volume 24 of in america: 2011-2012 october-may  work & days: a lifetime journal project  

















I move to Mesa Grande at the end of October. This volume alternates happiness in being there with deep, lonely depression. Part 1 reading up on where I am, working to understand the house. Part 2, misery in Borrego Springs over Christmas, begin to invent the Here site. Part 3 have Current and Notes in origin in c.1983, a Presentation House show in Vancouver, get a proof copy of the first Ant Bear book, moved by Monk's biography of Wittgenstein. Part 4 back from a winter residency in Vermont. March snow and flowers. Trapline at the Courtisane Festival Ghent, finish designing and posting the web monograph about my work. Part 5 spring lightens all. Much of this journal is excerpted, with photos, to my Tumblr site, Here.

Reading notes: western bluebirds, wild turkeys, Anna Karenina, Hasham Matar on Here and now, Peninsular Range geology, cottontail rabbits, Updike Seek my face, Galen Strawson on Updike, Mathew Arnold, Rilke, Lee Krasner Primeval resurgence, Nancy Rubens, Kasarova masterclass, Iipay plant use and customs, Shelley, clinical depression, Joe Hutto 1995 Illuminations in the flatwoods: a season living among the wild turkey, fonts, Murikami on Ishiguru, Orion and other astronomy, geosats, The West Wing, Silver City NM, Margaret Drabble, Tim Stephens Astral reflections, local botany, Ray Monk Ludwig Wittgenstein: the duty of genius, Judith Larner Lowry Gardening with a wild heart: restoring California's native landscapes at home, Doubiago My father's love, John Haines The owl in the mask of the dreamer: collected poems, Freud, All the president's men, Postcard from Provence site, Robin Laurence, Lloyd Dykk, Delphine Galou singing Erbarme dich, Steve Jobs biography, AS Byatt The whistling woman, Ackroyd Ezra Pound, Ackroyd Albion: the origins of the English imagination, Edwin Muir An autobiography, Thurman on Prada, Begley on aging, Palm Springs, Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound, Milton Erickson, Pergolesi Stabat mater sung by Vivica Genaux, Lyall Watson Jacobson's organ and the remarkable nature of smell, DH Lawrence The ship of death, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Greenblatt The swerve, John McPhee Coming into the country, Silk parachute, and Annals of a former world.

25245 Mesa Grande Road, Santa Ysabel, Don's Market, Dudley's Bakery, Ramona, Proflame Propane, Pott Belly Stoves, Sweetwater Audio, Radioshack, Hughesnet, Julian Pie Shop in Santa Ysabel, Borrego Springs, Hacienda del Sol Motel, Santa Ysabel Space Preserve West, Black Canyon Road, Black Mountain, Magnolia Avenue, Julian Town Hall wildflower show, Camp Stevens, St Barnabas Episcopal in Borrego Springs.

Tom Fendler, Luke, Louie, Greg Morrison, Roy Lafleur, Barbara Meter, Ken Sallet, Linda Dexter, Barbara Kereszkury, Mary Epp, Ed Epp, Joaquin Ojeda, Ron and Donna, Rowen, Barbara at Julian Pies, Peter Epp, Joe the garden helper, Jerry Reznick, Sara Chisholm, David Rimmer.

Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux Handel: streams of pleasure, Julie Henderson The lover within, David Copperfield, Ant Bear Press, cupcake photo by Jo Giles, Germinal, Middlemarch, Ursula Le Guin, Lee Bontecou, second movt of Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concerto, Emilee Baum Trucks The agency of bliss, Mozart String Quartet k.465, Bach Mache dich dein Herze rein, the New Yorker, Desperado, Emmy-Lou Harris Wrecking Ball, Willie Nelson, Lightner's Wildflowers of San Diego County.

 Mesa Grande 28th October 2011

I came yesterday afternoon with just a couple of things in the back of the jeep.

Was aching and lay down broadside to the view and slept and woke well. That was the necessary ritual. And then set up the iron on the worktable and sat by it in lamplight hand-stitching the orange curtains for the north window, with Gauvin and Lemieux singing Handel, watching to see who'd show up this first evening. Sarah Black.

29 October

It's twilight. I'm out on the iron chair and have just seen the new moon between fine branches. A yellow streak between flamingo smears. Mountain cut-outs different distances of milky grey-blue. One bird saying rrrk quietly. Yellow hills lightly furred.

I haven't told the rock outcrop below here. It's a streaked granular rock like coarse hamburger, worn all over with round grinding holes, some with a grinding stone still in them. It was a work platform for groups of women laughing where they had an open view.

Now the crickets have begun behind me in the draw. It's dark enough so rabbits have come out to graze. A crow squawking. One farmhouse light to the south. Is that a coyote yipping and howling. An owl? Broad wings, short body. Another light toward Black Mountain.

30 October

Looking at work notes assembled feeling the extraordinary wait there has been, feeling it as if from the other side of the gate. Those two oaks, the cattle guard.

31 October

Oh the amount of housekeeping. Spiders running out from under the bed when I begin to make it. Dead flies at the window. Hot water heater huffing. Fridge buzzing. Pellet heater motoring when I tried to light it this morning.

1st November

Have set the head end of the bed - that means the backboard - so I can see dawn. There is the quite even line of peaks showing grey-blue against pale orange that fades up through greenish yellow to pale blue. It's not so much brightening as spreading upward. The oak wriggling its leaves against the pale blue.

Now it's evenly pale yellow, ivory almost. The canopy both sways and stirs in overlapping layers.

3 November

How do I want to live here. Tuned the way I got to be sometimes in the Olson house and the lake house. I look at those years, the place and myself, seeing how rich it is, how paradisal. This landscape comparatively is bare, as I am, there's a wide view, as I have, but not much color or event. It isn't childhood given a young woman's sexual drive, it is on the other side of so much solving, but not only solving, so much checkedness, I don't know whether to call it defeat, so much not going forward since July 2002. - There's the first of daylight over the ridge. - I don't want any more of that lamenting. I want to seize myself if I have to, but would rather be led in the magic ways there used to be.

4 November

White mist blowing from the west, what festival is it. "Along in November when the hills begin to turn green the Red Adobe dances the Grass."

