December 31, 2015

The accidental-pregnancy scene in “Assistant” improves, via indirection and via removal of late-added rank schmaltz.

The rest of the felled oak at bottom of woods.

Couldn’t face mixing fuel, gassing up saw. But at least I went down and, via lever-and-fulcrum, lifted the sections of trunk and rolled them on forest floor, So keeping them from turning to punk too fast. (Been lying around for a year or two.)

Limbed the thriving mulberry that has started shading out the solar panels.

To Sands’s tonight for New Years party.

* * * *

Last night I’m making stir fry. On the radio is news-story of a certain village in Germany: it has always loved its Neu-Jahr fireworks. Firecrackers and sparklers and rockets are this village’s favorite thing. But this year all are called off, in order to be considerate of the new sizable population of Syrian refugees, who would doubtless be upset by battlefield sounds. No Roman candles this year in the old medieval lanes.

My response to this (oddly emotional) news, here in a faraway foothill solitary house where I can be no material help to anybody: I find myself setting aside a plastic produce bag – on the drainboard for rinsing/drying/reuse, rather than throwing it in trash. (I’ve never yet been a Baggie rinse-and-reuser. First time for everything.)

* * * *

December 27, 2015

Hunter to airport. Three am. Back to Washington. (Ralph, as he is known around here, has him detecting deceptive language in consumer contracts. He’s the right man for the job.)

Nap back at home. Send out the last batch of Xmas carols.

Reading Greg’s novel. Interesting problem of paired but disparate story lines. Is that really a “problem”?

* * * *

December 26, 2015

The day after Christmas. Wake in the night, all practical anxieties. Spend the morning sending off emails of Xmas carol. Then the afternoon snowshoeing with Brett and the boys in the deep woods over the spine of Washington Ridge, about 5000 ft. Amber sun keeps striking us thru trees wherever we go; blue are the holes poked in the snow: so amber-and-blue are the colors in snow. Picnic of cheese, bread, candy, apples, a single tall bottle of beer to pass around.

In the cottage with leftovers of Xmas dinner: Tracy, Emma, Sands, Hunter.

Barbara keeps reflexively hoisting her full wineglass out toward people, smiling: people clink it with their own glasses and she sets it down. Repetitious convivial glass-clinking is going to become the theme of the evening. At last Barbara, lifting it out again, says, “Why won’t someone take this from me?”

* * * *

December 23, 2015

The night is cold, sparkling. Only a few shrunken stars, grains of lost salt.

Water-crystals on the meadow. A foot of snow will have fallen by tomorrow evening, but right now the sky is clear. Covering all the irrigation heads and spigots with straw, or whatever comes to hand. An old dog-bed’s fleece-upholstered oval

* * * *

December 20, 2015

Christmas shopping.

To Pearson Small Engine to pick up generator.

* * * *

December 18, 2015

A better roof for the poultry run: corrugated tin would cost $27.50 per 24ft of coverage.

Instead, I poke a row of holes in the (useless anyway) tarp and suspend an old length of rain-gutter to conduct the dribbles away.

Xmas spirit: I get an email from the usual congress-district politician: “HAPPY HOLIDAYS, JONES”

* * * *

December 19, 2015

Thanksgiving feels recent but now everyone is here again. All the front rooms of the house to be heated, and serving platters again to be pulled down.

Tracy in the cottage. Salmon (sriracha/honey/ginger/soy).

That wonderful midday meteorological phenomenon: You can be working outside in the sleet and it’s miserably cold. Then the rain turns to snowflakes, and suddenly the air is warm, it’s tropical, you want to take off your scarf.

Thinking of the im-possibility of combining a novelist’s practices with the “right speech” commandment of the dharma: (G. Snyder comes to mind. A poet with a fidelity to the right-speech rule. His “think like a mountain” thing is the result. A novelist mustn’t think like a mountain.)

* * * *

December 16, 2015

New shelf barley-fodder sprouts.

Two rat traps in the broccoli.

* * * *

December 10, 2015

Good Nor-Cal-sized rain at last, as if the biosphere were doing fine. Last night it was oyster chowder for dinner. I continue to worry that Hunter and Dash, fifty years from now, might not be getting the seafood anymore, especially the mud-dwelling creatures, or the big top-of-food-chain fish. Or much else, of the fruit of the earth. Will they have the abundant salmon and trout and big sweet scallops and decent cuts of beef? Will they have the good cabernet $5/bottle and really meaty nuts, artichokes, tomatoes, etc? Or be able to lie down in an unmown meadow? The sensuousness of contact everywhere with the biome I, as an organism, evolved in, gustatory, tactile, wind-in-hair, wind-in-mouth, wind-in-ears, feet on dirt, etc. For the infinitely adaptive human race, one pictures far-future life on this Earth as it were a colony on some other star’s exoplanet: alkali wastes with habitations that look like the old Kodak flashcubes, or like bubble-wrap. This year there’s no crab harvest because the hot ocean waters have induced a neurotoxin in all the coastal Dungeness. (A tradition elided: Thanksgiving without cracked crab this year.) One worries that by century’s end people will be reminiscing, improbably, about how sweet and easy was life when there was still a Gulf Coast, when there was still a Florida. Before people lived on tofu only, and various frankenfoods. When you could go outside without sun protection. When New Jersey had a view of the ocean unblocked by dikes. Before all the refugees from Calif-Nev-Ariz came to the Midwest to live in migrant squats in fields and yards and alleys (BMWs and Saabs and SUVs, all with Calif. plates, encircled in a camp. Former “artists” and “writers” looking for work of any sort).

Heavy rain comes and goes this morning. It’s been raining long enough now, this morning the forests’ soil breathes the fishy smell as if we were at the coast in low tide. The milk we’re buying these days, in an old-fashioned glass bottle, isn’t homogenized, so clots of cream fall into your coffee, and then, stirred, the coffee surface carries a sheen of golden beads like butter.



* * * *



December 9, 2015

Power outage last night. Generator failed: apparently because gasoline has been sitting in it for a year, so the carburetor is “lacquered.”

So we ate pasta by flickering light. During the couple of hours when it was just Barbara and me stranded together, I found the Dobro and delighted her with all the old songs. She faintly yodels guessing at melodies.

(A favorite, but irrecoverable to memory, something Depression-Era: “We are tenting tonight, tenting tonight, tenting on the old campground.”)

Bigger storm systems coming. This morning: drag heavy generator onto pickup bed, using old Squaw doors as a ramp, bring to Pearson Small Engine, arrive just as the windshield is starting to collect aerosol rain.

The workday is lost to this small emergency, so:

Get going on TTCF reports

Write and send novel summary for Joy

Test-drive Brett’s new Squaw apps

Spend an hour on the “dependent arising” lecture of Bikkhu Bodhi

Must decline the invitation to bluegrass jam at the brewery for, instead, the family scene here.

Oyster chowder. A bit inefficient extra time in preparation – gathering/chopping thyme endlessly.

* * * *

Sitting with capp in front window of café, reading Price’s police-investigative novel (about how bad it is in the New Jersey ghettos, where love is born only to be insulted/disappointed) – the author’s gratuitous tour through the county morgue’s gurneys of atrocities – I’m about to give up on Richard Price – and I look out the window, and a girl at that perfect age is passing, with all the regalia of that perfect age, she’s stylin’, having a great afternoon just taking power in the street.

And after she’s passed, above the storefront façades across the street, in the overcast pre-storm sky, a great black handkerchief of black birds is flipping and flipping, a “meme,” all enjoying a single mind, slashing this way and that, and obviously it’s exultation, a condition of bliss, far above New Jersey’s misery and even far above the pretty girl’s.

* * * *

December 7, 2015

Yesterday’s pleasure: Riding in the passenger seat while Dash drives. All along Ridge Road. Around the new development there. Down College Drive. At the stoplight, turn left onto East main, with turn signal flashing correctly. Intermittent rain/sun. Random conversation.

Talk with Joy. She likes “Immanence” and will try to sell it in NY.

Review (again) to Gary and Jack.

Have declined to go to SF for Nion’s party, and it’s surprising how much the decision is burdened by the expenditure of fuel. This even though it be vegetable-oil fuel. Vegetable-oil fuel, too, has its carbon footprint. The old vague moralistic twinge is now a full-blown debility.

(The only ones doing anything helpful, during death knell of this habitable planet, are those doing absolutely nothing. Not getting on airplanes, not going to destination parties, not launching businesses.

* * * *

December 6, 2015

Sunday morning. Northern California is still getting rained on.

I can hardly separate my own darkness from the darkness of the world’s future. The heedless way we’ve treated the earth’s delicate health, and the cruel way we’ve treated the earth’s peoples. Refugees driven hither by desertification, and terrorists by poverty. Just this week in Paris, the nations’ diplomats are failing to reach an agreement in the “climate talks,” for the simple reason that we here on Indian Flat Road feel like driving into town for a pint of ice cream.

In the midnight, lull between rain showers: I’m outside in a Canadian cold-front’s stillness, windlessness, silence, the only sound (coming from the enclosed garden) is the tinnitus of the electronic varmint-repulsion gadget.

I come inside the house, and all is warm, all sleep. In the kitchen a chart has been posted for some while now, which I’ve never stopped to look at. It’s a grid, with the days of the week stretching out horizontally. The following daily devoirs are listed vertically:

Biology Homework

Spanish Homework

English Homework

History Homework

Psychology Homework

Geometry Homework

Young Composers




15 min per class studying


The first day – a Monday – is answered by a column of firm checkmarks, one checkmark for each of these accomplishments, including even “Chores.” But the next weeks are an empty grid. I have no idea how long it’s been up there. The page is held by fridge magnet to an out-of-the-way cupboard surface where no one will have to consult it or notice it.

One of my favorite things: that as I come to bed, or as I get out of bed, all sleep, all snore, everybody, even the dog and the two cats, solidly.

* * * *

December 4, 2015

Rain. Head cold persists, just as bad, and it does impair my working. Still adding new pregnancy/abortion scenes to Assistant.

Head cold or no, I join with hootenanny at Ruttens’ down the road. Knock-knock-knock: Dobro and wine bottle and Pyrex tray covered in foil (potatoes au gratin). A beautiful evening, all reading out of the “Rise Up Singing” songbook.


* * * *



December 2, 2015

Rain coming in tomorrow, and it feels like rain today. I’ve got a cold but made a good morning’s work. Entire new scene in Assistant.

Teeth cleaned at dentist 1:30; reading-plus-soup at a restaurant; pick up Dash and, during his guitar lesson, reading-plus-coffee in main street café. (Reading Richard Price’s “Freedomland,” doing my best to admire it. Succeeding in admiring it. Had never yet read any Price.)

After this, I ride in the passenger seat of my own car, while Dash steers it in the deepening twilight around the car-free roads of the valley. Twenty minutes.

* * * *

My dental hygienist wants to give her son a puppy for Christmas. Her needle prods in my gumline and finds no recession since my last checkup. ’Bout the same. When I’m all done with her, standing at the tall counter I’m given a business card with the agreed-upon moment of my next checkup inked onto the blank line: “June 7, 2016, 1:30PM.” Six months out, I’ll still be alive then, and I’ll be showing up on time. Out in the parking lot, the sky overhead is overcast.

* * * *

December 1, 2015

I’ve been finding myself thinking about the Noble Eightfold Path’s eight ordinances more specifically, and more individually, one-by-one, and have hit upon an unhappy thought: about “Right Speech” if I were a Buddhist. (You don’t have to be a Buddhist to think “right speech” is an excellent idea.) A vocational novelist is going to be especially unfit ever to conform to the Right Speech requirement with any perfection. His whole métier is devoted to so much incautious speech, experimental speech, enthusiastic speech, groping speech, ebullient/exuberant speech. Which gets ironed out of final drafts, but is the madness that, up until the uttermost final draft, swamps the workbench.

(Right speech: “Seeing nothing that isn’t there, and the nothing that is.”)

* * * *

Dash, with DMV permit, receives his first driving lesson after school, then on coming home drives his mother and me around these quiet mountain roads, through woods, openly enjoying triumph, for a half-hour before dinner. Turns on his favorite radio station and hangs elbow out window.

* * * *

November 28, 2015

Day trip to Squaw. Dash and two of his friends ride along. Sunny day with fresh snow, windless, each cedar bough along the road a white ladle. The boys go sledding below the Annex while I work.

Check all traps (one bushy-tailed woodrat)

Disconnect fan switch upstairs

Replace non-rock-room curtains

Read gas meters (Annex: “002”) (Upper house: “017”)

Baseboard in Annex basement

Annex furnace “plenum” mystery solved.

* * * *

November 25, 2015

Day before Thanksgiving. Snowflakes are fast-falling, fluffy.

I always think of this (very old) farmhouse as a musical instrument, which over the years we play, wheezily. Starting today, and for the Thanksgiving weekend, all the parts that are usually cold will get opened and warmed, and inhabited. Most evenings of the year, Brett and I, for our civilized entertainments, can warm up in the back mudroom with just the stove.

* * * *

Add this to the list of “goldilocks” circumstances that make life on planet possible: the surrounding magnetic field.

There happens to be a still-molten iron core in the planet, which happens to be churning in a pattern (convection currents in there as it cools, plus Coriolis-force from planet-spinning) that creates an immense electric dynamo: iron electrons in revolving inner currents. The resulting magnetic field around the planet protects against deadly cosmic sunburn rays. It allows plants to live. Without the magnetic field the earth would be killed by solar wind in one season.

* * * *

November 24, 2015

Four AM, with coffee in driveway, thinking for certain that one thing we moderns will have had in common with the Indians who used to live here is gratitude. Not much else in common, unfortunately. But gratitude. Cold storm from Gulf of Alaska is coming in – early snow will pile on trees that are still leafed out, so branches will snap and power failures are predictable – and already now, in the humid warm dark pre-dawn, the mountains all around are generating the seashore surf sound of pre-storm turbulence. The Nisenan Indians who lived here will have known the same sound. Since there does exist such a thing as “gratitude,” it implies the existence of something to be grateful to, a theistic problem as impenetrable to the Nisenan, then, as to us now.


* * * *


November 21, 2015

Brett’s birthday: dinner-and-movie for all.

Dinner, Dashiell’s choice, is at Big A Drive-In, where Brett and I both have the ancho chili burgers with avocado and Dash has the Barbecue Bacon Cheese, and the soundtrack is Steely Dan, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin. The movie, afterward, is about a stranded astronaut, with lots of special effects, white spacecraft wheeling in sterile interstellar space, Martian red-dust storms. In our cushioned seats we pass around ice cream Dibs and Sour Patch Kids.

* * * *

November 20, 2015

Nice reading last night at bookstore. Read from “The Stone.” Drinks after.


* * * *


November 19, 2015

String of sunny days. Shorter-and-shorter days.

Hens won’t lay, barley won’t sprout, Allen Ginsberg won’t get off my desk. Curse on the place.

Afternoon: finished up turning soil in fenced-in area.

All the while, news of Paris terrorism is on the radio, and while the spade keeps plunging and chopping I’m thinking of sad things like the inevitable departure of Dash for life elsewhere, the shortness of a book’s existence. But the day is warm, the sun low in the sky – so all the afternoon keeps looking like end-of-day, a brilliant bronze twilight even in the noon: a gold skimming light makes the meadow grass tinsel. Hens peck in that heavenly place.

* * * *

Who works harder than the bum? Nobody.

* * * *

At last a few tears for Paris. I’m driving to town and, on National Public Radio, a not-so-young Parisian woman is being interviewed: she gave blood at a clinic yesterday. Squeaky tremulous little voix Parisienne. The day after the terrorist attacks – where a hundred-some flirting boys and girls were killed, never to be revived, their blood flowing out on the dance floor, or on the café terrace to be mopped up – hundreds of Parisians who had no ability to fight terrorists or bring back the dead went to clinics and gave blood. It’s not gonna help those kids, or fix any of that, they just wanted to give something up. That old fluid in their veins, du sang, is a common currency and the only investable asset.



* * * *

November 15, 2015

Hard rain all day. The whole day nipping things out of the Ginsberg review after storm of self-doubt. I’ve gotten so I hate having “opinions.” Especially my own. Should stop writing reviews, except of books I admire in a purely unmixed way.



* * * *

November 14, 2015

Amy my niece comes visiting from Sacramento. Her novel has gone to an agent.

Lunch at Three Forks.

A beautiful warm Saturday all day, clear skies, no hint of the predicted rain.

Then Brett and I working together leveling new-enclosed ground. Got halfway through it. She talking of lots of ideas for raised beds, enclosed greenhouse shelves. Afternoon dims. Smell of other people’s fireplace smoke. November dark is early, cold here soon after shadow of oak falls, and while I do what the Sioux were appalled to find the Mennonites doing in the prairie (turn sod), it’s a pleasure to be discovering by spade all the old, eternally fresh, white mycorrhizal fungus along wort roots like confectioner’s sugar, the sod’s underground civilization, as the air gets darker the stuff seems to (if not literally) phosphoresce, the glowing thing in the gloaming, source of light in the soil.


* * * *

November 13, 2015

Done with fence stapling. I’ve gotten back the technique (hold the staple with needle-nosed pliers while striking with hammer). The work goes fast.

