January 3, 2016

Sunday morning.

To bookseller Eric’s house, his famous weekly Brunch. Eric is explaining the predicted (to arrive in 2020) union between consciousness (human) and artificial intelligence (robots’). Such a union is called, by the author he’s reading, The Singularity. Across the kitchen, Julie is talking about her elderly friend with dementia who wants to die so she’ll be reunited with her husband, and who frequently recruits friends to come to the closet and help her pick out an ensemble, to wear in death, so she’ll meet her husband looking good. Her friends humor her in this. They pick out some really smashing outfits. I tell Eric maybe the Singularity isn’t to be dreaded, maybe it will be just wonderful. It’ll be a kind of bliss, a universally shared hard-drive, a community of omniscience.

* * * *

Liz here for drinks.

* * * *

January 4, 2016

Sleepless night, disorganized day.

Assistant: Simply “ironing” on the chapters of Isaac’s revelation and Abimelech’s accusations.

Passport photo for Dash, in a strip-mall place.

Another good rain supposedly coming tonight.

* * * *

John Donne: “Affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.”

* * * *

January 5, 2016

Cheating forward some sympathetic views of character in the latter scenes. Also, importantly, putting enough flashes of “theme” in there to restore the story’s bone-structure. While the writer is allergic to “theme” and all coy announcements of theme, nevertheless on a subliminal level, theme is the raison d’etre. It’s the motive subterranean for a reader to read a book; the motive for its having been written. Since, in this version, I’ve chopped out all openly discursive parts, what’s left is at risk of shapelessness. Which goes to pointlessness.

Work out at club

A long deep rain all day. The meadows’ marshy shine.

* * * *

January 6, 2016

Finished with (rough) edition of Assistant with removed authorial presence. Don’t feel great about it, but will try to look at it freshly on run-through.

This downpour continues, it’s continual – it’s continually continual – and, lacking initiative to go out in it for supplies, I make stew (with, lacking beef stock, Marmite spoonful, little jar left by a houseguest of long ago).

* * * *

January 8, 2016

I can like to think I’m ever more unsentimental – it’s one of a man’s accomplishments: that a person can expect to be as disinterested (as cold-blooded) as a Zen roshi or an ER surgeon. Then the sight of some stranger’s infant can open door to swoon.

On Grass Valley street corner, in custody of his (tatted-and-pierced) hippie-kid parents, this particular baby was so new he was still shorter than his father’s forearm, the rosiness glimpsable in cheek-complexion an indication that the organism was vigorous, ambitious, not-to-be-worried-about.

Objectively, why the emotion, seeing any little babe? Maybe because the entry of a new human – someone who is distinctly not me, but yet might behold the Universe just as I have – would seem to thwart “solipsism” problem. Which is a problem that’s fundamental and legitimate. The so-called Problem of Other Minds is, certainly, not an everyday menace to my thoughts (or is never) – (because actually it seems beyond comprehension or, even, contemplation) – but it’s a problem that must exert a constant low-level pain, in any sentient being.

* * * *

January 9, 2016

After break in rain, a couple days of drizzle. Leah and Linda Connor for dinner.

Leah (her reconnaissance as newspaper columnist) reports that the city of SF really is – it’s no joke – losing its character to the vapid rich.

* * * *

January 10, 2016

Party for B’s B-day on Cedro Road. Beautiful sunny day is sacrificed to staying indoors drinking alcohol, eating sweets.

(Bit of solid work in the early morning, on “Tenderloin Girls” story.)

* * * *

January 11, 2016

Critique of Greg’s novel, mélange of stories about luthier families.

Open “Unpublished Writers” essay, because it’s time to polish it up for keynote-speech promise.

Lunch of squash soup w/old chicken stock.

I face the fallen oaks I’d neglected, at bottom of woods, mossy, but at the heartwood hard-and-dry. Leftover fuel/oil mix from fall cutting is still just fine. I get a little bit into it, mostly setting up the big trunk on the slope with pike as lever, using little log as fulcrum (it’s a pretty afternoon, working in a warm patch of sun on south-facing slope in cold woods), make some progress with saw, then I have to get Dash: Brett calling thru the trees.

After which, he and I go to Grass Valley and – because what he really wants for his birthday is a loveseat – we find the perfect one at Salvation Army.

The fun of getting the bulky heavy thing up the narrow stairwell, a kind of reverse obstetric process, requiring lots of strategy, lots of geometry. In which Dash takes charge. Makes good decisions.

* * * *

January 12, 2016

More of woodcutting.

* * * *

January 13, 2016

Dashiell’s birthday.

Heavy rains all day, nice ponding in the meadow must be evidence of California water table getting recharged. Carted the cut oak from lower woods to the cottage-woodpile, but in the process I’m reminded this is the kind of endeavor – peculiar to the self-sufficiency life – that brings on stupid accidents; in rural emergency-rooms grisly arrivals of embarrassed men with freak injuries. The wood-laden cart gets stuck on the west fork, path up from the woods – (my wheels spinning in mud) – so I have to pull the linchpin hitch and free ponderous cart to wheel it around in the other direction, on slope, then do a little bit of off-roading to maneuver around headed for the east-fork path. All for a half-cord. All works out, but I’m thinking all the while, it’s the unforeseen/unforeseeable bad luck that hurts even the most circumspect.

* * * *

January 15, 2016

Yesterday: The day knocked off-course by Random Unanticipated Little Crises – the contract with ski corp needs to be revised suddenly. Then news arrives that C.D. has died in Petaluma her sleep. Too young, and still too full of good work.

Wherever love is undischarged, that is a defect in Creation.

* * * *

What makes “mourning” simply a mistake in perspective:

Resentment of death is an error of “figure-ground reversal.” That this concentrated blaze of “consciousness” should exist at all is a pure gift unalloyed.

* * * *

Finally passport submission. So much trouble for what used to be an easy document. As the federal gov’t thins, it’s necessary now to drive to the next county to submit passport app. Post office there. Brisk opinionated “gal” in the blue USPS blouse stamps our forms and gives us plenty of advice.

Crossing back over the Bear River, the view is of winter’s four-o’clock golden light on live-oaks: these are not the Pacific NW colors anymore; everything is Mexican-looking. I always thought of my neighborhood as the “southernmost rainforest” (of mossy fallen logs, ferns, etc.), but no – in places, it’s a Mexican and (not Oregonian) Californian goldenness and stingy impoverishment. A John Constable palette and brushstroke, in the shaggy trees, the rambling, littered little homesteads. Somebody down in the Rio Oso gully keeps a skinny cow.

A warming climate globally. More and more, this California smells Mexican. Indefinable, but subjectively distinct. What is that? Like mesquite smoke, trash fire, sweaty cornmeal masa. Algo a comer! The entire economy, during my lifetime, is changing.

* * * *

Saturday. Country music on the radio, DJ’d by our local tongueless radio host – a tobacco addict, survivor of tongue cancer and radical surgery, who has had this radio show for thirty years and – (so doth he love this music) – has carried on broadcasting even after the operation of removal. He becomes intelligible to anybody who tries listening for thirty seconds. He has no consonants but plenty of vowels. His wonderful wife helps him, responding brightly, repeating his remarks sometimes, so the broadcast has an aspect of a sock-puppet show. A scholar of country music,  he is treasured by the town. I’m handling emails at the kitchen table, while the song they’re playing an old song I’ve never heard called, “Let’s Get Drunk and Fight.”

* * * *

The hen that went missing yesterday at “bed check” (out there all night during the hard rains, presumed victim of predators) turns up in the morning drizzle, ambling around as usual. The blue egg layer.

* * * *

Buddhists list six sense faculties – the usual five (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) plus “mind and mental objects.” Mind is one of the senses.

This seems a crucial difference, a doorway to Asian/Buddhist thinking. In the West, the thing that I consider to be “myself” is my mind – the existential ruling faculty that receives data from the five peripheral sources. But in Buddhism the mind is just another peripheral datum among five others, all convening on an empty center. There’s no hard silicon chip in there doing the processing. Makes “nirvana” more plausible. All thoughts are just another spectacle. Thoughts abide among the breezes and waterfalls, the birdsong, the lawn’s morning smell, the solitary cloud’s dissolution. Where, too, “I myself” abide.

* * * *

January 16, 2016

Steve S. visits. Brings two crabs so we have seafood gumbo while, outside the kitchen, the tin roof roars under endless downpour.

* * * *

January 20, 2016

5:00 am – In the extreme dark (moonless and cloudy), the rainclouds somewhat part.

A string of planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter – spread across the sky from azimuths low-in-the-east to high-in-the-south.

“Assistant”: I’m mistrustful of characterization-logic of the story, now that the framework of the Biblical legend has been removed. Why are these people behaving so badly, so weirdly, if not coerced by “fate”?

* * * *

January 21, 2016


The accidental-pregnancy chapter I took so much trouble in adding to the Assistant has now been deleted. It’s back to its natural shape.

Adding complexity to the Bends’ characters. (For, with recession of theme, character shines forth: It’s as true in life as in literature.)

* * * *

Short-term thinking. The stock market faints in fear, whenever petroleum price-per-barrel twitches.

Me, I can almost actually (if quietly) rejoice, as the signs of “hard times” encroach. And rejoice with a certain amount of rational justification. It was forty yrs ago, people were warning: This civilization is so petroleum-dependent (everything plastic, everything transportation, everything grown from fertilizers), when the shit hits the fan it will be an impossibly steep adaptation. So I’m a Grinch almost glad to see people’s investments come to nothing – investments in faux-marble hot tubs, five-bedroom house an hour’s drive from work, supported by a double-income marriage – some of those people will be soon literally in colorful REI tents by the railroad siding, shopping-cart parked at the zippered door-flap.

* * * *

January 22, 2016

On the East Coast they’re expecting 2ft of snow. When I inquire by text, Hunter answers by text sounding (tho’ he’s in Maryland suburbs) like a “mountain man”:

Got the day off today. Very excited to get snowed in. Stocked up on beer and good food. Making meat loaf tonight.

* * * *

January 23, 2016

Saturday. No work today. Won’t be any tomorrow either. Today my speech at the college, then building shelves in the cottage attic.

Then tomorrow it’s high society. “Tea” in the morning at Kent and Cindy’s, dinner at Josh and Jen’s.

* * * *

January 25, 2016

Down the Old Downieville Road, the little hut has been expanding into a rich, rambling cabin. The elect pleasure of being a guest – and staying long at the table in flickering dimness, while the mom of the 6-month-old (quiet clever boy) is standing at the sink bathing the baby. A radiant steamy kitchen-light in that direction, all others at the table with their whisky or tea. It’s a cold night outside, and a long way up out of this canyon on a dirt road.

* * * *

January 26, 2016

Consecutive days of dry sunny weather.

Workday morning cut short by necessary lawyer-talk, document-hunt.

Clear gutters.

Clean stove chimney, clinging to steep roof, plunging porcupine-bristled pole in stovepipe. Again, as in other years, zero creosote.

Replace front porch’s fallen tin shingle (after weeks’ procrastination).

Mud room stovewood supply replenishment: lots of trips up the slope with armloads, at end of day.

Discover Alan Guth lectures on MIT site, downloadable.

* * * *

January 27, 2016

Nevada section of “Assistant”: shading off the one remaining big hint of biblical theme. I think I’m happy with it.

Afternoon pulling Scotch broom, an especially vigorous aggressive invasion of it this year, all colonizing deep in the half-acre of blackberries (tho’ the deeper forest clearing is uncharacteristically clear of it this year). So it’s a sticky afternoon wading in prickly whips, revolving away from their thorny complicated embraces. Pick up Dash in town. (Delight of sitting in café, discovering on my phone a Nader editorial from TIME, republished on some aggregator site, that Hunter himself had edited and, basically, written. Then, by text, going back and forth with H. about it.)

Dinner is a beef stew from electric slow-cooker.

* * * *

January 29, 2016

Assistant: the latter “Lake Tahoe” section.

In the afternoon, rain keeps me in.

* * * *

January 30, 2016

Fine performance of Dashiell’s piano-&-voice setting of Amiri Baraka poem.

* * * *

My mother, dead these two years now, would celebrate her birthday today, an anniversary that, around here, will cause pretty-much-useless, pointless sad woolgathering and metaphysics. Which maybe is just the tip of the immense mostly submerged iceberg “gratitude.” Gratitude being a more useful result to be walking around with, than metaphysics.

Today also: the Iowa Caucuses. Rob is texting pictures from Iowa City: On a wide, glossy-varnished board floor with painted lines (free-throw circle, mid-court toss-up line), citizens have set up folding metal chairs in opposing corners.

I’m supposing Iowans will be glad to see this day behind them, because political talk (esp. political ads) will cease. Political conversation is almost always frustrating. Political conversation is just a heartache. A kind of brute rhetoric even in the best-intentioned. Such talk is never up to the job it purports to do, or even thinks it’s doing. Political conversation, whether on TV or around an office water cooler, necessarily tends to veer from care or precision. It really makes the crucial difference what radio station you choose to bring in. (I guess this is because most people have led only one life, not two or three, and their experience is limited. One group will lack the frame-of-reference to absorb George F. Will. Others the frame-of-reference to absorb Jon Stewart. You have to have led more than one life – and almost nobody has – to get a glimpse of impartiality.)

So it is, it’s extremely rare to have any kind of political talk with the necessary tenderness and specificity to make a civil discourse. That is, you want to be having a discourse where people might learn something. Whenever I listen to political talk, I almost always have the heartbreak sense that this person is playing a very insightful game of “checkers” with life, while all around us, the actual economy is playing chess, a game of complicated, powerful, sweeping laws totally invisible to the speaker and to me.

Iowa Caucus day happens also to be Groundhog Day. On these California meadows (winter sunshine) we’ll have sharp shadows. Sun not up yet, I’m wasting good work-time with long chatty emails. And this kind of pasa tiempo. My Facebook-contaminated email IN-box (“delete, delete, delete”) is overflowing with banner headlines like this: “Maryellen Gelman Hadder invited you to like Maryellen Gelman Hadder.”

Which has a certain absolute perfection inviting delete — sealed exquisitely by the fact that I’ve never heard of Maryellen Gelman Hadder. But maybe therefore, on principle, I ought to endorse her. (“Like” her.), directed by a categorical imperative.

* * * *

February 3, 2016

Making a decided effort not to work, but 3AM I’m wide awake and on the qui vive as usual.

So, resolved against working, I kindled the stove in mud room and read old Harpers and New Yorkers. The stale news turns out to be more interesting than any late-breaking. Will try to set up musical equipment and get a little carefree recreation this morning, then a day of quotidian errands.

Talk with Michelle by phone, with Joy by email.

* * * *

February 4, 2016

Warm sunny.

Another day of not writing. (Not Writing feels like loitering in an airport lounge.)

Tonight will be the big reading in Sacramento.

* * * *

Feb 5, 2016

Had to come outside and get some parsley in the garden for garlic penne. Dark moonless night. Alone outside the backdoor, I always rediscover how silent is the world outside an ordinary kitchen’s hectic sit-com. Balmy for February. (At a foothill elevation, where we get snow but the ground doesn’t hard-freeze, little crops like parsley will thrive midwinter.)