Look at this, it's rain, but hardly. It's 10 on a dark morning.

Then sound of water, downspout into a rock bowl on the terrace.

5 November

Squirrels all over this morning, I suppose because the rain knocked down a lot of acorns.

This room is warm though all the others are cold. The pellet stove is at lowest setting but still brumming and whirring. Meantime the couch drawn up to the window is as if drawn up to another hearth.

6 November

It rained, was a Sunday. I phoned Luke. He asked for what I see from my windows so I ran around after we'd hung up and took pictures from all the windows. The one I like is from the side door into the little gully, a fairy depth of lacey tints. Another later of red buckwheat heads brilliant across a pale far view.

9 November

Yesterday a wonderful conversation with Tom. He was his best self, smart and fond. What I liked best was his liking for the first photo, the fairy tints one. He said he could smell the air.

10 November

Haven't said that a few nights ago when the phone rang it was the satellite dish installer asking me to dinner. I said I don't do that sort of thing anymore but when I'd hung up I was giddy, it's so long since anyone has fancied me. "I enjoyed your company," he said, and I think he said "fetching." So then he said could we be friends, and that he'd stop for tea when he has a client in the neighbourhood on Thursday (today). I mentioned the hawks screaming up the hill and he imitated the scream. He'd had a cousin in LA who taught him falconry when he was a kid.

11 November

Last night was full moon. After I'd sat in hot water and put on my flannel pyjamas I took the sleeping bag and went out to the chair under the oak. There was not a rustle. Sometimes one sharp bright little cricket to the south, sometimes a couple overlaid to the north. There was the wide, still, shallow dish of silence. I was in perfect peace, nothing hurt. I stayed on and on, thinking of nothing. The moon was in the topmost branches of the tree above me, little bright moon. Beyond the scallops of the oak's shadow was the whole world in moony night.

Earlier there was my guest come from all-unknown years of truck-driving, second marriage, the army, a tame raccoon, conspiracy theory, sat installation in the Navajo Nation, and being a mechanic at the 96 station on Robinson. I chattered, I was keeping him neutralized, correctly, but at the same time was noticing that he's in his fifties not his sixties, not withering yet, square shoulders and a firm lower lip. Interested, humble.

Tom said, Did he bring flowers? I said No he brought a pie.

In the wide silent moonlight I was feeling that would be the way to die, sitting upright in a sleeping bag overlooking the wide world, where I would be seen motionless next day from the road. Not yet.

12 November

Best of yesterday in the sleeping bag in the iron chair last night, breathing slowly. I could feel breath sometimes in the right nostril, sometimes the left, could sometimes pick up shreds of scent, smoke, and was that a cigarette somewhere. There would be sudden cracks in the woods behind me. I concentrated on the cricket. When the moon came out from thin cloud it would be as if a light had been turned on. I fell asleep.

I need to deal with dread of work. I say I'll sit down to some hours of my own work and then I evade it all day. I'd be overjoyed to have done it, but still I fade away weakly into anything else, and am ashamed.

14 November

I'm quickly overwhelmed when I go to the publishing work. My brain balks and I close the file.

15 November

A figure just below the crest of the hill. Slender, stooping, shamanic. It's male, has maybe a plume bent forward on its head, and as if an arrow in a quiver showing at its back. I can see it from here. It stands as if opposite me, at the same height but facing east, showing in the gap between two oaks. A brooding presence. It's perfectly placed.

Almost four. The shadows of the hill and the oaks on it are thrown deep into the shabby vale.

I'd like to contact something, I'd like to feel there's something to contract. I'm so much stiffer now, can I?

When the sun is just past the horizon a window in the midlevel of the middle peak of the eastern ridge blares out rose pink.

16 November

Excellent morning came up intenser apricot-gold all along the ridge, went yellower farther up. I woke at the right time to see it and didn't put the light on until an hour later. Two rabbits were standing still below the window, both facing northeast. The larger one crouched on four legs, the younger, closer to me, on hind legs with forepaws dangling. They stayed that way, little rabbit statues, for twenty minutes? while I made tea and set the fire.


On the way home I stopped at the base of the shaman's hill and staggered up it with the camera. The sun was just over his head. At the base of the shaman snag, which showed charring, was a split in toward the core, and in the split - wound into the split and dried stiff that way - the shed skin of a rattlesnake.

The top of the hill had a charge. It was warm. One of the hawks circled overhead three time just after I got there. Some other large black bird sailed steadily southeast very much higher. The sky was dark blue. The line of oaks behind the shaman, it's a line sloping up along the crest, was four oaks of different ages, all sprung from rock piles, the gritty sparkly brown-mauve stone there was up there, very beautifully split into tablets and markers. There was a fire spot, not a ring, just a bare patch with a scorched look. I've seen one other in the field below here.

From the crest of that warm hill I could see a long way southwest. It had that medicine hill feel.

Now, at seven, the shaman is in horizontal sun. Is that a flock of doves.

Last evening as I wrote about the shaman a red-tailed hawk was posted quietly on the bare dead leader of the furthest pine.

The grassland's fur shabby in this edge-on light, all cut up with cow trails.

24 November

Woke at the right moment when fire was starting to show above the mountains, long rim lit orange. In first twilight six small rabbits near the window, nibbling, very lightly hopping, with ears translucent showing red.

Brown back of a hawk on the pine snag, where he's like the finial on a post. He's just sitting, warming after the cold night.

It's a perfect morning, still, still.

Emerald green islands under the oaks, wherever they are.

26 November

Under the oak, cup of tea, sun in my eyes.

There's a notch to the southwest where with the field glasses I can see the towers of a city.

The first sign of dawn is that my white headboard begins to glow. This morning the full event about an hour. Cottontails crepulscular. Their delicacy of movement.

Oak lattice squirming in dawn breeze.

Whiffs of smoke from my chimney.

At night the oak's black imprint trawling for stars that flash in the little gaps.

Wind sounding in the pines, especially in the pines. This formidable grandmother shedding needles - uch I hate these messy unnative cypress, want to cut them all down. They spoil the shape of the yard.

The day is sublimely warm, a free mobile air. Here I am!