The question will be: where to get salvaged materials for the walls of raised beds. (I can’t, anymore, picture lumberyard fir’s hard bright new-grown, planed flesh. Not on this property anymore.)

* * * *

Paris terrorism (100 killed in nightclub) conflated with my own local broken-heartedness.

Sleepless, I go in the garage to find heavy-duty rat trap, because those scritchy noises are in the walls again. Brilliant stars up there, same as ever.

Coming out of garage, I bump into Pabby in the dark. She has put Barbara to bed and is leaving for home. (Barbara is being watched closely today, as last night was a bad night.)

Pabby remarks on my weird equipage, because I happen to be holding the makeshift chicken-killing gear, and must explain. An old sock to serve as pacifying hood for a doomed hen. And an open-at-both-ends Contadina tomato-paste can that, nailed down on the cedar stump, would provide the pillory to immobilize her when I lift the axe.



* * * *


November 12, 2015

Spent afternoon getting a start on fence stapling.

Toyota to the shop for oil change. (Cappuccino in California Organics for an hour reading Galway’s novel.)

* * * *

November 9, 2015

Good long rain. Bit of snow here, up on San Juan Ridge, and first chain controls over the passes.

* * * *

November 8, 2015

Little rain coming in. Yesterday afternoon tilling the new ground I’ve enclosed.

* * * *

Two recurrent mind-crickets:

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

“Heaven and earth are ruthless. The 10,000 things are ruthless.”


* * * *

November 6, 2015

At last getting to work on “Haram Halal” story. Beautiful warm fall day. I spent the whole day in bed like an invalid, with laptop, except that I got up once to go outside and dispatch an irremediably sick hen.


* * * *



November 5, 2015

Fundraising letter goes out.

Starting up the barley-sprouting operation again on shelves.


* * * *

November 4, 2015

Good long deep slow rain. Two days of it. Good for the water table.



* * * *

October 31, 2015

Configuration of the Venus-Mars-Jupiter syzygy keeps changing. Observed over the month before each dawn, it seems evident, oddly, the outermost planets travel faster than the inner planets.And overtake them. Which is not intuitive. Laws of motion would have the inner planets on speedier tracks. Still, every day I see Mars gain on Venus. And Jupiter surpass them both.

(Possibly this is just perspectival? Jupiter is in fact going slow but, in its remoteness, somehow seems, from Earth’s shifting perspective, to exceed the others.

Last day of October. Drain both evaporative coolers, put all storm windows up. Get up ladder and tarp the main evap. cooler.

Hitch cart to bring up the oak rounds from the lower woods. Dump them in east meadow to weather for a year before splitting.

Now, with promise of the good storm to arrive in early morn (NOAA: “the first major snow event for the Sierra”), I’m tucked up with firewood supply, cupboards and cellar sufficient, and I think of my two sons: one is on the East Coast, mornings rising early, optimistically, for a commute to a job he seems secure in, and happily effective in; the other is out tonight trick-or-treating in the balmy streets of town, popular among friends. Each alone has to travel the long road, each his own griefs and errors. And not resting when the moon isn’t yet up and the road is dark.

The ditchwater spigot in the veg. gardens is leaking steadily, but I like it, and will leave it.


* * *


October 30, 2015

First draft of short story Haram Halal. Also, rediscovered old story about prostitute encounter in the Tenderloin.

Afternoon, cut up the large oak that for months has lain at the bottom of the far woods. Its lying and curing may have softened it a bit, or may have hardened it the more. Because the grain was iron.

Nevertheless, fresh-sharpened chain went through the whole thing in three hours.

Evening, lots of confusion in getting Dash and friends to “Comedy Club” night at high school. His girlfriend’s car needed a jump, stuck in driveway.


* * * *



Oct. 28, 2015

Sudden trip to Squaw, as my presence is necessary for installation of propane tank.

Check rodent traps and find nothing.

It’s good I’ve driven up here because some carpentry (outside purview of Ferrellgas installers) is necessary for access to front gas meter. A light mist rain anoints all three of us, FerrellGas workers and I, as we struggle to put in new meters, north side of house. Steely sunshine through rain.

Later, at PlumpJack alone, I make lunch of an appetizer at the bar.

Storm over the summit. This little Japanese pickup wouldn’t do well if the rain turned to snow. But it doesn’t.

* * * *

A big noisy rat (it’s actually Templeton; it’s Templeton himself, sovereign glutton of our compost heap) has fallen into the lidded garbage bin (the lid was up) and now he can’t climb the sheer inner wall. I’ve clapped the lid shut. Rather than finding a way of murdering him where he is, I’m going to leave him in there, with the lid on tight, and tomorrow the whole can, set out at the roadside, will be, by a robotic arm, tossed into the big green “Waste Management” truck, and he’ll be transported on a cruise to rat heaven. The county dump has a view of the Desolation Wilderness peaks, snow-capped even in summer. He can have a life, an afterlife, far from this place of hunger and fear and competition.

* * * *

October 27, 2015

Cold snap coming, and rain presaged typically by a warm, increasingly overcast, still day. It’s a quiet day far and wide.

Some autumn prep, then. Bring in all wooden furniture, all tools of fence and garden. Light pilot in summer-dormant kitchen heater. Double-tarp the magnificent woodpile. Thorough cleaning of all hens’ premises, raking out straw. Spreading plastic sheeting over chicken-run roof, weighting it down with old fence posts. Brett dusts everybody (at least everybody galline, but herself too) with diatomaceous earth.

One hen is crippled by (apparently) a sprained or broken leg. But I’m keeping an eye on her, thinking of remedies, before resorting to euthanasia. The fact is, maybe it’s nothing.

Expedition to town: Doctor appointment, case wine, a fill-up with (bio)diesel behind the Grass Valley barn, Dash at music lesson.

* * * *


October 26, 2015

Posts are up, and I’ve got enough fencing old rusty rolls of yesteryear, from the woods), though not yet stapled. The area of arable ground is now increased by about 70%.


* * * *

October 24, 2015

Nion’s party in Marin. A wonderful day.



* * * *

October 23, 2015

With leftover copper naphthalate, stain the bases of old split-cedar posts.

Get a start digging post holes.

Tennis with Michael and Emily.


* * * *


Oct. 22, 2015

Filling in the trenches where old fencing has come out, but only desultorily, inefficiently, as I’m taking care of my hurt back. (Dragging to below-the-outhouse woods: big rolls of good galvanized gopher-wire for reuse.) A few minutes practicing the set for the weekend party.


* * * *

October 21, 2015

Most of the day tearing out old fencing, untrenching the gopher-wire, backbreaking because it unavoidably involves bending over and pulling.

Dinner in Barbara’s cottage. Pesto and roasted winter squash. Much discussion of Dash’s accession to the status of driver’s-license holder. And how shall he finance his driving.

All the while Barbara, at the table, looks worried and lost. At last she says something generally dismissive, the kind of remark that has always made her feel better.

Anyway, Dash has gone off to homework, and Brett goes outside to call in her cats. Barb and I are alone at the table. We used to love platicando (when she was younger and had all her wits, abundant, wit to burn, for there is a time to cast away stones, but this isn’t it), now she’s always disoriented, and always on the brink of panic, worried that she doesn’t know where she is or who’s at the table, at heart worried that she might be behaving inappropriately.


* * * *

October 21, 2015

Yesterday: a day eaten up by pleasures and duties. Harvest all the basil before frost and make blenders-full of pesto. Freeze it. Learn set list for Nion’s party. Travel in pickup to Auburn, with Brett, to get the jump on everybody else in the world and buy a super-cheap leather chair advertised on Craigslist. Which turned out to be ugly. About which I’m relieved. Because all purchases in an affluent economy are for inward reasons, not for any necessity.

[Affluence on an ecological scale.]

Again, a day of no work of my own.

This morning early, at dawn, the Mars-Jupiter-Venus array is more wonderful than ever. A couple of falling stars. And two sightings of space junk (one of them a satellite SEASAT, which has been defunct since 1978, having worked for only two months before an electrical short circuit killed it.)


* * * *

October 19, 2015

Doing extra credit reading of Ginsberg and other so-called Beats. I’m working too hard on this for the little money I make, but Ginsberg seems worth the effort. Or rather, not so much Ginsberg as the friends he was flacking for.

Barbara is feeling poorly and Brett is worried. “Hydration” is the answer. Always the answer.

Got another wood rat, in trap in studio.

Prawns are cheap, SPD, and the same adobo-chile continues to work well, with white beans and tomatoes.


* * * *



October 18, 2015

Train home, from SF to NC. Traintracks level with the polluted waters of the Carquinez. The homeless campers, looking suburbanites in origin, with their REI gear, all along railroad sidings.


* * * *



October 17, 2015

The apartment needs olive oil, so I’m in Molinari’s on Columbus. The man behind the counter is being good to the tourists, who insist they’re “100% Italian and love wine.” The man behind the counter says he hasn’t had a drink in 25 yrs.

Where’re you from?

Well, the tourists are from San Luis Obispo, Las Cruces, Lompoc. The man behind the counter says “Yeah, I know Lompoc. It’s pretty around there.” Then he turns to me, talks me into buying two bottles: one bottle is extra virgin, the other that’s just puro, only for sautéing. The old folks’ll kill for this.

The tourists are gone. He’s ringing me up, and his friend behind the counter says, “Lompoc, huh.” (Level smirk, but sympathetic.)

He hands across my bottles and assures me the puro oil makes no burning smell, cooks at high temperatures. Then, as I’m gone, he turns back to his friend, “Yeah, I go down there. Guido and John are still doing time, and I go down every once in a while.”

* * * *

San Francisco is such a small town. I see at two in the morning all apartments’ lights are out. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. I remember New York in the seventies: at two in the morning a crossword-puzzle pattern of unlit and lit windows.

* * * *

Reading to the assembled masses (my essay in Threepenny) on Valencia Street. Dinner afterward at a bar with Charlie and BK.

* * * *


October 16, 2015

Writing in the morning.

Post Office in North Beach.

City Lights – spent a long time upstairs in poetry. At a new fish place at the foot of Union, ceviche and white wine at happy-hour prices.


* * * *

October 13, 2015

I’m working in Macondray Lane upper room, and the church bells down in the square start tolling – but there must be some occasion: it’s 11:24 am, not the hour – so of course, these are the bells that toll for me. One fine day, a writer will finally be wholly “published.”

So what I do now is, I go on working.



* * * *

October 15, 2015

Day alone in SF. All are gone but me. I scarcely leave house, snack on stale stuff, work. Spend the day spider-like on that filament-strand connecting.



* * * *


October 14, 2015

City thrift-shop browsing with wife and adolescent boys. Sidewalk enjoyment of just being around these two grown panthers, bored and powerful, no longer kittens, Dash and his friend Lliam.

Barbary Coast Award. The old Theatre Artaud. Music is great (Los Train Wreck), until I get up and, unrehearsed, bellow my song into mic without vocal monitor.

Then home and, till after midnight, wine on the roof with Sands and Brett, exulting in our laureate condition.


* * * *

October 13, 2015

In San Francisco for award. Dinner at a crummy Thai place on Polk. (Dash and his friend Lliam, Brett, Sands)


* * * *

October 11, 2015

Two days in Squaw to shut down house.

Alone, not writing. So I’ve got hammers and nails.


Dinner alone at PlumpJack bar, a stir-fry topped by fried egg. On the TV above the bar a football game. The NY Giants just barely beat the SF 49ers.



* * * *

October 9, 2015

Another day no work.

6am: haul everybody out into the driveway, pajamas, barefoot, to see the near-syzygy of Jupiter, Mars, Venus, moon. Moon is crescent, but with full-round, secret fullness lit by Venus’s reflected light.


* * * *

Thurs, Oct 8

No work today.

Christian mysticism lecture.

Conversation with Lannon: “Sorry, but no.”

Salvaged boards for 6×6 raised bed in garden.

Nev. Co. Farm Supply for gopher wire, irrigation.

Tilapia in adobo-lime butter, and the sad (October) string beans of the end of the season, which everybody is oddly patient with, uncomplaining eating them blossom-end to stem-end, pulling the tough non-biodegradable strings like dental floss.

* * * *

October 7, 2015

Just before sunrise today again, a line-up of Moon-Venus-Mars-Jupiter. Brighter and closer-clustered than yesterday.

The star Betelgeuse in Orion: a supergiant star which is as big-around as the entire orbit of Jupiter. It’s very distant (570 light years) but still visible (being so big), moving away at a high rate of speed. Very little makes me actually laugh anymore, but this sheer unlikeliness/implausibility does it. These are all sparks in explosive flight. Yet there’s sufficient time in the midst of the Big-Bang explosion for a life form (here on this one cooled cinder) to evolve and look up.

“Auspicious” is the word for today: letter sent to Baker; Revised ms sent to Joy; notion hatched of front-end fix to “The Assistant”; finished with first-draft Ginsberg piece. Heads-up coins lay in my path everywhere today.


* * * *

October 5, 2015

Reading done, did the first draft Ginsberg.

Dash is home sick from school.

(Very pretty display, around dawn, Venus-Jupiter-Mars, all visible in a clump, beside the crescent moon.)

Lannon research for Squaw.

Soil amendment for new starts: broccoli, cauliflower, arugula.

Electronic device for driving rodents from garden perimeter: $48.

* * * *

October 4, 2015

Letter for Baker Street.

Dinner with Josh and Jen.

* * * *

October 3, 2015

Saturday dawns clear and sunny, but a short rain is coming in.

That spider who so systematically dismantled her web has, overnight, put up a new one spanning the same clearing. The web isn’t as big, but it must be the same spider, my  fellow, because it’s basically the same design as the web she just took down. (She herself is not in evidence, a nocturnal.)

* * * *

October 2, 2015

Morning, earliest meadow fuming in sun, I’m pinning clothes on the line, and drops of dew on the string are, of course, “diamonds.” They drip into the humid, steaming shirts and skirts and pillowcases. These kinds of idyllic situations actually make me worry about the ecosystem. These improbable, but yet persistent harmonies in the local biome – the sun on schedule clearing the treetops, the climate still not gone haywire, the bees getting a start in the clover and the one hummingbird poking in the tall rosemary spires as they just begin to release their perfume, the October soil a little colder than it was yesterday at this same hour, causing trees’ and shrubs’ root-juices to flow a little slower than they did yesterday. Things still work. Here I am at the pinnacle of evolution. There’s so much human migration going on globally now – especially from arid regions to colder, wetter regions – I wonder how much of it is climate-driven, that is, economy-driven (rather than politics, which is its ostensible driver). Because it’s all looking like the sci-fi movie of “dysfunctional” economy “post-apocalypse.” On this-here meadow, I can still pin laundry on the line at evolution-pinnacle, and the dew point during the morning will sink dependably, for evaporation.

Ran into Gary in the market yesterday, and since I’m reading about Ginsberg, I asked and got a long appraisal of the whole Ginsberg/Kerouac/Corso/Burroughs embranglement. We must have stayed in the produce section for 45 minutes. He’s justifiably proud of what was accomplished back then by him and by his friends.

Doubles w/Michael and Emily.

* * * *

October 1, 2015

Rain overnight is quiet, steady.

Outside my trailer in the 4am dark, the big spider who has pitched her deathtrap all this past week has now decided to take it down. I first noticed the big doorway-sized web — magnificent spiral — a week ago, its portal to eternity spanning an open area beyond trailer. But the spider wasn’t home. Then the next night, deep in the middle-night, there she was, in the beam of my flashlight, she’s the size of a peso, eight-legged emblem in mid-air suspended.

Now it’s a few days later, and she was this morning at 4am taking down her elaborate house – spinnerets gathering and chewing the silk, quickly pulling down the whole thing, strategically demolishing only the sections she wasn’t clinging to. Her abdomen was swollen almost the size of an acorn.


* * * *



September 30, 2015

Overcast. Cooler.

The air is so still. Each leaf looks enameled against the sky. When it’s an overcast damp day, the eye stops wincing and starts absorbing more.

If we get a decent rain, as promised, maybe I’ll afterward go down to do the chainsaw work in the woods.



* * * *

September 27, 2015

One self-congratulatory minute, kitchen, standing up before French doors eating old pasta out of plastic Tupperware.

Sunday-afternoon tennis, and, except writing, no labor of any kind here today on the latifundium.

Total eclipse of moon.

All night coyote song widespread in the valley.

* * * *

September 26, 2015

The last few pears, stragglers, amounting to one final big carton.

As of now, the Do-Not-Resuscitate Order is posted (as required) permanently on the refrigerator in the cottage, even as Barbara shuffles around complaining happily and miscellaneously. She never lifts her eyes to see it, nor could focus to read it if she did lift her eyes.

Today, the unavoidable dip into the economy: case wine at cheap grocery, ingredients for a soup at SPD, fuel additive at auto-parts place, then biodiesel.

A sad day. The pessimists are right, the human population has been in “overshoot” for some while now. A die-off is nature’s usual (swift or gradual) riposte. It’s a sci-fi idea, and too lurid for rational consideration. I don’t picture “humanity’s extinction.” Rather, the general discomfort will (from an economic point of view) feel like “Total Environmental Collapse” only locally, only in human subjectivity. People will experience the death of nature as what they call “inflation.” Hamburger per pound will cost more. And then, so will pinto beans and drinkable water, etc. It will entail lots of changes in diet, migrations of even the comfortable folk, lots of unfair reductions/concentrations of wealth. A significant cultural loss. And eventually a significant population reduction. It’s already doing both those things.

