fall-grassesDecember 31, 2013

New Years Eve.

Brett must go all the way down to Manteca, in the pickup, to buy a kitchen stove. The old Wolf oven in Squaw Valley has been “red-tagged,” i.e., condemned, by the local gas provider. I hate it when she’s on the road alone, and of course I should have been the one to make the trip. I remain here as Barbara’s minder.

Sands’s New Years party. We arrive late, and also leave early, but a party is a welcome lull. Scottish people know lots of verses to Auld Lang Syne, gnarly ones, George especially, whose mouth when he enters his brogue travels to the side of his beard, one eye growing bigger and sharper than the other.

In conversation in the corner, I get another little glimpse of what it would be like to have mystical accesses: In long talk with a female of décolletage most poignant and compelling like in high school (which has nothing to do with mysticism) I’m saying I’ve always wanted to live in Berlin – O, if I were young and rich indeed — I want to live an entire ninety-year llifespan in seme Berlin neighborhood, and always get my coffee and rolls at the same place. And in London. And in Rome, and New York of course. And any Palatine, Illinois, or Plano, TX, you might care to name. Entire lifespans for each of those places, too – washing my car in the driveway, or picking up women in the T.G.I Fridays bar, or driving my linen-delivery truck in the Texas sun-up.

And she and I go riffing on this, and I realize that being stuck in Nevada City, Calif., is equivalent to any other of those fates – that I’d have to go on being “myself” whether in the South of France or in a Norwegian fjord or on a SF Bay tugboat, — so I realize this woman and I are the same person (plus/minus the décolletage’s little burden and a few other incidentals). I am the same as the peddler in the souk and the thief in the mercado and the nurse in the poor-clinic and the actor lining up hopelessly for a cattle-call in LA. All one. All one many-armed deity. Many-faced.

* * * *

December 29, 2013

First day home:

Sunday. Woke late. No work today. Tomorrow “Immanence.”

Email and desk miscellany.

Stack half-cord stovewood.

Replenish woodbox.

Diagnose Benz noise as, possibly, low power steering fluid.

* * * *

December 29, 2013

Home again.

Last night home in the cottage, post-airplanes, post-airports, post-baggage-claim, post-freeways, in the silence my ears rang.

At first light on this cold morning, I went around checking things. Then, under oaks at far-west meadow before sun-up, sitting in molded-plastic chair, I heard the commonest sound: from McClellan’s place down the road, a wooden board knock. (Like, say, the bang of a 2×4 being dropped.) At seven AM, McClellan was getting a start on something. At that point, all this place’s peacefulness came back upon me, and upon my about-to-take-flight shoulderblades. And moreover, I knew I’d get back to work.

* * * *

December 28, 2013

Arizona. A borrowed house in Tubac. Five AM. Living room.

I’d been distracted from reading and thought: Didn’t the coffee-machine finish long ago? How did it get started again? – because it turns out that Dashiell, on the couch far from the reading-lamp, is snoring with exactly the coffee machine’s noise: slurping rhythmic dredging. Precisely a coffee machine.

* * * *

Arizona: Tumacacory: I’ve now been to a new place that will furnish an assurance that there are good places, where once there hadn’t been: the old mission at Tumacacory, the level desert horizon as seen thru the ruined-adobe window in the rectory (now roofless). These acres of dead stump-orchard are a place where once Apaches menaced the O’odham people and shot with arrows any tame missionary children they could catch who were playing too far out from the mission walls. Now nevermore. No missionaries, just paunchy young federal docents in brimmed hats. Some Apaches survive, the more peaceful Sobaipuri O’odham all gone. Wind and sun, thru the frame of unglazed window sticks in roofless adobe.

* * * *

Reading Marxist-feminist criticism all this week, disturbed by the starkly brutal interpretation of human nature. Only innocents could envision such cynicism, indulge such pessimism. In the Tubac museum I consider the photos of the native Pima (O’odham) life that existed here for ten thousand years without change, without innovation. The Pima were a sedentary agricultural people (corn-beans-squash), who in their last two centuries were invaded by Apaches.

I try to see a revelation of human nature, in the photos on museum walls. Doorway of wickiup hut: woman with basket. Beside her, defiant stubborn-looking toddler and big sister. At the moment the camera-shutter snapped, a dog walks past the hearth, freely, gregariously, looking well-fed, tail upright in the “expecting-the-best” flourish. Everybody in this picture seems to have a sense of his or her rights and proper deserts.

It’s hard to decide who was exploiting whom, in that hearthside picture (as in Marx-Fem interp), for instance in the marriage of Dallas Jones and Mary Lou Link, or in the marriage of Oakley Hall and Barbara Edinger, or even in this my own marriage. My sense is, pretty much anybody can think he’s getting the short end of the stick, in any relationship. Everybody in any partnership can get the sense the other party is in fuller control. Settling the “who’s-exploiting-whom” riddle is a mug’s game, and real human beings give it up pretty fast, just because they’re too busy with endeavors of their own. You didn’t get into this life-game (or at any rate, you’re not staying in the game) with the intention of getting a result that must accord with the prinicples of “justice.” Face it, everything’s gravy.

You scan those of Pima families closely. Human nature is human nature wherever you go, and surely there were unhappy, angry, regrettable men there, too. But in these pictures, the dog can sleep peacefully, or trot by underfoot, and the child can complain with the assurance of its entitlement. “Happy families are all alike.”

* * *

Job remembering his happier years:

“My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.”

* * * *

“Innocence”: frankly admiring of the Catholic principle (dogma) that sin saturates and swamps all human thought and endeavor.

Well, fine. Such observations about “sin” are simply accurate.

However, the danger of resting in that recognition – (sin’s old sovereignty) – is that there’s a pious resignation, a hopelessness that carries a little contentment inside, a fatalism, a weary getting-off-the-hook in confessing that we have “left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.”

* * * *

Arizona. Sunset, above the little canyons they call “dry washes.”

Interesting acoustic phenomenon: you think you’ve experienced silence; but never like out in the desert. A silence where, for fifty miles in every direction, nothing is stirring is very different from the silence of a walled room. Acoustically very strange and wonderful. Why should all this space feel so different? Possibly because my own breath and heartbeat aren’t reflected/answered. They’re dissolved in space. In any case, a total snuffing-out of the soul.

* * * *

December 21, 2013

Both boys home in Nevada City for Christmas (Dash 13, Hunter 22) both in bedrooms with doors closed and music playing. Interesting thing about having children: how actual they are, how their bulk occupies space, and will go on doing so, in faraway times and places – and that the physical bulk hadn’t existed except for the faith and works of me and Brett. The two boys are not only “real,” they bulk up as more fully real than their dwindling parents.

* * * * December 20, 2013

Came across an unfamiliar word that I actually didn’t care to look up!

Very strange. Age sixty now. In a critical-theory essay the word “rebarbative” described some supposedly unpleasant quality of a certain school of lit-crit (one among Marxist deconstruction’s various schools). Maybe, at sixty now, there are certain concepts in the discursive repertoire that I foresee no use for. Who cares about rebarbative? The context implies “rebarbative” means disagreeable, truculent, prickly. I’m reading in the old leather armchair by the stove in the mudroom. No doubt “rebarbative” has an interesting Latin derivation, but the dictionary is three rooms away, and I’ve got maybe twenty years left, of productive intellectual activity, and maybe I’m in a new dogleg of life, where it’s excess baggage to learn about this particularly ungraceful, Latin-derived, scoffing aspersion “rebarbative.”

No. The real truth of my preference for ignorance is this: Once you learn a new word, there’s always the risk you might find yourself someday using it. One day rebarbative’ll pop, like a frog, easily out of my mouth. Last thing I want.

(Cuss-words, too, are like this. A passive acquisition, they start virally colonizing active speech. So my feeling is, fuck “rebarbative.”)

* * * *

December 20, 2013

Morning: quiet exchange of X-mas gifts. (To get the potlatch out of the way before the Arizona trip.)

Good guitar for dash, good overcoat for Hunter.

Barbara last night was restless and worried, disoriented, up and down all night. At three in the morning I went looking for Brett, found all lights on in the cottage, and Brett there comforting frightened Barbara in bed.

* * * *

December 19, 2013

Morning: a bit of time polishing the Henry James review.

Most the afternoon: finish splitting cedar firewood in west meadow (while chickens, in all bland confidence, mill around the axe-blows and chopping block).

Boys are home for Christmas, and all bedrooms are full.

Evening, trying to put together Holiday email greeting containing music (“Emmanuel” with Maxima Kahn.)

* * * *

December 17, 2013

About writing business:

He that observeth the wind shall not sow and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

* * * *

December 15, 2013

San Francisco.

Cigarette alone on Polk Street. (Never did grow up. Still here.)

I’ve been obsessed for years with religions’ claims, and it seems to me the only raison d’etre for any “religion” – (though they all certainly have a variety of raisons d’etre) – the one-and-only legitimate and legitimizing reason is mysticism. Mysticism of the 200-proof kind. All religions’ other institutional furniture and game-rules are extraneous. They’re all just the pitons and crampons and ropes.

Catholicism seems an instance: a very mystical philosophy from the ground up.

(Of course, there’s mahayana Catholicism and there’s hinayana Catholicism. And I’m talking about the latter).

From “mysticism” follows all the other bells-and-whistles:

Empathy, Charity, Humility

All the rest of ethical, practical imperatives, following from Humil, Char, Empath.

(Amidst all the places we say goodbye having scarcely known each other: train platforms and airport departure gates, hospital beds and door-frames.)

Of course this organism is unequipped ever to have “mystical knowledge.” It’s not in this organism’s nature.

Nor is “knowability” in mystical truth’s nature.

Even thrilling guesses are not, honestly, in this flesh’s cognitive or sensory equipment. The biggest thrill is, merely, the absence of any “faith” or “truth.” But setting one’s sights on an unrisen sun does educate the intentions. That there must be such a thing as “the love that rules the sun and other stars” is only a kind of very cerebral, abstract induction.

* * * *

December 12, 2013

In San Francisco. Macondray Lane.

Reading Roger Penrose again constantly stunned. Also in places not-getting-it. Awake early, coffee, wall-heater. Can hardly read a sentence without pausing in long brain-aneurism.

Window replacement in rear.


Interview with Mill Valley guy.

Jason to record bass part on “my mobile studio.”

Xmas party on Jordan Street, Nion and Leslie.


* * * *

December 11, 2013

To SF. * * * *

December 10, 2013

Completely lost an hour or so this morning, on an interactive website following the rover Curiosity on Mars surface. (Should be getting together James review.)

Website is amazing. I can click forward and follow each day of the robot’s visit, so far, to Mars. Look close at Martian ground under the wheels each day. Check out odd rocks and dry rivulets. See sunsets. The two moons hurtling. Wander to new spots for look-about. It’s like Nevada on Mars, it’s like the roadside off Highway 50 (but absent foliage). Got to know the local Martian landmarks very well, Mount Sharp, Yellowknife Bay, etc. Sand dunes blown into ripple pattern (by the stiff wind of carbon dioxide). I’m now intimate with five acres of Mars, about as intimate as I am with the flat area above the falls in Shirley Canyon, the spot where Dash and Hunter, both, used to like halting the hike to rest and scale little boulders. Or set cedar-bark boats sailing in the creek’s current.

* * * *

A close-up photo of Curiosity’s bundled electrical wires shows, according to NASA caption, “low-tech knots” tying them together, just plastic twine. A caption of another photo reads as follows: “More spot ties, clove hitches secured with square knots.”

Those are Boy Scouts doing this! Somebody is proud of his knot-tying skills.

* * * *

Here on earth, the hard freeze by afternoon burst fresh-water pipe outside: kitchen sink offers a dribble, while outside rises the vertical cataract.

Turn off water at pump house. Billy across the road has a PVC cap of the right diameter, and a can of that purple PVC glue I can borrow. It works. (This will be the week of my undertaking and triumphing over projects I don’t have any training or talent in, , here and in SF.)

Night-time. Tilapia with cilantro/maple-syrup/ginger. A better zinfandel.

The two great life-experiences of today were:

  • My personal walk-about on Mars, which in the end required about two hours. But time verywell spent.

Hearing on the radio (cause of emotion): “Nelson Mandela will be buried in his childhood village.” (because on this still-saveable planet, we have things called “childhood villages,” to be returned-to, at the end) * * * *

December 7, 2013

A foot of dry, light snow overnight.

Five AM, with push-broom, pulling snow off henhouse enclosure, in thumping loaves plopping to the ground. Snow all up my pajama sleeves. * * * *

December 4, 2013

Post-rain. Cold snap will be deep and lasting.

Back on Immanence. (“All Things,” with abbreviated front end, minus its epigraphs, has gone to agent.)

Afternoon: splitting cedar that was felled last year in south end of south meadow. The slapdash lecturer John Searle is on my earbuds, on the mind-body problem. With split stovewood, filled the tractor wagon under oaks. Then had to quit, to go accomplish school pick-up.

* * * *

December 2, 2013

The days after Thanksgiving. For storing leftovers, the unheated front half of the house is a good refrigerator-temperature, turkey carcass on the coffee table, dishrag-shrouded.

Storm windows at last go up on lower floor.

Rain comes in.

Dashiell in mud room by overheated woodstove playing guitar, Tarrega.

* * *

November 29, 2013

Dana, passing through, arrives from SF with fine Akita puppy, more cracked crab.

* * * *

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving. The table is: the usual four, plus Joan Klaussen, Cavendish, Billy and Stevie Sheatsley, Nico and Aleksandra.

Joan the widow is to drive to Squaw, next morning. The sad thought is, “Male and female He made them.” Neurologists say, yes, the guy’s brain is wired front-to-back for perception and action; the woman’s brain is wired side-to-side for evaluation and association – and there goes Joan, at the wheel of her old green Subaru, alone up Highway 20, with her side-to-side wiring.

* * * *

November 27, 2013

Nico and Aleksandra from SF.

Cracked crab.

* * * *

November 24, 2013

Brett, driving home alone from Squaw, strikes and kills two fawns on Highway 20 above the Five Mile House. She’s shook-up and weepy but accepts glass of wine, sits in cottage couch, watches “Project Runway” on television.

* * * *

November 23, 2013


“All Things.”

Firewood: last of the cord of energy-logs from garage.

Mow down meadows (redundantly).

Begin recording “Noel” melody: dobro.

Recurrent, persistent idea that “anthropic” principle, if extended infinitely, does account for “teleological” solutions – but always at risk of solipsism.

* * * * November 20, 2013

Rain continues, good and steady and loud.

Nickel-plated “dobro” to Luke Wilson, for bridge adjustments.

At the far end of deep-rutted road, Luke’s hut atelier, in the rain: inside on ceiling, hanging from clamps everywhere are violins’ and cellos’ toasty-mellow panels, diagrammatically exploded .

Beef stew, w/ marjoram (store-bought vegetables.)

* * *

November 19, 2013

Rain arrives. Maybe two days’ worth? Will maybe amount to an inch here.

Revisions to middle of “All Things” before Joy tries selling it.

* * *

For my birthday, everyone conspired to buy me socks. Socks come from afar. UPS.

* * * *

November 17, 2013

Sunday morning.

All morning, Dash (these days, a sweatshirt hood is always up over Dash’s head) has been holed up in the unheated north parts of the house, working on something.