27 November

Sunday. A west wind.

My lovely bed. Every night I fold myself into it thankingly. Look at the oak's black company that will be there all night. The window open some inches from my head.

Web monograph intent for hours - get it finished, please.

29 November

Stars: Casseopia almost overhead; Orion on its side, brilliant and quite high in the east; the Swan arrowing northwest up the Milky Way. The Pleiades a speckled spot.

30 November

What's this powder in the air. Cold wind from the southwest, a dazzling silvery white painted over the nest of ridges toward the city. Is there a scent in this wind from that direction, not ocean but something.

Waxing moon at noon's position. Crow rowing sideways across the blue.

Turkeys this morning under the first oak. Ten just the same size, not all with the little beard-tufts on their chests. It was early. The sun shone through the red triangles under their jaws. Otherwise they are soberly dressed and remind me of pilgrim fathers, circumspect. They will graze like cows with their long necks down, or stop and seem to listen. Sometimes one will suddenly stretch its wings to the side and shake them for a moment, no reason, and that may set off a couple more. It's a startling unfoldment, they are so slender and wear their clothing so tight that when they fan out sideways they metamorphose.

- They always seem to me to be human beings, thoughtful.

I stare as if to see through their disguises. It's partly that their feet are so large they have to lift them high before they put them down, and so they seem to walk with great care.

3 December

Greg said I'm east of La Glace and it's true, though it's in the Mountain Time Zone.

17 December

I'm disgusted with Tom because he's back to having no money and not doing anything about it. Otherwise am walking around this house all day contented. I like cooking once or twice a day, baking sometimes. Carpet sweeping the rug. Making and unmaking the bed. I wear the same thing every day and have only done a laundry twice since I'm here. I understand the stove now. I have a system for the garbage bags, put them in the garage until I can take them to the bins at the supermarket in Ramona. Have a lot of library books but don't want to read them. the great pleasure of the day is the hours at the big monitor. Please let that continue every day. when I sit in hot water in the dark every night I seem to think about work.

It is eleven on a Saturday morning. There's patchy sun. Snow on the mountains. Stew cooking on low in the kitchen. Cup of tea next to me.

25 December Borrego Springs

I liked yesterday. I liked deciding to come and I liked the drive though I was worried about Luke and slipping into reproaching Tom. I liked that a bald black man smiled at me in the grocery store. The silly adventure of going to a carol service at St Barnabas. But today I'm lost and hiding.

I so, so, so need something hard and specific to do. I need to want to do something. Now I'm crying.

27 December

A blue mushroom at the back door. Lactarius indigo. Boletus bicolor, quite a few.

Long cirrus feathers brilliant as angels coming on slowly from the south and dissolving above me. Threads of warmed pine in the air. A hawk at eye level down by the curve in the lane.

What it's like coming through that stretch from Yaqui Pass to the start of the downslope into the Anza Borrego. I always feel its unspeakableness but it's more like unseeableness. I want to take it in, grasp it, something, and can't. There is a remote bare ridge, very high, a wall, almost one color but not at all one color, colors unresolveable, pale, glittering. I say the texture of the light changes and it does, though I don't know exactly what that means. Yesterday I stopped on the verge for a while and tried to look at the rocky slopes on either side of the road, which are orange to oxblood there, with blue-greens of agave and barrel cactus. I wanted to be with it somehow and couldn't. Maybe someone who grows up with it could.


Maybe the thing to pay most attention to is the tone of resentful complaint I go into, the reproach state that says I have to go away. It's a state in which I have gone away isn't it.

- Look, a yard-long line of spider thread flowing straight out from the little scrub oak. A squirrel standing up on the log.

Tom doesn't do that thing I do. He doesn't reproach in his head, and threaten himself with leaving. He keeps me in his head as affection. But he evades without having to feel himself doing it. He's not a whiney person, he's a dodger.

30 December

What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east -

2 January 2012

Woke this morning and went to look for a place page format - did it because yesterday I'd been hearing the reproach voice whenever I wasn't caught in something else. It is as if formulating a declaration. I don't believe myself in that voice, now. Don't have to declare anything, don't have to decide anything, can suspend all of that uselessness and do something else.

4 January

I saw that my parents were preparing a house not big enough for us children. We'd have to find somewhere else. I was saying to Judie and Paul, we'll have our own Christmas. The three of us were standing by the road. We could see columns of ice, icicles, that reached from the electric wires to the ground.

I was lying in the dark feeling this dream, thinking it's this time of life, when the parents have shut us out, and we're on our own. The ground is gone. I was remembering moments on the beach when I was standing at the edge of the water and a wave pulling out would dissolve the sand from under my feet - the way it would run forward in a dazzling sheet away from me, sensation of holes forming under my soles. I'd be subtly falling.

It's about Tom not coming for Christmas too, and how badly I take it. Haven't spoken to him for two weeks. Last Friday - I didn't do this on purpose - I was parked at Dudley's when the bus he wasn't on came in. He could have come.

I made my place page this morning. I'm in love with it -


Little rabbits at sunset yesterday - one would rush the other, jumping straight up.

10 January

This house. The other night I heard quite heavy footsteps and went through all the rooms checking even the closets. There are usually little scratchings and gnawings after I've turned out the lights. Heavier thumps in the northeast corner of this room quite high up, maybe in the wall, maybe on the roof. Loud flumping of the water heater for minutes after I've used hot water.

Something I like is the way when I get into bed in the dark and start arranging myself there's a flurry of white lightening in the pillows and sheets.

11 January

Yesterday by the biggest rock pile trying to take pictures, lichen skins - mustard, curry powder, chartreuse, pale grey, charcoal, a lot of grey-green with ruffled edges, brown buttons. This morning I read up on what a lichen is, looking for names for those characteristic kinds.

12 January

I'm in the chair after a morning of [the college]. So-pleasant directional heat like the right distance from a stove. The Coulters looking a bit undressed, this year's needle-drop blown down. Some little sharp chip chip and sometimes a faint single gurgle. On the horizon, through field glasses, the gappy line of high-rise towers that must be downtown. The sky's white behind them, sea fog. Both hawks balancing on thermals above the dip. The slopes are turning a pale green that is beginning to look pastoral with the dark blue mountains. There was a new calf with the herd this morning.