This corn soup tonight: the good cod will go into it, because there’s cod in the Pacific, and the Strauss cream. The most jubilant occasions of my life, actually, are the dinners when my fifteen-yr-old is home eating well. Same when with Hunter. Nothing so enjoyable as watching your offspring feed, like its bloody-muzzled face plunged into the loin of the fallen impala.

* * * *

September 25, 2015

Four more cartons pears today.

* * * *

September 24, 2015

Up early. In the living room with isolated brass lamp reading Ginsberg.

Today it’s picking pears and catching up with Squaw business and no work of my own. And same plan for tomorrow, too. Keeping away from my own writing, in spurts.

The Pope this morning is telling both houses of Congress, “Don’t think of the poor and the migrants as statistical numbers, but look in their faces,” his querulous, mewing voice (Italian accent) on the radio of the garage workbench, while I apply “J.B. Weld” cement to a cracked sprinkler-head (its harp bitten by the dog, snapped-off). Wrappings of rubber bands to secure for glue-hardening.

Says the Pope: “The people of this continent are not afraid of newcomers.” This gets applause the whole assembly even though they all know it’s evilly untrue. Both sides — Dems and Reps — will want to keep the border exclusive and protect our wealth.

Then all midday picking pears. Seven cartons.

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

A quiche can be made out of what’s lying around.

At 7:00 is a reading: Molly and Christian in Grass Valley. Drinks after.

* * * *

September 23, 2015

Happy with “Immanence.”

Another few minutes with A. Ginsberg in the new “Fox&Hound” place on Spring Street. I’m going to be at a loss to review this book fairly. He seems a congeries of affectations – but unaffected about his affectations!

Another mere hour picking pears.

This is the biggest year in memory for pears. I’m going to have to get serious and devote afternoons to bringing them in. Apples, by contrast, are basically nil.

Dinner: that inexpensive cut of pork goes on and on, under various sauces: great success with canned chipotles in adobo. (And, ab orgine, dumping herbs on the surface of a cast-iron pan to scorch before adding vegetables.)



* * * *

September 22, 2015

Around equinox, late September eight o’clock in the morning. This is the enchanted season and the right hour of the day – when warm air flows in with pools of cool air. In choppy terrain of knolls and deep ravines and long forested slopes, the promise of winter gets churned right in with remembrance of summer. This on the slope of the west meadow along the corridor of figs, past cherries, leading down to work trailer.

Noon, done working. This heat wave is evidently never going to quit – I’d been waiting for a seasonable coolness to get into pear harvest – but at this point I just begin picking in the ninety-degree sun.


* * * *

September 20, 2015

Winter plantings. Large new raised beds, complete with wire mesh floor and weedcloth and chicken-manure mix: eight rows onions, three rows garlic. Four rows cabbage and beets. Twelve sugar-snap pea vines with Brett’s Japanese-looking trellises.



* * * *

September 19, 2015

Saturday. Drive to board meeting.

Great to be in Marin, Santa Venetia, it used to be the low-rent zone, now look at it, wonderful Marin mud-pungency of the tidal flats, Gallinas Creek.

And the drive with Brett. Down I-80 with espresso in paper cups. Seldom do we have a chance to talk.



* * * *

September 17, 2015

One good thing: all the new plantings are flourishing in the soil mix. (Includes dirt from the abandoned compost heap plus year-old chicken shit)

Evidence of big rodent in trailer: Whatever it is, it’s something with enough heft to knock the little painting (20-by-30-inch stretched-canvas) off my work desk, onto the floor. A bushy-tailed wood rat could do that.

Also, fee-fi-fo-fum, it seems to have knocked over my ceramic pen-holder cup.

Sure enough, there it is, in the heavy-jawed trap in the cupboard. This particular trap’s old zigzag jaws have been scratched and scored, and actually beveled in places, by the sharp teeth of animals who in their last agony were trying anything they could.

Bill Frisell solo concert at Center. I go alone, sit in front row (of folding chairs), a couple of meters from his working hands, and it’s not a raised stage.The secret truth is, he isn’t doing anything fancy, he’s just paying attention. Pretty ballsy, tho’, doing a solo concert tour. An excellent economy, for a musician, if he can depend on his competence.


* * * *

September 16, 2015

Nice little cold snap sharpens. Drizzle will be arriving afternoon.

Pinching off latter episodes and rounding off an ending. Moving certain other sections up toward the beginning. Feeling very happy with the strange-shaped whole object.

Afternoon some necessary noodling with finances. An open hour (as seldom opens) for my exercise “routine.”

Pick up Dash in town, to take him to guitar lesson. He’d gotten off the school bus and, carrying skateboard, walked all the way to Pioneer Park to spend an unscheduled hour alone practicing a trick. Thin tall boy at fifteen, practicing something all by himself, over and over. It’s an ancient situation. You can see it in any small town.

His news, getting in the passenger side happily, is that he can do a front-side kickflip off two stairs.

Kugel, since we have a leek and potatoes.

Barbara’s cottage: Fernando Sor’s long “Prelude,” beautifully done, Dashiell’s close attention to nuance and sentiment.

Drizzle does arrive. Lasts a while. Good rain smell of wet verdure, plus (it’s been a long time) the stovewood smoke-smell comes through the woods. It’s the smell of the forest deadfall that people up here burn frugally.


* * * *



September 14, 2015

All this talk about a trip to London in the spring.

Apart from the personal extravagance, there’s the environmental kind of splurge that gives me a pain. In the past few years I’ve very seldom gotten on an airplane. No amount of using the clothesline instead of the dryer, or reducing car trips and limiting fill-ups strictly to local veg-oil, no amount of off-the-grid scrimping, will make up for the foot-pounds of energy it takes for a plane to lift us three average Joneses, plus their baggage, up to cruising altitude and keeping us there over the polar route. A holistic accounting of the cost to total ecosystem would price that spectacle at a billion dollars. I’ll be able to say I’ve seen the Elgin marbles in person.

The Toaster Graveyard (below cherry grove) disgorges another toaster. I’d have thought we’d harvested every old kitchen appliance from that dump. Now the gleam of immortal chrome again, half-unburied, from the days when things were indestructible the shine was deep and permanent, a gadget looking weightier than a Sunday pot-roast. In fact, I bet it’s actually the case that you could pull this out of the ground and dig the earth out of its toast slots and hose it off – and set it on the workbench and get it in working order again via a little rewiring.

(Old-fashioned soldering gun. Old-fashioned screwdriver. It would be an operation that would take place on a “workbench” — the workbench of a “repairman.”)

* * * *

September 13, 2015

Every 45 minutes or so, you’re supposed to stretch your legs, and I’m outside in the garden picking pocketfuls of beans for dinner. Forty feet away from me – already at ten am – the empty gas can on the shed wall says loudly “TINK,” as the heat of the day has made its metal floor pop. Which usually wouldn’t happen till about noon. Our blighted land: Heat wave goes on, so the morning is tired already at dawn. String beans are tough, no matter how young you pick ’em. Tomatoes aren’t ripening correctly, apples are stunted, precocious fruit trees will need early harvesting. Smoke from the Butte wildfire makes a grove of cedars, right across the road, look like a photograph, titled “Grove of Cedars,” that’s been lying out on a shelf for a year getting evenly housedusted.

* * * *

Brett is amused: A few hens were scratching and pecking in the dirt under the pear tree. And then one heavy pear dropped. From a six- or eight-foot height, big as a softball, it might have hurt a bird. It landed on the ground among them. Came down with a thud.

The nearby hens gave it the eye — tilted their heads and eyed it from a fresh angle — then went back to scratching and pecking. This is what amuses Brett.



* * * *

September 12, 2015

Saturday. Slow getting to work.

Sun comes up whiskey-colored in the east: smoke from Butte fire.

Got lettuce/kale/chard/leeks in the ground at last yesterday.

Actually played guitar for an hour yesterday, ineptly.


* * * *

September 9, 2015

Heat wave coming on.

Finally got to apple-tree repair.

Joan and Kaitlin come down to have lunch with (respectively, and separately) Barbara and Brett.

Back to work. Proud of what I’ve been writing, this novel “Immanence” narrates a seldom-visited phenomenon: two grown-up men who are intelligent responsible human beings with integrity and wit and their own dedications, and also their own weaknesses, coming in conflict over matters of importance, portrayed without gimmick, without exaggeration or caricature.


* * * *

September 8, 2015

Short story, to take a break.

Amending soil in low planting bed: soil from the abandoned compost, plus chicken manure.

Cutting back blackberries.

Bandaging broken apple trees.

Ted Beedy’s bird lecture, Sierra College.

On the patio in the sun (the teacup that has been out so long, on the inner bone-china surface, evaporation-horizons define the hot noons of at least a seven-day week), there’s a rectangle of corrugated cardboard where the ballpoint pen signature is rehearsed, shakily – Barbara E. HallBarbara E. HallBarbara E. Hall – in preparation for signing the Do-Not-Resuscitate Order that would be set before her.


* * * *

September 6, 2015


Post-work, work in garden: winter vegetables: for a change I bought some little flats of starts at Briarpatch.

Odd sight: in downtown Nevada City a wild turkey hen, solitary, pecking nonchalantly at crabgrass in sidewalk cracks.

Set up hoses and sprinklers all over, for serious irrigation of the tinder-dry meadows, as yesterday I hiked up to clear the weir, get our water pressure back.

Spent last bit of afternoon gentleman-like, reading poetry in shade, with wine, in Adirondack chair whose level arm supports a wineglass. Ginsberg’s anthology, his poetry plus the Mishnah that is the second half of the book, consisting mostly of letters and self-aggrandizement even meretricious.

There are two kinds of comedians, the kind who “tell jokes” (Bob Hope) and the kind who tell the truth. Whose humor depends on the nuanced life they’ve observed. Among poets, Ginsberg is in the first category, strings of his gags (many tried-and-true and surefire, from earlier poems), with but little relation to our lived lives, little usefulness, sometimes unwise.

His W.C. Williams-influenced poetry is a shining exception, and when he’s writing about his family.


* * * *

September 3, 201

The bear has taken out a misc. small apple tree I’ve been babying along. The seven red, first-sex-experience apples on the one bandaged branch were gone this morning (the only apples of that tree’s blighted lifespan), and for some reason he snapped off the whole thing at the trunk. Looks like he sat on it.

This has been a Zero year for the Italian prune plums, but I’ve got plenty preserved from previous year’s overabundance. Last night they were a sauce for a small roast.

My neighbors in this Global Warming era are all dealing with so-called precocity of their fruiting trees by just picking early.

* * * *

September 1, 2015

“Back-to-School Night” was tonight. I went alone, the only interested party. The big rural high school, six earnest teachers. The green-stick beauty of the girls and boys. The moms and dads variously life-damaged shambling around looking half uncomfortable, half broken-hearted envious.

All public high school buildings, inside, feel a little bit like storm-sewers.

Dash is taking a full schedule of hard courses, no light electives.

Cooler night. It’s September and Alaska is sending its first low-pressure system into these latitudes. But no precipitation here, just a few days of lower temps.


* * * *

August 31, 2015

Sometimes I think of people I’ll never be able to see again – Henry Carlisle, Bill Sheatsley now, Oakley, my own mother (and of course my father), Don Carpenter – and I think how my relationship with these ghosts is comparable to my relationship with those still here in the flesh. I.e., Brett, my boys, Barbara in her near-ghostliness now, my brother, my book agent Joy, faraway friends I get news of, even this town’s bank tellers and checkout clerks and grocery baggers. My relationship with the living differs, yes, from my relationship with ghosts, but what’s interesting is the ways in which the two relationships don’t differ. Not in their effective essence.

I think we live effectively in the light of our own death. For a few “decades” we loom in each other’s presence. Then we cease to. It’s the ceasing-to that emboldens the “life” episode.

We’re crucially absent, precisely all the time we’re present. That’s what’s sweet about our being here, that every moment we live through is already archived. It’s brought out of archives for its glint in the “specious present,” then returned forever.

Every time I stood in the sunshine talking with Bill Sheatsley – six-foot-six, white-bearded, saggy-jeaned, squinting like Popeye – while we talked about what grade of shiplap siding should cover the cottage or what nefarious corporate plot destroyed the Rudolph Diesel engine design, or how miraculous his spiritual healer’s ministrations were in curing his cancer – all the while he was radiant with death. And I suppose so am I, to the discerning.


* * * *

August 30, 2015

No writing today either.

Varney’s-Hardware essay arrives, pre-publication, looks great.

And I spend an idle morning reading two Threepenny issues, consecutive issues I hadn’t gotten to, with the fortunate sense of being in really sparkling company. Read them cover-to-cover. In bed, yet, with coffee.

Reweaving of chair seat with rush that came mail-order.

Dug out and severed principal root of the big fir tree on east side of house. Will now be watching treetop in suspense.

* * * *

Been home a month, and now for the first time this summer I made the two-mile run. So I’m back.

Out running, I pass within sight again the The Willo, its little neon beer sign at the country crossroads. And I think again of the moral taint of every “crossroads.” – This is an ancient, rural thing. A forest thing. The Devil presides at the crossroads. In the days when people limited themselves to the simple life at home and never left their acre – what is kashrut to the orthodox, halal to Muslim, Ordnung to Amish – then “going to the crossroads” is the encounter with all the forces of darkness and hilarity. Truly, they’re there, all of them in full force, the Seven Deadlies, right there in The Willo, with attached saloon. And I begin in my new late-in-life self-pity indulgences thinking, Well right now I’m fortunate; right now there may be, certainly, privations and missed chances but mostly I’m in the Great Good Luck Department – but for years I was “no stranger to the rain,” and I have been one acquainted with the crossroads. Exactly Robt Johnson’s confession: fell down on my knee. I really did make my bargain at that crossroads in Wisconsin. And now I wonder, how come more people who knew me didn’t worry about me? During my wilderness years, how come nobody thought it was a waste or a danger? Well, because I reassured everybody: this is the path.

In fact, I ate all that up and in the end throve on it, all the bad times the perfect thing for me, it’s what I sought ab origine. But now I find, I worry about others’ construction.)


* * * *

August 29, 2015

Saturday. Neighborhood get-together here today. Half political, half social. Kilims on the meadow under the big oaks. Tables of pot-luck salads.

Wonderful moment: Guests of honor today are two descendants of Nisenans (enrolled!), whose people actually were penned in right here on our hillside, 1930s (the last Campoodie, the last Rancheria, much of it on Jim Spencer’s land across the road. And on my own property are some grinding-mortars for pulverizing the acorns making bread of these same ancient oaks’ fruit). And the real elder arrives at the party (the grandmother, Ginger) and is presented to me as I am host, she comes escorted over the meadow by her daughter and a dignitary, where I am under the big oaks (I’m actually wearing a brimmed hat, mistakenly), and her first words to me are not Pleased-to-meet-you, or any such thing. She says, taking my hand in both of hers, worriedly, “How are your acorns this year?”


* * * *

August 28, 2015

Hot. The sky is a bright white haze all over.

No writing today.

Package up and send critique of Penelope Pier novel.

Blurb for Max Byrd’s friend.

Favor to Brett proofing a questionnaire about poets’ ethnicities.

Mow just the tall grass on N. and E. sides of house.


The one little retarded apple tree out front alone, planted long ago by George and Ginny, is this year bearing its first fruit – seven or eight red apples, on the one branch that last year got sprained. Then got splint-strengthened by me, with also lengths of stiff garden-hose segments. As if its injury brought on its maturity. Its first fruit have an unusual caramel taste.

* * * *

August 27, 2015

Now it’s seven pm. I ought to be downstairs minding the polenta. On the radio, Amy Goodman’s band will be striking up.

A hot sunny day in which I got a lot done.

Wrote deeper into a new short story about larcenous houseguests, a thorough periodic cleaning of chicken premises, framed up the finished remarks for a book I’ve been editing, (all the while heavily watered meadows, in this heat, crawdads clogging sprinkler nozzles), actually read most of an entire novel to fulfill a blurbing commitment, conversed for a whole hour with my agent by phone while standing in the driveway, squatting in driveway, sitting on gravel of driveway, shopped for food and supplies in town and picked up Dash and got polenta started.

But the walk to the mailbox just now, down gravel, to the paved road – the sudden acoustic serenity that prevails outside my hectic kitchen – (I seem to make a habit of carrying a fresh-poured glass of evening wine when I’m getting mail, which slows my gait, which is a good thing) – it’s been a long day, and it seems forever ago (3:30 am, it was) when, in the dark by the garage, I was gripping a new, spilling cup of coffee, dragging a four-wheel walker of Barbara’s out into the open to use it as a throne, bringing up my astronomy app on phone. Stars overhead, the absolute silence of that old violence in the sky – which seems a frozen-solid event, in our little timeframe – sparkled all over the entire sky, and I got to know Capella really for the first time – one of the stars that, along with Vega and Arcturus and Aldebaran, (I can tell) will become one of the great Ushers of the seasons, on these acres. That hour was a totally different world.

