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Road Journal

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podcast archives

I am now podcasting excerpts from the Road Journal. This is a new project that will grow over time.

The podcast features original music and poetry, and readings of the ongoing Road Journal, by a nomadic visionary creative artist, musician, and writer. Each chapter is recorded in a different acoustic space, and treated with filters, processing, and editing, using chance methods. The process converts the written text into text/sound poetry.


CCCL. 11 January 2006, Chicago Midway Airport, IL

Early as usual, making a prayer to the Patron Saint of People Who Wait In Airports. Which means, having a snack, buying a magazine (geeky me, National Geographic and Computer Music Journal, a special issue on video music), and sitting here in line waiting to board, sometime in the next hour, and waiting to board. I could whistle the theme from Jeopardy, or I could read, or I could nap. I have nothing to say, and I am saying it (Cage).

Recently I have been finding myself writing haibun: prose with haiku. I’ve composed a couple of these on the fly, in moments of silent reflection, amidst the whirl of Things To Do here in Chicago. I’m spending most of my time in short forms lately, not that I ever wrote a lot of long poems. I still think the haiku is the ultimate poem form, if you have to write in form at all, because of its concision, evocation, nature elements, and the requirement of the reader bringing something to the poem—participation, rather than passivity. I’ve read a million haiku, and a hundred haiku books over the years; and still haiku fascinates me, not least because of the Zen aspects.

I recall writing haiku for a class assignment in second grade; maybe the first poems I ever wrote; long lost, and probably not very good. I don’t think I got serious about poetry till I was 15 or so, and started writing in earnest; again, it mostly sucked, and probably I have those notebooks somewhere, but who cares. The only poems from that era that survive, that are worth anything, are the homoerotic poems, including one of the longest poems I ever wrote, which I put down and picked up, off and on, for 12 years, before declaring it done. The other erotic poems of that period I still have on hand, too, and one or two of them don’t suck. About ten years ago now, I went through that period of over a year when all I could write was haiku, and I wrote enough erotic haiku (mostly homoerotic, but not all) to put together a chapbook. Now, I am thinking of writing haibun around some of those haiku, or doing new ones. There is no reason not to, and every good reason to keep growing and flexing my poetic muscles, in as many directions as possible.

Meanwhile, I’m still exploring zuihitsu and haibun. They seem like perfect forms for my writing work, based on all I have read of them and about them. This Road Journal fits into both genres, really.

There was so much to do that we didn’t get it all done, but we did get the infrastructure done, and I’m shipping a new computer to myself in California, to record and edit audio and video for new DVDs.

Simultaneity. Split-screen, multiple window, multiple screens. Everything happens at once (McLuhan). How do you show simultaneity in art when it’s a timebound medium such as music or video, even when both can take one on a journey to timeless states of being: time as the window to timelessness. Eternal timeless now. You slow things down, or you speed them up to get there: you step outside normal time. Split-screen video works because people are multi-attentive. It’s a myth that people can only focus on one thing at a time. Sound (music, speech, linguistic content. no linguistic content, semiotic content, or none), vision, motion. Kinesthetic, visual, aural. All simultaneous channels for activation fo the senses, all operating at the same time. We are not minds divorced from bodies and floating in a featureless void. We are beings connected to ourselves, each other, and the things beyond ourselves, on all planes of existence.

Wintermind (haibun)

Now winter. Fallen leaves still on the walk. We stand talking in the road, kicking leafpiles to see them fly, then wander down to the river. This cruel wind. No hat on, the drizzle soaks my head, hair in my eyes, drops going down the back of my collar. Spinning red maples fall over in brash display, scuff and shatter. The sky glooms and lowers. Somewhere I lost my way.

rain turns to wet snow
ducks thrash turgid black waters—
my eyes washed by tears

When the singer died, I was in the desert. Canyons filled with light, fresh snow, sublime tender evergreens. The silence deepened by memories, now that you've gone. Then, an echo of jays. Looking up, turkey vultures circled over dry arroyos, red earth broken by snow patches. Looking down, even the chollo seemed hunched over. Will we ever play again together? Perhaps in the western lands, beyond the sea.

guitar of dead leaves
scattering gusts of music—
mute song of passing

CCCXLIX. 10 January 2006, Chicago, IL

Recently someone asked me: How do you write? Is there a time? A mood? A certain pen? Do you think of other writers when you write? Do you compose, or wait for inspiration? Where do you start from? Do you have an aesthetic, a philosophy of writing? At first, I resisted answering the question, and made a flip comment about All of the above, none of the above. A few days later, it led to more thought, and I wrote out some responses mostly in the spirit of self-analysis and self-awareness.

I know a very good poet who is a disciplined daily writer: a couple hours a day for him, and he always writes on an electric typewriter. He produces good work, and has a workmanlike, craftsman's approach to writing. He once told me he can't understand how I write good poems when, compared to him, I am completely undisciplined. Which I am.

