volume 10 of in america: 2006 january-june  work & days: a lifetime journal project

 

 

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Part 1, spring 2006 residency in Vermont. Part 2 embodiment studies politics get murky at my college, I redesign the web worksite, Tom gets a high-paying job. Part 3 first bad reviews of the journal project. Part 4 happy times cut short when Tom infects me with bedbugs.

Notes: Russell Banks Affliction, Herzog Grizzly man, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Roy Orbison and friends: a black and white night, Vicki Hearne "Questions about language I - Horses," Dorothy Richardson, evolutionary biology of pregnancy, Anselm Kiefer, Wayson Choy The jade paeony, EJH Corner The life of plants, Mary Gaitskill "The little boy," Heinz Pagels and other quantum physics, Gendlin.

Mentioned: Luke, Damion D, Tom Fendler, Carol d'Agostino, Lisa Johns, Cynthia Perry, Anna Hawkins, Layla Holguin-Messner, Becci Goodall, Joe Fendler, Susan M, Nancy Mellon, Margo McLeod, Lise Weil, Sue Flemming, Peter von T, Scott M, Peter Harcourt, Martyn Estall, Jean Royce, Alex Hartman, Mary Epp, Russell Mann, David Mann, Paul Epp, Peter Epp, Jean-Vi Lenthe, Chris Gray, Sage Adderley, Danielle Vidinich, Guillermo Tello de Meneses Leal, Louise G, Andy Maycen, Michael Duke, Robert MacLean, Ken Sallitt, Rowen, Louie E, Lyubov Laroche, Jam Ismail, Guistino Hidalgo from Guadalajara, Leslie D, Michael Voskamp, Roy Chisholm.

2720 Fifth Avenue in Banker's Hill, 4055 Stephens at Fort Stockton, Plainfield VT, the Vet Tent, Plainfield VT, Midway and Rosekrans, Baja Fresh, Starbucks on Fifth, Kung Food, Walter Anderson Nursery, Buena Creek Gardens, Ranchos Cuccina, Sizzler, La Pensione Hotel, Friendship Hotel, Robert's Automotive, Denny's on Pacific Highway, Centre City Rooms, Whole Foods in Hillcrest, Maryland Hotel, Sunrise Highway, the Banner Grade, San Marcos, Tom Piergrossi's nursery, 5562 Taft Avenue in La Jolla, Cass St library, Rite Aid, 824 East Pender, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, UCSD Emergency, National City, St Vincent de Paul Mission, Guy Street in Oldtown, Santee drive-in, Lake Morena, H and M Landing, Mission Bay, Nazarene College, Laurel St Bridge, Embassy Hotel, Detroit airport, 5571 Bellevue in Bird Rock, Del Dios, Palomar, Valley Center, Bolinas, Mesa Grande.

Smallville, NPR, Wittgenstein, Commander in chief, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Sasha Cohen and John Nicks, Arakawa, Slutskya, eye candy zine, The great dance, David Denby, KD Laing, Springsteen, Costello, Jackson Browne, Jonathan Demme Neil Young: Heart of gold, CD Wright, Arts in America, Cynthia Shearer The celestial jukebox, Kulturflash, Chuck Klosterman, Dave Eggers, Ben Ratliff, Pitchfork, Coke Machine Glow, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Minnaert, Walter Ong, LA Times, Artaud, Genet, Final Cut Pro, The boy in the bubble, Chaos, Gordimer, Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Leonard Cohen, Orfeo ed Eurydice, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Louis Farrukan, The Da Vinci code, Michael Meade, Nancy Griffith, Garrison Kiellor and Meryl Streep singing When I survey the wondrous cross, Holly Hunter, the movie The Prairie Home Companion, Ken Wilber, Precision Landscaping, Sylvia Ashton-Warner Spinster, Esquire, Jane Eyre, Nancy Holt's culverts.

