Mesa Grande 28th October 2011
I came yesterday afternoon with just a couple of things in the back of
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
depth of lacey tints. Another later of red buckwheat heads brilliant across
a pale far view.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm quickly overwhelmed when I go to the publishing work. My brain balks
and I close the file.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
Greg said I'm east of La Glace and it's true, though it's in the Mountain
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.
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.
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.
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
I made my place page this morning. I'm in love with it -
Little rabbits at sunset yesterday - one would rush the other, jumping
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
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.
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.
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
Ray Monk biography of Wittgenstein
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.
I would now like to live with somebody. To see
a human face in the morning. 1937
Painful love, guilt, shame, illness, suicidal depression
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
My new Apple cord is coming from Shenzhen China and is now on Lantau
Island! says the tracking number.
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.
Pdf of Ellie Epp! It looks beautiful. 92MB.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
It seems as though life is past, Mary said.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Woke with pale color just beginning over the mountains. The room isn't
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 ...
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
The grass is already browning everywhere.
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.