* * * *

August 25, 2015

The endless string of sunny days in drought.

Our tomatoes and squash for some reason are accursed. But it’s not the heat, it’s something about soil or irrigation. Beans do well.

B. purchases a soil-chemistry test kit.

No writing. Just last pass at Penelope Pier book.

Afternoon: a couple of small fixes are knocked squarely off the to-do list: rehabilitation of Hunter’s BMW (battery-charge and tire-fill), and construction of knife-storage slot behind stove, two oak slats separated by rubber washers.

Out walking in the heat of the afternoon (on my iPhone earbuds is the tocsin of bad news about climate change), I pass the spot where my little road meets the highway, I see that “The Willo,” is, now at 4:45 pm, beginning to accumulate its quorum of quitting-time drinkers. Old pickups, fancy pickups, and one Corvette Stingray. Den of Iniquity, the social purpose of every Crossroads establishment, incl. the juke joints of Robt. Johnson. Drink/eat to excess, flirt with horny neighbor, fight with newcomer, etc. All this isn’t far from me, down at the corner of Newtown Road and Highway 49. (The “New Town” advertised by the name of Newtown road doesn’t exist anymore and never really did, though early last century it made an effort. It exists now as a quiet crossroads of its own, five miles along.) Meanwhile I’m actually thinking with wonder and gratitude of the Jew (Philo of Alexandria) who in the Diaspora was a Platonist and a Talmudist. Both! You want to fall on your knees sometimes in being made aware of the humaneness that is basic to humans and mostly wins out.

The Willo.

Always a full parking lot. It is the restaurant of oldest provenance in the county. Windowless. Cinderblock one-room casket, the walls inside furnished with dozens of Varathane-slick redwood-burl clocks (decoupage of Amer flag, Amer eagle, Elvis), made by the chef, who is a hobbyist. The kitchen specializes in (is limited to!) three kinds of steak, or else pork ribs, plus choice of cole slaw or fries. Plus beans. That’s the whole menu. Attached bar does have one window (high in the wall, gummed opaque). Outside, smoking lounge consists of broken office furniture on cement pad, enclosed on two sides by ripped-fluttering Visqueen-plastic sheets.

* * * *

Inexpensive cod comes into SPD: chowder with corn and thyme.


* * * *

August 23, 2015

Eileen and Paul here early to do yardwork preliminary to party.

Bob sends Galway essay.

Off-the-grid eating. Soup of gingered pork and mustard greens tastes only tolerable and is muddy-looking. Everybody around this table is a good sport. Nobody ever puts down his spoon and asks can we just get out a frozen pizza.

It’s just always an adventure, and sometimes a failed one, cooking out of a seasonal kitchen garden, and they go along with that.



* * * *

August 21, 2015

I’m done with another run-through of “All Things.” Increasing confidence in it.

Yet another dump trip today with accumulated junk from behind the garage. This is Affluence: the human privilege of throwing things into The Great American Away.

(phrase courtesy of my Vietnamese refugee friend of long ago. She was somewhat amazed by our Dispose-All. Maybe amazed/appalled).

We’re free of Dash and Barbara tonight and may go out for dinner. Movie.

* * * *

Billy on his deathbed yesterday: “I love you,” with great smile of wisdom/delight/morphine/chlorpromazine.

When a Hindu says I love you at death’s door, I suppose there are three words in the sentence, one a well-known transitive verb. The other two pronouns are mysterious.

That transitive verb love ought to function more like an intransitive, a nimbus, or even a grammarian’s copula. The two pronouns, the “I” and the “you,” are conflated to identity. It’s what Bill would have been escaping. No?

* * * *

The merriment here:

The hen outside the screen door makes a distressed little squawk/croak sound.

Brett: “Why did the chicken croak?”

Me: “To get to the Other Side.”

Brett: “Oh. That’s a joke. That’s funny. That’s a pretty good joke.”

* * * *

And Barbara’s groggy remark about Lawrence Welk’s accordion/banjo orchestra on TV: “I’m glad I’m not at that party.”

* * * *

(Me, frankly I’d go to that party.

Now, this is a non sequitur, but I’ve always imagined that the Lawrence Welk performers – in their merengue-colored tuxes and swirly dresses, with the look of almost horrified jubilation in their eyes as they sing – must be (when backstage, or off-duty) a typical lewd cynical degraded bunch of musicians/performers. Everything I know about musicians, and everything I know about actual show-biz mores (those shows were shot in the sixties, when musicians, tuned in to popular culture, led very different lives from Lawrence Welk’s), makes me picture them lighting up cigarettes, etc., having illicit meetings in prop closets with the swirly-dressed, making wisecracks about Mr. Welk behind his back. Men’s and women’s perfectly shellacked hair onstage and their tireless grins seem like a certain kind of hell which they would come to resent.)

* * * *

August 20, 2015

Work this morning (and for past few days) on expunging any accidental “Christian” tones from All Things – (in the sudden, belated realization that 90% of readers out there are literalistic.)

Brett in Sacramento; Dash at school

Agree to write review of Ginsberg anthology – a glad prospect. Ginsberg is, above all, barrel-of-monkeys fun.

(International coalition of Islamic scholars endorses restriction of greenhouse gas emissions, on spiritual grounds. And – typically, this is wonderfully Islamic – they ask for decentralized, local sourcing of renewable energy. This is Islam’s devotion to all the economic classes.

What people lack is “Negative Capability” = the “sic et non” philosophy of medieval philosophers (“thus and yet not thus”)

* * * *

It would be a reason why Good Writing (a term I employ without irony) is not popular:

I think people want “answers.” Simple ones. Few are able to hold two contradictory beliefs in mind at the same moment. (In other words, few “think.”)

It was Coleridge who named this mental knack (or else maybe Keats), calling it “negative capability”: the ability of a mind to recede into undecidedness, and just watch for a while.

Maybe, rather, call this negative capability “cold objective love.” Or call it “passionate detachment.” It’s really a mystical capability, if perfected, this lack of immediate insight. It’s at base mystical. It has faith.

(Physics explainers seem have success urging “negative capability” upon people: They say It’s both a wave and a particle. That makes no sense but it will be mortals’ only way to face in the direction of truth.)

This novel (All Things) I’ve been bringing up for more than ten years has broken into frank mysticism. My big achievement, all these years on these acres in the foothills where living is cheap, is to have become this most useless thing, an anchorite. Especially regarding “religion” people have difficulty extending a little cold love. Or negative capability. Religion’s “answers,” for almost everybody, must be absolute. The report from an actual mystic (Cloud of Unknowing) is that absolute knowledge is the descent to absolute disorientation.



* * * *

August 19, 2015

The high school’s first day of classes.

Eileen from down the road visits to plan neighborhood party.

Commercial fodder from Ridge Feed, because, in this weather, we’re certainly not producing any.




* * * *

August 16, 2015

Mid-August the newspapers get skinnier because everybody’s on vacation. Wasps are bumbling in the sheds. At the Iowa State Fair, politicians roam, shown in photographs gamely eating stuff. At our local county fair Dash has lost his cell phone (which is a special kind of ignominy, and a special kind of blightedness, for a teenager). Record heat all week. Faint smell of horseshit sometimes from down the road, smell I’ve always loved. Traffic on a country road thins to one-car-per-hour (or one-car-per-afternoon!).

I’m not writing – “The bucket’s empty,” Richard likes to say when asked (almost a boast! or a gloat).

Sunday morning a proper salade nicoise, as Bob and Brenda stop by for lunch.

(Bob is working on a long biographical essay on Galway: a voyage of discovery: stories of Galway’s assignations and seductions, e.g., on Paris-Marseille train, when in the 60s, he had the perfect, the sexiest trench coat. Absolutely none of which, presumably, will go in the essay.)

* * * *

August 14, 2015

Home from Squaw.

Off-loaded furniture, in the dooryard around the truck.

Dash has to be at the highschool at eight in the morning for (A) locker assignments; (B) class schedule confirmation; (C) textbook distribution.



* * * *

August 13, 2015

They’re not called “dumps” anymore, they’re called “Transfer Stations” – It creates a new metaphysical category replacing the damned-to-perdition category that was a dump. Nowadays our trash on earth floats: it’s being “transferred,” never landing permanently in a spot to molder and sink. A local Dump was a kind of hole, whereas a transfer station is a square of smooth cement, where everything you’re dismissing is, by a bulldozer’s blade, squeegeed to left and right, choosing where it shall be forwarded. It’s an arena where there are no losers, only winners and the deathless.

Dumps are always located, also, in some beautiful part of the remote county. I’ve been getting to know “Transfer Stations” and dumps, now that I’ve been living outside cities, and more and more, I find them heavenly, clean and breezy (“Distance makes clean” is the old Mexican saying), these places where permanent goodbyes happen.

That is, if it’s not a high-wind day (so that dust-grit attacks the eye), or too hot (brewing the stench) – they can be serene, elegiac, zones of shriven justification, as one is sweeping the last dust off the pickup bed, removing the work gloves, kicking off the clinging Lego whose plastic recesses are packed with garden dirt from ten or fifteen years ago. “Numinous” places (Mircea Eleade) are places where other-dimensional worlds intersect with this world.  Nevada County’s transfer station, on its slope, is located where it will always have a view of the (snow-capped in August) Desolation Wilderness a hundred miles away. Farther up at the 6000-ft elevation, Placer County’s similar hilltop transfer station looks across at a ski area’s runs, in summer making paths down through the dense pines. No skiers there now. Those are all just avenues of tall grass.

Driving home from Squaw, I know I’m coming back into my home place when the local radio (from, this week, a broadcast booth at the county fair) starts winning through the static and they’re plugging a local restaurant in the following terms: on a bicycle-powered blender, kids can provide the energy to make smoothies for all; and on Sunday evening the town’s poet laureate will be presiding at poetry-food pairings (the scheme is, she’ll be declaiming a poem while you, say, spoon up a compatible sherbet). O, my heart, more and more, is out at the transfer station. An insomniac man might use it as a technique for kidding himself to sleep: by just thinking of the transfer station at night, picturing it, gates closed, earth cooling by radiating, staff gone home, wind presiding.




* * * *

August 12, 2015

To Squaw for fall maintenance.

Confer with roofer about replacement of cedar shingles with composition.

Get all the aspen slash off the property. Two dump-trips, with branches piled hayrick-high and lashed down.

More sightings of mountain grouse. Fearless, insouciant, crossing path to the Annex without a ruffle or a scamper, as if tame around humans. Personally I want wild animals. I want shy animals. I’m not sure these cottontail bunnies and garden-deer and garbage-bears should be treating us trustingly, casually, meanwhile going off their natural feed.

Moral assumption: we (humans, skiers, tourists and athletes, poets and novelists, etc) are the “invasive species” par excellence. And when at last we’ve brought on our own extinction – our comeuppance – we want bears and hares to go on thriving independently as ever, freely.

* * * *

August 11, 2015

Silence of heat. Even the bees.

Very unproductive interval.


* * * *

August 11, 2015

Man stands in garden, morning. First sunlight hitting tops of tomato plants. The daily thunder of honeybees hasn’t yet begun. Coffee cup in one hand, with his free hand he harvests beans Blue Lake and haricots verts: pendant long commas, to be pinched off by thumbnail, one-handed, and slipped in jacket pocket. All the hens but one – (the broody stay-in-the-box girl never shows up for anything) – are milling around his ankles, done with celebrating their morning jailbreak and already settling down gouging dust-baths for themselves. They will have to be kicked out of the garden before they can wreck anything.



* * * *

August 8, 2015

Spray new sprouts of blackberries with herbicide, perimeter of property, perimeter of house.

Six o’clock in the afternoon: the shade of the oaks has come over the vegetables. Brett and Dash and I are out there weeding, the truck parked beside the fence, its radio broadcasting a “This American Life” episode.

The biome, the biome, and its “invasive” species. From the precise pH of my saliva to the salinity of the soil underfoot as it travels through worms’ guts. From the extinction of arctic polar bears to my own intestine’s bacteria flourishing in the dark a very cosmopolitan micro-civilization. From the prosperity of California eucalyptus trees in this century to the body-temperature regulation of the cottontail rabbits who are newly populating the (warmer now) upper elevations. Brett, pulling up clumps of wild mint, says, “By the way, somebody cashed Alan’s honorarium check.” She’s pulling up the mint that has flourished so well in the accidental fertility of the raised beds. She adds, “It would have been riding in the car with him.”

* * * *

August 8, 2015

This is a peculiar millstone for me to be wearing these days (an invisible millstone and a not-too-heavy one): existential responsibility of having been the last of our tribe to say ’bye to Alan. After the post-conference board meeting, he’s tired and rumpled and happy, standing out at the curb on the shore of our vast empty parking lot, saying he’s looking forward to a long summer in the West, about to take the familiar drive to the beaches where his wife and friends wait. He was seventy-five, perpetually an unruly kid, perpetually of the New Yorky, contentious, rowdy school of literary criticism – and surely he was depending on his youthful ability, like any other summer, to make the drive from Squaw to Santa Cruz in a single shot without stopping. The board meeting ended at noon and it was maybe eight or ten hours later he went off 17 going over the Coast Range.


* * * *

August 4, 2015

Up early. Silence for miles around.

Till light, working on Penelope Pier novel.

Hike to ditch to clear weir. Good-sized bushy-tailed coyote trots across the path ahead.

Groceries and banking in town.

Craig and Sylvie to visit tonight to watch DVD of Diana’s movie. Stupidly I actually fall asleep during movie, probably snored.



* * * *

August 3, 2015

No writing work today, nor for a the next couple of days. Rather, after summer’s absence, attention to everything broken and neglected around the acres; and editing.


* * * *

August 1, 2015

Trying to write something for Alan, to send to general Squaw population.

Our houseguests go to N. San Juan for wedding ceremony.

* * * *

Cleaned out studio trailer after summer absence. Rodents, caught by heavy traps’ zigzag jaws early in the summer, have sunk to pools of fluffy fur, the smell long-dissipated, as in the pharaohs’ sterile tombs.



* * * *

July 31, 2015

Peckinpah wedding is in town. Kristin stays in the cottage, Sam and his new wife Elisa in the playroom. Great evening at Genevieve’s bistro with Beaucoups Chapeaux, both sets fabulous.


* * * *



July 30, 2015

The sky over Squaw Valley at first light, many flights of wildfire-fighting aircraft. (I guess their policy is not to fly till dawn, then get started in earnest) – lake-scooping planes, helicopters with pendulous buckets, C-130s, the kind referred to as VLAs, for “Very Large Aircraft.” All loading up in Lake Tahoe and flying NW – odd flight pattern – to fly away and douse the (now two) big fires in the foothills. I’m working upstairs, on couch, rather than at basement workbench, as I’m alone and the whole house is open to my slovenly rule.

Then – last day, I the last human to leave the house – I pull in outdoor furniture and all the summer’s tools and playthings. Lock the doors and arm the anti-bear electricity. Over the summit, the drive home to the foothills is through smoky territory, and I see wildfire-precipitated rain falling over the hills, about four-thousand-foot elev.. It’s falling as veils of virga that are curled sharply by wind shear. Then when I get there, it’s not virga, suddenly it’s a heavy rain. All cars are slowed to a crawl. In a hectic bright silver cloud, all windshield wipers are whacking at top speed.

Arriving at Nevada City elevation, I’m back in a cloudless, hot, still summer day. Brett is at a street fair in Grass Valley with Dash. Sands here makes eggplant confections for us all.



* * * *

July 29, 2015

Chores and fixes in Squaw. Fine day alone. Big spaces of silence around everything. On a hardware errand, I walk the length of Tahoe City among tourists, a ghost of my former self.

Meet with Tamara at the boundary line again.

Evening alone again, gluttonizing on fried sausages and a Netflix movie.



* * * *

July 28, 2015

Cubic yard roadbed soil for annex path. Rental of heavy tamping device.

In the back of my mind always: How to resolve (or better, how to use) the central tone-discrepancy in “Things.” Meanwhile continuing to soak through “Immanence” bringing up characterization.

(That Yeats dictum about choosing “perfection of the life or of the art.” I guess I’m definitely earning my “art” – and plenty of the people I love are pitching in.)

Smoke in the valley. It’s from the canyon fires down by Dutch Flat. When a mountain grouse alights on the deck and stays a few minutes, big as a barnyard hen (an unusual sight in this sparse ecosystem) Brett suggests maybe the anomaly is a result of wildlife’s displacement by fires.

With Dash’s help, the dirt path gets tamped down (wrestling an ornery stamping machine by its horns). And, likewise with Dash’s indispensible bravery, the one remaining big old aspen that stands tall between two power lines is correctly felled – with some drama, because the directional cut bites down on the blade of my little electric chainsaw, and I have to make the felling cut with a pruning saw. Dash pulls distant guy, and the thing falls nicely without taking out any electrical wires. Then Brett and he, plus all pets, depart for Nevada City. I’m here with leftovers, episode of loud music, work on a draft.

* * * *

Another afternoon taking out aspens by the road, heaping the slash up along the pavement for the county chipper.

* * * *

July 26, 2015

Barbara is gone now. Down in Nevada City in the care of daughters. Barbara despondent in the center of the party, and panicky, where did 1938 go? Hauled from party to party, Barbara, thou bookend now, thou paperweight, I can see that you alone know perfectly well that this airplane is over the ocean and all four engines are failing. You’re the only one in the room realizing it.

