bereaved adults go through. At first they go blank, they coast on their organization as it is. They "don't believe it." Then there start to be intrusive effects which presumably are organization trying to maintain itself in the absence of external feed: there is runaway simulation, perceptual structure is hyperactivated, it's searching, it's primed to the point of illusion and sometimes hallucination. There's hyperarousal, searching, calling. There's pain, but what is pain in this vision? What it is when nerves are cut or burnt - nerve damage, structural damage. It's referred to parts of the body. "Heart."

When crying and searching and trying don't work, on and on, these behaviors stop. Or if they are suppressed because adults threaten or instruct, they may be reduced to imagined or partial behaviors by means of work-arounds that take a lot of energy to maintain.

When searching doesn't work, organization collapses for a time and then there is reorganization. The best conditions are if there is someone else who can take over the attachment and supply external feed and other explanatory correction and order. Those who don't reestablish order by going through dying back can go into chronic or unfinished organizational threat. One way is unstable detachment where work-arounds keep original structure going at the cost of selective perceptual filtering. You act as if nothing has changed but you have to act in a changed way to do it - there is the energy cost of maintaining isolation. You're liable to crashing. You can't maintain attachments; you're blind to other people and anxious in their presence.

Another way is you stay angry, generally and at yourself. You keep high energy going. It's a form of search hyperarousal. You stay stressed, you stay disorganized.

If I understood correctly both these forms of uncompletion keep stress chemistry circulating, you don't excrete, as you do when you engage perceptually and deal with the fact.

20th February

Cheryl on email yesterday said she felt things were moving in me. I wrote her in a rush of gratitude. I started to say it is that Tom is coming with me but then I stopped in my tracks and said I had taken on reading Bowlby and Winnicott and feeling the baby's process from hopeful grief through brief intolerable rage to apathy and inability to attach. I said I had understood that I haven't wanted to know that such a loss is brain damage like lesion or contusion. I said how much I admire myself for surviving as well as I have on a platform of such ruin, and that I am grateful to my brain for doing its best when those responsible for me were not. I said I thanked her for holding her understanding of these things when I wasn't ready to know them, and said that now I am willing to live with someone without being afraid it will ruin me. That what has ruined me before has been resisting attachment while wanting it. Saying all of these feels soft and right.

Joyce has been rebuilding my brain. I have trusted her. The book has emerged from the structure she has been building in parts of the brain that are not conscious.

Now I feel that if Tom decides not to come I have still reached an agreement with myself that I want to live with someone and belong with them. I want him to come with me but it isn't in my interest to compel him or manage him, although my unconscious structure has been tending to do that.


Last night after the long bike ride in evening sky and four hours lying in bed talking we came to a moment where I was seeing Tom's face on the pillow, the boy, clear, present, open, complete and real. I felt merged down the length of my body. "Our auras are ..." "Commingled." I began and he finished. What color? he said. Like a soap bubble - gold and turquoise blue, I said. I was going to say blue and gold, he said.

That moment seemed perfect to me. I was feeling, here I am at last, where I most want to be. Let's go on in it. And then he pulled back physically and said he wanted to go to sleep. What is this? Sadness, he said. I was too soft to fight. I shut myself down. And have been awake as he sleeps. He is sleeping in the crack between the beds, but he has his back to me.

10th February

In my room midafternoon I was looking at Lucy Rees's book again and caught a second of what I think of as a psychic address. It's the feel of a time and place; sometimes, I think, the feel of a social group. It is as if ethos directly instantaneously perceived, or imagined, or remembered, or picked up out of the air. This time I thought of it as the background of a man somehow associated with her book. Other times it has been memory of time/places of my own. Once it was what I thought might be Jam's family's atmosphere when she was in school. I have to be falling asleep to feel it. It isn't possible to remember it well enough to say anything about it. I think of it as a very developed perception (it said yes) because it is as if direct perception of qualities of consciousness that are not my own. I don't have that awareness when I read or am with people. If I did, it would be the realest reading or being with. It would make meeting people a travel of an exquisite kind. I feel as if I would have to be completely silent to do it.

22nd March

"When you're loved and happy your features get finer. You get a kind of fragile look, like Audrey Hepburn."

You're a panther, he says.

A black one of course.

No, a kind of chocolate brown one with rootbeer highlights..

I can move like that. I roll my shoulders deep and slow, padding forward against his chest.

Think of a big panther dick up your panther pussy, he says.

Oh my goodness.

Then, after, he says the moonlight is shining through the filigree onto the forest floor. It's shining into their yellow eyes. They are rolling on their backs waving their paws. Her belly is white. You can see the row of nipples. His belly is freckled.