19 January

Yesterday early seven turkeys filing east up the little slope toward the road. I was watching them through the binocs. A car passed. One of the gobblers swelled up and raised his tail into a 300 degree arc, whose broad white band shone translucent to the rising sun. The rest of the group had paused with him on the slope's crest, and now three more raised their tails against the light and stepped ponderously back and forth with him in a small patch of grass, like holders of high office milling before a conference door.

20 January

Ray Monk biography of Wittgenstein

relentless truthfulness

A book on mechanics he read as a teenager says that "instead of giving an answer to the question "What is force?", the problem should be dealt with by restating Newtonian physics without using 'force' as a basic concept.

Good taste is genuine taste and therefore is fostered by whatever makes people think truthfully.

Nothing is tolerable except producing great works or enjoying those of others.

The year he spent in Skjolden ... Years later he used to look back on it as the one time that he had had some thoughts that were entirely his own, when he had even "brought to life new movements in thinking." 1913

Deep inside me there's a perpetual seething, like the bottom of a geyser, and I keep hoping that things will come to an eruption once and for all, so that I can turn into a different person.

The affection of any noble human being is a support in the unsteady balance of my life. - About a letter from Rilke

May I die a good death, attending myself. May I never lose myself.

the Latin phrase used by Spinoza: sub specie aeternitatis

The work of art is the object seen sub specie aeternitatis; and the good life is the world seen sub specie aeternitatis. This is the connection between art and ethics. In such a way that they have the whole world as background.

Always wore the same things - an open-neck shirt, grey flannel trousers and heavy shoes ... items chosen with meticulous care.

I will have to stand on tiptoe a great deal if I don't want to go under.

A philosopher should demonstrate a technique. 1930

I would now like to live with somebody. To see a human face in the morning. 1937

Painful love, guilt, shame, illness, suicidal depression often.

the character that he himself had earlier attributed to all his work - that of clarifying the work of others.

took great interest in the unfamiliar flora of the area

the shabby older man

Died just after his 62nd birthday. "Tell them I've had a wonderful life."

21 January

I go out with the camera and then come back and look at the photos on the big monitor. This camera surprises me. I knew Ektachrome 400, I knew its particular magic transformations, especially of blues, but now I get startled. This digital system does something with reds, especially wet reds. For instance there were three versions of a sightline with the rusty sycamores on the right. They came up ravishing - in the context of the whole I mean - in a way I didn't see myself. Another thing is that when I look at the photos I have inklings of how much more I could be seeing when I'm about to press the button. I'm not far enough into camera mind. The place does enough work for me so I can get by with what I've got for ordinary purposes, but there's more intelligence to make.

This morning too I opened a doc file on the desk and came into excerpts I'd called Here: a notebook and forgotten. Immediately blew fuses - that sensation of being too much, unready, having to stop, go away. I went to email duties for the morning and now came back and tried to edit, and again got stopped, this time three pages in.

26 January

Yesterday morning while I was looking at email, dimly heard a racket below the window. Turkeys around the pyracantha, not in their circumspect mode, a lot of them, and so agitated I couldn't count them. 35 maybe. They were deep in politics it seemed, chasing each other, briefly fanning their tails, rushing one way and then the other, the whole flock blown across the yard and then back, many times, barking constantly, sometimes breaking into gobbles.

2 February

Remembering something that happened last night after I'd done slow breathing and got into bed in the dark with Space hotel playing. I was aching, which doesn't usually happen after hot water, my hands and legs more than other parts. I stayed with the ache, focused, something started happening around the L groin. It felt like a patch of high vibration maybe 6" x 8". It was intense and I resisted wanting to escape, stayed with it. Then something happened that I wasn't sure was really happening. It felt as though my L thigh bone was very subtly involuntarily rotating in its hip socket, turning in.

3 February

These mornings hours on email and FB messages, doing business, in a way, calling in a network, and what Louie said, feeling the hungry ghost. Remarkably hungry, addicted to being noticed.

4 February

Turkeys on the driveway, quiet today. A lot of hens, at least one with a thin beard, toms noticeably larger with more red on their heads. They milled pecking for a while then filed west on the road so I could count them, 76. It seemed one of them was the leader who scouted the direction, and then the rest swirled slowly into an accelerating line. The motion reminded me of something - it was the mist on the drying field in Notes in origin.

11 February

Lloyd Dykk just died at 67 - three days ago.

grew up in Wishart Saskatchewan ... a national-quality critic ... one of the best prose stylists in the business ... shy, kind, very smart, very funny, and extremely cultured guy ... would never take part in the social events surrounding a show.

He was an elegant dresser, and for years drove around in that stylish 1959 Morgan Plus 4 Drophead Coupe ... He liked Art Deco stuff ... he watched the Turner movie channel all the time ... a couple of heart attacks in recent years ... puttered around his garden.

I knew I was hated, and though it wasn't pleasant, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

He was my age, born early 1945, Mennonite name, little place in Saskatchewan size of La Glace. He becomes Vancouver's artistic conscience, knows everyone, judges everything, is thoroughly established, exhaustively interested in his areas, has the means to attract bright true friends and does. Sweet and fierce, himself. Dies young. I meet him one Sunday morning when I'm standing around in the herb garden. I do what I do, give him bits to smell, tell him the names of plants. He's modest and attentive. He goes away and writes a column. He recognizes something about me and names it in a way I don't expect from anyone. "The Strathcona Gardens are one of the pleasantest places in the city ... a delicacy for the better people."


One photo today. I went out early into the fog thinking it would be the right time to take a picture of the big oak coming up among boulders. Took a lot of photos but there's only one I like. It was a throw-away shot just as I was going to go back in. The two live oak sprouts with the fence behind them and then nothing but luminous wet air, the faintest darkening of the road's ridge behind them. It's just right, simple, the two bushes a couple of individuals, all of it immersed in thick air an opalescent grey. [fog bushes]

23 February Plainfield

Thursday. Have I liked any of it this time. This last lecture. I'd been awake since 3, had time to finish it. Was there in jeans, black turtleneck, sage green Uggs, feeling swift and commanding. Students got excited when I said video games were insufficient adolescent initiation. They said, But .... I said Yes, but there's no death. Sam jumped in and said initiation is about death.

