volume 1 of in america: 2002-03 september-february  work & days: a lifetime journal project

 

 

 

 

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Begin to invent embodiment studies at my college and at the end of this volume start to think about the journal project. Part 1 living temporarily in Nora's empty new house in Bird Rock. Part 3 my dad is dying, I'm back in Vancouver. Part 4 Tom is evicted from the Maryland Hotel. Part 5 I move to the caretaker's studio above Nora's offices on 5th Ave.

Notes: Le Guin The other wind, Always coming home, The left hand of darkness and The telling, the Olson-Creeley correspondence, Wallace Berry Remembering, David McNeill Hand and mind: what gestures reveal about thought, Jeremiah Abrams The shadow in America, Peter Redgrove The black goddess and the unseen real, Eudora Welty interview, Charles Bowden The Sonoran desert, Coetzee Boyhood.

Mentioned: Tom Fendler, Louie E, Ed Epp, Mary Epp, Paul Epp, Rudy Epp, Judie Bopp, Abe Sieburt, Justin Webb, Rowen Epp, Gabriele Weinhausen, Logan Burns, Danielle Boutet, Nicole Gingras, Ed Dalpe, Karen Campbell, Josie Cooke, Margo MacLeod, Michael Deragon, Leslie D, Louise G, David Beach.

5571 Bellevue in Bird Rock, Encinitas, Pannikin's and DG Wills Books in La Jolla, Mission Hills Nursery, Starbucks, Maryland Hotel room 324, 5133 Dawne Street in Clairemont, the Amvets Goodwill, Golden West Hotel, Abbotsford Municipal Hospital, the Fraser Valley, Clearbrook Mennonite Brethern Church, Peace River Bible Institute, Walter Anderson's Nursery, Cafe Roma at UCSD, 2720 Fifth Avenue in Banker's Hill, Balboa Park, David's Coffeehouse in Hillcrest, the Zanzibar in Pacific Beach, Amtrak Coast Starlight, 3743 Charles Street and Dupont Street in Point Loma, Nazarene College, the Greek's Cafe in Ocean Beach, 5562 Taft Avenue in La Jolla, Plainfield VT, Spring Valley.

Karina Gauvin, XLNC in Tijuana, Powerbook G3, Abbotsford Male Choir, COPE in Vancouver, Cielo y Tierra Heaven and earth, Willa Cather O Pioneers, San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, The sexual life of Catherine M, Victor Enns at rhubarb magazine, David Adams Richards Mercy among the children, Nadine Gordimer The pickup, Richard Holmes Coleridge: early visions and Coleridge: darker reflections 1804-1834, Mozart Te Kanawa Ruhe sanft mein holdes leben, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris Gulf coast highway, Aristotle, Doris Lessing The sweetest dream, Mark Spragg Where rivers change directions, David Masumoto Epitaph for a peach, Sharon Butala Wild stone heart, Leonardo, Valerie Trueblood on John Haines, Dorothy Richardson, Carlos Casteneda. 

 14 September 2002

It is still the artists that matter, those who do what it takes to be real.

16 September

White melancholy, Logan said. He wrote in sympathy.

I was at a conference that interested me. There were several older women, distinguished and accomplished. I saw that for their public appearances they were wearing beautiful makeup, smooth turquoise and purple mottling like markings on a lizard.

The scent of nasturtiums.

In his thirties, my father was very beautiful. He was beautiful of form and of face. There was a fineness in the quality of his beauty, something taut and proud. He had a high-bridged nose, a long slope from cheekbone to jaw, and a conscious mouth. His hands were the most beautiful I have seen.

Among the Mennonites beauty is not mentioned. Its power is thus denied but increases in secret. I didn't wonder whether anyone else felt it. Beauty in humans was my painful pleasure. Beauty elsewhere was pleasure without pain.

I taught myself not to love my father because I saw that he would not love me back. He was vicious, wrathful, spiteful, malicious. Self-absorbed. His attitude toward women he saw in public was angry or casual lust, arrogant connoisseurship.

18 September

I am struggling for a version of what really happened in the seven-year story of Tom. It is as if there are parallel lines of true story.

