volume 4 of in america: 2003-04 december-april  work & days: a lifetime journal project












Lonely, lonely. Political misery. A lot of complaining of dullness. Journal transcribing. From this point on there start to be more pictures. In part 1 a rainy Christmas in the sky shack, I invent the structure for Work & days.

Notes: Yasunari Kawabata Beauty and sadness, Mozart L'amero, saro costante, Maxine Hong Kingston The fifth book of peace, Hélène Grimaud, Sebastian Barry Annie Dunne, James Wood Book against God, Roman sex 1100BC-250AD, Artaud, Cather Song of the lark, Brian Eno on generative music.

Mentioned: Margo MacLeod, Tom Fendler, Joyce Frazee, Maggie Sutton, Judie Bopp, Louise G, Edie Munk, Leslie D, Rowen, Lise Weil, Louie E, Jody Golick, Katie Price and Khalif, George Lakoff, Jen Collins, Mark Schulman, Ed Dalphe, Juliana Borrego, Catherine Chisholm, Luke, Caolyn Hauck, Steve Houston, Karen Campbell, Nick Vittum, Michael Deragon, David Beach, Cheryl C, Mary Epp, Judie Bopp, Jam Ismail, Anne Clune, Mani Rao, Jeanne Chambers.

2720 Fifth Avenue in Banker's Hill, 5133 Dawne Street in Clairemont, 5562 Taft Avenue in La Jolla, 5571 Bellevue in Bird Rock, 3743 Charles Street in Point Loma, 4055 Stephens at Fort Stockton, the Supercomputer Center at UCSD, Bread & Cie in Mission Hills, Bird Rock, Pacific Beach, Diedrich's Coffee, Balboa Park, the Neurosciences Institute, Denny's on Pacific Highway, Pacific Avenue, Burlington Airport, Plainfield VT, Maryland Hotel, Golden West Hotel, Pilgrim's Market on Hastings, University Avenue, Walter Anderson Nursery, Mission Hills Nursery, 824 E Pender, I8, Black Canyon Road, Cuyamaca Park, Avenida de la Pesca, State 52, Nazarene College, the Living Room in Old Town, Clayton Pies, the Gas Haus, Amvets Goodwill, the Monk's in La Jolla, Espresso Mio on Fort Stockton, Ocean Beach Pier, Starbucks on Fifth.

LM Montgomery Emily of New Moon, Jane Roberts, Eva Pierrakos, David Whyte, David Waggoner, Mark Jarman Cougar, Paul Gervais A garden in Lucca, Cynthia Shearer Wonder book of the air, Lord of the rings Return of the king, Zane Grey Riders of the purple sage, Hellenistic painting, Roni Horn Another water, Robert Bergman A kind of rapture, George Lakoff on strict father metaphor in politics, Starn twins' moth photos, Tristan and Isolde, Cather One of ours, Britten Purcell realizations, Lee Bontecou, Beryl Bainbridge The birthday boys, James Gleick Isaac Newton, KCRW, CBC Vancouver, Martin Luther King Day, Native Plant Society, XLNC, Moonrise Farms in Temeculah, anti-war march from City College up 5th to 6th and Laurel, Patriot Act II, San Diego Union Tribune, Richard Clark.

 2nd December 2003

The last journal is so dull I wondered whether I should think the real writing is in the student letters, but it's not. Elderly wisdom and moments of motion and exactness but it's not that light wicked interested balanced girl, the one who likes to write about sex and journeys and weather, and can dart into any topic and touch some little central thing and then dart on.

10th December

The pall there is in these days, the way I am often having to jump to turn off the radio when I hear the words 'governor' and 'Schwartzenegger' together, and Bush's childish whine making speeches telling the nation his evil war is good. I had sparky years when Clinton was in. Does the wave that washed stupidity into office also wash through me? It says that's the way to say it. Bush will be reelected, so it will be another five years at least. Are these waves meant to pick up the stupid and bring them forward? Are there implications for how I need to live in this sort of time? Proactively and instructively. So I'm doing it wrong. Waiting to be carried. Is the embodiment concentration worth doing? Is it worth staying at [my college] for? It's my present form of mind and land.

12 December

Transcribing, I keep not knowing what to do with the New Age feel of the notes with the book. The philosophy is respectable though arcane - I mean from the point of view of the general reader. The weather and days and friends writing is pleasing. But the bookwork, though the quality of the other two registers depends on it, sounds flaky. I do not mean any disrespect to it. I don't know how to think of it published. With Jane Roberts for instance, that's what she is, all she is. Eva Pierrakos. They aren't wanting to be read in the communities I want for my other work. And there is something truly wrong with the communities they are read in. Respectable communities may do that kind of thing but they keep it out of sight. I don't believe in that suppression, or any, but there is something to be found here.

