volume 3 of in america: 2003 july-november  work & days: a lifetime journal project














Part 1 in Vancouver coaching Rowen through Math 10. Part 2 back in San Diego, car shopping. Tom living in the mission. Part 4 at last Tom tells me what's been going on, I buy a Cherokee. Agree not to see Tom for 6 months. Wonderful letters from Luke.

Notes: Susan Griffin A chorus of stones, Logan Burns, A walking tour in southern France: Ezra Pound among the troubadours, Alice Notley Mysteries of small houses, EB White on Walden, Andrew Harvey Sun at midnight, Strauss Im Abendrot, Antonio Damasio Looking for Spinoza, Walter Kaufmann Goethe, Kant and Hegel, Ursula Le Guin The birthday of the world, Kipling Kim..

Mentioned: Louie E, Rowen, Tom Fendler, Margo MacLeod, Lise Weil, Karen Campbell, Luke, David Beach, Ken Sallitt, Leah Rosling, Daphne Marlatt, Katie Price, Rhonda Patzia, Leslie D, Louise G, Rasheed Mohammed, Frank Doerksen, Bill Volk, Mitch Beeber of Pacific Coast Autos, optometrist Dr Phon, Michael Deragon, Scott Mader.

874 East Georgia in Vancouver, Venables Avenue, Burlington, Plainfield VT, Iona Beach, Mount Baker, MacDonalds at 41st and Fraser, the MCC thrift store, Kits Beach, Bo Jangles in Coal Harbour, San Francisco Airport, Maple Canyon, 2720 Fifth Avenue in Banker's Hill, 5133 Dawne Street in Clairemont, 5562 Taft Avenue in La Jolla, 3743 Charles Street in Point Loma, 4055 Stephens at Fort Stockton, Amvets Goodwill, Old Town, Starbucks on Fifth, Diggs Wheels on West Mission in Escondido, Oceanside, El Cajon Boulevard, Henry's Market, Financial 21 Credit Union, Bread & Cie in Mission Hills, David's Cafe in Hillcrest, Newport Avenue Antique Center, Coronado Bridge, Balboa Park, Espresso Mio Cafe in Mission Hills, the Martin Building, Cabrillo Park.

Shania Twain, Vancouver Sun, Ellen Dissanayake Art and intimacy, Garth Murphy The Indian lover, the Auto Trader, Emmy-Lou Harris Wrecking ball, Larry Watson Justice, Lise Boyer of the Canada Council, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, Al Gromer Khan Space hotel, Betsy Clebsch The new salvia book, Somei Satoh Toward the night, Edmund Wilson, Sigur Ros Angels of the universe, Fauré Requiem, Preisner Requiem for my friend, Rankins' Fare thee well love, Eva Cassidy, Willie Nelson Across the borderline, NPR on the Battle of Gettysburg.

Vancouver 30th July 2003

It's basking summer. That steeple is like a steeple on a church in an Indian village in the interior. Behind it the BC raincoast mountains very milky in this early morning with valley air pollution.

3rd August

What else do I hate about Louie. I hate a lot of her clothes. She wears patterned things, shiny things. She has two thick-filled racks of that stuff. I hate a lot of her household appurtenances, spoon holder on the stove, marble mortar and pestle - two of them - tile with Einstein's head on it. Patterned cut-glass drinking glasses. The old grinder she has as sculpture. I hate the way she puts yogourt in salad so the colors are coated over, I hate the way she pours oil into food. I hate her liking for delicatessen stuff, the amount of it in the fridge. I hate her fridge magnets and pictures. I hate the purple cushion with a Chinese button on it. I keep turning it face down. I hate the gold- and silver-patterned cushions and shawl on the couch. I hate the spiky plant on the floor in the corridor, underfoot. I hate the way she puts her knives and forks into slots. I hate the way there's too much stuff in the kitchen cupboards, so it's a struggle to put anything away. I hate it, basically, that this is her place not mine. - There I thought of the moment when I was a child, when I found myself thinking dreamily that if my mother died the embroidered cloths in the drawer would be mine.

Having said all these hates I feel pleased with myself. I feel happy, humorous. There on the window sill is a CD refracting brilliant streaks of orange, yellow, purple, turquoise. It is an object like nothing else in the room. And there's the ficus so dark green, long leaves the shape of bamboo. The cissus in its gracious layers and groping paws, radiantly alive.

