volume 16 of in america: 2008-2009 september-february  work & days: a lifetime journal project

















Tom and I mysteriously but not always definitely pulling apart. Obama wins.

Part 1 I'm in Grande Prairie giving a talk. In part 2 am transcribing and formatting Raw forming and the last of Still at home. Part 3 Tom and I watch Obama's victory speech. Begin working on London. Part 4 working with Mike Hoolboom on monograph materials, buy a 30" Mac monitor. Part 5 research art book format, the presidential inauguration, devising Eurydice's voice: Love Woman and the dark descent. Part 6 a winter residency, students succeeding, fac suspicious.

Notes: Alice Notley Coming after: essays on poetry, Calvino, Alastair Macaulay's review of Gabriel Misse, Astral reflections, Shakespeare Henry VI, Bringhurst The elements of typographic style, Andrew Bolton, subcategories of twilight, Times piece on women's sexuality, harmonica lesson, James Hubbell project.

Mentioned: Louie E, Kathrynn Lyle, Patrice Ranger, Keith Jardine, Kirk Tougas, Luke, Dorothy and David Beach, Tom Fendler, Larry Chan, Daphne Marlatt, Roy Kiyooka, Mary Epp, Iris Loots, Rowen , Joann Tomie, Connie Karpan, Eunice Powell, Hazel Erickson Throness, Ruth Throness, Dennis Maxwell, Beth Sheehan, Joan Yates, Olivia Kachman, Luke Gray, Kane Epp, Adam Epp, Elizabeth Grey, Maya and Anya Grey, Gary Rossler, Bernice Alstad Penson, Charlie Penson, Gail Angen, Teresa von Tiesenhausen, Cameron Ross, David Leonard, Evangeline McNaughton, Carmen Haukstad, Ray Olson, Peter Dyck, Tone Tofteland, Helmer Dolemo, John Tofteland, John and Olivia Tofteland, Olivia Stickney, Joseph Tennie Olson, Myrtle Torgerson Ross, Olivia Howell Bayard, Don Carmichael, Martin Ware, Mafalda Reis, Lou Leatherwood, Martin Rumsby.

The Wilder Snail at Keefer and Hawks, Strathcona Park, Commercial St, Caffé Amici, River Drive, the Cove at La Jolla, Caffé Calabria, Moving Images, McLeod's Books, Yaletown, False Creek, Blue Parrot on Granville Island, the Loong Foong, Husky in Grande Prairie, Holiday Inn Grande Prairie, 100th Ave, La Glace, the Edson Trail, Dunvegan, Rycroft, Teepee Creek, Peoria, Spirit River, Wanham, Valhalla Cemetery, Westfield Mall, Japatul Road, the Pine Creek trail, Valentine's Restaurant, Roma Cafe at UCSD, the Embarcadero, Hotel Del, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, National City, Ocean Beach Pier, Union Station, Victory Street in Glendale, Tijuana, Robert's Automotive.

CBC, Jennifer Annison, The falling man, Virginia Woolf diary vol 3, Grande Prairie Herald, Manon Lascault on Saturday afternoon at the opera, Strathcona Community Garden, Cottonwood Garden, Spore, Amy Winehausen, the Obamas, Gwen Ifell, Patricia Williams on Bill Moyers, Alison Bechtel, Boston Legal, Grey's anatomy, Eleni Sikelianos California: a poem, Nathan Pacheco, Mary Tiles, Michael Wood The story of India, Obama's people in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, The celestial jukebox, Wonder book of the air, Little Whitt and Big Bo Moody Swamp Blues, Drachensberg elands, Brothers and sisters, Igor Kiritchenko of Quator Elysée, Herzog's Antarctic movie.

Vancouver, Caffé Amici 13th September 2008

These days so melancholy and reluctant.Dragging through student letters. What's wrong with me. My heart is sore. Dimly. Last night Dorothy at 95 foundering, repeating. There was a moment coming through the dining room in the dark - had been taking dishes to the kitchen from the front porch - David had left the lights off - when I saw the beveled leaded glass in the two high west windows in the living room refracting faint post-sunset yellow - two narrow rectangles of prismatic bits intense in the black wall, grapevines and yellow sky. What about them - the old house on River Drive - that best of addresses - Dorothy looking out at the long light touching the red apples at the top of the tree, - --- --- --- she said several times. The light in the big river tree was translucent, gold from sideways in amidst its many limbs, skinned over every leaf. Felt it was somewhere I couldn't go but I knew it was there.


The falling man again on CBC. What it is about Americans. "There were things you weren't supposed to see, there were things you weren't supposed to say." Americans identifying with an image of victory not an image of finality. That's so foreign to me. Horror and gasping are foreign to me. Life ends. "It was either burn alive or go quickly." This man is good. It's about sane evaluation. Suffering doesn't seem to be such a consideration, brief suffering at least. What I dread is death of intelligence. And I dread it every day I think. I notice it. Until I don't. "Took his life in his hands for just that second," she says, another sane person.

15 Caffé Calabria.

Defined challenge is the question - what's hard enough and yet winnable given ten years - not just mopping up what I've already done - what's harder than neuroscience and philosophy of mind - or as hard - something that doesn't have to be dumb to succeed - the culture of that chromium music - in whatever medium - it isn't place as known though it's from place, from its principles - it's not female shining - it's subtle and sinuous as air - it's her in maturity - it's a craft to make - it's already there rotating - I could lift it, fade it almost to invisible, so only edges of its motion are still there - the peaked cullet's internal green - the word glass.

It needs a network of the best and only the best - it's not Aphrodite now though there's a female pagan membership - Greek language spoken by - lines of many languages - it's molecular and goes to edges which are made of light - it is formed in perception conscious self can't realize - sublimely stoned Titania world - it's not about - though the about will go on saying something somewhere - it isn't from but in - it's a use of a body - I know what isn't it - always - it's a wished death I think, of something solid - is it. As close to death as their art will allow. Edges, edges. It's maybe another relation to the real - it's gnostic in a way, it feels the fallenness of human custom. These many walking past, who are so visibly nothing. Is it tragic, this realm - yes it's mortal, which is tragic enough - what is the name for fairyland in that language.

