[october 24]* * * *

December 31, 2012

Home again.

Squinting. At this lattitude sunshine is low in the windshield and sour.

Split wood in the afternoon.

(these English-speaking lattitudes, these heavily forested, rich-soiled lattitudes)

Helped H. with grad-school applications.


Collected thoughts on Clark’s paintings for his book intro.

Tonight is the last night of 2012!  It will be clear, starry, frosty.

Jupiter is still — still! — hanging out competing with Aldebaran.

(Supermarket chicken thighs.  Leftover squash.)

The wonderful thing about the occasional popular “End-of-the-World” frights (this year’s was predicted by the Mayan calendar for Dec. 21st; the first popular scare in my own generation involved the passage of “Kohoutek’s Comet”) is that they might force even the most numb, presuming fellow to get a little bit of a metaphysical shiver.


* * * *


Mexico, Popotla coast, around Xmas.

The boom of Pacific waves all night.

The only two books I brought on this trip are about modern philosophy of time.  Our experience of time doesn’t represent its reality, according to the general opinion.  Parmenides is making a comeback: many physicists think there’s no such thing as change or motion; only human experiences of it.  Even Zeno’s arrow is still here: it turns out to be still frozen like a snapshot, midflight, back in the 6th Century.  Hasn’t been moved forward by Leibniz-Newton calculus).

So, in Mexico my usual insomnia is, during certain dips, floated on dread.  Never had such a feeling before.  These are all imponderables they’re taking up.  For such thinking, there will never be empirical help; all these wishful philosophers in the end reach no conclusions.  It does nobody any good to write or read about these things: that’s how I feel these nights.  Let there be an end of curiosity and science, sometimes.


* * * *


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Foothills’ coldest morning so far.  Frosty death is on everything outside.  Dash is awake before dawn, downstairs finishing algebra homework, math book open, knees tucked, converting fractions to decimals by lamplight, a tender prayer-like activity.


* * * *


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Three days till Mexico now.

We’re supposed to meet Hunter in the San Diego airport.

Packing, Brett thinks of everything.

Sunny and cold in Indian Flat.

Will go by bicycle – (inshallah!) to public library.

The manuscript of The Assistant is in great confusion, as I’m tearing it down.  Getting closer-in on characters; the wanton vulgar pleasures of caricature are no longer allowed.  (But how all our understanding of human nature is “caricature.”)

Half this sunny afternoon, I’m indoors lying in bed sending out emails in batches: season’s-greetings recordings of “chestnuts” tune.


* * * *


Sunday, Dec. 16

The old book lying out in the rain this month:

Helene Hanff’s “84, Charing Cross Road,” its cover flipped permanently open.  Its front endpaper bears a dedication from my mother, in ballpoint pen:

To Brett –

Whose appreciation of

books is always a pleasure to me.

With Best Love –

Mary Lou

This in her Palmer-Method handwriting.  Nowadays if she writes at all, from her wheelchair, her handwriting would be illegible and dribbly.  Beneath this is a Post-It note, with the same handrwiting:

Thanks so much, Brett,

for the wedding pictures.



* * * *


Dash is working on a long essay assignment for school: to describe in specific detail a future vision of our society, fifty years on.  (Dash’s version, and all his friends’ versions, are 100% dystopian except for a few cool gizmos.)

So I guess that’s how it’ll be.  Because, as children dream, so arises the future.  Dystopian-plus-gizmos seems like what we’ve got now; and we’re pretty happy with it.


* * * *


December 15, 2012

Saturday.  Quiet little rain coming in.  Worked only till 10:30.

Cavendish is staying in the corner room again.  Bacon and scrambled eggs for all.  Dash has been prescribed eyeglasses, and he’s excited about the style possibilities, tho’ he doesn’t strictly need them.

Afternoon in the soft rain cleaning up the several felled cedars.

Chain-sawing in the rain: not as miserable an activity as it looks. It’s fine, when there’s only a drizzle.  It’s even pleasant, muffled.  The first snowflakes of the year started falling.  Cold front arrives palpably, suddenly.  Got the whole job done (ropes gathered up, slash dragged out to road for chipping, chainsaw coughed empty of fumes and laid up, gas and oil-can stowed, canvas gloves in the filing-cabinet drawer in garage) before the rain picked up pace.

Sands is back in town.  Lamb stew.


* * * *


December 10, 2012

Monday.  Up at three.  Jacket copy off to Counterpoint at last.

Cold, clear.  Outside in the dark, I’m blinded by a wall of a pale computer-screen, ghostly before my retina.

On the meadow, the LED lantern stands, shedding light on turf.

Jupiter looks big and fat going down behind the pines.  Lots of shooting stars.


* * * *


Then the afternoon grew summery.  Barbara (in the sun, in a wicker chair in the meadow) studied the newspaper.  I started taking down one of the three cedars.  Started with the biggest.

Miscalculation: I didn’t want to fell it downhill into the immediate embrace of the forest, but uphill into the open north.  On north side of the trunk, made 45-degree directional-cuts.

Maybe the cut was too deep: almost halfway thru the trunk.  Because when I made the felling cut on the opposite side, the tree sagged to south (alternative diagnosis: the whole cedar, which had looked perfectly straight, was actually bias-weighted to the south).  So the mouth of my cut closed and bit down hard on the chainsaw bar, and I had tons of timber standing on the bar clamping it tight.

I walked away fast, leaving the clamped chainsaw sticking out of the wound.

Called Brett for help (and all-important witness).  Threw ropes into the upper branches, all the while dodging through danger-zones (a tree held vertical by a hinge of wood, hinge as thin as kindling) – and all the while, the little white dog needed to be poked back out of the way, over and over again, for his safety.  Success.  Pulled it down to meadow floor.  And by the end of the day I had it limbed and bucked in rounds.

Barbara has “book club” tonight, with Cavendish.  Who brings smoked salmon.


* * * *


December 8, 2012

Baited new rodent traps in studio.

Replenished all firewood and kindling in mud room.

Raked off west meadow, under pines by the road.

All day, on and off: orbiting the computer to take stabs at some language for the jacket copy.

Hunter in Massachusetts is applying to graduate schools.

Chainsaw lacks proper oil for oil-gas fuel mixture.  Trip to store.  Then I have no bar-and-chain lubricant.  So I resort to crossing the road and finding some in Billy’s fantastical workshop, where he has a big gallon jug.

Mushroom identification (Yuba Watershed Institute) in the Stone House in town.  Dash comes along.


* * * *


December 7, 2012

At the café, Brett and Barbara and I catch the Luke-Maggie show, first set.  Corner table by window.  Frost on windows.  Barbara grows garrulous and fond, on red wine.  Passing around set-designer’s fresh-purchased 1844 German mandolin like an infant.  Warmth and light.  Genevieve’s crepes.  Coq au vin.  Probably tipped too generously.

Four-thirty AM.  Money worries.  Car worries.  Outside on the frost-sparkling meadow, I can’t make sense of the stars’ display, they’re all visible but they’re all shaken up, no Orion, no Polaris, no Pleiades, nor planets, nor Taurus, just one northerly group that might be a wrongly bent Big Dipper, in the wrong location.  Nothing is identifiable.


* * * *


December 7, 2012

Cavendish asks if he can move into playroom, for a brief time.  Then doesn’t show up.  At four am, his bed is turned down, the lamp on, the space-heater humming.


* * * *


December 7, 2012

Apple tree by the garden plot – once a three-trunk fixture – is now down to one trunk, and that last one is losing bark at the base. I think this is fire blight.

The sound of chainsaws and heavy earth-moving equipment from the south in Ericson Lumber’s old property, only a mile distant.


* * * *



December 3, 2012

Brett goes to Squaw for the day, to take care of the last fine niceties I couldn’t possibly.

Here, I fuss over The Assistant.  “The Assistant’s” narrative conceit – of constantly reminding the reader of the Biblical stencil that is held against the modern characters’ every move – risks causing a headachey astigmatism in most readers.  It flouts a rudimentary rule of storytelling, as taught in workshops and MFA programs, and as fomented in popular literature: Keep the Reader in the Fictive Trance.  Never remind the reader that this is artifice.

But I’m not sure the fictive trance ever did – or ever does – enthrall me.  Whenever I read, I’m always reading past the scrim, through the scrim, searching out the figure of the idea behind, and the author’s worldview.  I think I’m not alone, I think everybody does this.  I think everybody is searching out Jane Austen’s worldview; Richard Ford’s worldview; even “Raymond Chandler’s” worldvview.

Books should bring us something we can use, not take us out of reality but put us into reality.  Readers who want escape will find it in genre literature, or better yet, watching television.  Television does much better what “pleasure reading” tries to do, and nowadays, media are so easily available on various devices, people needn’t resort to the comparatively clunky old mechanism of the grammatical sentence.  The grammatical sentence, in risking the exposure of criticizable, logical assertions about the world, accomplishes a very different kind of miracle – and it’s not for everybody, as most people really would rather be at the circus – the grammatical sentence is not exactly “entertainment” – it’s not even, quite, naturally built to be “popular,” as a narrative medium.  The grammatical sentence is going to tend to close in upon on a corralled, smaller readership, who could be called an elite.  Great literature is “boring,” compared to the miracles wrought by television and Hollywood.  And most people think that the sensation known popularly as “boredom” is an Undesirable.


* * * *


December 2, 2012

Storm over.  Sunday.

Happy with “Assistant” chapter.

Typical loss of ten minutes, on a Sunday: getting distracted googling “Screaming Lord Sutch” and probing deep into the history of a brief, profound mistake in pop music.

Proofing Squaw-brochure documents for Brett.

More news from Hunter, who is delighted with his test scores and applying to schools in fuller confidence.

Barbara is in the cottage filling out a “Depression Questionnaire,” rating assertions from 1 thru 4 for validity: for instance:

  • “I’ve been feeling down in the dumps.”
  • “The future sometimes seems hopeless.”

I’m satisfied with new “Chestnuts” mix.

Sermon in church is insipid.

Off to the movies!  With Barbara and Dashiell.  Bio-pic of Abraham Lincoln is disappointing – but as good as it might ever be, considering the Industry.  Bravely written.  More exciting to watch is Barbara’s comprehension of the entire plot, keeping the characters distinct, getting teary at the right moments, laughing at the right moments.



* * * *


December 2, 2012

Daybreak, distractions of storm, violent from six-thirty to seven-thirty AM.  Can’t work.  Tall pines bend low, and even the low clumps of lavender by the garage are squashed and whipped.  It’s painful to watch the pair of huge far-off oaks grope through this.  NOAA radar loop displays unprecedented red wrinkles traveling over us.  As light comes up, the roof-gables in wind shed slashing mists, like what you see ripping off airplane wings through the porthole in flight.



* * * *


November 30, 2012

Churning storm, all this weekend.  The sense of living in (however grand your house may be) a hut.

Picking old ham off the bone, sock-footed in kitchen.

NOAA: In Blue Canyon watershed of Amer. River, 14 inches of rain in a sixteen-hour period.

This bashed-up, stringless guitar I’ve been entrusted with, by Oswaldo, turns out to be a ’55 Martin double-00, precisely the same year and model as Willie Nelson’s (even more bashed-up) guitar.  But the unpaved roads in this weather will be too bad, out into the woods where the luthier’s (Luke’s) magical workshop is.


* * * *

(Still, there’s the school pick-up, as those roads are paved.)


* * * *

November 29, 2012

Funny exchange by email:

R: agrees to come to Squaw next summer.  By email he says yes if airfare is paid, but he won’t want to stick around as he doesn’t like California.  He’s a Yankee now. Hates mountains, too.

Me: Fine, excellent, however, in defense of Calif: you may be thinking of Southern Calif.  In Northern Calif, migrants brought in some Yankee or Puritan baggage, you’ll recognize it, work-ethic, brave-clean-reverent, etc.

R: in response: “Thanks but I’m pretty comfortable with my loathing for California.”



* * * *

“theology”–  Interesting breakdown in reasoning:

In good conscience, and using our shared language according to its rules, one is really constrained to confess aloud, “I don’t believe in God.”  Saints and mystics will readily say the same, plus wink indicating it’s complicated.  The sentence itself, semantically, is a terrible candied-hash: “I” and “believe in” and “God.”  But, an illogical truth: something else describable as “divine love” – (the something extra, the something unasked-for) – does evince empirical evidence, because that mythological concept “love” furnishes a reason or warrant or motive for the existence of anything.  In this thinking, the cart comes (somewhat necessarily) before the horse: Love is a merely emotional scent lingering from the long-ago Big Bang event, but it’s more cogent to reason than the putative event itself.

(Unwitnessed and occult as that Big Bang event will always be.)

Before the Big Bang (i.e., “prior to” that event in a chronological sense and, also, in a logical-argumentation sense), possibility does not yet exist.  That is, there was once a “time” in the pure void when there was no such thing as possibility.  The possibility of possibility, then, was the first thing.  It was the primordial fiat-lux ingredient.  That is, in the primordial nothingness “before” there could be any such thing as possibility, the possibility of possibility had to be decreed.

(Definitely not the best verb, there, at the end: “decree.”)