* * * *

July 25, 2015

Morning: On “Things,” emphasizing Heaven’s maleficence. My unreliable narrators.

(It’s been useful reading Ford Madox Ford’s “Good Soldier” this summer, whose unreliable narrator is annoying in places, especially in long woolgathering about character analysis. Such narrators are only interesting when they’re wrong/mistaken/deluded. Or else revelatory, or even plot-sparking.)

Afternoon, got a start taking out aspens all along the road. There are dozens of dozens, from little sprouts to vigorous young trees. Working without any power tools, just the paleolothic-era pruning saw, curved and rip-toothed.

Dash is home from summer camp, taller, tawnier, tired. The sounds of his acoustic guitar inventions in the annex.



* * * *

July 24, 2015

The end of racism, on this lucky planet. On the radio, news of Obama’s visit to his home country, Kenya. All the while I’m loading firewood into annex woodbox. The historical fact of Obama’s presidency always makes me rejoice dependably no matter any other disappointments personal or global: that in my lifetime we got a president with some patent African blood is a bigger achievement, for my generation, than the moonshot or the personal computer. Because the human heart is a more intractable wilderness (than either of those two surfaces, lunar or silicon).


* * * *



July 22, 2015

Squaw valley is deserted at last. After many days’ absence, I’m back in my bunker in the basement, leaving “Things” alone post-cuts, to try to look into “Immanence.”

All are gone now, the last two rolled down the hill while we stood and waved. Now it’s Brett and me and tranquility.

A Sisyphean afternoon on the steep slope, moving most of a cord of oak/pine mix from upper road to the Annex. My love of hard labor: it’s really an addiction, an escapism, a mysticism, a stupor.

After which, in great fatigue and aches, I go drinking with Eddy and Oswaldo at PlumpJack: the rattle of ice in the shaker: Pisco sours.


* * * *




July 21, 2015

Pacing up and down Columbus, and also Union, with cell phone to ear as if I were one of those people with Big Plans always forming – talking to lackadaisical staffer at investment house, about trusts. As Barbara’s cardiologist has begun to warn of mortality, Barbara may be getting sleepier and sleepier, unto death. So I have to inquire about her money, the little that’s left, whether it should be more liquid, for distribution, or less liquid, for investment. While I pace (Union, Stockton, Columbus: the streets form a triangle), I find underfoot (typical North Beach furnishing) a purple Crayola crayon, it’s lying on the sidewalk in front of the former Flor D’Italia place. Pick it up, of course: It’s the Purple Crayon from my nursery-book copy of Harold and the.

The Crayola however, I see, is identified on its paper skin as “BLUE,” not “PURPLE.” Still, in my world it will be the purple one, because I decree it.




* * * *

July 20, 2015

Hunter and Lindsay in SF. To the DeYoung for a show of remarkably Turner oils, and minor collection of early Diebenkorn prints. Then drive across GG bridge, up Lucas Valley Road, stop at Rancho Nicasio, then out to Marshall on the coast for barbecued oysters. Jan Buscho’s show of paintings, all landscapes, happens to be opening, across the road from Tony’s Oysters. The coast road home is nauseating, dizzying.

Next morning, while Lindsay takes a job-interview call, Brett and Hunter and I go out for breakfast at Roma, then climb up to Coit Tower to view WPA murals.



* * * *

July 18, 2015

Learn of Alan’s car accident. The word is, they’d thought he was fine and were about to release him after a routine night’s observation in hospital. Then coma. Talk to Kris by cel phone while riding on I-80 across the Sacramento valley. Trip to sf.



* * * *

July 16, 2015

Tennis, two sets with Andrew on Ancinas court.

Yet another tour of the Alpine premises. Trying to envision it as a Squaw venue.

Annual Dinner Out, with Lisa, Andrew, Kait.



* * * *

July 8, 2015

An evening reading: celebrities all brightly lit and amplified. Anne Lamott gives her well-worn monologue about jealousy, always hilarious. At finish, I slip out exit and drive home, stop in the depths of the big parking lot among dismantled ski-lifts. The sky: The last light of the earth-atmosphere above Sierra is a pure violet of a Caribbean intensity, intense especially just above the western ridges of mountains.

“Red Dog Cantina”: The little saloon on the backside of the old A-frame is pumping out music, and for the first time I realize that that bar has been there forever, through all this place’s vicissitudes, surviving all of the revolutions in ownership, back here where no one notices it. It’s been unchanged for thirty years. Probably also the people inside: unchanged. The neon beer signs’ lights artificial-flavorings (ruby, emerald, topaz) bleed into night air. Figures visible thru window: probably a game of pool: they have that shambling protocol. The same songs as ever:

Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home. My baby, she wrote me a letter.

Hey hey mama when I see you move, Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.

But I never saw the good side of the city, Till I hitched a ride on a river boat queen.

Outside a few pickup trucks are parked. Folks inside probably know each other well, all too well, and they have an agreement never to wake up again. Here I am outside.




* * * *

July 6, 2015

Fiction program to begin today. Morning dawns clear. A week of cool, drizzly weather is predicted.

First today, the hunt for some galvanized pipe at Squaw “Vehicle Maintenance,” necessary for hanging stage lights. I love soluble problems. I eat ’em up. Wish I had more of ’em.



* * * *

July 5, 2015

Fourth of July, one is glad for this year’s absence of fireworks. Rain much of the day. Still, much of the day on Annex deck repair.

The usuals: the Millers and their macaroni salad; Nico and Ola; the Ancinases; a few Squaw interns. Much of the evening at our end of the table, the Old Folks discuss the future of Squaw, pessimistically.

Sleepless night, almost literally. So that I’m lightheaded in the morning. Worries about everything, from Barbara to Dash, from our own going broke to Literature’s being bankrupt and tawdry. (Of course literature’s always been.)



* * * *

July 3, 2015

A whole-house mass excursion to little Independence Lake, north of Truckee – but Brett and I won’t go, feeling the pressure of work here. An editor cancels on account of death-in-family. The Squaw maintenance facility is all shut down (in observance of the Third of July), and so the Community of Writers has no resources for dressing performance spaces.

Good rains keep dousing the upper elevations, though down in Nevada City, rain doesn’t visit and the wildfire danger grows.

Then, later in day, we do knock off work and follow everybody up to the higher mountains. Little lake is totally unvisited by anybody, reachable by five miles of very rough rocky road. The Nature Conservancy has left kayaks out on the shore, for the use, gratis, of anybody who would like to borrow them. I suppose it’s nice to be in a big fresh place, but one’s worries don’t stay back home in the familiar place, they come right along in the car.



* * * *

June 30, 2015

Again, dinner on the deck with all at the long table. And again, the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. Tonight at last, the two planets occupy the exact same point in the sky, Venus upstaging Jupiter (and a bright little star “8 Leo” joining them).

During the very dark hour when the whole display is setting behind the western mountain, Barbara is beside me in a deck chair wrapped in blankets. Saying little, she wants to hold hands! She’s so confused, she hasn’t said anything all night. After a while remarks, in perplexed tone, as of a school science lesson she can’t recall, “There’s some connection between the heart and those stars.” For a long while the only sound is Andrew telling of the great days of driving out to the Nevada Test Site protests in the eighties.



* * * *

June 29, 2015

Afternoon clearing brush below the house in great puffs of midday heat. Smells come back from the other years of cutting down high-elevation grass, juicy fat-stemmed shrubs, the woody thorn bushes, fine purple cheatgrass – smells of tea, of vitamins, of tobacco, aftershave, Moroccan-restaurant smells, birch smells of the school nurse’s office in 1961, of Lyman-Sargent’s drugstore downtown – all the while the weed-eater’s whipping strings making a repetitious snarl, in auditory hallucination. My peculiar pleasure in working almost at the edge of heat stroke for hours.

Dinner of leftover curry at the upper house.

Off the deck, the beautiful display of Jupiter and Venus, a romantic pair above the mountain after sunset. They’ve been getting closer all month – and now look like a binary system, joined, too, by the mist we see them through, in this valley.


* * * *


One worries about the flood all these years of aspiring writers who say they started writing because they’d had a creative writing class (it’s still an expression laughable if beheld objectively) as if maybe this is all a huge ponzi scheme, the Cr. Wr. Business as it has boomed. Rather than being personally driven to pencil and paper by something inside themselves alone, in the clueless loneliness of creating something, rather than any social atmosphere, and the devotion to reading. This Comm of Wr: we’ve been one of the earliest and biggest perpetrators.


* * * *

June 28, 2015

Quiet Sunday in the valley, aftermath of first conference.

Last night’s little rain has dampened the dusty.

The Tonkoviches will make their annual day trip – to Sierraville for spa.

The upper house, where I’m writing, is quiet. Barbara snoozes, and everybody but me has gone out somewhere. Last night’s pots and pans, post-merriment, are stacked high in the sink. Ping pong table dominates the living room. Cloth napkins lie on the rocky slope below the deck, rained-on. In a soup-pot, an ice cream scoop is thrust deep into ice-cream-tinted water, where floats also an orange ping pong ball, wounded from maybe being stepped-on. Barbara, in the next room, the only other life in the house, will go on sleeping till noon, at least.

Later in the day, soft rain settles in. Debilitating melancholy. Friends are gone, and there’s nothing very interesting to do.


* * * *

June 25, 2015

Morning, spent a short hour sealing over the big gash I took out of Book Three yesterday.

Then, at exactly “10:05 AM” (county government time), a public hearing in faraway King’s Beach, where the County “planning board” is to hear complaints about the ski-corp development in the valley, everybody getting his three minutes at the mic, some cogent, some sentimental or cranky. Beside me, the frowzy-looking guy in the “Keep Squaw True” T-shirt was scrolling through his iPhone screen (some Upward/Green arrows, some Downward/Red arrows) checking his stocks’ prices via the live feed.

Evening, poetry reading (Bob, Brenda, Sharon, J. Michael, Evie, Forrest Gander) is wonderful.



* * * *

June 24, 2015

The same pair of golden eagles still nests in the rock face below Granite Chief. They seem larger this year (is that possible?), anyway of course older. Two days in a row I’ve been seeing them circling high. Not hunting, just spiraling higher. I suppose raptors’ shoulders have a lock-hinge, so they can hang on air-flow without tension, without effort. Ecologist would say without energy expenditure.

Chopped out some Heaven from Book Three of “things” text – real damage, working on the book with sledgehammer and Saws-All – but then, having wrecked the last chapter, I have to stop, to play softball by the lake.

Dinner with Brett at PlumpJack, just her and me in the bar in the corner in a lull.



* * * *

June 22, 2015

Done now with a draft of “Things” – all the more free of supernal scenes. Will let it rest unmolested for a while.

As an experiment, I’ve eliminated all supernal story entirely from Book Three, so its absence might hurt with an interesting ache.



* * * *

June 20, 2015

Day of poets’ arrival. Worked on my own all day, except for a visit to the center to secure the stage lights with heavy twine.

* * * *

St. John of the Cross, his wonderful (almost puerile? almost psychotic?) radicalism: the man was constantly holding up his empty cup:

“One human thought alone is worth more than the entire world, hence God alone is worthy of it.”

* * * *

June 18, 2015

Dark-eyed junco on the precise apex of roof-peak every sunset, singing a few minutes, then departing, that’s the routine, summer of 2015.

Jupiter and Venus in conjunction all this month, moving ever closer together, Jupiter fainter tho’ it’s reputed to be huge, Venus brighter because she’s so much nearer. But they really look paired.

At last I catch a glimpse of the International Space Station. From horizon to horizon, it moves as fast as a clock’s second-hand, and it’s as bright as any star. The impression is of a UFO, except that it’s ours.



* * * *

June 17, 2015

Andrew and Lisa are delayed.

But Hunter and Lindsay arrive. Just as they arrive, Joan Klaussen in thin floral frock (freckled, chapped, solid calves) turns up at our house, remembering it to be hers, and she is moving in – supplied with a paperback novel and some groceries and some junk mail, all in a SaveMart bag, and also a potted plant and today’s San Francisco Chronicle for her leisurely perusal. That she herself built this house fifty-some years ago does kind of give her an inalienable right. Then Barbara appears, from her perpetual nap, and the two old friends share intelligences – Barbara’s about certain mysterious, audible people in the basement, Joan’s about the mistaken “renters” who have occupied “her” house – and they can agree the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. Wine is offered, but instead coffee is poured — then never sipped, by either lady. Eventually Barbara waves, going back to bed, “Well, I hope they catch him.”


* * * *

June 16, 2015

Today, another car trip to N.C., this time for Dashiell’s concert.

All this week of our installation in Squaw quarters I’m debilitated by a backache. Which is a kind of sneaky pleasure not only because it guarantees me a 4F exemption from some of the labor of moving in, I also am evicted from my body, its trusty responses, and everything seems to involve more care and consideration and even sentiment.


* * * *

June 15, 2015

Preparations for conference. Forced hiatus from writing.

Yesterday: woke up at four and worked out the entire participant portion of workshop schedule, then went down to the offices and built the entire bookstore enclosure, then came home and elaborately cooked ribs for arrival of Tracy and Jim.

This morning, with backache straitjacket, must drive to Nevada City for Dashiell’s concert rehearsals.

One thing here always makes me pause on the path in (the thing that’s always good for you) gratitude: spring-water’s gurgle below the roadside on the path down to the annex, faintly audible behind the steel garbage house and the willows. No matter the season, that stream always gives water at the same quiet rate.


* * * *

June 11, 2015

Back at work. Space heater beside me. Rat-shit smell of the ages.

I realize, all the more, that this lustrous book “All Things” is frankly mystical. Of course “enlightenment” doesn’t come to a rational mind, but maybe sometimes a fake hologram of it can be constructed in the artificial medium of prose.



* * * *

June 11, 2015

In Squaw now for summer.

Clear out basement. Set up workshops schedule.

* * * *

Unsettling thought:

All these years I’ve liked to think of myself as in the “truth-and-beauty” business, at least ideally. That’s what I’ve liked saying. Wanting to make my Grecian urn an aspiration far above the entertainment marketplace.

Today, during a passage in the upper-tier narrative of “angels,” I found myself writing the following evaluation of mortal, earthly ethics:
“But beauty is not Justice. Nor is beauty truth.”

Obviously the language, if it’s a circuitry for logic, is a network with a few short-circuits. Maybe if there’s a truth-beauty mash-up, it will always be a compromise, not a union. Truth be compromised, beauty be compromised.

(except in the case of mathematics, where T and B go together always)

ACTUALLY, it’s a category error: I’m conflating two kinds of “truth”

* * * *

June 10, 2015

Sands and I: dinner in the cottage with Barbara.

* * * *

Home alone on the farm these days, doing last cleanup and wandering discovering endless unaddressed problems.

Where Mateo’s weedwhacker exposed the midden that was once an old sandbox, a few rusty metal toy trucks and dismembered action figures are embedded.

Dash is mostly away this summer, on a string of sleep-overs and summer-camp visits; Hunter is in Baltimore but will be visiting to work at Squaw, and to get his ancient car running and out of here, out from under the pear tree. Remember to set up a “starter” IRA account for him while he’s here.

In the smallest of the three bedrooms here, where in the mornings I’ve been writing, there’s a small soft-rubber disk on the shelf: it’s like the plug from the underside hole of a salt-shaker. I realize it’s what’s left of a piggy bank. There were two different piggy banks in this house that I can remember – one a garish kitschy ceramic Elvis-chimpanzee on a surfboard, the other a conventional pink pig. I of course haven’t seen them for years, haven’t thought of them, their broken bits are long since swept together, their treasure distributed in the world, but here still is the plug.

* * * *

Return to Nevada City for house shut-down and a bit of alone time. Repair the mowing deck myself, lying out in the meadow on my back under those scary blades. Satisfaction in acquiring skills outside my repertoire.

* * * *

Apparently now at last here’s cognitive decline. At Squaw Annex, the swamp cooler feed-tube under the deck is spraying a feather of water from a pinhole. But that tube shouldn’t even be getting any water pressure because I routinely shut it down in November. Now it’s June, the grass is tall and tender, and the water pressure has somehow obviously been on for some while. A hard freeze in the winter might, it have been catastrophic. It’s just an insoluble mystery. The years do blend together, so the old monk has no specific memory of turning off that water; but still, it’s an infallible axiom that he would never skip anything so important in the autumn shut-down. So it’s just a mystery.


* * * *

June 7, 2015

To Squaw delivering office-equipment crap and installing the family there.

Now the Indian Flat house, over the last week, has had a real “haircut” and looks younger. On the advice of the Nevada County Fire Safe Council. It’s been weeks of afternoons’ work.

It has “curb appeal” as we drive away. Which I dislike.


* * * *

June 6, 2015

Saturday. Slept in, with no intention of working. Mowed all of south and east meadows. Chopped out little stumps, consolidated firewood. Mateo today, clearing weeds around entire henhouse-pumphouse area. For the first time in a decade, all that field of thriving wild sweet pea is leveled. (I prefer “sweetpea” but my SpellCheck won’t allow it. It seems to be correct. So be it. “Wild” and “sweet” are two important experiences in life, separable adjectives, where the noun sweetpea is its own particular experience.)