He comes in kitchen: “Can I rhyme ‘retribution’ with ‘nuisance’?”

(Permissive mother says, “Of course you can, sweetheart” – when his oppressive dogmatic father has just finished saying no you can’t.)

* * * *

Harvest party at olive ranch.  I go alone.  Brett stays home. Jalopy makes the long trip just fine. (As I go, John Searle is on the iPod ear-buds, lecturing on the mind-body thing, settling everybody’s hash.)

(During lunch in the olive grove, it turns out that the quiet guitarist with hi-compression Stratocaster w/volume pedal, serving up the best parts, was Nina Gerber!)

Lots of affectionate talk about Kathi Goldmark, and tributes from the dais and song dedications.  The ranch’s new vintage is named in commemoration of Kathi.

Something comes back to me: when she got me that radio-show gig and I showed up, she insisted on paying for lunch at the Ferry Building cafe. She shouldn’t have, we’re both definitely non-rich, both still kids, and the protocol would have been splitting it. But with serene immovability, she insisted on buying, and I should have known then, the cancer was back.

* * *

November 16, 2013

Every evening lately Venus hangs up long after dusk above west oaks. For most of this month (around aphelion I suppose?) it’s been lingering letting the sun get far, far ahead, but now will begin plunging each night following faster and faster after her. * * * *

* * *

November 13, 2013

Barbara is ninety, sits in the sun. Brimmed straw hat. The flow of talk from National Public Radio is exactly right. Rescue efforts go on for those unfortunate poor people in the Philippines. A diamond has sold for eighty million dollars. A woman in England has undertaken to read one novel from every country in the world, during the course of a year, and she hasn’t regretted it. Chimpanzees exhibit empathy.

* * * *

November 9, 2013

Saturday. Sunny.

Too warm for November. Sun is hot, but low in the pines to the south. This is like some alien planet.

Furnish upstairs room as workspace for coming cold times.

Tear out summer crops – tomatoes and squash and beans.

Cut out apple tree to east of gardens – then wander property with grumbling chainsaw, looking for saplings of cedar, hawthorn, madrone, to clear.

No writing, again today.

Pork roast, with of course a pear sauce.

* * * *

November 8, 2013

“Envy” looking upward; “pity” downward. —- And what mistakes those are.

Envy thou not the better-accomplished. You may never know what privations – what lacerations or amputations – made bravery necessary. And invention necessary. Also, in the case of one pitied, you may never know what secret indulgences, what joys and delights, what special permissions and compromises, went along with the mediocrity compromise. There’s misery in the house on the hill, and peace in the hovel.

Home from Squaw, I spend the afternoon catching up.

(My SEP-IRA, which I have ignored, turns out to have a little more than I’d thought. I’m rich! rich! rich! We’re all in the Rich-as-Croesus category.)

Brett tonight is out, hearing a Chautauqua-style speaker (Michael Pollan)

Here at home it’s just us kids, eating macaroni and watching the “Johnny Darko” movie.

* * * *

November 7, 2013

To Squaw, if only to get the bamboo off the Annex deck.

* * *

November 5, 2013

Helping Dash with math.

The lamplight, the held breath, the linear equations with their slopes and y-intercepts – (“y=mx+b”) – how the slant lies on the grid.

Then reading over – (strictly for admiration purposes) – his Language-Arts paragraph of book summary/analysis.

* * * *

November 1, 2013

Midst of another string of warm sunny days.
“Immanence” expands like Big Bang.

Bright-and-early, Shana from down the road comes for a couple of boxes of pears, some to return to us, as a little galette or pear butter. She rides off with them, on a fancy stretched-long bike w/saddlebags.

Dash’s guitar lesson. Jamie wants to sell us an expensive guitar.

Read Henry James’s “Letters” in coffee shop.

Out on lower Commercial Street, in the zone of coffee shops tolerant of sidewalk-layabout kids and amiable potheads, everybody is standing, pointing, heads tilted back. It’s UFO’s – and I see it too: point of light, like a daytime star, but drifting (Looks like Venus. However, Venus happens to be underfoot at this hour).

A perfect hometown hallucination here, to be seen only from the foot of Commercial Street. Jaded Dashiell doesn’t even bother to look up, heading to meet girlfriends Savannah, Kiley, Sienna.

* * * *

Last week outside hardware store I happened to glimpse the usual parking-lot wren, grey or brown or whatever, small as a tablespoonful, as usual patrolling under the grilles of parked cars, the usual aplomb. Been on my mind for years, parking-lot wrens. I think I’ve seen, and watched, a lot of parking lot wrens/sparrows?/finches? – because for years unpublished and maybe unpublishable, I spent a lot of hours in coffee-and-donut establishments on malls, in this strange place California. Perpetual newcomer (eternal newcomer) could rent a few hours’ work-space for the price of a cup of coffee. So thru a plate-glass window I’ve watched a lot of parking lot wrens during times my pen was waiting above ruled legal pads.  I’ve watched them forage or just stroll under the tires of parked cars, my confederates somehow, in all kinds of weather out there. I truly, no-kidding, greet them in all collegiality.

* * * *

Thistle standing on the damp west meadow, its amethyst star — and every time I come across a thistle I think of a particular missed opportunity. When Cavendish and Sands were planning, once, to marry, I was in default position to preside as “celebrant,” and I’d pictured a theme – a theme extending to wedding décor, why not? – of the alliance of the Scottish thistle and the English rose. Roses and thistles everywhere entwined.

* * * *

October 28, 2013

Harper’s magazine this month (stack of mags beside toilet) reviews a slew of new books on the subject of “Immortality” (“the Hope and Hokum of”).

This morning after nice hard rain it’s still dark and soaked outside. Carrying paper plate of last night’s leftovers, I go out to free the hens and replenish pullets’ feed.

I wonder. How can we, desiring immortality, want our own personal “consciousness” to persist indefinitely when, right now, we’re “conscious” in such a blinkered way? This floating bodiless consciousness we’re expecting to enjoy, what’s it supposed to be conscious of? (Still the juicy hamburger? The new season of cable shows?) * * * *

October 27, 2013

Sunday. Looks like rain at last.

Deep into “Immanence” again.

Brett’s long conversation with Hunter. He’s dating somebody now, a good thing for him, in loneliness of grad school especially, someone for consolation and confidences and a little true perspective.

Last of the summer-squash (I was out there with a flashlight raiding the garden) goes into stir fry w/bean curd.

Dash, after dinner, guitar: command performance: he slows down Tarrega’s Lagrima, and grinds it, so it makes Barbara sigh, everybody get teary.

* * * *

Must have been a bear who dug up bees’ underground nest in west meadow. Must have been honey in there. (It’s Googlable: certain bees do that.) Hexagonal waxen combs spread around scrubby meadow.
* * * *

Flutter of white hair. Discovered Barbara lost, down past the potting shed, pushing her walker, the walker’s little saddlebag stocked with a couple of old lace napkins, various pairs of reading glasses, silver spoons and knife and teacup, a folded New Yorker for reading matter.

I can romance her back up to the house, while preserving her dignity, by playing guitar for her, not ask why run away from home.

As we go (a long trudge, back uphill toward the cottage, pushing the walker), I tell her Brett is down with the chickens, that she’s probably refurnishing their whole habitat, that she loves those birds, brings them treats.

“Well,” she grumbles, “Could be worse.”

* * * *

October 25, 2013

Hot sunny days persist.

Tonight Dash goes to a “dance”: 8:00 to 10:00, in an elementary-school gym, with recorded music. (Chaperone-to-dancer ratio, about 1-4.)

Purchase of Halloween costume, top hat, etc.

“The Assistant” has gone off to Joy. * * * *

* * * *

October 23, 2013

How quiet it can get.

This morning at four am I check the calendar, see that it’s the day of bringing the recycling bin out to the road (comes around twice every month).

And I catch myself thinking, well, it’s a day for taking a shower, washing hair, putting on my better clothes!

* * *

I think there’s no society out here on this road. Then a U.C. professor has found the place – he says it’s unlisted, but we’re here and findable – fun conversationalist, wanting a signed copy of Calif’s Over so he can send it to his pal Jackson Browne! Then I get going on afternoon run, down the road, and a scooter goes by, it’s Katrina, and she slows down while I run, Are there still pears? Yes, in boxes on the garage floor. So I get her smiley thumbs-up sign and she accelerates and goes around the bend.

* * * *

The contrasts in light I’m sentimental about:

  • galactic light (stars and local sun) (also reflected off moons and planets): this would be nuclear fusion. Photon purity
  • by contrast, warm oxidation here on earth at way, way lower temps. The dirty buttery gold of candles and fireplaces and campfires and smudge pots and old-fashioned incandescence of lightbulbs, which are also oxidation, i.e., smoldering-glow of tungsten filament.
  • the difference between starlight and lampllight
  • (excluding fluorescence)

* * * *

October 22, 2013

Another dry warm day.

Brett (needing break from Squaw staff-planning) is rigging up partition to keep new pullets safe from old hens.

Various lengths of George Merrill’s old rabbit-fencing are still rolled up in the woods behind the outhouse, for our reuse, rusty but strong.

At low angle, warm brass October sun presses through forest (ten-fifteen am, 10/22/13) on cedar bark. Forest gnats tossing around.

From distant Highway 49: the sound of a long slash of an automobile as it travels through rough woods. Then it stops, and the sound of a car horn begins. Then, like a guitar amp stuck on feedback, the car horn sound doesn’t stop, a pair of bugle notes in harmony, sustaining that harmony, on and on, it goes on forever, somebody is leaning permanently against the steering wheel.

This is too far through the woods for us to be any help. So all we can do is call 911.

* * * *

October 21, 2013

Brett’s contentment – coming home from the feed store with fresh barley fodder, having watched the piglets there (in their pen where they wait for a buyer/fattener/butcher) this morning waking up and frolicking for no special reason.

* * * *

(Farmer’s euphemism for what happens to pigs when they’re all fattened up: they “go to market.” Nice expression. It’s what happens to me, too, after I die: I go to market.) * * * *   Great old words that have died the death of trivial oversimplification, now disqualified from use:




Those were useful words. They are irreplaceable.

“Irreplaceable” means irreplaceable. You who have thoughtlessly smudged them over – the journalists, the politically correct, the govt. bureaucraps – have no idea what precision and delight you’ve swept away. Precision and delight were invisible to you.

* * * *

October 20, 2013

Sunday. Brett is to come back from SF.

No writing today.

Slept in.

Got a start on, and dawdled over, a paragraph describing “All Things” to help Joy in selling it around NY.

Spent the entire morning dismantling/reassembling dishwasher all over kitchen floor. On the radio, the Car Guys Click-and-Clack yukked it up, then “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” churned through its cycles like any other kitchen appliance, then “Prairie Companion” theme song was cranking up. At the very foundation of the dishwasher the food-grinder device was impossible to reassemble. Still I’m in pajamas. Final success was a simple snap.

Looks like all apples, tho’ sweet, are uniformly small and wormy, all going to cider.

When Brett comes home we do in fact get the big juicer rolling.

* * * *

Behind the stove is the wine rack (just a wooden wine-crate).

And on its protruding post hang the V-shaped wishbones of the passing years’ roast chickens. I save them there, to dry and become brittle, but I guess nobody is interested in proving his own secret wish against another person’s, so they go hanging there. All these years. All those unpetitioned, unrisked hopes. Hunter now at Georgetown studying. Dash here in middle school with a rock band of his own.

* * *

Something anybody knows who is in dire extremity:

“despair” and “faith” seem like opposed words but they describe the same condition.

In free-fall the choice gets made.

(Certain saintly people would abide always in “extremity” and are never out of it, are always in free-fall.)

* * * *

October 18, 2013

On the little kitchen lawn fifty green-plastic chairs, wet with hose water, crowd together tilting this way and that, to dry in the sun. Looks like a café.

The sound system is set up on bed of pick-up, and it tests out O.K. (Tammy Wynette’s “Almost Persuaded.”)

Brett is preparing her poetry-reading, in SF Mission District.

I will stay home as husbandman for the weekend, while she who makes everything beautiful here will be absent, making some other scene beautiful.

Her endless project of “curing” thrift-shop cast iron pans with multiple flax-oil rubbings and four-hour saunas in the oven at 500 degrees – it’s been going on for a week and still litters the kitchens.

* * * *

October 17, 2013

Stars really do never move! Amazing.

My background-feeling (that something could change up there) arises because, lately more and more, I attend so closely, as if something really might change, at any minute – and in fact there are little events, Jupiter’s shift-of-place, or Mars’s; the moon’s new shape each night, and new debut; a falling star. But as for the far-off stars, nothing moves. The very same Orion will be striking the same pose long after I’m gone. And has been, too, since Eratosthanes, and since Avicenna, since pre-Cambian epoch when nobody was here to look up. That’s pretty amazing.

(esp. considering Hubble expansion, 22 km/sec per megaparsec)

And consider all these added wobbles:

Earth motion: 30 k/sec around sun

Sun motion: 220 k/sec moving around galactic center

Galaxy motion: We are falling into Leo at 371 kilometers/second\

Still, Orion has “always” looked, and will “always” look, the same.

* * *

October 15, 2013

The radio’s incidental shred of news is that Nigerian government soldiers have just killed 950 civilians, who were in detention, some by shooting them in the legs and letting them bleed to death.

Many such little messes are unavoidable if we’re going to get (via Royal Dutch Shell) gasoline every day.

Meanwhile, a long fine conversation with my agent.

The Pope would say it’s “sin” we’re swimming through; the Dalai Lama would say it’s “delusion.” This morning at five am all this trouble seems like the Lord’s form of delight, even the Niger river, poisoned for hundreds of miles along its inner lagoons.


October 15, 2013

Dash’s week of school break.

Tomatoes are still producing. Crown squash is unstoppable.

Two pounds of cod, packed deep in miso paste for four days (w/sugar and rice wine).

* * * *

October 13, 2013

Soft little rain in the night.

Quarter- to half-inch accumulation in bed of pickup truck, in seat of plastic garden chair, in the old Radio Flyer wagon on the woodpile, inside the plastic galoshes by the gate.

Clear sky at five AM. And in the dark, the sound of the creek in the ravine.

* * * *

October 10, 2013

Here, we are boarding three visiting hens, traumatized survivors of last night’s bear invasion on henhouse across the road at the Spencers’.

These are same as bears elsewhere this fall, a large mother and her two full-grown cubs.

* * * *

October 6, 2013

More pears. Giving ’em away all over the valley.

(Funny superstition-encounter: today I walked through the old “gate-to-nowhere” stile in an unaccustomed direction – south to north – and immediately had the reflection, I wonder if that reverses some enchantment that may have been laid upon me the first itme I walked thru it, in the other direction.)

Great trout, salsa of tomatoes, shallots, rosemary. Soup of leek, parsnip, potato.

* * * *

October 5, 2013

No work. Slept in late.

Little bookstore “appearance.” Then drive down to Newcastle, carrying all possible guitars, to visit Christian in his studio.

* * * *

That one is never “alone.” That one is always part of an old song, and the old misery is part of it.

Right now, I hear the sound of a pear falling, having parted from its branch – September 30th noon here – making a muffled bonk sound on Hunter’s car, parked for the winter under a tarp.

* * * *

September 29, 2013

More pears.

* * * *

September 28, 2013

More bringing in pears.

* * *

September 27, 2013

Yesterday was my Big Day in town: groceries, feed store, hardware, bank, wearing a clean shirt.