I have no set rules, set practices, or set times and places to write, and no set modes of writing. The poem chooses its own voice and mode, usually. I have learned not to try to force things, ever. Poems for me have almost always come to me, when they choose. I almost never set out to write a poem. Instead, I listen, and get into beginner's mind, and wait. Usually a poem arrives in a flash, almost complete. Most need revision, but not essential, structural revision. The poems that I set out to write, or if I try to do a daily "morning poem," universally suck, and read more like mental masturbation than anything else I write. I have an inner voice, that is not my conscious mind's voice, that is the poet. I'm not in charge of that voice (the ancient Greeks spoke of their "daimon" in this way; Kipling worked this way; Julian Jaynes wrote The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind on this topic), and my discipline consists of meditation and being prepared to listen. Once or twice, I have actively felt like I was taking dictation. Usually, though, now, after years of this, I can sense if something's ready to emerge, and dip into that river more or less at will. And the river has become more accessible with practice. I've become, with practice, a good improviser, in music, in art, and in poetry. But again, the discipline, for me, is in maintaining readiness, and nowhere else.

What I write with depends on what's at hand. If the laptop (my life is in the laptop nowadays) is booted (it usually is), I type the poem into a Word file. If I happen to be driving cross-country, miles from electricity, I pull over and write on whatever handy scrap of paper is available. (Kids, we're trained professionals. Don't try writing and driving at the same time!) I keep a blank book in my backpack, or on the car seat. (My sister, who is also an artist, makes beautiful hand-bound books; I often use them as my journal books.) I've even written poems on the backs of receipts, if I couldn’t find anything else to hand. Before becoming this computer-assisted nomadic artist that I've become, I kept a handwritten journal for 25 years. Not a diary. Not daily events. Just wrote in it when I felt like it, and never felt any more compelled than I do now to write with any daily discipline. (I question the "poem a day" practice, not because it's a bad discipline, but because most of the poems I've seen come from that practice, from most poets, with rare exceptions, suck.) Almost all of my poems were first written down in that ongoing journal. I used to be a calligrapher, and still suffer from "quality writing instrument lust." Take me into a store where they sell fine pens, and watch me drool. So, I used to write in my journal with good fountain pens only—I hate ballpoints, and won't use them except in a writing emergency—and thus many pages of my journal looked like calligraphy assignments. So, virtually all of my poems began in the journal, and then are transcribed into Word files, usually revised during transcription. Lately, though, as I said, if the laptop is booted, I write directly into a Word file. A few times recently, I have composed poems directly online, too. I have no set practice, in other words.

I do own (it's on loan to a good friend for now) a beautiful replica 18th-century writer's desk, which I used to love to sit down at, lay out the journal book and some good pens, stare out the window, get centered and grounded, and begin to write. In my mind, even now, I occasionally visualize that "set up routine" to calm and center the mind before writing. So, I can write pretty much anywhere, anytime, because the set up routine is a meditative practice, and one can come to center and ground wherever and whenever one is located. One carries the practice within, and doesn't require the external objects to achieve open. receptive poet mind. The reason I recommend poetry writing guides like Susan Woolridge’s "Poemcrazy: Free your life with words" and Natalie Goldberg’s "Writing Down the Bones" is because they explicitly teach this discipline; I recommend these books over the craft books, because they teach the mindset, and the elements of craft can be acquired much more readily. It's very easy to teach grammar, but few of those grammar guides even acknowledge the necessity of proper state of mind. And now that I've been keeping this online Road Journal on my website, I'm likely to post first drafts of poems there, just as I used to write them in my paper journal.

I do keep old versions of poems, but I don't generally use them as tools for rewriting. When I'm in the tent at night, camping, or on camping trips miles from electricity, I take the latest journal book along, and I actually find myself writing by candlelight, in the tent at night, a lot. I produce a lot of writing on those sorts of trips. I produce less back in snivellization, generally, mostly because I tend to be focused on the art or music most days. When I was a teenager, recently gifted my with first typewriter, a Smith-Corona portable, I composed at the typewriter, sitting cross-legged on the bed, more often than not. But that was the apprenticeship of a future poet, and only one or two examples of that early crap survive. The three longest poems I ever wrote, in the thousands of lines, are poems about sex, my sexuality, fantasies, experiences, and memories, and the first of those I began writing by sitting there on my bed in front of that typewriter, at age 15 or 16, then put the poem away and came back to it off an on for 12 years, before determining the poem was done, and declaring it done.

A poem almost always comes to me as a vision, a sequence of images: my job is to convert that into words. I usually fail, as words are completely inadequate, and betray the vision almost every time. Very rarely, a spoken phrase comes into my head, and I write it down, as though taking dictation. (Rilke started the Duino Elegies this way, so I know how he felt that day.)

I have no set philosophy, other than to serve my daimon, which crosses over into all my creative modes, music, art, poetry, weaving, landscape art sculpture, whatever. I respond in the moment, at the moment, to a place and time and state of being. I produce my deepest, most archetypal work when I am in a meditative state of mind. "When in deep water, become a diver." I have learned over time that when I'm all caffeinated up and feeling chatty and convivial with friends, not to even try to write a poem, because it will suck. (Maybe a humorous senryu, but such poems are throwaway ephemera, and not intended to be anything more than that.)