And note the passive voice.  …It had to be instituted? …It had to be inaugurated?  What active verb can describe this ex nihilo, unthought-of debut?  With necessary agnosticism, they all seem to default to passive voice, implying an actor or agency.  Merely to find a vague intransitive verb and paste it over that debut – like “appeared” or “arose” (verbs that presume an action without a cause) – seems a cop-out if one really does hope to inquire sincerely into origins with genuine surmises.

So in this trend of theistic thinking, a kind of emotion or an anthropomorphic “motive” called love, is treated here as a legitimate element of objective surmise.  So it is: If we were using the old language of mythology, this primordial moment of cosmic fogging-up (the Big Bang) would be an artifact of God’s beneficent love. (the galaxies)

Such an entity as this generalized “love” – an original will to posit rather than to negate, a will for “position” rather than “negation” – would be a very strange thing to be living in the midst of, if it’s real.  One can’t even understand what it consists of, all around us.  And certainly such a Universal Love must be “mysterious” in its workings (that’s the usual euphemism), since misery and pain and samsara are often – or invariably! – the brunt of it.

Overcast day.  Medium-sized work morning. Afternoon to be spent with odds and ends, writing recommendations, putting back fallen-down bookshelf in Dash’s room, reapplying duct tape on shower door, mixing slide guitar track, reading Richard’s novel.  For the Toyota, four new Sumitomo “all-weather” tires.

In the fruit bowl, for weeks there has been a business-return envelope with a brochure: “No Medical Exam Required: Term Life Insurance,” with a note from Brett on its margin in Sharpie pen: “Louis – I think we should do!”  The Sharpie pen has also circled our age-bracket on the chart: twenty thousand dollars would be the pay-off if either of us dies within twenty years.  This wager costs $40/month.  (I see the premiums climb fast as the age-brackets rise.)


* * * *


Sentimental notion:

I think about scientific “knowledge” and it sometimes seems to me that there is no such thing as knowledge at all!  (defining knowledge, according to convention, as a correspondence between worldly state-of-affairs and mental model of that state-of-affairs.)

There’s no “knowledge,” no, there’s only love.

There IS such a thing as predictive capacity, enabling practical thinking, but as for that “mental model” thing, no, not so sure.

Knowledge – (for instance, our ideal Platonic diagrammatic conception of, say, green chlorophyll in a leaf’s fabric, or the oval path a planet travels, or the three subatomic slippery pips that make up a hadron) – all this knowledge keeps breaking up into a mist as further advances are made.  The action of so-called “gravity” as it sucks Newton’s apple down to the English pasture, the quark dissolving into superstrings in Calabi-Yau spaces – “knowledge” keeps evaporating before our gaze – (or, that is, the scientist’s gaze) – but the force, the force in our gaze is love.  One can only love“chlorophyll.”  One can only love “gravity.”

(The newest thing pre-Big-Bang is “the quantum vacuum field.”  Picture that. Might as well be ether.  Phlogiston.  Tiny elves.)



* * * *



November 28, 2012

A foot of rain is predicted for the coming week in foothills.  On radar a long fetch in remote South Pacific, purple plume onscreen, stabbing straight at the notch that is the Bay Area, basically a long heavy-laden freight train.  Laid away all hoses, hauling on shoulder, raked the lane under cherries and campfire area under oaks, brought in chairs, Adirondack and wicker, collected all six timers, laid down corrugated-metal sheets behind chicken coop as winds are coming, then wimped out and didn’t climb cottage roof to fix Barbara’s gutter, went inside instead, and put a slide-guitar track (probably a keeper) on “Chestnuts” tune.  Soup of roasted beets and celery root, chopped dill weed, orange-peel shaved.

Then, this morning, no precipitation yet, but unearthly dawn light, bruised.  I go out to work in this violet.  Brett says it’s beautiful like a volcano is erupting somewhere.


* * * *

In the kitchen this morning I’m trying to issue a few very sharp warnings about our money situation, extravagant expenditures on brush-clearing, work I might have done myself.  Which Brett committed to without consulting me.  I’m telling her in the kitchen, we’ve got this unaffordable Rosarito trip coming up, Xmas, and Hunter is going to need six thousand dollars more, for final-semester tuition, which we do not have, and it’s unwise and wrong to borrow it from her mother.  Which we won’t do.  And I tell her we have to start thinking like Republicans (“You can’t spend more than you take in”) and it’s probably time I go actively trolling for editing work.  And she says, “What I think is you should go looking for is voice-over work, really. In tv or movies.”



* * * *


Thanksgiving.  Squaw Valley.  Long table, including all.  Those not here: lying intubated in Truckee hospital, on chemo in Berkeley, they who every other year brought the first crab of the season.  An entire generation is telling themselves that the great good times are over for them and young millionaires are building their mansions all around this hovel.

Candlelight on mashed potatoes, candlelight on the turkey’s high shellack, candlelight on creamed pearl onions.  Pandora Internet Radio is taken over by succeeding factions – first the Qawwali station, then the Joni Mitchell station, then the alternative-folk-rock station – finally it settles in on the Jaques Brel station, at very low volume.

The blue-and-white Star of David motif:

Clumping his walker ahead of him, John arrives wrapped in an Israeli flag, during this week when Palestine is again under intense Israeli bombardment: It’s draped over him as a shawl; then presently it’s sashed and knotted around his middle like a cummerbund, and he wears it through the whole evening.  He and I are the last two conversationalists, still at the far end of the table, pouring ourselves too much red wine, long after all others have gone away to convalesce on remote couches or to play a board game.

* * * *


Squaw Valley.  Arrive two days before Thanksgiving.  The weather is grim on the hilltop, 90-mph gusts, sustained winds of 50mph.  The whole A-frame house keeps booming.  Furnace isn’t working.  From the fireplace, puffs of smoke will be coughed into the room, if I don’t keep the hearth crowned with a tall blaze.

Then in the morning, it’s Brett’s birthday, and it’s calm.  And Dash, with friend Adam, makes eggs-and-bacon breakfast.  Brett crosses the room with arms outstretched telling the supine dog, “Oh, Toby.  Is bacon-smell making you wistful?  Don’t worry, bacon-smell makes everybody wistful.”  The dog did look depressed.

She’s exactly right. Bacon, what is it — it’s the smell of pure delicious envy.

ancestral campfire smell: Other people’s wealth, burning animal fat.

(Like wealth, too, the aroma of it is better than the possession or consumption of it.)


* * * *



November 19, 2012, Sacramento

Our social-media-sodden society, inarticulate and lacking the language of criticism.  At this point we’re all pretty much sunk in the general shallows, uncritically.

At a rock-club concert last night (“Pierce the Veil” and “Sleeping with Sirens”), while the beloved headliners were onstage performing, it was largely iPhones watching the show.  The audience was a field of glowing screens, lifted high, all screens needing constant tickling and stroking and painting runes on the glass rectangle, texting, sending.  Throughout the 45-minute set, an average of about 25% of the room were sending the experience elsewhere.


* * * *


November 18, 2012

To Irvine, to speak at memorial service: missed the harvest party on this account.

Then home again.  The lonely short lurching bus-trip to the airport lot “Economy Long-Term.”  Finding the pickup.  It starts.  Then back on I-80 on a sunny afternoon, toward the mountains , where black clouds inwardly flash.  “UNSETTLED WEATHER AHEAD – CARRY CHAINS”


* * * *


The Satori=Samsara equation – (all the validity of an “analytic a priori” sentence) – is inconsequential.  Living in SF alone this week, November, how cold it is in the shadows, north sides of buildings.  And how warm and summery and sandy is the sunshine not far off, across the street, down the block where it hits the city’s mixed tints of NeccoWafer.  Not going out, staying in, finding cans of soup at the back of the cupboard, to be consumed before their expiration date arrives.

* * * *


San Francisco night.  Sitting on the roof again.  Across the dark water I recognize my youth in the lights of the Marin hills.  How the hills at night look like heaped sparky coal-ashes dimming, glimmers dimming toward the top, but banked richly and sparkling at the foot.  I’ve been in every one of those dens, every last one.  All my cupidity is still over there.

Typical bachelor dissolution these days when I live alone in SF.  Hypocrisy: At night I abstain from going out for a big sybaritic San Francisco meal, rather I tell myself I’ll stay in and eat dried fish and cheese, and read, with my back to the window.  What in fact results is that I’m feasting – oily smoked salmon, corrupt cheese, deep red wine – while I read of the privations of saints.

(If I ever fret that I’m at risk of any “mystic” pretensions – the uselessness, the preciousness, everything but the dhoti – I take refuge in a word-substitution: not “mysticism” but “immediacy.”   The word immediacy sums up whatever experience, just fine.  I.e., “not mediated.”)


* * * *


November 9: San Francisco:

The cognizability of the universe.

I am a life form evolved under the warmth of a typical ordinary star.  I can “understand” the concept of a star because I live very near a star, and even sense it on my skin, whenever I don’t happen to be looking at it.  In other words, it isn’t totally a surprise that the Universe is cognizable: my sense of “what a star is” began much earlier in evolution, when the bend of a fern’s stem was governed by phototropism, in other words when I was a fern. Or when I was a basking iguana.  Or when a one-celled paramecium would migrate out of the cold shadow.

The fern, in bending, felt that light.  That fern had a kind of knowledge, practical knowledge, and it was knowledge of lightfall’s “teleological” presence. Yes, teleology.

In the same way, my experience with, say, baseballs and basketballs makes me intimate with planets and their inertial paths, with quarks and their bounciness.  My understanding of “What Gravity Essentially Consists In” is equal to that rooted fern’s.  So it is also, my voicebox’s vocal cavity with its cello resonance gives me the sympathy/empathy to get the idea of a star’s “light.”  That is, to have an intuitive sense of the math involved with a vibrant spectrum.  Because that math is singing in my vocal cords.

Here I sit.  On San Francisco hilltop.  The information from the star (Sirius out there above Berkeley) reaches me at lightspeed from the recent past.  Sirius is 8ly away, so I’m seeing events that are happening eight years “ago.”  The rather older, more out-of-date news of Creation (“Shazamm. Fiat Lux. Bang.”) flickers in my eyes after a 14B-yr delay.  Similarly, the glimmer from the lighthouse on Alcatraz is delayed information, if slightly.  The gleam on my wineglass is delayed information, if infinitesimally.

Of all this info, I construct a world* according to Platonic principles, captive as I am, among webs of lightrays bringing me “history.”

* ( i.e., I construct an interpretive experience for myself)


* * * *


November 8, 2012

Lamb stew: mostly dried figs and lemon slices (including rinds).  Cinnamon, cayenne, ginger.  Mint from meadow got chopped up and flavored the yogurt.

Change of weather this morning.


* * * *


November 6, 2012

Darkness falls early w/Standard Time.

Today was Voting Day.  Dashiell’s first presidental election.

Storm system coming in.

As of this afternoon, the entire big oak (felled last year by PG&E) has been split stovewood-length and stacked and tarped.

The storm windows went up today, on upper floor.  Gutters cleaned.

My ballot is cast, candles are lit, and outside, the national election is piling up in drifts around the doors.


* * * *


The region of the universe visible to us – all the way out to its edge at the 14B light-year point – developed its characteristic pattern of (evenly distributed) galaxies when the Big Bang was ten-to-the-minus-36 seconds old.  At that time, this visible region was the size of a bacterium.  Space then, expanding faster than lightspeed, froze in this pattern we see.  The “Hubble sphere” (regions of space exceeding lighspeed) tore local patches away from mutual communication.

The pattern we see today on the microwave background is a photograph – a micro-photograph! – of the universe at its birth 14B years ago when it was bacterium-sized.  It’s a photograph of quantum fluctuations, captured and blown up huge.  Our universe’s quantum fluctiations.  Our peculiar unique random fingerprint.

* * * *



November 4, 2012

Drain and cover both evaporative coolers.

Repair linoleum (with a “Henry’s” adhesive product).

Split half the oak that Hunter last Sept brought up and dumped off the tailgate.

The Barred Plymouth Rock hen, victim of bobcat.  Now she’s just a pile of pretty feathers on the meadow, lying before the (fittingly) Gate to Nowhere.

Brett goes alone to Marin, for the board meeting.



* * * *


November 1, 2012

Stoplight, Dorsey Drive and West Main Street, coming out of the little hospital district.

Most times I’m stopped here, I think of the morning Dash was born.  At hospital frontdoor, we’d been delivered by nurses to the curb outside under the porte cochere. And with infant car-seat we drove off.  This stoplight was the first pause, the four of us together.  We’d arrived at the hospital as three, now there were four of us in the car, one in back beside his brother.  I took the turn when the light changed, and we headed that direction.  Toward home.

Today it was just me in the car, twelve years later, with two bags of frozen microwave burritos beside me, with Wells Fargo ATM receipts, and from Staples Office Supply ten vinyl three-ring binders for Squaw, for Brett, plus ten legal pads – from B&C Hardware a roll of tarpaper, roll of composition roofing, tube of linoleum glue – and the light changed and I turned up that same direction.


* * * *


Halloween night.