In one a predatory man who has driven his luck farther than it will reach catches sight of a lame woman who will have a vulnerability he can use. He succeeds in capturing her, lies to her, says anything he thinks she will want to hear. There are many inconsistencies but he finesses them. She is kept near enough to hope so she continues as long as he needs her. When he is in the clear he stops making an effort and has no more time for her. He dumps her. This story is a story of ruthless betrayal.

In another story that woman is working carefully among the inconsistencies of his story and her own, and is made able to guide them both in a slow process of deeper rescue than the man had had in mind. This story is a story of spiritual bravery.

20th September

There is sand in my bed. I stood yesterday afternoon looking at the waves. The day was sunless and the air powdery. The waves were celadon green and white, minimal. There is always the instant one waits for, when they lift to stretched translucence before they break. The instant is always gone as soon as it arrives.

October 3rd

Rereading Left hand of darkness aware sometimes that I am noticing different things than I noticed when I was thirty-two, was it, early on in 820A East Pender. I was interested in ambisexuality, bespeaking and sexual tension. Now what am I interested in - Le Guin herself, what I can pick up of what she is thinking about her own powers. She had a massive expansion in Dispossessed and Always coming home. The photo on this jacket, 1969, has her forty, proud, guarded, angry maybe, sitting back in a photographer's chair with right hand gripped tight on left wrist. In the more recent picture she is sixty, smiling, leaning forward, deeply and warmly confident, hands loosely clasped. Fine black hair gone fine silver hair, cut in the same neuter cap. Same full fish-mouth. Farfetching is what she does. The fact that she fell in love with her half brother and goes on writing from that love though she has been married to Charles Le Guin since she was twenty-two. She is Joyce's age and Joyce's kind. Only five years younger than my mother. In her stories incestuous lovers bear children. I'm sure she hasn't known what she was doing, always, but she has believed her sense of the whole.

Looking at the Creeley-Olson correspondence seeing that though they were making and supporting something right, they were also posing and bluffing more than my lineage has done - in the order I used them, Montgomery, de Beauvoir, Lessing, Richardson, Le Guin, Gordimer, Woolf. Apart from de Beauvoir they are sensory philosophers. What I believe is that I have had to learn my resources by studying as instances women whose generations themselves learned, at first, from men, and then found themselves building in another way. Le Guin is my base as a philosopher. I'm seeing it more, now, than I have.

In 1969 we weren't sure we could do what men could do. In 2002 we are sure we can do it better, but only if we do it our way. I'll take that as the meaning of Le Guin's relaxed shining eyes in the later picture.

23 October

The women on the train. On the afternoon of the second day, swaying through Oregon, I listened to a woman one seat forward on the opposite side of the aisle talk to three different women in the seat ahead of me. I heard three versions of her story. Thirty-five years married to a hydro engineer with a PhD, six children, a recent MA in theology it took her 8 years to get. "I'm an empty-nester," she said three times. Mrs Pleasant. She had a soft ingratiating voice and said not one thing all afternoon that had any kind of bite. At the same time, although she responded 'supportively' to anything said, she could sustain response for one sentence at most before she went back to telling something about herself.

The longest conversation was the last, with a somewhat younger community college councilor. They traded I sentences for hours without hearing themselves say anything they haven't already subscribed to. The saddest were about their dogs and cats. My dog will sit on a chair by the window and wait for me to come home. When I'm away my dog won't sleep unless my husband lets him under the covers on my side of the bed. My cat hugs me. My cat will touch my face with her paw.

There had been a Chicano boy in the seat across from me all the way from LA. I saw him at the station in San Diego. I noticed him for the ingenious way he had taped a cardboard box to a small bag with a strap, so he could carry them together. He was carefully dressed in immaculate white trainers, very baggy pants low at the hip, short sleeved shirt with small checks, white socks, white undershirt. He stayed in his seat listening to a headset, kept his space in good order. His destination slip said TAK so I knew I'd have to talk to him before Tacoma if at all. I'd given him the sports pages from the USA Today I bought in Portland. His name was Gilbert. He had grown up in Chula Vista, was going to live with his aunt to get away from the gangs and finish senior year. He turned seventeen in September. His mom is high up in a company that sells crystal. Her picture is on the cover of a book about sales. She'll get him a car if he graduates.

When we were half an hour from Tacoma he excused himself, got up to go downstairs to brush his teeth. Two hours before he had put on cologne, sprayed his hair with something scented.