I have no set aesthetic, because "all roads are good roads." I really believe that. I know that I work best in certain modes, on certain topics, and I could enumerate those, but then that would be MY list, and useless to anyone else, who rather than emulating my list would be better served to list their own.

If I do have an aesthetic, it's best described by fractal geometry: chaos and order in dynamic balance. I am aware constantly of more than one level of being, of life, of the layers of consciousness of the Universe itself. I am a Patterner, and more. Fractal mathematics, and chaos theory in general, are the closest I've come to a Western representation of the "floating cloud" lifestyle described by many Taoists and Zen masters in the East. As Mandelbrot said when he introduced fractal geometry to the world: Clouds are not spheres. There is one particular form of poem that I invented that has been described as fractal poetry; as far as I know, it's the first genuinely fractal form: self-similar across different scales, so that when you "zoom in" or "zoom out" it retains its character; descriptive rather than even imagistic, in that each individual line can be read as a haiku; which is also a fractal characteristic: complexity thickens and releases chaotically. Chaos theory is not about randomness or disorder or genuine chaos, as there really are no such things; what it is about is discovered higher orders of order within apparently chaotic systems. Life is very much a strange attractor; had Jung lived another ten years to witness the birth of fractal theory, I believe he would have embraced it as descriptive of the operation of the collective unconscious, and the archetypes.

My earlier flip comment—all of the above, none of the above—came from the reaction that it was too big a question to answer. Anything I say on this topic will be inadequate, because my "method" is always changing, always evolving, and I might have a poetic "voice" I explored ten years ago that makes me wince now. If a writer doesn't keep evolving and changing, they stagnate and kill their art. I've seen that happen far too often, with poets who publish a great first and second book, then start repeating themselves and lose all energy and interest; the "workshop" poets, and the MFA poets, are particularly susceptible to this trend, in my opinion. But I digress. I do find it useful to answer the question at hand, if only to formulate for myself my own writing practices and needs. Good pens. Nice paper. A fast keyboard. Anywhere, anytime. No rules, no habits. Zen mind, beginner's mind.

I respect someone feeling that this is too personal a question to ask an artist, because it IS a very personal question; yet I find myself unafraid of standing naked under the spotlight like this. If only so I can get clear for myself what and how it is that I bother to write at all. As I've said before, poetry is only a distant third in my modes of creativity, after music and art. And I've also written here before of the irony of intention vs. history. I note that chaos theory plays a role here, too, as does the law of unintended consequences. Because it's chaotic, I choose to not to try to impose false order onto it, but let it be what it is.

CCCXLVIII. 9 January 2006, Chicago, IL

What I’m Reading Now

Quantum Questions, edited by Ken Wilber.
This is a book of excerpts of well-known physicists writing about metaphysics, even mysticism. It contains excerpts from the writings of Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Einstein, Pauli, Eddington, and other key thinkers in the development of modern theoretical physics. The book sets out explicitly to debunk the idea, taken over and run with by the New Age, that quantum physics affirms traditional mysticism. Ideas such as "belief creates reality," and so forth. While the book shows where the muddle-headed newagers missed the point, it does not entirely succeed in its premise of debunking the connection. Paradox. Schrödinger and Eddington and Einstein all stated, in various ways, that spirituality and physics are not actually in conflict. A lot of the misreadings, such as the idea that science and religion must be in conflict, world without end, amen—which is a stance dating from the era of Galileo—are shown to be errors of interpretation. What I get out of the book is a sense of the paradoxes inherent in both quantum physics and mysticism. So in my opinion, the book ends by not convincingly proving its own premise. Paradoxically, I find in fact that some of the physicists here in fact do seem to indicate a link between science and mysticism.

This seems inconsistent, but it's only so in a superficial manner. One must look deeper and higher into this mystery, in order to locate what's really going on. Paradox always breaks us out of the everyday assumptions we carry around. And Mystery, the Divine, exists at the point of paradox, in dynamic equilibrium.

I was thinking about a comment made on a recent poem of mine about keeping past and present tense in poetry self-consistent. This led me to think of those poems I've done in the past (or present) wherein I've deliberately played with time in the poem, and with tenses, in order to move the poem up to that visionary level were everything is happening at the same time. When this works, you realize that the apparent inconsistency of tenses is in fact consistent with a higher-level experience about the nature of time and consciousness.

One of the ideas mentioned in the new physics—which is underlined in the other book I'm re-reading right now, John Cage's A Year from Monday—is that everything is all happening right now. Our consensus consciousness, for the sake of convenience, makes it look like time happens in a linear fashion, with past, present, future separated in a logical, orderly manner. Ancient texts of Eastern religion and some of the ideas of quantum physics both concur—in fact everything is always all happening at the same time, all at once, right Now. Thus, it is as possible to redact one's past biography as it is to choose differently for the future; I have been and am involved with a clearing and releasing technique on a psychological-spiritual level that works to release the past karma and pains, to in effect "make it never happened." (I confuse the tenses deliberately.) This is the essence of shamanism, to redact "reality," and shamanic poetry doesn't have to read like a linear narrative; in fact, it probably oughtn't. I find I have no problem blurring the tenses, in this context, and no problem tracking it when other writers also blur them.