I’m idling at a stoplight in (locally named) neighborhood Burger Basin, in my 35-yr-old black Mercedes (tailpipe perhaps releasing puffs of its black vegetable-oil smoke?). A spider descends, mid-air, between my face and the windshield, hanging from the sun-visor. It had been riding around with me since we left my garage. With the sickle of a finger I catch the silken thread – and hoist it out through the open window and hang it on the rear-view mirror out there.

The light changes to green and I notice my spider relocation has been watched by a small child, astonished, in the neighboring car’s back seat.

I pull out, sinister soot jalopy, spider still dangles, I’m wearing a black shirt, rock-star, Ray-Ban sunglasses, spider-thread gently swung by car motion. * * * * September 27, 2013

One roving mega-predator changes entire ecology of neighborhood. (Therefore what effect does a horde of humans have?)

I’d been noticing for some years how my planting small-scale garden crops changes the local populations of birds, deer, insects, rabbits, mice – whole families set up house depending on this new resource.

This fall around here we’ve got a newly arrived mother bear and her two cubs. At our place, they tore off henhouse wall and carried off four hens in one night. Then two more hens on another night.

Now our neighbor a full mile away – (bears’ foraging range!) – has lost ten chickens in a single night. (Subsequently, husband and son slept in parked car overnight as guardians, and caught the bear family plundering.) Everywhere fruit trees are denuded (in my case the lower branches of an apple and all of my Italian plums, so far).

So if that’s what a bear family can do, just in basic subsistence nutrition, how much more does mass-human activity flip all relationships and instantly, all-but-irreversibly intoxicate ecosystems.

* * * *

The for-sale sign on the acreage at the corner of Newtown Road (with its added duct-tape motto: “OLD MAN READY TO DEAL”) has long since fallen face-down in the weeds at the roadside. It’s still lying there. Today as we drive by in after-school carpool, all the boys are saying seriously, sentimentally, they’d like to come out and resurrect it. (A stage of adolescence that’s important, moralistic, the onset of sentimentality.)

* * * *

September 25, 2013

Brett and Dash must drive all the way to Truckee for the final orthopedist visit. (The summer’s broken wrist.)

Here, I stop work midday, then bring in more pears. It’s an idyll. Leaf-filtered sunlight provides the distinctive earthly wavelength of good cheer and serenity. Chlorophyll-color is therapy. Attuned to soothe the retina of this particular forest-dwelling biped. And there am I! (lifted on ladder) up in the cloud of that rustling light. A pear is ready for picking and box-ripening when its stem separates silently, without a tug, right at the spur-joint. Lift the fruit gently at a 45-degree bend. See if it moves out to join you. Leave it be if it doesn’t succumb easy. From last year, a knack comes back into my wrist: it’s like the wishbone-snapping geometry, in its angular leverage. I can tell by the tensile resistance of the stem, before I’ve even levered the fruit, whether the angle will snap at the spur or resist and insist on its tough virginity. To be left alone.

So all afternoon, while it’s still summer here in my pear branches (elev. 2800), Brett and Dash going over Donner Pass are encountering snow. I spend a little time worrying – checking CalTrans webcams of I-80, opening phone for texts from them. I’ve made an especially good stew as a way of magically sealing their fate as homecomers. And they do. Halfway through Barbara’s “PBS News Hour,” the dog is yipping and the mudroom door makes its (characteristically Dash) slam.

* * * *

September 24, 2013

Summer, still. Now it’s end of day, five-thirty, September light, sun low across unmowed meadow, narrow wrought-iron chair (my astronomical observatory) stands out in meadow’s middle in tall grass, iced Sauv. Blanc getting a start on my head, meat thawing (for curry), Dash’s bedroom door closed where, to accompaniment of Bon Hiver, he does his homework. The chickens are still in their pied a terre, the pears are in pickup-truck bed (they’re in old cardboard file-boxes, one of them with the taped sign “WORKSHOP #7,” in 72-point font of Apple font menu; the other side scrawled in Sharpie pen: “Binders – take to Squaw).

The pears will start to be a lot of work now, boxes lining up on garage floor.

Today I fought back the meadow’s western blackberry wall, tall and dense, a scrimmage line, moved it back about five feet, along a thirty-foot-long front.

Excellent progress on Immanence.

* * * *

September 22, 2013

Sunny fine day, post-rain.

The usual brief lurking in church’s back pew. (Perplexing verse in Luke about the Cunning Steward, a perplexity for sermonizer, too.) Then the deft exit from pew, unseen.

Home, on the kitchen radio, Garrison Keillor’s quaint show, with no one paying attention. Empty room. Turkey sandwich and hard-boiled egg.

Back to work on “Immanence.” Forget about the ditch-irrigation anxieties for the day.

About fifteen vultures have been circling above a spot in the woods to south and east. When I walk to that end of the meadow I get the distinct scent of something rotting, but only far downslope. Something large seems to have died in our woods but I haven’t the curiosity – (nor anything at stake!) (even though it’s “my” woods) – and won’t go searching through the rain-drippy glistening gorse and hawthorn, fern and pathfinder and vetch and vinca.

Working on Immanence for the afternoon, I’m dogged by this sorrow: that I’m writing a book whose plot has no artificial contrivances, its characters realistic men and women. Seems like, the better the art gets (and the more fraud-free), the smaller the audience. (Sexist notion: maybe this is because women are the readers in the marketplace these days, and women love to be lied to.) I’ve been reading magazine reviews of Pynchon’s new mash-up. (Now there’s a “boy’s writer”, though.) Editors assign thirty-year-olds as reviewers (they’ve got the right Dungeons-and-Dragons education; the proper awe in sensing that they missed out on real literature, on authenticity, but have mastered all the “signifiers” and can flourish them dazzlingly, in this long epoch of infinitely inflationary counterfeits). What people want is cheap fabric with tinsel woven in.  This thing I’m working on in all its verity and asperity will look simply stunted or “unimaginative.” And in a way, is stunted and unimaginative, as those are negative-connoted adjectives for its truest virtues.

* * * *

September 21, 2013

Lots of rain, snow-level down to 5000 feet.

A Saturday with no writing.

Mostly fixing irrigation, in rain.

The problem is across the road in the Y-split on the Spencer property.

Getting my exercise climbing up and down Spencers’ hill carrying tools, changing jackets every half-hour because there’s no such thing as true waterproofing. All things get soaked and cold pretty fast, in a real rain.

Making extra posole.

Reading Nagel’s “View from Nowhere.”

* * * *

September 20, 2013

Rain showers to come, here. Above 7000 ft, snow.

Here, unaccustomed twilight tennis in warmth. Posole.

* * * *

September 18, 2013

More blackberries.

* * * *

September 17, 2013

Worked on “Assistant” all morning. Cleared blackberries all afternoon.

From compost area working back towards shed. Under the figs. And vines that had choked the lane.

* * * *

September 16, 2013

Most people are still spending weekends at the mall. (Shopping’s the big event? Shopping is art-and-craft one practices?) Weekdays at full-time jobs to finance that.

“shabby dingy unsanitary impoverished stingy inconvenient” – those adjectives.

Sorting nails pulled from fence boards: Any that aren’t rusted or bent go into the pickle jar. This isn’t an “admonition” it’s merely a prediction of what’s to come. “thrifty, artful, elegant, resourceful, plain.”

* * * *

September 15, 2013

Four-in-the-morning, very starry sky. Jupiter is champagne-colored. Sunday morning at this time: especial silence on all totally-dark highways roundabout. No trucks into mountains, up 20 or up 49. Crickets, though: their huge dunes of sound keep me oriented in local space.

* * * *

September 13, 2013

Butternut squash (beds outside Barbara’s cottage) taken too early. Looks ripe but lacks sugar.

* * * *

September 9, 2013

Yesterday, for purchase of hens, with Brett, to flat dusty fence-crisscrossed neighborhood of Rough and Ready. Then today she’s in a state of happiness building a new roost, in her food-stained, long skirt, her clogs of lime green, blouse looking slept-in, hair tied up. Brandishing power tools like the clanging, ringing SkilSaw, and the Makita cordless drill her brother left behind – chickens all around her ankles curious, she couldn’t be happier, she’ll be fifty-two this year.

Dog, equally happy, burr-covered, sleeps at the central spot where Brett’s tread circles past most.

* * * *

September 8, 2013

Electric fencing.

* * * *

September 6, 2013

Rebuild south wall chicken coop.

* * * *

August 31 – Sept 3

Squaw Valley alone by myself.

Stainless steel curb for butcher block in pantry.

Lots of flashing around the Annex chimney-leaks, plus lots of roofing tar.

Two tall unhappy aspens out front to be felled. Only one felled.

(People seldom mention: how aspen smells when cut!) (Finer than pine. Subtle, airy, toasty.)

Remove electric fencing from Amy and Lou’s place on the Truckee. In pickup, bring the entire rolled-up bramble of it to Nevada City, for recycling as henhouse protection at home.

(Another year has passed, and another tube of caulk is applied on the Annex shower-stall floor as it slowly slides down the flinty-gravelly slope, sixteenth-inch-per-year.)

In free time, lurking alone in the “village” mall, single old guy looking for fun where there is none.

Burnett’s birthday party, and McClatchy’s lakeside picnic.

Re-grout Barbara’s bathroom shower tiles.

All week, esp. mornings, the distant Yosemite wildfire keeps the whole northern Sierra blanketed with golden smoke.

Every morning:

  • framing up first draft of “Immanence”
  • a 1000-word piece on “magic,” requested by W. Lesser

Privileges of solitude: clothes clean-or-dirty strewn all over the living room floor, radio too loud, candlelight. Salmon and kale.

* * * *

August 16, 2013

Six o’clock. Evening TV news in Barbara’s cottage, she drinking her fake wine in stemmed glass. Just her and me.
PBS News Hour has a report on the Kepler telescope in orbit – its technical problems: the clockwork that adjusts its aim is broken. Stuck. So this great telescope will have a perfect view of just a single random direction in space, eternally. NASA doesn’t know how to save or re-purpose its stare.
Then an “Amber Alert” storms over the audio, with all fanfare of the rude emergency-bulletin blasts. Two children have been abducted, Angel Rosales, age 3, and Liliana Ramirez, age 9. And in nine California and Nevada counties we are all to be on the lookout for a black late-model Ford Mustang. (They have been snatched by their father and their stepmother, somehow.)
The bulletin takes forever, blasting out the Kepler-telescope report. Then, once finished, it must be repeated, so I’m just going to miss the news. The Kepler has been finding dozens and dozens of exo-planets, potentially habitable planets, i.e., nice planets, orbiting stars about the size of our sun. But now I’m missing the Kepler news and I’m just impatient with those luckless children Liliana and Angel, speeding down a highway with their unreasonable parents.

* * * *

August 15, 2013

Brett leaves for DC.
Dash to have cast removed, requiring long trip thru the woods to Truckee doctor.
Stop by Squaw house for baby-monitor, phones, etc.

* * * *

August 14, 2013

Grown-ups’ freedom and quiet returns to these acres: Dashiell has gone via carpool to first day of school. (His arm still in hard cast, elbow slung in frayed dirty pouch with strap over neck.)

Eternal rainbird irrigation drops is lassoes on the parched west-front meadow.
Sands in cottage keeping company with Barbara.
In the open front door, dog asleep on doormat.
Out here, the tall, springy stem of a grass-pod bends under the weight of a honeybee.

* * * *

Minor realization for naturalist: why coyotes’ scat is always fibrous, twistily hempy: It’s made of what indigestible bits passed thru the intestines, incl. fur.

In the case of bears, a seedy jam. And in the case of coyotes, the hide and hair of small mammals (or I guess larger ones) – because when you’re a coyote you ingest every last shred hoping for some nutrition. It’s why coyote-shit always looks ropy (e.g., on the paved new-development roads, where I run, and in paths of our own woods).

* * * *

August 12, 2013

Kale and Brussels sprouts are in. (Small raised bed at north end.)

August, wildfire season, and smoke from distant canyons makes dawn brandy-color. CDF’s heavy loud bombers (distinctive red chevrons on fuselage, fat propellers) go lumbering low-and-loud over the sky, carrying flame-retardant, heading for Siskyou County or even Oregon, ungainly pelicans, pterodactyls.

* * * *

August 11, 2013

Five in the morning, mid-August: the winter night-sky of 2013 is making its first appearance. To the east above the pines, I spy the unmistakable Pleiades with gladness, and below, Aldebaran, and below that, yes, the belt of Orion, wintertime friend.

(Jupiter 15 degrees around to the northeast.)  * * * * August 10, 2013

Consciousness isn’t – isn’t at all – the vaunted “goal” of matter; it isn’t the indispensible center of teleology, or the necessary ingredient in this universe. Consciousness is just a kind of cobweb that got woven in the shrapnel of the galactic explosion as it flies apart.

  1. Transiency (anicca)
  2. Sorrow (dukkha)
  3. Selflessness (anatta)

* * * *

Checked cottage swamp-cooler, climbing on roof.
Ran (half-walked, wearily) the 2-mile course listening to clever J. Simon Bloom’s Berkeley astrophysics.
Reading in St. John of the Cross. And another inch or two thru “The Golden Bowl.”
(Funny: You can skim “Dark Night of the Soul,” of all things. But you can’t skim James.)
Tomato-basil linguini.* * * * August 9, 2013

I’ve insisted (elsewhere, and glibly) that everybody is already in the “saint-and-mystic” category. That would be to say: you’re already a mystic, and you’re already a saint. All without exception, you’re awarded your wings just by virtue of your showing up at all. Which you’ve already done. In such a view, the “saint” and “mystic” categories of experience would be, indeed, like Kantian categories of being. Of course, you don’t think of yourself this way.

But what does it mean to assert such a thing?
For example, is the idea meaningless?
(“meaningless” in the sense of being merely inconsequential, not in the sense of being ill-predicated)

I believe it would mean this: that, by virtue alone of the possession of consciousness in the matrix of matter, you already participate in the radiance that is – stretching a metaphor, here – “the body of Christ.” (Very parochial expression, and not even precisely of my tribe, but a wonderful metaphor, too good to leave alone). Accordingly, simply to “look at” a star, and simply to “experience” it, is to participate in flesh, i.e., to enter into the heart of whatever “divine will” is. These stones have risen up.

Of course all such warmth lies far beneath conscious ratiocination. We have practical thoughts when we look at something like a star, or a tree – i.e., survival-related thoughts, about threats or opportunities – regarding objects of perception. But all the while, the high-voltage miracle everybody is always plugged into is the same as the licensed, reputed mystic’s. As for the reports of visions and ecstasies, the scientist in me has to go to the default “naturalist” explanation that those are hallucinations and physiological phenomena, and maybe chicanery. The closest anybody comes to truly impossible knowledge is, as in Dark Night of the Soul or in “The Cloud of Unknowing,” a rational, hopeful devotion, and a humbling. Not a thunderclap. (Distrusting those thunderclaps!) So the only difference between “you” and the “licensed mystic” – St. John of the Cross, etc. – is aspirational. Announcedly vocational. — In other words, you’re presently having it, having whatever experience is vouchsafed us. You’re just ignoring it. That you ignore it doesn’t take any calories away from the intense blaze you stand within.