By the light of my cell phone I find parsley clump and I clip stems with thumbnail, then coming out the garden gate, I see Mars above east pines, the actual planet itself, and I think of the climate up there: on Mars’s North Pole, flurries of carbon-dioxide snow are piling up. (It has to be 193 below zero to make carbon dioxide snow.) How precisely damp and warm Earth’s climate is! Here I am in my garden with dewy parsley, but from where I stand, I can lay my eyes on that other landscape literally. Literally that land is in view, those rocks and dirt, looking reddish.

* * * *

(Then Venus, too. If I waited a few hours Venus would shine behind pines, and that planet the reverse situation: an instance of runaway greenhouse effect. It once did have water, but it all cooked off. Not even any steam left.)

* * * *

February 6, 2016

Couldn’t work today. To Sacramento with kids, to see Dürer show (plus a couple of little Holbeins). Nothing very good.

Then in the evening, a wonderful concert by Luke and Maggie & Co in Nevada Theater. A packed house.

After concert, at Chevron station: resolve to prepare “assistant” for Joy. (this after Penguin passed on “Immanence,” the usual rejection with high praise.)

[Interesting how “rejection” doesn’t get any easier with the years or after triumphs. It’s always important. It’s never unimportant. Nonchalance never comes along. (Moby-Dick’s Starbuck says, “I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale.”]

* * * *

First chapter of Assistant: brightening up the view of Brenda Bend (good will, wisdom, acumen).

Raking off old, deep pine duff on the front “lawn”: smothered. I so neglect this place. Where there’d been a meadow, I expose mostly wet dirt, grasses’ weak pale hairs.

* * * *

Brett sleeps deep, after last night’s fundraiser. Dog and two cats, al crimped hard in sleep, lodge around the edges of her.

In the kitchen at 4am while coffee brews, I open Brett’s iPad:

“Failed!” it informs her, in girly pink script.

And below: “You didn’t clear all the jelly.”

* * * *

February 8, 2016

Another warm sunny day. Begin pome pruning, afternoon.

Morning. Doubts about the perceived “moral” fabric of the Bend characters. The devil is in that word “perceived.” Who is my reader, and how wise/forgiving/worldly is that reader?

* * * *

February 9, 2016

Second day pruning pears, afternoon, warm sun.

* * * *

February 10, 2016

Finish pears, lots of efficiency.

One ray comes from outside these acres: the news that gravity waves have been confirmed, from two detector arrays in the U.S.

The news is doubly jubilating: that existence does have a fabric is one kind of exhilaration; just as wonderful is that the fabric of existence was discernible to a human mind’s thought processes (A. Einstein’s, a century ago), discernible a priori. It’s a pair of happy revelations. Really, the happiest-possible.

* * * *

February 16, 2016

Good rain.

Clean chicken premises.

Assistant to Joy.

* * * *

Primary Election night in South Carolina and Nevada. The “center” candidates (reasoned, civil, wise) are dropping out.

The USA likes to regard with condescension the world’s “failed states,” their anarchy. But as I look at this year’s primaries, it does seem (e.g., Donald Trump) as if The Establishment is losing its central, inertial, steady control. Trump is on the radio, celebrating his win, and these are his exultant words from the podium: “Politics is tough, nasty, vicious, mean, beautiful.”

Late night, at the kitchen table the Old Monk is playing with his iPhone: He opens up the “Uber” app just to discover cost of a ride from Heathrow to Chelsea. Suddenly the phone rings in my hand, showing it’s the UK calling “44+ 32423 234322.” It’s my driver. His name is Pablo. He is now circling the Heathrow airport in his blue Toyota Camry, looking for me.

* * * *

February 17, 2016

Rain picks up, AM. I’m working on abbreviating (or honestly hiding) any theological rationale of All Things.

Brett battles gallantly with dunderheaded cheap lawyer over the phone, “on hold” all afternoon, trying to make a simple change to Last Will and Testament.

Visit to an alternative school in Grass Valley.

Tomato-basil fettuccini at home in kitchen, while uproarious winds tear at the house. The NOAA wind advisory will be over at midnight.

* * * *

March 12, 2016

Back from London. Jet lag.

Start up new schedule of barley-fodder trays on shelves. (The last trays throve in our absence without regular watering.)

The brand-new apple is already showing a blossom on a twig which I guess means it’s ready for its first sexual experiences.

All the pear trees, hardly so virginal, are flourishing with blossoms.

* * * *

March 16, 2016

Last night in the cottage, in an interval when Barbara isn’t sleepy and needs a little after-dinner distraction (i.e., a soporific), we watch television. What’s on? A PBS documentary about the microbes in human intestines. Intestinal bacteria form a community that keeps individuals healthy. A particular tribe in Africa, living on a strict hunter-gatherer diet, happens to have the happiest community of bowel-germs in the world, and as a result they’re models of health and contentment. Pale unhealthy-looking scientists are there in the jungle collecting samples of these people’s stools, perhaps to bring them back to Berkeley, where daubs of that excrement may colonize the bowels of Californians, for their improvement. Barbara finds all of this confusing and a little alarming. It’s not going to make good bedtime viewing (she gets dreams and nightmares from just-watched TV shows).

We change channels. On CNN – (because today is “Super Tuesday” and five states are holding their primary elections) – the most hectic possible reports of the close races. Hoarse politicians in littered ballrooms. And, in TV studios, analysts that talk too fast and too loud. Barbara and I can stand about five minutes of this, and we switch back to the scientists peacefully collecting the stool of African tribesmen, caching it carefully in vials, sealing the vials, sending them our way.

* * * *

March 18, 2016

Errands in town. Pick up taxes at the accountant, retrieve refinished Macondray table from the restorer, note cards from the stationer, bank deposit, wine, biodiesel.

On the road into town there’s an old cemetery. It’s of the antiquated, 19th-century sort, crowded with little plinths and pillar-monuments so it’s, visually, a chess game. This is at the quiet end of town where the main street peters out. As I drive by, a very old man is at the closed gate – long white beard, elegantly dressed, with cane, no parked car in sight. He lifts the gate latch and enters, turning and closing the gate then after himself – as if to keep something in, or keep something out, or just to please his sense of order. Then turns to go further in, alone in the afternoon sun.

* * * *

Groceries at SPD. I ask the deli woman in hairnet for a pound, please, of the Virginia ham that’s on sale. Then there’s Gary Snyder, age 86, on his own grocery errands as he often is, five-foot-five, tramping on by, in military fatigue jacket frayed w/many pleated pockets and epaulets.

Talk of the writer’s “quest for novelty” and the deludedness of the novelty quest – “novelty” being a chimera – since in practice, each man all his life is always working out his one main idea. Talk of my Ginsberg review. Which I think he disapproves of, but diplomatically, saying “You undertake something there that I would not have undertaken.” (However, then he pronounces his own summary verdict on Allen Ginsberg that is precisely, word for word, from my review.) Also he disapproves of The Threepenny. The kind of poetry they publish (and of course he’s right about this) is lyrical and literary: it’s not the gospel truth. Speaking of which: He has a new book out! “The Great Clod” it’s titled, after an expression of Chuang Tzu. I always end up devoting a half-hour (or as long as possible, and whenever possible) to his offhand instruction and anecdote in the supermarket aisle. (For example, his publisher Jack, in the nineties, brought out the big miscellany “The Gary Snyder Reader” because at the time, he was expected to die of prostate cancer, and they thought there should be a monument.) He has changed his views on China. Not so idealistic any more. “No! I’ve gone way to the other extreme.” He almost gloats over this. “For instance,” says the twentieth century’s most influential sinologist, translator of Chinese poetry since the 1950s, principal roshi of popular Buddhism in America. “I think they should stop using characters.” He grins it’s so mischievous. “Completely. The whole civilization. Move to phonetic writing.”

“Gary, that’s saying a lot.” (This in a scandalized tone.)– (By now I’m edging away, drifting to checkout line.)

“I know,” he says smiling huge in glee, 86 yrs old.

“That’s saying a lot.” The reprise of the same remark expands it exponentially.

“I know!” Grin, joyous, ready-to-burst.

* * * *

March 20, 2016

Rain is predicted to come in again today after a short sunny spell.

Before the first drops fall, I’ve frisked up the entire chicken premises – fresh straw, fresh cedar shavings, water and food, and feed buckets stowed. Then back to “Immanence,” recently rejected, for a look at its possible improvement. Tho’ at this point, I’m not optimistic for its getting published. I think maybe I know what a good novel is, and know when I’ve written one – and the book business’s dismissal of it is just going to have to be a matter of my own historic bad luck. Fantastical good luck has been a long streak and I don’t complain.

Joy reports back on Kim’s novel, unhappily.

Rain increases in intensity all afternoon. I’m out in my trailer, Brett in her office in the cottage on the phone all day trying to tamp down the fires of a sad little scandal in the poetry program: a poet seems to be notorious for his sexual high jinks, and now this will be a problem for the Administration.

* * * *

March 21, 2016

On my mind today: “a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.”

Rain goes on.

* * * *

March 22, 2016

Sun after rain. Cold steaming woods, brassy light.

Cavendish to borrow the truck for theater load-in.

Kerfluffle over Squaw’s ill-reputed poet will not be soon resolved. Painful for all. It simply gets worse, and bigger, people relish it.

Revive inquiries into NEA money.

* * * *

Typical instance of elegance in the diction of a Cavendish communication, by text message (about a bit of damage to the truck’s rear bumper):

After I get current

Show open 4/7 I got

a tip for good body

shop at best cost to

fix the bumper. Let’s


Great. Although the

bumper ain’t that

bad. . . Could they

just give it a whack

and charge us $50?

A little unprofessionally?

May I borrow

the truck for set load

in today, in exchange

for comps for your team

and program credit? I

need to tow the trailer

with reasonable loads,

other trucks to share,

and promise no more

damage. . . About that,

bumper Needs more

than a whack. I looked

under, it has steel angle

box construction,

needs removal I can

do and probly a

hydraulic press to

straighten it. I’m told

Hughes auto body is

good at such work for

restored function short

of pretty at reasonable

price, I would get a

quote. . .

* * * *

March 23, 2016

The climate outlook at 4am on my cell phone –

The Northern Sierra snowpack is now at 101% average. The Southern and Central still below.

New report from Jeff Hansen’s research team about acceleration of ice-cap melt; the northern ocean’s resultant cold freshwater layer will damp the deep ocean current transfer.

I squander a certain amount of prime worktime pre-dawn, because I’m playing around on a new NOAA website page: an interactive map of the USA coastal terrain showing zones of inundating tides – with street-by-street resolution – zooming in on places I’ve loved, on friends’ addresses, seeing what is predicted to be underwater.

Remodeling the finish of Immanence.

* * * *

Kale that was picked two weeks ago: in the back of the fridge it’s still as crisp as ever. In soup tonight (thawed turkey stock of Thanksgiving).

* * * *

March 27, 2016

Easter morning, the Bunny has been here. In the morning, deep-voiced 16-yr-old Dash has to pick (dutifully, sleepily) through the basket he’s been awarded (jelly beans, pencils in a 20-pack, 5-Hour Energy Drink in little 6-0z. plastic bottle, a pack of pencil-eraser caps, one big Chocolate Bunny, a Loofah back scrubber, beef jerky, a tube of ointment called “Blackhead Eraser,” a computer flashdrive – this is what the Easter Bunny wants him to have).

We’re supposed to be at Sands’s for a breakfast. Brett is delayed in getting her so-called challah in the oven in the cottage. The dough won’t rise fast enough. Meanwhile Barbara must be wakened and hustled through the pajamas-to-huipil transition. Meanwhile the sesame seeds that spilled on the oven floor smolder and the odor excites the four (4) smoke alarms in the cottage. Which can’t be tranquilized. Barbara’s pajama top won’t come over her head and she panics, arms pinned up in the blindfolding and the full-nelson . The alarms keep on blaring. Brett doesn’t think this is the slightest bit funny, this is the story of her life. The “challah,” in being rescued from the oven, falls in the sink, where a bowl that had spent a week in the chicken coop has been soaking. Is there chicken shit on it? Possibly on one end of the loaf. So just pat it dry with a dish towel, we’ll see, we’ll just cut off that end. Outside, one can get away from the smoke-alarm blasts.

Outside on cottage doorstep. All the while, a sound sweetened by arriving from around the north side of the house, arises the serene clatter-and-bang of the skateboard, failing and failing and failing to make its little jump.

* * * *

At Sands’s, Luke and Maggie, George and Diane. Mimosas and frittata. Much of the talk is theological, the difference between the basically Judaic three (Synoptic) Gospels and the Pauline version of “Christianity.” It’s interesting news to everybody, that Jesus was supposed to have “risen” in the flesh. All 133 pounds of him, levitating, anti-gravity fashion, up through the morning haze, disappearing in the blue distance. Folks are slightly appalled to learn the doctrine, that it was flesh, skin-and-bones-and-gall-bladder-and-sebaceous-glands-and-the-little-farter-and-everything, that floated out of sight, just like one of those tragic helium party-balloons, whose string a child loses his grip on, but keeps his eye on.

George, at the stove presiding over bacon and asparagus, narrates his heart attack of last week – myocardial infarction – burning sensation, then the attempt to nap while worrying about it, trip to Yuba-Doc’s, then emergency room, then on to Sac, in the valley, for the tiny camera via arterial catheterization. Today he’s as elegant as usual, same complexion, same deep adroit voice-modulation (great reciter of Robt Burns poems), one week post-heart-attack, melting an entire stick of butter in a pan, pouring himself more champagne.

* * * *

March 29, 2016

Sunshine returns, but cold. Spring is definitely here: I’m in the deep rut now of Squaw-preparation work in this season when the three-AM rulership of Arcturus announces that Scorpio will someday-soon rise. Sing Lhude, sing cuckoo.

Cancel flight reservation: I get out of AWP conference, rather stay here, for Dashiell’s comfort and discipline (during homework siege).

* * * *

Chard has been volunteering, so it’s chopped up to go into the chili, plus big white beans.

Hens are getting back to laying at top speed.

(There’s an old joke about the sloppiness of government work: “Just empty your six-shooter into the side of the barn – then draw nice targets around your bullet holes.” Such interesting technique has its moments of being useful – not just to a gov’t worker, but to any maker: a maker of soup on a stove, a maker of narrative fictions. Don’t identify your targets until after you’ve discharged.)

* * * *

March 31, 2016

Brett’s in LA for 4 days for the writing-program convention. Dash and I are bachelors here, and like a fire-station crew or any other such fraternities, console ourselves with epicureanism.

On our meadow, a string of hot sunny days commences, while far from this meadow, the Antarctic ice mass will be (according to new climate models) collapsing way faster than planned. Two-meter sea rise by century’s end. Other news, for this eutrophic planet: the world’s population of obese persons has today surpassed the world’s population of underweight persons for the first time in biological history: another ecosystem milestone. (British researchers in The Lancet)

Bruce here to install ventilation slots in cottage roof.

* * * *

Walking up Spring Street in town.