Mesa Grande 1st March

Thursday morning - the sky is closed in to the nearest hills, 6:55, grey light, small spots of snow, wet ground pale green. The nearest oak looks thinned, less pretty. Snow-pruned. Large branches fallen all around the house. Two and a half weeks, aren't there stories to tell. Bob at Robert's Automotive showing me the deep soft mouse nest on the engine. Telling me how to get into 4-wheel drive on the fly. Remedies for mice - the smell of bleach.


I could see snow on the mountains from the freeway, a long way down on slopes across the east, but it wasn't down to the road until maybe ten miles past Ramona. Then lovely black and white on all sides. From the brow of the hill above Santa Ysabel the whole valley and its far slopes beautiful, altered. Stepping out of the jeep at Don's Market the air like Alberta in a thaw, a soft wet chill in such clean light. Was wondering about Mesa Grande Rd but the afternoon had been warm and there wasn't ice, only sheets of running meltwater dark on the asphalt.

Mailbox stuffed with flyers, a thick Vogue magazine, a New Yorker. The lane looked clear from the gate, further up sometimes deep slush with tracks through it. Where there were overhanging oaks, fallen branches dragged off the road, mats of fallen leaves green on white. At my fork no more tracks. Deep slush where I had backed up to the garage. Large fallen branches. Snow covering the little iris reticulata I'd seen next to the driveway as I was packing up to leave.

Have been so weak-willed, as yesterday, reading and eating or surfing miscellaneously. Comes a moment in early evening when I say yes, I've given up on the day. Worried about being so sore. I asked Thy, Do you know any old people who aren't stiff? She said, Yes but they work harder at it than you do. Also worried about being so stupid in writing. I looked at the writing in Here when I was away and was distressed to see how it lumps along, and the voice here so conventional now.

2 March

Delphine Galou singing Erbarme dich as if her throat is made of bronze. Luke and I were listening to Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder last night, I at 8, he at 4am, sleepless. Said there was a strong wind in it. Found this version also from St Mathew after, emailed it to him. This morning he says, It knocks me over.

4 March

I used the jeep with a long rope to haul the heaviest fallen branches to a heap by the road. It was hot. Now I'm back with my feet on the outisde table in the evening quiet. Is that what it's called, this softening of the light.

6 March

It's 6 in the morning. Pale dawn over the mountains. I'm 67. Tom and Louie phoned yesterday. Louie said what are you going to do and I said being here is enough.


But it isn't. The day has turned steely, I've been sore for most of it so far, sinking to pie and ice cream at the pie shop because I hadn't thought of a better adventure.

7 March

First thing I saw from my bed was a handful of dry snow flung up past the window frame by a gust. Dusting of white overnight.

There are bright buds on the willows, flowers on the manzanita, pale new cones on the Coulter, and one little thing flowering orange on the sandstone bank above the road.

8 March

Trying to take photos of plants on the side of the road in this morning's brightness, stinging lupin, Indian paintbrush, salvia apiana. Haven't succeeded. The translucent radiance of young salvia tufts. There was pale ceanothus blooming too.

10 March

My new Apple cord is coming from Shenzhen China and is now on Lantau Island! says the tracking number.

14 March

The moon wakes me. The sun is higher, so it doesn't crowd me off the bed at noon anymore, but the moon is lower, so it slams in under the eaves.

The season is between. It doesn't have autumn's beauties of light or color. I'm hung up not working, will-less, lonely.

But ceanothus blooming all up the rocky bank above Santa Ysabel, on the Julian road. A scent of flowers when I stepped onto the driveway yesterday, was it the many very small pink things flat to the ground.

I'm waiting for summer, when the house can be open all day and night and I won't be tethered to my bed nights and mornings.


Then worked all day on the web monograph which is now nearly ready. I'm joyful when I've worked. Shut down email for the day and lifted the bed into a couch.

15 March

Pdf of Ellie Epp! It looks beautiful. 92MB.

16 March

Thinking of the photos in the web monograph, the way it starts with the Tofteland house, and the rest of the images from Notes in origin, why the book designer said they were art photos not photography photos, the fairytale quality. Compare the Mesa Grande photos, especially my favorite the two bushes. It's a photography photo, radiant but colder, less childlike. The Notes in origin photos have a beautiful uncon, like the Ryder-Waite pack.

17 March

A wonderful phone call with Tom Thursday. He said he'd called to tell me his phone will go dark until next Friday, but then he started talking about Here. He said he always checks it when he's at a computer. That this country is his soul country too. He liked that the ewe of god had got into it. He said the photos are spectacular on any monitor. He said it will become a record in ages to come, the way he'd go into the attic at the Ramona Sentinel and read chronicles of earlier times. He said "I love your writing." I said that's a sentence I like a lot. We laughed. His voice was young and he was in bubbling eagerness. I hung up loving him for his still-eager spirit that hasn't spoiled itself by being kind.


Posted two of today's photos on Here. [snow field] [snow cedars] Looking at them there, I thought to add the first paragraphs of Snow country. The snow photos on the white page, with that text, feel so cold.

The Here page makes the photos what they don't seem on my monitor, immaculate. Kawabata's text immaculate too.

Woke lying on my stomach facing north so whiteness at the window was the first thing I saw. White! Hello!

20 March

Yesterday driving to SY seeing that lush green was there on all the lower slopes when the snow melted.


The Here site has got more sophisticated since I changed the head and foot to simple text with a dark green line. The last image up is winter sill because since I've started making up the couch in the morning I've seen those radiant succulents in mid-morning sill spotlight. I love the sound of it, keep saying it to myself.

28 March

Mach-e dich dein Herz-e rein, it is singing in me since before I got up to make fire and tea. Last night as I was standing in the dark running the bath I was pure-hearted finally saying the ground of it and not my retinue of angry postures. There was no clench anywhere, just sorrow, soft. I was saying, How have I come to be worth so little. I knew that was the floor of it, the child. Then I got into the water and could feel my heart tightened again, insulting him, protesting, making up sentences.