 Plainfield 21st

Both people in my row were poking on their laptops and I was wriggling and it would be hours still so I unfolded my Mac and finished Carol's eval and thought now what, and opened the Orpheus file. And there I became someone I used to be, open-mouthed in beauty. Who am I being instead of this. Could I make a living and be this. Nothing is more important than this, this is the touchstone. I'm being something now that's connected to what I was when I was succeeding, and it's what I am in ease, and this other thing is what I had to find in my uttermost and maybe I have to keep being the successful one to support something else, but now I should somehow transcribe Dames rocket? The journals are floods of notes. It was about being - I can say that. I was a solid young person and then I turned to air. The beautiful work is air.

Vermont 23rd January 2006

It's snowing, I see against the pines.

Miz Susan arrived at the next table while I was talking to two new students. I concentrated on not looking at her and it had the effect of stiffening my conversation completely. And then S came to give me a hug. So what are you going to do this semester? That needs a conversation and we have to find a spot. There she is. Live. I relax. She says in her parenthetical way that I like fighting with her. I say I do. When I think of her, even, I feel the roots of my hair stand up. That's pitta, she says. Energy. Oh definitely. (I sigh.) She's cold, can we go somewhere warm? My old office in Studies. She takes the dishes away, I get some tea.

She comes into the room and shuts the door. I sit on the floor and leave a space next to me for her. She sits down across the room. We laugh.

So why do I want her to write, she says. There I pause and go in. I tell her the story of the row of laptops before Detroit and the moment gaping into beauty. I say it's an airy person, and her paced writing is that, and I want to write in that way and I want her to be able to write that way. When I say that I have tears in my eyes.

I say I can't read that work aloud and don't think it's voiced. She says yes, voicing brings in too much ego. I've said ego is the solid dwarf. The book says don't do that beautiful work because it's evasion. So why isn't it evasion if she does it? Because she does it differently. She says she sees flame. I say yes, flaring, like gas wells. In me it's paradisal. Something transcendent uses the dwarf to teach, in me.

There we both are in [our college] the land of social workers. She needs the best. She said she could see rhythms appearing in thieves that come out of childhood. I say there are people who would be interested in that. Dead people, Duncan and Creeley. She should be doing poetics somewhere. What else I said was that if I could fund it I'd want to do that kind of writing with film. She said, You've never said that before.

27

What happened yesterday. I brought her upstairs and she sat in the chair across the room and I told her what it was last time and saw her feel it. And relaxed and saw her speed when she was describing Amanda talking, describing the way her hands move and as if her comic timing. And was intimidated by it. And hugging her, the fine-grained whiteness of her neck against my face. The way a conversation with her can include a motion. She will notice what I do with my hand. "Yes, like that."

What else. The moments in the workshop when the faces around the table were absorbed - such lifted softened absorbed faces. Margo across the room looking at them beaming.

28

Tom and Joe sat two and a half hours in a café. "We never dropped eye contact" Tom said. Joseph has large wide-set eyes. Tom could see Uncle Joe in him. "He's a beautiful man. He's intelligent." He was loving. He said "All of that is in the past."

The woman yesterday who said to me, You have a lot of light in your eyes. It stopped me. I couldn't go on, for a moment. I was looking at her letting her see her hit.

31st

Lying against her back with my hand on her bicep, joking that it was like a boob. "More than a mouthful is a waste" she said. Laughed. We laughed. Lying against her was making a field with a texture like flan, I said, very fine-grained.

- Here is the most unusual thing. Was it in that passage during the night, I think, when we had been sleeping and woke and were murmuring. She said she was seeing waves of color, and then after a moment I saw one after another a band of very pale yellow light sinking down the dark field of my closed eyes. Their pace was slow and regular, slow count of 4 maybe. I had never seen anything like that. Watching it didn't affect it. When I said it had stopped she said hers had too, because she had spoken too much.