It's 7:30. There's still sun in the orange corner. Ms Louie is quietly clanking in the kitchen. I have my door shut.

28th August

When I woke before daylight, a feeling about the Tom story -The golden west -the vividness of the struggle - the livingness of Tom - what it would be to have the story public - it would be the most complete outering I could have - and with it the most complete account I could give of the possibilities of life. These thoughts come in the aura of thoughts about embodiment studies - embodiment studies is about rebuilding academic topics to suit women - including sorts of intelligence men cut off - and my journals demonstrate those sorts of mind in their matrix of money and health worries, sex, neighbourhood, friendship, psychological work.

- There the sun opens a window on the orange wall - touches an edge of the cissus, ripens the corner, reverberating orange on orange. A few late crows flap west, small black things. The unsayable mountain there, fixing the edge of this cool still bowl of air. Peaked roofs firm lids on the humans.

Then the sun shifts and the orange corner falls silent.

San Diego 17 September

I am afraid of making it lighter by telling it. It is a very harsh truth, and I don't like to feel how terrible it is. It is that I have harmed my kids by my negligence. I don't mean this in any trivial way. I have done harm to their spirits and it may be irrecoverable. I would like to leave it at that and not go into detail, because the detail makes it real. I abandoned my oldest son when he was six and a half; I broke his heart. He is thirty-two and has never been able to stay with a woman. I abandoned my second son before birth, in the sense that, because I wanted to know whether he was a girl, I blasted him with ultrasound that caused learning disabilities that make him doubt his intelligence, so that he has trouble even hoping for a good life. When he was born I gave him to his father and felt nothing for him. He doesn't know that not realizing this fact is one of the reasons he wants to hide away in video games all day.

I wrote that paragraph as if to Sally. Went on to a point where I was shocked at the heart. Then kept going.

My neglect harmed my children irremediably but I would do it again to keep the freedom I took.

18th September

At 5:30 this morning when I had made tea and had put on the requiem I got back into bed and was reading earlier bits in this journal. There's an evenness of enjoyment in them that is a kind of humor. It floats me through hatred, misery, blankness, even. I don't feel the humor at the time, particularly, but it's there when the story is told. EB White saying Walden is "the most humorous of books, though its humor is almost continuously subsurface and there is nothing deliberately funny anywhere." It is as if accurate self-forgiveness is automatically humor, and accurate self-description is automatically self-forgiveness. Is that it?

11th October

The requiems I own and listen to: Sigur Ros Angels of the universe, Fauré, Somei Satoh Toward the night, Preisner Requiem for my friend, Mozart, Rankins' Fare thee well love, Eva Cassidy altogether, Emmy-Lou Harris Wrecking ball, Willie Nelson Across the borderline. A while back I crossed into a tragic zone and here I live conscious of damage and doing small work to repair.

My heart is shaky this morning.

It's alright because it's true.

Full moon.


I'm relieved. Now I know what happened.

Mid-January 2000, after he took me to the train, he said.

26th October

At maybe 5 in the morning I stepped onto the roof, felt the air warm, and smelled ash - flakes of ash on my bra left to dry - flakes of ash falling. The air was warm as if the sun were up, but unevenly, lumpily. Red in the sky behind the cathedral. Bike, out, yes - to Balboa Park - toward the desert sky. It's a Santa Ana. I go to the farthest edge of the park, an irrigation control box beyond the rose garden. The sun rises like a white spotlight on the olives and eucalyptus. I'm free! I said, and sighed.

Now I am on the roof and the sun has risen into the layer of smoke, a coral-pink disk.

I'm free and I have a jeep and I have a very strong pulse, the optometrist said.

5th November

When I go into my closet the little brumming and digesting noises of my refrigerator. At this moment, 3:58 in the dark, a bird stirs in the heater. The pot on the hotplate begins to sound.

I was lying awake anxious about whatever this is, psychic low energy - isolation, dullness, purposelessness, lifelessness - hopelessness. I look backward at the month before I left 824, when I loved the house, loved the city, loved Tom, loved Louie, loved the work, and had a strong intent - which was to be finished and come here!