So, where's the inconsistency? It's a vapor of tissue blown in the breeze. It's only an apparent inconsistency.

I propose, as in chaos theory where apparent chaos can be shown to contain higher magnitudes of order, that there are more than one layer or type of consistency. Most people think being consistent means always doing the same thing, in the same mode. But that's a superficial layer only. There is a higher level of consistency, in behavior, in writing, that while apparently contradictory, is in fact consistent to a different, higher standard. Thus, we get Trickster tales, Coyote, Raven, the Silly Mullah in the Sufi stories, the Zen master tales of almost Dada random action. It's all to a point: breaking down the conventional rules of thinking, so that consciousness can break through to a higher, freer, more open level.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. —Emerson

I am very much an avant-garde artist, because I am interested in exactly that arena in which evolution, linguistic and presentational, and of consciousness, occurs. I often find myself on the bleeding edge, and spend a lot of time "educating the audience." (Which gets tiring.) I'm the opposite of conservative as a writer and artist, which I'm sure accounts for all the crap I get about it, not to mention the low popularity level. There's the old conundrum, of course, that today's avant-garde is often tomorrow's mainstream.

But for me, what I write has to reflect how I see the universe: recursive structuring. I think we all do this, of course: language structures reality, which structures language, which structures reality, etc. It's a feedback loop in a non-linear dynamically equilibrated system. (I have been studying chaos theory for years, and find it VERY useful to describe reality as I see it.) Strange attractors occur on levels of experience. So, when I do the everything happens at once (Marshall McLuhan) style of writing, it's an attempt to make a poem into a gestalt, some unitary thing that is apprehended all at once, superseding narrative, superseding the time it takes to read a longish poem, superseding the analytical mind and going for direct perception. Obviously, there's a Zen element to this, too (in those areas Zen is very descriptive of the way consciousness actually works, which has nothing to do with whether or not one is Buddhist).

What I find intriguing, again and again, is how all this stuff converges towards a unified field theory. Ideas we keep discovering. John Cage was writing these same ideas in 1965, for example, and McLuhan before that, and Buckminster Fuller, too. And so forth.

CCCXLVII. 8 January 2006, Chicago, IL

I’ve been nose to the grindstone the past few days, since I got here, sorting out the new computer, working on the creative side of the next DVD, and talking over plans. There’s been no time to sit and write. This morning, I woke a little earlier, and I’m sitting in the south-facing living room, drenched with sunlight. The past weeks have been mostly cloudy, here and in Wisconsin, and I need to sit in the sun and just soak it up this morning, before I get back to work.

And make no mistake: this visit IS work. I feel a little scattered, trying to do three things at once, feeling unfinished even as I watch them gradually accruing. It’s all a gradual process. I am not going out much, being social, calling people, or writing here.

Master martial arts choreographer and film director Yuen Wo Ping, in a recent interview, repeats a thought I’ve heard before: If you love what you are doing, you’ll never work again a day in your life. The idea behind the thought is that it’s all play. Serious play, deep play, meaningful, fulfilling play. Play that is one’s true work in life, as distinct from it being just a job. This is not a vacation I’m on here. I might get a vacation when I get back, and head down to the beach for an afternoon. This is no vacation, I’m busy doing what I love, diving headlong into it, in fact. I’m working incredibly hard at this now, and if I’m stressed about anything, it’s time: never enough time to get everything done, before I have to head off again. Last visit here was intensely productive, and I’m not able to match that this trip. Still, what I will get done is the necessary work, the work that feeds the continuing work that I will be doing, wherever I go next. It is all building, now, all infrastructure, all an upward climb. The peak is above us, somewhere in the mists, evfen as we climb up this trail to the saddle of a high, hidden valley, cloaked by low clouds, while the peak beckons, clear in the sky above.

CCCXLVI. 3 January 2006, Beloit, WI

Speaking of global warming—I just read an article in this month’s National Geographic about Greenland hunters who are struggling with the thinning of the sea ice, which they need for their hunting to survive—today it’s gloomy and wet. It rained, rather than snowed, most of the day yesterday, and it’s been in the forties. Yesterday morning, a winter thunderstorm swept through: thunder and lightning in the morning, on the second day of the new year. What sort of omen is that?

