volume 2 of in america: 2003 march-july  work & days: a lifetime journal project










Still trying to find the next thing to do. Surrounded by war news. Part 2 Tom is running amok. Part 3 making gardens in Mission Hills and Clairemont, break up with Tom, start transcribing journals. Part 4 in Vancouver working with Rowen on math.

Notes: Rohinton Mistry Family matters, Stan Brakhage, Ezra Pound, Eva Cassidy Songbird, Carol Gilligan The birth of pleaure, David Adams Richards The coming of winter, Louise Erdrich The painted drum, Peter Makin Provence and Pound, Ayn Rand Atlas shrugged.

Mentioned: Jam Ismail, Ed Epp, Mary Epp, Tom Fendler, Rowen Epp, David Beach, Michael Deragon, Katie Price, Louise G, Leslie D, Ken Sallit, Louie E, Leah Rosling, Tara Rosling, Jose-Louis *, Leo Anguiano, Blanca Stella Anguiano, Scott Mader, Janet Atkinson-Grosjean, Margo MacLean, Cory and Shannon in Lakeside, Brian Tugwell, Keith Jardine.

2720 Fifth Avenue in Banker's Hill, David's Cafe in Hillcrest, Ocean Beach Pier, Ralph's in PB, the Golden West Hotel, Strathcona Community Garden, 874 East Georgia in Vancouver, the Silver Strand, I5 Washington Exit, Black Canyon Road, Clare de Lune Cafe, Walter Anderson Nursery, Lakeside, the Rosarito-Ensenada 50 mile bike race route, Napier St in Vancouver, 874 East Georgia St, Episcopal Cathedral on 5th Ave, Ocean Beach, Kate Sessions Park in Crown Point, Mt Soledad, the Cove in La Jolla, the Strandway in PB, I8, University Avenue, State 163, 5133 Dawne Street in Clairemont, the Ken Cinema, the People's Food Co-op in Ocean Beach, Fiesta Island, Scripps Hospital Emergency Room, the New Palace Hotel, 4055 Stephens at Fort Stockton, Macy's at Horton Plaza, Twin Oaks Valley Road in San Marcos, Green Thumb on San Marcos Boulevard, Buena Creek Nursery, Deer Springs Road, Canyon Pottery, Barrio Logan, the Embarcadero, Lips Club on Fifth, La Quinta, 53rd Avenue in Chula Vista, Pacific Beach, Gate 21 in San Francisco Airport.

The Ryder tarot deck, Ani di Franco, Barry Lopez, NPR, San Diego Union Tribune, what will we know, Pat Barker, Paul Case, Jackson Browne Running on empty, Nikon Coolpix, La Jolla Garden Tour, Philippe Petit To reach the clouds, Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and tides, Neal Gunn The serpent, Evangeline Walton Island of the mighty, Rush Limbaugh, Converse sneakers, Mistry A fine balance, Fauré Requiem.

 10th March 2003

There is another thing that this house does in the deep of the night. I have heard it before and now I wait for it to happen. The house releases the day's footsteps. All day we press down minutely on the wide old floorboards, moving about on regular errands, from room to room. It takes hours for the boards to readjust, to squeak back up the nails, for the old fibres of the pinewood to recover their give. As they do so, they reproduce the sound of the footsteps. In the night the maze of pathways is audibly retraced.

Louise Erdrich, 2003, "The painted drum," New Yorker

This story struck me so much I thought of tearing it out of the magazine. Copying the paragraph, I'm realizing why.

The sky was a threatful grey, yet the willows blazed in tender bud, and drifts of wild-apple blossoms floated in the cavern pines. I kept the window slightly open as I drove the back roads to the Tatro house, and breathed in the watery air. The Tatros had always been too cheap to keep up their road, and the final quarter mile was partly washed out, the gnarled bedrock exposed. Overgrown swamps and ponds lapped close to either side. As I bounced along, the frogs quieted momentarily, so that I seemed to be continuously pushing against a wall of sound. Once I stopped, the frogs began trilling again.

I turned off the light and got into bed. I leave my windows open just a crack at night, even in winter. The darkness seethed with spring music, and from time to time, deep in the woods, a barred owl screamed like a woman in pain.

I loved the way it goes from the drum to the house. It's evident that the drum is the body and her theft is the assumption of herself. Then the house's release of the day's footsteps is like dreaming. Delayed sounding-out of another version of the drum. But what about the passage about driving through a moment of spring countryside, and then at night hearing the seething of spring music through a crack of open window. It is Louise Erdrich having seen and heard the real world and releasing it later in the form of these paragraphs.