Thank you Calabria once more, god-realm someway.

18 Granville Market

Late afternoon. Everyone dying.


[Louie and I arrange a meeting of her and my mother.] Iris and Mary . Two old creatures. The same height, spines crooked forward, meeting each other at the threshold like dwarves in a tale, we wondering whether they're too old to be interested in new people. Mary next to me was trying to eat with shaking hands. Her forearms were so messed up, loose and purple, as if her cells were unknitted and any which way. We sat hearing the story of her mother in Russia. She couldn't be stopped. Iris was in better clothes, not eccentric in her speech, more civilized. Mary when she got started was a jet of distress.

I can hardly think of her. I feel such angry pity. She's starved and stunned and if I gave in to pity I would only go down with her. She needs a mother. She's going down fast and she needs someone holding her, stroking her head, talking to her about happy times, remembering with her. She said at the lunch table "My husband couldn't seem to love his children. When he was going to come in I'd say to Ellie 'Here's Daddy!' He'd come in and he wouldn't even look at her. He was just wrapped up in his own concerns." Iris said "When my husband was carrying one of the children to the car he'd be talking and laughing to them. I always knew he loved them as much as I did."

They liked it when Louie and I were talking about our happiest times. They were listening.

25 Grande Prairie Alberta

I was lying down after writing about the talk, feeling my forehead cramped. What began to uncramp it was when I felt what I hadn't known I was feeling in relation to the monster-bodies of my old classmates, distress of pity. I think of it as harsh judgment and is it really that? My look, which I'm trying not to show, is What has happened to you?


Then two lectures and driving with David through dark late afternoon past the western edge of Lake Saskatoon and up Saskatoon Mountain. Tromping along a trail on the western edge of the mountain, looking over the expanse of prairie, to the site where a 9,000 year old campfire was found. Gravel roads with wet rocks hitting the bottom of the car. A bit of spruce I broke off, the scent. Wet poplar smell. Mud. Shelterbelts - I was looking at shelterbelts, those around present homesteads and remnants in fields. Colors of bushes and trees - rusty this year. Meantime David was pronouncing on his topics. Here a log cabin listed for preservation, there a school now used for ---. I didn't mind learning these things but his ponderous officious tone was wearing me out, that and the repeated squeal of the wipers on a too-dry windscreen and the way a hot blast of air would alternate with cold when he'd open the window to clear mist off the windscreen. I was sniffling and my pant legs were wet and I suddenly needed to just stop.

Two good lectures yesterday, the one on Weds was with an instructor who was a hideous lump, and all but two of her students stunned lumps too. Yesterday's instructor was lively and pretty and I talked without a plan and the room was alive and there were little zaps with individual students. I was setting out the schema of Being about which is my own and female in the way it's simply teachable and I with it friendly offering workable wide orientation.

The dumb look of most of the college students and how tellingly bad the cafeteria food is, as if it's thought they're not worth feeding.

It's 8 on a wet misty day. Traffic heavy on 100th Ave through white air.

David's strange destiny. Being a hard-jawed young athlete and now having transformed into someone in whom I can't see anyone I used to know. He said when he was a child the book he liked was The hunchback of Notre Dame, the isolation of the monster and his relation with the gypsy girl. She didn't love him romantically but she had a relation with him. When I asked if he ever misses baseball, meaning being an athletic body, he said no but sometimes when he can't sleep he lies remembering baseball stats and assembling the teams there should have been.


Friday night - Obama/McCain debate on economics. McCain the soft-voiced good daddy saying he knows how to do things - Obama unsoft, tight, crisp, quick. McCain is leaning on sentiment, Obama is rational and McCain's irrationality is starting to raise his blood. Obama saying "John you like to talk as if the war started in 2007." Then McCain goes straight back to talking about the surge and the troops coming home as winners. Obama's pretty smile. McCain's puppy dog eyes. Obama's voice with forced macho. McCain's voice has false kindliness.

We drove and drove today. It didn't rain.

Phoned Tom this morning - he was


- my dear best friend. Loose and keen. Talking to him I got to what it was about the lecture. He loved hearing about the elderly couples from La Glace, said they were having something articulated for them. I said likely they didn't understand and it was more as if they were feeling the communal plant had fruited.

In bed last night I was feeling things that were wrong with the lecture and also that when I said it was like the reports I used to give to Home and School groups it was good. The community invested in me and though I haven't consciously felt indebted I'm happy to have reported and happy they came to hear the report.

It's raining hard.

Yesterday we first drove to La Glace. Nijland's land. There was a gas well track back in behind a bluff. A grassed knoll. David was poking around at its foot looking for foundations showing the original site of La Glace. I went uphill among cow plops sprouting little mushrooms. I could hear geese on the lake at a distance. Behind me was a poplar stand that was quite open, an old stand with tops broken off, leaves rattling. Except for the gas well apparatus, more of it to the right, it was a perfect spot. I was listening to silence - there wasn't any high thin squealing in my ears - wide, absorbent silence. David was standing at the foot of the long slope. I saw an animal bounding toward him. It was a deer, that then turned and sprang through the gate into the next field on its electric little hooves.

I could see David was waiting to show me something. As I was pushing down toward him we heard geese coming from the northeast, long trailing strings of them, the strings breaking up and forming into new strings, more and more of them, loud overhead, flying toward the lake.

What else I liked yesterday. We drove past the East Place and south along the ridge road where there is that beautiful big barn, to the Edson Trail and along. Then north, and east on the Teepee Creek Road, north toward Peoria, south to Spirit River, Wanham, Dunvegan, west to Rycroft, south to look at a Catholic cemetery where I saw black granite tombstones etched with images. A double set, his with a picture of a kindly farmer holding a lamb and hers on the left with a middle-aged woman in chore clothes holding a foal. Another with a naïve drawing of a log cabin, stylized spruces and rising sun. A double plot in a white picket fence, the plot completely filled with a big lilac bush. I love the country cemeteries here, the way they only have land around them.