Tomorrow morning I’m going to go down to Chicago for a week of studio and computer work. Invited by one of the guys on the Stickwire e-list, I recorded a short piece, Winter Stillness, for solo Stick, with icy delays and reverbs, an posted it to the podcast. A short solo performance, recorded in the laptop, and immediately passed around. Spontaneous music. I can hardly wait to get back to recording multitrack music and video, again, after this long nomadic inward hiatus. Not that I ever stopped being creative. But I view that time in New Mexico now as inner work, more than anything else, that needed to be done, to lighten my load; monk’s work, priest’ work, spiritual work. I move more lightly on the land, now, after those dark and weighty weeks. I’m eager to be fully engaged with Making again. Not that I ever stopped, really. But I feel a gear-shift coming on; to a higher level, a more focused direction, a finer tuning of intent.

Minneapolis was a good visit. It was good to see everyone I saw again, even if only briefly. I had a couple of possible business meetings, too; though I have no idea if they’ll lead to anything, I am open to the possibilities.

I become more anarchistic about music, as time goes on. Part of this is that I don’t have any interest in hierarchical structures in music, art, or life. I want power-with, not power-over. I can be a leader, but a leader who wants to co-lead with equals. I reject both dominance and submission. I reject power plays in favor of collaboration. (I see power plays as usually the signal of a weak self-esteem. People who know who and what they are have no need to put themselves into positions of power over others.)

John Cage wrote in his preface to A Year from Monday: The reason that I am less and less interested in music is not only that I find environmental sounds and noises more useful aesthetically than the sounds produced by the world’s musical cultures, but that, when you get right down to it, a composer is simply someone who tells other people what to do. I find this an unattractive way of getting things done. I’d like our activities to be more social and anarchically so.

CCCXLV. 1 January 2006, Beloit, WI

My dreams laced through with rain and sun, rivulets, streams, potholes. In the mountain house, we’re building additions to the music room; details of construction, carpentry, and so forth. I borrow a bike to go do an errand; I ride through verdant greens, red soil still wet after the rains; when I get back, I drop it under the trees in the yard, and it drops to its handlebars in the concealing sinkholes there. Over high gorges between white-capped alpine peaks in the background, thin white concrete bridges; after a clearing rain, water sluices down the streams, rippling; driving my truck down one of the bridges on the highway, I hit a deep pool coming off the bridge, and miss my turn because the truck hydroplanes, the front wheels even leaving the ground briefly, and I have to coast through the water, up onto a rise, where the ground is drier, and take the next exit.

CCCXLIV. 31 December 2005, on the bus, Madison, WI

A dismal bus ride from Minneapolis to Madison: screaming kids, parents telling them to shut up to no avail, and the bus driver says nothing; later, when someone is playing their portable music device loud enough to hear through headphones, he tells them to turn it down. Go figure.

Met up with Pamela S. between bus stages, though. Had a snack and show and tell of art and DVD. Was really great to see her, and hopefully can again soon. I like seeing friends when I am traveling; it connects it all together. I have relationships all over the land.

I did some excellent photos in the heavy, continuing snowfall yesterday. A pristine, beautiful snowfall, photo ready and beautiful, Pine trees with heavy coverings, their outer branches laden and drooping to the ground. Groves of oaks, black sticks going every which way, half-occluded by caked snow. The sky and land the exact same color, punctuated by black trees, with just a hint of deep forest greens. We drove through the Como Park area, me snapping pictures all the way, and I got out of the car a couple of times to shoot more purposefully. Trees bent over with heavy snow, wind gusting through them. Falling snowflakes flying everywhere.

The brisk chill air of northern winter. Everything you could ask for, a taste of winter, but all I needed to feel like I experienced winter. This was a beautiful day, a lovely photo shoot. But I won’t miss having to deal with snow and gloom, back in California. I’ll have no problem skipping the bleakness of February wintermind, here.