Up ahead, along the sidewalk, there’s a tree hugger – actually a person literally hugging a tree. The tree is the big far-from-home coastal redwood (sempervirens) that’s founded beside the doorway of the old radio station offices – and this person is hugging it full-frontally. When I go past, it turns out to be the zombie meth-head from Bonanza Market parking lot, he of the mildewed dreadlocks, and he murmurs to me specially, fixing me with his eye, softly as I pass, “I used to be such a good guy.”

Our small isolated town can be patient with a goblin’s public slow oxidizing death on a Bonanza Market tire-stop, however long it’s gonna take. Everybody takes care of him. But ours is a risk-averse society, too, and at the other end of town, as I pass Broad-and-Pine corner (headed for coffee), sirens are converging on the area from all directions. Plenty of them. One ambulance and two fire trucks (big red ones, shoebox-shaped, with shiny chrome faucets and hydrants and cabinets). They park up the entire area around the corner store there, and almost a dozen men deploy, first-responders all blue-shirted – but unhurried, sauntering – all pulling on disposable latex gloves (with a squeak and a snap), milling into the little corner-store doorway. I make for my coffee, but a while later, when I come out to feed the parking meter, the entire uniformed band of blue-shirted angels is escorting to the ambulance’s open rear doors a full-figured fellow who walks under his own power, rubbing his own elbow irritably.

* * * *

April 2, 2016

To Berkeley for Michael’s Abe’s bar mitzvah, having dropped off Dashiell at the simulcast opera (Puccini) in Grass Valley.

Berkeley: Telegraph Ave: this town is always the same old unlaundered sock. I’m always confortable in Berkeley. Forty dollars for a night in a broken-plaster room off a kitchen, with mattress. The odd civility of boarding-house alienation: some stranger’s cups and bowls are drying in a dish rack.

Michael and Ayelet, and Sophie and Zeke, the shining boy himself Abe. An opulent meal for two hundred. The sun going down on the terrace. The lawns beyond. Berkeley’s misty willows and eucalyptus (pre-Raphaelite) on the far slope in amber and brass.

* * * *

April 3, 2016

Bad night. Sore throat and intimations of futility. Midnight stockingfooted in the Berkeley communal boarding-house kitchen: city-streetlamp-light falls on that same dish rack. In the morning, the overcast hasn’t burned off and I’m one of the first customers in the Caffe Med. Later, famous counterculture People’s Park looks like the morning-after battlefield of Borodino, the maimed and the disoriented beginning to stir.

Slow drive across the valley and up into the mountains. Stop for achiote paste and raw annatto, Mex market off University Ave, to mail to London. Stop in Davis for coffee and meditation by railroad tracks. Up in the foothills, I’m coming up Highway 49, and the motorcyclist who passed me back in Auburn is lying on his back on the center double-yellow line, in T-shirt and jeans, his bike on its side at a distance, while a paramedic kneels over him working like a masseur.

Home: it’s the same eternal sunshine as always, here at The Grinding Rocks. I set all the flock free, and I get the mower going and my cutting is limited only to the tall early tufts, leaving general mowing for some other day. Brett has tales of the Los Angeles party and convention, while I concoct something of kale, mushrooms, feta (sun-dried tomatoes courtesy of the Ruttens down the road).

*Vomer attritus sulco splendescere.

– Virgil

* * * *

April 4, 2016

Sunny. Unseasonable warmth is here.

Try brining pork chops.

Set traps in my trailer.

Fresh shelves of barley-fodder.

Fire blight seems to have attacked the pears, so – maybe too late – I will begin spraying with anti-fungal sulfur.

“The Drake Equation” about extraplanetary life.

In town for bank, groceries, feed store, nursery.

* * * *

April 5, 2016

Hot day.

All storm windows come down.

Brett’s concerns over scarcity of poetry-program applicants.

* * * *

April 6, 2016

Thinking about how the mind works today, I find myself thinking of: “Where the ox treads, the cart’s wheel will follow.”

Oxen! Carts! – It’s a verse from the Dhammapada, which makes it ancient, but I find myself sentimental about the whole idea of an old agricultural cliché’s persistent usefulness in this day and age. I’ve seen oxen, in Mexico. Been around them. Still – here I am in the 21st century, and I guess I’m just grateful that our planet, its improbable fragile biosphere, has survived long enough that I still know about oxen and that the metaphor is still lively. That there is still soil – not toxic or sterile, as on most or all other planets – and that I know about those gentle cooperative big beasts – is all a piece of ecological luck that our species takes for granted. The metaphor is still applicable in this brief biome: Where the ox treads, the wheel will follow.

* * * *

April 7, 2016

Today I’m keeper of the peace and distributor of justice on the place.

1) A certain hen — bottom-of-the-pecking-order Ameraucana — (this is our first instance of cannibalism in years of poultry) this morning was pecking her own fresh-laid blue egg and enjoying the innards. Removed the whole flock. Pulled out laying boxes to hose clean. Will need to police more frequently for fresh eggs.

2) The little black spaniel, who visits from across the road, sees chickens as sex objects. (There’s at least one hen across the road who actually seems to like him back). Here, too, he’s looking for a casual encounter, and needs to be called away from chickens.

3) Last night a large cecropia moth (wingspan big as playing cards) beat itself against the windows, with thuds, all during dinner. Today it’s been resting on the cat perch — where the blackhearted cat of course has started poking at it, patting at it. So the cat must be brought in.

4) Juvenile wood rat, in my vicious trap in the studio, looking eternally surprised.

* * * *

I’m thinking, post-Berkeley-trip, that surely I’m acquainted only with a liberal Judaism, but it seems to me that, all over the country on any given day, thousands of thirteen-year-olds, in their bar and bat mitzvoth, have to stand at a podium and deliver an interpretation that is mostly about resisting Judaism or repudiating Judaism, or reinterpreting their Torah portion somehow, or actually (in one case I remember) deploring it openly.

* * * *

April 9, 2016

Saturday. Long period of misty light sunny rains over all these mountains. It will go on all week.

Board meeting today. Pleasure of morning drive to Sacramento with Brett. Pleasure of the colloquy of the fifteen, around a long table, then wine and Trader Joe’s victuals.

Back home in NC, Sheila and Patrick from Berkeley will spend the night. Risotto.

* * * *

April 10, 2016


Drank too much wine last night, wake with headache.

Long breakfast, Patrick and Sheila, before they leave.

Little bit of Squaw work and no writing.

Sabbath activity, took many-miles walk alone in rain with hat and coat and good boots, through old Erikson woods, the long way.

(Today tried applying left-hand fingers to guitar frets. Nope. I haven’t played in the forty days since I banged my finger in departure-for-England hustle. The result was not good. The pain isn’t much, but the lack of dexterity. Still a little swelling-pressure, the one finger behaving like a toe.

* * * *

April 11, 2016

Monday. Dash has come home from school midday, feeling unwell.

Morning remodeling front end of Immanence. Looking to raise “thematic” expectations to prominence, repress plottiness and plot expectations.

Grass Valley: bank, accountant, market. (Smoke two trout. Always a bit of a project. The clatter of paraphernalia.)

Lots more Squaw work, all afternoon.

* * * *

New shelf barley fodder.

* * * *

Now Stephen Hawking is actively promoting the project of sending probes to Alpha Centauri, looking for habitable exo-planets.

He thinks it could be a thirty-year trip (making very optimistic assumptions about tech advancements that would make one-fifth-lightspeed travel possible) – and he thinks it behooves us to get off this planet, because we’ll want to dodge the asteroid strike or supernova blast that would inevitably wipe us out.

This all forces me to realize I have, over time, been firming up in my tentative (reluctant) conviction that colonizing other planets isn’t possible. And, like, what if we’re stuck here? Fated to this dirt. It reframes everything with fresh ethics, to propose nobody will ever leave this planet, ever. I tend to believe that Earth’s biome is infinitely mysterious, infinitely complicated, never to be artificially replicated in other solar systems (or to be luckily discovered either, out there). The community of enzymes in the soil, the community of bugs in our intestines, the community of bacteria that halo every doorknob, every bear in the Canadian north woods, every objet d’art in the Metropolitan Museum, every apple in the fruit bowl in my kitchen, every mushroom that appears as the fruit of the vast underground micorrhizal megalopolis. The mountainous statistical unlikeliness of a Goldilocks planet, the Fermi calculation forbidding intelligent life in the known universe, the Drake Equation narrowing habitable exo-planets to basically zero, the mysterious declining health of late-in-life Apollo-Program astronauts – everything seems to indicate the fabric of this our home is too delicate, too iridescent, too much of a rainbow, to be recreated in the sterile and toxic expanses outside our atmosphere.

The hopefulness of Hawkings’ idea makes me turn to consider my own broader existential assumptions – the working, rational ones. Probably sum up as follows: that we’re the only consciousness in the knowable universe (in this idea, astrobiology concurs), and that we’re not getting off this planet in any organized permanent way. And so, furthermore, that (as things are now going) the only existing intelligence is mortally endangered by tipping-point environmental problems. Rather alarming set of assumptions. But I think that’s what I go to bed with each night and rise up with every morning.

* * * *

Corollary of above thinking: all popular easy talk about space colonization (a la Elon Musk) risks being counterproductive to the environmental emergency work we need to do on this little blue sphere. It’s quite possible that a complacency, there, is secretly unconsciously prepared for us: we’re gonna be leaving this planet anyway someday, so poisoning it wouldn’t be the End of the World.

* * * *

April 21, 2016

New shelves barley fodder.

* * * *

April 23, 2016

Long week dominated by Squaw work. Zero work of my own.

Reading Denis Johnson, “Tree of Smoke,” admiring his use of abundant details, obviously research-garnered but all deployed with huge discretion in intricate web of quiet density, efficacy.

Saturday morning. A cool sunny day between rains. First spring soil preparation Brett and I together in garden. The old  clock-radio from garage workbench, long extension cord, sits on a terra cotta irrigation tile of yesteryear. It’s broadcasting “RadioLab,” an episode about memory, memory’s decay, seeming to worry that, if experience is erased, what point is there to having any experience at all? The turner of the soil, with spade, keeps stepping with the sole of the same foot, mounting up upon that same step of spade blade, a kind of stairclimbing activity which leaves me, yet, still on the ground where I’ve always been. All the while, abundant hawthorn petals snow down on us, and on the turned clods.

* * * *

For soil chemistry tests, collect seven samples, now drying on garage windowsill in an old plastic icecube-tray’s little cups, numbered by Sharpie pen corresponding to garden map locations.

Sands here to rehearse for Sunday show at winery requiring dobro.

* * * *

Paris Agreement on climate change is signed today in NY. 170-some countries. It’s a good agreement, but it’s too late. Should have happened thirty years ago. The question is, will anybody stick to its promises? A lot of pandemonium is already lining up in the future – for us all – not just for the poor. (But mostly the poor).

* * * *

Dash has gone to The Junior Prom, Saturday night, country highschool (preparations entailed an emergency trip to J.C. Penney for a genuine bowtie), and we old folks are at home. Winter-garden vegetables for sausage of smoked chicken: kale and onions from old planting. “Prairie Home Companion” above the stove. Then “At the Opera” follows, and the radio announcer summarizes the plot of La Traviata: “It’s about a tenor, who wants to flirt with a soprano, but is opposed by a baritone.” Which, he admits, was pretty much the plot of last week’s opera “La Giaconda,” except that this week, the baritone is the tenor’s father. This week it’s the soprano’s father, enemy of any soprano-tenor congress.

Well, it’s the plot of plenty of “literature,” the plot, supposedly, for the entire great Anecdote that is sexual civilization, baritones forbidding tenor-plus-soprano combinations. Dash, presently in the tenor role at a Junior Prom, is not going to experience a lot of opposition from the baritone, in fact. I think the Opposition of the Baritone is partly a merely legendary necessity. Most of the Baritones I have ever known (I flip back thru old girlfriends’ fathers, etc.) have been lenient, empathic, tentative, fond, reticent, backgrounding themselves against the scenery. To be the old baritone, really it’s the time in life for magnanimity.

* * * *

April 25, 2016

Philosophical thought last night during sleeplessness’s unredeemable hours: that some might want their cremated ashes scattered in a sunny glade, some their embalmed or else additive-free corpse in a pine coffin, some others a polished-granite mausoleum and a brass-band cortege to parade their caisson all around North Beach; some would prefer to be quietly unplugged in the hospital enblissed by medicines; others a simple surprise heart attack. The Philosopher would ask that, when the time comes and is inevitable, the six-foot hole be dug, and he be brought to it, so that he may undress and be laid naked at the floor of it where the clay is cold, the dirt fresh – (this to be even if it’s raining or sleeting) – and there be efficiently pistol-shot, face-down. After which, the shovelfuls of dirt.

* * * *

Advice via 800-number tech-support guy: Fix generator by just simply disabling (yanking out the yellow wire of) the circuit for automatic low-oil shut-down. It’s a safety feature but it malfunctions.

Car to remote Grass Valley for electrical-system diagnosis by clever home-mechanic Englishman who loves Benz jalopies, has a yard full.

More Squaw work. This time, for variety, setting up in a coffee house in town.

Find a suitable story for Chico reading. (The one about the Tenderloin prostitutes.) It’s too long, spend the morning cutting.

* * * *

April 26, 2016

Timed the Chico reading piece.

On “Immanence,” moved the cosmological revelation forward, to release contrived suspense in latter half. (Forfend the disappointment of that reader who expects sensationalism.)

Tractor mower repaired, thanks to the Internet “discussion sites,” that vast colloquy of all the bewildered guys in the world trying to fix what’s broken. (The solution: It wasn’t a carburetor issue. It was a mud wasp’s having clogged up, with her mud, a pinhole in the gas-cap, necessary for gas tank to breathe.)

To Grass Valley, where I must pick up the old car as revitalized by English mechanic.

* * * *

April 27, 2016

More of “prostitutes” story.

At sunup, mowing down entire south meadow, which is very tall now – destroying an ecosystem, destroying whole worlds, as my tractor keeps circling, pushing that tall wall a little further up the slope with each pass. Takes all morning.

Test of soil pH on garage workbench, using barium sulfate solution, yields:

Commercial soil: pH 7.5

Indian Flat Soil: pH 5.0

Amended Indian Flat soil: pH 5.5

More Squaw work, this time sitting in café of “Calif Organics.”

* * * *

April 28, 2016

To Chico.

* * * *

April 29, 2016

Home from Chico campus. (Breakfast with Troy and Heather. Great walk in Chico’s central wooded park.)

Back roads of Northern Calif with Brett. Almonds and rice are the crops. Tumbledown homes at roadside where human accommodation is shabby but the domesticated plants live royally taking precedence – (esp beautiful at this moment in spring).

Home. Pickup to Loma Rica. Salvaged boards at twenty cents a foot, for raised beds.

* * * *

April 30, 2016

Nevada Theater, David Henry Huang play.

* * * *

May 1, 2016

At last, return to “All Things” for assessment of last round of cuts.

So then it’s Sunday afternoon.