At Dunvegan I liked the long south-facing bench above the river, the slope's dramatic sage-grey bulges and gold-leafed folds, the mission buildings on foundations made of layered flat river stone, the Hudson's Bay factor's house white-washed and well-built, the thought of market gardens flourishing on that bench in the sun. Spruce trees beside the priest's house, Manitoba maples beside the factor's.


On the hill above our old place - a dead light, there's color in the trees but a lot of dull green stubble fields, vast grey sky - what is the depression - the brunch was depressing, Bernice and Gail. Stopped at Valhalla Cemetery to pat Helmer's grave. It was cold, a raw wind, there was Tone Tofteland 1985 and John Tofteland later in the nineties. On the far side John and Olivia Tofteland, she 1863-1942. Families laid out in their generations. I felt my not-belonging. It feels pointless to be here.

- There's a big flock of geese trailing south.

What is it about Gail and Bernice - what it always was, complacence. Compare Elizabeth's generosity, the aliveness around her.

Driving from GP to Beaverlodge seeing the Rockies in a row across the west.

What a depressing light.

The deaths, the time-displacement.

I have done so much false talking this week - have gone along with so much saying what I had no interest in saying, asking what I did not care to know.


Summary. The talk should have been better. It was a difficult audience because of the spread. The main thing it said is that from loyalty to place, their place, one can, I did, work outward/inward to comprehension of much. That was alright. Telling them about other artists was over their heads mostly but it was good to have it there for the few. I want them awe-struck but at the same time I root for their self-confidence, as I used to. I don't want my capacity to harm them. At the same time I want to be able to be more with them. My solution has been to say, not that they are ungenerous, but that they are incapable. Which one is true? Both. They are incapable because they are ungenerous.

Thursday driving east toward Sexsmith we saw a large animal crossing the road up ahead on the crest of the hill. It was a young moose.

Looks like it's finally clearing.

Everywhere yellow and dark green along the creeks. The darkness of spruce with the same gold of trembling aspen, willow and balsam poplar. At our creek, where I peed on the bridge, I saw how many kinds of willow there were, I mean the way they've hybridized so there are finer and coarser cuts of leaves.

San Diego 30th

Last night in 3F black sky with cold white stars. Down below, the silver and gold of blue-white and orange street lights in their overlaid or patched together patterns that make Celtic broaches, mythical beasts.

I noticed in the car that I was looking at Tom imagining Bernice and Gail seeing him. He was wearing my black cashmere sweater, jeans and his white shoes. He was tanned and trim from swimming every morning and his brushcut was bleached silver. The point was, though, !!! a pathetic remnant.

1st Oct

"It was I guess important to me, like reporting finally to the people who had sent me out into the world to make something of them." Standing in front of them as a woman making large gestures in a white shirt - Susan liked that and said I should write it. Speaking, I was aware that I was demonstrating something with my arms.

Susan had been thinking of me for a month, she said, since I was reading Notley. Susan and Margot walking in NYC, museum memberships, wine tastings, a city architecture guide, a spice shop with 15 kinds of peppercorns. - I'm hungry for New York. I don't think I could make it there, I'm too drab and crooked, but I would like to, and I like to hear from people who can be where there are smart people working hard.


When Dave and I were having breakfast together the morning I left, a farmer-looking man sat down with us, our age, tall, fit, farmer's cap, pleasant look. His name was Melvin Wold, "not one of the La Glace Wolds." He runs a big successful body shop in GP. He and Dave sat talking about Sexsmith when they were boys. Melvie. They were recalling the buildings along Main Street. I remembered the wooden sidewalks and he said he remembered being there when they tore them up, to collect the change that had fallen between the cracks. He told a story about sneaking into Knobby Clark's shack to look for his pearl-handled revolvers. They found them under the bed in a gun case and were looking at them when Knobby came in. Knobby said, "You see them leather hinges on the door? Them's the ears of the last fellers I caught looking at them guns. - Sit down, boys, and have a pop." He had a lot of stories and told them with smiling eyes I liked.


Monday morning, 6 o'clock, Tom's house. The Eastern rim is brightening slightly. I'm on the couch in the kitchen, peering through the second-to-the-bottom pane of the French doors at the greenish glow behind the leaves. Tom is across the room a long shape in the dark with is that a bare foot down the bottom end of his bed. I woke and couldn't sleep, came and did the dishes and organized Tom's shelves. He came in for a moment, I heard him laughing behind me and I laughed too - a sound I loved, two people one of them me laughing quietly in the dim light of the counter lamp, with the sleeping room still dark beyond us.

There were some moments in the week in Alberta that were the kind I've noticed are too sharp to remember when I'm writing with second-level attention, which it mostly has been. Shame at my foolishness with Eunice Powell, that showed my lack of presence. There she was in front of me, I wasn't ready. She had been so important to me, and I didn't have time to think. I blurted "You were the most beautiful teacher I ever had." As I was saying it I knew it was wrong, that wasn't what I meant, and it was stupid. What I meant was that she was beautiful and she liked me, she wrote that letter to my mother saying she hoped her child would be as sweet as I was. In our community no one would praise a child. I was starved for it, and I was starved for the quality of her beauty, which was exquisite and fluid. Singing at the piano, slender, light.


Slogging at transcribing - it's pointless, no one should read this - this morning the few journal passages that are sometimes pretentious or sentimental but steadier than the letters, not impersonating a vivacious girl and not spelling everything out.

Noticing as I write the way clichés - I was thinking to write "come forward." I'm also more reluctant to write because of my disgust in the transcribing. "More reluctant to" - professor diction.