The letter to Michael my most creative. I work with his materials mostly. I pull out what rings true and give it back to him. Then I say five things in my own voice. It's not love if it isn't particular; settling for longing is hopelessness; he has to find out about the unconscious on his own; there is an ethic in getting it whole not forcing fragments; images of women are images of the man's unconscious. The parts of my reply all fit together. I'm modeling coherence.

I used to be like Michael longing to find creation. Now I feel I am creation, though many times I'm vacant and dull. What does it mean, feeling I am creation? I feel a coherent platform, one thing. I'm not on either side of a divide. It's not spectacular but it's ready. Am I imagining that? Yes. But is it wrong? No.

I love in Ezra the faith that honesty is the necessary thing. "More writers fail from lack of character than from lack of intelligence." But, but, lack of character looks like lack of intelligence to me.

The long life's technical study: Yeats, Pound, Stan in his medium. But what has my study been? I haven't had an art, I haven't learned an art. But something - what? Something hermetic. You mean I'm a philosopher. Yes. Specifically a philosopher of mind. Yes. Without a community. Yes. I don't know what I should be doing to set what I've made where it can be found. I have to do that. Will you comment? 'Seeing.' Question is, what are the resources of mind. Yes. Do you want to say more about this? Persist in the child's brilliance and courage and anger. 'Seeing' and childhood of the philosopher? Yes. They're the same work? YES. Do I need to look for the roots of this where I first imagined it? YES. Is this remaking? No. Remembering? Yes. I caught sight of it as I was finishing Being about. It's about the uncon, in a way. Yes. You. Yes.

March 19

I snagged on Pound and the Provencal because there is that something I could begin to know in the time with Jam - it is also the way forward and I don't know anyone going there - the chrome-sounding music - I love this direction - it is very tenuous - close to something that's wrong, an inflated feeling - call it a zone - it was there in Trapline - it was there in the notes in origin piece for those who could see it - it's Greek, it's Celtic - it's a euphoria - it wants word derivations - is it illusory, is the question - it says no - it's a true perception - it's bardic - troubadour was southern France, northern Italy, eastern Spain - a climate that supports walking and sleeping out - and was specifically lyric - finding done with noble women - trouvère is a better word but the northerners sang in another mode.

euphoria - eu-pherein - well-borne

And doesn't it have something to do with Ed - it's a possibility that comes to me through him. Maybe emotionally through his image? An ideality. Something altogether aside from the interaction with him as it went. Is that early love, that fineness? As if it is one of several selves.

It's the landscape of the Ryder cards - the Buddhist is something else but it is related - what I saw after sesshin -

Who tells it - does the state itself speak? It seems to me rather to listen. It's a clarity. It hears voices as sound. Oh it sees.

March 24

Yesterday. We drove and drove and saw some fine things but all day Tom in his various ways, unconscious, rode herd to keep me contained and disabled. I tracked them but could not break out. What I was feeling was, I have to leave this man.

How does he do it. He doesn't reply to what I say, so I am suspended impotent in my interests. He frightens me by taking a corner just barely in control. He explodes into cursing another driver. He drives through exquisite country with loud music on. When we have stopped somewhere wonderful he says we're going, but then when I get into the car he sits fiddling with something, as if to assert that he's in control of our coming and our going. When he's done something disrespectful he immediately demands a kiss, so that I have to either compound his disrespect with submission or else make an issue and bring down anger.

All of these are patriarchal mechanisms he has developed in the imperative of keeping control of women. They also keep control of him and are not in his interest. His bursts of insecurity and remorse come from the fact that he partly knows what he is doing though he isn't conscious of the mechanisms as such. His babyish-seeming demanding of points for every normally decent thing he does is for the same reason.

He does get something from the practice - he gets that I am at bay and neutered, and he is free to make fine sentences.

I also get something from the practice - he does the driving and I am free to look.

His devices work together with my training. They trigger my training.

Some of what I've named is incompetence rather than patriarchal mechanism, but it is tied in. When he has another man on his tail on a mountain road he drives faster than his competence because he doesn't want to be thought unmanly, even by a stranger whose face he'll never see.

Destruction of curiosity is the worst.

With Tom I am like a Baghdad observer. I lived in a ghetto for many years and now I am an embedded reporter in the Evil Empire. I break bread with the enemy and that is how it has to be. Isolation is not needed but steady sorting, moment by moment, is.

2nd April

Woke at 4 anxious and sad.

I hardly want to write in my journal these days. I don't have that central loving wish to tell.