At this point in the season, mowing meadows is epic they’re so tall. A true wall of grass (Red Sea parting) stands beside me while I’m laying down swaths, destroying ecosystems where I pass. Inhabitants scatter before me. Weirdly exhausting to the driver, the man mowing. A half gallon of lemonade goes down. All the work today is probably not a good prelude to the dinner show tonight with Randy and Sands, where I’ll be instanced as an old tired guitarist, brokeback from sitting in the throes of the mower’s tossing saddle.

* * * *

The French as natural-born epigrammatists. Genevieve is at the show, and asks about my writing. I tell her, well, in her native country it actually means something to be a writer. As a way of oversimplifying the remark, ESL-style, I tell her, “It’s hard to be a writer in France!” (the point being, it’s so all-too-easy here in the New World – and the point being, too, that the French have reasons to actually revere/respect their writers). Genevieve’s riposte: “It’s hard to be anything in France.”

* * * *

Repaired mysterious clank in swamp cooler (simply by removing, then replacing, the side panels). Completely cleaned chicken premises. Brett does all planting of summer crops.


* * * *

June 4, 2015

Hired man Mateo does defensible-space clearing around house all day raking and pruning. I can only go so long, evading Brett’s insistence that I hire somebody for the manual labor.

Myself, I had a prodigiously efficient day, usually a matter of luck more than my own good care. Lots of work on “Things.” Half the garden’s main beds got turned over and fertilized with chicken manure. Leak-repairs to trailer.


* * * *

June 3, 2015

Breaking ground in section of new garden. A late start on, maybe, a few of the usual summer crops.

Music in the cottage.


* * * *

June 2, 2015

Dentist. Two dilapidated bicycles to bike shop for reconditioning. Afternoon in the fallow end of garden, where my enemies are blackberry, mint, wort, and flourishing roses.


* * * *

June 1, 2015

Morning dusk the birds are singing in the cedars, the dogwood, the mulberry, the tall box hedges. Galvanized pail clank. Barley fodder dripping but silently, irrigation in hedge hissing. In all the days after somebody dies, the birds go on with their morning songs, everything carries on as usual, and Gill is one more example. Me too. After I die, there will come a morning when the birds are singing in my absence. I won’t be there to see what my own total forgottenness is like. You’ll be there for it.

* * * *

My own car to mechanic for oil-and-filter.

Molly the house sitter comes by for the proprietary tour. Hike up to the weir, walk along the ditch in shady sun, water flowing along beside is brass in the shade.

Set up an IRA for Hunter.

Jam with Randy at Sands’s.


* * * *

May 31, 2015

Sunday. I think today is the first in a long time when I haven’t put in some good time in physical labor. It a principle worth bearing in mind, how healthy it can be not to get exercise.

Music, rehearsing in mud room while Barbara dozes in the wing chair, cold Ovaltine at her side. More of guitar than Dobro.

Our summer house-sitters arrive to stow their chattel in the garage. “U-Haul” truck in driveway: the peace and quiet of this place is shattered by how colorful is the advertising on a U-Haul truck’s side panels.

The broccoli is coming in, in abundance, so tonight it’s stir-fry, and a slug from a bottle of sugary “Panda Express” stir-fry sauce that came our way. Meanwhile, my phone tells me the International Space Station is about to be visible flying overhead, in five minutes.

Remotest astronomical laws are cognizable to the human brain. The laws that governed stars’ first swirlings 14 billion years ago (or similarly, the laws that make “solid matter” a tangible substance, at my alien fingertip) can be conceived by a neuronal mass at the top of a recently evolved brain stem that is ruled, also, by compulsions of sex-and-violence. Infallible universal rules have been written down by the same mind that forgets where the coffee cup was last set down.

We can’t even understand what we ourselves are saying, when we speak of “dark matter” or “quantum entanglement” or even the “gravity” we think we’re “experiencing” when our soles press the ground. There is absolutely no warrant for this coincidence that objective reality keeps answering our conceptions. One needn’t conclude there are religious implications, only that it’s wonderful, which is religion enough.



* * * *

May 30, 2015

At this house today arrives really glamorous “Washer-Dryer Combination.” I’ve resisted this manfully and lost. The old heavy-gauge-steel washer and dryer went out the door on a hand truck, trailing lint – and I know that the metals get “recycled,” and I know that the new models are supposed to be “green” in the sense that they use less water and power – but still I can’t help but think those are only minor mitigations in the total carbon-footprint environmental damage you do when you manufacture something freshly. Making the old jalopies last a few extra years seems smaller-carbon-footprint.

Work out at club.

Evening dinner-show, where a friend of Dashiell’s has the mic, singer-songwriter.


* * * *

May 25, 2015

Begin again on review of “Things” with its new (more unmistakable and concise) theme signposts.

Memorial Day holiday.

Spent much of the afternoon with irrigation mending old hoses, investigating inefficiencies. (In bad fire-season to come, repairs I have ignored for years take on a little urgency.)

Salmon with miso and ginger is not much of a success.

* * * *

A basic pleasure. After 25 years of marriage (it occurs to me) I have a happy wife.

She’s in the living room, having set up her printer to reproduce a wide-format photo of hers (sleeping dog on kitchen rug, as reflected in the chromy bulge of a Dobro’s nickel plating). Her cat is sleeping on the arm of the couch, dog is at her feet, her writers conference isn’t headed for disaster financial or logistical, her husband is poking at the salmon as it roasts, her second son somewhere in the house. It’s something of an achievement, having a contented woman. I guess it has to happen by accident, but it’s a happy accident.


* * * *

May 24, 2015

Wake up and go over Wendy’s edits, which are great.

Refrain, yet, from going back into any serious work on fiction.

Then: yet more brush clearing. A crazy amount of time is required just in keeping a country place habitable and safe. There are things I’ve been putting off for years. Plus, I’ll be gone all summer.


* * * *

May 23, 2015

A little light rain this morning. Done by dawn.

The Threepenny Review will buy my thousand-word complaint about consumerism.

Uniformed Calfire cop visits again, with clipboard, to police our wildfire preparedness, and I think she’s pleased.

Movie tonight with Brett in town, about the photographer Salgado.


* * * *

Misc. reflection as I’ve survived long enough to have some some regrets: Those who have found a way to forgive me my mistakes may have done so easily and lightly or may have worked their way around to it, but none will have had such work as I will have in self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness is the real row to hoe.



* * * *

May 22, 2015

Grey skies are bulging. Rain is promised, then withheld.

Will devote myself to all inevitable springtime chores, waiting for the courage or impatience, whatever-it-is, to come back.

* * * *

For days now I’ve been clearing brush in a particular area that happens to include a high-traffic beehive. They and I are coexisting well. Where I’ve been parking the truck for slash transport, their hive is beside the front tire – and the crowd at its doorway is always like a Bloomingdale’s entrance. During these days of work, I’ve loomed in their sight (in the sight of their convex, goggly, ultraviolet-sensitive, compound eyes; and in the shared, collective evaluation of their entire swarm’s ethical consciousness), where I’ve existed as a pixilated ghostly shape – I’m not a flower, nor am I a tree; I’m more like a deer, or swaying hawthorn, or a coyote. Lacking pollen, lacking nectar, I’m as useless as a cloud, and as negligible.

* * * *

Reading Flaubert again. His mastery of the perfect nailing detail, to display how pathetic and vulgar/ignorant are the shitty little people he created. I’m finding all Flaubert’s authorial contempt instantly distasteful, as if somebody around me started making racist remarks. (For some reason now, it’s become more protrusive in the sight of the attentive reader and more damaging to the narration.)


* * * *

May 21, 2015

Chamber Choir performs “Red Pickup” lyrics.

Beer afterward, mutually congratulatory, with composer Mark.


* * * *

May 17, 2015

Sunday. Brett and I will drive up to Squaw to meet with Tamara to agree, by pointing literally at a spot on the ground, where her property shall end, and ours begin.

Dash will be in San Francisco all day at a “Maker’s Faire,” presumably watching bots solve Rubik’s Cubes, and welded-together fire-breathing junk heaps do battle. Midmorning, I’m in kitchen taking a break, scraping very old, hard brie onto bread while the kitchen radio (perpetual NPR) broadcasts an interview with a woman who has written an autobiography: her memory had always failed her, then at last an MRI scan revealed she’d always had a hole in her brain, an empty void the size of a lemon. When she’s in the supermarket, she can never remember where the peanut butter is shelved. My coffee is replenished, and it’s time for me to go back behind my closed door, to my morning’s work with these grammatical sentences’ technology, setting subjects before verbs, squeezing in clauses, deleting others. Suddenly, across the kitchen, with a soft ding, an electronic female voice says cheerfully, equably, “I can’t help you with that.”

It’s my cell phone. It was the voice of Siri – who seems to have been left on, listening, and she was responding, apparently, to some remark on the radio. I put her back to sleep before going to work.

* * * *

Squaw. We agree that the McKinney property meets ours at a particular clump of cattails by the roadside. Those cattails are the border marker. For a better monument, I hammer a stick of iron rebar there, using a rock.

Nice, late lunch at PlumpJack – split a cheeseburger, plus zinfandel – after a short walk under overcast sky up to the first waterfall.


* * * *

May 15, 2015

Sands’s concert at Nevada Theatre. Working with good musicians is a great ride.

* * * *


  • A man in a city goes into a building for some assignation — he’s having an affair or something. Three hours later he emerges, heads for his parked car, and on approach realizes his car keys aren’t in his pocket. Then, as panic is just rising, he realizes his car’s engine is running. He left it like that, keys in ignition, unlocked, and all the while on a city street, it was untouched.
  • A minor but “gatekeeper” figure in a story is working a paperback puzzle book, distracting himself. It’s called Amazing Mazes. His pencil travels carefully.
  • A “mistress” or a “kept woman” is going to have many advantages, and among them is the fact that she’s not going to respect the man she’s got. She’s not even going to want him.


* * * *

May 14, 2015

Work on Assistant, limiting discursiveness — always a risk with ultra-close 3rd-person.

Defensible-space cutting around house and below the cottage in the woods.

“Visiting Composers” concert at Besemer House.

* * * *

News that Gill has died. (Of a stroke or heart attack at home watching the ball game, sitting in his armchair.)


* * * *

May 13, 2015

Wake early on San Francisco couch. Coffee at Peets.

Then drive to Mill Valley for proper roll-and-coffee on the square. Sleepy bourgeois suburb now. My own photo has fallen off the wall in the bookstore, as have all the other luminaries’ photos. By the shady creek behind Mill Valley Market: a big snowy egret is roosting on a post, takes off towards Mt. Tam.

Nice party for Counterpoint authors. Editors at the party: I used to think (in the days when I couldn’t get published) that editors were powerful people. Now I know they’re the most vulnerable, the most risk-taking. Who here is “the snowball in hell”?

Nice long drive home, burning local-manufacture vegetable oil, rate of consumption seems to be 30mpg. I stop in Colfax to pick up train schedule, for my next trip into town. (News: during the entire month of March, world ppm of CO2 was 400. This is a milestone. Also, other news, rate of ocean acidification is 5% increase per decade.)


* * * *

May 12, 2015

To SF, for Bar Agricola for Counterpoint Press.

* * * *

Billy on his deathbed yesterday, speaking of a wildfire presently burning on ranch property of his, in Mooney Flat.



* * * *

May 10, 2015

Mothers Day will go uncelebrated here. Too busy with drama of Squaw acceptance/rejection. One day a year, this has to happen.

Last night, lots of restlessness in the cottage. In the night Barbara had risen up and collected all her necklaces, hidden them under her pillow, then set out to walk to Squaw Valley.

Tonight, more music with Sands and the Luke/Maggie ensemble, at Sands’s house, then dinner.

* * * *

Happy to have gone back to rereading Flaubert. Somebody who writes as if something matters.

But this second time around, I see I’ve grown a new moral sense, a sense of how the world works, and something I hadn’t seen in Flaubert bothers me: that he has perfected the “Amusement at the Foibles of the Stupid” enjoyment. It’s a kind of readerly pleasure, I guess, that can be licensed especially since the Stupid aren’t here to sense my superiority. But it’s not a kind of writing I could do anymore. I have to keep the mark higher, and in the end, I hate to say it of Flaubert but it’s a cheap trick and he largely depends on it, and I think maybe his reputation is way too inflated. His style, even, yes, Flaubert’s style, is undistinguished and marred by, no kidding, inattention. Only another super-scrupulous author (me) could detect this.



* * * *

May 9, 2015

We’ve all the pages of applicants’ names fanned out on the big table covering it like shingles.

To Amy and Luke’s, with Gordon on banjo. This time pedal-steel.

* * * *

May 8, 2015

More clearing “defensible space.”

* * * *

May 7, 2015

At last, two years’ firewood supply (softwood anyway) is collected in a solid stack, size of a VW bus, below the cottage, a loaf there.

Morning: eliminated one discursive section from “Assistant.” (The Geyser Motel passage.)

* * * *

May 6, 2015

Pickup is parked in the grass below the cottage where all the cedar stovewood is collecting in a big three-cord stack, heat for the winter of 2017. Certain split logs’ woodgrain, in the sun, is impossibly silk-faceted where the cleavage was flat and pure.

Spent first half of day on “Assistant.”

Missed the rehearsal up the hill at Sol Rayo studio.

Dinner of pesto. Mushroom/spinach/onion sauté. Feta cheese.

Dinner is delayed for thirty minutes while Brett makes an emergency trip to the “wildlife rescue lady” on Willow Valley Road, carrying a fledgling red-capped finch in a Kleen-Ex box. The housecats had mauled the bird but he was still breathing.

The report on the radio, meanwhile, is about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. In one ear I was hearing of the lop-tail squirrel recuperating, and the orphaned baby robins, and the woman in charge of them all, on Willow Valley Road, who, in her garage establishment, holds wriggling mealworms out over baby robins with tweezers, the woman’s “patient” husband who was cooking dinner all the while, the way the baby birds open wide their big mouth-hole origami and demand to be the first fed; and in the other ear I was hearing the detailed reports of IDF soldiers who’d been told to open fire with automatic weaponry and armor-piercing tank missiles on all Palestinian civilians, no matter the age or gender, in any neighborhood. (Especially anybody standing indoors near a window. Especially fire on them. Because if they were innocent they wouldn’t be standing near a window.)



* * * *

May 5, 2015

Up very early again, working again on “Assistant” (the extremely discursive version with authorial intrusions).

Been back to regular meditation, too, for some while.

A very happy productive day. Limbed a lot of trees around house as per instructions of Cal Fire inspectors, then at nightfall played dobro while, in the ticking oven beside me, a cheap pork roast, in crust of fennel seeds, cooked real slow.



* * * *

May 3, 2015


Finish with quick assessment of Immanence.

Revisions to Squaw schedule.

Another load firewood, from meadow to house.

With loppers and commercial poison and pruning saw, removing hawthorn and sweet pea and blackberry all over the property.



* * * *

May 2, 2015

Move firewood up from lower meadow, with Dashiell’s help.

Nice two-hour performance with Randy and Sands in the evening. Well attended.



* * * *

April 30, 2015


Visit from Cal Fire: Lots of defensible-space requirements.

At last, the final coat of white paint on the garage door’s bear-damaged frame.

A trip in the pickup, all over hell and gone (Dog Bar Road), to buy a “lift” armchair for Billy. It rises and then dumps forward – as Billy can walk but has been unable to get up out of a chair.



* * * *

April 29, 2015

(Even before dawn the trill of grosbeaks. They seem to be answering each other from separate trees – the mulberry by the gate and the hawthorn by the potting shed.)


Again, Sands for music.



* * * *

April 28, 2015

To take a break from the newly scored “Things” I’m going back to Immanence. Peculiar narrative.

Sands here for music in the afternoon.

Doctor appointment.


* * * *

April 27, 2015

Working on “Things,” its “angelic mischief” areas, and also adding a strictly explanatory passage about the quid-pro-quo of apocatastasis. Which seems necessary. A bore, as fiction, but necessary.

Squaw deskwork. Then more Squaw deskwork. Then the result of my work goes to the post office branch in the grocery store. So a day is spent in busywork. Drink a small, sour, dark beer at brewery, reading Junot Diaz.


* * * *

April 26, 2015

Breakfast at Tofanelli’s with the author of the novel the local play was based on.

Then, stranded in Grass Valley with an hour to kill, I get capp and read Junot Diaz.

Nice long, wide-ranging sidewalk conversation with Cavendish. (“What does the Deadhead say when he comes down off acid?”)

Walking across Grass Valley Main Street at a red light, I notice the hood of the Toyota I’m passing. On a decal above the grill is inscribed Euler’s Equation:

e + 1 = 0

The driver’s window is open, and I blurt out, “That’s Euler’s Theorem!” getting it wrong, and I correct myself, “That’s Euler’s Equation.” He fairly shouts with joy, “It is! Yes! It’s Euler’s Equation!” He’s got a carful of people, with him. I tell him, “It rules the Universe!”

He says, “It does, it does. I can’t believe it. You’ve made my day,” as light changes to green and he has to move.

Get most of the big meadow mowed.