Ezra was Olga's hero and I envy her having a hero, although I don't like the way she gave up her own gift and fame to take care of his. As is, I have to be my own Ezra but I am not, I'm deeply convinced of being unwantable, not unworthy, very worthy, but unfathomably unwantable.

And here's Jam's copy of Selected cantos with her beautiful handwriting.

I saw the mountain in pale dawn and thought,

Taishan is attended by loves
under Cythera, before sunrise

30 March

Conference call yesterday. I was lying on the couch with my eyes closed, receiver at my left ear, noon sun at the window, captive and bored. Started watching my breath at the right nostril, breathing consciously through the right nostril. Came into a sense of the day - I am not going to be able to say this - a sense of the essence of the air of the day - spring lightness, a molecular fineness, or electromagnetic, a remarkable tenuous air within the air.

After the call packed myself up and drove to Ramona to shop. The pasture slopes below the mesa were sheeny emerald velvet with a glaze of flower color beginning to show here and there, white on the field to the north and blue among the cattle in the pasture to the south. Along the twists of the Ramona road California poppies orange not yellow.

When I'd shopped and was in the KFC parking lot eating chicken I saw two crows flying into the high crowns of two eucalyptus trees on Main Street, and had something like that same spring-essence sense again. I was missing being able to tell Tom about it, he's been my atmospheres companion, he is so tuned to moment in a place, he so likes to be.

I sometimes these days will come to a stop, often when I park the jeep or sometimes on the couch. I'm just halted. Don't want to move.

Pergolesi Stabat mater Vivica Genaux last night.

2 April

Flash of pink in the pasture grass. I back up to look again. Get out of the jeep and crawl under the wire. It's a stalk of clear pink mallow-like flowers, just the one stalk coming up from a flat rosette of round scalloped leaves. It's checkerbloom, I think.

Barbara Kereszkury and I leaning on her silver car with Water Sampling Service on the doors. First smart person I've met here. In her 80s, small silver and lapis earrings in the shape of turtles. Good face. She asked at the last moment what kind of Indian I am.

3 April

Three kinds of lupin, Arizona lupin, stinging lupin, and a smaller darker intense one. A lot of dark purple milk vetch. Little white forget-me-not? Lots of mustard coming. That common yellow rolled trumplet.

First morning I didn't need to make a fire. Sat briefly on the new bench.

6 April

Friday. Dim sun with a rare breeze. The oak is looking so shabby, the hanging limb, a lot of stubs, and now it's unleafed like an old animal with mangy fur. This seems to be the leaf-drop season for the Engelmans, which all look dull against the green.

The air has been thick these past days, mountains whited, I don't know why. Last night there was a full moon illuminating a ground mist almost to the window, a blue glow when I'd turned off the lights.

Vivica Genoux looks the way I'd like to. She's tall and broad-shouldered, has a perfect round bosom, a sort of Cherokee look. A blog critic complained that she moves her mouth oddly but that's what holds me most about her, the way she trumpets her lips forward or holds them pushed forward but half closed - like an orchid? some flower - as she articulates precise dark shakes. She's a goddess vision. Statuesque and confidently animal - what he didn't like about her mouth is that the strong flex is a bit chimp? Or horse.

In the tempest passages she crouches and wrings, tosses from the knees up. I don't like to watch the soprano because she's scrawny and little and just jerks her shoulders up and down, a vision of starved femininity whereas Vivica with her strong Alaskan arms looks like the queen of archaic Greece. She's always in minutely immaculate time. The soprano is not. She has also made a couple of very tiny intonation mistakes, which I don't think the soprano does. Her voice is molasses with a gold shine where it's stretched. They are perfect together, two women side by side in dark dresses with bare arms performing exquisitely skilled parallel scribbles of sound. - It's all unsayable.

She lays her head to the side when she listens.


In those days I wasn't ashamed of reading, it was the necessary work. Now most reading feels like shameful waste, partly because I am not reading with the same energy and partly as if there is something else I should be doing.

7 April

It seems as though life is past, Mary said.

8 April

Easter made me think of - many years has made me think of - the year Rudy was born, when Judy, Paul and I stayed with the Friesens in their big house by the creek. M was in Sexsmith at Johanna's for a week I suppose. It was the first week of April so the creek was almost to the bottom of the bridge roaring day and night. We slept in an east-facing room upstairs - east-facing meant it looked over a hedged lawn to the creek. What I remember most is eating a chocolate egg in that slope-ceilinged wall-papered room, reading Christian romances I'd found in a box under the eaves. Easter Sunday afternoon, I think. I was ten. Across the hall in Corny's room there was a big coloured picture of a long-legged young woman in short shorts, a gingham shirt tied under her bust, and a frayed straw hat, who had a beautiful shape with big pointed breasts - it was the first time I'd seen a pin-up. I knew his parents would not have wanted it to be there.

It was during that visit, maybe it's why I remember the moment I do, that I realized I would eventually have breasts. I realized it because I'd noticed that Madeleine Friesen, who was three? Years older than me, now had a round swelling under her sweater.

Most of this memory is visual and ther isn't a lot of it. I can see Madeleine's bosom but not her face, the bed's position in the room, the dingy yellow paper cover of the Christian romances, shadowy light in the room, the chocolate shell in my hand, where a bite was showing a yellow yolk - don't think I'd seen a candy yolk in an Easter egg before.

Otherwise in relation to Easter I remember dyeing eggs - the particular deep purple - and Mary baking paska in washed tin cans so they would be tall.

It's not an interesting memory as I've told it but it has a wider silent penumbra - child registering what it's like to be in an upstairs room, the snow-melt week outside, the whole countryside around this house, the open miles of roads, hills, the church, our place that way, northeast, with our father in it.

The next time Mary was in the hospital, having a miscarriage, we all stayed home and I kept house.