Then, as for everybody’s automatic “sainthood,” that’s a question of course morally trickier. How can everybody, without exception, be a saint? If prostitutes and mass murderers and Hitlers and thieves are going to be saints, too, such a notion (such an unhelpful notion!) could only be based on two assumptions:

– that the “problem of evil” is insoluble and incoherent, to mortals, because mortals lack a large-enough syntax. Large enough to, for example, welcome their own personal deaths;
– that “divine will” – (or whatever you call the presumed teleological purposes of the universe, if any) – is inscrutable and unknowable.

Given such a pair of premises, we might all be, already always, working in the service of the teleological Ends of the universe, each enslaved like a saint, head-down, but have no comprehension of how our work is “divine.” Thus therefore, for example, somehow the destroyers of the World Trade Center towers, on that sunny day in September, were doing the lord’s work.
(If you’re a Mormon, simply by joining up, you’re immediately a card-carrying “saint.”) * * * * (False dichotomy in that “naturalism”-vs-“supernatural” distinction: “If anything ‘supernatural’ does turn out to govern nature in any way, well then that would be perfectly natural.”)

* * * *

August 9, 2013

Dose of commercial fertilizer for all fenced-in vegetables
One big 5-gal bucket chicken manure distributed among front apples and pears.

* * * *

August 8, 2013

New pad for evaporative cooler, south side.
Also new float-valve assembly. (No more constant drip!)

* * * *

August 7, 2013

August, the month when I put rainbird sprinklers out and never bring them in. Day and night they’re out there, dropping sparkling loops of the muddy irrigation water.

Insights and feelings that can only come of country living:
Things the hand recoils from:
Recoils from the occasional wasp, reptile, rodent-carcass – in woodpile or in boot-toe – such are common causes of instinctual revulsion. But sometimes, like this morning, a botanical structure causes the automatic disgust: The furry seed-pod of plantain, as on its resilient, insistent stem it poked nuzzling at my knuckle, while I knelt screwing together irrigation connections; and when I became aware of it I jerked my hand away, reflexively (as if a big insect).
In a plant, my nervous system had detected life – life’s structure, life’s tenacity, life’s teleological efficiency, life’s intentionality, an organism’s will and willfulness. Not that I’m mystical about intentionality in plants. But obviously there’s something like a life code which my own nervous system is sensitive to. (More sensitive than is my “higher mind.”)

* * * *

(How I notice, also, that after decades out here, away from the city, my eye is seized and held by the passing bird – and involuntarily keeps following its flight, its dropping and pumping and coasting – all the way up to the pine branch, or roof-gable gutter, or telephone wire. The passing bird matters nowadays: I guess it must be somehow relevant. More than it was in the city. It’s more part of the story of things, apparently, and my eye can’t help but be interested in its diagonal strange pertinence.)

* * * *

Dash is gone: at the county fair. Twenty dollars in pocket. Will meet all friends. He’ll stay till eleven o’clock at night! Under those ghoulish, garish lights. And in the fairground heat all day, toting around his broken arm, in fiberglass cast.

His “County Fair” at age 13 this year. * * * *

* * * *

Chainsaw. Two-stroke oil at SPD.
Mixed fuel: in Mason jar it turns from urine to turquoise.
But no. Can’t take out the blighted apple at the garden fence because the bean plant, next to it, inside the fence, has exceeded the beanpole and woven itself higher and higher, all in among the apple twigs. So most of the tree will stay till fall.

* * * *

August 2, 2013

The thrush is in the woods, near my trailer this morning. The door is open and as I work the trill-tsp-trill keeps making me stop work, mid-sentence, close my eyes: all my own work inside here is nice-enough, but comparatively dull, as long as I can hang my head and listen.

* * * *

Little bout of fond nostalgia, sitting here working, I was reminded of my electric typewriter, the excellent, heavy-as-a-BMW (brand name: “Olympia”). The suave plastic on-off switch. The constant crouching growl of its motor. Then, as I wrote, the gunshot violence of the typefaces banging against the platen. These days, my keyboard is more like a little flat “practice-typing-skills” toy. Its plastic lozenges sink only a millimeter into its face. And I use a track-pad – set on “touch” – so there isn’t even a click of my thumb, there are only touches, double-touches, a finger’s abracadabra stroke. This is all right. But I remember the funny violence of the old electrics, what Gatling-guns they were.

August 1, 2013

Back in Nevada City.

The usual bags and boxes and equipment are spilled off pickup-truck bed, before open bay-doors.  Twilight.  Alongside this driveway mess, brazier on tripod, flames leap, coals to mellow for cooking tri-tip roast, huge squash harvested late.

Hunter’s farewell dinner.  He leaves tomorrow for Georgetown.

His mother today took him down to the Interstate to visit the incredibly glamorous Roseville Galleria mall.  (Which, amazingly, nobody from this house has ever visited, in twenty years.)  He needed a graduation gift, and the intention was to splurge, on elegant back-too-school clothes, but Hunter found his way to J.C. Penneys.  Khaki pants, socks-and-underwear, button-down shirts, blazers.

* * * *

July 23, 2013

Tracy has ordered a Dumpster, in Squaw, for deep (all-the-way-to-the-bottom) basement cleaning, an emotional stage of life.  Among the decades’ junk is Galway’s little square of plywood marked “HOME BASE,” from the summer ball games by the lake.  He’ll never be out here again, never again leave Vermont, and it goes in the Dumpster.  Later, I pull it out and save it.

* * * *

July 22, 2013

The greatness of Henry James.

By a delicacy of POV, he portrays the things people know, which they don’t know they know.  That is, unconscious knowledge – often knowledge openly presumed in society while repressed in individuals. The “shadow,” the collaborative evil in society.

Instance, The Golden Bowl’s “pagoda in the garden.”

* * * *

Lying sleepless, night of full moon – Dash in arm-cast sleeping in next room, Brett snoring beside me – I see lucidly that all time is a “waste of time.”

* * * *

July 22, 2013

Stacked cord oak.

Got started again on The Assistant, ironing out risky self-reflective passages.

Dash is laid up with fractured wrist in cast.

* * * *

July 21, 2013

“Equinox” feeling of this over-warm day:

The novel “All Things,” with a click, goes flying to New York with email’s sound-effect of jet fly-by.  And a cord of split oak is delivered, to be stacked against house wall for all next winter’s comfort.

* * * *

Janet Fitch, on the deck at Squaw, holding drink, speaking of how hard it is to move her narration on briskly, how her paragraphs grow, dilating on the scene.  “I have trouble with moving along to the next thing.  ’Cause wherever I am, that’s where I wanna be.”

It’s a motto for life.

On the other hand, the Hasidic proverb is: “While we pursue happiness, we flee from contentment.”

* * * *

A funeral procession in an ashram/zendo/temple place.

The seldom-seen abbot of the place comes out of his hermitage, joining the tail end of procession.  He remarks: “Amazing.  To see such a long parade of dead bodies, following after a single living person.”

* * * *

July 17, 2013

Henry James (reading The Golden Bowl):

James, surely, overwrites – obviously – But here is what I realize about him: he wasn’t trying, not in the least, to “write well.”  (That is, “readably,” “gracefully.”)

What loads his sentences up is pure excitement, reckless excitement.  All those heaps of endlessly mixed metaphors and parenthetical qualifiers, they tended to pile up only because it was urgent for him, to get out into the light everything he’d seen and understood.  And it’s just a lot.  He’d seen plenty.  Like much great writing, it isn’t “good writing.”

* * * *

July 16, 2013

Lisa’s friend: she has a full-time job in San Diego, supporting a boyfriend who disapproves of the ethical compromises of complicity in the economy, and sneers at her.

(In general, the phenomenon of a loving woman who supports some kind of character she respects.) (as this scam may be operating in my own household)

* * * *

July 14, 2013

Bear gets into the chickens, in my absence.

* * * *

July 11, 2013

Hectic, hectic.  Middle of Fiction Week: sense of Time this week as heavy churning waters, pressing tons against wading.  Greeting staff/participant folk, reading the students’ work, music with Greg and Caridwen, personal conferences, workshops.  But this morning, eight am, I came out the Annex front door, alone, into the silence of distances, and stood there, and the warmth of midsummer embraced me, weedy dry air of mountain summer, the embrace of death, my constant friend like sunshine, death, and I got back my equilibrium.

* * * *

July 4, 2013

Osvaldo: “Bring me a guitar! I want to sing a song for Barbarita.”  Arm lying out along deck railing.

* * * *

Story: A certain “George Whipple” has a chilly life at home: his own pusillanimity; his wife’s manliness.  He’s the grocer who, at work, forbids squeezing the Charmin.

* * * *

July 3, 2013

How the time-space basket is woven.

A muon is born in the vacuum above earth atmosphere.

It will naturally decay within a millionth of a second (into photon-neutrino combination).  So in a millionth of a second, it can’t travel far.  Even traveling at near lightspeed.

BUT, MYSTERIOUSLY, scientists on mountaintops detect muons raining down.  How can the thing travel all the way from sky to earth, fifty kilometers, before dying?  (It ought to decay within 0.6 kilometers’ journey, even moving at near lightspeed.)

EXPLANATION: Traveling at near lightspeed, it gains from Einsteinian time-slowing: enough time to travel 60 kilometers.

Meanwhile, from the muon’s space-time viewpoint, space-contraction at lightspeed makes the ground closer: when that muon is born, the ground looks 0.5 kilometers away, not fifty kilometers.  So it’s an easy half-kilometer hop for that speck.

* * * *

July 2, 2013

“He quit drinking and got clean-and-sober and turned into an asshole.”

* * * *

June 27,

N.C. Alone.


On the Cottage deck.  Stars.  Past midnight.

Mind wandering all over.  Glass of wine.  Finished, now, with very satisfactory orchestral reading at Theatre.

Reflecting how almost everybody I know, literally, is getting a Pulitzer these days, but it’s interesting how little, in fact, envy figures into things: The Lord-preserve-me-from-earthly-honors kind of sanity.  Because when the work alone is top-drawer, the mind is “like autumn water.”  (Nice simile from the Japanese: — phenomenon unfamiliar to anybody who hasn’t spent some seasons noticing the out-of-doors. How streams get in fall.)

Then through the forest, a BANG sound comes.  My neighbors the “simple country people” are awake at this hour, and shouting

A man’s voice is raised in anger, or bitterness, also a woman’s.  I sharpen my hearing, expecting trouble.

But no, it’s the sounds of fun.  Something amusing is happening over there, and it’s just the raillery of friends.

* * * *

June 27, 2013

Nevada City.  Hot sunny day, noon, in a café on Broad Street, reading.

A fly alights on the page of the novel I’m reading: the exact same edition of “housefly” as when I was young, fifty years ago in a faraway place.  The same six little legs like bent whiskers that can get the surest tickling grip on any surface at any tilt, dirty-looking body, a gleam on the aft section, undersized wings.  It’s the same model as in Illinois, 1960.  So much else has changed over the decades – now there are computers and smartphones and global-terrorism wars – but the common housefly is the exact same individual, this time walking up the page of Henry James’s “The Golden Bowl,” page 53, the part where Mrs. Assingham and her husband are discussing the intrigues of the Prince.

* * * *

June 26, 2013

Back in Nevada City briefly.

  • Rehearse with visiting conductor Vajda, patch over my gaffes
  • Doctor up section of Angel novel for concert
  • Cook solitary dinner, watch solitary rented movie
  • During the days, rehearse w/orchestra, rewrite, rehearse w/orchestra; purchase of chicken feed, gasoline

Lacking a printer, I have to go to an office-supply store, to get new pages printed up.  The store is between a fresh-established “Cigarette Town” and a beauty salon advertising “Nails – Pedicure – Extensions – Relaxers – Gift, Bible.”

On the print-shop photocopy counter is a stack of one-page folded papers.  The front displays a Xeroxed snapshot of cockeyed dreamy blotchy goofball-looking guy: “Remembering Charles Jansgood Marylebon, 1937-2013.”

The text inside: “On June 3, 2013, Charlie Marylebon departed this earth for Wilder Places.”  And goes on from there, but I start to feel ghoulish peeking and can’t read on.

* * * *

June 24, 2013

Great change of weather in the mountains, three days of cold rain, high wind.  Plastic garbage-bag serves as raincoat.  It snaps and rattles in gale, as in dark I climb to upper house.  At four am, it’s nice to come up into the upper house and find a dozen blueberry muffins cooling on the stove, two puppies asleep on the pantry floor, here where Tracy is in charge.

* * * *

June 22, 2013

It’s really high summer and hot now.  I come out of the clammy basement storeroom where I work, wearing heavy wool tweed and other layers – and at 7:30 in the morning, already the sky is flawless blue, the sun’s radiation on my neck.  The jumbled firewood pile at the top of the path in the sun is showing smooth facets of inner pine, of an improbable blinding sheen like platinum (from the perfect violence of their splitting, two years ago).  Already, across the canyon, the entire thousand-foot face of rock is lit up flat, as in the old Technicolor Panavision westerns of the MGM studios, at only 7:30.

Poets arrive today.

* * * *

June 20, 2013

The longest day of 2013.

Sandwiches in the office.  Each unwraps his own, shares a half.

Late afternoon, everyone arrives from afar in a single hour: Eva, Hunter and Zoey, Andrew-Lisa-Louis.

Very tall, teetering bookshelves, on wheeled dolly, are piloted up the bumpy pavement toward the “Olympic House” quarters of bookshop.

* * * *

June 17, 2013

“The love that moves the Sun and other stars.” (Dante, end of Paradiso)

Stars are also “the army of unalterable law.” (George Meredith)

Got this “app” for my phone called Sky Map: it displays astronomical info, in interactive map of celestial sphere.  On its graphic display, the exact center of our so-called “milky” galaxy is marked: They use a tiny dot, a null, a zero-point small as a Kelvin’s “degree” symbol, as location in sky of galaxy-center.

Do they know there’s a massive black hole there?  At Milky Way’s center-of-gravity middle, a vortex?  With stars chasing around it faster than my coffee grinder?  The dark core is a pinhead weighing 4 million suns’ masses.  A Dispose-All roars there, and it’s sending everything on, into a physics-free afterlife.

In my phone display, it’s basically just a trivial asterisk.

* * * *

Funny, our galaxy is not only milky; it’s a “way.”

What’s a “way”?  For one thing, it’s a path.  Or also a tao. The Milky Tao.  Or, in Proust’s coinage, a coté.  La coté du lait.  Or it’s just an old habit, our way.  (This is our customary way, and the whole thing is lacteal.)

Who first called it that?  It’s sweet, and homey.

* * * *

Cord wood from Amy and Lou, by river.  River-bridge’s padlock combo is the same as last year.  Lou helps load it on my truck, complaining all the while of Forest Service.

* * * *

June 16, 2013

Squaw Valley.

Dinner: hamburgers, green beans and corn.  Just Brett and Dash and I, in Annex, sitting on floor around coffee table.

It’s Father’s Day, and the phone rings.  It’s Hunter, wishing me a happy Father’s Day but wanting to move quickly to the topic of where he’s standing right now: on the path along the irrigation ditch above the Nevada City place.  The weir is clogged.  He is finding the path impassably overgrown with blackberries, it’s getting dark now, Zoey is with him, the mosquitos are coming on thick, and everybody is miserable, so he isn’t going to be able clear the weir.  So maybe the place can go without irrigation for a few days?  Because he and Zoey leave in the morning on a Death Valley road trip?