22 February

Wake thinking of skaters. Sasha Cohen, who is love woman gliding. Big eyes, very slight, 5'2. Perfect in her lines, stunning in her lines. An elf princess. Her coach is called John Nicks and is at least seventy, a wrinkled small old thing who looks like a boxer's coach. "How do you work with each other?" says the interviewer. "Carefully" he says with smiling irony. Smart. Both are. She's well spoken. She's 21. After she came 4th in 2002 she left him and trained other places and then came back to him. "When she left she was a little girl and when she came back she was a young lady." What she has had to learn was focus, steadiness. It's the part of the story I like. Love woman in all her glamour and fragility gradually learning to carry herself without fear. Not faking it, not becoming a boy to keep from falling, not thickening.

24

I don't watch most of the skaters because I can see immediately that there's nothing about them. But it sometimes happens that someone of the four commentators will say something that is coming from inside knowledge. I'm watching something they are watching too, and when it's interesting they just shut up. When it's dull one of them will explain something that needs explaining. What I liked was when the woman who'd been an Olympic skater herself would comment as if to herself. "She's very stiff." "She's tired, her legs are heavy."

When the camera was showing Sasha Cohen standing at the edge of the rink a while before her own program, she said "Sasha is just having a peek at the rink. When you first come to it the lights seem very bright." That was a good moment because Cohen's face is so naked and sensitive we could see her feeling that.

There was a lot to see. The woman who won, Arakawa, was a tall Japanese woman with a flat reserved face. She was as if the opposite of Cohen, feeling nothing rather than feeling everything. When she saw - she was the last to realize it - that she had won gold, her mouth fell open into almost agony. Her coaches were hugging her. It was as if they had drugged her to get her through, so she was in effect their puppet. They woke her when it was over, it was not her own.

Cohen fell on the jumps in her warm-up and the commentator was watching her eyes. "They are completely different from the way they were. There's doubt." Then when she fell on two jumps, "She knows she's lost it. Now she's fighting to stay on the podium." As she waved and bowed afterwards, "Her sad, sad eyes."

Slutskya and Cohen on the podium flanking Arakawa, neither faking it, Slutskya crying, Cohen a poised soft sad spirit, so remarkably beautiful in her realness.

A sport where the love woman / work woman crisis is demonstrated.

The costumes are events in themselves, sometimes so foreign in their taste. Slutskya's sheer beaded black jumpsuit a lovely invention.

The dramas of destiny. Winning gold is like stepping onto a platform where gods and goddesses mingle in open air. Anything less means staying cramped under a ceiling. Nothing you have done counts and you are doomed to feel your failure every moment for the rest of your life. Your body is infused with subtle ash.

In these contests we are looking to see what kind of person is best to be. There were women in the top ten who will never make it through because there is something visibly inferior about them. The two Italians. They step on the ice and we think, no, never. They don't have heroic fibre.

And now about my hero friend Susan. She has the fibre. Will she need to eat me up.

26

Tom was here briefly. I said Tell me your week and he told the story of being non-union on a union site, the men carryng pipe up flights of stairs rather than use the hoist with its nonunion operator. They call him Operator. He describes their economy of movement, everything they do, wheelbarrow, forklift. He told the story with gestures and motor noises, very energized and virtuosic. He was there. He was standing around in the hoist and he took the motion around him into his body. Fully. He didn't just say rrhhm. He said all the directions and qualities of rrhhm there were in a 5-storey site where men are proud of themselves and completely focused and have assembled marvelous machines that creep or swivel or grind or dart or rise slightly tottering first one floor and then another. He showed me the way a union man moves a wheelbarrow, dm-dm-dm-dm-dum and done. Ironworkers speaking across the space in hand signals. He showed me the signals and the elegance they have taken on in these burly men in their union hard hats, standing on a beam as it's lowered, giving it a tap to turn it. And then the riveter comes in. (Series of growling grunts.)

Tom at his best, focused physicality. The world for male attention. Michael acting his animals. Spectacular. The great dance. Full body imitation and language and technical intelligence. On the street, That's a Mitsubishi about 1990, Tom will say, and will tell me the story of that car's reception.