As soon as he was off the train both women ahead of me jumped up gushing. That was a very frightened young man, you really helped him. That was wonderful, you really drew him out. You're so nonjudgmental. I'm very judgmental, I said. We all are, said the red lipstick smiling, smiling, smiling guidance councilor. This went on for a bit and then something else happened. The empty nester was standing up talking about dealing with her sons when they were teenagers. She said she hadn't know how to handle them. She had never talked back to her parents. You are a different generation, said the guidance councilor supportively. I talked back to my mother once and she slapped my face, I never did it again. The empty nester was standing by her seat actually shouting.

Both women were called Karen. By the time we got to Seattle Karen empty nest was saying the meeting had been meant. "There is much more to life than we know." In fact the meeting was veiled competition from end to end, my conversation with Gilbert included. The shadow in America. Karen councilor tried several times to recoup by jumping up and offering advice on web teaching programs I could learn. She tried to break into the conversation with Gilbert too by popping her head up and talking about community college. She trumped poor Karen empty nest decisively at the end by giving her some sort of professional evaluation sheet just as we were pulling into Seattle. I found myself organizing people with baggage difficulties. Young man - young man in the blue hat - would you help this woman carry one of her bags?

25th October

A bodies concentration, embodiment concentration? Is that where to go instead of social action / peace and justice? Shelley wanting queer studies, make it unusual bodies studies, way to talk about nature/culture at the same time, integrated as structure. What is it about the social sciences and social improvement talk that I can't stand. It's all imaginary. It's ungrounded. Danielle wants to talk about epistemology but she means being analytical and self-critical about knowledge systems, which is fine but I want that more grounded too, how is knowing done?

9th November

Amtrack. In Oregon, dark at the window.

It was a day of beauty I can't describe. Wet, a grey light. Three weeks ago this countryside was nothing special. Now, in November, the leaves were not only colored, so that each tree and bush shows its individual shape, but also thinned, so that it's possible to see into the whole three-dimensionality of that shape. There were bushes a pale coral, cottonwoods that are shaped like feathers with large loose leaves high in the tree and thicker smaller leaves in the lower third. The most inarticulably wonderful were the willows, passing always too quickly so I couldn't satisfy myself with seeing them. What color is that? I couldn't tell. Can I see it now? Brown-silver, the whole of the tree drawn in thin flexed lines of leaf brown on one side, silver on the other

As I look into the dark from the light on the page I seem to see ghosted the day's colored volumes, larger, smaller, high, low, shaped in luminous bits.

Years ago when I cried in front of my father I didn't know he would one day cry in front of me. When it was happening I could only half-feel it. It was so unexpected. The long gaze was right, though. Simple.

16th November

Meantime, after heavy destruction of countryside in Afghanistan, bin Laden is still sending taped messages. Bush waged that war to win seats. It is in his interest to have bin Laden still at large, and to have new threats uncovered every week. These are surely the worst times I've seen, politically, in my lifetime. If better times recur, these will be seen as infamous. Will better times recur? Will we have seen the end of the golden age of confidence and liberality, in relation to gender, race, international relations, sexuality, intelligence, cultivation? There's a feeling of timidity and hopelessness in opposition - I mean I notice myself feeling that. I'm longing for the intelligence, pragmatism and sanity of Bill and Hillary, who also had charm enough to carry a country safely.

Writing Steve this afternoon I realized something I hadn't really understood at the time, that my misery and isolation of the first half of the '80s had to do with being starved out by the grasping and reactionary times, that had no use for what I was. I've thought of it as Jam/Trudy/Rhoda, but it was more that all of us were being sidelined out of the funded and active places we'd had in the first half of the 70s.

Vermont, January 24 2003

It was worth being here for the moment walking toward the cafeteria from the dorm, head down, thinking, when I looked up just at the door and saw Danielle in her smoking spot, smiling into my eyes.

On a lesser level, worth being here for the conversation around the table last night, Margo, Karen, Lise, Sara. We gave our motives for wanting an embodiment concentration and in doing that laid out the range of the program. What I can do with the program is very limited because nobody else knows or is going to know the framework I have found. They will all go on saying 'the body' when they mean movement and certain kinds of feeling, and 'the mind' when they mean self-repression and segregation. That is symptomatic - 'the body' is what belongs with early love, 'the mind' what belongs with defenses. That is, the dichotomizing manners of speaking are accurate, and what I am about cannot be done by fixing the language.