Olivia's a known British poet - "widely anthologized." I read a poem that was online and couldn't like it. What about it - I said "old armchairs" and it's still that. It felt as if it was written from a padded life. It was a poem about looking at a prostitute in a window in Amsterdam. If I imagine O as the fat woman she became standing on the street looking at young sexual pride flaunting itself, for money and also for something else, it seems not true enough. I can remember her at the party walking away with Carmichael, he looking for her shoes. I was in despair that I didn't have her sexual pull. That's what it was about the night I lay on the floor crashing, I saw in the record today, it was that Olivia had come to an International House party and been more of a star than I was, because she could dance and had breasts. So the poem has that in it, standing outside and seeing the sexual goddess lit up and feeling one isn't that. To be true the poem would have had to tell the whole of the ache of that glamour - its complications - she defended herself in it by imagining the woman worn out and still for sale, and she ended the poem in a false confession that she might see something of herself in the prostitute. That's moralistic and it's not the point, the point is conflict of desire for, and sexual competition with, other women, and how devastating it is, the way we long for the goddess sexually, and long to be her, and hate her for being it when we are not. I didn't feel any sex in her poem, I didn't feel any body in it, whereas thinking of looking at a young prostitute in a lit window my pussy is aching.

And Olivia and I - she was a body to me, I didn't know I desired her, and I did. I'm angry with her for letting herself be hideous now. Do I mind that she's successful? I don't think so. It wasn't a work woman competition, she was love woman raw and I couldn't be - I needed to stay out of that trouble - not get pregnant, not get married, not crack up, not get betrayed, defer it 'til I was further along.

I like her in this journal, I like the love story although not much of it is told, I like the way I see her, a brimming laughing look, crinkled eyes. Starry. She was personal, she reached me. Thank you.

It wasn't just her sexual pull, it was sex itself. She was letting herself.


Tuesday morning at Starbucks, shade of an umbrella, science Times schliern photography. Election in a week. Obama looking nearly certain, o if it could be so, autumn sun sweetly mild, sidewalk jacarandas in full leaf.

Transcribing 1964-65. Living like a teenager, bursting out of a narrow inexperienced family, edging into sometimes drinking a glass of wine. Charles touched my clit and I came instantly, first time I knew I had one. Madcap pose without letup. Detail of events I don't remember, that aren't worth remembering.

Question - is there a question - what was forming those two first years - it was the 60s starting to accelerate. In first year I wore a girdle and stockings and stack heels, in second year I wore cut-offs and a Queen's sweatshirt and sneakers. We were reading The Alexandria quartet, listening to Sketches of Spain.

I still had the small community's interest in anyone I met, took smart girl's charm for granted anywhere I meant. Energy. Huge social energy still. It now looks like a massive waste, all those personalities I had no reason to notice, but they were what I had in front of me and I was sucking them in. Didn't write anyone off. Had affection for the oddest. - Wasn't so much smart as very energized - people imprinted themselves in me and I wrote them down to get rid of the charge. Did any of the writing tell me anything I didn't already know? Don't think so. Was writing too fast.

Insufficient isolated parents taught to be afraid of the wider world. A culture without sensitivity to persons, only the crudest awareness of personal being in themselves or anyone. Personal feeling walled off into religious fantasy and there diverted into blind symbol. Writing them kept that blindness going in me. Olivia taught me a freer manner but she was throwing herself around blindly using personal address to collect people. What's lacking in the whole time is silence, self-attentiveness.


I've chopped through the first four vols of Forming, the last one the summer in BC with Frank, Judy and Paul. Starting the Europe year. What have I liked - passages where I quote Opa and Oma, hear their voices. Oma's play. Conversation with Rasheed, where I have them verbatim. There isn't much of that. In Strasbourg, where I quote the French or German. The firm ear I had. My love for particular speech. Why is the visual description not interesting. When I'm philosophical it sounds grandiose, it's not my own language yet. - Is that the whole of it? No. Was I having heavy existential feelings instead of down-home real feelings maybe? Something.

At the SUPA conference in March Olivia helped herself to Tugwell, who I'd been having a shy little courtship with for months. I didn't fight with her, what had happened hit me in silence. What I remember feeling is dim quiet protest, women need to be loyal to each other. O had betrayed me. I hardly felt it but I fled. She'd undermined me as a woman in our community and I fled backwards to where I'd been someone's most desired. Meantime there was Rasheed and though I didn't know it, my sister was tunneling me in the same way with him. It was a lot of damage where I was fragile. Went away alone like being sent to the hospital again, dug back into the lonely pilgrim. Have never seen it was a repetition. So there I was in Europe making connections with strangers, being fed and transported by strangers, loved by strangers. Writing their stories.

Came back and lived with O again and never mentioned what she'd done, or what I'd done, or what Don did before he married her. Our relation had an unconscious I didn't know to speak. The relation with women did. A murderous countercurrent with the most intimate. It's a light on why the women's movement was such a relief, we could make men a common enemy and for a while not live on a floor with a gaping hole into foundational undoing. And what does it cost me now to have no woman I trust? Is that the withdrawal this is?

November 4 2008

We were on MSNBC at first, when Tom had picked me up after work. Olberman, Maddow, Mathews, effervescent as states were being called, the states we'd worried about. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and then it looked like even Florida. At eight o'clock exactly polls closed on the west coast and Olderman didn't have to hold himself back. California, Oregon and Washington lit up blue and Obama was declared elected. There Tom switched to CNN, which was holding on the crowd in Chicago, a huge space full of people. When Obama was speaking, whenever there was a pause, the producer would cut to faces in the audience - Jesse Jackson standing anonymous pressed shoulder to shoulder with many, tears flowing unwiped. Oprah behind her boyfriend crying too. A young black woman fallen to her knees. Radiant people. I was not quite crying but very cracked, with a pressure of weeping that wouldn't break. Seeing the crowd's faces was seeing my own.

The first family - for me it's not so much that they are black as that they're smart and real, they are beautiful. This time beauty won, intelligence won. A wife who looks her husband sweetly in the eye and kisses him like a friend. Each of them holding the hand of a daughter. Barack's smile, his grace, poised precision of speech.