What it says is that I should just tell it as a story of and demo of dissociation, having a way to communicate with dissociated self. If it is told clearly and in the context in which it has worked, secularly, it is significant, ground-breaking, interesting.

Okay. That's what I'm doing now.

15th December

NPR has been disgustingly enlisted by the Saddaam capture story. It is extraordinary the sleight of mind they are letting past - he is a bad man but had nothing to do with the Twin Tower attack. Bush had other reasons for wanting to get him and he needed a victory and so they went after someone they could actually get. Now they are playing and replaying the military commander announcing "We got him" and the troops cheering. This non-event will sink the Democrats even further.

In Canada I don't have this feeling of an overwhelmingly stupid electorate.

Bush and the many like him are Saddaam and so are in love-hate with Saddaam. Foreign affairs decisions are being conducted as the most blatant shadow-projection.

18 December

Oh Maggie. Starting to write her eval I reread her process packet Laiwan sent last year. There's her voice so heart-rendingly direct. She is the most powerful writer at [my college] in the sense that she lifts me. She speaks straight to the sore true soul. I need her writing, I need Logan's. These people are way young. Early twenties.

28th December

The way I've carefully kept amateur status in all my fields - gardening, philosophy, writing, film, photography. Teaching, too. The thought of being pinned into any of those lives is very unpleasant. The journal, though, is the underlying work that holds them all. Personal journalism. Dorothy Richardson. What can I do, what do I do, that takes her forward? I have a more mobile life. I have more linguistic flex. I don't know yet whether there's a readable form closer to the raw. That's what I'd like, to have it the journal but readable in the way I read Richardson.

2nd January 2004

I wonder how much of this discouragement is political, or at least to do with what I meet where I am. On talk radio a soldier, a captain back from Iraq, being interviewed about taking Hussein's palace, described with such jingoist prurience the backwardness he found, black and white TVs without remotes, an old microwave, sheets cotton not satin, only uniforms in the closets. This captain so ignorant, so blustering. They took the palace in five minutes, he said, because the best Iraqi troops had no technology and hid behind mattresses. "Our machine guns cut through the mattresses and we got them."

The fact that this country is headed by a man so ignorant, so stupid, so unconscious, so unbearably corrupt, and the fact that he is popular - the sound of his voice saying 'democracy' and 'freedom' while ten thousand Iraqis are dead, country and cities shot to pieces, a hundred thousand maimed, a culture trashed. American young men killed or maimed, and all irremediably brutalized, so they will be the next wave of men killing themselves, and if not themselves, their wives. And such denial built into daily discourse.

6th January

What I transcribed this afternoon was the train trip back to San Diego just before Christmas in 1996.

I like the writing. One of the things I like is that I hardly ever know what I'm going to say. Another is that I like the stories told in a paragraph or a few - the girl who shot her stepfather. I like the unpremeditated movement of a person thinking rather than presenting to a reader. I like the valiant honesty. I don't mind the egotism though I notice someone else might. I like the value given mortal moments. I'm generous when I'm interested. I like the way philosophic synthesis is there among paragraphs about winter rain and a chance meeting on Commercial St and a stranger's elegant generosity in propping my bike at the tea merchant's. I like the simplicity in sex and grief. There's great naturalness. But what?

Post it on the web, with pictures and bookwork separate. Yes, and then what? I'm discouraged before I even ask. No work I do in these ways will get me what I'm starved for, access, ease, a true love.

A true love - what's that? Why aren't the people who love me true loves? Because I have to hold back with them, always, always. They couldn't bear me, none of them. I want my work to find me someone stronger, someone so strong I can be true and love and hate and fear and all. That's what I've lost. That's why in all his badness Tom satisfied me. I'm sobbing.

Well Tom couldn't stand me either but he could stand things no one else could stand. He could stand my fury, he could stand my sexual kinkiness, he could stand my hatred, he could stand my plain-spokenness though sometimes he stood it by not hearing it.

And secondly, access, being part of the world. And thirdly, money enough for movement and roots into old age, if there will be that.

None of my work has got me those, none of it will ever get me those. Sucking-up could get me the second two, though not the first. But I can't do that.

15th January

Louie was offended at my letter in which I said what I am about popularity in a straight-out off-hand way. When she spoke to me last she had a particular sound I think of as social. She was talking about her party and she sounded stupider than usual. I mean the sound of her voice. I thought it was the sound of dealing with people as she does. 70 people she said. I said I don't think normal people are smart enough to like one for the right reasons so when anyone is popular with normal people it must be by sleazy means, by flattery. That's what I do think, and I certainly think it in relation to Louie, the way she talks on the phone. "Have a nice weekend," that sort of thing. If she brown-noses she ought to be willing to know it.