Dash didn’t want to “Be Anything” for the occasion of trick-or-treating.  But Brett had the idea of buying a housepainter’s disposable white paper cover-alls, splashing it with black paint, and folding it over vertically, to print blots in symmetry.  He would be a Rorschach blot for Halloween.

Dash resisted.  He would rather be nothing.  Or would rather be mistaken for a Justin Bieber impersonator.  Which was what he did last year.

In the end, a good sport, he gave in.  (His mother had bought the paper coveralls and gotten out the bucket of paint and everything.)  His friends wear no costumes.  Nobody does.  I picture him right now, on a streetcorner in town in the Hallowe’en gloaming, telling his inquisitive friends, “I’m a Rorschach blot.”

You’re a what?

“I’m a Rorschach blot.”  Despondently.  “My mom made me do it.”

What’s a Rorschach blot?


* * * *



October 29, 2012

Big hurricane is approaching New York.  Here in Calif, in the middle of the night I’m watching webcams: Times Square has a camera, and midtown Fifth Ave has one.  The viewpoints webcams provide are a pigeon’s, on his ledge seeing all, knowing all, not moving.  All is quiet, only taxis in the streets, cruising, no fares.  It’s three-in-the-morning there.  On broad sidewalk, New York’s unsleeping ones – man here, man over there – nearly crossing paths, not greeting each other, at three AM with some cause for being out, some responsibility or ambition or compulsion.

Stoplight sheen on pavement, even tho it’s still dry there: red or green.

By watching streaming webcam, one learns nothing about the coming storm.  But the steady New York sound is great, the sleep-sound of NYC at three am, the turbine, idling rather high, as usual.

* * * *

October 24, 2012

Snowfall at elev 6200: 18-24 inches.  Over the summit it will be three feet.

Brett plans a trip to Truckee, with Laura, to ask for money from a foundation.

She’ll spend the night at the  Squaw house cleanimg up old files.

Here: microphones and mixer in the spare bedroom again, dobros fanned out on bed, crick-in-the-neck, headphones.


* * * *

Driving out Rough-and-Ready Highway.  Three in the afternoon.  Rain.

The low-rent trailer park.  The scrubby acres where a Walmart was forbidden.  The old lumber mill road.  The abandoned storefront.  (Looks like it was once a beloved dispensary of popsicles, suntan lotion, white bread).  On the radio is great old English pop music, all from the “British Invasion” decade, Cliff Richard forever asking a girl does she wanna dance, hold his hand, under the moonlight, he’ll be her man.  The Tremeloes’ sexual metaphor so amazingly explicit, C’mon baby, twist and shout.

Nicely preserved old turquoise Ford pickup, parked at roadside.  The fancy new kind of mailboxes, all in a row.  Plastic sheeting covers a shed roof, held down with C-clamps.  Down at the bottom of the the long incline, there will be the stop sign – at the three-way corner with the huge live-oak tree.

You would be just as dissatisfied-and-worried, in general, if you did get the drippy transmission-fluidleak fixed.

You’d be just as dissatisfied-and-worried if you were back in the “Big-Book-Contract” zone.

You’d be just as dissatisfied-and-worried if you found the time to rehearse a band and play in bars.

And just as dissatisfied-and-worried, too, if you were an impoverished amputee on sidewalk.

You are going to be be just as dissatisfied-and-worried when you’re on the beach in Mexico next month on the coarse grey sand.

You’re going to be just as dissatisfied-and-worried in five minutes when you get to the feed store in Rough-and-Ready.

Cliff Richards wasn’t John Lennon, but he might as well have been.  Poor dead Cliff, he’ll never get that girl to hold his hand, he’s the lover on Keats’s urn, he’s forever frozen in a couplet, reaching out.  Lennon, too, will always be imagining there’s no countries.  That “old turquoise pickup” isn’t “Cliff Richards,” either.  They are different entities.  The one is a car, the other was a human.  But that pickup truck is at least as good at being a fine old pickup truck as Cliff Richards was at being Cliff Richards.  The big live-oak at the stop sign might be a lot better at being itself than I am.  (At being myself, that is.)  I might just as felicitously have been that live-oak instead of myself, if we’re both considered with regard to long-term result and utility.  (I’d have been good for the forest., shedding leaves, enriching soil.)  I happen to be, instead, this person who drives an old leaky German car, in the United States – where the stop signs say “STOP” – instead of living in Germany where that same sign would say “HALT,” or France, where that sign would say “ARRET,” all of which would mean the same thing to me.  And all would signify the same thing to the live-oak that stands at its side.  That live-oak cares not whether it’s a French tree or an American.  I myself might as well have been “a Frenchman,” speaking “French,” driving my own transmission-fluid-leaky Citroen, married to some other woman, probably also a French-speaker: I would be just as dissatisfied-and-worried even if I were all that.

Dissatisfaction-and-worry: that seems to be the essence and meaning and raison d’etre of these situations.  The rest is incidental/accidental.  The rest is mere wood, or metal or flesh, mere treebark, paint, proteins, lipids.  Dissatisfaction-and-worry are a man’s true metier.

In fact, each thing is each other thing!  I see this now, as I drive this highway.  In a network of interdependence, the old Ford pickup depends on the existence of “Cliff Richards,” dead and obscure English pop singer, ever winning nearer that girl.  The big old live-oak needs me to drive past it.  The lumber-mill road – existing just as it did in 1889 – suffers me to go by and observe it, in my own ghostly reverie, 2012, rainy afternoon, October.  Among all these phenomena there are only accidental differences – between the live-oak and Cliff Richards, between the live-oak and the old turquiose pickup truck.  Or between me and the sad, low-life trailer park.  That collection of sunken mobile homes, which I call low-life and sad, exists only in my observation of it.  Anyway I passed it a mile back, I see it no more.  According to Time’s chronology and space’s geometry “I” will arrive at the feed store in five minutes, there to present “myself” in all my impatience: I’m the one who still wants to hold the girl’s hand, the one who imagines there’s no countries, the one who lifts his branches out, and plunges his roots fathoms-deep in the soil, providing shade and shelter for centuries, in all seasons, snow and rain and summer sun, always in the same spot, loving that spot.

* * * *

October 22, 2012

Before bed last night I lowered the window sashes: first time since May.

This morning before dawn, a heavy mist had started turning to aerosol rain.  Then as dawn comes, a hard rain is steady, loud, banging on the tin roof of my studio.

Ten o’clock, the warm still air begins to break up and gusty winds kick up ahead of the cold front.

By noon the rain has become stingier.  Cold air is locking down hard.  A surf sound is coming from the heights of hilltops.

Barbara snoozes through all this.

Brett, all morning now, is out on the town in her smart, black, small car with the roof-mounted comtainer, the car my heart leaps whenever I see.

* * * *

October 18, 2012

Squaw Valley alone.  Eggs and tortillas and coffee.  Aspens in mid-October light: in the canyon, individuals flare up, papery yellow.

The deep creek is dry, just boulders, boulders, boulders, some stained basins.

Closing up house for winter.  Days are warm and bright.  First big snow will be Monday, maybe twelve inches’ accumulation above 5500 ft.  A little caulk on the south wall would have been nice.

* * * *

October 13, 2012, San Francisco

Happy collaboration for SF party.  Lisa will be in town (has a teaching job at St. Mary’s) so will be here for “LaitCrawl” spectacle.  The bevy of pretty girls as party helpers, Laura, Eva, Isabella, Ola.  Cases of wine and smoked fish up the lane.

* * * *

When it comes to early-morning springing awake alone, sometimes one is awakened by love, sometimes by ambition. Both are excellent, but luckier by far to be wakened by love.

* * * *

A writer or any content provider will sooner or later take note of the popular preference for Burger King over Chez Panisse, cliches over actual poetry, Mozart over Bach, television over Henry James, etc.

The problem is: people don’t like to feel “lost.”  They’re not used to “The Ambies” (ambivalence and ambiguity).  That is, they want “valance,” pure and simple, never ambi-valence.  For them, the virtue of Mozart’s symmetrical doily is that it never does anything unexpected.  (If they pay attention at all!)  (Which they don’t.  Because that’s who Mozart’s audience is: the inattentive.  Similarly, that’s who romances’ and mysteries’ and westerns’and chick lit’s audience is: the worried and the inattentive and the weary needing respite).

People want the feeling of  already having been on this journey before.

They complain, when reading better literature, “Who’s the good person?  Who’s the bad person?  I’m confused.  I just want to know the good person will win.”

Content providers have to come to terms with this.

I’ve spent some time with such intellects – which is everybody, not excluding me – people I’m fond of too, and I do sympathize with them.  They really don’t want to feel lost and bewildered.  You can’t blame them.

* * * *

October 8, 2012

Orion’s three-star belt points straight at Aldebaran in Taurus and then beyond, to the Pleiades’ convivial blur.  4:30 am.  Bare feet on the driveway.  Coffee.

* * * *

October 7, 2012

Sunday night.  Tomorrow is Monday.  Dash has no homework due.

How glad I am for familiarity, custom, routine,  convention – for the shared institutional idea that there are “Sundays” and then “Mondays,” and hours of the day, along with activities befitting those hours, all cobwebs in the eye, all coccoons.

Something I said in print last month (about a book by an academic) worries me:

That distinction Nagel seems to make so easily—between the “conscious” organism and the “merely behaviorally complex” organism—has been on my mind for days; it’s fascinating; I have to confess I can’t quite iron it neatly flat.

“Conscious”?  As opposed to “merely behaviorally complex”?

Is the songbird on the mulberry branch conscious of what he’s doing?

Or is he just an animatronics bird?

My discomfort consists in the doubt whether I, myself, have a conscious mind at all, or merely a set of “complex behaviors” as I grope from a Monday to a Tuesday, thence to a Wednesday and onward, putting one foot before the other.  (while inwardly my language-generating machine burbles) (putting one word after another)

My opening feeling is that the “mind” isn’t an ontological reality and I might be all animatronics. (Think of it: If mind were an ontological reality, that would budge it nearer the category of deity!).  But rather that the mind is a conventional rainbow, a standing hologram, which we all agree to refer to (as if it existed).  The “mind” eidolon was first sketched, quite usefully, by the process of evolution, then recruited by the larger organism society-and-language.  (Society and language are evolution’s grandest organism.  Evolution’s supercharged reprise).

The volitional-“mind” eidolon called Self (the little vertical column of the letter “I”) serves as a placeholder in my language-stream, keeping it grammatical, i.e., logical.  So I’m a pronoun.  I’m the first-person singular.  I stand as a subject for a number of verbs.

Secondly, the “mind” eidolon was set up, too, as a political entity which, like a “corporation,” is ordained as an agent of social responsiblity.  To participate in the biological “organism” that is my species.

According to this view, plainly, there would be no such thing as the little inner homunculus at the control panel, who watches the world through the twin observation portholes.  Consciousness is a congregant phenomenon.

John Searle’s “Chinese-room” picture of consciousness:

Suppose a man operates a computer that can translate sentences perfectly from Chinese to English and back, so perfectly that its communications are indistinguishable from a human’s.  (The Turing test.)  This man sits in a room and receives notes through a slot, which he translates, and which he then feeds back out, perfectly translated.  His answers to questions are impeccably clear and correct.  Does that man, or that machine, “understand” the communications?

No, says Searle.  Says Searle, what’s lacking in that room is intentionality.  And intentionality is the distinguishing attribute of “mind.”

So “intentionality” is the thing I would need to disestablish – or somehow undermine as “mythological” – if I wish to stick to my spacy Zen point-of-view, above.  I would have to hold that the green finch on the mulberry branch above the meadow gate is singing his song in the morning just as a fountain-burble, not with any particular thought of the listening female.  And that Tolstoy stays at his workbench NOT in order to write a specific novel, with specific results in the world, but out of an inner metabolic strain.

* * * *

Simone Weil, on the period she spent doing factory work:

“Slowly and with suffering, I have reconquered through slavery my feeling of the dignity of being human, a feeling that this time did not reside in anything external, and was always accompanied by the consciousness that I had no right to anything.”

* * * *

October 3, 2012

This morning, a new local bobcat.  Very big.

Last few I saw were terrier-sized.  This one is large, the height of a black lab, and weighty, musclebound, a wrestler, big gluteus maximus, and mounded shoulders.

Seen close-up: the kittenish, wicked mascara, ear tufts, leopard markings, sausage tail.

He lets himself be chased off, but he’s in no hurry.  He’s not frightened by me.

Rather, he walks away when I catch him at the hens’ enclosure, then trots when I chase, sulking, pissed-off.

He knew he could have taken me down.  But as two members of the animal kingdom, we share a political agreement, which is basically economic, having to do with energy conservation: prudent wisdom decrees a real fight isn’t worth the energy expenditure, risk of injury, not for either of us, so this is only a dominance-display I win.

* * * *

September 30, 2012

Lucy visits.

Celtic fair.

Page-proofs of Innocence arrive.

* * * *

Simone Weil:

“Time” is a reflection of eternity.  [merely a poetic image]

It’s also a substitute for eternity.  [more of a metaphysical assertion, and inscrutable]

“The first and greatest renunciation is the renunciation of Time.”

She says:

“The past and the future: man’s only wealth.”

(It’s why past and future are the first thing to be renounced.)