[newspaper clippings, LA Times photo of the four of them on the platform, red and black]


Europe was about cutting loose from family, country, money, habit, morality, language, school - I'd been in school 14 years. Came home and couldn't tell what I had in me, a dumb mass of intensity - I had taken in so much, had been so many people and places. The year was a test of capacity I didn't think of as a test - I got back and I was larger than Queen's, I was larger than the middle class, I'd gone to my existing edges. Later I was promiscuous because sex wasn't much of a deal for me - I was out of the family economy - didn't know yet that that would open out - to independence for - I'm sidestepping the word - art.


Listening to Gwen Ifell interviewing reporters on Obama's transition strategy and realizing I'm going to be interested in watching a very smart man thinking how to do what he has to do. A massively minute job. "Who is the best prepared to do the best job for the country." Meritocracy. The end of disgust seeing inferior people given critical responsibility. A constitutional scholar. "An idea of what America can be." He's going to be managing a world system - "hard core realism" and more empathy, both. I want to see how smart someone can be.


It was Michelle, Axelrod remembers, who stopped the show. "You need to ask yourself, Why do you want to do this?" she said directly. "What are you hoping to uniquely accomplish, Barack?"

Obama sat quietly for a moment and everyone waited. "This I know: when I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently," he said. "And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently."

7 November

What have I been thinking as I transcribe. The writing's rarely anything but serviceable. Affection and pain. Felt self-division always in relation to men. Eloquent self defense with my mother, who doesn't want me to be what I am. I so dislike her in retrospect for undermining the brave young creature who was being so generous and fond with her. That happens from first year at Queen's onward, she doesn't think about what I am having to deal with or what I am needing to make of myself - she's stupid and fixed about me, greedy: she wants me to be what works for her. That's hideous in a mother.


UCSD midafternoon on a Friday, in the Roma years later. An almond croissant, so good.

The bookstore. I came for my monitor and haven't got it.

Frothy. I'm euphoric to be on campus. Smart faces, oh. That one across the room. A young East Indian with long bird eyes and a wide white mouth - a wide short face, very bright - goodness, so beautiful. Animated talking to a girl, he's an Ariel, so fine featured and alive I'd want a race of him. Behind me a young man in a striped ski cap and worn brown docs explaining physics problems to someone he's studying with.- There a female blackbird, I think it is, flits through the room past Ariel and he laughs.


Tuesday before Luke's birthday. I've bought the monitor


I wrote a para after that, which I've erased. I can't write in the evenings, it was like writing blind, randomly putting something down. My evening brain can't do much. It can transcribe. Then in the morning I can hear thoughts again.


What did I see this morning, that maybe I could publish Being about somehow together with the journal during its making, that it could make something different from both, make both more credible - that it could be a richer form.

Then looking in 2000 I saw I'd written this: "the real last chapter is journal."

Write a parallel book. The childhood of the philosopher. It's a journal. It has future in it. It's a novel. It's a woman coming through. What will philosophy be like when women do it with all their might. Is this it? Is a lot of it written already? This book is its reference volume. June 14 2000

Had the mind-blown sensation that what I'm living isn't possible in the world I assume, that it has to indicate something esoteric: the sort of story there is in Legend of Biel for instance, a solipsism - this couldn't be so in a world with real other people in it. I can't be that.


It's Monday. Raining. It will be raining all week. Look, steady rain past the drifting palm blades. A bird is the small knob atop the tight-folded single spike standing straight up at its centre. The spray-sound lines of tires on 4th. What else - a slight pebbly sound like water boiling in a small pot at some distance, what is that, wind on some edge? The joy of time - it's open for 7 full weeks. Going nowhere, working, working.

1st January 2009

Last night I brought home a pair of beeswax tapers, a half bottle of fumé blanc, some black bean soup, a $5 little basket of raspberries, a sliced loaf of walnut and raisin bread and some Humboldt fog. I set out the food on one of my blue plates - my California home blue plates - lit the candles, arranged some flowers picked downstairs, white pink and red vine geraniums. Had a shower and put on the long black dress. Kiri Four last songs. When I'd been crossing the parking lot with my bags, I saw the homeless man going through restaurant trash looking for food. Thought about whether to give him the rest of the bread so I wouldn't eat it. Thought I should give him half of everything to make it a real party. Hot soup in a jar. He looked in my eyes beaming when I brought it to where he was sitting cross-legged under the steps.

This and that on the computer. Looked up and it was 11:59. Fireworks thumping from the harbour. I was on the roof wrapped in a blanket holding my glass of wine. Dense orange mist with palm tree shapes cut into it. A yardlight cutting a straight line down across a wall.

Then yesterday stringing the hard drive, monitor, MacBook Pro, all their cords, and pressing the power button. Brinngg. Monitor came on, hard drive's there when I turn it on. Click on the hawk photo and there it is brilliant and wonderful. Full size is only 25% - I can increase - increase - increase to 100 or 200 and see what I wanted, mythic grain.

Then Tom all in black with his fine-striped scarf and silver brushcut looking very glam, and the long strip of simple beach. High tide, packed sand, stone berm on the inland side, green waves lifting in the west, high plateau of TJ indistinct straight ahead, a few strolling groups at long intervals, perfect New Year's afternoon. Peacoat pockets, walking, walking, tireless miles.


Caryn saying she wants F and me to talk about the difference between consciousness studies and embodiment studies. I immediately jump into it, I'll see what he's up to and demolish him.

So what's my relation to CS as F does it - students who come from him are ungroundedly theoretical and often grandiose - not well dug into what they're doing. I suspect he's patriarchal in deep hidden impulse, he likes being a priest with ancient lineages behind him. I don't believe he is any kind of original thinker. I know he's a drinker and that suggests persistent dissociation. He comes from money. Is a womanizer.

Embodiment studies the way I understand it also is deeply temperamental - it comes out of the way I see and know, the way when I evaluate for instance Francis, I look at his body, how he stands, the fact that he drinks every night. I don't separate those facts from my evaluation of his program. What I offer my women students is a way of standing in their actual circumstance when they plan their work, not disregarding themselves.