11 February

As I woke in the dark I was as if on the yard of the east place at a moment when it was still intact but already abandoned. There's a sense of grey bareness in the packed earth, the isolated buildings. Grey open space. Over there the Jansen house, here the garage, there the barn - something like that. What I was feeling was that that moment of imagined memory - is that what I mean - was the brief description I would give of something - I can't remember what. Of this period? There I sighed.

I'm feeling what Gendlin describes, the expansion of the cloud network of meaning as I write.

This sensation of being in the midst of thought is rare these days. Being without it is the bareness I feel in the journal, where I have nothing to say.

What I was feeling in that sensation of the yard was my real self, my near self.

8 March

What would I say to myself young in affectionate belief in these people: life is a very long test and what these people are isn't visible yet.

What I have been saying instead is, these people were themselves when they were young and they aren't now.

The test is whether you carry yourself through. What I see in all of them is loss of soul.

Ed kept soul more than any of them. There was still realness in him when he died.

All of this has something to do with the journal project. The Golden West years demonstrate and defend.

What did I want to write yesterday morning - something for the philosophy intro of GW.

I want to say the journal as a whole is philosophic, the impulse is philosophic. I've wanted to understand and explain. So I like the one-paragraph summaries there are of many things. I don't need to write whole essays about these questions.

As a philosopher I've insisted on keeping childhood and feeling included. I like it that my formal philosophy is there among notes about gardening and bookwork about Tom.

The philosophic accomplishment is a state. It's myself capable of meeting things the way I did in those years.

The philosophic accomplishment is a state of the body, an organization that was visible though I didn't see it.

I am mostly not in that state now.

I had the same feeling about being an artist - it was a different state, the evidence is.

"held with extreme effort"

Vicki Hearne on training horses. 1. That she wants a coherent account of what a horse is. Philosophy in the sense that it's looking for the right way to talk. 2. That some horses are artists who love to be stretched and perfect. Through the essay I feel the allegory. She's a poet and feels allegorical significance, horse as body. Does she know it was about body and use the allegory to talk about something in 1986 that couldn't be talked about head on, the artist's body? The writer's body.

My dream of the brown horse and the black horse. Joyce said "It would be better to ride well."

Rider and horse, conscious self and body as a whole.

But it's not a duality - how to think that.

She's wrong about time, I say. No it says. It's about getting to heaven? Yes. The moment of perfect contact. It's not a natural state, it's a trained state.

Is she right that the horse exults? Yes.

Here I'm imagining that this is what Susan and I should be writing together - this is embodiment pedagogy. Say this well. [Norman] Mailer training when he had a writing project. The way I'd go monastic when I wrote papers.

She writes that an artistic horse will get depressed if left in the pasture without work.

Say it well. There's the forehead-directed circuiting that isn't self but at times of willed effort is felt as self. That self-feeling isn't split off but it's directing something in the way we'd direct an other, by speaking to it.

-

I got her finally to say what she doesn't like about it.

a couple days a week I open the journals at random and read a few
para's/ what do I feel when I do/ sometimes I'm caught up in your flow/
in how things are happening to you/ and sometimes I enjoy your writing /
but just as often I feel uncomfortable/ just as often I simply don't
believe that person who is writing/ I don't believe what she says about
other people/ I object to some inflation of purpose that suffuses all
journaling I guess/ a kind of dilation of singularity
 
and I begin to feel suffocated
 
reading yr journals I feel you as controlling/ unswerving and insistent /
holding my head in your focus without room for my own/ inside your
flights of grandeur and your humiliations / I feel forced I feel I will
cry out
 