* * * *

June 13, 2013

Pleasures of furnishing the conference premises, as it’s an off-season ski resort.

High winds over the ridgetops.

Broken chairs are heaped at one end of a banquet hall.

Empty parking lots, big empty rooms.

These places will feel warmer once we’ve found picture hooks and hung portrait photos of old friends (in summers long ago!) looking dewy and smooth and young and wily.

Solitary trip in Tad’s old pickup, to the storage box in Truckee.

Thin sunshine.  No cars on the entire stretch of Highway 89.  At this season each day up here is an empty carton.

* * * *

June 9, 2013

Just me and Brett in Squaw.

Watching old Scorcese movie on tv, in a cut eviscerated by editing for commercials.

Scrambled eggs and wine for dinner.

* * * *

June 7, 2013

A period of record-heat days is predicted.  Might hit the hundreds.

Up at dark.  Cleared blackberries and gorse, at hour when the coolness lets you wear a canvas jacket and pants and gloves.

Then: Departure for summer in Squaw.  By noon ’ll be on Highway 20 climbing past 5000 feet.

* * * *

June 6, 2013

Hunter and I got the old gasoline-powered tiller down to the end of the driveway, and it’s parked at the roadside.


Runs well.  But note that wheels

are broken at hub

and need replacement.

Experience has shown, in this rural economy almost anything left by the roadside with a “free” sign will disappear fast: a mystery of parsimony that is, in its various depths, both troubling and reassuring.

* * * *

June 4, 2013

Both boys are home, it’s June.

They sleep in late in the mornings, and in general live with the torpor of lions in the shade.  Alternate metaphor: alligators basking.

They’ve collaborated on a shopping list of staples whose replenishment has been neglected:


Corn Chips

Frozen berries



Granulated sugar

* * * *

June 4, 2013

Little comedies of this life.

Ten in the morning, I try to go out and sit alone, to think seriously about the direction this “Assistant” book is taking.  I go sit where I’ve for some reason never sat, on the comfortable little flat boulder beside the grinding rock.  I’m sure that Maidu Indian women and girls sat here – and sat here over generations, centuries ago, gossiping and laughing it up and working – because the grinding rock has a dozen deep mortars worn into it, where women ground acorns into mash using water from the creek below.  Deep-as-bird’s-nests depressions in granite. That’s a lot of mortar-and-pestle work.  Somehow a grinding rock seems a fitting place for soul-searching (self-consciously).  But the mosquitos in the shade are too menacing, so in about one minute, I stand up and move.

To sit where.  The nearest place (in the sun, and mosquito-free) is the plywood altar where chickens are beheaded.  Complete with metal collar to hold neck in place, little chalk turd where chicken accomplished its mortal bowel movement, nail to fasten leash and stretch neck, gash where axe-blade bashed through wood-laminations.

Choosing a place to sit isn’t going to help an unwritable book.

* * * *

Egg carton contains a few hens’ eggs of mostly uniform color and grade – and at one end, rattling around in its cardboard cup, a quail egg, big as a marble and speckled.  About which, in our kitchen over the week, there’s been a lot of dithering.

* * * *

June 3, 2013

Wakeful at 2 in the morning.  No confidence in the novel “Assistant” as it stands.

No confidence, furthermore, in the idea of readership anymore. Readership of any sort.

One had always thought the best writing was more than flimflam and baloney.  But it begins to seem that writing which is anything else than flimflam is not artistic.  Anything other than flimflam is boring and unwanted.

So here (age 59), at this far reach of this long road, I’ve come to think an amateur incompetence suffuses the truly best work.  As does practical unsuccess crown “the best work.”  I don’t like my novel; it’s not a likeable novel; I guess I didn’t mean it to be; and I think maybe I don’t want to write a “likeable” novel.  Well, I’ve succeeded.

Get up, go downstairs, two-in-the-morning; pad around in socks; tick-tock the kitchen clock; not tempted by the high shelf of booze-bottles (I’ve been lucky that way, in my life); crumbs of salad preparation underfoot; magazines in the bathroom; this is the hydrate-and-urinate hour of the night.

Outside the kitchen door: crickets, cool air, stars.  Screen door’s creak-noise stops the nearby cricket, then he starts up again.

Sock-footed on old warm concrete paving.

In the sky, Orion at this season has been absent for some while, on extended vacation.  In the south Scorpio (red Antares at its center) is already diving into the trees!  I’d seen it just three hours earlier, and it was only just coming up, only just a bit to the left.

Amazing: Scorpio’s nightly visible trip is so short, a mere dolphin-leap curling above southern horizon, then back under.

I realize that those southern constellations are swinging around a pole that is just below the horizon.  It’s a globe out there, which we’re inside of, not a flat map dragged past.  If I point at the north celestial pole (Polaris) and raise my other arm oppositely 180 degrees, to point at the south celestial pole, it’s clear that Scorpio has a very-near hub it’s swinging around.

Time to go inside.  Underfoot, in the porch-lamplight, a spider blunders over the old sidewalk, headed for the garden: he’s been out here roaming and trekking in the dark without my spectatorship, and when I go back inside and turn out the porch lamp, he’ll be in darkness again.  (Could a spider be oblivious to the light/dark distinction?)  I assume he has some routine reason for being out tonight.  It’s not insomnia with him.

Anyway, I go back in, and this series of reflections seems to have worked to make me feel I could sleep again in some faith.

Stars, spiders, none of this is “divinity” (that preposterous idea) or “evidence of” divinity, but it’s immanent, and immanence is as close as we get.  Somehow in this light, I have to be willing to presume even my benighted novel has some reason.

* * * *

June 3, 2013

At 9:20 am: Far away under the potting-shed overhang, the old steel gas can emits its loud clear bonk sitting on the straw bale (just where it sat all last summer) in the grip of direct sun.  As the summer goes along I suppose that bonk resonates, each day, one and a half minutes earlier than the day before.  Then, with August, will subside, and delay, day by day tolling the hour later and later.

* * * *

June 2, 2013

Trip to Squaw.

* * * *

May 31, 2013

Today I saw Mary (from up the road where it used to be unpaved) —  But now she’s being pushed in a wheelchair!

She’s in her nineties.  For years since her husband died, she was to be seen walking alone every afternoon, burdened by the shadow of a vast hatbrim.  Then in recent months with two canes.

Today some kind of attendant or nurse was pushing her.  It wasn’t her daughter-in-law.

Mary who walked from Selma to Montgomery.  Famously, because she was the darling of the photo-essay (Smithsonian magazine).  (The photogenic white gal out in front!)  Now Mary may have taken her last walk.

I drove by slow.  Waved cheerily.  She waved cheerily from moving chair.

* * * *

But the thing I admire almost as much, about Mary:

In Berkeley in 1964 she got her kids making candles in the basement. Neighbor kids, too. There was somehow a little colony of Quaker families on a Berkeley hillside neighborhood.  Then she sent her son Paul, with brother, out to set up a cardtable at the head of Telegraph Avenue, and sell homemade candles!  It was, in 1964, the only card-table w/merchandise on the entire street.  Way anticipating the counterculture’s miniaturized, intimate scale of commerce, predicating so many new ideas about relationship with ecosystem and society.. (And WAY before that Telegraph scene deteriorated into the mendicant and artisanal souk of later times, and at last the regrettable panhandling low-point.)

Sent the kids down to town with card-table, tablecloth.  Beeswax candles, right there in front of Sather gate.  Birth of a movement.  Pioneer.

Some people just make things possible.  It is of course lost to history who they were.  The actual inventor/pioneer is not only unsung, she is to be positively repressed and erased.  Only the secondary imitator is licensed to be credited with innovation.  A new idea doesn’t fit any imprint, not until a first violation has been established.

Of that little instance of Mary’s actual trailblazing, the only commemoration will be here on a (virtual, pixil-made) page, in my daily ephemeris in a well-folded-away wrinkle in the internet.

* * * *

May 28, 2013

At Sands’s for hamburgers.  Luke and Maggie are there.

Luke has spent a year making a tenor guitar out of wood he has been acquiring over the years.

He’s a master, and it’s a great guitar.  Beauty plus lasting utility.  Plus the mysterious soul that’s in it.  That’s a charisma Luke has: putting something beautiful in the world.

* * * *

May 25, 2013

Hunter and I prepare soil.

Brett does the planting and installs drip irrigation.

While we work, radio show “This American Life” is broadcast over garden from truck dashboard radio.




Yellow crookneck

Anaheim pepper

Blue Lake bean

* * * *

May 23, 2013

Still keeping starts indoors, for fear of frost.

* * * *

May 20, 2013

Back from Boston, bringing on the same plane Hunter, who is now an educated man.

Eight heavy, large suitcases stacked on airport redcap’s wheeled cart.  (The high-wide-handsomeness of a certain stage of life.)

Tonight, chili w/ canario beans from the I-80 exit at Pedrick Rd.  And salad of the bolted arugula.  Arugula, even when bolted and leggy, is still delicious, stems and all.

In our absence, two entire rows of cauliflower were eaten by some big rodent, who has now discovered us.  Possible even deer, if gate were left open.

(Had a chance to see J.S. Sargent’s “Nocturne” in Boston, a dim painting in a dim room, still a great experience.  Also a big Rembrandt self-portrait at about age 23, a painting of a jaunty, callow young man, executed in a style – jaunty, callow – of show-offy technical virtuosity.)

(What I told a student once: “Well, ‘talent‘ — talent is just the red herring dragged across your path, to distract/confuse you.”)

* * * *

May 13, 2013

Must fly to Boston tomorrow.  Hunter’s graduation.  Six am flight.  I shouldn’t feel so out-of-practice, but I’m going to hate modern luxury air travel, the thunderous wasteful world thereof.  Mining and refining the jet fuel – how many foot-pounds of energy? – to lift two hundred overweight Americans and carry them two thousand miles easily, how much damage to soil and air, and to the polity.

Increasingly, my genteel hypocrisy unnerves me.  (I’ll want to make the pilgrimage to Walden Pond while I’m there.)

In affluent society, practicing a little simplification seems (is!) an affectation rather than any consequential deed, no matter how I cut and cut and cut.  Typical American consumers’ caprice of a moment causes (does cause, every day) lifetimes of misery, for Nigerian Ogoni, Iraqis, Bangladeshi, etc.  And somebody’s lifetime is a lifetime – in the sense of binding infinite space in a nutshell.  It just doesn’t happen to be “my” lifetime.

* * * *

May 12, 2013

“Kenosis” (ideal self-emptying – e.g., of saints, or Christ when incarnated in Earth): “Self” vanishes completely, God’s Will takes over totally.

What if there never was any “self” to discard, not here, nor anywhere?  What if we’re all – (all of us, from president to postman, from “I.Q. 50” to “I.Q. 150”) – all already in a state of kenosis, and abject submission to God’s will?  (The view that we’re “already in heaven ghostly.”)

Today I fixed gutters on cottage, worked on someone else’s novel happily for money, futzed in vain with leak in swamp cooler of Big House, bicycled to town and back on errand,, moved woodpile by cottage, applied second coat of Varathane to wooden toilet-tank lid.  So, what was that all about?

* * * *

May 12, 2013

“Innocence” continues to get little attention or reviews.  I think it’s a book that will do poorly in the marketplace.  The thing seems “innocent” (or even “romantic” on the cover) (and after all, it is about love).  But the hard-to-discern secret of the thing is that it’s a dark book, in its concerns, in the gruesomeness of its metaphors.  It’s almost a cold-hearted book (my fussy minster notwithstanding).  The sharpest online reader-review of “Innocence,” in my mind, is on a site called “Goodreads,” where a lady has written something like, “This is an awful book, I hated it.”  I love her for feeling that.  She’s a real reader, and she’s right, it’s not a nice book.  (It’s also a great book, but she’s right.)

Further thoughts, May 12:

What’s difficult about “Innocence” – i.e., what makes not-so-pleasant reading – is that it’s about love but it’s the real thing.  “Love” is something that literature and song usually frame as pretty nice, pretty cute, pretty fun, pretty desirable.  But love in reality (this thing we’re part of) is way more complicated.  Moreover, it’s a big warm glacier, in the sense that it’s “Divine” – (or “teleological,” take your pick, whatever notion scares you least) – and the word “monstrous” applies to love’s transformations.  Anybody who has ever come anywhere near loving knows: The fun-dreamy-cute-wonderful descriptions in Song and Story cease to apply right away, replaced by grief foretold, anguish even in the best.  Real love is a project we’re part of.

More: The book also about sin, (per se, remoteness from God).  And that notion “sin” has been so hermetically enshrined in Catholicism, the morally unsophisticated unreflective pop-folk of our time say freely and easily, “What is this ‘sin’ nonsense? I haven’t ‘sinned.’”

* * * *

May 8, 2013

Magnificent pictures from Mars rover: close-ups of dirt:

red soil just like certain Sierra elevations, powdery, obviously refined by wind and water;

blue rock of a sort I’ve seen in New Hampshire, quilted.

I contemplate that photo and I can’t help but think (the organism’s mind is such a tirelessly adaptive organ!): “Could broccoli grow there? How could that soil be amended?  With lime and bone ash and standard fertilizers, in Martian atmosphere (carbon dioxide, argon, oxygen).  And under the glass panes of a cold-frame?”

Well, it’s of course hopeless.  Soil is as complicated as flesh, rich with spores and bacteria and fungus and rhizomes, all urbanely communicating, all a society that evolved underfoot over billions of years.  But it’s sweet to think we could contaminate Mars so easily.

* * * *

May 7, 2013

In the cottage office, Brett is sitting with feet up on desk, looking disconsolate.

“I just sent out twenty acceptance emails for fiction.  And not one response yet.”

“What response are you expecting?”

“You know, ‘Whoo-Hoo!’”

“How long ago did you send them?”

“About five minutes.”

It’s ten o’clock in the evening.  In some of the time zones where acceptances arrive, it’s deep night.

* * * *

May 6, 2013

A little rain finally.  Light but steady, all day.  It should continue all week.  Snow on the summit.

Pears look to be abundant this year, marble-sized red hard fruit studs the branches.  (This perhaps as direct result of manure-to-dripline application).

Outside in the drizzle, on the forest floor behind my trailer:

– the old chrome guitar stand (missing its U-bar for cradling the neck);

– ancient broom, its straw bristles ground to a hard heel, but still useful;

– coffee table, which a falling oak-branch stabbed through last year.

In the distance, thru the woods I hear my neighbor’s rhythmic Rainbird sprinkler – tap tap tap tap tap – throwing loops of water out, in a circle in his pasture in the rain.  It’s been doing that for days now.

* * * *

May 5, 2013


Awake at 2:30.

The Nevada section of “The Assistant.”

Heading back up for coffee, still before dawn, that one crazy exuberant bird in the fir tree (I’m guessing robin or grosbeak) wildly, bravely yodeling in the dark, awake before all others.

(church interlude)

long nap

tennis at public courts (where, while playing, I fret over my cold-hearted novel, out there on bookstands making enemies)

Dash and Brett go to a movie, while I stay home and accomplish Squaw business.

Long ‘phone conversation with Hunter, who is done with college this week and makes me proud.  In two weeks, Brett and I fly to Boston for graduation ceremony.

Roast chicken.

* * * *

May 5, 2013

Yet another hike to the weir.  (Pressure drop in irrigation.)  An easy clog.