I'm not interested in consciousness as such. I'm interested in a lot of things people consider part of consciousness - particulars of perceiving, feeling, particulars of imagining and thinking. Have gone to art to learn the resources of these things - arts of sentient being. But I'm also interested in indications of nonconscious response and knowing, I love science as a story that keeps opening into more comprehension and observation. Evolutionary theory is a very precious accomplishment and it is under attack.

There are visions of body that originate in body/soul/mind dualism that imagine it in a limited way, and anyone holding these visions feels a hypothesis that physical reality is it, as a fall - a closing-down of hope and happiness of being. We can say instead that whatever people, animals, plants can do, it's being done by physical systems, and that upgrades our vision of physical systems.

I start with body because it lets me imagine a human situation where we belong in the world. Where we're embedded, implanted.

In that paradigm, embodiment studies is the umbrella - consciousness studies would be how do bodies do whatever they do consciously. Environmental studies would be how do bodies, human and other-than-human, coexist in environments. TLA would be how do bodies use language to alter their structure, how do communities of bodies use language to alter their structure.

In Francis's idealist version embodiment studies would be part of CS, ie the study of biological bodies, and a person's self-experience of being a body would be a sub-type of consciousness - like European phenomenology, bracketing of Husserl, Heidegger. So would others and the world - it's a solipsistic stance.

Embodiment studies is a new paradigm and students aren't mostly able to shift very far. I start them with books that reframe their emotional situation as female bodies - Carol Gilligan, Susan Griffin - they are both critiques of patriarchy in terms of dissociation - Adrienne Rich on lying - Philosophy in the flesh - Damasio - Edelman and Freeman on consciousness - Being about if they're up for a whole epistemology.

I don't debunk their experience - I talk about careful attention to the difference between description and explanation - show that they don't need the explanations, and that they can ground further in what they actually know. They can love and be interested in their own being as much or more in this vision.

Mind is something a body can do.
Soul is something a body can do.
Consciousness is something a body can do.

I'm not interested in proofs or arguments, I'm interested in demonstrating what we can do under this hypothesis. I'm interested in showing the subtle effects of implicit dualisms, for instance in our language. It's a basic hands-on form of philosophical investigation: what will be different if we say it this way instead of that way?

About contemplative traditions - I would say here's a place where it's particularly important to discriminate between description/method and explanation.

The culture has been shifting - 60s shift - Barack and Michelle - here embodied would mean less dissociated.

I also like this vision because it has existential courage - it doesn't dodge tragic facts like deformity, disease, death, infirmity. We die, we die before we die.


L'heure bleue

There are three established and widely accepted subcategories of twilight: civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight.


At OB this morning looking down from the pier into sea water - pale green with a depth of flickering glitter - pale clouds of silt hanging and swaying, generating the turning bits - long shadow streaks thrown parallel from small bumps on the surface - seaweed shreds hanging in shifting images, dark orange little shreds and curls - that dark orange suspended in silvered pale green side-lit and swaying, an exquisite movie. A wave shoves over it, a mess of white, which slowly dies into a separating skin, which thins away to none.

Saturday 17th

I burst out when we were coming from OB on Thursday. He was starting to assume he has the jeep. I was keeping the tank full and he was using it for work and I was looking ahead to maintenance costs I was going to have to pay. I was beginning to see that I was enabling, he hasn't getting on with his next thing. So today we said this is bad for us, he has to work from his own means now. I'll have to watch him scramble without helping and we won't be able to travel together, or do much at all.


But then it was alright. I stopped at his house with a ten-pound bag of oranges and a decaff latte and the NYT to sit in his kitchen with the doors open, and there he was, not the tight ugly fool but the west wind face in its pagan otherworldliness.

That so does not tell it. We looked through the Times magazine which was called Obama's people and had a long series of full page portraits of his cabinet and staff. The Hawaiian writer in her final two paragraphs described a photo of him body surfing with easy grace, an island boy. I read it to Tom and cracked before I got to the end and he had wet eyes too. Why. The coming true. Our post modern boy represents an undivided intelligent body whose wife is 5'11", who loves his daughters personally and doesn't leave the kids to her. Who can describe her as both utterly familiar and utterly mysterious. Who is a pleasure to look at, never not. Who is earned trust in all directions. Who is demonstrating what it is to be at full stretch as a life. But who also plays to the stupid or maybe is stupid in important ways - wanting his kids to believe in Santa, professing Christianity. I'm not sure about the Lincoln train and the size of the inauguration splash - is that messianic? Or a right celebration on behalf of the oppressed who can claim him.

It's 6:22 on a Monday morning when I am going to catch the 8:10 train to LA with Trapline and Bright and dark and a 500GB hard drive.


Victory Street in Glendale. I was on a wide concrete bus bench waiting for the 96. There was a late sun, 4:30 sun gentle on downscale wide street, cookie factory a block up, little strip mall behind me, Vietnamese food, a liquor store. Maladroit Canary Island pines beside me. Across the street a man lifting oxygen tanks onto his pickup bed. Rising above him, further on in the direction I'd come from, a long ridge of unbuilt mountain, warmly lit chaparral. In the blue over the pines, a contrail drifting and fattening. Cars stopped at the light. Mayo and salsa tubes left behind on the bench. What did I like about it. The telecine session was hard. I had to direct a young man who was setting colors and contrast so Trapline was wrecked. I had to say, "Less contrast, even less. Can we get less pink in the white?" He was courteous but he didn't have an eye.

What I meant to say was that it had been hard and it was done, as well as I could do it this time, and I was sitting on warm smooth concrete in a strange town with nothing more to do but wait for the bus under the distant realness of the mountain.

Why was I thinking of Frank. In the ststion there was a man at the next table in khaki work pants and shirt, and I thought Frank had never been in this station and didn't make this sort of journey after he married. - Isn't this is death anniversary, I think, January 19. Frank, I'm three years older than you now. In the bagel shop monitor a small silver haired woman in a very red shirt. The date on Trapline 34 years ago.