Something I feel dimly when I remember that house and ours too, is that I was living in the time of Mary's youth. We were children in our parents' time - the photos from before she was married, the buttons in her button jar, that had come from clothes she wore then, the cars and trucks, the rat tail she'd used to roll her hair still in a drawer, the teatowels embroidered with the days of the week and cats doing the washing, baking bread. Annals of a former world. The people they knew, names they spoke of people and places we didn't know. It was an early world, the 40s. Young people standing in the box of a graintruck laughing on an outing. I can't find that one in her albums now. My interest was completely silent, I studied the photos but didn't ask her anything. we didn't know there was that sort of conversation.

Something else I wanted to write down was headlights at night. I will see a pair of headlights rising on the road below the house, here, and it will make me think of the depth of silent feeling there was then, when we'd look out the kitchen window and see headlights sinking down the long hill. We'd run to the living room window to see whether they'd turn into our lane. Often it would be our dad coming home from town in the grain truck. We'd hear the growl. We kids could hear a motor a mile and a half away, turning off the highway onto our road. Our mom, Judy and Paul and I would be standing in the lamplight in the kitchen, listening. Mary would say she couldn't hear it. Then it would come closer and she could hear it too.

We were always excited when Ed came home. Would he bring something. He'd come in and stamp on the flattened cardboard at the door. Set a box on the table. Sometimes he'd bring O Henrys. They were 5 cents each, like ice cream cones. He never came in cheerful and friendly, there was always a curt bitter sound in his voice. We sould stand silent looking at him.

Lamplight on the arborite table, which was a grey marble pattern. Blue walls, yellow tile-patterned linoleum halfway up the walls, green linoleum on the floor. The awkward kitchen counter a real carpenter had built, just the bottom half of a set of cabinets. Slop pail under the sink. Water bucket on the right edge with a dipper in it, which must have been how I got a cold sore from Bobby Miller. Small mirror over the washbasin. Three sets of cupboard doors, or was it four, one to the right of the sink, three left, and a tier of drawers, from top to bottom cutlery, teatowels, packaged food like jello, cocoanut, and raisins. We had no sort of fridge, not even a cooler, so leftovers, milk and butter would be in the cupboard somewhere. Lidded big bread pan in the left corner, that was used to rise dough but also to store loaves. Big calendar picture on the wall above the counter, a country scene with big trees and a lane?

- Lamplight on the table after supper. If we had a report to write we'd have the encyclopedia out. We'd be easy and natural if it was just us. Shadows in the corner of the room. Likely the other lamp in the living room. Such a small natural house, the way the kitchen and living room opened onto each other through a door set diagonally across the point where all four rooms would have met. Woodbox next to it with a metal match holder hung above it. We'd come into the dark cold house and Mary would walk over to the match holder in the dark. We'd hear her strike a match. She'd light a lamp and then make the fire. Smell of used oil poured onto wood. There was a can of it kept under the stove.

14 April

Snow light. 9 on a Saturday morning. Rain blasted down yesterday. Then in the dark I could see a sift of white on the ground. This morning it's there between blades of grass under low cloud moving steadily east. I suppose the tall pale purple lupins are standing with their feet in snow.

16 April

The near meadow is long grass, dotted with mustard now, sleek and sheeny in the sun.

The Engelmanns are spring deciduous! So that they look as if they're dying. 

19 April

Posted Misery yesterday, with photos from up the hill. Said, I don't like to confess misery but if I don't I misrepresent the enterprise. Meant by that, I'd been remembering that misery is a cost of the life I want. So bear it frankly and humorously.

Had a sense in assembling the writing yesterday that I'd just barely touched into knowing what I was doing. Do I remember what I mean. Not at the moment.

Also understanding that whatever I do next will have to take a while to form, it can't step off from what I already know.

20 April

Woke with pale color just beginning over the mountains. The room isn't cold.

Went to Here: a notebook. Could read it, believe it, not rise to it but remember it. It leaves everything behind. I don't completely know what to do with it but I know some.


Now I'm in the iron chair for the first time in months. The mountains are standing in milk. It's cool in the last light. There are the coyotes beginning. Two packs I think, one below in Norman's draw, one farther west. Gobbling behind the closest hill in the east. Pale orange behind the Coulter pines.

Oak tips above me are completely bare but have knobs, what are they. Flower buds, tight little knots.

Black Mountain this morning. It's impressive. It's bare and triangular and isn't black but has an aura of blackness. Its soil is red but there's a uniform grey scrub that gives off as if a thin mist of blackness.

21 April

Doors and windows open. I came in to fetch something and on the brilliant grass outside the open windows saw five turkeys, a puffed-up cock and four hens. The cock seemed absorbed in egotistic fantasy. He would step this way a few steps, that way a few steps, dragging his fanned wingtips so they rattled against the ground. The four hens were grazing steadily with their backs to him.

28 April

On the road back from Ramona stopping where I could look at Black Mountain. The air was light and full of sage. A half dozen vultures with their fingered wingtips spread, high, very high, low, shadows slipping across the road. The mountain's colors, red under many mauve patches and fewer quite vivid khaki patches, with dark shrubs in the creases, a pyramidal heap with its foot in a stream I could hear far below, and a red road cut crossing at an angle. Otherwise the whole quiet of the road on a bright early morning.

Last night coming onto the casino's vast parking lot after dinner, bright few stars and newish moon high, pervasive smell of Cleveland sage. As we drove down the hill through scarves of mist a large white owl flapped low across the road ahead of us. Another just as we arrived at my corner. We closed the gate and stood all three in the dark smelling the air. Then drove up the hill with the car's white headlights pushing up through more scarves of mist and arrived at a homey house with back-lit orange curtains.

29 April

A jag of McPhee reading, some of Annals and the Coming into the country and then bits of Silk parachute. Watching how he does it. He's a smart entertainer, knows how to jump around between stories, how to pick out the quirky instant in an interview, lard with technical vocabulary and know-how, sketch paragraph biographies. He's alert to his own humor. He devises folksy twists of tongue.

In the white space between those two sections there's a hell of a lot of stuff that I don't have to say. It's told by the structure.

If you've got good juxtapositions, you don't have to worry about what I regard as idiotic things, like composed transitions. If your structure really makes sense, you can make some jumps and your reader is going to go right with you.

Outline - "What it does is free you to write. The spontaneity comes in the writing."

There are some people whose cast of mind admits that sort of stuff, and there are others, who are just paralyzed by it at the outset [geology].