Building box for little greenhouse’s raised bed. Working in driveway – the garage radio, Nashville country music these days is produced like rock and it’s all about the girl in cutoff jeans, small-town chauvinism, pickup truck, always over-luscious studio production.

Maxima Khan comes by to discuss her nuptials. Tour the meadow. The table of snacks and drinks will go under the cherry trees. Where to put the chuppah. They’re bringing their own chuppah. The men will enter by the cherry lane, drumming as they come; the women from the other direction, accompanied by celtic music (of Luke, Maggie, Murray, Randy). Cars to park in the west meadow. Bride and bridesmaids to dress in the mud room, with maybe blankets covering the windows.

The last bit of Squaw prep work is over with, as of this afternoon.

Fatty pork roast cooks all day and gets drained of grease (crust of fennel seeds).

* * * *

May 2, 2016

Hitting the same mushy spot in “Things”: the end-of-world theme.

Long workday, then the usual weekly run to town – feed store, bank, groceries, wine, plus the luxury of a visit to gym where I stay for a longer stair-climbing-machine ordeal, of the sort that should be routine. Try again to buy fuel at the backroad barn that sells Nevada biodiesel – vagaries of the black market: lately my biodiesel providers are never there: I call first and get no answer; I drive by, and the lights are on, the door’s not locked, the office radio is softly playing, and the Mister Coffee is still warming its carafe – nobody seems to be in back rooms – so I slip away again. Sign on the door: “BITCOIN ACCEPTED HERE.”

* * * *

May 3, 2016

Last day of sunshine before a predicted long spate of drizzle.

Loving “Things” so far (page 189). But I still haven’t hit the truly deep theological fens.

In Brett’s office in the cottage, today is the “Big Day of Giving,” when she and Amy will stay in their control center watching charitable gifts’ totals as they tower higher all day.

Working on the “Things” manuscript tends to put me in an awed (metaphysical, ontological) condition. Pausing mid-morning in west meadow at leaky spout, I made an iPhone movie. (A five-minute fixed stare on a leaky irrigation faucet’s steady drip, like a metronome, close-up, with birdsong in the distance, sparkling ripples where the drop lands.) Ended up texting it to Hunter in his urban east-coast existence. The interesting thing about having kids – the rewarding thing, the ontological thing – is that you’re giving them the world. Here, it’s yours. Totally yours. I’ll be vacating it, you take it. But I mean really take it. Here’s the spiral nebula and everything you’ll never understand and Shakespeare’s sonnets and here’s all the Goethe you’ll never get around to reading, the smell of hot clothes in a sad laundromat, Bach’s solo cello compositions, warmth of copper penny deep in pocket, glimpse of meteor. It’s all yours. The (rumored) pyramids of Egypt, the mountains and beaches, drunkenness in some bar, the meadow in morning, a little stone church, the Pacific, insomnia’s anguish, the pressure-release in your ears when you step outside the train-station alone into the acoustics of the world, it’s all entirely in your possession.

(Which is redeeming because, actually, you are me.)

* * * *

May 4, 2016

At a little Beckett play in town. Intermission, in lobby I’m talking with a woman, a serious painter, fifty-ish, single, new-arrived in this town, an “economic refugee” of SF where she’d lived alone and painted for 25 years.

We’re talking about zeitgeists, about the decades of the seventies and eighties we endured, and how we both knew full well, even while they were transpiring, that those epochs’ “pop” culture, extending into higher-brow culture, had a huge waste-of-time aspect (70s = sexiness, cocaine; etc.), requiring patience of any people trying to live through them. Speaking about her arrival in the San Francisco scene, she cries, “Mondale/Ferraro!” in a kind of pining dismay.

I’ve been answering that North Beach of the 50s might have been a fruitful place to land. Meanwhile, we’re standing on the lobby carpet and a very tiny spider (small as a breadcrumb), is hanging from her projecting hair flip, and it has begun to lower herself on a thread, hanging beside her temple. I refrain from mentioning it. I guess not wanting to embarrass her.

* * * *

May 7, 2016

Dinner, Eliza and Carlos. The same South Pine Street house where Tom Gilson and Jann Bantiner once lived; still has wonderful big old miners’ fireplace with firebox big enough to, if not stand inside of, at least crouch inside of.

So that house has the curse of Divorce on it: The symptom of Tom’s and Jann’s marriage starting to go off was this: The mail would arrive, with bills, and it would collect on the kitchen counter for a week or a month; then, when it was time to entertain, it would be stuffed into a paper shopping bag, which would be put in the basement. At last, by the time of their divorce and the house sale, there was a long row of paper bags of unpaid bills on the basement floor.

* * * *

May 9, 2016

More of rendering the supernal chapters purely mechanical, plot-functional, less lyrical or fanciful. I happen to be reading Ralph Ellison; finding his more mechanical stripped-down narration (very Dostoevsky-influenced, as Ellison himself would avow) a good model at this moment.

* * * *

May 10, 2016

Spray all perimeter blackberries. Get the weed-cutting device going with last fall’s chainsaw fuel mix, which still keeps on working fine. Take out tall grasses in misc. spots — this is purely a cosmetic chore. One cu. yard compost to amend new-enclosed ground, move from truck bed by the wheelbarrow-load. Whole afternoon hard work in the sun turning clods throughout entire new-enclosed garden, mixing in compost, creating berm for squash plantings that includes, too, our own home-brewed compost.

* * * *

May 13, 2016

Indulging (and putting to practical use) all my doubts about “Things”: e.g., explicit theologizing parody in long last footnote.

Afternoon: summer irrigation is going, starting with west just-mowed meadow.

Completely un-winterize the chickens’ zone – removing all storm-protective stuff.

Fill big-house evap. cooler and un-tarp it, discomfiting and dislocating the many wasps in their winter sleep, who then hover, loiter at the scene of their annoyance, while I work.

* * * *

May 14, 2016

New shelf barley fodder.

* * * *

May 15, 2016

No work today.

Amend soil in smallest raised bed. Bring in quarter-yard soil from compost area.

Mount and connect the timers and splitters for veg garden irrigation.

Mow east meadow including front “lawn.” Spent maybe an hour reconditioning George Merrill’s ancient Rainbird” sprinkler, brass – like a model-T Ford – soak out the mud cemented in, bend tapper into proper place – and it works all right.

Rake harrowing of the big long bed, then soil-plus-compost to add volume.

Sow buckwheat as cover-crop, asparagus bed. It will be ready in winter when crowns go in.

Dash is doing his first unit of the BYU Internet-geometry course.

Sands is in the cottage with Barbara.

End of day, happily tired, it’s bedtime and I’m putting a screen in the upstairs window – and the screen swings around and knocks off the windowsill (where it’s been standing all winter) one of my favorite guitar slides, heavy glass in the Coricidin-D style but with a concave “radius” for Regal dobro.

I hear it hit the porch roof below the window and glide, rattling loud on the tin, either down to the gutter or out into the shrubs. Tomorrow morning there will be a search.

* * * *

May 17, 2016

To SF for Arion benefit.

Stop in Mill Valley, good old Sloat Nursery, for rooftop garden plants. At the Depot, the usual ham-and-gruyere sandwich – but nowadays put together with not much tenderness. In this town I’m really a disconsolate ghost standing on that same-old downtown square.

In North Beach then, on Russian Hill, a sweaty hour, many trips up the lane, loading in heavy bags of potting soil and mulch, plus potted star jasmine and hardy ferns. Then dress for Arion.

Diana Fuller, Whitney Chadwick and Bob Bechtle, Charlie Haas and BK Moran, the Garchiks, R.M. Anderson – the beauty of the Presidio premises, the old letterpress machines and the long corridors of flat wooden drawers labeled “Bodoni 14 ital,” etc. There’s even a drawer labeled “inkunabulus.” Inside the drawer, compartments of indistinguishable tiny lead slugs. What can an inkunabulus be?

* * * *

May 18, 2016

Coffee at Roma, then (20-minute walk) I’m at the new SFMOMA, promptly at opening time, ten am, and I spend the whole day in that new five-storey museum alone, like it’s a job I’ve undertaken. San Francisco now has a real museum, not just the pretentiousness that goes along with a museum, yet it still lacks the possessions. The Fisher collection, which dominates two floors, is pop-op sixties investments. Diana, who over the years has owned a couple of downtown galleries, complains at last, “San Francisco is a podunk town.” At the age of 80 admitting this. Then poking her face in further, she repeats with emphasis, “It’s a podunk town.”

Terrible traffic getting out of town, home to foothills.

Nostalgic longing for the industrial South-of-Market neighborhood of long ago, when (big live-rent spaces, infinite free parking, peace-and-quiet, maybe the clang of some metalworker or popple of pneumatic wrench, open skies, pavement weeds) it was like a sunny working neighborhood in some Midwestern town but adjacent to San Francisco. You’re in sunny quiet Omaha but if you go around the corner, there will be all of SFO.

* * * *

May 21, 2016

Getting Squaw acceptances into the mail is an emergency in the farmhouse displacing all the rest of life, dishes don’t get washed and people live on belated mac-&-cheese. Dashiell’s late-at-night-arriving friend is grossed out: in the dark, he has stepped on a rectangle of slippery salmon skin and his heel slid widely out from under him, on the kitchen floor. In the dawn’s steady drizzle, a Bic pen lies in the grass beside the Adirondack chair.

Pleasure of granting aid to applicants. And of having plenty of money for them. Maybe for a minute, in my life of selfish piracy, I am entitled briefly to the Right Livelihood commendation, because this money is the real thing, it isn’t a toy that will break within a week, it isn’t welfare payments that might get spent on beer, it isn’t delusional religious promises – it’s the real thing, genuine good work in the world. On Brett’s Squaw computer the emails all go flying out – fwissshh, fwissshh, fwissshh, fwissshh, fwissshh – winged monkeys leaping off castle parapets, but for good deeds and not mischief, flying out over the map of the real world as I have seen it from here in Google’s satellite views.

* * * *

May 22, 2016

The much enlarged garden: all drip irrigation is in, thanks to Brett. Now three tripods for string beans. Long bed cover-cropped till winter. Lettuce and leeks in the back bed; double the haricots verts; double the tomatoes, double the summer squash and the winter, triple the basil. Big square grid of red onions in front bed is a complete success, just coming ripe now.

* * * *

May 25, 2016

Mow meadows for Max Kahn’s wedding. Fine-tune irrigation in veg. garden.

To Davis for debut of Andrew Nichols’s operetta. But then inexplicable California Traffic Apocalypse turns us back. Nothing to do but stop at Mexican place for a drink while Northern California clears up.

* * * *

May 28, 2016

Saturday, the day of Max’s wedding. Port-a-Potties by the garage. In the early-AM meadow the empty white chairs are arranged chapel-like under the two oaks, focused on the chuppah. At dawn the streamers and bunting aren’t stirred by any breeze. By noon accordion and fiddle and reeds will be tuning up, the sound-system tweaking and bonking, the many drummers with djembe and conga succumbing to the contagious urge to jam a little bit, just for the hell of it.

* * * *

Wonderful British philosophy (this is Derek Parfit):

“It is sometimes claimed that God, or the Universe, make themselves exist. But this cannot be true, since these entities cannot do anything unless they exist.”

* * * *

June 1, 2016

New hydrator system for the hens. I was skeptical of it – mostly the expense – but it’s great. Less work, more sanitary, water directly sourced from the pump house nearby.

* * * *

What to do with Barbara E. Hall’s vote-by-mail ballot?

  1. vote it according to our own preferences
  2. vote it according to our guess about her preference if she were younger or alert
  3. dispose of it, because she’s non compos mentis

We have to choose the last. Still it’s going to hang out by the fruit bowl for weeks.

* * * *

June 11, 2016

To Squaw Valley. The happy annual vertical migration: like the Piute, the Washoe. I believe the Nisenan of Indian Flat Rancheria stuck around here, this elevation all summer. They had the river, didn’t need to go anywhere. We interlopers, these days, travel in our comfort-bubble. My jalopy loaded with guitars, cooking condiments, basketsful of laptops and keyboards and charging cords and other iCrap, my ergonomic beachball-style workchair sphere undeflated.

* * * *

Kenneth Rexroth (1966, Sierra Nevada):

Here where the glaciers have been and the snow stays late,

The stone is clean as light, the light steady as stone.

The relationship of stone, ice and stars is systematic and enduring:

Novelty emerges after centuries, a rock spalls from the cliffs

* * * *

June 14, 2016

Still getting over this:

That the cosmos’s spacetime “fabric” is a gelatin-tympani. And that it trembles with “gravity waves,” was confirmed by an Earthly device rather like a tuning-fork (its one prong in Louisiana, its other prong 3000 kilometers away in Washington state, each “prong” a cylinder about two meters long). These two “interferometer” tines were set up to chime with the passage of any ripple in space-time that might happen to come through.

The particular remote plash that caused the ripple was a collision of two far-away-long-ago “black holes” (big ones, of 36 and 29 solar masses, respectively), which once upon a time slammed together to make a single “black hole” of 62 solar masses (the leftover 3 solar masses having been converted to energy, constituting the waves that charged outward in space). When the two colliding black holes were only 350 kilometers apart, on the brink of slamming together, they were traveling at a fantastic relative velocity of 60% the speed of light. This collision has been “by far the most powerful explosion ever detected, except for the Big Bang.” So said the device designer (making the interesting implication, too, that the Big Bang has been “detected.”) (I guess, obviously, the Big Bang has been detected. On the other hand, maybe it hasn’t.)

When our tuning fork apparatus felt the resulting wave here on Earth, the little shrug in space was a very slight movement: Our two Earthly fork-tines detected (I see a fisherman’s bobber hiccupping over the passage of a pebble-toss ripple) a motion of 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of a meter.

* * * *

June 18, 2016

The poets arrive today. Strong rain before dawn, then clearing, sunny.

* * * *

June 20, 2016

A pet is remedy for despair. If I were alone I surely wouldn’t own a dog. (Being too busy and frankly too self-absorbed to, fairly, take care of such a creature.) It’s only over my mild objections that Brett goes out and buys these things.

Still, on a night like last night, when sometimes realistic futility is inescapable, just to put a hand on the dog’s flank (he sleeps at my feet, or in the crook of my knee) and to feel the rise and fall of a fellow mammal’s breath, it’s the only light in Creation.

Sometimes this dog – (a lapdog, but one who spent his puppy years as a dog-pound prisoner, and as a snarling fugitive on the streets of Salinas, California) – releases a sigh in his sleep: it’s exactly a child’s post-sobbing sigh, kind of a combination shiver-and-exhale, when the time of grief is over. This sigh, I’m sure, is the PTSD realization the creature regularly has: that he lives nowadays in a world surrounded by love he can depend on.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: “It is a great mitzvah to be happy always.”

Open microwave door. Moth flies out of microwave before I turn it on. Then I put coffeecup in and turn it on.

Lou Reed on TV, in an old concert, looking young and still-rebellious, still slouching, still swaggering, but reading the song’s lyrics off a teleprompter’s tilted glass panes. He has to be reminded of his own song lyrics.