Watched the inaug with Tom all day Tuesday and yesterday still wanted to be there seeing grace alert. Views from the platform up the Mall, which was a reddish carpet that would sometimes boil like film grain. The man straight and narrow in his good black overcoat. His cheek muscle jumping when that stupid flab Rick Warrender made a pious speech in the guise of a prayer. His face lit when Aretha in her hat like an African headcloth built in rhinestoned grey felt opened her mouth and began sublimely. She was a grey old bulk and her phrasing was authority - what some singers can do, put more curve into a curve - what the mediocre white poet didn't do, hewing to the humbly safe. It was her job to name the mythic and she didn't dare show herself large enough.

Hideous Bush, lightlessly grey, demolished in office, become shame without knowing he is that, carrying his bluff to the end, grinning genially from the helicopter steps.

Michelle in yellow the tall queen holding the bible in her green gloves, holding his hand when they strolled waving, changing hands when she wanted to wave with her other arm. The thoughtful daughter in dark blue, the bold daughter in orange and pink.

What should the poet have said. She should have named his beauty and that other thing, that he has chosen to be large. People everywhere weeping to see the radiant shadow confident at last, confirmed.


I was at a women's liberation conference in London, about 1972, in the front row of a balcony. Below, between sessions, I saw a young woman kneeling in the aisle talking to her friends. She was a pink, blond girl, a bit slow and heavy, and she had a quality I loved to see, she was feeling intensely and naturally, she was the sort of girl who would blush easily. Her responsiveness to everything would show in her face but she wouldn't speak those feelings or act on them - she was intensely present but as response rather than action.

At the conference there was also another woman I loved to see. She was a dark thin American, an honoured woman's liberation leader, a public warrior, articulate, aggressive and engaged.

I was a young woman looking for what I wanted to be as a style in the world. I wanted to be both power and privacy, and yet I knew I couldn't be them both, they were incompatible. The girl whose whole being was present and feeling would have to override her large consciousness to make a speech and if she tried to write from her global fullness she would begin to narrow herself. Once she had taken the road of action the warrior woman would not be able to go back to blushing realness.

I thought about what to call the two ways. I was very aware that the contrast I was thinking about had for some while been called a contrast between masculinity and femininity. I wasn't going to perpetuate that description; it was obvious that both ways were open to me as a woman, whatever my cultural habit. I eventually settled on calling it a contrast between attention and assertion. Perception and action. It seemed to me there was something blind about action - a sort of diving in with eyes closed, where reserved perception continues to see and feel all the while.

I stayed in the perception side for a lot of years after that. I watched and felt and sometimes made something, films, photos, pieces of writing. There was a lot of suffering and sometimes great beauty. I was driven into defeat in this position, shamed so badly that I turned. I chose power, but I became a power making beauty. I was public, I was a warrior, and I made exquisite beauty and was beautiful. That was a balanced bothness I hadn't known I could be. The beauty wasn't an underworld beauty, it was a blazing garden, I was easily consulting feeling all the time, as I was in the midst of action. Feeling told me what to do and I did it.

Then I took myself to school, where I was powerfully prevented from acting. I couldn't carry the marriage forward. Did I split? No, I knew I was suffering there and I acted secretly. I prepared to act. I prepared on behalf of my girl self. And now I am the warrior fighting for the girl but I no longer am the girl. What I feared has happened. Universities make it happen. There's a strong danger in education, as well as a strong gift. The danger is being trained in dissociation. The gift is being shown how to focus.


"We all know what his choices were in dating. He chose a woman as tall as him, as smart as him, and black from a distance ... there is a fundamental goodwill in him toward African-American women." Bill Moyers interviewing two black women on Obama's options and priorities. "What did you make of the god talk all week?"

Working on Eurydice this week looking at student letters seeing what good work embodiment studies has inspired.


What kind of day is it. There's sun on the palm. Richard's sycamore with rusty leaves that haven't fallen.

I want to remember to say that Tom has two ways of answering the phone. When he says "Hey" he's there and real and we'll have a good time. When he says "Hey, how ya doin'" he's freaked and doesn't know it.


The last chapter of Wonder book of the air. I seem to have ignored it other times. Field's daughter. She's lucid. She has good parents but she gets hooked by desire and it's masochistic in her. Why am I dumbfounded trying to say what this chapter says. It's scorching. "What is it the world in women does require? The lineaments of a steadfast, cheerful liar." And then she says, "Is love any less real because it is imaginary?" Yes it is less real when it is imaginary. "Sometimes it seemed to me that people do not care about each other, per se." Her book has them caring and not caring. It has the wild centre of it, the man who beats his wife and kids, a source of magic value for them all. His language. The way my dad was that. What did I say to Tom, it says it's all there for you if you can balance in it.

But in the last chapter she isn't doing that. She's two generations on from Harrison Durrance and she's living a more abstracted life, no small Georgia town, no war, no Uncle Artie. A job and a house. I'm some distance on from when I first read this book. I read it the first time for the gold state of mad love for Tom, often in tears. I'm reading it this time dry-eyed looking for what she knows about how to live dryness. I've kept faith with the gold hope, and Tom has, yes he has; I've done the moral work, and this dryness is the reward. And there I stop, a bitter sore heart. Which is better than none.


- The window is open, it's just after five, a Santa Ana, pale orange sky in the west, open ocean pale blue between an edge of St Paul's Community Care and a leafy tree on 4th. Plane sinking through that gap. A lot of light in the air above the harbour.

The room, this practical cabin, my minimal house. Expensive perfect silver machines reflected on black glass. Why am I happy. Afternoon tea, for one. A little late afternoon push that makes me feel this self. Artists' welcome for another, that some little thing is happening again.

This is still civil twilight, stars can't be seen, but when I stick my head out the window there's the several days old moon and Venus brilliant together in royal blue.

Is it Obama winning that makes this difference, as if I can be more here?