The routine produces. But each day, nevertheless, when you try to get started you have to transmogrify, transpose yourself; you have to go through some kind of change from being a normal human being into becoming some kind of slave. I simply don't want to break through that membrane. I'd do anything to avoid it. You have to get there and you don't want to go there because there's so much pressure and so much strain and you just want to stay on the outside and be yourself. And so the day is a constant struggle to get going. That's my day, all day long, sitting there wondering when I'm going to be able to get started. And the routine of doing this six days a week puts a little drop in a bucket each day ...

3 May

Smelling dead mice in the kitchen, near the stove and at the narrower door. Are they in the walls? It's a smell like rotting dishwater on hot days.


Photos for Here - chair in the mustard field, grass and flowers, the leaffall steps, between Winter sill and Misery. I've taken two days delinquent from packets to read about Lucretius and the Renaissance, and then today the pleasure of adding something to my site, making something. The chair deep in mustard, looking out of the frame, flowering space behind it, fleurissant.

5 May

Black Canyon Road to shop in Ramona, Willie Nelson going, Wrecking Ball coming back, perfect happiness. Something about the direction of the light, going I see more individual flowers, today Parry phacelia dark blue, a lot of monkeyflower whose off-yellow I don't like, a lot of mustard, a sort of quilted white strawflower [bicolor everlasting], a lot of best yellow something that's new [golden yarrow], white forget-me-not clumps, purple and pale blue lupins, just a few of that claret-colored little thing [wild flax], something that looked like yellow dames rocket [coast wallflower], one blue penstemon was it [foothill penstemon], purple vetch of course [winter vetch, not native], one thick-blooming ceanothus that must must have been spared by the fire, thistles, white onion flowers quite small [red-skin onions probably], one Indian paintbrush next to something yellow, a pale blue smaller phacelia, small white bindweed, dudleya in bud, occasional dark pink wild pea, buckwheat lower down, moonflower at the far end with Ramona in view, a sunflower near it - was that all?

The road has stages. It's a ranch road broad and washboarded through pasture and then ferny winding shade, and then is suddenly a narrow shelf scraped into the side of a canyon, supported below by a hand-made rock wall. At its north end the canyon is a narrow hard-rock slot dropping steeply in falls. Last week there was water.

Then the first canyon stretch, which drops to the bridge passing the res village halfway. It has a relatively gentle herbaceous feel - green slopes, most of the flowers I named are there.

The bridge has a hundred feet of asphalt either side, a hinge. Beyond it there's a strong change. The road is narrower and rougher and the drop to the creek much steeper. It seems wilder and drier there. Black Mountain in its glorious skin of color rises visible from foot to little comb-crest of trees across the deeps of scented air that are the vulture's broad theatre. A lot of sharp blind corners. And then longer winds onto a messy plateau from which it's almost possible to see the ocean. After that ugly pretentious houses begin and the road becomes Magnolia Avenue, where 55 on asphalt feels fast.

Perfect happiness why. Heat, light, motion, music, maybe a sense that now I can be on that road whenever I like, I can be of it.

It isn't possible to photograph the mountain. It has so much presence when I'm standing opposite, eye-level somewhere about a third of the way up. It's right there. I can't photograph the gulf of air. I can't get much of it into the frame unless I show it small and far away. It can't loom. I'm always having to edge around foreground clumps or slopes.

6 May

It's just before eight and the mountains are almost whited out, a thick haze. Bats back and forth in front of the window.

Full moon last night, perigee, they said, but so much fibre in the air it wasn't as bright as I've seen it in the desert.

9 May

Dead mouse smell strong in the kitchen, getting stronger especially by the long cupboard. It's not in the wall, because the wall is solid plank. Can't see how it could be in the cupboard, don't see any way for a mouse to get in. But this morning when I opened a drawer to look for a stamp the smell seemed very thick so I looked again. There were some coiled hard drive connector cables in a plastic bag, and inside the coils a wad of what looked like slipper fleece. I pick up the plastic bag and hurry it outside and dump it. Out tumble three dead baby mice jumping with maggots.

She had found such a sweet ideal nesting place, contained and private. Had her babies and then one day didn't come home probably because she was the one whacked in the trap next to the sink.

- There was the lovely way she or some other mouse would slip through the small hole carved in the corner of the sunroom door. It never seemed big enough but she would flatten somehow bonelessly and slip through. Always a tiny moment of preparing herself, and then the flattening motion with back feet spread, and then zip. O little mouse.

12 May

What is it today, rongée, which I feel means something like having my teeth on edge, ronger les ongles, hungry for something personal is what it feels like. Heart-hungry. If I were a drinker today I'd drink.

Luke on Facebook chat talks about the house on Pender. This conversation was happening in a kind of dazzle of pleasure that he and I had lived mortal hours together there and loved them and still have them and can be together in them. That I made it the place he loved, its colors, its sightlines, the table on the porch.

The way Luke himself is a place I hold in memory that way. That someone holds him in memory from little, that I can give him that, am giving him that.

14 May

The grass is already browning everywhere.

15 May

One of Joe's helpers saw a rattler in the periwinkle just now.

Last night two coyotes right close at the fenceline, one with a lower voice barking hard, the other howling.

A butterfly on the pyracantha flowers, black white and orange. Might be the one I shooed out of the treehouse room, perfect as if brand new. California sister, probably.


Iron chair again, hayfield around me. Scent of. Quite a cold wind. Lot of new leaves on the oak - little ones on whole small tip-twigs - so the tree is full and green again.

It seems the air is never clear in spring and summer, milky into the distance. The slopes are brown and green in awkward patches. Fine sift of breeze in the pines. Late afternoon, sun in white sky in the west, above the cedars still but throwing shadows almost across what's now the lawn. Oak lace fluttering on the page. Bluebird standing quiet in the hay, hello. Jumped for a bug.

There's a spice in the scent, is it mustard stems maybe. Kingbird fluttering onto and off a fence wire, flashing yellow belly.

- Pine too, brief thread of it.

The scent has a bit of euphoria in it.

- Should say the sun is in silver sky, platinum. - Pewter, because it has a tarnished bloom.