Disassembled the entire mechanical floor of dishwasher, looking for jam.  My array of Allen wrenches spilling over the open door.  The culprit: broken glass in the food-chopper.

(The Internet – as a resource – came along just in time for me to acquire the skills of country living off-the-grid.  I would never have had the fortitude – to kneel on kitchen floor, bravely dismantle a dishwasher.  Or on ladder, a swamp cooler.  Or, lying on meadow, a mower deck.  Online are discussion groups among men just like me bamboozled by something mechanical.  As I was raised, I missed out on the filial apprenticeship to the manly practical arts, car-maintenance, power tools, etc.  Through Google, I can fake it.)  (And access to all libraries, instant info, so I don’t miss the city quite so badly.)

(The thing one misses about the city isn’t just the specific museum or gallery or concert – (tho’ there’s all that).  When you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and plunge in, the heart of the city is love, intense love, the glamor of love, love everywhere in all those crowds and sidewalks: not exactly promiscuity – (tho’ there’s that) – but rather a mutual admiration and a mutual respect and an intensified, multiplied agape, the necessarily narcissistic experience of the mirror-image everywhere, when entering the flow, on a nice evening taking oneself out for a little spin around the block.  None of that happens in the country.)

* * * *

Rebbe Nachman of 17th C. Breslov:

“If you say ‘This is bad,’ the Lord replies, ‘You think that’s bad? I’ll show you bad.’

But if you say, ‘This is good,’ He replies, ‘You think that’s good? I’ll show you good.’”

* * * *

May 3, 2013

A certain poet now has written a long essay, about his own late-in-life conversion to a belief in “God.”  His sudden attack of thoughtfulness was occasioned by his diagnosis with cancer.

I don’t know the man’s poetry at all, unfortunately, and I don’t mean to judge him ad hominem.  (I haven’t even read the book (!), just the reviews (!!), and I don’t even know what description of “God” he has settled on believing in; and maybe his thinking is all much more nuanced than I’m assuming).  It doesn’t bother me that the “mortality” alarm was what made him start looking around.  But he must have been, all along, a mighty poorpoet if he’s been so superficial — superficial as never to have realized that he always was terminal, terminal from the start.  Isn’t that one of the first reflections of us all?  And the basis of our relationship with reality? The beginning of all rudimentary philosophy and lit?  (I mean, for an eminent, well-published poet. . . . ?)

* * * *

May 1, 2013

Reading Faulkner.  A tonic for the disillusioned or lazy fiction writer.  It’s possible to forget how good good can be.

* * * *

April 30, 2013

My friend the minister, on false humility: “You have to distrust a bishop who only wears the black.  And goes around like that.  If you’re a bishop, you have to wear the purple.”

* * * *

April 27, 2013

Driving down to SF, just me and Brett, Brett the luckiest ingredient in the whole world, we’re shopping for the party, all across Calif:

Pimm’s No. 1 at BevMo

Sweets at Ikeda’s

Flats of strawberries at roadside produce stand (Quonset hut w/canario beans)

All the time in the world

Sunlight in the blanc bottles on window sill

Music of Luke and Maggie and Randy, Luke’s fierce perfection in tenor-guitar pickwork, Maggie’s accordion, Randy’s clarinets.

Strawberry stems’ stain on tablecloth.

* * * *

April 26, 2013

Spring evening.  Shadows are long and summery on the meadow, dinner is marinating, I look out the window and see the usual robins pecking in the near turf, and I think:

“Robins on the lawn, doggone.”

And well, if I’m capable of such piercing utterances, my reputation in literary canons must be assured.

* * * *

April 24, 2013

Replaced circuit board in cottage’s tankless water heater.

Cleared invading hawthorn from fig grove.  (Attacked blackberries therein, but halfheartedly.)

Walked entire length of irrigation feed through the woods, ducking through manzanita and skirting blackberry patches, to discover source of low pressure.

It’s a leak.  Gushing water at a perilous rickety spot where the water is conducted through a rusty old pipe, supported by X-bracing, spanning a gap 10 or 15 feet above a dry gully.

Every morning now: an hour of imaginary numbers  and trig.

* * * *

April 23, 2013

I give up on the Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” as too esoteric, too dark.

Instead, I rediscover my version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and send an mp3 on to Jason, for his consideration in re: bass parts.

Hike up to weir, as irrigation pressure is weak tho’ there’s no discernible leak.

* * * *

April 22, 2013

That was an oriole I was hearing all last year.

The characteristic hanging-pendulum nest fell from the big cedar today.

* * * *

April 22, 2013

Reading Anatole France’s “Revolt of the Angels,” finding a kindred spirit.

My own book’s notion is very much congruent with his: that a revolution among the innocent, in heaven, might pull down a God who was always malignant, and even exact punishment from that God.

But I add one important thing: that is what Judeo-Christianity already did.  It’s what the whole drama of Christianity is, God’s answering for his maliignance, and it happens every sunday morning in small towns everywhere (a weekly ceremony whose metaphor would be repugnant to its devotees if they ever considered what they were doing): that messianic revolution is already a fait accompli.

* * * *

April 21, 2013

On television are endless reconsiderations of bloody mayhem in Boston-marathon, the innocents on the sidewalk in their gore, while here, on the carpet the dog naps, curled-up.  Brett is applying postage stamps to envelopes that are stacked spilling on couch cushions beside her.  She finishes, and shoves it away, proud of her work: “That’s rejections for eighty-five poets.”

* * * *

April 20, 2013


Tennis – just “hitting” for an hour.

Mowing west meadow.

Storm windows come off second story.

* * * *

April 19, 2013

Diatomaceous earth in chicken feed: 5%

* * * *

April 17, 2013

Trying not to go back to work on “All Things.”  (The futility of it), I distract myself with spring chores.  (Mowing meadows, finally burying the exposed west septic tank, hauling brush to road, etc.  The place is a mess.)

Then today, in a coffee shop on Broad Street, I’m waiting for my cappuccino and the baristo (twenty-something, a glowering “barbarian intellectual” with inky tattoos and disfiguring earrings like Queequeg, plus horn-rimmed glasses) brightens up and points at the paperback I’m carrying:

“That’s a great book!  I love that book!  That’s a wonderful book.”

That somebody else – esp. a native of pop culture – read Anatole France gives me hope.  (This is a book with metaphysical and religious intentions, primarily.)

The upshot is, echoes from the world do seem to matter.  “Despair,” well, despair is “S.O.C.” (Standard Operating Conditions). But to a little affirmation there’s a practical, efficient benefit.  I actually feel a bit like getting back to work, on account of some evidence of care.  There are particular readers out there (not just the ones evident in the media machine), and I have a new friend.

* * * *

April 15, 2013

Billy Sheatsley drops off a beautiful sliding-bin cabinet for garbage, in Macondray Lane kitchen to replace the old trash compactor.

* * * *

April 12, 2013

Wheels on poultry pied a terre: better-mounted with crossbracing.

Stain on Barbara’s railings.

Dashiell’s piano recital (a cold Sunday afternoon through the tall Palladian windows).

After which: dinner at Matteo’s Public.  (Barbara is happy, not so deeply melancholy as usual, walks an entire block to the parked car, at a good brisk clip, and she gets in the car at end of evening, letting herself be buckled into her seatbelt, saying, “Thank you, that was a good dinner.  I’ve always loved North Beach.”)

* * * *

April 13, 2013

Saturday, first light.  Outside my trailer window, the white molded-plastic chair in the gloom is deep sherbet blue in the charcoal of the woods.

Dinner last night: Brett’s quiche (while I was away doing my duty painting props).

Today, Squaw applications are all sent on, taxes are done, and, on the NOAA weather site display, the row of postage-stamp vignettes is all blue-sky.

* * * *

April 11, 2013

Hunter has ben offered a full-ride and TA-ship at Georgetown.  So that’s good.

* * * *

April 10, 2013

(“Innocence” has been out a month now, and still the L.A. Times has been the only notice.)

Dust all chickens with diatomaceous-earth powder.

Final proofread of my foreword to Clark’s art book.

In raised bed: peas, beets, kale, cauliflower.  Four mousetraps.

  • cauliflower matures in 68 days, 2-lb fruit (harvest June 18)
  • beets mature in 40-50 days (harvest May 20-30)

* * * *

April 9, 2013

Back on “The Assistant” for two days now.

Brett comes home from commercial nursery with lots of starts – lettuce, cauliflower, peas, arugula.

Asparagus bed this year has begun sending up stout shoots.  But we don’t harvest.

In poultry pied a terre: a roosting pole.

The thing’s bent wheel will require hardware-store trip.

Already, another hike up the hill to unclog the weir.

The sound of the long, under-the-forest-floor pipe as it fills, from bottom to top, all half-mile of it, at maybe thirty gallons per minute:

  • First the slow climb from deep-bass harmonics to tiptop soprano harmonics;
  • Then it hits high rattling soprano and immediately begins the descent again, from high to low;
  • At last, at bottom of its diapason it settles in, with a cruising sound, a steady permanent didgeridoo resonance that will go on through the nights and the days.

* * * *

April 6, 2013

The conviction that one fits in nowhere.  That, to all the world, the most important thing is invisible and irrelevant.  That one’s present-time conscious lifespan must be lived out in evident futility.

The faith that, yet, nothing is lost.  That even the faintest echo, when it pertains, will vibrate to a deep chord.

Tonight, light rains persist.  Tomorrow begins an indefinitely long dry warm spell.

* * * *

April 6, 2013

Saturday.  To Sacramento for board meeting.

Hunter is still waiting to hear from Georgetown.

* * * *

April 4, 2013

Long deep soft rain, will last a week.

All morning I’m reading Penrose, revisiting complex numbers, staying away from my own work.

Applications to Squaw fill the mailbox every day.

Little wan disconsolate song of thrush can be heard – but no bird to be seen.

* * * *

April 3, 2013

On “Craigslist” tonight, idly, I clicked on Discussion Forums in a section called “Religion.”  Here is the topmost sampling of the local theological discourse:

unk How much money has Catholics spent to stop gay m < bigod > 04/03 20:29

lou Who wants to do battle? § < abitwiser > 04/03 20:24

: . . Maybe when you are a bit wiser. § < nobodynoze > 04/03 20:26

: . . ok. select your pokemon § < Dr-Membrane > 04/03 20:27

: . . My ex wife!!! § < Rooted-in-Reality > 04/03 20:27

: . . political leaders all over the world Who do not < Christian5 > 04/03 20:27

: . . : . . Syria, Iran and North Korea at the moment. § < Christian5 > 04/03 20:28

: . . Mental battle with you? I don’t fight someone < Stath2_2 > 04/03 20:27

: . . : . . HA!…YOU can battle my DICK! § < abitwiser > 04/03 20:29

: . . : . . : . . I’m sure your dick is as small as your brain. § < nobodynoze >04/03 20:30

: . . : . . : . . : . . ha! § < Dr-Membrane > 04/03 20:30

: . . What sort of battle do you propose? § < TravelerHerd > 04/03 20:28

: . . : . . to the death…of course § < abitwiser > 04/03 20:30

: . . : . . : . . Can we just battle to near death? § < TravelerHerd > 04/03 20:31

* * * *

April 3, 2013

Good review of “Innocence” in L.A. Times.

Read Roger Penrose all morning.

Clear sediment in irrigation.

Mow meadow (over septic field only): tractor is in fine shape.

Rain coming in again tonight.

* * * *

April 2, 2013

To overcome Nagel’s notion that the evolution of consciousness is so improbable and mystic:

IF, in Big-Bang cosmology, an INFINITE number of possible universes will INEVITABLY have instanced, then there will, unavoidably, be one where “consciousness” evolves.  (presuming the words “infinite” and “inevitable” have meaning)

In other words, we’re just inevitable, we spiritual beings.

* * * *

April 1, 2013

Cavendish and Sands are at the table for Easter dinner.

Cavendish arrives in rain carrying old cardboard box decorated w/pink (Easter) crepe paper, Scotch-taped.  It looks as if some Sunday-school child decorated it.

It was decorated by some Sunday-school child:

It contains groceries, donated to a certain Mario, one of the Broad Street homeless chorus in front of Bonanza Market, then passed on to Cavendish, as Mario lacked the wit to cook or use most of it.  Now it comes to our kitchen.

Bag tiny marshmallows.

Bag regular-size marshmallows.

Canned yams.

Canned mixed vegetables, diced.

Raspberry Jello mix.

Another bag of marshmallows.

“Rainbo” dinner rolls, 16 little pillows joined in a thick quilt.

Campbell’s tomato soup concentrate.

Pet treats.

(Cavendish departs after dinner with vacuum cleaner and attachment, to clean under stage riser, so that the actors who crawl there in costume during the production won’t sneeze.)

* * * *

March 30, 2013

Weather holds in northwesterly flow.  Won’t precipitate.  Precipitation further north along Sierra crest.

Immense victory, here:: irrigation is unclogged.  To see the gush makes me feel I can breathe again.  I hear its gurgling bloop bloop.  In the night, while we all sleep, it’ll be going bloop bloop in its little hole by the roadside.

Susoyev stops by.

Good soup (chicken, in stock, with ginger, lemon grass, fish sauce, adobo chile, and fresh spinach.)

Not writing.  Life is too congested by Squaw business this week.

* * * *

March 27, 2013

I’m in the city this week bedazzled by Bay Bridge, Vermeer show, the guitars in the Van Ness showroom, the traffic, the pranks of artists in SFMOMA – but still every day, I bring up my sky map apps and planetarium website.  Which continues to be a high point in the day.  The appearance of Antares in the night sky matters even more than Vermeer – and Antares matters even when I can’t see it (for fog, light-pollution, tall buildings).

* * * *

March 27, 2013

Asian Art Museum.

Poem on calligraphic scroll

(transcribed by “Old Priest” Obaku Mukuan; poem by Lang Shiyuan, 727-780?):

“The moon is in a high place, all levels are quiet.

The heart holds half a Buddhist verse, ten thousand destinies are empty.”

* * * *

March 26, 2013

Gratitude for museums.

The Chicago Art Institute got me started.

The ample high-ceilinged spaces mean Man Is the Measure of All Things, and granted even unto me, at my lowliest, all entitlement and all dignity.

* * * *

March 23, 2013


A Saturday spent in the accomplishment of nagging chores.

Finish half-done pruning (because branches and wands lie all over the meadow).

Washing machine to be re-leveled, on larger, flat plywood base.

The outlet valve of irrigation system continues to gush water into the ravine, day and night, because I can’t fix the clog uphill.  I have actually tried Drano (having isolated all run-off), thinking maybe organic-matter plugs will dissolve.

The one wicked hen – a coppery Wyandotte – menaces all other hens, pecks out their feathers, is unreformed by solitary confinement, and will probably have to go to heaven.

Hunter continues to hear nothing from grad schools.

Novel and music project, both, hang in incompleteness.

Have to go to SF tomorrow.  During my absence, will leave outlet valve gushing into ravine.

There’s a narrow wrought-iron chair out in the meadow under moonlight.  That’s where I sat alone, a couple of nights ago after all had gone to bed, happy as I could possibly be.  My iPhone’s new “Star Map” application was confirming all my favorites – Aldebaran, Rigel, Betelguese, Sirius – then Arcturus, Antares, Vega, on around to Polaris – all shining in the tiny window that glows with a special night-vision amber warmth, glass of wine beside me on the rung of the pruning ladder.