Bethany McLean - clear poised pretty young woman interviewed on economic policy - she's sweet, a snugglebunny, has the slightest lisp, a girl voice, dimples, and a wide lucid overview as if she were the finance minister, but more flexible and incisive and balanced. I'm writing this down for its glorious normalcy. Love woman assessing the bankers, casually entitled.


Tijuana, MacDonald's across the plaza from the dentist. I'm early. A stream of persons. Persons so different from persons a quarter mile away on the other side. Little indios. Tiny old things. Bent little dark men in cowboy hats. Women in shawls.


Halfway back on the trolley a big black man got on, backpack with a hard hat hung from it. Black do-rag, big white teeth. He sat down one seat back across the aisle with a big bright here I am flounce. I smiled at him. He wasn't sure what I was up to and started talking to a baby. I was watching him in the window reflection. Stops went by. I remembered what I have on my journal. Caught his eye and held up Obama and Malia. He grinned and I did. When he was getting off he said "Can I see that again." I handed it to him. He studied it.


Had to phone Bob at Robert's Automotive about the flutter. He said bring it in, I dressed up to go out - red hoodie and the black leaf necklace, cleavage. When I got there Bob left what he was working on, got into it, drove it around the block, came got me to go around the block again. Said did I mean the chut-chut-chut. Said it was likely something around the U-joint. Put it on the hoist. I was standing around in the sun watching from a respectful distance. An old man with a moustache came and put his arm around me. That was on account of what I was wearing. He was there as a tool salesman, said Roberts was one of the five or six places he'd recommend. "Ten years ago I couldn't give away a pair of gloves." There was Bob under my jeep tightening something with what looked like a surgeon's gloves on. Then Bob lowered the jeep, backed it out, turned it around. "You're all set." He wasn't charging.


Good overnight with Tom. Thursday he held onto me for minutes, quietly, and lay with his head on my shoulder, and that, along with the fact that he'd had a haircut, turned me right around. He watched Drachensberg elands and Brothers and sisters with me and got into my bed and cuddled before we went to sleep. This morning he was holding up his arm looking at the crepy skin inside the elbow, that place where it's worst.

Vermont 11

A man at the aisle end of my row - a pale blond impression - not exactly - something about his eyes, pale blue, round white eyeballs, wispy white hair, pinkness - does he understand English? Is he Russian, I wonder. We had an empty seat between us. Later shouting together over loud engine noise. He wants to talk about the concert he played with his brother - cello - Haydn trios - he's fluttered about his brother - I'm encouraging and patient, I'm so starved for new acquaintance I will cultivate this one. He plays with a string quartet and lives in Paris, travels constantly. Grew up in Odessa, studied in Moscow, won a competition in Paris - is he only going to want me to listen - I say I'm a filmmaker and he lights up extraordinarily. I look at his mouth. He's maybe 50, an oldish 50. His mouth is young. He's not large but he has big hands, strong, unusually fine-skinned pale yellow. He's wearing a wedding ring on his right hand. After a while I'm telling him about living up north on my own, going out to take pictures. He warms up. As the hours go by sweetens. We write our email addresses in each other's notebooks. Igor Kiritchenko, Quator Elysée. Toward the end of the flight looking out the window seeing Orion high and simple in the black.

After Philadelphia swimming up through loose cotton floss and there's the round moon far and small, a vast plain of cloud like prairie moonlight, wide, blue and cold.

12 Vermont

Showdown with Francis this morning. His hackles were up, hadn't thought what to say, accused me of a couple of things that were easy to refute - that mbo hasn't been vetted in the college, that it isn't articulated, that it's ideological. I said it hasn't been vetted because it hasn't bid to be a concentration, that it's very articulated, completely spelled out on the website, and that it isn't more ideological, I'm just more explicit about what its assumptions are.

Later Caryn said I should let other people be more included in defining it, so everybody could own it more. I was aghast but trod water. Said if they wanted to help define it they would have to learn it first. Was there something more intelligent she meant by it? I don't think so - I think she wants me to be more cozy about it - if I'm going to be a founder I should do it more in her manner? She doesn't understand how a philosophical vision is different from an activist vision probably, in the garden I could let people into ownership by finding what they could do without spoiling the whole.


What happens when people I've liked, had intimacy with, like someone I don't like. It's as bad as jealousy though it isn't jealousy exactly. It wipes out the realness of one of the few connections there is; if they like that one, they could not actually have liked me. They must have been faking or I must have been mistaken. The continuous hollowing-out of connection.

I'm writing in the field of explaining. It's not good.


Dulles, 17F. It's just back of the wing. Low sun slanting through, United 919. I'm wearing the bronze satin shirt, jeans, docs, little black cashmere zip cardigan and my metaled aspen poplar leaf necklace - years from now I'll like to know that, though no one else will.


What else do I need to tell before I move to the new book. I feel attacked at [the college] in two ways now. There was what happened with Lucinda. I took my chance when she came to talk about marketing, said marketing should think about how to reach the people who are dissatisfied where they are, and intake councilors should understand it. There was a silent gasp in the room. Lucinda said yes there could be a meeting and I said what about Friday afternoon. It turned out that Lise invited me for the drive because she'd been delegated by the fac to tell me that if mbo is marketed they should have more of a say in it. "And I agree with them." And then Lucinda didn't get back to me and I dropped it. I made the offer because the program needs enrollment but I'm not willing to do anything anywhere to get permission for it. The thought disgusts me.

The second thing is Sowbel suspicious of the beauty/glamour/enchantment of the way I do lectures. What will I make of that.

On the other hand, the students. Kri's graduate presentation, Kri dancing her talk all up and down, straight small body, and then the way she sat in lovely balance on her heels. Annie in the cottage at hers, rooted, achieved, pregnant, reading beautiful passages she could not have written a year ago. Jaes freer, Deidre sober and moving into her own studio room.

What I have, that makes my lectures enchanting, is freedom in personhood, integral platform. It's what they have when they graduate, and what I work to give them. I succeed. Kri cried when she said from the podium that I helped her to the voice she wanted. Jaes cries when she says I've taken oppression from her.