And here's this little cubby with its good floor and flowers and there on Olive Street is a blue jeep - and here over the back of my one chair is a blue linen shirt - and there in a pink institution in the lowlands is Tom in a lower bunk sleeping vigorously, alone in all the world - and here am I, writing small, quite an expert, wishing for a match set to my dead grass -

No I do not want it to be the old tinder, romantic longing, sexual adventure - no I do not want to shut myself up again in - here I stop - I was going to say I don't want to shut myself up again in academic reading - but what it is, is that I don't want to shut myself up in aimless academic reading. I solved my puzzles. I don't have those questions any more. I don't want to spend the rest of my life publicizing what I've done already. I want a new adventure deep and strong as the old ones.


Yesterday I reread Kim. I did it idly, because I was zonking, but I also had an idea of making something of it. I remembered only one or two moments in the book, but I seemed to remember also a moment of reading it. It was in the first stretch of the road after the school bus had dropped us - the part coming up to the first stand of trees on Kinderwater's land. It was - I think it was - September, yellow leaves, blue sky. I read as I walked. It would have been four-thirty in the afternoon, cool air, warm light. I was ten?

He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaid-gher - the Wonder House, as natives call the Lahore Museum.

That first sentence of the book is familiar. It's the sentence I read as I started to walk. I had taken the book from the shelves of a new classroom at the beginning of a new school year, probably. (I would have read everything in last year's. That means grade four, maybe.)

I would have been taken instantly by a story of a free child -

... he knew the wonderful walled city of Lahore from the Delhi Gate to the outer Fort Ditch; was hand in glove with the men who led lives stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamed of; and he lived in a life wild as that of the Arabian Nights, but missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could not see the beauty of it. His nickname through the wards was "Little Friend of all the World;"

- a child who lived by his wits and spoke freely and cleverly to anyone. (Orphan Annie with black hair like me, moving from one life to another, a barge in Florida, a millionaire's sky-scraper in New York, setting out on the road again with her dog.)

The next moment I remembered was arriving at the Grand Trunk Road:

See, Holy One - the Great Road which is the backbone of all Hind. And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. It runs straight, bearing without crowding India's traffic for fifteen hundred miles - such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world. They looked at the green-arched, shade-flecked length of it, the white breadth speckled with slow-pacing folk ...

Those two moments were familiar when I came to them, but the moment I actually recalled, the one I was looking for, was the Play of the Jewels.

"There are under that paper five blue stones - one big, one smaller, and three small," said Kim, all in haste. "There are four green stones, and one with a hole in it; there is one yellow stone that I can see through, and one like a pipe stem. There are two red stones and - and - I made the count fifteen, but two I have forgotten. No! Give me time. One was of ivory, little, and brownish; and - and - give me time..."

"One - two" - Lurgan Sahib counted him out up to ten. Kim shook his head.

"Hear my count!" the child burst in, trilling with laughter. "First, are two flawed sapphires - one of two ruttees and one of four as I should judge. The four-ruttee sapphire is chipped at the edge. There is one Turkestan turquoise, plain with black veins, and there are two inscribed - one with the Name of God in gilt, and the other being cracked across, for it came out of an old ring, I cannot read. We have now all five blue stones. Four flawed emeralds there are, but one is drilled in two places, and one is a little carven - ."

Kipling was writing the childhood of the writer as the childhood of a spy, and I was taking note, as the child, not exactly of that. I didn't attend to the people around me. I want to say I was living the childhood of a philosopher - which is a subtype of writer, not Kipling's kind -

I was looking for ways to be the best kind of human. Kipling was a sajib. I was not. The best kind of human was the kind who understands and speaks - who knows. I wasn't interested in people who don't know. That in itself is a narrowness and ignorance. Was there any good reason for it? I had to make sure I made it out.


Went to Scott's to replace the passiflora that died. Laundromat. Driving my growler. At Mission Hills Nursery there were two olive trees - striplings, eight or nine feet tall in their pots, beauties. I bought them and two small Washington navel orange trees and took them to Clairemont and planted them. The olives slotted between the seats and their soft tops folded over my washed clothes in the passenger seat. I measured and set stakes, drew lines with green string, planted the orange trees next to the house wall and the olives 18' apart on the edge of the slope. The orange trees are small and dark green and look good against the wall. The olives - oh - are beings I treat as natural aristocrats. I walk backwards when I leave them.

Brought home one of the oranges and ate it. Removed even the small green ones, so the trees will work at their roots.

This was a happy day.