CCCXLIII. 29 December 2005, Minneapolis, MN

Meeting up with friends and old comrades these few short days in Minneapolis. Been a year since I was here last, and last year’s visit was drowned under necessities: moving my remaining chattels out of storage; more sorting and throwing things away; emotional angst around that and having to deal with moving it into m parent’s basement in Beloit; and so forth. This year, in contrast, rather more of a vacation atmosphere. I’ve been eating good food, including a visit to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant here, and an excellent Indian grocery store. Tonight I will be cooking an Indian curry dinner for some friends, by their request, and then Alex will be here, and I’ll get to see him for at least the evening, and maybe for dinner. Meanwhile, I might meet up with some other folks today, and if not, then I might ends up at the internet café again doing my online time in style. There are several around town now, but the two I most like are gay owned and gay friendly: Vera’s Café and Wilde Roast Café, which is also connected to a gay owned bookstore. Last night at Vera’s Two Bears and I attended the weekly Faerie Coffee, so I got to see several of my Radical Faerie friends, and play show and tell with my artwork and the new DVD. It was nice to see several of them, and maybe I got a little closure for some wounds that were originated over a year ago, at the last Gathering at Kawashaway I was able to get to, in August 2004, before I left the Midwest. Being back here in the upper Midwest, even briefly, brings up old things to clear; and that is at least in part my purpose for being here, and what my job is this week: clear and release what I had to leave behind, in the whirlwind and rush of departure under stressful, difficult circumstances. I am clearing and releasing much of this stuff as I go, and I’ve had quiet mornings with which to go inward, and do my work. If it adds up to anything, it might add up to closure, at least a bit of it. And meanwhile, it’s a grace to see the friends that still live here, which are the other main reason I wanted to visit. In retrospect, my time here in Minnesota was hell—except for the close friends I made, one or two musical experiences, most especially Wind, Sand & Stars, and except for my connection to Lake Superior and the land and magic in the land here. I don’t know when I’ll next be able to get to Superior, or any of the State Parks around here that I used to frequent, and that, truth be told, I carry with me as photographs and memories. When, is not as important as knowing that I will again, someday. I continue to make plans from day to day. If I miss doing something, I’ve done other things. Those people I most wanted to see I will see, and the rest, if I miss them this trip, there will be other times. But that’s it, isn’t it: the reason to come here is for the few friends I made in my time here, and for the land. As for the rest of Minnesota culture and attitudes, frankly, I am doing better in California than I ever did here. Returning to California, I will be able roll up sleeves and get to work, more creatively than ever, more confident than ever that I’m on the right path, even though it’s future twists and turns are hidden in the fog and behind blind curves, as yet uncertain and obscure. I am still more comfortable there than I ever have been in the Midwest of late (well, except in Chicago), and I feel more like I fit in out in the West than I ever have here. Out there, I am much less of a misfit, even if it’s only because there are, out there, people far weirder and more eccentric than I. Out there, for the first time in my adult life, I don’t feel like a total misfit, but more like I actually have a peer group, and actually fit in. It’s still a new, unusual feeling; and I haven’t finished exploring it yet. Time reveals all, in these instances.

CCCXLII. 28 December 2005, Minneapolis, MN

Dreams that leave me feeling disturbed on awakening. Scenario after scenario of people who I help, who I cover for, and who leave me hanging in return. A bleak, not very trusting cluster of events.

I came up here a couple of days ago, wanting to visit and see people here who I haven’t seen in awhile. Now, this emotionally disturbed morning, I feel cut off, isolated; all those old feelings arising of, what the hell am I doing here? why did I come here? and so forth. All too familiar. I recognize a lot of it as old stuff, arising for the sake of clearing, and closure. Except for my friends I’ve visited here, I really don’t like it here very much at all. That miasma of unwelcomeness. That vibration of insularity. That self-absorption to the point of stupidity. (Not that one cannot find these things anywhere else, of course.) All made worse by the winter-triggered survival-level angst that one acquires here every year about this time: between the Xmas holidaze and spring, a bleak time of just getting by, just surviving, of closing down and shutting in. (Not that one cannot find these elsewhere, either.)

It’s more than I can cope with, still. I am writing my way through it, and out of it. “In the bleak midwinter,” the English carol goes; so many of those Medieval English carols speak to me, because they so elegantly and precisely encapsulate the feelings of this time of year, and layer the bleakness with exquisitely beautiful music as a balance. It gets you through. Whatever gets you through, cannot be seen as other than helpful, no matter how dark it might seem to others.

I just read an article on crystal meth use in the gay community: I can only respond with pity and compassion for those who get addicted, and sorrow at the evil caused by the drug itself. The way it works is it triggers the release of excessive amounts of dopamine in the brain, which make you feel better, more virile, more fabulous than ever before. Can you imagine how easy it is, for a community and individuals who so continuously struggle with horrible self-esteem, to get trapped by this illusory self-esteem created by a chemical trigger in the brain? No, I doubt most of you can. It’s insidious to the point of the men being so overcome by the sex they have on meth, that they think they can never get that same sexual high ever again without the drug. It is not merely a chemical dependency, although that is bad enough. There is nothing about this drug that is not evil. The illusions it generates in you; the destruction of your judgment, in the way that every addict will continuously violate their own boundaries, just to get high; and the simple fact that meth use and HIV infection are tied together: you get high, you get sexy, you have unsafe sex, you get high, you have unsafe sex, you don’t anymore, you get high—then you crash, and wow, you’ve got AIDS. Welcome to the carousel of death, gentlemen: here’s your abbatoir. So, just don’t. Don’t. There is nothing about crystal meth that is not evil.

I am not even tempted. Not that I’ve been that tempted by any of these addictive, illegal drugs. It’s just not in my makeup to be addicted to that class of drugs. (Not that other things in life aren’t addictive, for me. Let’s start with chocolate, for one.) But I feel it in the Sacred Heart, this pain, this horror. I feel it right here, today, right now, and in my dreams. At least a couple of the characters in my upsetting dreams last night I recognize on awakening as junkies. Junky behavior, junky lack of boundaries, junky untrustworthiness. You can’t live with those people, and not be violated; sooner or later. Let’s just start with the lying: that’s bad enough.

Sacred Heart. Is this shit even my shit? Probably not, no. Not the most comfortable of lifestyles, this empathy thing. Or the most fun. I need to find more ways to laugh, and be lightened. All the while accepting that some days will just be dark, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, except me; conscious willing to clear and release this shit, and choose to live with as much joy as I can generate.

