volume 17 of in america: 2009 february-june  work & days: a lifetime journal project  













Tom is out of money and not looking for work.; I lose respect and occasionally but unstably get it back. Part 1 camping in the Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree. Part 3 a long fast that leaves me weak but feeling.

Notes: George Eliot, Emilee Baum, Mountolive on a Naxos CD, Emily Dickinson, Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712), Dwight Garner review of Boudin Gringo, Ray Touching embodiment, dealing with mold, McCall Smith Comforts of a muddy Sunday, Le Guin The dispossessed and Lavinia, Chris Hitchens God is not great: how religion poisons everything, Joseph Conrad The shadow-line.

Mentioned: Tom Fendler, Sheila Spremulli, Louie E, Bill Volk, Raul Palomino, Roy Taramasco Jr, Elias Velonis, Mafalda Reis Moore, Olivia Howell Bayard, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Sean Slovo, Ros de Lanerolle, Roy Chisholm, David Cooper, Ed Epp, Paul Epp, Tia Gonzales, Luke, Margaret Gosley.

Glorietta Canyon, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, Cottonwood Campground at Joshua Tree, Fashion Valley, the Campo road, El Capitan, Highway 94, Mukashi, Balboa Park, Curio Café.

Henderson The inner lover, Nathalie Merchant, Ridpath and Tirion Stars and planets, Mike Davis on Bill Moyers' Journal, Robert Bruce, Charles Tart, Brick Lane on audio book, Bill Volk Applied statistics for engineers, Marjorie Grene, H&R Block, Fernando Flores, Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit, American experience piece on Wounded Knee, Janet Atkinson-Grosjean on her book Public science, private interest on CBC Ideas, Blackberry Pearl, Men of hula on Independent Lens, Vista Unified School District, Netflix, Shakespeare in prison, Graham Thomas rose, Fringe film in Canada, Rahm Emmanuel, Amandla, Lee Bontecou.

 11 March 2009

I arrived at Tom's and found him white faced and wolfish with tension. I had the hatch up and was stowing, arranging. He had brought up a bag of his poor-man food, powdered creamer, white sugar, wieners, tortillas, the half-sack of oranges I gave him. His tin cup. I said I had oranges in the cooler and there were enough cups in the jeep. He went into a rage. Took the oranges back to the fridge sending me a look of violent hate.

Sat 14th

I noticed the air. It was perfect air, a clean fluid, light and very faintly scented.

By yesterday I was saying sorry to Tom for always sniping. He said, It's because you have high standards. I want him to be smarter and more efficient so I can enjoy him more and not be so irritated by his remarks and his ways with objects, for instance always losing his glasses or sunglasses or something else, and there he sits on the desert floor scratching around for a staticky radio station. But there he also is forgiving my crabbiness and staring at a pile of rock. He wants to be in his moment and he often is. The man who came home from camping was brown-faced and had a three-day beard and looked real and I was sweet on him though I didn't stay for the evening. I liked him for liking to sleep on the ground and fold his sleeping bag down and look at the red in the east or the black and white sky.

Master blister beetles. The scent of incienso.The honey pollen scent of the sheets of yellow flowers we passed Thursday aft as we were cruising the streets looking at houses.

Should I think of Tom as a gift I won't have for long and am not trapped with? So I should soak up his lovingness and be intelligent to find ways to enjoy ourselves. He does that.


- Today I have worked until after 11 on formatting the rest of Raw forming 2, and then all of RF3 and 4. Second year at Queen's and then the summer with Rash and Frank. I'm agog at the balance I had, how strong I was. What I mean by strong is the way I always believed myself rather than others, and overrode them humorously and kindly without worry.

I marvel to see Frank and Opa and Oma and Dyck's cabins and 3660 Clearbrook Road still there, still somehow there, given me by myself, a love that held constant, not personal, I mean not for me as I am but for the fate that includes me, whatever it would turn out to be. I'm saying I love her, I find her admirable, honourable in relation to her large task, which is to be present in life.


Posted RF2, RF3 later today. Bored the second time reading them, I guess first time through they have the liveness of what they make me remember. The writing is bad, that is to say the voice is alright only for instance when I describe someone realer than I was, Detweiler or Peter Hagedorn, sometimes Olivia. The journal passages are worse than the letters. Inflated, literary. They open downwards when I sleep with Frank those last couple of weeks. I'm grateful for those.

Oh a bird, a tiny voice at a distance.


Louie and I were talking about the journal project. I said I am sorry it isn't more readable, the way Virginia Woolf is, but that I'm not so much about being a great artist. I was seventeen in that room in Sexsmith and knew I was alive and would die and I wanted to bear witness. I said I was crying as I said that. She said she had cried in the film about Philippe Petit when he described sitting in a dentist's chair when he was a child, seeing the Twin Towers in a magazine, drawing a line between them. Louie's core commitment - I don't know that it's a commitment, it seems more just her nature - has been to see whoever she is with, give them being seen.