Tomorrow the strawberry guava and possibly the apricot. Plant the Queen Anne's lace.

The red plaid blanket is washed. I dried it in the hot jeep as I worked.


Monday morning, Bread & Cie. The sun is low enough in the sky to reach under the awning into the corner.

There a green fly lands on the page. The sun through its wings shows - showed - fine veins. The shadow of the wing was very like the wing: both were grey and transparent.


It's early, six. I stepped on the roof to unlock the gate and there was a desert sunrise beginning behind the eucalyptus in Balboa Park. Seeing it I have an ache for the mornings in Tom's room, sublime, the golden sky and his manly kiss. The room above the city, traffic on Coronado bridge. Coffee in bed, watching the sky as he irons his shirt and chooses his tie.

I have on Somei Satoh, one of my sad CDs. There's a train saying goodbye as it blasts through Oldtown. The clouds are pinking over the water, it is going to be a day like yesterday, perfect heat and light, the waves pale green stretching to glass while spray blows back in an arc.


What small news of this day - yesterday I took garden pictures with Nor's little digital camera. I siphoned them into my laptop through a small wire and worked with them in a very rudimentary picture-editor.

That's not worth having said but I'll leave it. There's nothing else.

I've been waking too early and not being able to go back. Last night I was touching my clit to put myself to sleep and was slipping just over the line into the dark. As I started to sleep my finger would stop moving and I'd wake again. In that slipping across I saw interesting things, several times a grid of close-spaced black lines, another time I think a sort of small black and white check. Those were things I'd never seen before and as I was going in and out of seeing them I was feeling, not with words, now I'm happy and interested. Lying there was very boring but I could do this on and on.


Mission Hills. I've come to the coffeehouse I found months ago and am sitting in chilly sun under a green umbrella. It's very genteel. An architect flirted with me. That's why I'm here. He had pale eyelashes but I flirted back, experimentally. There are a lot of trees and bushes about.

I have been transcribing journals. I do it hopefully. I always feel how interesting the stories are, how untold they are elsewhere. Oh crows slowly in the blue. Oh the young blonds. Suddenly the sun is warmer. Is it time to take off the black sweater, not quite. Well-bred persons with short white hair. A short-legged paisana on the way to a cleaning job. Sun in a few of the blades of a New Zealand flax across the road. Flump flump the bighipped blond in moccasins.

Maybe what I should do is - there my eye rises to the red reflections on a black car, strikingly red and defined. Watch what happens as he backs the red VW out of the slot next to it. Anyone could tell from the motion [of the reflection] that it's a car backing out, though it's completely abstract. Why does that phrase need three syllables before abstract. Completely is false, if the motion can be understood. Small tense man tightly packed into his brown sports jacket. A misery of power. Small power. Whisk, whisk, whisk, the sound of thighs in nylon sports pants.

Maybe what I should do is transcribe seriously, think of that as what I'm doing. Radio comes on as the black car backs out. A sand-colored Toyota replaces it. Clicks and jingle, black dog on a leash. The Tom story seen in excerpts is a story of appetite in adventure, a woman investigating far masculinity with energy and humor. It's a story of investigation altogether, of friendship, with Louie, of - maid in blue jeans pushing a stroller with a blond baby - of neuroscience read within a large personal framework not at all formed by the profession, of Joyce and self-recovery, - Lucy! Lucy you stay right here. That's not nice. You stay right here. She will not bite. A thin Oriental woman with dyed hair - of money, weather. White garbage truck idling to pick up a blue box on the corner, arms slide out of its undercarriage to grasp the box and lift it. I dreamed kites, large kites in a strong wind, complex kites with many folds. Now the sweater has come off. Strong blue sky. Fibrous white smudges sailing to the northeast. An old woman with holes in her pumpkin-colored sweater. That one's a gardener - no, it's a man. Grumpy. No one else is sitting outside. All right mister, are you ready? Woman in clean jeans to a big-headed four year old she is packing into the child seat of her pale teal SUV. Fort Stockton. A row of palm trees on the corner, giraffes evolved to browse above a thick understory that here does not exist, so they are 50' of bare neck and then a sphere of glinting posing grass. Discrete ticking purr of that car, what is it, dove grey, a very smooth simple thing. One next to it just like it but black. One next to it just like it but silver. Toyota Celica. Here's a very different sound, working class, old Dodge pickup, a tradesman.