Then afternoon, house concert, Paul Kamm and Eleanor MacDonald’s electrifying vocal harmonies.

Dinner after: Jennie Michaels, Paul Emery, Cavendish: they represent a good quorum of the town’s angels.



* * * *

April 25, 2015

We went and visited Billy down the road, bodhisattva of Indian Flat, he is in a bad way. Tumors are everywhere, and he isn’t getting out of his armchair anymore. Hinduism and lots of marijuana, that’s what he’s got. Without Billy around, a lot of us will feel more vulnerable to the myriad snafus of life.

Back home, big pot of gumbo, and Josh and Jen came over, with new baby Cody.



* * * *

April 24, 2015

Steve Susoyev to arrive for discussion of “Things.” Will spend the night in the cottage.



* * * *

April 22, 2015

Happiness of being alone in San Francisco. Cappuccino and pastry at Roma. Bump into Ola on the Macondray steps. Work in the morning. Lunch with Jason in Sausalito.

Stay on after lunch, then. Alone in Sausalito – on little warm sunny Caledonia – for 4:00 showing of a documentary at the Marin. I’m the only person in the black-box screening.

(“The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much.” Wm. Hazlitt.)

* * * *

The quiet end of Sausalito. I’ve always loved how the streets slope down to reach their end at saltwater-level. Pine Street, Turney Street. An unguarded stony margin there, the stillness of Richardson Bay.

Crossing the GG Bridge for the zillionth time in my life:

“”Nirvana” and “samsara” are the same state” – it does get at the heart of something.



* * * *

April 21, 2015

To San Francisco for Nan’s memorial at the DeYoung. Saw everybody. Dave Perlman.


* * * *

April 20, 2015

Darkness falls and we reach the allowable time of day for wine, Grocery Outlet cabernet. Garlic and shallots in pan. Big pot of water for noodles isn’t boiling yet.

The immanence of “sin” in the world, quite indispensable: I’m looking out at the meadow in a last, dim, declining hour when all creatures are getting shelter – (except, maybe, for the opportunists of night, who have their own kind of happiness) – while on the kitchen radio is report after report about the deaths of human multitudes this week. Refugees everywhere try, by land and by sea, to make the trip from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern, all around the rim of the world dying in the effort, drowning off the shores of Europe as they get out of Africa, thirsting in the Arizona desert. Of the 800 today who drowned in the Mediterranean, most were locked into the lower decks of the little ship.

The geopolitical web is impossible to untangle – and in my own case existentially, the mixture of happenstance and skill/cunning that landed me where I am – it is all too imponderable – but I’ve got a feeling that the bad luck of North Africans and Nicaraguans has some (if remote) cause-effect relationship with my comfort in this quiet place. More specifically, I get the feeling that one point-of-contact between me and those refugees is the portfolio of stocks in my little SEP-IRA, which is balanced, balanced according to a low-risk algorithm among growth stocks and value stocks, bonds and cash, domestic markets, foreign markets, emerging markets, multinationals. All for a one-percent fee. Meanwhile I look out over the deepening peaceful meadows.



* * * *

April 19, 2015

Nevada Irrigation District opens my weir this week.

Springtime Sunday.

Clean-up of winter-cluttered garage. The removal of all storm windows, upstairs and down, the unshrouding of swamp cooler, the reawakening of both evap-cooler systems – all this is catastrophic to peaceful colonies of wasps, who’d just been getting a start.

Caulk bear-damaged garage door.



* * * *

April 18, 2015

Saturday. To Sacramento for board meeting.


* * * *

April 15, 2015

Still lots of Squaw work and none of my own.

Reframing and priming garage door that was torn up by bear.

(I’d procrastinated in this, reasonably. Before restoring it, I wanted to wait to see if he’d be back soon to wreak the same damage all over again.)

First mowing of especially tall patches of meadows – not yet entirety.

Lamb stew (coriander-cinnamon-paprika, Luke-and-Maggie’s preserved figs).

The peculiarity of cooking from live gardens is that recipes are unrepeatable and accidental. This stew will never be reprised.



* * * *

April 13, 2015

Fall/winter plantings worked well. Already we’re living on onions and lettuce. Reinstate routine of barley-fodder. Pullets are grown-up and laying.

Inevitable flood of Squaw work. All this week, my time is not my own. Brett picking over balance sheets with a highlighter pen.



* * * *

April 9, 2015

Back home. The usual grief (over not living in San Francisco) burns off like morning dew.

So in my home place I’m settling in again with the more chronic griefs.

Pear crop seems to have been slightly damaged by frost – (just about exactly decimated (i.e., one-tenth-reduced) seems would be the word). But the exception is the new Bartletts, which are coming on strong.

Good little rain, for two days.

Finished with “Varney’s” editorial.



* * * *

April 6, 2015

Drive out to West Marin, Brit food at the Pelican Inn, then Muir Woods. Bump into Yoel Kahn.



* * * *

April 4, 2015

To George Khouri’s house in Fairfax, to see oud. I don’t make an offer. I’ll never play the oud.

To Chris’s, deeper in Fairfax, to record dobro part for “Rodeo Girl.” Dash comes along and, meanwhile, spends four hours in Fairfax alone as boulevardier, with novel to read and pocketful of coffee money.



* * * *

April 3, 2015

Morning trip along Polk Street for hardware and charcuterie.

Lunch with LitQuake people.

Dinner, just the three of us, at Aux Delices on Polk. Then an oddball indie movie with Dash at home on DVD.



* * * *

April 2, 2015

Family time. Going down the steep slope of Union Street before light. Caffe Trieste.

Later: the drab, dreamy, sunny neighborhoods of the Richmond District, looking for a card shop in which Dash can make a purchase, just any purchase. Failure.

Baker Beach, with dog.

The DeYoung Museum: Scottish show including Vermeer’s big picture of Christ adjudicating btw Martha and Mary, Botticelli’s lovely baby Jesus at Virgin’s knee, a sweet Corot of a shady road into the forest.



* * * *

March 31, 2015

Miscellaneous writing and deskwork.

Establish real system for chicken-manure composting, which up till now I’ve been treating in a half-assed way.

Two bales straw at Ridge Feed.

Chicken sausages and kale and polenta.

(While I shoveled chicken manure today, I happened to be listening on my iPhone ear buds to a BBC podcast, part of a series about “the elements.” This one focused on phosphorus. The world supply is being quick-depleted; in a decade the price has quintupled. And I felt very clever to be shoveling chicken shit on my own acres.)

* * * *

Brett’s little plant-nursery – actually extensive nursery – in this frosty season moves in and out of the mudroom daily, nightly.

Tomatoes, squash, cucumber, lots of varieties of beans, all little pale curls in separate dollops of soil.

Poetry keeps arriving here from all over the country, this is the season, and Brett sorts it, tags it, moves it on.

Spring break from school, Dashiell is home, always in pajamas, preferring darkened rooms with shades drawn, face aglow in light of his Kindle or his iPad.

Pullets still aren’t laying.

Brett rises to stand up over her drip-irrigation work, fists on hips, calling across the meadow to me: “Is it just a world full of unhappy people trying to work with Chinese-made crap?”


* * * *



March 30, 2015

Done with my little screed about consumerism, happy with it.

A doctor’s appointment for Dash, to have his smooshed toe checked on.

The same day, my own doctor’s apptmnt: chronic throat pain.

On the radio, an anthropologist is talking about how “play” consists in a wonderful tolerance of uncertainty/ambiguity that, other times, would be intolerable. Well, so even Cancer could be a kind of game.

On the novel All Things I’ve been amping up “the Lord’s work,” i.e., the Lord’s mischief.

Great peaceful afternoon. Dash writing piano-cello piece on mudroom piano. Both cats doze on shed roof. On our quiet road, a guy drives by with his window open, alone in the car shouting, “Help me, you fucks!” Keeps on going, around the bend, headed north.



* * * *


March 29, 2015

Start broccoli and Brussels sprouts, raised beds.

Soil prepared under hogwire arch.

All St. John’s wort attacked with Ortho product 8% triclopyr.

Sands’s good set at the winery with Randy, followed by Sol and Elena Rayo, their tight collaboration.

Then Sands for dinner, pesto in Barbara’s cottage.



* * * *


March 28, 2015

More of these unrealistic sunny days.

Soil prep in garden.

More playing with “editorial” (about consumerism and environment).

My heavy-duty rat trap, in the trailer, seems to have caught a wood rat several days ago, big fellow, but by the tail somehow. So he dragged the trap after himself and plunged behind the defunct fridge, the trap itself snagging above, so eventually he got hanged for a few days by his tail, dying. I open the outer-wall access door to find him today, still hanging, now ripe, so I use garden loppers to disconnect him from his tail and let him drop.

The pears, meanwhile, have germinated well in these weirdly ideal fruit-growing conditions, and we may have an abundance in the fall, every blossom-stem now swelling with an incipient pear – no, an actual pear, already big-as-a-pea standing up erect.

Dinner of pork with sauce (a dozen of our own 2014 plums), Pabby’s garlic, Jackie’s kale.

End of day, where’s Brett? I find her in the darkened living room dozing solidly at ten pm, her round face lit by iPad screen, deep asleep over the podcast of a BBC radio show, about end-of-life “palliative” care for the elderly and the hard choices there, which plays on and on as she sleeps.


* * * *




March 27, 2015

Nights of alert, elated wakefulness.Lamp in trailer.  The excitement of being the only spark of consciousness in all these North American woods in the dark. Coffee and meditation.

How “the hard problem” (of neuroscience) is just a fizz.

The insomniac radio shows from Europe.

Novel is at its standstill, so I play around with an editorial that equates stinginess with environmental probity. (Where to publish?) The clanging silence all night alone.



* * * *

March 21, 201

Dashiell’s having badly banged his toe – (under a heavy recycling bin in the garage) – has set the tone around here for recent days. Doctor visits, X-rays, administration of painkillers and invalid lunches. He’s lurching around here in pain and discomfort.

Brett to Sacramento, for accountant visit.

Sands in the cottage with her mother, I cutting deadfall oak by the potting shed: the old shrewd convenience of using a pickup’s tailgate as a sawbuck.



* * * *

March 18, 2015

Today begins another slog through “Things.” Unmarketable book that it is, I love it and insist on it. A few ideas for making the supernal plot into a more gettable joke for the reader. But in all honesty I don’t want to do much more to it. I think it’s what I want it to be.



* * * *

March 17, 2015

Another day of cooling my heels, i.e., staying away from work.

Sent off critique to Kim, sketched a sentence or two for Elizabeth blurb, drove Dash to school and then sat on Hospital Hilltop contemplating Things, thinking I like it as it is. How essential it is to be unprofessional, as an author.

The trout got smoked, and leeks-and-parsnips roasted. While everything cooked, from a fat dowel of maple I found, I honed two wooden cork shapes (a little bit of a taper), to bung the holes in the floor behind the stove.

Garden: soil amendment. But we lack organic fertilizer, and I haven’t composted the chicken manure correctly.




* * * *

March 15, 2015

Saw to SPD saw shop.



* * * *

March 14, 2015

Overcast Saturday. Another day of no writing, I’ve been living instead like a country gentleman: cutting out cedar stumps in the morning, reading Elizabeth’s really good galleys in the noontime sun lawn chair, cutting oak cordwood, bringing up all the old websites about McTaggart’s Unreality-of-Time essay and the relativistic “block” theories. I keep going back, keep drinking the same water.

Pulled gorse in clearing.

Wore the chainsaw out on the big oak taken down last spring by PG&E in the woods. (All the while, close beside me, the old mare in the glade went on grazing unperturbed by chainsaw. Could she be deaf?)

Today Brett will get her mind off the chronic woes of Squaw Valley logistics by working outside. Plantings in enclosed garden, with the iPod playing “On the Media” episodes. Me, I feel great because the loan-refinance on the Macondray Lane house will close – (notary public to arrive here on Monday with papers) – and I feel I’ve accomplished something prudent and difficult and — not least — cunning. (We really can’t afford that house.)

Dash and the whole rock band have gone to friend’s house. Keeping their boys out of downtown is a mildly diverting activity for parents, only faintly strategic. All the ragamuffins from the Ridge, whose parents are home stoned, are out on the town stoned, on the sidewalks before Mekka and Pete’s Pizza. Nevada City will never outlive its reputation for allowing open alcohol containers, countenancing R-rated bacchanalia in the streets. Dash’s sophomore drummer friend, Mike, has the good luck to live with his family in an old Victorian directly on the main street, within walking distance of everything. The only circumstance requiring patience, sometimes, is that Mike’s house is where kids go when they need to lie down.

(For this reason, those parents are planning a sale of the house and a move to the country.)



* * * *



March 12, 2015

Up before light, watering the hens, Saturn and the half-moon are side by side, a smile and a dimple. Those two are the only visible objects in the whole expanse, when dawn does get a start.

Squaw Valley work tends to predominate. Get the stove going in the front of the house, for a change. My own work is stalled and amounts to moping. I can’t seem to reconcile the two stories of “Things,” the comedy of metaphysical sections with empathy for its earth narrative. Lots of sitting outside the trailer.

Long hike through the old Erikson Lumber property. There’s a groomed trail now, but when there were no trails it used to be much more dramatic and intimate, sweaty, itchy, bamboozling, you had to respect it, great-smelling, a home to animals.



* * * *

March 11, 2015

Car freed from mechanic. Silent aerosol rain goes on all day and everything shines.

Taxes to the accountant, an errand for such a cloudy damp day.



* * * *

March 10, 2015


Hunter’s car rehabilitated at Plaza Tire and Auto.

Little rain is coming in. The day got greyer and quieter, and vaguer, till the only thing that was specific was two crows, cawing, flying over my head where I read in a chair in the meadow.



* * * *

March 7, 2015

A day of lostness following editor’s dismissal of “All Things.”

Hardware store (for floorboard fasteners, etc).

California parking lots: they’re still my fascination. The California shopping-center. What a salvation is the common human sodality among benign strangers, just to have rights of citizenship, rights of anonymity, rights of pedestrian in a mall (the Safeway supermarket, the laundromat, the storefront Cheaper Cigarettes, the pretty girl sitting on a curb in her ugly “Safeway” cap-and-smock outfit with her cigarette and her iPhone bowed over texting, all the loiterers and discontents and hopefuls) – my own beatific condition is that I’m nobody here, invisible here, so in the depths of the social contract I’m beloved, innocent-till-proven-guilty.

Evening down the road, a small hootenanny at Luke and Amy’s. We should do this more often.

The general thwarted sensation all day. The feeling that every activity – making purchases in town, watching television with others, getting a dobro part right – is something I’m “doing instead of having a life.” I’ve never had this feeling before. The feeling I’m onstage trying my best to be a background extra. And I wonder if many people live chronically with that? Always burying their faces in a fresh distraction because “their actual lives” hadn’t worked out. Seems like plenty of people are like that. Like a state of bereavement, lifelong.

Late in the day: belated news that Rob had gone into, and come out of, hospitalization for influenza/pneumonia.



* * * *

March 6, 2015

More of pruning.



* * * *

March 5 2015

Pruning pear trees. I’m getting to it late in the season, so working in a blizzard of falling petals.

Finished with a draft of “Immanence.”


* * * *

March 3, 2015

Rob’s birthday. I always look forward to the long long-distance call. Put my feet up, as at no other time of the year. But he’s not answering.

More sifting of “Immanence” in the morning.

Both Elizabeth and Michelle are publishing short story collections. Which goes to show, all is not lost.

Lunch at New Moon with Mark Vance to finalize lyrics for choral song.

Romain is here for after-school music in the mud room.

Dinner meatloaf but Frenchified and rude, incl. pistachios. And a modern miracle befalls: I am able to text Michael in Berkeley and get immediate response: the Rosh Hashanah brisket was ketchup-mustard-seasoned, and let the mustard be the cheap Toyota-yellow kind, not the fancy.


* * * *

March 1, 2015

Sunday. Damp sunshine. Brett to return today from Monterey.

I’m keeping and even intensifying the “Fatuous Self-Regard” passages from “Immanence,” for I’m worrying that the old Unreliable Narrator trick is getting to be ineffectual in a world of increasingly lowbrow readers. It’s possible many readers in today’s enlarged market simply don’t want to read about somebody who strikes them as peculiar (weird, icky, head-up-ass). People want to read about somebody they “like.”



* * * *

February 27, 2015

Berkeley last night (for Brahms, Heggie, Ravel). At Noodle House on Telegraph, I’m all by myself for a bowl of pho, table for one by the wall, reading paperback: just me and my chopsticks and the napkin dispenser.

Afterwards, capp at Café Med.

Brett leaves today for weekend in Monterey, to plan Squaw with Lisa ostensibly but also to have fun, sack the thrift stores.

Here tonight: music with Luke & Co.

Little rain coming in.

* * * *

Every once in a while I say the right thing. A friend of mine had his novel selling in towering stacks in big-box stores and airports, and he was ashamed. I told him, “Ah, we’re all straws in the wind.” Turns out that was exactly right.

* * * *

February 24, 2015

Morning. Sunny day. Meadow steams. I wake late. A kind of shine knits together in my core, while I sit at kitchen table looking out window.