* * * *

4th-of-July Weekend

Dashiell off to music school, far away in New Hampshire. Farewell at the Reno airport‘s TSA barrier. So he’s in care of his Guardian Angels now, going alone through security line, patiently, shoes in hand, good citizen, tall.

* * * *

After early airport run to Reno, I drive back up into the mountains and visit the Safeway at five in the morning: the busiest, highest-volume Safeway in Calif (as the checkout employees will proudly boast), on Donner Pass Road by Interstate 80’s Atlantic-to-Pacific artery. I’d never really experienced it at this pre-dawn hour. It’s customerless, but thronged with delivery folk, aisles too congested to move freely in, the dozens of wheeled dollies, the tall, ceiling-high, spilling towers of boxes (onions, cheese, eggs, Pampers, coffee beans, bacon, wine), the sheer cubic volume of reshelved consumables that keep California nourished and active for another day, here on almost the exact same ground where the family of pioneers (Donners, Reeds) starved in their bewilderment.

* * * *

July 8, 2016

Funny sub-headline “tease” in the NY Times. Ordinarily, the death of a lake and all such climate-change news are deeply grave, and I have no sense of humor about any of it, but my immaturity sometimes prevails:

An indigenous group that survived Spanish and Inca conquest cannot handle the abrupt upheaval of global warming. Lake Poopó was more than their livelihood: It was their identity.”

I’m only thinking, But wouldn’t they kind of be slightly OK with it, being free of that lake?

* * * *

Phone for cord-and-a-half firewood.

Repair downstairs shower in Annex – (where the floor-pan is sinking and parting from the vertical walls) – by caulking lengths of rubber baseboard trim in a skirt all around the widening slot. This house gets more makeshift by the year.

Deal with manufacturers of defective bamboo blinds. All ten can be shipped back, at their expense.

String-trimming of the slopes around both houses to begin.

Michelle’s fine book of short stories!

* * * *

July 11, 2016

Cutting weeds on Squaw slopes. This’ll be 3 or 4 afternoons’ work. With string-trimming device commercially called a Weed Whacker, at noon come out from the Annex’s cold-as-a-basement air. And the sunny Sierra day outside smells like a fresh-opened box of Cheerios. Soon to be perfumed with all weed-cutting’s damp spices. We’ve got sparser grasses this year despite the wetter winter.

I’ve been out for less than an hour when Brett comes outside, stands on stairs with two handfuls of differently sliced potatoes – for a potato salad, because today a party of us will go up to the waterfall picnicking. This must be (no exaggeration) a 45-degree slope I have to scramble over, in my deeply chlorophyll-spattered-stained Nikes.

Brett has been complaining lately that her applicants to the Fiction program don’t seem to “read the materials” and so they phone with redundant questions. She’s always telling them, schoolmarmish, “If you’d read the material.” These people need only to pass their eyes over a few well-crafted grammatically coherent sentences that explain what they’re wondering about. Brett’s theory is, people see everything on their phones these days. A sentence doesn’t fit on the small screen.

But she went back inside, thinking she favors dice-sized potato chunks, and as I got back to “Whacking” the weeds – (this voracious wand is powered by electricity, and when I’ve been doing it for a while, when both the live tool and I are deep in the weedwhacking trance together, the voice of its slashing long burr-and-bristle starts to sound like Jimmy Cagney. Jimmy Cagney used to sometimes play a movie gangster and he would snarl You Dirty Rat and emphasize contempt with a taunting “Mnyeah, mnyeah.” It’s exactly what my weed-ripper does when I’m deep in the tall grasses and destroying them, making them lie down, jabbing at them, it says, “Mnyeah. . . Mnyeahh.”)

Anyway – as I went back into my work I started thinking about people’s comprehension of prose. Whether on an iPhone screen or a printed page. And about skimming in general. In general “skipping over stuff.” And I started thinking, Maybe people don’t exactly “read” anymore.

I’m thinking this pertains to readers of popular fiction, who are a vast market (and kind of a new market, too, last 30 yrs). People think they’re interested in “page turners,” – and yes, these people definitely do turn a lot of pages, consuming them at a high rate – but I wonder if they’re ever stopped in thought? Or if they even wanna be? If they think it’s bad to be? Maybe the kind of writing that’s out there these days warrants only a skim. Maybe a lot of these people pick a book that they know will be the kind of thing they like, and they run through it mostly confirming that, yes, it lived up to their expectations, while they never got outside their expectations into anything disorienting or worrisome or life-altering. It used to be, when you read, say, Ralph Ellison or Jane Austen, you were taking your life in your hands. No joke.

The same could be said, too, and just as much, of Salinger, Cheever, Hemingway, that to read them is to take your life into your hands. One wishes to go back to the days of small advances, the days of bookstores’ remoteness and cramped dark inaccessibility. Today they’re all out there on the mall sipping lattes while reading, and they expect reading to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

* * * *

July 12, 2016

To Independence Lake. Kayak. Strong winds on shore. Sparkling blue with little barking waves.

* * * *

July 14, 2016

Wendy emails with offer of Jane Austen review. I jump on it.

Dashiell’s letter arrives from music school in faraway New Hampshire — it’s pencil-written, folded eight ways in a lump, then confided to a standard business-size envelope. He says everybody there is more talented than he, but he promises to impress everybody. Those were his words. The pathos of that assessment is too big to look at directly.

However, more recent news from him (coming thru’ longer conversations, via the telephone hanging on the dorm-corridor wall) is that he’s doing much better, loving his classes, making friends.

* * * *

The Squaw Valley post office – where I’ve come on foot this early morn – is an empty linoleum space: the glassed-in community bulletin board, the columbarium of small numbered metal doors, mausoleum-style. From behind that wall of compartments – as on every early morning in history (excepting Sundays and government holidays) – the sounds of the postmaster and co-workers can be heard. They’re sorting mail while the  radio plays pop and rock, loud, from Reno, it’s their agreed-upon station. Those three guys and one woman have been faithfully doing this every dawn for the past couple of decades, now getting up into middle-age w/job security – today hearing Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young,” a melody surprisingly upbeat (not a dirge, not an anthem, not a requiem, considering it’s such a tragic sentiment!) actually very bouncy. One USPS worker back there is singing along, the youngest of the four on the team.

* * * *

No work on any sort of writing today. The afternoon will be clearing brush on the slope again.

* * * *

August 3, 2016

Conferences are over. Summer’s end premature. All are gone from the Valley, only Lisa and Andrew to remain. Afternoon as “roustabout” breaking down the flimsy sets that were the thunderous writers’ conference, trucking it all to Public Storage. Then tour Granlibakken to consider it as conference site; then, annual “expensive” dinner for just us Top Brass.

* * * *

August 4, 2016

Last night at Wolfdale’s, I got the halibut and I watched Brett enjoying her scallops. Made me think of the sweetest scallops I ever ate, when, on Aptos beach 10 yrs ago, with wife-&-kids, I’d gotten a very bad diagnosis, by phone call. Didn’t mention it to anybody, but at seaside dinner, could observe the really delectable, delicious seafood on my plate with high-res photographic clarity. Did scallops ever taste any better than that?

* * * *

August 6, 2016

Getting wood in at the Annex. Big golden eagle who lives on the rock face and seldom comes this low, passes close, in among the Annex pines, at this level, checking me out.

General Annex repairs. Ordering 4’-by-1/4’ redwood slats for tub enclosure. Happy accommodating miller at Tahoe Lumber.

How surprising, how savage and riot-grrrl, is Jane Austen’s youthful writing, her so-called juvenilia. Making notes on it for review.

Alone in Squaw. To PlumpJack alone, to splurge big-time on a bowl of fish soup, glass Tempranillo. The guy next to me in the neighboring banquette (sixty-ish, head shaved shiny-bald, collarless knit shirt and heavy gold necklace, lots of fussing over pricey bottle of wine and what to name his new boat) is interesting and has a story. A doctor, he was summoned by a Qatari prince for a diagnosis. First-class flight on British Airways to Heathrow, then, on airport gangway, sudden interception by armed posse in keffiyeh, diversion onto tarmac in the night, to landing-strip shed, where they are interrogated, then put on a Quatar Airways plane – the stewardesses are described by this guy as fuckable: do you want caviar? do you want vodka? – all the while, the running joke is, when will their heads will get lopped off. The doctor has identified himself on travel documents as “Catholic.” They get to Doha. Are swept by limousine to hotel. On arrival in hotel room, they get a phone call: come now, right this minute, the car’s out front, even though it’s 4:30 am, even tho’ they’re jet-lagged. – Mercedes entourage to palace. Palace is many rooms, basketball-court-sized, the rooms all enfilade, a thousand couches, everything gold, chandeliers, all couches against walls with open floors. Finally in the palace’s inmost, centermost little closet, they meet the ailing prince. He’s about thirty, lying on an ordinary, unkempt bed (not a golden-silk bed), watching a black-and-white television where black-and-white clips of lesbian midget mudwrestling are playing. (Diagnosis: sciatica.)

Doctor makes me sample his $170-bottle wine, extorts approbation from all, and I go home alone to my pleasure of my own well-earned fatigue in firewood-carrying, my uncomplicated Woodbridge “cabernet,” my Penguin Classic paperback of Jane Austen, which I’m savoring to its last footnote.

* * * *

August 9, 2016

Back home.

These meadows are so quiet. Evening-time in Nevada City. I’ve got a new pleasure, now in years when straw bales are such a staple furnishing of our lives: the pure color of straw bales. The toasty warmth of them when the last light of day is on them. A bale is sitting right now on the open tailgate. (The delight to the eye is a little like the bone-deep satisfaction in seeing firewood’s goldenness, fresh-cut and stacked. Color of a crop storing calories.)


* * * *

August 26, 2016

Resolve to get back to more regular reports in this diary.

Temperatures are trending cooler – in the seventies by next week.

Brett’s acquisitions: some pullets from Ridge Feed; for Barbara an armchair that will dump her forward when she wishes to stand up; from the Internet some old tough kilim fabric to be made into pillows for Squaw.

Diagnosis of solar-energy weakness: the panels in the array are defective. I’ll have to get the manufacturer, BP, to honor their guarantee.

* * * *

August 28, 2016

Sunday. Beautiful day, I’m inside all morning with a short story, sick of it. Then I go outside at noon and, in the heat, there’s a small butterfly (common California Sister: wings of burled tortoiseshell with tips of orange Kandy-Korn) fluttering among the tall spires of iris. Whose pods of last spring look dead but are probably remembering some of the logic of life. And I can see, the most beautiful or best things happen without the slightest effort at all on my part. I don’t even have to be around.

“Cloverleaf” story to Oscar.

Mow front lawn, which has been knee-high all summer.

Tennis with Dash, then burritos at some new place.

* * * *

August 29, 2016

British Petroleum, who manufactured them, will honor their warranty for the solar panels that have grown weaker after 10-12 years. But I must bear the cost of removing. So will personally remove.

Lots of evidence of thriving coyote population, plenty of lusty chorusing in the nights, all around the old Ericson woods and beyond horse paddocks. Today, climbing Cement Hill to clear the irrigation weir, I came across more-than-usual of their droppings in the woods. One coyote seems to have ingested a songbird whole – undigested feather-and-bone compaction in the tar.

This morning early, Brett looked out into the south meadow and saw two large coyotes flanking a balking deer. The deer charged one of them. Then third coyote appeared, and Brett went running outdoors in the dew, barefoot, in nightgown, and took a stand and shouted and windmilled her arms. The deer went bounding away boink, boink, boink, boink into the east woods. The three coyotes looked at Brett pissed-off and turned and cantered into the south woods, into the blackberry paths that lead down to ravines.

Late afternoon, I go alone, rocky road, lifting dust, in pickup down to the river. My favorite beach is unchanged by rough winters, and I spend a couple of hours in favorite old repetitious activity, climbing upstream wrestling the current, then letting go and flowing down over smooth rocks. Over and over again.

* * * *

August 31, 2016

Threepenny Review takes the Jane Austen essay happily.

For some days now, I’ve been back on “Immanence” trying to disestablish any “suspense” structure – especially in the front end, taking care to reduce readers’ expectations of intrigue – and replacing it with the promises of metaphysics solely.

I have to pick up Dash early at school, so he can come home and take the online BYU test, and I’m parked outside the rural-highschool attendance office. Three student-age kids – not truant but for some reason at large in the parking lot, nonchalantly – are headed somewhere: a boy and two girls. They notice something in the lawn and, using a stick because it’s icky, they snag it and pick it up. Whip it around. Flip it off into the hedgerow. They move on, but the boy takes out his iPhone and leans over for a close-up of it where it stuck – then he catches up with the shambling-away girls. I can tell from here what it is, it’s underwear, a lacy black thong with about as much fabric as a slingshot.

* * * *

September 1, 2016

More on “Immanence,” hitting no bumps.

September First, and the Italian prunes behind the winter woodpile are exactly right. The bear who used to steal them all has apparently moved on or died. In a couple of hours I get unbelievably heaped heavy basketfuls, for winter’s sauces.

Expecting (today) delivery by FedEx. So my trip to Squaw this weekend will be productive.

Beef short ribs braise 3 hrs in prune juice. Meanwhile I, during the hour of Dashiell’s math tutor appointment, cool my heels sitting at a curbside table in a mall, drinking p. grigio and reading Nabokov’s essay on Mansfield Park. Nabokov is a bit of an ass.

Because life will very soon get grittier again, I’m making the most of this well-managed hour.

* * * *

September 2, 2016

To Squaw, for Labor Day weekend, the pickup loaded with French-draw table, pillows, reconditioned blinds. The wood for deck-enclosure repairs will be at lumber yard today only.

* * * *

September 5, 2016

Labor Day. Burnett’s birthday party first, then Susan’s lakeshore party. These are all great people. At a table full of Republicans, I have to explain how it is that folks aren’t “required” to get solar electricity, because they’ve got a right, as Americans in a free-market economy, to get their power from coal if that’s how they prefer it. Keep those Kentucky men underground if they like. Keep the skies dirty, the coral reefs dying. It’s a free country. And why Floridians opposing “radical climate-change agenda” will, some day soon, feel themselves entitled to sue for government financial disaster-relief aid.

On a brighter note: Burnett, at his 93rd birthday party, brings out the old mayor-of-Sacramento personality and gives a long birthday speech about everything we owe to the labor movement (it being Labor Day), and his friend (88 yrs old) starts singing “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night/Alive as you and me.”

Tonight, now, all are gone. Quiet. I’m the last of the tribe in Squaw, alone in the Annex with my vices. I’ve finished the windows in the Annex – and today and yesterday reframed the privacy wall around the west deck of the upper house, a flimsy wall that has gone all wonky from wintertime glacial movement of snow-load: all the posts are listing about six degrees off-vertical. So tomorrow I’ll get some rope and, anchoring to a big pine with a come-along ratchet, pull the whole structure back up to plumb, then put some two-by-six diagonals in the structure that Oakley never thought to provide. I frequently think of Oakley in these autumn days when I’m patching up these houses, his slapdash patch-up carpentry.

Also, stain the new wood. Misc. other things.