* * * *

How I’m less interested these days in good writing.  Preferring bumpy graceless peculiar writing.

The prosperity of literary-formulaic novels, which we promulgate at Squaw, and which succeed so dependably.

I don’t want to endorse crabbed writing.  Just necessary writing.

* * * *

September 25, 2012


  1. A) The old philosophy called “solipsism” will always have an interesting stubbornness: “I” am the only source of the universe, epistemologically.
  2. B) On the other hand (and to the contrary), “I” don’t exist, but am only a grammatical placeholder and social-role eidolon.

So put the two hands together: Both positions are true.

* * * *

September 24, 2012

Microwave background:

We are “present at the creation” because we’re observing it in present time.

* * * *

September 24, 2012

“The Assistant” has gone to New York.  Thank God for agent Joy.  Lost causes.  Patience and forgiveness.

And “All Things” is once again finished, sitting on my desk.

It’s a Monday morning and I have no interest in writing, nor interest in anything at all.  The well is dry.

On the kitchen doorstep, a lidded glass jug of “sun tea” has been steeping for about three weeks, paper tags of teabags hanging over its rim.

Unsplit oak heaped behind cottage.

* * * *

September 17, 2012

Final version of The Assistant gets its final primping before debut on a few editors’ desks.

* * * *

September 16, 2012

Hotter again.  Sunday.

Sawed up the fallen apple tree.

Planned to split rounds of oak from forest, but discovered an axe wouldn’t split them.  I would need to get out the wedges and sledge hammer.  Went inside and plugged in unaccustomed electric guitar, improvised w/ recordings of Norah J and Mavis S and Frisell, all Sunday afternoon.

Chili for dinner, burned by over-simmering, on high, while I played guitar.

But could be saved.  Homegrown peppers.

* * * *

September 14, 2012

Two-mile run today, first time in weeks.  Also hiked up to the weir, cleared screen.

* * * *

September 14, 2012

In her cottage, Barbara in dressing-gown these afternoons reads the San Francisco Chronicle, and in warm late-summer everybody leaves her front door open all day.  Now chicken droppings have been appearing on the cottage threshold, but moreover within the threshold on the slate tiles.  Today I warned her while she perused the paper that she should be vigilant and drive out trespassing chickens.  She wishes she didn’t have to.  “But when they go pecking in the carpet pattern looking for their little bugs, they’re so endearing.”

* * * *

September 13, 2012

Overly warm September days go on.  This is the week when the water pressure first drops in irrigation.

Apples by the enclosed garden are done.  Apples by the east forest will come in now.

Excepting book-related trips to Berkeley (Counterpoint and Michael), I’m working every morning on All Things.

Brett spends two days in Squaw helping Kait clean out her parents’ basement, both wearing paper sanitation masks to avert exotic diseases transmitted in old mouse feces.

Here tonight, the three of us (Dash and Barbara and I) watch a history documentary about the Medicis, while eating my very successful fish chowder.  (Whiting, salt-pork cracklings, heavy cream.)

* * * *

One wishes Truth and Beauty made a difference.  They don’t.  That’s a secular faith.

(But then nothing makes a difference.)

* * * *

(which is really too bad, as Tr. and B. are the only tool)

September 9, 2012

Genesis: That the first shofar blast was a semiotic artifact!  A “word” in empty space.

(“Thou Whose almighty Word / Chaos and Darkness heard.”

Remarkable poetic image.  Chaotic darkness with capacity to “listen.”)

The whole picture is teleological thinking.  It has teleological thinking’s necessary cart-before-the-horse aspect.

But it’s a metaphor and the general literacy has sunk to where the picture seems only superstitious and idolatrous: old fellow bellowing into the dark.  Nobody gets a metaphor anymore.

* * * *

Cucumbers from seeds have done very well.

“Straight Eight”  and “lemon” varieties.

(September 8)

But the “Straight Eights” tend to be bitter.  The Lemons never.

(Brett: “If you Google it, there are 763,000 results for the question “Why are my cucumbers bitter”)

* * * *

September 8, 2012

The bear has systematically, in a single night, cleanly plucked every plum on the two small trees by the east woods.  The afternoon before, the two trees were hung all over with plums.  He obviously reared up on his hind legs and ate them where he stood, pits and all, so somewhere in the woods tomorrow will stand tiny cairns in the pathway.  I’d been watching those plums ripen, the mist on their purple skins, planning to freeze them for sauces, for all winter.

* * * *

September 3, 2012

I realize lately (age fifty-eight) that I – (my whole generation) – was born and educated under the influence of a certain dreary commonplace: that since human consciousness is such a minuscule part of a large, cold, dead universe, we’re plainly insignificant and ought not to exaggerate our importance in the scheme of things.  That seemed, to some, the lesson in astronomical discoveries.  And so we bravely defied the Middle Ages’ gowned, candle-lit philosophers.  Mid-20th Century writers and intellectuals and professors got a kick out of the emotion, the little drama, of mankind’s forlornness, the bracing, slap-in-the-face reprimand, the “get-real” rebuke.

It took 14 billion years for the observable universe to get this big, starting as a well-packed pinpoint.  A universe needs plenty of time to cook up life’s basic elements – the larger atoms, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen.  It needed the first 10-to-12 of those 14 billion years, brewing atoms in stellar cores.  Conscious, evolving life isn’t going to pop up just everywhere.  Its sufficient conditions are rare.  It’s unlikely, according to astronomers, that there’s any other conscious life than us in this localMilky Way galaxy; and while in infinite space-time the likelihood of consciousness increases, we’ll be separated from it by the barrier of lightspeed divorce, unable ever to be even aware of each other, as all time-space continues exploding at Hubble speed.  Our visible universe is destined to be an ever sparser, colder, queter place.  If, in all this cold shrapnel flying outward, we are the only “witness” that is “aware of” the great resonant emptinesses and glimmerings, then our importance is not only large, it’s curiously fundamental.  The whole situation isn’t discouraging or dispiriting but rather nicely alarming.  And chastening.  For example, what if we have a future?

A few practical outcomes to plan for.  To avoid our own extinction.  To keep our home planet in good order and not befoul it or render it unliveable. To colonize space if we must but only wisely and lightly.  All the more, to colonize it with “mind” via radiotelescope and optical telescope and probe and surmise.  To practice a little pacifism at home and preserve other species from extinction (thus, applying Kant’s catagorical imperative, entitling ourselves to a right/expectation of our own survival; Kant’s categorical imperative being a funny “ethical” idea we conscious beings seem to have introduced to the Universe; or else dicovered to be implicit as we grew up in its midst).

Et cetera.  If we are the only lumps of matter that have, somehow weirdly, hoicked up to the level of “knowing about” everything, then there’s something rather infinitelyimportant going on, with us.  Our awareness of Pluto somehow redeems Pluto.  We might be the only ones who know about reasons and answers, and the only ones formulating the empty rectangle “God,” in aetiological necessity.  We might be the only form metaphysics takes.  We might be the only metaphysics.

* * * *

August 31, 2012

Cooler evenings.  Cavendish takes Hunter out to “Antony and Cleopatra,” because as one of the rude mechanicals, he gets plenty of comp tickets.  Brett has drinks with girlfriends.  It’s Barbara and me alone here.  Watching a Ken Burns history on television.  Canned soup heated-up, in a bowl on the knee.

* * * *

August 31, 2012

Still thinking about Thomas Nagel’s great book.

An atheist and rationalist, of course, refuses to suddenly start taking up fuzzy thinking late in life.

Yet he has sensed something compelling in Kant’s sentiment: “Two things never cease to amaze me: the stars above, and the moral law in my soul.”

Nagel doesn’t quote that, but that’s basically the burden of his book.

So Nagel’s idea of “teleology” is supposed to fill the explanatory role of a “God” without any resort to the supernatural.  I think Nagel and his school would like to think of this “Teleology God” as a kind of algorithm.  “Algorithm” would be a word and concept they might like.  And might accept from me, if I could offer it for their use.  They’d say it’s an algorithm that was inherent in matter from the start, which naturally issues in biological evolution and consciousness and moral law.  (Not sure substituting a different word ever helps.  Sometimes it does.)

Whether you use the old expression “God” (say, trimmed of story-book embelllishments, for the sophisticated, Tillich-fashion) or this rationalist word “teleology,” you’re still talking about the same entity.

there was a plan.  The plan was immanent.

This algorithm teleology, seed of all Creation, seems to have the attributes assigned to the mythological god.  Even (if you think about it) that most story-book trait “beneficence.”

* * * *

August 28, 2012

Meeting in Berkeley with the Counterpoint gang – editor and publicist and marketing director.  Cobb salad on Fourth Street.

The hopelessness of “marketing” my kind of writing.  The most ingenious wildest marketing pranksters couldni’t make this book float – nor me as a commodity or “narrative” – my soul and body have been formed around a dedication to ordinariness, I’m so anti-sizzle, even my writing itself will take any risk of an “enormity” only when necessary – whereas plenty of writers go promiscuously in search of enormity.  In this way I think of my books as in the Sink-like-a-Stone category.  An allergy to publicity, a queasiness about bedazzling, are ticklish debilities in a business where attention-getting can seem like the whole point.  I still love everything about publishing – the time at my own workbench where nameless things get named, the jacket-design fun, the collegiality of people who love books, the general conversation – everything except the final result, failure.  And was glad to get out of town, in the end.  My parked pick-up truck is an eyesore on Fourth Street, piled high-as-a-hayrick with branches and slash from my Russian Hill tree, lashed down under the macrame of old climber’s ropes with pruning hooks and chainsaw.  Parked here where Ladies Lunch.  I got all the way up I-80 without a trooper’s stopping me for a badly tied load.  Of course, how can I regret my unmarketable personal banality if I’m making a programme out of banality, in these daily notes here publicizing my banality (and immortalizing it, somewhere out in Internet) banality as a programme of ethics and aesthetics, and in fact would rather be cleaning the garage, or helping with algebra on a hard chair after dinner, than anything else.

* * * *

August 27, 2012

In San Francisco for three days.

I stay in.  I eat in.  The glittering city at night below the windows is losing its wanton attractiveness.  I’d rather be working on Innocence copy-editing in the mornings, during the day cutting out the big exotic tree that’s begun blocking the view, at night reading Hunter’s essays for grad-school admission.  I never leave the place.  I even brought my own victuals from home.  (Excepting two purple Montepulcianos at Mario’s, upon first arriving and finding a parking place.)

Brought chainsaw.  Fuel mixture in a Mason jar.  But when I got here to these exalted precincts, I realized the sound of a chain saw on Russian Hill would cause consternation.  Chainsaw will never get used.  My two good pruning saws are almost as fast as a chainsaw, though.

* * * *

August 25, 2012

Gerry and Leah visit.

Cooler summer days are here.

Not much of a workday.

Bantam hen vanishes, victim of predator.

* * * *

August 24, 2012

A good day.

Woke at three.  Spent the morning working, cutting out an entire Boaz-Hokhma conversation.

Went back to bed and slept till ten.

Read galleys of “Innocence” from Counterpoint, finding a few typos and glitches and being satisfied with the whole thing, and proud of it.

Moved cut oak with Hunter, using tractor-wagon.  I’ll soon have firewood to last all winter.

Cut up last yeat’s long cedar branches, stowed under holly bush.

(Cavendish, who showed up this morning covered in sheetrock-dust asking if he could nap all day in the playroom, sleeps through the roar of my chainsaw right outside his bedside window.)

Read more of “Innocence” galleys.

Excellent chicken Marsala.

* * * *

August 23, 2012

Back home from Squaw, in Nevada City.

Will gut chapter of “All Things.”

Will handle a few home tasks.

Then Berkeley visit, to try to get Innocence treated with a little care.

Then home for good.  To enter into “All Things” with meditative force, the old Ferocity-and-Precision trance, the festina lente trance.

Keep Dash on schoolwork.

And in autumn, when the bright hot days are gone, I’ll spend afternoons painting the west face of the main house.

* * * *

August 21, 2012

In Squaw.  Not working.  Rather staying busy with repairs.

Sleepless nights.  I think of my real work, the novel now looking for friends in New York, and I rationally picture slow-motion train wreck, wilful misunderstanding, the whole boredom-indifference carwash.  So much of what’s out there in the book market is charming as well as attention-getting; and my own work avoids those pitfalls.

In the night, the only kind of contemplation that puts me in a state of tranquillity (finally falling asleep near dawn) is thinking of the jobs I have here: how to lash a ladder to the exterior wall of the Annex, digging a flat footing for it in the steep slope of scree, so I can apply a coat of oilstain without falling.

Because I’m totally inexperienced in all such arts, my maintenance work has some of the derring-do of writing, and creativity.  But its problems all have solutions.  It’s like solitaire, but solitaire where I can cheat.  Once I have a plan, I enjoy contemplating it, lying in bed: roping the extension ladder to the house in a way that will keep it from sliding.

* * * *

August 20, 2012

For Squaw:

– Sliding cupboard above Annex fridge.

– Loose deck boards, both houses.

– Railing, upper house wedding-deck.

Thatch of pine needles, roof of upper house.

– Oil/stain Annex exterior E and W walls.

– Cut little cedars and junipers on slope.