I feel angry that you want me to relate to narrative and not to you
living and now/ feel frustrated with the monolithic force of you/ look
at me look at me the words demand and if I loved you/ I would
 
at times you seem obliterating to me/ how in love with yourself you
are/ you take up everything there is no space among the persons of your
days that isn't you/ I feel mildly horrified to recognize how little of
a person I am then to you as well and then also that this is
something like the original human state - it's likely true that I don't
fully represent you or anyone else in "my world" and what kind of an
excuse is it that no one does
 
so I struggle it going back and reading then not/ then returning/ and
I think of sitting on the floor of studies in your room and watching
you do breathwork and focusing and the feeling in my third eye of
which my own Voice said to me why are you fighting her this is what you
came for/ open
 
Are a lot of people going to feel it like this    
I understand that most people would hate me who read it    
And I want to post it anyway    YES
It's my first experience of being out   
There's a lot of love in the journals    YES
For work and days   
Not so much for people   
 
She sees the way I'm different than her about people    no
Same  
If I am what I am people won't like me   
And that's simply true   
Whereas she's always been liked   
And I've preserved something   

12

Am I ready to think about Susan and the journal.

Controlling unswerving and insistent - that one does bother me - because it's stylistic - it means I'm a mind she doesn't like being - and I don't like being hers either - is that dynamical probably - unswerving is what lets me track - she could never do what I do with her self-conscious branching and diffusing - so I'll accept this one.

Flights of grandeur and humiliations - I don't take either of those as seriously as she does - they'd be grandiose if they were inaccurate - I do have flights into illusion but they're usually about my attachments - they're not about my work or perception - humiliations, does she mean crashes? I don't think of crashes as humiliations.

I know it's not true that I only see myself. There's a lot of love in them for many kinds of things, even for the comedy of wreckage.

What kind of enterprise it is to post them.

I'm telling hardly anyone they're there, because I consider it in relation to particular people and say, nah they wouldn't like it.

And then the people who know it's there, who I know won't look at it.

It's true it's too much of one person. A lot of it isn't entertaining, it's banal. It displays states people don't like in themselves. It doesn't hide the ways I am more than they are, and most people aren't conscious in that soul-competition layer. Critical intelligence is hard for people who've given it up tho' delightful for people who haven't, unless they feel it will turn on them.

What's worthwhile in it is:

It shows a lovewoman-workwoman conflict many women have, that isn't well described.

It shows someone gradually changing, it is an actual history of consciousness.

It shows unstable identity in others in a way no one has since The golden notebook.

It shows ambivalence in the self in all its fluctuations, it's the opposite of frozen.

It records weather and place with love.

It shows the mixedness of a life in which there's sex, gardening, therapy, teaching, reading, all the rest.

It's developed phenomenology, someone who has been observing for a long time.

It shows stages of a significant philosophical breakthrough.

It tells other people's stories with love for life adventure.

It has a lot of reading tips.

17

Jean-Vi after she looked at my journal wrote back very stiff saying how different she is than me because she's outward and I'm disabled and excluded and that's why I'm so intellectual and abstract.

Do I mind. A little. But I'm interested what will happen when I'm out, who'll be left. I will find out which of my connections were delusionary.

As if I'm old enough, have come far enough, so I can afford to be out.

18

Given that you had a physically disabling anomaly from a young age that heightened your sense of separateness and unincludedness in peer settings, I am not surprised that you pursued such a rigorous inner focus. The scientific/abstract cast of that focus is very much at odds with my own impulsive and imaginal impetus. So, for instance, on a momentary impulse I blithely remind you of how you hated my writing. Later I realize that I have invited you to continue not seeing or appreciating me as the deeply sensitive, creative and daring person that I really am.

I liked some of her writing but not the particular journalistic piece I said was ingratiating. That seared her. Saying it to her was like saying to Paul that he's mean to his wife - it's not understanding how frail someone is in their self regard. They need me hidden.

Wd I appreciate her if I met her now? I wdn't estimate her highly as a writer probably. I'd likely say sensitive, creative and daring but not deeply. So does that mean I have to not know her? No it means she has to not know me.