* * * *

September 6, 2016

Squaw. Woke early and, avoiding laptop, starting with coffee,went to work, total cleanup, replacing faulty light switch in stairwell, shutting down and draining Annex swamp cooler, binding up the unraveling ends of the Annex blinds (which required unaccustomed distaff patience and dexterity), then going up in the sun and starting work on the upper-house Wedding Deck. Found some stout rope and rigged up two guys (anchoring them to pine by the road); improvised turnbuckles with broomsticks; and it took many tightenings over the day (I’m reminded of an orthodontist, periodically wringing braces tighter) to suck the whole heavy structure up plumb. Which it is, now. Tomorrow, lag screws in the 2-by-6 diagonal brace I’ve fitted into place. Locking it plumb. (This deck is all Oakley’s old carpentry, and – even 25 yrs after – I sense myself to be in an ongoing conversation with him. – He drove in the nail I’m now pulling. That is a conversation.)

Cabinet latch in upper-house pantry.

(Evening. Listened to the CD of Dash’s concert piece, piano-cello-bells, based on Jerald’s painting in the Crocker, and it’s just wonderful. More stirring than I’d remembered.)

* * * *

Little “ineffability” moment this afternoon.

Sitting in chair in the upper-house doorway, taking a break, looking out over the valley and across to far peaks, big forested bowls of air, between here and Squaw Peak, between here and Granite Chief, ample distances in these mountains, I think somehow, I am the only thing in this entire scene that isn’t present.

Does this mean “Everything else is present. Only the conscious being is absent”?

I haven’t any idea what it means – neither semantically nor referentially – but it’s a distinct enough sensation to seem worth recording.

* * * *

September 7, 2016

Up at four. In Annex, while the dishwasher quietly grinds, I read Nabokov on Dickens’s Bleak House. Wonderful. The critic’s perpetually innocent delight/wonder, seeing a fellow-enthusiast take his “genius” turns, swingin’ on a star. Then, at daylight, unbind the Wedding Deck from its taut harness to the pine tree: My diagonal brace is staunch. The whole structure doesn’t plunge back downhill, doesn’t even creak, doesn’t even tick. (Eight big six-inch lag screws secure the ends.) Finish trim over vertical panels. Hammer in last nail. Close up both houses.

Home to Nevada City, truck piled high.

* * * *

September 11, 2016

Sunday morning. Out in the meadows’ dark, the pulse of Rainbird sprinklers’ tireless ejaculations obviously must have persisted crazily all the while I slept, as evidenced by the drenched condition of sod in the moonlight.

A colonizing new species of grass this year, when unmowed, grows hip-high by end of summer.

Today at last, after delays, to begin removing solar panels from garage roof and testing voltage. Dash and his friend Finn to help. The pickup is parked alongside under the eave, ladders founded in its bed.

Prompting note to Paris Review.

These few days going over “Immanence.”

Tonight, the last of the Nico’s left-behind chorizo flavored cod with Panko; then last night Brussels sprouts; a tortilla broth.

* * * *

Entire operation of solar panel removal goes beautifully. The two 16-yr-old boys get a pay raise they’re so competent, behaving like men, up against the sky at roof-peak – agile, courteous, careful, above all competent. It’s all done within a few hours, 24 heavy panels stacked ’thwart the garden gate. The plan for a stingy tortilla broth is dismissed and instead smoke two trout; pasta of fresh tomatoes. Then reading more of Nabokov (on Flaubert). A happy Sunday altogether including even music. (If lacking in any of my own work.)

* * * *

On the creative writing business:

To admire the labors of the saints is good; to emulate them wins salvation; but to wish suddenly to imitate their life in every point is unreasonable and impossible.

– St. John Climachus, 6th C.

(The “You-Have-To-Be-Crazy” part.)

* * * *

September 13, 2016

Nice first stab at winter. A little light, steady rain last night on tin roof, outside open screened window. NOAA has snow on the high elevations above the passes. Today’s max temperature here will be in the sixties.

Measuring voltage and amperage on the solar panels. Of 24 panels, seven have failed. My believe is, this entitles me to a total-replacement refund from BP, as the product has a forty-year warranty.

* * * *

During Dashiell’s hour at the tutor, I kill time again (same as last week) at the curbside table of a strip-mall restaurant with glass of white wine and book. Behind me along the sidewalk, a 5-yr-old girl is crouching behind a trash can, hiding, folding herself very small against its foot. At last, of the two women who have been loading a minivan, the young pretty one comes to find the girl, and soon there’s lots of secret weeping going on. The woman kneeling. The girl won’t come out of her crouch, won’t come away from the cylindrical pebbled-cement wall of the garbage receptacle, won’t be consoled. For many minutes, while quietly talking to her, the woman lets her hand stroke and stroke the upper arm of the little girl. Whatever has gone wrong, it won’t ever be fixed, it’s something that can’t be fixed, it’s not the usual thing.

After they’ve all gone, I turn more fully and I can see the storefront there is the “Foster Family Center of Nevada County” – with, inside, lots of plush Teddy bears sitting up in nursery-sized rocking chairs, all different sizes. The office is closed, it’s past five, nobody is in there where, after hours, bears with out-of-touch-with-reality smiles preside. When the little girl was loaded into the car seat of the minivan, she was still crying. The young woman stayed on the sidewalk watching the closed car travel through the parking lot and get out on the street. The thing that little girl knows – which she’s certain of – is that what’s wrong can’t be fixed, and that moreover, it’s something wrong with herself. That’s the problem. It’s always the heart of the problem.

* * * *

September 14, 2016

No writing today. Have to wrap up the Carlotta plot-thread better, and have to prepare a prior justification for the John/Thalia resolution.

So I get up early and, like a bum, play slide guitar in the kitchen during the dawn hours.

Lots of email I’ve been putting off.

Threepenny sends proofs of Jane Austen essay. They’re fine. I’m delighted with it.

Shoemaker sends news Counterpoint is merging with a New York outfit.

Zyzzyva buys the “Cloverleaf” story for Spring issue.

* * * *

September 15, 2016

Another day no writing.

More fully sever root of big fir beside house. A good bit of digging necessary.

First contact with BP, inquiring how to fill out claim form. This will be interesting.

Oil change for Brett’s car.

Reading at Grass Valley bookstore, drinks after at McGee’s.

(Topic: my increasing disrespect for Flaubert. Reading Nabokov’s praise of him, his conformity to the Flaubert cult, I get the more ticked off. Not only is the vaunted prose not that great; the characterization merely mean. In this way it is, as claimed, “the first modern novel.”)

* * * *

September 16, 2016

Afternoon: unexpected visit from solar technician, who is very generous with his own time. Has brought a meter to measure the “irradiance” of incident sunlight, which measurement is a requirement of BP. It turns out, when the panels are all retested, there seem to be 16 failures, out of a total of 24. Which is a high failure rate.

Brett goes alone to Squaw to sew couch cushions. For two nights I’m alone here.

* * * *

September 21, 2016

The town is full of migrant marijuana trimmers.

Good coffee at the little hole-in-the-wall by the National Hotel.

Much of the morning was lost to entering data about my failed solar panels (voltage, amperage, irradiance, temperature, corresponding #s of documentary photographs), all on the cramped little grid of a “spreadsheet.”

Park the truck in town on Broad Street, the pickup bed piled high with excellent oak logs. Needing coins for parking meter, I buy a fancy probiotic drink in storefront (lime, coconut, aloe), and a beautiful golden-haired woman wearing a sleeveless cavewoman dress made out of thinnest chamois-leather slides up alongside me on the sidewalk, saying, “That’s only the best-tasting drink the world. What day is your birthday?”

After I tell her, I’m informed that I’m a water sign, as well a snake sign. Also a wizard. It turns out I share this distinction of nativity with Oprah Winfrey and a living Hindu saint named Ammachi. Whom I’d never heard of. – We actually chat for a while, she and I, in front of the coffee shop I intend to enter. Suddenly she looks over my shoulder seeing into coffee shop window, with delight, “Hey, it’s my son. That’s my son.” A skinny teenager is in there, playing on his phone, aware of his mother, but unlikely to look up and acknowledge her. She boasts a little about him, how he was raised without any contamination by formal education. She’ll go in and join him at his table, her effusive warmth to be met with his total nonchalant indifference. She has sat down at his table, but he never even lifts his eyes from his computer screen. Meanwhile I’m across the room in armchair with cappuccino, googling “Ammachi” on my own iPhone. Ammachi does exist, a lovely plump charismatic woman with wonderful smile, a vermillion bindi dot between her eyebrows.

* * * *

September 22, 2016

Short coldish snap. Temps will top out in the low 60s. More dusting of snow on the high passes.

Feeling unwell, kinda paralyzed on my left side with sharp cartilage pain in shoulder, hip-joint and knee, I soak myself every day in contemplation of a river-canyon book, or a retirement-home book, or some recombinant mash-up. (Recombinant mash-ups: “A salad of marshmallows and mushrooms”: that was my old metaphor for such easy silliness.) With cult of clitoridectomy and twenty-something slackers’ pessimistic fatalism, “comic-grotesque” seems to be the congealing tone.

* * * *

Rain. My intention was to go out and turn under the cover crop in the long bed – prep for asparagus to come. But first thunder over northern ridges, then rain. So I’m indoors philosophizing here on this luminous screen-page instead. About the following:

That I live on Indians’ land is achingly clear to me every day. The granite slabs in my woods and at the foot of my sunny meadow (these boulders surface from antiquity like breaching whales) have anciently been shallow-ground to make mortars, bored by Nisenan squaws to pound a mash of acorn meal. Maybe two hundred years ago? Maybe even four hundred? This very meadow, I like to think, was where the Nisenan partied annually, and where, as party prep, the girls and women spent mornings or afternoons moliendo, trabajando, platicando in the oak shade.

Now I’m long aware of the motto “Ownership is Theft.” And I know that the motto, popularly, applies just about perfectly to the relations between Native Americans and arriving Europeans. Whenever I walk here, I think of it. I think of who walked here before me. But today when the first drops were starting to make pattering on the madrone leaves, I found myself, devil’s-advocate-fashion, admitting a kinder view, also, of the arriving colonists.

First of all, the European arrivistes were encountering vast tracts of land that were governed differently. Or governed mysteriously. Tribes were mostly unconfederated, with constantly shifting boundaries (…I’m talking about the land “ownership” concept here). It might be considered a kind of “crime” — or theft — if a European man took a stand on a piece of dirt saying he had the exclusive use of it, and drawing a line at some middle-distance in the dirt (how absurd, too!), pointing at the line and saying that the Native would be just fine so long as he stayed on the other side of the line.

But at its heart, the institution of “ownership” of land isn’t about grandiosity or even, necessarily, aggression. At its heart it’s about responsibility. In practice, it’s about stewardship. Here on these acres I myself happen to be doing not much. As an asset to society, it’s kind of a waste. I’ve been only raising two boys, the writing/editing pastime, cultivating some food for my own use, taking care of a very old helpless lady. Those are creative uses, I suppose. Plus, as a creative use, we do provide premises for the Community of Writers office. Others could put the land to some fuller use, and when the time comes that I alienate myself from the place (“sell” it), some other owner might put it into potatoes or vineyards or do some more serious truck farming, or who knows, maybe build a motel. Land has its creative uses. Land allows work.

And to get creative work done – or getting anything done – some “stability” is required. Continuity of possession is a good basis. The owner can’t be constantly at risk of having a neighbor come through the woods to announce that, now, the place is gonna be a go-cart racetrack or a mink farm or a Buddhist monastery. (Or whatever he happens to want.) Or of having a trespasser build a house for himself in this meadow. If some trespasser would like to do that, he of course can, but only after a long, conventional process of negotiation and mutual settlement.

In other words, the “ownership” institution, at its heart, is about the bourgeois stability that supports creative work. It’s about Peace, Love, and Understanding, like everything else in bourgeois conventional society, ideally. The Peace-Love-and-Understanding trinity is the foundation of much more than the hippies liked to pretend. Suburbia is the apotheosis of Peace, Love, and Understanding. (They wouldn’t have said so at Woodstock.)

None of this is supposed to suggest that the Natives haven’t been displaced unfairly. It’s only to hope, rather, that it isn’t fully “evil” to create a line and observe it, where once people crossed freely to and fro.

* * * *

September 25, 2016

Sunday. Have been working happily in the forest trailer all this month.

After work, with chainsaw cut entire load of oak into lengths for firewood, working below cottage on the tailgate of pickup, east meadow.

Dash has his drivers license now, and takes the Toyota out in shy, short trips: to coffee shop and back.

* * * *

October 1, 2016

No writing today. Slept in surprisingly late, slept maybe ten hrs total, which I take as a good sign (i.e., of the repose in my bosom of the freshly redacted “Immanence”).

Sunny, cool. Rains to come in tomorrow.

It’s Saturday, Brett barefoot in nightgown brings in baskets of winter squash. Also some summer squash is still producing. A big yellow spherical pumpkin, looking right now more like a melon, is showing its first blush of orange, a pumpkin-color aureole around the button on its butt.

First early-pears harvest. The truck bed serves as my ladder.

Repair oven-door spring, another trip to B&C for aviation cable and pinch-clips.

Brett to Celtic Festival with her friends.

* * * *

And the garden gate! After all these years at last it’s broken. An old familiar Zen metaphor turns up as the real thing, in a man’s life in a literal garden.

* * * *

October 2, 2016

Rain is promised. Satellite imagery, animated, shows a big guillotine-blade (of overcast) arriving from Pacific Northwest, due here by noon, though now the sky is summer-blue.

Snow-on-passes accumulation to be just two inches, which would mean twice that on summits and snow fields.

Chop oak for stove, stack all within.

Storm windows, mud room and playroom.

Woodpile tarped. Summer’s over: lit the pilot light in the kitchen wall furnace. Both swamp coolers drained. Big-house cooler tarped. (Up there on that ladder, I find wind-damage to west verandah roof. Nothing urgent, but something to be handled.)

Still, for a second day, no thinking about “Immanence.”

Lunch with Burnett and Mimi in town.

I’d purchased all the food for dinner here with Josh Weil and family, but it must be canceled as their baby has an irritable cold.

* * * *

October 3, 2016

Spent much of the day actually physically aching in a nationwide kind of way, here pacing my own meadows, I’ve actually got “the blues” – about the low quality of public discourse, which has come along with this year’s awful presidential campaign, it’s all over the media, resurgence of racist assumptions, a new license for the lid to be lifted on all the gremlins and Orcs who ordinarily don’t disport themselves in public, anti-Islam speech, insults to the people who make our beds and bend over all day picking our lettuce, even anti-Semitic hints, all as if, whenever truculence and impoliteness come out of their little holding pen, they “go on a spree” – thuggish talk from exalted podiums and the Mussolini frown and strut of one of the presidential candidates. And how this contaminates even me up here in my isolation where I’d liked to think animals’ manure is the most dangerous contact.

* * * *

Blessings-Counting: Every now and then over the years, Brett has told me I ought to get work as a voice in radio or TV. She’s not kidding. An announcer or something. She thinks my speaking voice is great.

This is absurd, of course. But how lucky can you be? I have a life where Brett thinks such a thing.