Ruining a garden. I got up this morning and went to Tom's. It had been twelve days. I had made a list of things I needed back. A bit scared, not much of a plan. What did he say. He feels scrutinized all the time, he'd been euphoric feeling he'd escaped that. I said I'd been euphoric too, though what I've been is more like hopeful. "I can't not feel what I do but it boxes me in too, the hundreds of small disappointments." He said something like, That's that then - not exactly that, and we both moved to get up. He knew where all my things were, had them ready it seemed.

It's a warm Friday morning. I hadn't seen my plants for twelve days. There was a red California poppy open under the fig tree, that has not only leaves but a small fig. There were yellow freesia next to pink scented geranium and vine geranium flowers. I stood looking at my garden on the steps with my heart hurting, that I would lose it.

Sunday 29th

Yesterday morning I was starting to write Louie an email saying I'd broken up with Tom and the computer froze.

1st April

Losses. First SFU's perfect webmail page, that pleased me many times a day by its simple clean prettiness and function, and now the G3, its humane mien, case shaped to the hand, sweet little pulse, screen somehow warm. The new mail page is industrial, analytic, unsimple, and gmail is as bad and has no folders. The G4 I bought from Raul Palomino the assistant pastor from Chula Vista is a hard little thing, looks bullet proof, like some kind of lidded industrial clipboard. Both are an imposition of disembodied maleness on my days. I'm wondering whether there's been a takeover of more humane early digital design by robot-guys.

It's remarkable the way, when I talk to Tom on the phone, I faint with boredom. I mean something automatic happens to my brain, as if it semi-opaques. I should pay attention to be able to describe this better.


I saw Tom young - embarrassed with a baby and a cheery little wife - he was kissing the baby, who didn't want to be on his shoulders but liked his mother's, and he stroked Rebecca's back the way he sometimes strokes mine. What I was looking at was something about his chest and shoulders. He was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved black sweater and his chest was young. He was lighter all up and down, graceful, but absent, something. A subdued body. Sexy in his way but not by energy, by grace. 38 on the pier in Santa Cruz, a secretly cheating husband.


Brought home from the libe yesterday a new art book, Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712), cityscape paintings in or near Amsterdam, finely detailed and with unusual tones of light - what do I mean - light recognizable not only as specific to time of day but also to season, for instance the painting I have in front of me, an evening light but not warm, as if I can feel evening chill after a rain.


I was looking at this book before I went out to Tom's at suppertime, and it had the effect of making whatever I saw, 4th Avenue with a yellow taxi, the street perspective driving north on 5th, pictorial, like a photograph. It was a strong effect that persisted.


Yesterday Tom and I were in Del Mar, late afternoon, on a rickety bench looking over the tracks to the ocean, which was a wide silver blue band with a sky edge slightly curved at its ends. Seagulls came over. There were a lot of them and they were coasting north above the tracks, white with black tips on their wings, but a lot of juveniles too, finely spotted brown and white. They were in a soft yellow light and their motion was unusually relaxed. They passed, and we gazed around, purple sea lavender everywhere, and then they were back milling above us, sliding across each other's paths in circles in both directions. They were fine-cut against the blue, sharp wing shapes, and they were gliding, and they were stirring a common space of light, and they were above us, so I had my head leaned backwards onto Tom's shoulder, and they were doing something we didn't understand, something that seemed uncharacteristic.


In the Times today a review of a book by a young man who has traveled in South America. He had begun with a quotation from Theroux and the reviewer found him unworthy of it. "Mr Theroux is an acid stylist, not at all the sort of writer Mr Boudin wants to place up against his own bland sentences." Dwight Garner. Encouraged me some.

Wednesday late afternoon a strong north wind. Tom and I went to the sea strip past Imperial Beach and walked south. The ocean was noisy rubble on our right. Just inland Immigration helicopters circled over the marsh, two, three or four at a time. A pelican fleet was riding the updraft over the cobble berm with wingspan at a thirty-degree angle to their direction. They fly with their necks pulled back to make them a smoother but quite heavy-looking shape that seemed to be sitting on a moving belt of air.


Tom woke me, said the sky was starting to heat up. A band of orange along the east.


He got into my bed and fit himself against my back, both with our knees bent. He'd poke his head up and report on the stages of sunrise. Next the sky was gold with a stroke of pink cloud. Then, here it comes, the fire rim. He was watching the sky above us turn from white to blue. He said Here's the dawn breeze, and there it was lightly flowing through the screen as if directly from the sun.

The night before had been sphinx moths in the honeysuckle, dozens of them whirring and zooming. In the dark, scent drifting between our two windows.

24 Cottonwood Campground, Joshua Tree

Yesterday we were on the trail before the sun had cleared the nearest mountains. The palms at Cottonwood were venerable towers, a thick grove, full ancient thatch all the way up, buzzing loudly, a seep of damp at their feet.