It’s clear to me, though, that there’s one thing that I cannot communicate well to those who haven’t lived with the Sacred Heart: living inside the paradox; living with both light and dark going on simultaneously, and holding space for both; the paradox of suffering and of joy that exist together, at the same time, beyond irony. Oh yes, let’s discuss irony, shall we: that pose of postmodern detachment that serves both as distancing shield from really being engaged with the world, and as a way to mock and disparage all those paths in the world that can lead to healing, the release of suffering, and genuinely engaged living. Irony as a pose, as is it usually done nowadays, is a defense mechanism, period; there’s nothing cool about it at all. Genuine, true irony is the awareness of sublime paradox: holding two contradictory states of being simultaneously, without diminishing or dismissing either one. Poseur irony is dismissive of everyone and everything; it’s a particularly urban defense mechanism. Everything has been done, nothing is new or fresh, or numinous. This is the entire contents of the Seinfeld or the Friends TV shows. Why do people think that shit’s funny? Because that kind of irony is a thin veil over despair. You scratch the irony, and underneath you find acedia and despair. The angel of darkness at noon. Genuine irony, by contrast, is alive, is engaged, is an emotion that does not separate you from life. It doesn’t separate you from feeling life fully, both pain and pleasure, and it doesn’t paper over empathy with slick pseudo-hip coolness. It doesn’t run from life: it embraces it.

CCCXLI. 24 December 2005, Beloit, WI

It’s early morning, and I’m having insomnia. I know better than to lie there and toss and turn all night; I know there’s no point to try to get to sleep, until I wear myself out. I haven’t had an insomnia night for awhile, but I know what to do when I get one: get up, boot up the puter, and do something, make something, write, read, whatever.

Had a long talk this evening with Dad. Needed to clear the air about some things, and I feel like we did, and that things are better between us. I feel more settled about some of the things that have been bothering me, in recent months, about Mom’s Alzheimer’s disease, the family dynamics, and so forth. I told him, what I’ve only told two or three people, really: how I really wouldn’t have minded dying when the trailer broke loose and went over the cliff. It didn’t take me with it, and no one was hurt. But I still have occasional bad nights, remembering what happened, and what might have happened. What really keeps me awake at night is how the trailer might have killed someone else, if it had veered into the oncoming traffic lane, instead of going over the cliff; that really scares me, still.

And now I’m sleepless, feeling PTSD, wraith-driven, haunted. I even cried for awhile. Before bed, I watched what turned out to be a very moving, beautiful movie, A Walk in the Clouds. I cried into the pillow, lying here tonight, for awhile: but needed tears. I feel better for crying for awhile, and I felt good doing it: release. Release of things that have been pent-up for months. I also am feeling the loneliness tonight that I felt after watching Brokeback Mountain: love and loss, all tangled together for me, right now.

I wonder if one might write a travel haibun: Record of the White Trailer’s Fall.

More and more, I want to write in Basho’s footsteps. I have been reading and re-reading two books on his work, and his life, and realizing that we are even more kindred souls than I have thought before: his dedication to the gods of wandering, his restlessness, his profound sense of wabi-sabi, and impermanence. I see a reflection of my own life, in his. I find this very moving, and inspirational.

The Sea at Moolack

At Moolack Beach, along the central Orgeon coast, a beach of flat wet sand, spreading out at low tide, while dramatic clouds stack themselves over the sunset. The sky and the wet mirror of the washed sands both the color of clouded amber, with honey and lemon highlights. Where the stream meets the sea, a channel of sand, a canyon perfect in every detail. Abandoned shells of dead crabs. Smooth round river stones, flat, black, sculpted. I pick up a stone, and discover it is perforated by weathering: a dreamstone. And another, white instead of black, the white of weathered bone in the desert.

sea and desert both
abandon bleached driftwood logs—
gulls cry, lost voices

The lighthouse on land’s end, to the south, is framed by rain-veils, but no rain falls here. The waves crash far out, and the shallow sands are molten glass mirrors reflecting the sunset. I stay until I cannot see my own feet, then climb up to the road and continue on my way.

indigo night sky
gapped with broken clouds and stars:
my bed still far away

CCCXL. 20 December 2005, Oakland Airport, CA

The past few days have been an emotional roller-coaster. I had a rage attack over the weekend, when I just got so frustrated with stupidity, stupid technology, and idiotic humans, that I just had to shout a little. As the character Coach on the TV show said, “Sometimes you just gotta shout.” I’ve been feeling stressed out about this visit to Wisconsin, about having to fly again so soon, about pretty much everything involved around visiting one’s family for Christmas. The stress and tension have been getting to me in major ways, and the past few days have been uncomfortable, filled with silences and tension. At root, I’m still tired from all the traveling this fall, my reserves are low, and so my threshold of stress is also very low; much lower than it usually is. So, I have a lower trigger point. Add to that the anticipated holiday stress that not only I, but every one in the whole frickin’ world has this time of year, especially around travel in the post-9/11 world of paranoia and war and angst. Everyone’s stressed; the whole world is stressed. Not all of the negativity and frustration I’m feeling is my own, I’m sure, so, shields up, and Everybody. Just. Relax.