I flatter students, in the sense of being more interested in them than I am. It's professionalism, but it's brown-nosing all the same. I'm popular with students by a combination of falsity and exceptional truth. I try to minimize the falsity but I need it to get to be in a position where I can be true and demonstrate truth. But I think Louie is still in the grip of her social training in many of the horrid niceties. It keeps her smaller than she could be. It is a lack of courage. She has to be popular. This is one of our ongoing fights.

Vermont 1st February

America. Is it worse now. I look down from 37,000 feet and think all those lights are people who watch television and want to know nothing of all there is to know. I didn't think it in so many words, felt it. The captain kept coming on and telling us the Superbowl score.

February 4

The way embodiment is a women's epistemology. What there has been has been a male epistemology, in the sense that it has been based on male rupture, meaning denial of the mother and the time of the mother and all that includes. Women have been mainly uninterested in it and have left it to the men, but they could be very interested in an epistemology that is based on continuing connection, because it can support what they can do in the manner of connection.

But do I want to be queen of embodiment in a place that won't do science and where most of the fac are death-deniers? No.

13 February

The visualization I made up this morning for the advising group. Picture a point of white light anywhere ahead of you, any distance, any direction. Feel your relation to it. Feel a flow in both directions to and from the center of your chest. Just for this moment think of that point as the moment when you're standing at graduation. What do you want to have done, what do you want to feel? Now put yourself at that viewpoint and look at something in any direction you want, backward, forward, sideways.

I left them there in the silence of the computer humming and waited to see whether I could reach a point of my own and look out from it. I saw a perfectly calm ocean, nothing but ocean and sky. A living silence very deep in space. It brought tears to my eyes. It was as if I were looking at death.

I saw all the faces quiet and waited to see them start to open their eyes. "Come back when you're ready." There we were in the quiet after. Just sitting. "Shall we leave it at that?" I look at Cam. She's saying yes. Okay, let's go home.

San Diego 24th

Very deep black loam, yards deep, nothing growing. Stone walls dividing it into sections. I'm visiting. From an upstairs window I can see my home place. I'm seeing it's not far, and wondering at how different the terrain is.


I'm certain about many things, unusually so, but working through the journals I marvel at the spot of uncertainty Tom is. Even now, I can wake at night not knowing whether he was or is bad or good for me. I was fascinated by the instability. I'm imagining a zone of the air that's blurred like the traveling spot of blur that is used to censor faces or genitals on TV. It's a spot of blur I walk in and out of. That image is wrong because any individual meeting with Tom wasn't blurred, I always knew what I saw at any moment, my attitude at any moment was decided. But the unfixability of an attitude over time - that was extraordinary.

It's 5:45, dark. I've been awake since 3:30. The streets sound wet. Thursday morning. I'm still sick. Yesterday I could hear a wheeze in my lungs. There has been a bitter taste in my mouth, like aspirin. This was the third night I've woken with my stomach a dense dark bar of sensation - not pain but compact intense sensation. All of that was making me remember that people who live alone die sooner, crumble physically as if the body decides it's not wanted in the human herd.

So then I wonder whether I should do what I did in my forties, find bodies to enliven me. And then I say I can't imagine doing that again. And then I'm just where I am, living like a very old person, staying close to a tiny home.

I feel myself waiting to say to Tom, Let's try again, it was better together than it is apart. And then I say, He still won't have any money, he'll still be afraid to grow past himself. And I'll still be stuck wanting to move up to a bigger space, and not wanting to, for some reason.

6 March

Driving east on University I found XLNC on the jeep scanner and there was baroque music, wonderful, baroque instruments, voices shouting hallelujah! hallelujah! [not Handel]. I kept pushing the volume up and rolled my windows down so that at stoplights I was a baroque boom car. I had tears of joy in my eyes, delivered from depression.

At Mission Hills Nursery the gay young men know me and speak to me fraternally. Down near the fruit trees there was someone singing, an older Mexican man on his knees pruning and weeding. Only the tune, a sentimental song. I think you are happy, I said. I am happy for the plantas, and my job, he said.

7th March

A power moon rising.

It's hot.

In the market this morning there was a cross-cut slab of a pumpkin so beautiful I stood and stared. A beaten-brass skin and fine-fleshed - very fine-fleshed - deep orange meat. Next to it, the rest of the pumpkin it had been slabbed off had curly antlers, a couple of feet of twisty dried stalk.