I have tried to write Paradise
Do not move
Let the wind speak that is paradise
Let the Gods forgive what I have made
Let those I love try to forgive what I have made

I'm crying - not crying, feeling the pressure behind the eyes.

It's sorrow for Pound who was beauty and contempt, because he fought hard and was whipped down.

It's agony at having to give the day to Sharon's hopeless incoherence instead of my own best.

I wish before I die I could make strong beauty of my own - live in strong beauty - give strong beauty where it can matter -

Then I burst into real sobs. As I sob I notice a young quite buoyant self - I felt her tone - thinking that the sobbing is good, it will open a way to something. It's the first time I've felt the balanced watcher as a child.

15th April

David Adams Richards, The coming of winter. He wrote it when he was 23. On the front cover a photo of beer bottles in the snow.

These barely sheltered beings. There they are in their haplessness and there he is in his clarity. Nothing in this book bends the light, it comes direct. No one is redeemed. No hope is intended. No one is blamed or praised. There is scrupulous comprehension, none of it given as explanation. The authority is all in perception not abstraction. Compassion is not the word. Grey. A steady grey. A strong air holding all.


I hang onto this book like a mother's hand.


The sky is lightening over the palms north of the cathedral. A bird is twittering, whistling. My own bird in the heater is scratching and twitching. A bus goes by on 5th. Across the room in the cupboard shelves the steady burn of color - that is not the way to say it - of live flowers, pink ivy geraniums, dark orange nasturtiums, California poppies, a red salvia, purple verbena. On the table yellow ranunculus and oranges in the Moroccan tray. These living things seem to give off more than color, and they seem to give it off with a very strong constant push. The room without them would be quite blank.


We zipped to Ocean Beach in his nifty car with its high, tight butt and walked to the end of the pier. A crescent moon cast its pale blue roadway on the water. At the horizon, in the space of sky between it and the moon on its back, the darkness thickened into a darker mass, like the Rosicrucian pyramid, Tom said, but fluid, dissolving and reforming, a quite powerfully but dimly suggestive illusion.

Inside the arm of the T of the pier the water was black and showing in a welter, moving chaotically in patches, up and down and in all directions. The movement was diagrammed in the network of orange light from the sodium vapor lamps on the pier. Sinister, Tom said. He was imagining the helplessness of a swimmer in its disorganizing cross-motion.


Tom in the parking garage of Ralph's last night, smiling as I look back at him with my head half out the car window. I had got dressed up and gone downhill in the dark to visit him on his last night at the West. His smile is very beautiful to me. It is a change of person. He flashes someone else. I can't describe the man I see when he smiles. He's pink, he's whole, he's shy. It isn't a social smile, it is a burst of youth.

We sat shoulder to shoulder on the bench under the clock and saw the 20 foot pillars, pale blue; the plaster swordfish; the desk clerks' cage; the red, flowered carpets dirty at the edges where the janitor slops his mop. The telephone booths where Tom used to stand dialing 604-253-9618. The balconies facing each other above the stage. Cigarette smoke from the south wing of the lobby slightly stinging the eyes.

Tom was reminiscing formally. "That's where I saw you coming down the stairs." "Where were you standing?" "Right there" (by the mail window). He gave me back a copy of a photo I took of the east doors of the lobby. An old man I think of as Irish because of his flat cap has his hand on the glass door passing into the light. On the far right, a ways back, a younger man sits gazing after him. It's a good picture. Tom wrote on the back a renewal of the vow: "5/26/3 Going for broke. Still." That would be well done if it were true.

Vancouver 12

I was sitting on the path outside the herb garden when Brian came through, and as he passed he said "devoted focus." He meant me. The word devoted surprised me. I wondered whether he meant more than the weeding, whether he saw something general. Maybe he was stoned, I thought.

Later in the afternoon I was weeding the edges of the middle path through the espalier rows. A reddish middle-aged man carrying a plant looked at me and said "devoted." Just that. And then when I stared at him, "It doesn't go unnoticed." I was very startled. What world am I in?


It is Sunday afternoon. Rowen this morning did three sections of graphs, three hours straight. Kept going after I said he could stop. I worked alongside him and intervened almost not at all. He likes graphs. He was a serious beautiful boy doing homework at a table in a beautiful house. I was typing on the laptop in the red armchair. There was sun on the floor and burning in the green wall of balcony plants.

Typing Tom's soliloquy moved me. There he is bare and clear, the one I adored, longed for, worked for, my mate, my true love, Tom. There he was for a moment.

Fauré. The thin floating lines of his voices. These funeral songs.

This is what I need to feel. Raw loss.

I found him. I lost him again.