It’s not the only example. If I’d been given this street-address thirty years ago, and been told, “Go there. Go see a place where, some day, people will be prejudiced in your favor,” I certainly wouldn’t have believed it, the place’s peace and tranquility and liberty.

* * * *

October 6, 2016

Bad development. My supplier of biodiesel has been shut down. So I’ll be filling up at the Chevron station guiltily.

This while my solar-power array is disabled on account of its manufacturing defects.

So altogether, for an indefinite period, I won’t be able to, like King Canute, keep the tide from rising personally and single-handedly. (In Florida now, where salt water is rising up through limestone underfoot into people’s gardens, the situation is this: the state Governor forbids the words “climate change” to be spoken in the hallway or offices, or to be written on any paper; while the mayor of Miami has the official policy of recommending migration: “Get out of Miami before it floods. If you’re young and have your life ahead of you, start someplace else. Head for high ground. If you’re older, well, maybe you could enter into a thirty-year mortgage. Whatever you do, consider your time frame.”

* * * *

October 8, 2016

Jen and Josh for dinner, corn chowder and smoked trout. Their luminous two-year-old boy, polite gentle explorer of rooms.

Barbara at 93, mostly chair-bound. How resilient is the organism, tired-o’-livin’, ‘fraid-o-dyin’, at this point the main erosion, the biggest weight for her to carry, isn’t pain or sickness, it’s despair. Pain and sickness are almost bracing, by comparison. They’re a nice distraction from the despair. Despair alone (I’ve experienced this) is tiring as if it were physical labor, bodily, it drains calories. Yet she keeps on surviving the heaviest-possible, most crushing-possible hopelessness. Patience, suspense. Tightrope-walk.

* * * *

October 11, 2016

One o’clock in the afternoon. I see through the kitchen French doors, Pabby is crossing the lawn headed for the little iron gate to Barbara’s domain. (Her regular stint, a bit of reading-aloud, and maybe TV-watching, on Tuesdays a so-called “spa” including a blow-dry, nap-time.) Carrying supplies, she stops under the mulberry and looks out at the meadow – pauses for a good half-minute! a full minute! – then moves on, her head down, where nowadays a path is being worn in the grass, through that gate.

She’s a country woman and, looking out over the meadow, could have been making a sort of practical appraisal, seeing something that needs doing; or she might have just been admiring. October light on the meadow, pines glittering. Whatever, the ability to pause for a minute, to stand still, is distinguishing to not-just-everybody. You have to be either tired or wise.

* * * *

After “Immanence,” pick pears, a third day of it.

Offer comes from BPSolar, compensation for defective panels.

Clean garage, then cruise the Goodwill stores of the county looking for somebody who will accept the gift of an Exer-Cycle.

* * * *

October 12, 2016

Done with another pass. I keep working to restore conventional plot-and-character music to the story. Which goes against the grain of the book, because this shuffled-episode manner of narration depends on a sidelining of plot.

Plan is: tomorrow to take another vacation from work.

Have to get ready for the SF reading, find a suitable text.

Big rain coming in. Outdoor kindling box cleaned up.

(More talk with lawyers, about BP Solar settlement.)

A summer’s worth of littered-around agricultural paraphernalia.

Poultry premises roofed with fresh-purchased corrugated metal. The chickens’ summer roof (the rather tropical bamboo) has been rolled up and stowed in potting shed.

Hearing unaccustomed northerly ridges’ trees rustle, seeing the mists starting to blanch the blue southwest (all the cubic miles of atmosphere above the Sacramento Valley), I always think of my ranger friend who (we were hiking up the Yuba canyon and it was November, and I’d only lived here a few months then) took such pleasure in looking downriver, where the notch opens up to the great valley, and seeing the air between here and the Pacific thickening and whitening, took such satisfaction in the sight. “Now that’s the typical Alaska system coming in. Looks nice.”

* * * *

October 14, 2016

Rain comes in in the night. Early morning, the new corrugated-metal roof over chicken quarters requires lots of leak remediation, early in AM.

Brett observes there’s a particular hen – a Barred Plymouth Rock – who gets pecked a lot by the other girls (presently the Identified Victim), and her method of saving herself is just to drop off the roost and into the manure-hammock below. It’s another instance of poultry society/psychology providing a correlative of human. Her gambit is to convey: “Don’t peck at me, I’m down here in the manure. I’m not a competitor.”

In SF, I’ll be walking past degraded homeless folk.

“Proposition Q” on this season’s SF election ballot would have all the tents of homeless folk hosed off the sidewalks. I come across a remark of Abraham Heschel’s:

“Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. It is a silent justification affording evil acceptability in society.”

* * * *

To SF, in the pickup, not the jalopy. Heavy rain.

Northern California seems, increasingly, to be a traffic jam. There’s really been an epochal development in the overpopulation of the state, and a clever traveler has to weave around its web at all hours.

Dinner at “Curry Leaf” on Columbus with Jason Roberts, then we go to a place he knows called Sweetie’s Art Bar and drink Stormy Nights – ginger beer and rum – we the two in the place who lift a glass to E Bulwer Lytton.

* * * *

October 15, 2016

Wake in SF alone. Via telecommute, work on grant application (deadline is today). Trip up through Chinatown, for the purchase of a toothbrush (I’d forgotten to pack one) and a year’s supply of sturdy clothes, annual bottle of fish sauce.

Andrew arrives from Oakland airport and takes BART to town, walks up hill. Lunch at “The House” on Grant, which is excellent. Then visit to the shivah at Specs bar, vigil for Specs himself. Wonderful food laid out, the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had: so, typically, it’s food to make everybody think, “He would have loved this.”

Reading at five o’clock, in some fashionable Mission saloon.

* * * *

October 16, 2016

Reading went well, in an upstairs bar – too much racket from restaurant below. Then dinner at a long table at Puerto Allegre. Followed by a chase up and down the streets of the Mission with Andrew Tonkovich and Jason Roberts, looking for the oil painting that was the trophy awarded as Barbary Coast prize. We connect with the painting itself at The Vestry (big dark loud party), and with my posse, we carry it off in the light rain.

* * * *

A day alone in North Beach, idle and sad. City Lights basement.

Specs Simmons’s shivah is still going on, so I stop by there. In the rug store next to Live Worms, a tabla player and a harmonium player are whiling away the afternoon playing excellent (excellent!) qawwali music. These are two brothers, middle-aged, virtuosi, from Islamabad, been playing together all their lives. The park bench in Washington Square. A very young amputee in a wheelchair goes past with great scornful dignity. Later he’s sitting alone talking to himself.

Dinner with Nico and Ola.

* * * *

October 18, 2016

What can I be so unhappy about? Well, as I get older, I spend more and more time outside my own skin (as on the whole youngsters do live pretty happily inside their own skin). And when you get outside your own skin, what is there? There’s air (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide), there’s light and sound, all those vibes. And when you start being specific, there’s love and beauty. But also there’s lots more, and it catches your eye, there’s overpopulation of the planet, there’s irreversible climate change, social injustice that is axiomatic to the whole economy, the murderous history, racism, suspicion, how doomed are the ocean’s colorful coral reefs. Et cetera. All this outside my immediate concerns.

Along Divisidero, where I used to frolic in pre-marriage days with any amount of pocket money, the sidewalks now host rows of homeless folks’ tents, North Face, or Coleman pop-ups, semi-permanently installed, with shopping carts parked outside. Exponential resource depletion amounts to a relentless vise. (Which everybody saw coming, way back in ’72, including corporate strategists.)

Abraham Heschel: “The opposite of ‘good’ isn’t ‘evil’; the opposite of good is indifference.”

* * * *

A day for getting results. Wrote an Op-Ed piece and sent it to the Times. Signed off on a commitment to receiving a few thousand bucks’ compensation from BP Solar.

Dash and his friends want to go to Squaw tonight, so I’ll go with them and handle some things up there.

* * * *

October 20, 2016

Back up in Squaw, turn right at 7-Eleven. Snow on granite: it’s the “timelessness” metaphor. It heaves up in my windshield as usual above my steering wheel, and I actually get a tear in the eye for something that is truly near to unchanging. For even in extreme cases (e.g., even without forests, without vertebrate life, etc.), Granite Chief and Squaw Peak will be there still, just as I see them now, just as will Orion and Scorpio and the Big Dipper and the Pleiades, all my faves.

* * * *

Reading Paul Harding early in the morning. I think I catch a fleeting glimpse of “the flashy tail feathers of the bird courage.”

Wasted day yesterday, having invested “all-in” in my own incompetence. I had a plan to shore up the wedding-deck foundation – purchased some pressure-treated fir, some construction stakes, a half-yard of crushed rock – and then discovered the hill is solid granite. No soil. The construction stakes, with help from sledge hammer, won’t penetrate more than a half-inch (into what had looked like dirt). Any “soil-retention” I might attempt would wash away in a single winter.

For a while then, with an ill-fated plan of making a dry-stack wall instead, I’m (Ecclesiastically) dragging together heavy stones. On the NPR radio while I work deeper into my incompetence, the story is about the prison system, explaining it’s as expensive to keep a prisoner on Death Row for a year as it would have been to send him to an Ivy League school for a year. I’m thinking, “Yup.” empathizing with that guy who’s such a bad investment all-round

* * * *

October 21, 2016

This dog we have here in this house. His name is Felix. “Rescue dog,” every night from his position in the corner, he’s watchful for the levitation of dinner plates from the table. He has learned that, for his good manners, he deserves to lap up the gravy, or the crumbs, when the plates are set down on the floor for him. When he first got here, he flinched and snarled at anyone who would reach out to pet him – having spent his puppy year on the streets of Salinas, California, dining on garbage, evading the dogcatcher. Nowadays he doesn’t flinch anymore. His tail now is mostly always set straight-up like a plume. I have a mental habit of comparing my lot in life to beasts’ – all the other beasts in Creation – I guess it’s a habit of “empathy” but also a form of moral assessment. Thinking of beasts’ highly evolved ethics, courtesy, sociality, predation, etc. And I feel better about things generally when I contemplate this dog Felix’s conversion, over two years. Now he has expectations. And he has entitlements. Now he’s a good dog and he knows it. He even thinks he has a certain few justified expectations. He once didn’t think he was a good dog. Back in Salinas, he must have been assured he was a very bad dog, on the evidence. How does he now know he’s s good dog? The after-dinner treats keep coming. He must be an instance of goodness.

* * * *

October 22, 2016

Rigmarole. Recording serial numbers for all 24 BP Solar pv panels. Packaging up all the data for their claims dept and emailing it off.

Better patching on the roof of the hens’ enclosure, where the 12-foot lengths of corrugated won’t extend over the 12-foot-6-inch surface.

Reading R. Bausch’s workmanlike short stories. It’s almost formulaic, his recipe: a story needs two superimposed plot arcs: a quicker one and a longer-term deeper one. (Like “Winning the Lottery” plus “Chronically Unhappy Marriage.” Or, “A Cancer Scare” plus “Racial Prejudice.” Or, “A Car Accident” plus “Deep-Seated Resentment of a Relative.”)

* * * *

October 24, 2016

Day dawns cold. Work by mudroom stove from early hours.

Trip to town for shopping.

Proofread Squaw contracts with legalistic care.

It’s time to get storm windows on upper house, but sharp wind comes up, along with rain – (in a blast of sudden wind, a fellow doesn’t want to be caught hoisting a 3’x5’ heavy rectangle, standing on a ladder rung) – So I’ve only gotten one up before I have to come back down ladder.

* * * *

October 26, 2016

On a bad day, it’s announced that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has exceeded 400 parts per million. “350.org” was what Bill McKibben optimistically named his climate-crusading organization. 350ppm seemed, then, a “line in the sand” that could be confidently drawn, never to be exceeded.

(There’s one particular medium-sized glacier in Greenland whose liquefaction will, alone, raise ocean levels by three feet.

In our little insignificant household here, I actually imagine such a dinner-table scene. It would be aimed at embarrassing those who leave lamps or heaters running (tho’ it’s too comical, too cruel):


Dad, you’ve left the water running at the kitchen sink.


Oh, well, I’ll just leave it. Let it run. Somebody else will want a drink of water soon enough.

All the while, I know how futile — how eccentric — is my house in the remote west parts of America. I know most normal people live with the lights opulently burning all over the house, the HVAC always blasting, winter and summer – the point being to sever themselves from their natural environment. I remember as a child in Chicago sitting down at a dining room table, a winter’s eve, while every light was blazing on every empty floor of the house. The odd thing about the memory is, I bring it back as a sad cold feeling, having all that empty brightness at my back.

* * * *

October 27, 2016

Commencing a long week of heavy rain. Clear gutters. Upstairs storm windows.

Insomnia: reading Sharon’s wonderful new book of “Odes.” Her best ever, so I feel. And I’ve gone back to Henry Greene, one I’d never read, “Blindness.”

Tonight, Dashiell’s choral concert.


— Choral concert was great.

* * * *

October 28, 2016

Yesterday sitting behind the Chevron station on a retaining wall I put the following twos together, making a four:

I’ve believed (or anyway I’ve announced) for years that “consciousness” is a congregant phenomenon. That is, neurologists and metaphysicians will look in vain for “the ghost in the machine” if they’re contemplating a single brain, watching for thoughts and feelings in the tissues (the electrochemical pulses) of just one human organism. This because “consciousness” exists not inside a single bag of skin, my consciousness exists only exterior to myself, in the languages of the world, in every murmur of my mother when I was an infant (and by extension in her mothers’ and great-great-grandmothers’ utterances), in all culture, in every magazine article I ever read (and in every magazine article my acquaintances, too, read and then mentioned to me), in all the libraries of the world. That’s where my own mind abides: outside myself. (Also there abides the grammar which is the circuitry of logic. By which I evaluate and relate objects of knowledge.) Consciousness (my own mind) is not something I own personally. My mind it’s something I borrow – participate in – swim through.

So, behind the Chevron station sitting in the rain, I make the following conflation of neuroscience with the dharma: that this congregant “consciousness” is the medium of the so-called “reincarnation” that has so often troubled me in Asian doctrine. (The principle is called “dependent arising” in Indian philosophy.) And when the deep-meditating arhat sits very still and hushes the nattering swarm of “language” and “ideas,” bringing on the silence, he’s putting to rest that linguistic, social, congregant phenomenon that is consciousness.

* * * *

This pastime of editing folks’ unpublished fiction is a pleasure. Lucrative enough. But also, other people’s problems are soo much easier to think about than my own. I seem to get a little “objectivity.”


* * * *

October 30, 2016

Rain. Sunday AM

Done with work in trailer by ten AM, an early quitting time for me.

Our pears are popular. B. & E. Preston (plus kids) pick up a bag; then J. Weil (plus kid) stops by to pick up a bag.

Board meeting in Sacramento, followed by a matinee Kill Mockingbird. Dash comes along.

It’s sunny in the Sacramento Valley. Sunny in the sleepy small town that is California’s capital. But over Donner Pass and Tioga Pass, heavy snow closes traffic in both directions. As we drive back up into the Sierra, the wall of black churning on the slope is like a movie special-effect.