– Close down swamp cooler, Annex.

– Replace faucet, Annex.

– Roof-patching, Annex.

Cut back aspens, upper house.

– Dupe keys.

– Living room light globes.

– Timer on water.

– Cut cable?

– Outdoor heater to dump?

– Frame Annex basement windows.

– Remove east pine sapling.

– Caulk satellite-dish bolt-holes.

– Leak in Annex basement.

– Leave sign for landscapers.

Check chimney.

* * * *

August 19, 2012

Tall sweaty boots in the oven-heat of afternoon, as anti-snakebite measure.  Carried chainsaw down to the ravine on south tip of woods where PG&E felled a great oak last winter on their powerline easement.  Sawed it up in rounds, stovewood-length, which I’ll get Hunter to load on the wagon and bring up for splitting.  He’s here for a week, making multiple graduate-school applications, running three miles a day, taking lots of showers, mens sana in corpore sano.

* * * *

August 17, 2012

Working on “All Things” again.  Spent the day condensing and quickening exposition.

God’s-Eye point of view this afternoon.  Lopped the head off an ailing and doomed Rhode Island Red, then went back inside the chickens’ enclosure, where all the rest, the lucky, the blessed, the elect, crowded around in their usual pushiness, Hey there, Mister Good-News, Got any handfuls of granola for me?  Got a treat for me?

* * * *

August 16, 2012

A hen is down with Marek’s Disease and must be killed, but with people coming and going – Sands and Diane Fetterly to lunch with Barbara, Dashiell’s friends after school capering in the woods, Zoey and Hunter to arrive tonight and stay all weekend – the party atmosphere won’t let up, and there’s no right time to for the job.  (Me stalking away from the picnic parasols, in my tall rubber boots.  Where’s dad going?)

The small plywood-topped table under the oaks, with a tin can screwed down, and a nail driven in as a sort of pommel.  Axe leaning beside it, yellow Fiberglass haft.  And bucket proclaiming the commercial logo of a detergent.  All the while far from the party, paralyzed, she sits in the dust looking panicky, one wing absently oaring and oaring.

* * * *

August 15, 2012

Ten-thirty AM.

First day of school for Dash. So we’re a kind of “empty nest”!


Hot morning.  Tho’it stands in oak shade, my trailer has all doors and windows open, and roof-vent open.

No breeze.  In the dead stillness of the forest, I can hear a mile away, where a carpenter is (it sounds like) roofing some new structure.  The distinct knock (three times, then a couple more times) of an ordinary good hammer tapping the butt end of a 2”x6”.  (Or maybe it’s a 2”x10”, or 2”x12” – sounds like a rafter and would be doug fir.)  He’s gently cheating it into place with these knocks, and it’s interesting: from this distance, I can know the board as if it were a musical instrument.  Like telling an oboe’s reed from a clarinet’s, or a bassoon’s.  A carpenter’s intelligent tap, coming through a mile of thick forest, is a sound as fat as a marimba clank, in the ear of the organism as logically triumphant as a ripe apple on a twig, on this kind planet, the easy triumph of sweet reason, fruit of evolution.  (From this distance, I could even guess, by the resonance, the lengthwise dimension of the board, maybe 8 to 12 feet, that’s how it rings.)

(shows how much we know.  How tied-in we are, without thinking.)

* * * *

August 14, 2012

Sent finished ms of “The Assistant” to New York, now to wait for loving responses and offers of money.

Wildfires in Plumas and Colusa Counties are spreading their smoke this way, and the air this morning was ginger-ale.  Hundred-degree heat.  Chickens all day stood panting in the shade.

After dinner I go alone to town, to see Jesse Harris with one percussionist, and Jesca Hoop with full band and back-up singers, in cool, brick-walled basement on Main Street.  Solitary glass of Zinfandel in old hotel bar, second-story verandah, smell of a dry-rot small-town damp, hot August night.

* * * *

August 8, 2012

Home from rafting in the upper American River.  Days of sun on fast water.  Dashiell’s bravery, in the front position of the raft with standing-waves pouring over him, still paddling and laughing.  Sparkling days.

Sleepless misery in the tent all night at the river bank: dehydration-plus-wine, plus despair of all my projects.

Back on the farm it’s very quiet.  Far from the rapids.  August evening.  Meadows need cutting.  Stemmed glass on the garage workbench, uncooked hamburgers on a plate before the talking clock-radio.  Dash is doing cartwheels on the slope.

On the garage radio, the voice of my friend the poet!  He has been asked by NPR to say something about August – something lyrical – and one of his observations is that “We realize what’s really important: We’re still alive!”

Well, yes.  But who is this one, whom we exult in thinking is still “alive”?

* * * *

July 22, 2012

Fourth afternoon cutting weeds on the steep rocky slope below the Annex.  (Wildfire abatement).  Sharp smells of bleeding stems, wheatgrass, sage, wormwood artemisia, coffee bush, creosote.

Exhaustion and sweat-slick.  Lemonade quart bottle.  Lying on the carpet indoors staring at the ceiling.

Far down in the scree, I turned up a strip of chrome from the old fridge, an ornament of ice-maker or vegetable-crisper drawer.  Years ago I threw that fridge over the deck railing and watched it roll down the mountain.

* * * *

July 21, 2012

Woke up at three am, went down to workbench and added a welter of astonishingly good writing to the novel.  Napped then till noon.  Wakened, then went back down and took it all out.

Tap-tap the delete key.

* * * *

June 26, 2012

Joy says she loves “The Assistant” and will try to sell it, but has asked for a number of very smart changes.  (Conversation via cell phone, while I sit on a boulder behind the 7-Eleven.)

* * * *

Dinner with the poets.

Sharon Olds: “Just getting things accurate overcomes the fear of writing.”  I guess she’s referring to Rapture of the Workbench.

Meanwhile the ski-corp kitchen supervisor Jess, with her clipboard, is moving along the buffet checking each chafing dish: green salad, corn salsa, churros, grilled chicken, black beans, rice, flan with mango, tomato salsa, grated cheese, making pencil checks one-by-one on her clipboard legal pad.

* * * *

June 25, 2012

Coming up on foot from the valley floor, on the old Carville property below the Annex I see jays orbiting and screaming around a moving subject.  It’s exactly how they treat a bear as it shambles cross-country, the birds obeying an interspecies social agreement to raise the alarm when a predator passes.  (The way a pair of little birds will harry a passing hawk, moving him on past their glade.)

Then ahead, an impressive coyote lifts its head – big grey leonine ruff of fur – and vanishes like smoke.

I notice that when we homo sapiens walk up the canyons, nobody sends up the interspecies alarm.  The implication is, we must be benign.  It’s not that we’re harmless, we can do plenty more harm than a coyote, but it’s evidence we might be a little nearer the angels (in the ecological-evolutionary evaluation).

* * * *

June 24, 2012

Cold stormy weather in the mountains.  Powerful winds.  Poets are in the valley.  Tomorrow I drive all the way to San Francisco for Kathi Goldmark’s memorial.

Several mountain-chickadee chicks have hatched in a nest, which is inside the wall of our bedroom.  This exterior wall is at the head of our bed.  During the daylight hours, about once every fifteen minutes they make their cheeping pleading sound together.  Then at night go silent till first light.

* * * *

June 21, 2012

Windy days.  Building a lattice fence, to make a courtyard at Brett’s mobile office.

No-Answer from my agent.

Gone back to cutting at “All Things.”

Sleepless nights.

We have a new bear in the vicinity – a little juvenile from the pawprints.  We had discouraged all bears with the new electric-wire system, but Sands left a cooler full of blueberries, apricots, etc., out on the driveway overnight.  The little one, from the evidence on the ground, feasted messily, then was interrupted and ran into the ravine affrighted, without finishing.

* * * *

June 16, 2012

Cliimb with Dash and his two friends Jackson and Romain, up to Water Ouzel Falls.

With only forty percent of normal snowpack, the creekwater in mid-June is only slightly lower than usual but there’s a big algae bloom below the 7000-ft. elevation.  Emerald fur waving on the rocks.  Which must result from a slight rise in average water temperature.

The three boys discover the granite tub behind the second big waterfall and, howling from cold, frolic in there with water thundering down on their heads.  I, keeping my boots on and my socks pulled up, stand on the bank telling them to be careful.

* * * *

July 17:

Word comes that Galway in Vermont is losing his recall.  He often can’t summon the right nouns.

Maybe for an old poet such incompetence isn’t such a felt heartbreak.  Maybe an old poet has always sensed himself to be swimming in those waters, inarticulacy, all his life, the unexpressible, maybe he’s used to it.  Galway always did have a tentative walk-softly manner, as if he were used to it.

Anyway he buckles down and works with the usual acumen on S. Olds’s new poem when she visits, adjusting her line breaks.

But he won’t be coming out to Squaw any more.  Brett still keeps the plywood square (actually chipboard), painted in Sharpie pen “Home Base,” which was stored for the softball games by the lake.  Now it will enter an archive where it can’t be thrown out.  It’ll still, always, say “home base” here.

* * * *

June 15:

A “theism” that had been, by reason, so clarified and rinsed and lustrated and refined, any atheist, too, would find it inevitable, or simply inconsequential, and have to assent.  Or just admit it’s not incoherent.

In the end the theism-atheism equation is a bit of an anticlimax, for sheer obviousness, a bit of a shrug.

(Atheist and theist, as self-descriptions, are not assertions about a verifiable state-of-affairs in the world, they are audible announcements about the speaker.  Both of those words ought to be rendered in quotes always, held up in those tongs.)

* * * *

June 14, 2012


Chipmunk in the Annex, stunned and disoriented, in the jaws of Thing One.  Released: it recuperates on a terrycloth washcloth in the shade of a creosote bush.

Sands and Maggie perform on the party deck.  “Joy Divine of Friends.”

Cavendish presents “To a Mousie.”  (Silly thing brings tears to eyes!)

Afternoons dressing up Brett’s portable office (plastic box on wheels) to make it look like a habitation.

* * * *


Existence was a choice (in historical cosmic time)  (the “theistic” premise)

Outside time, here-and-now in consciousness, existence IS eternally a choice.

And because in both cases it is a choice in favor of existence rather than non-existence, it is a positive choice.

* * * *

[As for the “Problem of Evil” as a refutation of beneficence, it confuses the putative “total goodness” of all creation with the putative “total goodness” of local, anecdotal areas of it.  Local evils may remain “mysterious,” in their causes efficient and teleological.  Meanwhile all creation can be agreed-upon as a basic good.]

* * * * * *

With America in a century of Roman Empire-style corruption (salaried soldiers now in Africa and Asia and anywhere else we want the natural resources; domestic population filling with “rabble” [and cold hearts in all the best neighborhoods]; popular entertainments that are immoral and cruel), I find I really am leading the Virgilian life of “rustic” escapee.  Will start keeping bees.

* * * *

June 8, 2012

Many years ago, a plywood disk with an eight-foot diameter (painted to represent a cathedral’s stained-glass rose window) came to live behind the potting shed.  It was a theatrical prop, left over from “The Marriage of Bette and Boo,” which at our house was going to serve horizontally as an occasional banquet table.  Now, thanks to Cavendish, it’s going to have a second life, as The Wheel of the Thirty-Six Basic Plot Types* – to be spun game-show-style at the Community of Writers.  Cavendish (generously jumping at the chance, chronically under-employed, Yale-dropout engineering type in our Local Post-Petroleum Economy) has hauled it away to mount it on some kind of axle.  With I suppose thirty-six pegs around the rim.  Some kind of clapper, to act as a dragging kind of escapement.  And thirty-six PLOT rubrics in calligraphy — “Supplication” — “Deliverance” — “Daring Enterprise” — “Madness,” etc.

*As devised by Georges Polti, 1929

* * * *

June 5, 2012

Depart for Squaw.  Lock the trailer, cut the meadows, pack the kitchen shelves into cardboard banker-boxes.

Brett has preceded me up there, to make sure the portable office is set down where she wants it.

* * * *

May 28, 2012

1) Zoey arrives today from Portland (Hunter to fetch at airport)

2) Sands departs with Maggie for folksinging trip

3) Nagel review today is, with a click, SENT (“fwissshhh”) to Threepenny for consideration

4) Brett will have finished reading “Assistant,” so I’ll get back to that

5) I’ve finished the few Caridwen patches to “All Things.”

So I kind of have an empty desk.  Today must be one of the season’s equinox points: everything turns toward the climb to Squaw, the set-up there, the carpentry and housekeeping, the lattes for the whole office, the gin-and-tonic after tennis, life slowing to the pace of miniature golf at the King’s Beach Mini-Golf.

* * * *

May 28, 2012

Funny how death of Kathi Goldmark continues to make me miserable.  She’s irreplaceable.  I always flatter myself that I keep death always before me, but the real thing is always going go be not-so-edifying.

* * * *

May 19, 2012

Hunter is home from college, sleeping in. Weather continues fine.  The Nagel review fares well.  “All Things” is next on my docket.

Last night, Sands and I took Barbara out to the café where Maggie and Luke do their weekly gig.  Pulled up at the curb.  I scouted inside for available tables, then came back to hoist Barbara out of passenger seat and get her up on the curbstone and into the café.