On the way back, I was looking at the ground in front of me and suddenly there was something right there next to the path - a tortoise like an old rock, opening its tragic dragon mouth and munching up a tiny lupin. We squatted on the path and stared. When we had shut up for a while it rose on its 4" forelegs and tottered toward us. It was heading for another lupin. We were next to it and could see into its green-stained mouth and hear its assiduous little crunching. That was so intimate, and its fierce little face so austere, we were awe-struck as if trespassing on a mystery.

Two nights of stars. The first was clearer. Tom was in another room in the creosote with his little radio. A fine meteor flashed through. I said into the dark on my right, Did you see that? He didn't hear me but just afterward he said, Did you see that?

May 24th

I phoned myself. 619 335 6164 phoned 619 291 6412. Picked up the land line phone and said hello in both directions at once. Hadn't realized until I wrote it just now that 64-12 is the span of the journal project as of now.


Is Rahm Emmanuel the sexiest man in the world. He has that big-eyed Dr Seuss irascible smart realness I could look at all day.

I took all the bedding onto the roof today and finished drying it so now I'm in a deep, bleached, airdried clean bed. The window frames are clean - the bare wood is clean.


The Laundromat on 1st Ave at night was a living room for three drinking Indians who came after the manager went home to sit in a row watching TV. Next door the Cherry Bomb Bar blasted rock and roll, whack of pool strikes in a black grotto, blowsy girls sitting on the curb smoking. Across the road an Iranian market lit in neon, storm sky behind it, seen through the laundromat's big picture window. Two massive washers $6.75 each in quarters and then many more quarters than I expected into the driers. As I'm writing this I'm thinking I'll tell Tom, he likes cityscapes.


Morning of the third day of the fast.
Yesterday I just lay and read.
I'm slow and dim, waiting to see whether this works.

In the letter I sent Amanda this time were two examples of writing about women choosing love not falling into it. One was Mary Renault's Hippolyta coming out of the forest to Theseus, as I wrote her in the hospital when I was 23. The other was the scene in The dispossessed where Shevek and Takver get together. (I found it by googling moonthorn.) I've just read it through again, bitten hard as the first time, tears. "I want the bond, the real one." "If I take what I don't need, I'll never get to what I do need."

I was crying because what I needed was the wrong thing. I did need what I took, but I needed it because I was wrong. I wanted real marriage with Roy but I was wrong to want it with him. I wanted real marriage with Tom but I was wrong to want it with a man who lies. Maybe I did what I could because I couldn't get the real thing, but I don't think so. I think if I hadn't been bent at the root I could have got the real thing eventually, even lame.

So I have been mistaken in my wanting because I'm bent at the root, and that is a matter for sorrow but not for disapproval. I've been honorable in my mistake with Tom, I couldn't have been less bent in the consequence of my wrongness. But all that honorable effort doesn't make it come out right. It is not the real bond. I never will have the real bond. Now I have what I have, or nothing. What I have goes on being a punishment for the wrongness I didn't choose to be. Is that how life is supposed to be? It says yes. Because the world is truth. I don't want the world to be bent to make me seem unbent. That's the larger way I can be unbent although in love I have been bent from little. I cry when I say that.

What would Joyce say to this. She'd say, That is exactly right.

Then what would she say about how it is with Tom going on. There is a strong self, I feel the force in her spine, who says, If it isn't the real bond, leave him. There is a slumping self who says, I promised him, I'll have to see it through although I starve and fade with him.

Both of them are wrong I think.

What she'd say I think is unconditional love. You cannot make him better than he is but you can love him in his wrongness, knowing it's wrong.

Don't I betray the best if I do that? No it says.


Re: your journal entries

I've finished browsing through your journal and it is something I'm not interested in. Good luck.


What I'm thinking about Olivia's notes is that one should, I should, be careful of revising the past. She wanted to say this and that denying the realness of our friendship at the time, and I have denied realness of it too at other times, but the evidence is that we were what we were and denial comes from a wrong wish to make our past self congruent with this one, or not even that, to make our past self other than it was so it can forestall the betrayals that came after.

I'm thinking now that one should never deny love no matter what betrayals came of it. The fact that the person has changed doesn't matter to the fact of the past. It is as if we are hanging onto a wrong sense of identity and sacrificing vitality to trying to be continuous with ourselves. I don't like what O has become - more than that I'm horrified by it - but nothing about that changes that I then loved what she was then, and I-then in me still does, and should.

Lying in bed last night I wanted to write that death has been hovering. When I was camping with Tom I was considering how it would be to find a little cove of rock when the time comes and stop eating. The aches have been a strong presage of end, and the staggers too. If I live to 82 it would be 18 more years, but at the rate I'm undoing, I wonder.