* * * *

November 1, 2016

Afternoon, to Marysville to visit Western Farm Worker’s Alliance. Low sun on fallow fields. While I’m in their offices: Buenas dias senorita Erika. Tenemos una familia. Necessitan comida. (Led by “the new priest” from down the street Father Brown, the mom and dad are under twenty, movie-star-beautiful, with nina of about four – all three dressed in the very newest best cheap clothes. Si. Tienen hambre. The only one who isn’t shy is the little girl, who makes their way for them in North America.)

Stop by Sierra Solar, to try to quicken their response.

* * * *

November 2, 2016

Rotted gatepost in the garden gate.

Pulling out all summer’s garden – (this has been going on all week, mostly under Brett’s muddy-gloved hand).

It’s just Dash and I for dinner, as Brett has gone to an arty event in Sac and Barbara is with her hired friend.

(Late, I’m alone reading Edith Pearlman, all her intractable race issues – the unredeemability of the unredeemed – I have to use Google to remind myself exactly what Purim commemorates, and on the tiny screen of my phone, I’m lost in the lengthy Wikipedia article: I’d always considered Purim a fun little raucous commemoration of Esther’s outsmarting the king and saving the Jews from Haman; I hadn’t really registered that Haman’s plan was, Goering-like, to exterminate all the Jews in the entire empire (to which all Jews’ response is to enter into penitence, prayer, fasting), and then in the end, that the Jews’ victory’s reward is in their killing 75,000 of their enemies throughout Persia. And then my phone utters a klink-klonk sound and a panel drops down informing me: “The 108-yr curse is broken. The lovable loser Cubs beat Cleveland by 1 run in Tenth Inning.” Never, since boyhood, followed baseball much. But still, just as I’ve read it, the panel that interrupted me slides offscreen again and tears have come stand freely in my eyes, as if I hadn’t had a reason for happiness myself for 108 years, or as if I cared about baseball.)

* * * *

November 4, 2016

No work.

Trip to town: bank, wine, groceries, doctor appointment.

Trying to think about something on the topic of “Plato” that has been asked for.

Troy and Heather are to drive down for dinner, bringing pot of curry.

Smoke two trout w/sage and make raita.

Get a little progress on the broken gatepost, cutting post to size but lacking copper preservative.

Grocery Outlet was always the lowest-class place in town to shop, and it’s where I have always shopped. (Liz: “I may like to think I’m grubby because I get to town only every few days; some of the people who turn up in Grocery Outlet haven’t been to town in generations”) – but the place seems to be evolving. I’m picking bargains off the wine shelves, and the woman near me has been asking the wine stocker about reds – she particularly likes a Tempranillo – and she accepts a recommendation on a different one, a Spanish Rioja. Then the Wine Guy points out a Carmenere she’ll like. Good, she’s been looking for a Carmenere. He adds, “It’s a great bargain, and it’s a pretty accurate Carmenere.”

The woman goes off puzzled but impressed. Me too, I guess.

“…an ‘accurate’ Carmenere” — in Grocery Outlet!

* * * *

November 5, 2016

Another warm day.

First draft of Plato piece. Quick, also perfectly satisfactory.

Amend soil in big rectangular bed.

Barbara went wandering yesterday and took a spill. Seems to have been a gentle, slo-mo spill. But today she’s experiencing the same back pain that was hard on her last month.

* * * *

November 6, 2016

The election is two days away, and it’s painful to listen to the discourse. Toqueville’s worst predictions may be fulfilled. Brett and I are out in the garden all day. I’m re-amending the already-amended soil, then we plant (commercial starts) arugula, lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, parsley. All day sunny and misty and mild. Il faut cultiver son jardin.

* * * *

November 7, 2016

Dim, warmish, windless, quiet. No bird sound or insect sound. Or Highway 49 sound. Silence in every mountainside.

Morning, I actually get back to “All Things,” which I love. Then a better draft of the Squaw fundraising letter. Then finish the garden gatepost: old heavy four-by-six from the Haights’ old barn, which yesterday I painted with copper naphthenate, sunk three feet in ground. Then, very cleverly, capped with old tin, as rain-protection.

Curry with yams.

* * * *

November 9, 2016

In a strange election, an unwise man is put in the presidency. Famously unwise, famously violent. At all hours of the night, I’m out watching the stars, which are particularly clear and close and beautiful tonight. Set up wicker chair in meadow, coffee, sky-map app on phone. A few shooting stars streak by, but there’s nothing to wish for. The following (from 7th C. Japan) is in my mind:


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

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



* * * *

Middle of night, email Joy to ask that “The Assistant” be withdrawn from consideration anywhere. Great novel. Won’t see the light of day.

* * * *

November 12, 2016

Party last night w/ Malsams & Seelys, Billheimer, et alia.

Today, Saturday, winter gardening. A full yard commercial soil for the long bed. Elsewhere, soil amendment, much more frugal and elegant.

Very happy with new scraped-clean “All Things.” From all depictions of Heaven, I’m taking out complexity and gingerbread-curlicues – simplifying Heaven – rendering Heaven as ruthless as, in fact, it is.

The only way to get a full yard of soil from the truck bed into the garden is via repetitious wheelbarrow loads.

Evening, Dash and his friends to Sacramento for Jerald Silva’s opening reception. So he misses out on the big greasy aromatic pork roast.

* * * *

This nice thing from William Blake, quoted in R’s post-election-politics article in The Guardian: “He who would do good for another must do it in minute particulars … General good is the plea of the scoundrel.”

* * * *

November 13, 2016


So-called supermoon large in the sky, at perigee 29,000 miles closer to earth than usual. Lights up the meadow blue. Silence in woods all ’round, as if all creatures stunned/mesmerized breathing shallow.

Transplant all the old asparagus, unsure I haven’t done violence to the roots.

* * * *

November 14, 2016

Dash’s fender-bender: he rear-ends somebody at a parking-lot entrance.

Another visit from a solar engineer, for I’m taking bids to have these failed panels replaced.

* * * *

November 15, 2016

Small good rain. One marks these things because it looks like the far West might be coming out of its drought.

Work on “All Things” reaches the midpoint, the Old Dispensation, where sketching Heaven more mechanically paint-by-numbers in its cruelty, all seems to go well. The New Dispensation is a whole other thing, where tone-clash problems may persist.

Also, what’s at stake in the story changes there, from adultery to eschatology: reader puts book down.

Good final draft of a fundraising letter for Squaw, after way too much batting back and forth in revisions.

* * * *

November 16, 2016

Awake at three am. Rip-torn white clouds are motionless in black sky. Sirius is up there, as always, always close. Only 8ly away, that one star is such an intense glimmerer, it almost seems to have something on its mind, some intentions for us. Now with the new administration coming in, my worries are circling back again, about that tragi-comic, cartoonish event “Total Environmental Collapse.” Sirius will still be watching steadily (no rescue at all to us) while this muggy planet clouds up and smudges over fast, and sours. An instance: La Paz, Bolivia, pristine ancient city at ultra-high elevations (like 14,000 ft?), has always thrived on a brook of water from the ancient glacier above it. Now the glacier is gone. As of 2009. A sere meadow of scree is where the glacier used to be. What will all those Incan, sexy, sparkly-eyed, high-cheekbone people do? And their berry-brown kids? And high-breasted maidens wearing brimmed Derby hats and huipils? I guess they’ll buy water. They’ll probably buy it from an international cartel, maybe in plastic bottles, probably Nestlé.

* * * *

November 17, 2016

Finish newly (more cruelly) gutted “Things” draft.

“Plato” essay goes off in mail.

Maggie falls by, to invite to party, while I’m kneeling at ditch-spigot washing barley-seeds.

Storm windows going up around the ground floor.

Another engineer comes to bid on project of replacing defunct solar panels.

Candlelit little birthday celebration.

* * * *

November 18, 2016

Clear mild sunny. I incorporate changes to the Plato essay and send it back; and I write Joy asking, definitely now, that the “Assistant” manuscript be withdrawn from consideration anywhere, no ambiguity.

* * * *

November 20, 2016


Last night sushi in town with Seelys and Malsams.

Ever since I met my composer friend at MacDowell who advocated regular Sabbaths (in his case, a cigar and the Sunday Times and an adirondack chair), I’ve made half-hearted efforts to emulate him. Today, stayed indoors for an entire day. Solid rain Sunday.

Help with the programming of Squaw’s on-line pay page.

* * * *

November 21, 2016

Brett’s birithday.

Smell of roast duck in the house, elaborate fat-rendering. Fine penetrating silky oil on all things.

* * * *

Cold-snap frosty morning, groggy man emerging from the back end of our woods by the highway, wearing a blanket, around the time the kids are congregating for their yellow school bus. The guy with the dreadlocks from the river. Little-known fact: Dreadlocks, if not kept clean, are the home of different life forms, mold mildew, a long-lost engulfed roach clip.


* * * *

November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving in Squaw. Fresh snow, and its bracing gladdening headache in full sun.

Dash and I get a good look at a Northern Flicker who poses for us at length on the Annex deck.

Smoked trout and pate de volaille.

All Baileys and Halls, too, and Holzapfel and Cavendish.

It’s agreed, small turkeys are much better.

Others, late into the night playing elaborate dominoes game.

Morning after, stay in bed and read Michael’s story in eTimes. In Annex living room Brett and Dash trying to reprogram his new phone. All visitors from other time zones are sleeping in.

* * * *

Newtown road twenty yrs ago, Justin and friends. Kill squirrels with pellet gun, “gut” them by first beheading them and then swinging headless carcass overhead gripped by tail: centrifugal force pulls offal out, spattering. Peel pelt. Spit-roast with salt and pepper. Yeah, sure.

* * * *

November 26, 2016

Difficult trip home, over summit in blizzard, small car packed with Brett, Dash, Sands, grandmother, and me. Plus dog. To left and right along the way, spun-out sedans. A big-rig is stranded jackknifed, center-road at Emigrant Gap’s long ascent, with cars moving carefully around it to left and right, a couple of other unlucky losers spin their wheels as their cars slowly rotate on tilted road surface. Dash is importantly helpful installing chains at the roadside at around 7000 ft. elev. Descending into Blue Canyon at about 4000 ft. the snowflakes turn to rain, and the chains come off at the Washington-Road turnoff. Lie down once again in roadside slush, embrace tire to start pinching at the rusty chain clasp behind there in the wheel well, while reminded of adolescence and unhooking of girl’s brassiere, a dissonant notion here. At home, at last, Barbara needs to be installed in her armchair, so all is well. Then there’s Luke and Maggie’s merry hearth, their low house deep under the storming cedars at the end of their washing-out road. Maggie’s accordion, Randy and Murray on reeds and strings, Luke’s big, popping tenor-guitar sound. I, uncharacteristically, sing a song – with an advantageous hoarseness from the day’s work in the cold. (Jimmie Rodgers)

* * * *

November 27, 2016

Day of convalescence. Day of no ambition. (It’s days like this I’m grateful for accomplishable tasks: and the perfect instance is trundling a big standard-issue garbage container out to the roadside, its plastic wheels on gravel rumbling loud in the twilight stillness.)

Coming up on the knoll from putting the hens away, the last light of day is rusty and obscure. Ahead of me, in that kitchen, is potatoes and onions and chicken sausage. November dusk sometimes, the old color “brown” is capable of radiating from deep inside things with the force of embers – with the penetration of blast-furnace. But yet, in the cold, keep its somber shroud, dousing everything.

* * * *

Propane in Squaw:

Apache: 489 cu. ft. — (on 11-29-16)

Annex: 354 cu. ft. — (on 11-29-16)

Maybe an anthology:

Robert Frost

Henry James

Thomas Nagel

Jane Austen

Allen Ginsberg

(Varney’s Hardware)

* * * *

Before hard freeze, must bring in fancy “hydrator.”

* * * *

Half-constructed notion involving “anthropic” cosmology

— (this isn’t any cogent idea or a mystic insight, it’s just a sort of sloppy fantasy leading nowhere clear, which came to me half-asleep last night):

  1. Given the necessarily “congregant” nature of all consciousness (congregant in its social and semiotic origins, and in its social and semiotic sustenance);
  2. and given the necessity of consciousness in this universe (the “anthropic” principle) —

Well then, consider two planets: ours, which senses itself to be at the “center” of the universe; and another planet way out in the recently photographed galaxy EGS-zs8-1 (there really is such a one), which exists 13B light years away in what we like to think of as the “furthest edge” or the universe. (The fact is, EGS-zs8-1 feels itself to be at the center; it sees us as the dim remote outlier; it sees us hovering just at the curtain of darkness which marks “the beginning of time.”)

Furthermore, it is a fact of astronomy that we’re seeing the galaxy EGS-zs8-1 in past-time. We’re seeing it 13B years ago — because it took the light of its spectacle 13B yrs to reach us, across the 13B ly of space. Similarly, anybody on EGS-zs8-1 would be seeing our quaint little planet “Earth” at a time when it was scarcely an inchoate wisp, 13B yrs ago, on a forlorn rim of the universe, indeed not yet aborning, still swirling in stardust and gas.

Now, neither planet’s consciousness precedes the other, neither in “Time” nor in cognitive priority. The question would be, if consciousness is a “congregant” phenomenon, AND consciousness is a teleological basis of the cosmos, how does our consciousness already interact with that which has evolved separately on EGS-zs8-1? Is there any “entanglement” phenomenon? When EGS-zs8-1 and we both look at the same star, for example?

Definitely only a half-thought interesting to record but more of a dream than an idea.

* * * *

December 1, 2016

Afternoon clearing brush: a few years’ accumulation of blackberries (they’re teeming up as high as the roof) all around cold north side of potting shed, sites of old compost heaps.

* * * *

December 4, 2016

Afternoons of clearing brush, then axe-splitting hardwood rounds and bringing it, with cedar, into the house for the winter. On kitchen door, twinkle-eye Pabby knocks (a K-Mart shopping bag under arm, stuffed). She confesses she got carried away bringing in chard. So tonight chard sauce is on the brined chick-breasts with old dried porcini that have been on the shelf forever.

* * * *

Christmas spirit, traffic jams, in downtown Grass Valley. In this season of commercialism and acquisitiveness, while whipping out credit card over and over, “There’s a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.”

* * * *

December 10, 2016

Waimea’s bequest to the Community of Writers arrives, long-posthumous (after a number of lawyers have monkeyed with it). The bequest, and the particular amount of it, makes me sadder than her death did. The amount is exactly right for life of solitary devotion, exclusive of any family. She did finally kinda-publish a novel – at least she held in her hands a printed book. I think we were her family.

* * * *

December 19, 2016

Marin, for Hootenanny at Chris’s house, spend night. Then in the morning alone, luxury of an hour w/coffee in Fairfax – and there in the window, on tall stool at bar, is Sam Lamott with his little son.

Biodiesel station in San Anselmo. Almost $5/gallon, but we might create a co-op in Nevada City for delivery.

* * * *

December 20, 2016

Back on short story – girl in Marin juvie.

Thermocouple replacement for old stove.

(Bottle wine and signed book – delivered all the way out the Rough-&-Ready Highway – for my pal Dan, who counsels me on appliance repair.)

* * * *