26

Phoned Tom, said, I'm bored. He laughed. I went and fetched him for breakfast at Denny's. When we were on the way to the market, stopped with him at the Friendship Hotel. Then when I was buying chard the man said Something must already have happened this morning, you are glowing.

8 May

What else I wanted to say about Tom was that when he's in his bed listening to cars pass he sees colored eddies around them, colors like neon. That's in the five minutes before he's asleep. The eddies vary with the kind of car.

22

Two things: one, I notice I'm reluctant to write about any of this since I'm not writing well, because I don't want to have to transcribe it later. Two, something about how it is with Tom these days, comfortable, more comfortable than we have ever been. Well, no - sometimes on happy days in the Maryland.

Two nice things he said. One was Saturday night leaning in the driver's side door saying goodnight. He said, I want to tell you that sometimes when you're happy you are so drop-dead gorgeous it makes my heart expand. The other was that small breasts, my breasts, are like sports cars - GT cars I said - yes GT cars (because they're fast off the mark).

But what did I see this weekend. The oaks in bloom, everywhere in the Lake Morena area the dark somber oaks full of what can look like light: thick polleny tassels in greenish gold or brownish gold or even, one I saw, a dark pink. At the drive-in the sky next to the screen that had its back to the sunset a luminous dark blue with one star. The contrast of the flat near screen catching projected light and the openness and realness and sheer distance of the western sky.

That was worth writing because I didn't fully realize what I was seeing as I was seeing it.

It rained during the night.

25

We ended at H and M Landing parked looking over Mission Bay toward the yellow sky after sunset. Tom had walked me around the Islandia dining room where he was a busboy when he was 16. He could see his house from the lawn. When he'd get home after work his mother would say she'd seen his bus crossing the bridge.

Did she kiss you when you got home?

Or I'd kiss her.

Would she ask you about your day at work?

She'd debrief me.

He wanted to listen to a Nancy Griffith CD he found at the Goodwill. I was behind the steering wheel and he had his head on my shoulder. I didn't want the music but I held off saying so because he was in a lonesome-bliss state. What I liked but could not get very far into was the water which kept a bluesilver light as land and sky went charcoal grey. It was flowing without waves and kept smooth areas of surface that didn't shift. I was feeling dimly that it was an image for part I An ordered sea of light [body and cosmos workshop]. We were looking across the water toward the notch in the skyline where Tom's house used to be.

26

The thing that happens when I'm falling asleep at night, never when I fall asleep in the daytime. It happens after I fall asleep and wakes me. It is that my heart is beating fast, I have faded into a zone of anguish about dying. Fear of damnation. When I fall asleep in the afternoon usually I'm reading and I fade into wonderful times and places, vanishing presences I like so much and cannot hold.

Writing isn't what it was. I have less confidence. The voice that leads me falters - is it that? I'm more dubious, less energized. I say to myself, But I had it, years of it.

I said to Daphne after Jam, Now I can write anything. It was energy in silent perception, I was registering and afterwards could discover what I knew. Now I'm not registering.

I say to myself, is it teaching? Is it Tom? Is it living in this little jail? It says no, it's that you're not feeling. And there I stop.

3rd June

On the radio in the late afternoon light Meryl Streep and another woman singing a hymn. It wasn't much until Garrison Kiellor came in with a bass line. He was just sketching it in. I was seeing dark smudges in a stepped row. It took me to such a sharp memory of a Sunday afternoon at home, summer, green on the hill. Everyone there a brightness. A particular age, maybe 12 with Judy 9 and Paul 8. Mary and Ed were young still, 33 and 35. June. The yard was there as it always had been, house and barn and garage and oilhouse and corrals and pumphouse and pigbarn and the old Jansen house, the grey track beaten flat with trampled camomile and foxtail grass. The yard. Just that. No one visible. Looking east.

What was the song - it was one of the Moody hymns. When I survey the wondrous cross.

It was Kiellor's voice, his way of just brushing the underside of the tune with a dark hum, that opened the bright abiding moment of the yard. I guess it was Ed.