But all four musicians – Maggie’s accordian, Randy’s clarinet, Luke’s (bigmouth Djangoid) guitar, Murray’s violin – had stood up behind me and, while playing, swirled out onto the sidewalk, a wink must have passed, and they surrounded Barbara on the sidewalk and floated her into the place, up an aisle to a table, all the while swooning back and forth in their mazurka or whatever, making Barbara beam, as she shuffled along.  Such things will always – and always did – happen to Barbara Edinger Hall of the Rosebud Rancho in the Sacramento Valley.

* * * *

May 15, 2012

“Consciousness” is an essentially gregarious phenomenon.  Consciousness isn’t an individual, sovereign, autonomous suzerain (as it usually feels).  It begins to shine only by being kindled in congregance with a vast – verily ecologically complex – network. Especially language, language’s built-in logic

* * * *

May 10, 2012

Tomato starts are in the ground.

* * * *

May 6, 2012

Reading Nagel, on the mind-body problem, has me thinking about “consciousness,” and I actually wonder seriously whether anybody IS “conscious” in the commonly understood sense that they have rational, objective, autonomous thoughts about the world.  That’s the cultural myth we use to represent experience.  Rather, this habit we like to call consciousness feels good  because – (that is, it just feels good, to wake up in the morning and recover it) – it feels good because “consciousness,” this tingle, is a familiar, habituated form of social and ecological harmony, arriving mostly from outside ourselves (in the politique, and in the rigor of grammatical language) and within ourselves (in our cells and our endocrinological juices, and instincs and muscular habits).  That’s what “consciousness” is.  It’s not the inward homunculus, not the tiny junior deity inside, not the tiny, sharp-eyed, sharp-witted witness and adjudicator and active force, seated at the brain’s control panel exercising “logic.”

To give very specific examples, nobody really, e.g., “Believes in hands-off government,” say.

Or “Decides to marry.”

Or “Believes in god.”

Or “Is a pacifist.”

All those things are just announcements, not evaluations of reality; they’ve announcements debuting in a social theatre, and they also feel good inwardly to announce.

Suppose we define “rational consciousness” as the ability to make decisions and have fresh thoughts, all based on accurate observation of the world.  Well, I think the actual, true medium of those operations is (A) language and the evolved human culture, and (B) the ecosystem (the latter including the birds-and-the-bees AND the personal, inward wilds of brain and liver and lungs, endocrine secretions, pancreas and testes and ovaries and bowel).

If I look at the “rational” decisions human beings believe they’ve made, they seem to be mostly culturally and biologically extracted (and, at best, mixed in their consequences).

Decision: To smoke a cigarette; or have a glass of wine

Decision: To marry

Decision: Not to marry

Decision: To look for coffee, upon waking up in the morning

Decision: To brush one’s teeth, upon discovering the usual yucky mossy feeling

Decision: To study poetry in graduate school

Decision: To study accountancy instead.  And skip the poetry

Decision: To kiss somebody and start something

Decision: Not to kiss somebody, and so start nothing

Decision: To get a good job

Some of these decisions are just occasions of luck. (Like something that came to us through a brother-in-law, which we couldn’t have helped).  Some of these decisions, in all their “irrationality,” turn out to be regrettable because they actually contravened our self-interest!  [See Josiah Royce’s language on this?]  It seems to me that all these decisions are prompted by our bodies and our society.  The latter as mediated by the wonderful splendid complex gift of language, greatest heirloom in the biosphere.  It’s not a sovereign “consciousness” that makes these motions: these motions are part of an organic process.  We would never say the apple on the tree has “decided” to form a seed in its heart.

Nagel lives in manhattan, teaches at NYU, and worries about the mind-body problem – how unbelievable it is that a mind could ever be mere neurochemicals; and how impossible that mind should arise, according to evolutionary doctrine, from lifeless elements – but I wish he could spend some time here – just an afternoon – to observe the society of a few hens pecking in the hedgerow, alongside two housecats and a dog, and see the interplay of consciousness taking shape at a much lower place in the evolutionary scale.  The protocols they evolve – the felines’ impulsive urge to hunt and harry, their social obedience to the protective displays of the big Barred Plymouth Rock hen, their affectionate coexistence with the hens, all species basking in the sun together edenically, but keeping an eye on one another.  The hens’ following the cats around, in an instinct to be herded.  And the dog’s supervision of the scene.  His occasional spurt of pursuit.  The hens’ querulous scolding.  The dog’s constabulary interventions, when a cat forgets his manners and starts stalking a hen.  Meanwhile all afternoon, overhead in the tree branches, are species of birds who are less domesticated, less socialized according to homo sapiens’ semiotic and cultural standards.  The young males, at this spring time, are singing a lot, for all kinds of practical reasons; and each is developing his own repertoire of calls and songs, while at the same time learning to reproduce, roughly, a few of the songs of his neighboring birds.  This according to animal ethologists.  At the borders of their territories, males share songs.  Ornithologists suppose it’s a form of sociability.  (With sociability’s atraction/repulsion, ambivalence/ambiguity.)  Sociability’s mixed message of threat and appeal.  The upshot is, those males who acquire more of their neighbors’ songs live longer and have more offspring.

One wonders, are we supposed to ask whether the young males are “conscious” of this acquisition and application?  We only suppose consciousness to be a miraculously unlikely artifact in evolution when we forget that such acquisitions “feel good.”

As for the individual human, I think when “rational consciousness” dawns in a human infant, it happens over the years while it’s learning to listen and speak and walk and focus.  It’s coming through language and habituation.  Thus, “consciousness” is a collective radiance that arises in congregation.

* * * *

In other news:

Alone by myself here all day.  Loud guitar, and any other bachelor’s vices I devise.  Defrosted the old deep-freeze in the pantry.  Repaired the broken spoke on the huge canvas umbrella.  It’s not a perfect-looking repair, but it will last another few years, and it’s one more thing that won’t hit the world’s landfills, there to attempt to “biodegrade” for a few centuries, to be replaced here in the meadow by a newer and chintzier item from China.  The clumsy, ill-equipped half-hour I spent patching it up feels like the noblest thing I’ve done lately.

Brett has gone, with Barbara in passenger seat, all the way to Tiburon for the board meeting.  I have an exemption.  The only drawback that I don’t get to see and greet that handful of great people.

* * * *

April 29, 2012

Treated unpainted out-buildings with Thompson’s water seal, crappy water-based version of the product, a gallon of which mysteriously got into the paint cabinet.

It cures in late sun, while Dash and I pass a lacrosse ball back and forth.

Tilapia with lime/chile/shallot buter.

The preferred tv entertainment is “American Idol” – Barbara watches confused and disconsolate, the others avid.  I get away to read.

* * * *

April 25, 2012

10:30 AM.  Sad rain spreading over the foothills.

No work today.

“The Assistant” is done.  Will give to Brett for a reading.

Tall meadows.  A cat in the morning aerosol mist torments a mouse.  Sprouts of chard and lettuce stand shining in the raised beds.  On the woodbox roof, an old Barbara Kingsolver paperback lies absorbing the rain, its front cover with chick-lit color scheme curling to a tube.  It’s done with furnishing wry wisdom and consolation.

* * * *

Francis Bacon:

“Inquiry into Final Causes is sterile, and like a virgin consecrated to God, produces nothing.”  He’s exactly right, but I do go on, but he’s exactly right.

* * * *

April 20, 2012

Storm windows removed from second floor.

Afternoon with pick-axe and shovel, in certain lost clearings in the woods uprooting heavy stands of flowering yellow broom (English: gorse).

The bear had dragged a fifty-pound bag of feed down to the edge of the woods below the meadow, there to tear open its plastic belly and feast.

So now begins a tactical war.  All feed will be withdrawn to the mud room every evening.

* * * *

April 16, 2012

Back home from travels.

Damp and sunny, here, after hard rains (those same torrents that made the drive to the airport such a hectic tunnel, three days ago, four-AM, visibility zero, whidshield-wipers batting at the apocalypse).

But today: Morning sun on oaks.  Abundant yellow daffodils by the chickens.  Tall clouds of cherry blossoms over the moss lane.

Out back, the grass is littered with the projects that Brett and Dash took up during the weekend of my absence: the good bicycle pump is out in the dew, and so is the hack-saw, and a big rectangle of heavy hog-wire, and an ancient bottle of carwash soap from the garage, and a roll of Visqueen.

One result I can see: they’ve rigged up a frost-protection cover for one raised garden bed.  And they purchased a flat of starts from a nursery, of lettuces mostly.  Commercial seeds too, for root vegetables.

* * * *

April 15, 2012

In Los Angeles for a book thing.  Happiness in spending time with Andrew and Lisa and Louis.  Sailing the freeways like there’s no tomorrow.  The news (by phone) from home this morning is that Brett washed the Indian blanket, from my studio, and ran it through the dryer, too.  At the end, when it was taken out and folded, a dead mouse fell out, very old mummy, completely laundered.

* * * *

April 9, 2012

Finished re-installing myself in trailer.  Sprayed foundations of all buildings with diazinon.  Including pumphouse, where I’d disclosed big black carpenter ants hard at work.  (As it’s spring, I’ve seen, too, a few swarms of Argentine ants making their little creeks across paths, aiming for the house.)  Got the mower going and took down the already-deep sections of the meadow.  In the west meadow Brett had raked together lots of dry old stubble, all last week, so the slope was dotted with heaps; I hooked up the little wagon and used old, loud, fragrant fossil-fuel-power to transport the heaps to the bluff over the ravine.

Tonight: Brett is at Maggie McKaig’s birthday party, for women only.  We kids stay here: barbecued pork ribs and a romantic-comedy movie.

* * * *

April 8, 2012

Twenty shiny copies of the paperback “Radiance” arrive from the publisher.

Packaged one book up in an old padded envelope, with postage, to mail to my sleepy mother.

In her wheelchair, on the linoleum in the sun dozing, she can hold it in her lap.

* * * *

Nico and Aleksandra are here for Easter.  Short hike along the Yuba, downstream from the highway-49 crossing, about six miles total.  After dark the big bronze brazier is dragged out, to a spot under the budding mulberry, and a log fire built therein, for siting around and roasting marshmallows.

It’s spring, and it’s been warm, and I spent the afternoon cleaning the trailer in the woods.  I haven’t been working there, nor entered it all winter, and it has been well settled by rodents.  Every drawer, slid-open, discloses a nest packed with leaves, and every cabinet and closet and shelf.  Eventually, the best housekeeping tool was a rake, for clearing the mounds of nesting duff out the door, back into the woods.  Gospel music on the CD player – Soul Stirrers, Blind Boys, Pilgrim Travelers.  This world ain’t my home.  Among the stuff nibbled for nesting material: old Threepenny Reviews under the sink (the issue with the great D. Eisenberg story, a story I used to teach.  It’s a great story.  That issue of the 3PR will one day have been a collectible number.)

Out on the meadow before my trailer in the tall weeds: obsolete cassette tapes, dictionaries, Fowler’s English Usage, the orange Chicago style manual, Bic pen caps and Bic pens, multiple copies of my own old novels, looking nice and freshly cloned, but wicking rodent-pee.  Hundred-year-old hardcover Baedekers to Venice, Paris, Rome.  The Indian blanket. More cassette audio-tapes.  My space heater.  My Explication du Grand Modele Anatomique, Demontable, du Corps de la Femme.  My ergonomic chair.

Rain is coming tomorrow, so I had to finish the whole cleaning job and get it all back inside.

* * * *

April 2, 2012

The Absence of the Author is the central fact of literature.

Writers forget this and seem to want celebrity (this seems to be truer now, in these days of instant electronic renown), in the sense that they want to be everywhere present, the personpresent (or personality present), rather than absent, and with Facebook and Twitter, authors have new ways to flood the known universe with their presence.

The truth is, I seal my own permanent, eternal absence with every sentence I commit to ink on paper (or launch, in pixils, into cyberspace’s open sky).  Death is the condition of a writer’s medium.  Writers ought to know from the get-go, a writer is already absent from a sentence as soon as its final period is punched.  Always rattling around in the mausoleum.

Lately I’ve been declining invitations to show up at literary occasions because I feel it’s unseemly for me to be loitering anywhere around my own writing.  Got a friendly request from an acting troupe that I be present at a dramatic reading of a short story.  This I did go to.  Because my home only a few miles from the performance.  And notified long in advance.  So I hadn’t much excuse.  But I shouldn’t have been there, sitting in a back row, doing my best to register responses.

* * * *

March 27, 2012

“Sense of Wonder” – it’s something children are supposed to have a bigger endowment of.  But no.

The older you get, the more stunning and paralyzing it is, not the “sense of” wonder, but the thing itself, everything is so improbable.

Children, by comparison, are worldly-wise.

* * * *

The Zen master prefers to talk about the soup, or the soap, or the weather, not Zen, and the monk asks why he doesn’t like to talk about Zen, and the master says, “That kind of talk makes me sick.” (tr.: turns my stomach)

* * * *

March 21, 2012

Dash has been out of school for several days now, sick, home.  Liz drives down the hill with her homemade tortilla soup.