* * * *

March 22, 2013

Clog in long irrigation line again.  Same area as before, 4 yrs ago.

But this time the firehouse declines to help with their high-pressure hoses.

* * * *

March 21, 2013

Overcast warm night.

Three am, four am, five am, six am: Visiting stallion in the barn down the road keeps kicking at his stall.  Audible from this distance.

* * * *

March 20, 2013

Familiar Northern-Calif “flavor sensation”:

raindrops in coffee, and raindrops on rim of mug.

Quiet, warm day of steady, light rain, in straight perpendicular verticals from papery sky to earth.  No wind at all.  Silent rain.  Stuck inside a haiku all day.  I work all day in trailer.

Dash is home from school with stomach complaint.

* * * *

March 19, 2013

Money worries.  Sleepless night.

Then, a day of offstage noise as big yellow machines (Caterpillar and Vermeer) are laying fiber-optic cable in a trench along our road.

* * * *

March 17, 2013

Sunday.  Pruning of apples and pears.  (Also fruitless mulberry.)  Wheelbarrow heaped with last year’s chicken manure: shovelfuls on all pears and apples to drip-line.

Discover George’s old dormant sprays in potting shed, in bottles of coke-brown glass.  Which this year I’ll apply to sick apple tree.  One of them looks harmless, called “49er,” with lime and some kind of natural oil.

* * * *

March 16, 2013

Osvaldo picks up guitar.  Lunch at Lefty’s.  Eddy’s new book.

Watch televised tennis back here in the cottage.

* * * *

March 14, 2013

The international physics community announced today that, after a year of scrupulous calculation-checking, they think they can safely say the explanation of “mass” (Higgs field) has been detected, and confirmed as predicted.

Their triumph includes some disappointment for them: it implies they’ve come to “the end of physics.”  It implies the standard model will go on unchallenged.  They would almost rather have had negative results, and so be goaded to further mysteries/investigations.

Well, I’m not worried about the “End of Physics.”  Such recurring millenarianism is always going to be shattered, come Monday morning.

However: What Does This Say About the Cognizability of the Universe?

This finding – (if it IS a “finding”) – represents the absolute weirdest correspondence so far, between manmade concepts (the “grammatical sentences” we’ve built here on warm wet earth), and the great order/logos that we propose must have been glimmering eternally out there.  Well, apparently it really is glimmering out there.

* * * *

But yesterday, too, was a great day in history.

Trip to the county dump:

You back up your truck, and you push your undesirables over a small cliff (descent of about 8 ft.), where a bulldozer pushes things to left and to right.

I’m sweeping out my pick-up bed, and meanwhile the beautiful young urban-hipster couple next to me, with their own pick-up, is hurling big tin cans of food over the brink.  Dozens of cans.  By the apparent heft, they’re full, perfectly good, unopened.  Half-gallon-size cans, with uniform paper labels.  Corn, tomatoes, beans, etc.  I ask why.

The cute girl says, with a laugh (they’re obviously starting their lives together in a new place), “It’s ‘End-of-the-World’ food from 1980.”

Some old guy in 1980 furnished his underground bunker with this.  Looks like a kit he bought: (“$1499.99 for, the Deluxe Survivor’s Package.”)

In 1980, when that investment was made, where was this girl?  She hadn’t been born yet.  She was nowhere.  There was absolutely no glimmer of her.  Nor suspicion, nor expectation.  Of her!  The one who came!  Such a beauty!  The messiah to throw it all away!

* * * *

March 12, 2013

Home again from the road.  Where is everybody.  Brett’s car is here.  So is Billy Sheatsley’s truck.

Barbara is being entertained by courtly tall Billy, in the cottage.  I’m all stiff from the hours on the Interstate.  The pullets are in the meadow, still in their pied a terre.  The two identical-twin cats are in the mud room, but with no itch to escape into the night, because they’ve found a cricket now.  The poor springtime bug is inching groggily (still half-dormant) over the square stones of the mud room floor, and the two felines watch it, pat at it, watch it some more, pat at it.  Taking turns patting at it.  Dash is to be found in the kitchen tearing a leaf of lettuce off the refrigerated head, dribbling drops on it from a tilted bottle of commercial “Goddess” dressing, poking it into his mouth, then repeating procedure.

* * * *

March 12, 2013

It’s been a day of remembering the goners.

Oakley, 4 yrs ago, had had a doctor’s appointment (to discuss prognosis and treatment options), wherein he was told, “You’re at a crossroads.  You can leave this earth via cancer or via kidney failure.  Kidney failure is much to be preferred.”  Then, a half-hour after that appointment, he and Barbara and Brett and I are in Auburn together acting as if we were thinking of buying a pre-fab cottage for O and B to spend their golden years in.  “Touring models” is what we were doing.

I remember the salesman was yammering on – addressing himself to Barbara.  Because Barbara was always the money – but now she’d had a stroke, and maybe she was still the money, but she was no longer the smart money – and Oakley post-doctor-visit sat to one side, on a high barstool, not listening, sagging to one side, one foot on the floor.

One of his standard jokes over the years was (on the topic of “irony” and its overuse and abuse): “Well, in the end, when you’re facing the firing squad, what have you got left but irony.”

It was funny at the time.  It was funny on sunny summer afternoons.  Now there he was under the fluorescent lights of the sales-office sitting on a tall stool, deserted by irony.

Then the next day, I was in Mill Valley, at The Depot in my ghostly way, I got a BLT and sat alone at the table where Don Carpenter used to sit (him with his cup of highly-dilute milky weak tea, after a morning’s writing, scrawny bantam rooster, folding his arms high, scratching his cheeks through his beard), in the great quiet days when The Depot wasn’t so glam.  I remembered his cynical sniper’s eye for the meaner interpretation, the absolutely uncalled-for vengeful violence in his novels, what a sucker he was for the movie biz, because all real lovers are hopeless suckers: and the generosity, the weakness of the body and the ferocity of the spirit.

You can’t bring anybody back, or turn back the clock, simply by sitting at the same old table.  It’s remarkable that the table is still there, though.  Round wood top, hasn’t been refinished.  Morning sun still hits it, just as always.

* * * *

March 10, 2013

More pruning.  Lots of sunshine.

Today: tax preparation; invitation-list for book party; the art-book intro must fly away to Chicago in final version; maybe try to figure out how to repair my inaccurate “Wikipedia” entry.

Dash will need help on science-fair project (feeding subjects SweetTart candies, to prove people don’t know what their taste buds are telling them.)

* * * *

March 8, 2013

Worked on The Assistant’s self-reflective chapters.

Worked on Clark’s art-book intro.

Pruned the monster pear tree.  Lots of fruitless foliage.

Brett sends angry email to Counterpoint, complaining of laxity in publicity.  Oh well.

I tend to be more forgiving of publishers’ yawing thru choppy waters, squalls.  The good things happen thru inattention just as often as the deplorable/regrettable things happen thru careful management.

It’s just me and Brett tonight.  Prawns for dinner.

* * * *.

March 7, 2013

Rain.  Can’t prune.

* * * *

March 2, 2013

Finished now, with more personal draft of The Assistant.  Will let it sit for a while.

* * * *

March 1, 2013

Today the Catholic Church in Rome is temporarily decapitated of its Pope, the federal gov’t’s new “austerity” measures have automatically stopped funding basic services, and I’ve installed hand railings all through Barb’s cottage so she’ll have some support as she totters around.

(She’s back from rehab yesterday.)

* * * *

Where the memory goes naturally and discovers sadness:

Crossing big weedy parking lot in St. Louis, noonday, alone.

  • Riding the el in Chicago, late nights, no place to go.
  • Sleeping on garage floor in Fairfax.
  • I-93 through Wisconsin, and Waukegan train station, empty, 1975.
  • Rockaway Parkway, Brooklyn, mid-morning, thin sunshine.

Better memories to actively rehearse:

  • Walking all the way up Broadway from Soho to see editor, wearing white bucks.
  • Breakfast outside on gravel.  Hacky-sack stuck in bole of tree.  Kooky British girls cruise up in rent-a-car.
  • I pull up in Squaw after driving the length of California in VW squareback.
  • Getting off work after night shift, Tamalpais: parking lot, glimmer of San Francisco.
  • Walking around the block in SoHo in escape from party: a stranger in the night hands me a long-stemmed rose.

* * * *

February 24, 2013

Broccoli to harvest April 20

Chard to harvest April 25

* * * *

Nagel is incredulous that biological complexity and consciousness could have evolved from cold matter.  But such skeptics underestimate the amount of sheer time at evolution’s disposal:

Time is infinitely roomy in two dimensions: in the extended-duration dimension there are aeons to waste, bazillions of aeons; and in the inward-divisibility dimension, there are nano- and pico-seconds to subdivide, and further subdivide infinitely.  In both directions, that’s more than enough playtime for, well, for everything conceivable to happen!

We just happen to be very slow-to-think creatures on a quantum timescale, and on the astronomic timescale we’re very quick-to-pop creatures.

* * * *

February 23, 2013

Saturday.  Royce scholar at E. Tome’s bookstore.

Weiss Bros.: broccoli, chard, parsley.

Susoyev is in town and Sands brings him for dinner: pork roast w/crust of fennel-rosemary-garlic-sage-salt-pepper.

Green blender-pesto sauce of, first, slight garlic and slight anchovies, then green olives (half cup), celery leaves (quarter cup), parsley (half cup), tsp. rosemary, tsp. sage, 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, lots of lemon-zest and good dribble lemon juice – then third-cup of olive oil.

  1. has come bearing dollop of goat-cheese from up on Cement Hill somewhere.

* * * *

February 21, 2013

Sunshine.  Snowmelt.  Ten AM.

On the clothesline, a dozen multicolored pennants of Brett’s underwear above snow field.

Hike up the hill, find and fix the usual clog in irrigation.  An acorn cap in the intake.

Traveling by an unaccustomed route through the forest: in clearing is an old fallen-all-over stack of wooden drawers, their joints dovetailed, old, once painted.  I’d come across this clearing before, and noticed these.  This time I realize what they are, they were once apiaries.  They’re so rotten the dovetail joinery is warping, separating in jack-o’-lantern grins.

To Ridge Feed, for 7.5 cu.ft. cedar shavings, bottle coal-tar oil lotion called “Rooster Booster,” and seedblock called “Pecker Wrecker.”

* * * *

February 19, 2013

Tues. AM, 10:00 – Brett’s black Toyota does three-point turn in driveway, and she heads out onto the road, errands of mercy.  Snowflakes big-as-moths are coming down.  I check, and in potting shed we’ve got plenty of gasoline for generator.  A foot or two is expected today.  (Which at this elevation is enough to stop travel.)

Today is the day Barbara is to be evacuated from far-off rehab, to move into closer-at-hand rehab.  Then soon home.

Meanwhile, Kait phoned this AM.  Her aged mom drove over summit yesterday to visit Barbara but, passing thru our neighborhood, felt a heart pain and checked herself into the local emergency room.  Spent the night in hosp.  Now we’ll have Joan here, too, tonight and indefinitely, recuperating.  Must take custody of her at hosp “discharge.”  The two old girlfriends – post-stroke, post-heart-attack – together in the cottage.  It’s a good thing I got for the expensive generator.

Emergency call from school: All parents, come get your kids right now, immediately, because the roads are becoming impassable.  (So, Brett is to do this.)

Next emergency call from school: All parents, stay home, don’t come for your kids, the roads ARE impassable.

Next, text-message from Brett: she’s at the foot of the slope to our elevation, and I should “wish her luck.”

I greet her standing in stocking feet under porch roof on cement, spooning soup up from long-handled pot into mouth.

* * * *

February 18, 2013

Sunday night.  Barb still in rehab, it’s only us 3 for dinner.

So it’s a one-candle table.  But the repast is roast beef, Brussels sprouts, purple carrots, red wine.  Dashiell then practices his Tarrega guitar piece for at least half an hour at the table.

Later, 4am, coyote across the road uphill.

* * * *

February 17, 2013

Running, with iPod in pocket, listening to U.C. Berkeley lecture on earbuds.

Suddenly the “joggle” channel-switching function is accidentally joggled:

had been listening to this (uncharacteristic?) sentiment attributed to pragmatist philosopher William James:

“Basic principles guiding the evolution of everything: charity, faith, and hope”

Then, with a transitional blip, the LOUD voice of Alan Watts comes into my earbuds:

You are a fluke!”

* * * *

Passing notion in airport:

Certain things are considered bedrock realities, while their evidence comes via perceptions universally acknowledged to be illusions:

  • Matter is in fact“string-like vibrations” ineffable to human conception, combined with the human observation or measurement.
  • “Color” and “light” are in reality wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.
  • “Warmth” is the crowding of constituent molecules and atoms.
  • “Gravitation” – immediately palpable as pressure of the sole against the sidewalk – has never yet been satisfactorily pictured.  Another comfy force beyond our conception, it has been subjugated only to geometric metaphorsof space-distortion and mathematical formula.
  • Time and space, of course, belong in this list.

So “human perception” is a very peculiar, idiopathic apprehension of modalities of the Real.

* * * *

February 17, 2013

Barbara will get off light: recovering all her capacities.  Will even be improved by this (as it’s being called) transient ischemic shock.

In rehab, they’re pureeing her food: pureed pizza, pureed bread-and-water, pureed sandwich, spooned onto plate.  Humiliated anger is very healthy and speeds recoveries.

Done with draft of art-book intro.

Will return to The Assistant on Monday.

* * * *

February 11, 2013

Barbara’s stroke:

Last night, just at the daily hour of the wineglass and the television news, a new vertical crease delves in her right cheek, she complains she’s fine, slurring, while lifting her tired arms for her daughters to dress her for the emergency-room trip.

This morning in the sun, her wheeled walker in driveway.  In its pannier pouch is her usual loot – a few silver spoons, an out-of-date “Arts and Entertainment” section stuffed down deep, hairbrush, two of the Irish lace napkins – she always likes to have a little portable wealth with her in case of hasty departures.  But left it behind.

* * * *

February 10, 2013

I’ve said below:

 “Attaching the name god to a cosmic First Cause doesn’t change a thing, doesn’t illuminate, let alone improve, an irredeemability that is in the world.” 

But there are two soft spots there: 

  • Who says “redeemability” is a reasonable or desirable expectation?  Are we warranted in wanting to think of ourselves as, like, coins to be bounced?  Or “redemption” a coherent, discussable notion?
  • The name god indeed changes nothing.  Yes indeed.  The irrefragable fact of givenness remains as an electrifying affirmation.

(spake voice in whirlwind)

* * * *

February 10, 2013

Nico and Aleksandra displace Cavendish in the playroom bed, and Nico observes the place is a hostel.

Sands’s prawns in Arborio rice, and the NC Cabernet Franc.

* * * *

February 10, 2013

Saturday.  Six new pullets.  (from Rough and Ready)

* * * *

February 8, 2013

Cavendish is still living in the playroom – it’s been a month now, and here’s the difficulty: the work he must do, of repairing the bear damage to his woodland-clearing home, will be really dreary and lonely and cold.  The bear bent and ripped the trailer’s metal door and, during his tenancy, raked all the contents around, and out onto the ground.  Cavendish had left the place unvisited for at least a month.  That he is feeling daunted is understandable, but here’s the difficulty: I’m reminded of Paul Radin in Squaw Valley, whose surrender of his cabin to the intruding bear was a first sign of his giving up.  Began camping on the open ground before the cabin that now belonged to the bear, library and all.  When you cede your own square yard of intimate inalienable territory – (this is true of urban homo sapiens, too, on the city sidewalk) – you’ve ceded a dignity that’s part of health.