As I stood gazing a man with a folkie's big flop of white moustache came out from behind the Moonrise Farms banner ("no herbicides, no pesticides"). He found the pumpkin as wonderful as I, a heritage variety he said, taken to France from Mexico, where it had been grown for a thousand years. The Mexicans know it, he said, it's still grown there. In France called Conte de fee. He was so happy a man, so pleased with his little farm at Temeculah, and his mountain lion that didn't jump, didn't run, but flowed fourteen feet in one motion, tail fluffed to a six inch diameter. I stood and talked to him on and on. Something about the pumpkin (and when he was emerging from his van he was carrying a purple cabbage to put next to it) - and something about the joyfulness of the man - and more particularly something about the angular quirkedness of the pumpkin stem - did strike me as indicating the presence of an elf or fairy world.

26 March

Willa Cather often writes about herself. She's interested in what it is in her that carried her so far into autonomy, excellence and success. She's interested in other people too, and she fictionalizes, but she's so natural in her interests that she lets herself tell her own story often, all the stories of young persons on a farm or in a prairie town, who rise up through into communities of cultural power.

I have that sort of interest in myself but haven't been her sort of clear about the young person who gets to autonomy and excellence but doesn't make it to success.

Cather is very warm and direct, she's visual in the way I am, but more so. She has amazing memory for light and weather and landscape. She wasn't a shy child, she mixed with anyone and studied how things are done. I was withdrawn but also I wasn't on the way to being a novelist, though I was on the way to being a novel reader. I had that elf-edge where I think she was all human, and I was on the way to being - oh shit - a philosopher. But a philosopher who learns in novels and writes in personal journal form.

3rd April

What I am feeling is something like a hideousness of life. I've felt a benevolence sometimes but it's as if this stretch of torture by isolation and paralysis is a slow blank taking-account of the destruction of spirits. Spirits are smashed in this life. I hate it for what it did to Janeen and Frank and Joyce and Ed. I hate the way it teased me with Tom, let me think I had what I needed so I'd fight for it, wait, suffer, in such faith, after it had already taken it away from me.

I can see that Frank killed himself because he decided to go in his own time. He wasn't hateful, he was done.

There was a newspaper story about an 89 year old man who was losing his vision to a tumor. He was taken up in a biplane for a birthday present, because he had been a flier in the war. As he and the pilot were coming back to the airport he took off his helmet. Then he jumped over the side. He fell into the courtyard of a condo.

I have lost my work, Joyce, my house, Tom.

I have [my college]. It's a small thing but good, I'm good at it.

The good in life is so precious. Bontecou's sculpture that I see across the room is so needed an assertion - wonders of human making are so needed to hold up against the ways we get smashed, the facts.

Is it necessary to feel this to know what work is for? Bontecou's entire life can be given to making one piece as humanly splendid as Shakespeare.

4th April

Looking at Frank after his life and the journal of my dad's death I was feeling how no one who knows either of them would want to read them. Everyone would hate what I saw, what I say. There are people who don't know them who could like the writing in relation to facts of their own, but that's not what I want most.

A hollow-hearted hunger to be liked and wanted in my own life. I keep lifting the cover of my computer wanting someone to be talking and listening to me. I have been so stoic about being unwanted in my communities. I've gone to the world as far as I had to go, far. It doesn't occur to me to complain. Exile is a condition of life.

6th April

Ocean Beach pier. It's spring break. The fishermen are hauling up banners of seaweed, one after the other. Break. That sudden stop.

O unspeakable sea. O faceted ocean, lifting, lifting, falling away.

The motion of that area of shattered reflected water is visible but incomprehensible. I can see it but as if not very deeply. It's two colors, dark and light, but I can't hold to either as figure. As I try to see the motion of the dark, the light washes into its place. Such brief but complicated counterflow.

The concrete posts in their fuzzy legwarmers.

8th April

Falling asleep at night I sometimes wake suddenly in a small flush of fear, too hot and my heart beating fast. Last night it was fear of hell.

When writing about myself isn't egotism is when there is that feeling of noting what life is, what human being is.

I was lying awake in the dark at 4 this morning thinking of the little Sunday dresses my mother made for us - pink satin with white lace yokes, or especially the pale green dotted organdy.

I was feeling the relation of that dress and a quality of mine, the quality I like, which is an organdy quality. Tenuous? Sheer. Do I know anyone else who has it? No. It is as if my value. It is not the way I imagine myself. If I did imagine myself that way, would it tell me what my work is? Is its name intelligence? Female intelligence? It's the quality of the voice on tape reading to Tom. It's somewhat the quality of the Bontecou piece. The whole grain book. People are reserved with it because they are attracted to it. It's linked to my father. He could see it. I'm exquisite and deformed.