Sci fi movies have created the archetype of the extraterrestrial beings who arrive from a civilization that is infinitely superior to ours, as well as benevolent. When they arrive they’ll be gifted with powers like telepathy or instantaneous travel or telekinesis that, however, will be deployed for benign purposes only; creatures perhaps tall, radiant, awkward, moving like giraffes on the savannahs; their voices mellow and resonant and intimate.

I’m thinking of this at the kitchen table after a sleepless night, now eating my gory egg-and-toast at the kitchen table, while watching the two women and three dogs, far out in the distances of the meadow, where they’re making sure the dogs get a good romp, while themselves, they gossip and commune (before they are to set out on their own separate days’ hard work, boring to the dogs, who just sleep under their desks). And I have to think, We are those incalculable beings at least mostly, on this planet, exercising our telepathy and superpowers. Three dogs’ tails are visible, where the meadow’s slight knoll makes a horizon, tails whipping around.

* * * *

Mantra for the lucky, to put themselves to sleep at night (from the Bible, Job): “My root is spread out to the waters, and the dew lies all night on my branch”

* * * *

February 23, 2015

Deepest, last twilight outside the kitchen: the garage is the last pale iceberg.

Pour glass wine, stand at kitchen door. One of the cats is still out, and really ought to be brought in, he’s in ecstasy, tossing a rodent over and over in the dark, something so big it makes an audible plump sound when it lands.

He’s at risk of coyote/bobcat predation at this hour, and I go out for him, but I’m sock-footed and can’t follow far. Come back inside, toss shrimp in lime and chili. On the radio I’ve got a podcast “Poetry: Off the Shelf”: the featured poet, being interviewed, has written a lot about the miseries and injustices of motherhood. She is saying her profound realization, thinking of her new relationship with her infant, was this: What’s good for the child might not be good for the mother!

Outside, the house cat in his savagery is so delirious, he’s an easy victim for the bobcat who has been raiding, so I go back out, shod, and he lets me murmuring approach him, and lets me separate him from his victim, and rises docilely into my arms, dazed, and possibly even relieved to be freed from his fever, already forgetting it as I carry him inside.



* * * *

February 19, 2015

In the night sky, Jupiter remains a big distraction. But already Antares, shoulder of the scorpion, promises next summer’s sky.

I think I observe this every year at this time. But forgetfulness/repetition doesn’t diminish the satisfaction, maybe precisely it increases the satisfaction.



* * * *

February 15, 2015

The carpet in Barbara’s cottage living-room:

It’s divided into squarish vignettes, each about eight-by-ten inches (a lamb, a bouquet, a milkmaid, etc.). Today she has been happier than usual, better-oriented than usual, and at “cocktail hour” I came in to find her sitting in the couch, leaning over her knees, scratching at the carpet design saying she had been trying for days to pick up that magazine fallen there.

Last week it was a small band of hens. They’d left the flock and invaded Barbara’s home thru the open door, mid-afternoon. This went on unsupervised for some while, and while she ate her eternal breakfast Barbara watched, with the satisfaction of a hostess, the hens pecking hungrily in the carpet pattern.

* * * *


February 14, 2015

Big day of sun and peace. Me: I am with paintbrush in kitchen on canvas tarps, open paint can, bedroom-slippered and pajamaed. Light caramel-butternut color.

Got the house refinanced. Brett and I traveled into town to the bank yesterday, and while the notary, before us, accomplished her ceremony of redundancy, I watched (this was happening behind everybody’s back, visible through the picture-window’s vast, perfectly clean glass) a very slow parking-lot collision. A plumber’s toolbox pickup vs. a gold Lexus, all in total silence while inside the bank, we cleverly shored up our assets and I didn’t point it out to anybody.

Today is a new day, and this morning we’ve been like newlyweds in this house, wielding paintbrushes in our emptied-out kitchen. Brett is wearing the exact same spattered sweatpants as when we painted our indoors on a rainy night in Mill Valley in 1989 by harsh bare-bulb light.

Today, in the sun, in a country far from Mill Valley, the dog sleeps on the doormat. All the hens have been freed, and in the gardens and hedges they dig dustbaths for themselves and they pool down in. From the mud room, the shout “Shut the fuck up!” arises every ten seconds or so. This is the chorus to a song: Dashiell has his three-man “punk” band in there, and they’re making a recording, trying to get it right.



* * * *

February 11, 2015

Now there are a total of three different hired “sometime friends” for Barbara – Viki, Pabby, and Jackie – and I think of these women in terms of the “boundless states” in Buddhist doctrine (brahmaviharas): Loving Kindness, Compassion, Equanimity. They’re full of advice – (advice is a principle form of socializing, especially in rural places) – what kind of oil to use for butcher blocks, when to harvest winter squash, when to plant winter onions, how to befriend a skittish dog. My own brush with a proper brahmavihara: I remember astonishing – (or maybe alarming!) – a writer friend of mine at Squaw when I told her I wasn’t “ambitious” anymore, at least particularly for any book-biz success.

(Unfortunately, probably it wasn’t true, surely I was talking through my hat. But one can aspire, and at least rehearse it.)



* * * *

February 8, 2015

Sunday. Heavy rain for a third day.

Up early, finding documents for a fax to a loan processor.

At first light, I mix the oil and start work, oiling the entire exposed floor.

Done by early afternoon.

Dobro accompaniment for Sands at the winery, with Randy. (In the audience are Cavendish and Paul Emery, as if incognito, two of the town’s royalty, the people who make the town what it is.)

Dinner out with Dash and Brett, at Friar Tuck’s, where the clever guitarist covers pop standards, accompanying self with foot-pedal loop, winking to his appreciators.



* * * *


February 7, 2015

Brett has twice seen a small bobcat trying to get at the chickens. She “Roars Her Terrible Roar” whenever she catches it.

Since these things are guilty of killing her beloved pets, she so hates them, now she’s been going out with canned cat food, smearing it on the protective electrical wires, they turning the power back on.


* * * *

February 6, 2015

Pretty good rain coming. At six AM the strong pre-front winds lift and resettle everything on the property. Warm air! It’s disturbing: how the air is so hot in February, in the morning like a woman’s hairdryer blast.

Kitchen floor, during this rain, remains open and unfinished.

Reading Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams,” and it’s gladdening to come across something well done.



* * * *

February 1, 2015

My mother’s birthday, the first she’s not here to celebrate.


* * * *

January 31, 2015

Finished with a quick pass through “Immanence.” I find lots of ineptitudes.

I think I was so jazzed in the discovery of this “reminiscent” form of narration, the novelty and the wonderful effectiveness of it distracted me from certain actual effects I was creating.

* * * *

Red shoes. Who wears ’em? – Rock stars and the Pope.



* * * *

January 30, 2015

The bottommost and surest consolation lies in this: how little, at all, we ever understand.

We feel, most of the time, personally secure, and personally effective, because we have developed a few knacks we think of as “knowledge and understanding” (going for green and stopping for red; tying a shoelace; predicting a sunrise, etc.), while in fact, we stand on soil we don’t understand, and we breathe atmosphere we couldn’t analyze.

* * * *

How wise to be “diversified” —

For the last six months, our hens haven’t been laying much – we’ve been providing feed and scratch and fodder and getting not much benefit – yet all that while our joint IRA, in the stock market, was climbing and we’d been growing “rich.” Now, this month, the markets have been crashing and we’re poor again, but the hens are laying and we’re shamelessly affluent on a very local scale.



* * * *

January 29, 2015

The refrigerator, for a few days, is out on the grass shrouded by a blue tarp, belted with an old climbing rope of Tad’s.

In center of kitchen, the enormous range, half-on a dolly, is tilted like an ocean-liner run aground, the only furnishing in a room radiant with emptiness.

Repeatedly this week, the little fox has been caught upsetting the hens. Defeated by my wonderful fortifications, he shows up in the dusk to pace up and down outside the henhouse, looking for a way in, causing hysteria inside.



* * * *

January 26, 2015

Overly warm summery days go on. Writing is on the back burner, while I throw house into disarray, refinishing pine floor. Kind of happy, not writing. Lately thinking of Eric, after a few rehab adventures, last year, found floating naked in the Truckee, his bottle of 7-Eleven vodka not far off, his bike in the riverside willows. I understand how he went down that path. He got out of Harvard and started a thirty-year career of carpentry, by day working hard, in traditional skills and techniques, and by night drinking quietly. That is a certain kind of happiness and a certain kind of fulfillment of man. I see the temptation.

Buddhist scripture, quoted in the NY Times: “Above, below, everywhere set free, not considering ‘this I am.’” Tonight, here, the women are watching a BBC melodrama in the cottage. Then Barb will be put to bed, to waken tomorrow morning to espy the erasable whiteboard on her bedroom wall. Which used to display her each day’s Fresh Exciting Agenda, as inscribed by daughter Brett. But which for a year now has had the same stale message every day: “This is your cottage. You are at home. Brett and Louis live right next door in the big house. THIS IS YOUR HOME.”




* * * *

January 25, 2015

Didn’t write. Instead, a pleasant, inefficient day – merely moved the heavy stove and repaired the old floor damage, ran errands in town, played guitar at length.



* * * *


January 24, 2015

A hot day in January.

I’m disappointed with “Immanence” as it stands.

It’s in their Middles that narratives (prose or drama) stand or fall. Nifty Endings and cute Beginnings are easy. All too. The Small Literary Magazines of the world are stuffed with perishable stories in which a nifty ending is tacked onto a cute beginning. Solid Middles depend on characterization, and one’s understanding of “human nature” (this strange social institution we’ve got). Which is always up for debate/grabs.

Afternoon, a concert: an assembly of “young composers,” and Dash is objectively a stand-out.

It’s been a day devoted to the vagaries and demands of dependent people, particularly kids.


* * * *

January 23, 2015

“Immanence” in the morning.

Afternoon stripping the kitchen floor.

Tennis with Emily and Michael after dusk, and as the overhead lights come on, three sets, plus shared-around beer.



* * * *

January 22, 2015

Dry warm winter days go on.

Dash has taken to rising early and walking in the dark the mile to the bus. Just like his brother.

Refinishing kitchen floor. A black sticky tar can be pulled off the boards by, first, dribbling hot teakettle water upon it.

New eyeglasses for me, calisthenics at club, pick up Dash.


* * * *


January 19, 2015

Having worked in the morning, I begin about lunchtime without an instant’s forethought to tear up the venerable old linoleum of the kitchen floor. There was a flaw at one edge, which I enlarged to a tear, which then Brett enlarged further. And then we started ripping up long sheets, having to move furniture as we traveled. I think this hand-painted-pattern linoleum has been there since the thirties. Got Dash to join in, and soon we were hauling stove and refrigerator into the yard, disclosing the old boards. Tongue-and-groove fir, curly-grained. To be tung-oiled as soon as we get the old glue scraped up off a clean expanse.

In the meantime, the kitchen in Barbara’s cottage will do, to produce coffee, pancakes, etc.



* * * *

January 18, 2015

Breakfast here with all of Diana’s people, the entire crew again.

See their movie, screened for a good crowd in Odd Fellows’ Hall on Spring Street.

I walk home alone from town.

Firewood splitting.



* * * *

January 17, 2015

No work today.

Breakfast in town (Ancinases, Millers, Naifys, plus film crowd).

Split firewood the rest of the morning.

Brett buys more pullets.

All the movie people here for spaghetti, tables pushed together.



* * * *

January 16, 2015

Diana to arrive. Staying here, because her film is getting a screening in town.



* * * *

January 14, 2015

Home again from SF. The old jalopy is dependable.

On the drive all the way, thinking of that novel “Immanence.” It’s an open sore. Thinking about John Gegenuber’s fear of Mark Perdue.

Dashiell’s party went all right, according to all reports, but Dash says he didn’t like it.



* * * *

January 13, 2015

To Berkeley. Car holds up fine.

College Avenue scene. Reading old J.P. Marquand hardcover at a café table while the world swirls past.

Michael and Ayelet (and Abe! and Rosy! and Zeke these days!)

Futuristic irony: to hear my old pal Michael lean on doorframe, in the bedroom of a son who is taller than himself, and say, in a grim quiet tone, “What’s the homework situation.”

Then bookstore performance on College Ave. Then dinner with Wendy, sweet wobbly-table Italian place on College.

More with Michael like old times.



* * * *

January 12, 2015

No writing.

Winter quarters: I’ve set up the more permanent desk in mud room by stove.

Sent “Things” to Joy in Rhinebeck. Fwisshhh.

Axed a hen, in the cool of the pines.

Errands in town: bank, drug store, grocery.

In the sun on a bench, outside the entrance to a market, a luxurious fifteen minutes eating Thai noodles from a lidded clear-plastic casket.

Then the optometrist, for new eyeglasses. I’m happy to be told I show no sign of glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts.

Roast leg of lamb for Dash’s B-day.

* * * *

I have to admit I didn’t want to leave SF 20 yrs ago, but whatever fate led me up into the mountains was providential, risk of unwarranted theology in that word, because it brought me to the stars. I hadn’t known about the stars. Nowhere are they quite like this.

Coming up from the hens’ department tonight, while the lamb has plenty of time to cook, I saw again the wonderful two forms of combustion (nuclear fusion in the stars; sooty oxidation in the kitchen’s candlelight), the two different colors of radiation (colorless immortal silver above; gold in carbon here on earth).

In, say, 1978 I could have been (at three am) alone in a restaurant with a name like “The Copper Penny” eating their fried rice ($3.50). Or any restaurant whose only raison d’etre is that it’s open at all hours. Or I might have been on a Van Ness streetcorner waiting for the late (only-every-hour) bus. I can picture that now, seeing backwards in time. And I suppose in 1978, I pictured myself here.

For in fact I have invented that figure in 1978 sitting at an orange Formica restaurant table as a fictional character.

My motto “Everybody already always knows everything” applies. Applied then, applies now.


* * * *

January 11, 2015

Barbara’s birthday party. The Millers, the Ancinases, the Tuckers.


* * * *

January 9, 2015

Final chapter of “Things.” And the first draft of an email suggesting to Joy that she might try selling it again.

Then Joy happens to call, with a happy anecdote of a lunch conversation: I’ve got a fan left in the book business.

Fueled-up chainsaw and got a start on the clean-up of that big cedar removal project. Severing fat stumps near the forest floor. After which: I should attack the oaks in SW boundary, felled by PG&E.

Sushi with Mike Melas and Emily.



* * * *

January 8, 2015

Singing Guantanamera with Sands in the cottage.

(“Con los pobres del tierra, quiero echar mi suerte / Yo prefiero los arroyos de la sierra / mas que la mar.”)

I sometimes worry about Brett and her disappointment, posted here as she is, to be the manager of a house with a declining old mom and an inconsolable bachelor-like contemplative. But then I see she’s really happy, really effective (synonyms there) in old holey sweatpants here in the meadows, freshly dusted with lime powder from chicken fumigation, or in the garden grubby-handed as when she was six.

Squaw prospers: upon website launch, dozens of applications arrive immediately, and extra donations have come this year, from the likes of the Galway bequest.


* * * *


January 6, 2015

Comb once more, redundantly, over goat-invasion scene.

Apply for home loan.

Overly warm dry days persist.

* * * *


January 5, 2015

Moving from bank to bank, looking for a refinance loan.

The key to Hunter’s car gets duped. But they botch it.

The hardware store provides a square screw-drive bit.

Two egg rolls at SPD.

Case wine at Grocery Outlet.

Dash gets picked up from his music-composition class.



* * * *


January 4, 2015

By daylight I got a look at the damage from attempted break-in to chicken coop. Easy repair. Seems to have been a coyote, as a lot of digging was tried at the base of the fence. Also, a few hairs had been shed that were short and stiff and grayish, coarse bristles, not feline.

Took down Xmas tree. (Brett rolls individual ornaments in paper and plants each down firmly, one-by-one in a big hatbox.) (A tense unhappy time, putting away Xmas ornaments, odd time of recrimination and complaint and heartache.)

Enclosed one of the barley-fodder racks inside gopher-wire mesh, to foil the mice.

Sausage and potatoes for dinner. Watching TV comedies with Dash in the mud room.



* * * *

January 3, 2015

Fix bathroom pocket door. Exactly as Cavendish long ago instructed.

Jordan’s party.

Late night: the chickens’ enclosure was evidently besieged by some animal who was repelled by electric fencing. Found a wire stretched and shorting-out (snap…snap…snap…), the heavy insulator brackets broken.


* * * *

“For heaven ghostly is as nigh down as up, and up as down: behind as
before, before as behind, on one side as other. Insomuch, that whoso had
a true desire for to be at heaven, then that same time he were in heaven
ghostly. For the high and the next way thither is run by desires, and not
by paces of feet.”


* * * *


January 1, 2015

New Year’s morning. I’m up early checking the irrigation everywhere for pipes that may be prone to burst in the cold snap. All the lights are on in Barbara’s cottage (3AM), and she’s awake, lost in time and space. She’s not frightened or despairing, but just softly befuddled, sorting among objects on tabletops. Needed to be conducted back to bed. The world needs a steady man, sometimes in a place. Which you can’t do without paying attention.

Later in the day, Brett finds a few pink Post-It notes fallen to the floor, where, with Bic pen, a shaky scrawl had been practicing writing the word “HELP.”