Arrives with one special serving, just for him – all the garnishes in an unfolding kit – a clump of cilantro, fresh avocado and separately poached chicken, spiced stock, two tortillas, poblano chiles and anaheim chilies not-yet-diced, all in Tupperware and Saran Wrap to be unpacked like a magic-act on the tabletop.  Which did in fact go a long way way toward curing Dash.

* * * *

March 20, 2012

Watching a TV nature show with Dash last night, I saw the origins of Christianity among the bison herds.  A small herd was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves.  At last, the slowest, weakest one (the doomed one, the nice one) was being isolated, and the wolves were closing in on him.  But then a bigger bison, in escaping, gave the little victim a fatal, crippling shove in passing – as if to nudge him to the wolves! – because in this way he was preserving the herd.  Preserving the society.  A sacrificial victim had been elected, so that all may live.  That must be the social drama that led to the story of the the emaciated man on a cross.  (By way of the tribal Hebrews, their killing-of-firstborn to appease fate.)  Imagine that.  “Substitutionary Atonement” (theological term) originating among the cloven-hoofed ungulates.

* * * *

March 19, 2012

A day of sun, between rainy periods.

Dash is staying home from school today, with fever and aches.

I can hear him and his mother, staying in bed together, reading, playing with two cats under the covers.

* * * *

March 17, 2012

Memorial get-together here for Patricia Gagne.  With a lot of fine people who were her friends and family.

* * * *

March 14, 2012

Finished with “All Things.”  Sent it to Caridwen for a friendly read.

Counterpoint wants a final draft of “Innocence” by the end of May.

* * * *

March 14, 2012

County agricultural agent comes out to hang a trap for European Grapevine Moth.  (Orange cardboard prism hangs above the rosemary bed.)

* * * *

March 11, 2012

I’m not sure I know what I’m doing when I have the feeling that I’m “understanding” something.

To “understand” an event (any event, like a sunrise, or a sneeze, or a childbirth) would involve perceiving a connection, of some sort, between the event and its antecedent “causes” – as well as its subsequent “effects.”  During fourscore and some years, I will have awakened on 30 thousand mornings, witnessed a few lunar eclipses and earthquakes, stood on a volcano, written and published novels, been married, played musical instruments, fathered children who will have stayed healthy and gone off and perhaps, themselves, gotten married or been otherwise generative and consequential, etc.  But I’m not sure I have a grasp of the causes of all these deeds, or their consequences.  I’m really just the white flesh inside a living apple.  (Zen saying: “Between basin and basin, I have uttered stuff and nonsense.”)  (I.e., the basin where the newborn is washed, and the basin where the corpse is washed) — (A benign and liberating view, really.)

Science does seem to keep advancing genuine “explanations.”  These explanations (I’m talking about the logos! my favorite thing!) are supposed to award human beings a kind of authority over phenomena and their mechanics.  I look at the young maple and I think “chlorophyll,” “xylem and phloem,” “cellulose,” “C6H12O6.”  But I’m not sure that those words represent understandings so much as they represent simply love.  I love the “wood” I believe the treetrunk is made of.  And I have words for my experiences of it, which words seem themselves an explanation.  Just as I have the word “gravity” and use it loosely without any understanding of it, or the word death, or the name Brett, or the concept of the sky.

Take a fencepost: I think I “understand” that the old fencepost in the forest doesn’t fall down because it stands vertically in the gravitational plane, rather than leaning, and its underground portion is pressed on all sides equally by soil behaving like a liquid.  That picture, or mental sketch, is supposed to substantiate my understanding of that fencepost.

But it depends at every point on concepts I have no clear notion of – “gravity” and “pressure” and Euclidean geometry in “stable, three-dimensional space.”

This isn’t exactly Hume’s skepticism.  (The billiard ball moves after the cue ball moves, engendering the merely conventional myth of a “cause.”)  I believe that there may be “causes” discoverable in the “logos.”  But the fascinating fact is that, in the absence of apodictic certainty, we’re suspended rather comfortably in faith.

* * * *

March 8, 2012

Sunshine.  Purchase of new pruning hook at B&C Hardware, $53

(as now both the old pruning hooks are shot, lying in an inch of water in the pick-up truck bed).

Large old pear tree by the garage requires major amputations.  A three-inch-diameter branch at the top.  Lots of new whips, too.  The southernmost old branch is losing its bark, worrisomely.  (It’s in full blossom already, in this weird spring weather.  I hack and clip, up at that elevation on a ladder, while the honeybees are thundering all around me, ignoring me.)

All other pruning is minor.  Among the other pears and apples, none have extraordinary fresh growth.

As for the perhaps-dead trunk, of the apple’s three trunks (by the garden fence): I’m leaving it for the time being.  See if it revives.

* * * *

March 4, 2012

San Francisco.  A happy errand.  With free time.

Six o’clock, I’m at the window table in Vesuvio’s reading (fat paperback of Penrose’s mathematics; very disorienting), on my second glass of crummy pinot grigio.  In the corner of my eye, I glimpse a disfiguring rash on my wrist – it’s only an illusion, trick of the shadow, it vaporizes when I focus my gaze on it.  But I realize I wasn’t much fazed by the sight of it, as at this point in my life, I’ve been hospitalized enough, and pained enough, and thrust to extremes enough, and I’ve bidden enough people goodbye, and seen enough enormities, that I could pretty much go along with anything in equanimity: not just a sudden rash but a disappearance of a limb, a dislocation in time, instant blindness, the collapse to rubble of “Big Al’s” dance hall across the street, a tsunami rolling up Broadway as if computer-generated by LucasFilm, salt water lapping at the curb before City Lights.  Nothing would alarm me.  Least of all betrayal by my own body.  Because of course that’s one sure thing.  Nightmare betrayal, monstrous betrayal, by one’s own body, freakish betrayal, it’s all coming for sure.  And I’m reminded of something in long-ago Sartre, where he claimed to be so existentially estranged (“alienated” the big word of the time) that it wouldn’t be surprising to him if his tongue in his mouth turned into a centipede or the bit of litter on the boulevard were moving under its own locomotive power.  I see what he means.  Which, at the time, I though was Sartre’s idle jokey bluster.

* * * *

February 28, 2012

Very dim quiet day.  A big snow is promised for tonight and tomorrow.  All day the solar sphere is visible low in the pines.

A few miscellaneous snowflakes fall from a sunny, tumultuous sky.  Upwind smell of horses and horseshit, from down the road, is almost “warmth.”  Or just sentiment.  My sentimentality.

My little job this afternoon: rebuild the hen roost.  On the garage workbench radio, the NPR pledge-break beseeching goes on and on.  After that: Iran is suspected of developing nuclear weapons; a high-school student in Ohio shot all his friends at the lunch table; gay marriage in New Hampshire; a recipe for goat curry; Americans are getting obese; a terrorist’s bomb explodes in a Baghdad marketplace.

Lately I’m  thinking of how “understanding” is a mythological condition, which we wade through confidently.  The “logos” that was launched by the Greeks, though always under improvement, is still a stencil that only roughly lines up with how actuality must be.  Our mysterious presence in the world is much more juicy and biological than apodictic.  Once years ago, in an effort to console a friend (whose husband had committed suicide), I told her, “And don’t try to understand anything.  There is no ‘understanding.’  Never was any such thing.”  For we do all live on a visible surface.  Flows together and seals over the punctures.

Now today, in a much less dire situation than hers – keeping peace among my hens – that agnosticism seems, wherever I look, universally applicable.  The hens eye me with a knowledge all their own.  They shamble out of my way, when I haul in the new roost.  The little white terrier-dog is their true shepherd.  They’ve got an understanding among themselves.

The afternoon closes down, and quickly the cold is a vice around my ears, at only 4:00.  Inside, in the kitchen, charred lamb shanks braise in an entire bottle of red wine.

* * * *

February 24, 2012

Thrush is back.

What CREATURES OF HABIT are “wild” animals.  They’re like morningtime commuters accustomed to the same Danish at the same sleepy subway get-off.  The annual thrush pecks at pretty much the same small swatch of meadow each morning, about ten feet by twelve feet, by the garage.  Arrives there and also departs at about the same times.  The hare who raids my garden in summer (in Calif. the more the gangly Bugs Bunny physique, not the Peter Cottontail endomorph) in wintertime crosses the north meadow around the same time of dusk, on the same diagonal.  As for the foraging old bear with the corkscrewing hind-end hernia-gait, he trudges below the house in Squaw along a habitual route, before dawn.  Now that I myself am keeping still, in one habitat, I see all this.  When I lived with my kind, in cities, I’d thought that the untamed animals of the so-called “wilderness” probably practiced the same anarchic, wide-ranging promiscuity/irresponsibility/anonymity/impulsivity that wealways practiced.  Couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It’s a village out here.  We in San Francisco were the “wild” ones, in our wilderness aliens and brutes.

* * * *

February 20, 2012

This prolonged rainless, warm winter of La Nina conditions.  The pear trees, today, have blossoms bigger than cat’s-eye marbles.  It’s February!  Already the roar of honey bees!  The red-headed finches have arrived and are building their nest in the usual lantern outside the mud room door.  The winter thrush hasn’t been much seen in the meadow, as if maybe he’d moved on earlier than usual.  What happened to him?  Overhead thousands of sandhill cranes are sifting northward, flocks, making wrinkles in the blue sky, and a purring noise knitting everywhere.

* * * *

February 18, 2012

Day closes cold and steely.  Silent.  The woods get deeper.  The junco’s kew-kew-kew defines an abyss.

In the mailbox is a letter from United Airlines marked URGENT: OPEN IMMEDIATELY: my Frequent-Flier Miles’ wealth is about  expire if I don’t use them soon.

* * * *

February 18, 2012

Got back into “All Things” this morning, leaving “The Assistant” aside.

Sunrise.  Saturday.  Cloudy with threat of sprinkles.  Warm morning.

Cleaning up tools and lumberscraps in west meadow.

Trip to Ridge Feed, for the purchase of a batch of month-old pullets: we bring Barbara along, so she can contribute what she remembers of ranching lore from her days by the Sacramento River as a girl.

* * * *

February 16, 2012

A School Day.  Before sunrise, I’m helping Dash with his math.  [The homework is delinquent.  Also, Dash is bewildered.]  I don’t resent the sacrifice of my precious dawn time of work.  Rather, arithmetic turns out to be the right thing for me to be doing.  I could never have predicted, as a child, that when I was at the height of my adult powers – (as probably right now my intellectual stamina is intact, memory banks accessible, the mycorrhizal mat of “wisdom” as widespread as it will ever be) – that in the prime mornings of adult life, arithmetic would be the good thing!  Instead of poesy.  Not Penrose’s abstract shining towers but long-division of decimals; pausing for pencil-sharpening, reversing the pencil in hand for erasures; and on a separate scratch-paper checking the answers by the multiplying of divisor and dividend.

* * * *

Buddhism and Nietzsche:

If “God is Dead” and “the Self is a Fiction,” then the job of the Ubermensch is to live in the present moment fully because that moment returns eternally       = Nibbana

* * * *

February 11, 2012

It’s just Barbara and me for dinner.  Mushroom omelet.  Parsnips.  Watching endless CNN coverage of the death of a young pop star.

* * * *

February 10, 2012

Rain, on and off all day.  Still convalescing, and so moving dreamily, cautiously, tagged by aches and pangs, I work on the poultry enclosure, in the mud digging trenches to sink galvanized fencing 24 inches into the ground.  On the radio, I hear screams and wails: a tiny dapper potentate in a desert is bombing his own people.  When a bomb lands right near them, they shout or whimper “Allahu Akbar!”  (God is great!)  I have to move the radio inside the chicken coop when the rain starts getting heavier.

* * * *

Sands, honoring an old custom, sends her novel manuscript to her mother for a critique.  Unboxed, it slid off the couch cushions in B’s cottage and the pages needed to be restored to order, so at least a day or two went into the repagination project.  Lots of slow mincing back and forth, in nightgown, between table and countertop, bearing a single page here, another single page back over there.  After actual reading of the ms began, further repagination became necessary.  The whole effort kept Barbara busy all week.  Some time later, when asked for her critique of Sand’s story, Barbara confided with a discomfort, “It just seems like the main character is always chopping onions.”

* * * *

February 8, 2012

Soporifics.  This sunny world, by the light of day, is constructed of hurt feelings, grief, envy, desire, remorse, cruelty, ignorance, all apparently necessary, part of the economy, the ecosystem.  Grateful for children.  (Just the abstract, ideal possibility of children, let alone the real thing.)

When the delusions brewed in sunshine are over for the day, and the insomnia begins and I’m lying prone, the best solace comes from (in ascending order):

1) contemplation of my utterly fictional characters

2) head-bump against starry sky, the of course absent “god”

3) contemplation of my next day’s carpentry on the hen house (that’s the best)

Today I roofed it with mesh (against hawks and fence-scaling bobcats).  Needs another reinforcing girder, as some day a wet snow-load will burden the mesh.  For this purpose, the 2×6 girder is already cut.  Tomorrow I will trench for the perimeter foundation where galvanized wire will be buried, to foil digging coyotes.  Light rains are coming in but I’ll work on through them.