Paul, famous “Jewish Indian” of Highway 89 carrying his Haggadah and his deerskin medicine-pouch at his throat, began sleeping outside his cabin even in winter, employing a crazy system of propane space heaters outdoors.  He would hitchhike to town every few days carrying two five-gallon propane tanks for refill.  When we used to bring him marijuana for ease of cancer, we’d find him sitting up like a swami, on the mound of his beloved dead horse Zumgali, between the hot cymbals of two propane heaters’ radiant pans.

So today was the day Cavendish was supposed to move out of the playroom.  Leaving behind his French roast coffee, his Spam, his ciabbatta loaf.  And work on his place.  Make a home.

But no.  “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is going up in two weeks, and some other play about the origins Buddhism, opening in March, is going to present tremendous technical complications involving scrims and lights and scarves and flats – so he has gone to live in a rumored spare room at a lower elevation in Alta Sierra, so the upshot is, we merely feel dastardly in encouraging him to leave.

* * * *

February 8, 2013

Slushy snow.  Wet firewood is stacked around the mudroom stove to dry.  Clam pasta.  The days are beginning to get longer now, and I think with almost disbelief of the summer to come, when in the higher mountains, all the doors will be propped open all afternoon, and pans for dinner will be clanking at a time when the sun is still high in the sky.

* * * *

February 7, 2013

Warm, humid, totally becalmed morning, 4:00 am, overcast, starless, silent.

The news on NPR is of the robotic vehicle exploring Mars, named “Curiosity.”  It has found a suitable rock to start rapping on and drilling into, pulverizing.  It’s about a foot and a half wide, flat, sandstone.  Evidence that there was once liquid water.  Some sand it scooped up had been blown by wind.  Wind!  (A habitable planet, that one-in-a-trillion unlikelihood, seems to have almost popped up, and right next door to our planet.)

Here, after sunrise, as cold front approaches with rain front, first gusts make the hawthorn twigs tremble, the cedar fronds nod, then stillness again, then the first drops start falling.

Will turn to snow later today.  Whenever rain, as predicted, arrives, it’s always gladdening because it seems to indicate that everything isn’t broken!

* * * *

February 5, 2013

Cavendish downstairs in playroom is up all night, lots of pacing downstairs, going out for a cigarette.

I was wakeful, too, had a worried, dyspeptic night.  Attaching the name god to a First Cause doesn’t change a thing, doesn’t illuminate, let alone improve, an irredeemability that is in the world.  My own beloved family members: strangers to me.

I had ventured so far out, on this lunar rink.  When I heard sounds in the kitchen at three am – the scrape of stainless-steel spoon on the bottom of heavy pot, rhythmic, greedy, happy – it’s Cavendish down there, into the last of the polenta – I felt saved.  That sound, of a pot being spooned clean, is wonderful.  Basic like the plap-plap of a kitten lapping water, a dog crunching his bone, the click in my son’s throat when he drinks a from a water bottle at the game’s sidelines.

* * * *

“Care” (Sorge) must have been there in the void aboriginally, before matter, or before even matter’s possibility.  Out where the laws of mathematics already abode, there was care.

* * * *

We ought not to evaluate ourselves too seriously.  I.e., despair doesn’t matter – because we can never be aware of what tune is being played on us.

The valuable thing about an artifact (like for instance the human frame) is its limitations.

(Some of the great performances were captured on cheap audio-equipment tinny as mosquito wings.  Chick Berry’s “Maybelline.”  The Goodman Quintet’s Carnegie Hall show on wire-recorder.  Sam Cooke.)

(Likewise, oil painting is such a great medium precisely because it’s not 3-D; nor does it have Dolby sound.  When forced to render fullness on a flat surface, a Van Gogh or a Wyatt or a Grant Wood sends the human spirit’s orchestral blast over that little speaker’s paper cone.)

The girl in Truckee who is beautiful and talented and ambitious, headed for Hollywood, she’s everybody’s lucky mascot – then discovers she has multiple sclerosis.  Her right leg onstage started dragging annoyingly.

* * * *

Consider this: Jane Austen was 36 when her first novel was published, then over a period of six years, she published three more novels.  Then she died.

So she enjoyed 6 (six) years of seeing a few consequences.

* * * *

January 30, 2013

Leak fixed on evaporative cooler’s copper feed-tube fitting.

Poultry run complete.

* * * *

January 29, 2013

Today the mailbox, after all these years, fell off its post out at the road.

* * * *

Roast chicken.

* * * *

January 26, 2013

A most wonderful human creation: the Periodic Table of Elements.  As I get older the Periodic Table of Elements looms large.  (For example, larger than Shakespeare.)   And, in a way, more my true friend than Shakespeare.  (Thankfulness for such a one as Mendeleev.  But only as one is thankful for the Hubble constant, the stars of the main sequence, the pH of the soil, etc.)  How lucky.  The minerals and gases and cold powders minister to my sensations and consciousnesses.

* * * *

January 26, 2013

This creaky old house, espec. the kitchen, is always thronged – Sands, Cavendish, Monica – so that it’s a sticky bramble just to get through.

Then in evening all is quiet – Dash away at a sleepover, Cavendish and Sands off prolonging Robt Burns festivities elsewhere.

Omelet (w/ shallots and tough slippery mushrooms), for Barb, Brett, and me.

A BBC “toff” melodrama on television.

Snow outside.

* * * *

January 25, 2013

Grateful today for the contrived sensation of “certitude,” that there are fixed canons, civility, predictability in our worn paths, daily bread, habit, safety.

Brett, on hips of black stretchpants, has faint cloud-prints of flour because she’s been baking; I pick up Dash at piano lesson in town (where the piano teacher’s house has a negligible little old sign in her home’s window: “Piano Given”), and in the role of father I wait on the couch while the faltering perfection is rehearsed, begun over in earnest; he’s a teenager but his spine posture is perfect when he’s seated at the piano-bench beside Miss Fox, his wrists lifted as doves.  Then in the evening, at the usual café, Robt Burns is being recited by the usual suspects just as they did some other year, at this same season – crowded, windows-all-steamed-up.  Holy Willie’s Prayer, To a Mousie, the green rushes and the lassies, ho: the sweetest hours that e’er I spent.

Broad Street afterward is empty.  Foggy gas-lamp atmosphere.  I’m alone, going to my parked car after café, still sentimentally misted-up myself, from Burns.  The Nevada Theatre has posted its art-house movie schedule in a vitrine; so I double back, to see what’s playing.  But a woman has passed me, walking little dog on a leash (and so veering unpredictably, governed by two wills) and she, too, decides to check out the movie offerings, just ahead of me, and isn’t aware I’m behind her wanting to look over her shoulder: I’m trying courteously not to violate her space; or crowd her; or threaten her in the way women all too often feel threatened – (should I clear my throat?) – standing right behind her, edging to see the poster, and I fear she’ll shriek if she turns and sees I’m there behind her.  Then she says loudly, flatly: “If she forgets about the gas and kills herself, well, whatever, she’s gonna do that.  Don’t get so invested in stuff you can’t control.”  She’s speaking into a microphone somewhere at her lapel.  I steal away undetected by her, heading for my car.

* * * *

January 22, 2013

1) Will try for NEA money again, so skimmed thru hard-drive for suitable excerpt to submit.

2) Water tank (mud room closet) is leaking briskly but is totally replaced by noon!

3) In the afternoon, the new poultry run is roughly framed up, all from salvaged old lumber and hardware.

4) Working on Barbara’s deck.  She dozes in armchair in sun in doorway, brimmed hat and sunglasses askew.

(On the radio, as I work, it’s simultaneously M.L. King day and Inauguration day, so all the programming is boring.)

(Not a day when much writing got done.)

* * * *

Martin Luther King weekend.

I bring Dash to hear the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal choir at the stone foundry.

An elderly visiting Tibetan Buddhist arrives alone and goes to sit in front, mid-sixties with shaved head.  The dyes and fabric-weight of his gown are heavy with authority, everything down to the stitching exotic, as if a camel had shambled into the room.   The flat-footedness, the stumpy Mongol build, serenity like a debility.

He sits alone in front row, to one side.  Dash and I cease to pay attention to him, the choir onstage is (just like last year, like every year) besieging the big spiritual about Joshua and Jericho – “The walls came a’tumblin’ down” – making their own choir-robes quake.  And the next time I look, the old monk has slipped away.  His own brand of religion could brook about three minutes of such hilarity.

* * * *

January 20, 2013


* * * *

January 16, 2013

3:30. The stars tonight are bright, tho cold snap has been easing.

All stars and galaxies are flying away from me at the rate of 10 miles per second, avg., for the near ones (the more distant, the faster) in all directions in post-Big Bang flight.  (The most distant stars run away faster than lightspeed, so they vanish permanently at uttermost perimeter, permanently subtracting information from scientific possibility.)  Every time I look up, these years, I think of the fireworks displays of childhood, 4th of July in Evanston, Illinois, the way the big ones popped, then spread over whole sky to the rim of the stadium before the embers had dwindled.

Publishers Weekly has given a solidly-good, “featured” notice of INNOCENCE.

THE ASSISTANT will soon be ready to send again.  I’m becoming more confident of new authorial intrusions.

[Don: “If something isn’t working, it either needs to be removed without a trace or built-up hugely and fully.”]

Hunter, in Amherst, is waiting for word of acceptance from every possible grad-program.

Dash is to perform a piano thing at school, as well as a guitar duet with friend Romain.

(Death of Evan Connell in Arizona.)

* * * *

Going through this trick one more time:

A) This universe – its existence – is explained by the presence of my consciousnessin it.  The presence of my consciousness seems also to determine the universe’s specific modes and parameters (time, lightspeed, 3 spatial dimensions, Hubble constant, hadron masses, etc.)

B) However, this central flicker of my consciousness, which I sense as a steady dependable presence – like my cornea, or my foot-sole (like a Rock-of-Gibraltar personal to myself intimately and inalienably) – is not an ontological reality.  Nor is it really “mine.”  It is not an autonomous, isolated entity.  My consciousness is made out of language and culture, part of the congregant intelligence fostered by evolution (on this lucky wet warm planet).

* * * *

January 13, 2013

Sunday.  Dashiell’s birthday.

Now he’s thirteen, and soon the reedy trusting voice will be gone from the house, the warier voice to supplant.  No longer the squirrel-like quick passage up the stairs.  Entering adolescence he’s going back into a kind of kiln, for a second firing.

The first kiln was the womb’s third trimester, when through the serendipity of fortunate endocrine harmony (estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline, ACTH, LH, all chiming it at their right moments), a personality was well framed in flesh.  Now he’s going back into risk again, as the endocrine magic will visit once more.  4 to 6 yrs from now he’ll reemerge from that kiln and there’s no predicting who he’ll be.

* * * *

January 10, 2013

Tracks of bobcat, characteristic fur tufts between pads, in snow this morning – from west cedars by the road, up to compost heap, and then away down lane at trotting gait into south woods.  But too small for the one I caught menacing the chickens.  Could we have two?  Mates?  They’re territorial and they must of course mate.

* * * *

January 9, 2013

Too misty for stars.  The big owl booms in the east.  Never seen him, ever.  4am, coffee, in parka in the driveway.  In tall meadow grass lies dewy skateboard, its splintery deck coming unlaminated.  Brett’s old inflatable “Gaiam” yoga-exercise ball, punctured, has settled down for good into the old open excavation of west septic tank.

The stars’ death-colored light looks more and more convivial alongside the upper window’s gold nightlight-lamp glow, where human breath is humid.

Cavendish is definitely moving in now.  Both of his old cars now take up space here, which is unprecedented, and the freezer fills with his TV dinners.  He says the bear has emptied his trailer out, into the clearing; so his stay here will be indefinite.  He hadn’t visited the place for many weeks, as he has been sleeping on Sands’s couch.  He is expecting repeat visits of a habituated bear, in his canyon.

But this AM only one car is here, so last night he never came home.  It’s possible that he made a hospitable new friend.  Or, one has to picture him sleeping in the cab of his truck behind the theater building.  Or on a half-decorated stage-set’s “fainting couch.”

* * * *

Now I can fall asleep thinking of that fishing town, Popotla, as a comfort and soporific.

Long wave recedes, from curved floor of sand-beach that is hard and shining like a dance floor.

Boats dragged up on keels, to where dunes are always dry.  Umbrella stabbed into sand for shade, and shellfish brought under knife, with lime, garlic, Dos Equis, not many gringos, la musica: ranchero-style songs of the sorrows of working for WalMart.

That and the magic-trick of “Anthropic Teleology.”

* * * *

January 5, 2013

  1. to airport, for his last semester ever.  In the night, the alarm clock started honking at 2:15 AM.  His big duffel of red canvas.  In it, the old-fashioned Bialetti stovetop espresso, a Christmas present, which he carries off as part of his equipment for life.

Airport trip: I always did enjoy the three-AM conversations by the light of the dashboard, on empty I-80.  They always got so widely philosophical and confident.

Cavendish has moved back out – into his forest trailer in the river canyon, so will be neither at Sands’s house nor here at ours.  But during his long absence from his place, the bear has broken in and been living there.

Sands takes Dash, today, to Alasdair’s “fiddle camp” in the old foundry building in town.

So.  As of this week, we’ve shrunken back, again, to our winter foursome.  Shrunken a bit more now, around B’s deepening senescence.

* * * *

January 2, 2013

Joan, in Squaw – this week newly a widow at 85 – gets into her four-wheel-drive Subaru Forester to drive here, alone over the summit from Squaw, to visit her best friend of sixty years Barbara.  This so the two can commiserate (about widowhood, etc).  She gets lost on the way.  Anxious phone calls from Kait.

But she makes it.  Subaru skids into the driveway with a rattle of gravel like a hotrodding teenager.  They go out to Matteo’s Public for lunch, plus wine – the genuine undiluted kind – with Brett and Sands as their chaperones.

* * * *

Hunter, here, is to cut brush in south woods as firebreak.  Will return to Amherst Saturday.  Roast beef.  In mud room we all watch a documentary, “Catfish,” and afterwards talk about whether it was authentic or a hoax.

* * * *

Response to people who wonder why I attend Episcopal (or even any) church services.  Or practice any regular contemplation.

After all, they say, the questions a religion pretends to “answer” are by nature the unanswerable kind.  And they’re right.

Here is my only response: Yes, most people do take an interest only in what they already have an opinion about.  And go where there’s certainty.

But there’s no adventure in that.  Plus, real inquiry goes where there isn’t certainty.  Science involves a high tolerance for undecidedness and unknowability.  All one gets out of fixed complacencies is prosperity and prestige.  You only live once, and I really think it’s better – it really ought to feel imperative! – to take an interest in matters that everybody may find to be uncrackable aporia but which yet have genuine hard consequence.  Maybe it’s as a habituated writer that I’m habituated to undecidedness and unknowability  Out in spiritual hinterland, past the barrier beyond which Wittgenstein counseled “only silence,” it’s possible that there are cognizabilities.  To discern them doesn’t mean they can’t remain safely out there in their tall silences.