February 11

"At once physical and made of spirit" Butala said. I would say it differently. How the 'spirit' people should be read if we assume we see and imagine by means of bodies. Before I went back to school in 1989 the book I wanted to write was Seeing and 'seeing', subtitled perception and visionary knowledge. Modes of knowing that are really knowing but use seeming to perceive.

I have done the prep for this work. Understanding mysticism. Clairvoyance, stories of visionary wonders. Finding the stance: it can be really knowing; it isn't evidence for the stuff it's been taken to be evidence for; it is evidence of possibilities of human being. It's a careful balance between credulity and closedness. Unusual sensing. Unusual knowing by means of imagining. Childhood of a philosopher. Metaphoric knowing. The Romantics. Drugs, physical disciplines. A feeling of pleasure and wonder at open capabilities. Recognition. Paravisual perception, Garrett and Hayward. The specific instance - what is seen is being seen in terms of what is seeing. 'The mythical' - something present that sees it that way.

February 14

Reading the fall 1998 notebook, I come to the Castenada notes and immediately feel the Tom story in a different way. The way I feel it is more accommodating of the whole than the attitudes I normally take. It sees a story of two large spirits battling as if in play, battling for their own amusement. In this play Tom is more flexible, he is a spirit who likes to change. He is in some ways cleverer because he makes me his straight giant, a stable pillar he can whisk around. But I am in some ways larger. I am battling him with one hand while I conduct other enterprises. Still the story seen in this way is a story about engagement. The question of breaking it off on this level isn't the question, as it is I want to say on the ground.

I've often started transcribing from journals. What do I get stuck on. The journal has one tone and if I edit and fill, as I'd have to, it happens in another less good tone. I like the journal form but it's at odds with a story telling form. Cross-connected significance is there for me but can't easily be set up for a reader because it needs material that doesn't fit into the story. There are different threads of story and a best version would be able to use them all, but they are winding-out as stories over different rates of time. Is it that I haven't recognized what the story really is, so I'd know what's relevant? Will there ever be a way to use this writing? Is it a mistaken enterprise to try?

Also that showing how something happens is very long and laborious. What I write in the journal is brief. Also the fact of writing is also part of the story, and I treat it as if it is only telling the story.

February 15

It said: connecting the child's feeling will make it clear. You are wanting the wrong thing in it, recognition. What you should want is to demonstrate the subtle thing that is your unique interest. It is a story about a study. Your question was, how much can I know. The story is about this question in a particular time. What is characteristic of the era is the amount of written testimony you have had to learn from. What is characteristic of this moment of your era is the amount of written testimony specifically by women. The subtle thing that is your unique interest is, what can be known by women. What are the possibilities of women's intelligence. So it is a story about observing and reading to find female intelligence. It is a story that can only be written by a little girl who becomes a philosopher.

So I want to demonstrate what can be known - the knowing - the study that finds it, the resources used. Is that it?

Dorothy Richardson did it already - she found the very first moment where it could be done - the autobiography of a question - Woolf was an artist, DR was a philosopher - is there something for me to add? - it says yes, integration of partially lost feeling to come through.

24

How it was with Tom. He came in thuggish, hair cut almost to the scalp. Came for a kiss and I backed off. I'd been writing a letter and was there focused and remote with Japanese music of the most exquisite. Instantly in shock from Tom's loutish self absorption. He instantly in shock from my protests. This is unbearable, each of us saying to ourselves, I can't stand this person.

Chaotic transition. He's my heartbreaking mean dad. I'm the oppressive unloving woman. His voice goes on unstoppably unbearably beating my brow with mediocre language. I go hopeless and silent, squashed into silence.

It broke two ways, separately for each. I made him laugh. I startled him. He went young. When he stopped talking I could track the crushed feeling at the heart. It went up to throat and forehead. Then I could feel an agony-knot in the back. I said, Will you put your hand on that. Sobbed in two bursts, not so much tears as spasms. Then laid my head down next to his lap. It started to go through when I said what I was feeling, that it is harder now to go on than it is to separate, but I'm willing. I don't see how it can come through, I said. From that point I suppose ego gave up.

Is there more to say about it. God's grace, I want to say. Life generous and just.

And then Tom's thuggish look became a look of naked self in balanced force.