* * * *

February 4, 2012

Please Tell Your Nurse About Your Pain Level Today

It Helps us Provide for Your Comfort, And Your Recovery!

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

No Pain         Moderate Pain          Worst Pain

The not-quite-full moon sank all night in the broad open window.

* * * *

January 31, 2012

An occasion for happiness.  I’ve been writing indoors lately as the trailer in the woods is too smelly from animal habitation, and I have set up shop (laptop, coffee cup) in Hunter’s old bedroom.  Here in a drawer, I come across a photocopy of Hunter’s birth certificate!

“May 14, 1991, 18:43 Pacific Daylight Time, County of Marin [we were so affluent then], Male, Single Birth, Hunter Dallas Jones, born alive.”  And there is my signature, as father vouching that the above information is true.  I see that, twenty-one years ago on that day, inside the signature box, I didn’t inflict the usual slash that my name has shrunken into over the years, the up-and-down years of autographing books and signing checks, at cash registers or notaries public or bank-tellers’ windows, with max efficiency ridding myself of my personal OK.  I went slower on that afternoon in May when I was younger.  The pen added a few serrated key-edge bumps to the line, implying separate letters, implying particularity, on that day, at 6:43 pm, when I remember the sun was setting outside the hospital window over Mount Tamalpais.

* * * *

January 28, 2012

Myself the prophet of dinginess.  Enviromentalist imperative.  Dinge will be the new black.  The future, art-designed, would look like the stage-set of the old “Honeymooners” TV show, where parsimony ruled, where Audrey Meadows was never able, quite, to launder the greyness out.

  • Use the old grimy computer for one more year, rather than buying new one, and be patient.
  • A frayed bathtowel in the linen closet.
  • Chipped coffee cups rather than buying new.
  • Clotheslines of course, as important as solar panels.
  • Saved and reused tinfoil, yes, even that.

In general, putting off all purchases.

Prosperity is the enemy of earth.

* * * *

January 20, 2012

In pajamas writing all morning.  In pajamas with hammer and saw framing the poultry run under the bare cherry trees, cooking in the same pajamas, sleeping in them, in pajamas painting fenceposts with copper napthenate, for days the same pajamas.  This is a pathetic, not enviable, existence, but the distinction isn’t interesting, or occurs to me only when the mail truck passes.

Pajamas and rubber boots, pajamas and parka, and straw hat, etc.

* * * *

January 19, 2012

The rains finally arrive and Cavendish is back, his duffel bag in the playroom, his pickup by the shed, his place at the dinner table, his gallantry towards Barbara in her fragility, the deep-dyed cigarette-butt smell at corridor turnings, his panache, tall nodding plume in the room.  (I think he’s discouraged by the long muddy road home, lit only by his truck headlights, to get to his stranded trailer in the river canyon.)  In a small-town production of “Death of a Salesman,” he is playing the part of Willie Loman’s brother Ben and so is sporting a new haircut, spending a lot of time in town.  In the mud room shower stall he can be heard, with a booming voice rehearsing his lines.

Work on the poultry enclosure goes on, in little west meadow.

Wild sweet pea fronds dead all around, plywood scraps, Skilsaw plugged into the far-away pumphouse for electricity, Makita drill, country music on the radio on a 55-gal drum – hammer and spirit level and pencil – and Cavendish comes down along the lane, with cigarette and aluminum coffee mug.  I point out to him that I’m using his “Mountain Man” method of cutting steel, by magically drawing a wire through it.  I’ll always benefit by his transmission of such lore.

The Mountain Man method of using a cigarete: smoke it down to a very pebble, and then pinch the pebble itself to snuff it, with calloused fingers.

Providential good luck in Cavendish’s arrival: some salvaged 2X4s.

I’ve been sticking to my principles, building the poultry enclosure and predator-secure coop entirely out of salvaged wood and hardware, from around the place, with ALMOST NOT ONE SINGLE trip to the hardware store.  The ethical stance results in an aesthetic consistency, which is harmony, element of beauty.  Then just as I happen to be hitting the bottom of my scrap woodpile (particularly long-enough 2x4s), Cavendish mentions that he has come into a heap of redwood two-by and four-by material, from the barn of his theatrical-prop workshop.  His truck has a lumber rack.  Will bring it over, gratis.  Plenty of it.

* * * *


If any thinking about “god” amounts to thinking about AN ENTITY THAT IS INEFFABLY WITHOUT KNOWABLE QUALITIES, then what do we like to think we’re contemplating? (!)

The Universe once did begin to exist (this according to recent physicists’ thinking).

We infer its cause’s bare “existence” via the following induction: if something begins to exist, there was a “cause.”

So, a Cause’s (colorless, shapeless) “existence” we hold to be an a priori necessity.  Nobody is assigning this cause properties like beardedness or wrath or beneficence.

It is an a priori necessity in much the same way that “2+2=4” and all other mathematical axioms were eternally facts, facts even in the void before the presence of any things that could be enumerated.

Thus, mathematics and the cosmic cause’s bare unqualified existence are treated as necessary, a priori.

Then furthermore, from the causative (a more provocative word would be habilitative) quality of this thing flows the assumption of its puissance.  This is a second quality we attribute to this supposedly unqualifiable and ineffable thing.

The dangerous step:

If you could say that this habilitative entity “acted” (when, in Time, it incited the possiblity-of-possiblity in the original, much more peaceful vastness of dark impossibility and timelessness), then that “action” description implies “choice,” and “will,” and even “beneficence.”  So there you end up with some unwanted anthropomorphic notions.

(Kant: Teleological Proof only another version of the Ontological Proof.  Using existence as a predicate.)

* * * *

The God’s-Existence Proof.

(Silly word, the G-word.  Over the years it has applied to paunchy Olympians, six-armed blue hermaphrodites, etc.  Even more troublesome, it has applied to that authority who justifies our wars and hatreds, the effigy raised aloft over racism and complacency and ignorance and mental laziness.)

(If we were to change convention and always lower-case the G-word – to refer always to “the existence of god,” “the role of god,” “god’s characteristics,” etc., rather than “the existence of God,” “the role of God,” “God’s characteristics” – we might elide the residue of superstitious personal-deity worship.  To call god merely “god” restores the thing, indeed, to a more numinous stature in Creation.)

“God’s existence” is not a scientific observable..  Not observable like the redness of Mars compared to Venus, or measurable gamma emission in radioactive decay, not seen in telescopes and microscopes.*  So, rather than a datum, say god’s existence is an unexaminable foundation, like “gravity” a foundation concept we use without any understanding of it, and even feel in our bones without comprehending it, as we do gravity.

*Except to the most delirious mystic who will see god packed into such views, exactly as observed.

(My mental laziness as well as thine, brother.) (Call it rather mental incompetence.)

* * * *

Here’s the a priori “reasoning,” in favor of God’s existence:

Evidently there is such a thing as “being,” as it’s all around us.  Before the possibility of any being, how does the possibility of possibility originate?  This is strictly a priori.

Furthermore: If the “possibility of possibility” arises ex nihilo (though to phrase the event thus is to make assumptions about chronological time and palpable measurable space that pertain only inside this our humid, foggy little sphere of subjectivity), then another precedent has been invented there, an attribute of this “god” entity which you might call “positive.”  The possiblity-of-possibility takes a “position.”  It “posits.”  This divine fiat takes a position in inaugurating “somethingness” (rather than defaulting to “nothingness,” more naturally).  That seems to be an impulse.  And it would be a positive impulse.

And this knocks on, directly, to the popular and attractive “God is love” equation.



* * * *

Now Stephen Hawking would point out that I’m using temporal terms: I’m suggesting that this possibility-of-possibility thing must have “preceded” (in chronological time) all other things.  However, it may be rather a logically “prior” assumption, as opposed to chronologically.  Making it contemporaneous and perpetual.

Inside our epistemological bubble, “time” serves as a metaphor for the teleological sequence we think of as “Creation.”  Time is not pertinent outside our subjective experience; but as a metaphorical tool, the idea of a “Before” points outside the epistemological bubble, points toward this “god” premise.  That is, the premise of god as the agent of “the possiblity of possibility” before all things.  (Meaning, logically prior to all things.)

[Interesting logic-vs-temporality conflation in the language here:

Whether “god” is chronologically antecedent or logically antecedent: these are questions that share some semantic characteristics.  God can “precede” the universe IN TIME (in the case that we think we can make reasonable guesses about that singularity the Big Bang) or god can “precede” the universe in terms of LOGICAL NECESSITY.  We call it a priori reasoning – that is, reasoning prior to empirical observation – as if there were a chronological sequence.]

* * * *

January 14, 2012

Dashiell’s Birthday.

For his party, treasure hunts are ruled out.  No pinata.  No games.

Now girls are invited – half the guests are girls! – no Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, no sack races, the only activity is “hanging out.”  Little boom-box on a milk crate in the meadow.

Campfire, built by dad, who remains invisible.

* * * *

Infinities we are knitted into:

  • space goes on outward forever
  • space is also inwardly divisible without limit, infinitesimally knitted and knitted and knitted
  • time extends forward and backward forever in both directions
  • time too, inwardly, is infinitely divisible by interpolation

* * * *

Concert with Sands in Eric Tomb’s book store.  Randy McKean on reeds, me on dobro and electric guitar, Luke and Maggie.

* * * *

In the year 1961, the Swedish Nobel Prize committee considered the following candidates, on the short list for the Lit prize, and rejected them:

Robert Frost

J.R.R. Tolkien

Isak Dinesen

E.M. Forster

Graham Greene

Those were the losers.  The prize that year went to a Yugoslav, Ivo Andric, whom the committee preferred for the “epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies.”  (The novel “The Bridge Over the Drina” seems like it must be a worthy book, but it’s amusing to contemplate the also-rans.)

* * * *

January 5, 2012

The old “Ontological Proof” of God’s existence doesn’t seem to be dead yet.  Stanford website is taking it seriously; premissed as follows: “A proposition that has a POSSIBILITY of being necessary must BE necessary (for instance, “that six is the sum of its divisors 1,2, and 3” can POSSIBLY be a necessary truth; therefore it is!)

So, in the same way, God (whose necessary existence is admitted as a “possibility”) must exist necessarily.

I can’t believe my contemporaries with respectable academic jobs can be such jeering lazy thinkers.  I mostly envy them their great health-insurance packages in institutions where they lie low sending up such gas.

A.J. Ayer said, speaking of all religious propositions, that (according to the old rules of logical positivism): An assertion will be true if either (A) it’s analytic, like a math equation; or (B) it’s supported by evidence from the world.

Religious discussion is meaningless discussion, says Ayer, because it satisfies neither condition A nor condition B.

Well, yes, agreement to that would come from the mystic as well as the theologian as well as the atheist.

This Ontological Proof makes of “God” an analytic proposition: God exists by definition – in the same way that “three” by definition equals “one plus one plus one.”

Well now, God surely does have a lot in common with mathematics,( that shining castle of analytic propositions).  This reprise of the old Ontological Proof makes god an arithmetical statement (God exists, because he is defined as a thing that exists).

Exiles God to the place where A.J. Ayer banished him: undiscussability.

(Ayer, atheistically, made the mistake of adding that, because God is undiscussable, the thing doesn’t exist.)

(“Undiscussability” is the same place Moses put Him after all, on coming down from Sinai)

* * * *

New Years Eve

The rib-bones from Christmas dinner’s roast have come into my possession.  And so, with beef stock, am making French onion soup.  Nico and Aleksandra to arrive tomorrow New Year’s Day.

It’s ten-thirty on this twinkly night, last of 2011, and I go out to the compost heap with a full bucket  of onion skins, to pour them out upon the heap – and have to pee, out in the open meadow, making heaps of steam in the vastness.  Silence of New Year’s Eve in the boondocks.  No fireworks out here.  Quarter moon.  Piercing stars.

* * * *

Patriotic, but still ashamed of my country sometimes.

At our local tennis club, the caretaker kid – a strong healthy young man – uses a loud, gas-driven, wheeled machine to air-blast fallen leaves across the lawn.

And I think of the enormous oil-spill now spreading in Nigeria (though censored by western media) over the fishing grounds of the Ogoni people.

And I think of the news in today’s Times:

“SOUTH AFRICAN FARMERS SEE THREAT FROM FRACKING: A plan to drill for natural gas in the Karoo region of South Africa would use millions of gallons of water in a drought-stricken area.”

The caretaker kid doesn’t even, himself, like the blowing machine, dragging it up and down the slope.  A rake would be so elegant.  And quiet.  And simpatico to his nervous system.

So here go Dash and I, to practice our serves with a basket-cart of tennis balls, while the engine roars in the distance and the lazy getting-overweight teenager drags the machine up and down.

* * * *

Xmas vacation.

Hunter, with friend Adam Haight, both home from college, lie around sloppily in the mud room with stove ablaze, idly Googling misc. oddball videos and music.  They stay up till all hours, heat microwave junk food, talk endlessly in their rumbling voices, on the muddy purple couch, pick up stray guitar and twang it, cook escargots from of a tin can.  Butter and garlic and shallots.

I’m home from rehearsing with Luke and Maggie.

* * * *