Something of a catharsis, meanwhile. Last afternoon, J. and I went to see Brokeback Mountain. It’s a really terrific movie, but intense, emotionally draining, and tough; not at all sentimental, by the way, so forget those reviews that say it’s “just another Hollywood weepie,” or “the new gay cowboy movie.” That so awfully misrepresents the film. It takes place in Wyoming and Texas, mostly, those bastions of (ahem) progressive social thinking (not!). Of course it was cathartic for me not only because of the plot, but because of my own experience of those places, and the people there. I know those guys. Hell, in some ways, I am those guys. I’ve become a lot more like a taciturn Western loner cowboy these past few years than ever before; including the repressed frustration that sometimes rears its head as violent anger. The movie hit close to home, more than I should probably admit. It tapped into a deep well of sadness and anger for me, not just about relationships, but about the unexpected turns we take in life that steer us away from our deepest dreams and desires. Is there a “moral” to the movie, a “lesson”? Doubtless some will read various lessons into it; not least, in these days of right-wing social repression and the whole gay marriage issue, that everyone should have the freedom to love who they love, without fear or reprisal. That’s just timeless. But it’s not a movie about some sort of moralizing preachment; it never preaches, it just portrays the lives of the two men who are the lead characters without judgment or comment, letting them express themselves, or be silent, as they naturally would do. It’s an excellent portrait movie. Forget about the rest.

Some guy just asked me if my Stick, in its gig bag, was pool cues, apparently a prohibited item. I’m sitting in a restaurant area, catching up on my writing, because I have hours to kill before my flight to Chicago. I’m a little worried about the Stick in the overhead, because it looks like it will be a very full flight, this close to the Xmas holidays; but the gig bag tucks nicely into the overheads, even better than the hardshell case, and it’s very nicely padded. I’ll make it work somehow.

Ugh. Christmas Muzak in the airport. ‘Nuff said.

CCCXXXIX. 18 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Towards a Position Paper

There’s the art we do because we love doing it, and we do it for ourselves, and will always do it, and will always be interested in doing it, no matter what; and there is the art that we do, that we may not think much of, that the rest of the world, starting with other artists, encourages us to do because they love it. And then there is the art that we will be remembered for having done, if we’re remembered at all. There is no shortage of irony in this creative life. And the root of that irony lies in the difference between our expectations and hopes for our creative legacy, and what that legacy actually will be.

I am reminded of a science fiction novella I read back in the 60s or 70s, which is about a man who is a time-traveling historical researcher. He goes back in time to interview creative people such as Bizet, the composer of Carmen; and other artists of that era. Part of the novella is his memoir writings of those encounters; and these are truly sublime passages, full of insight into the creative life, and into an artist’s successes and failures. The other main plotline of the story is how another time researcher from the writer’s own future comes back to visit him; because of his writings, he is very famous in the future. The deep irony of the story is that, he is also a painter, and wants to be remembered for his paintings; but he will be remembered for his writings, and there’s nothing he can do about it. At the end of the story, he sighs, and for the moment, puts down brush and takes up pen; but he knows he will go back to his painting, eventually, simply because he loves to do it. He is a mature enough character to accept the irony of his own artistic life, without despair.

I also think of May Sarton, who throughout her life thought of herself first and foremost as a poet. She is likely to be best remembered for her exquisite published journals, though: the books wherein she talks about the creative process, her home life, growing old, her trials and frustrations and her triumphs, and in every way gives a deep and meaningful look into the artist’s life and work. Her knowledge of her own self, and creative process, is profound. Two or three of her novels will also keep her name alive, I believe, especially her most overtly autobiographical novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Sarton’s poetry was good, sometimes very good, but not consistently great; individual poems achieve greatness, I think, but overall, her very best writing is her prose. Another profound irony. Sarton is also a writer who, I now believe, the reader needs to be mature enough to appreciate and understand; I first read her in my 20s, and didn’t get that much out of her; but after I passed the age of 40, I re-read her and got a tremendous range of insight out of her combined writings.

The question that is usually asked of artists at this time is: If you would wish to be remembered for just one thing, what would that thing be? I reject this question completely, because it is a question that feeds ego and expectations, and serves only to deepen the irony under discussion here. I think the question is a red herring that completely misses the point of what it means to be an artist.

The real truth here is that we, as artists, have no control whatsoever over our artistic legacy. We cannot dictate to the future that which we would prefer to be known for having done. We can edit ourselves, try to preserve our privacy, leave things out; at most, this leaves a gap in the record, which, if there is interest enough someday, some biographer will try to sleuth. Perhaps some time-traveling historical researcher will come back to interview you about those gaps.

So, the reason to do art remains located in the present tense, not in the future. All we can do is produce. Any artist who thinks too much about their legacy, who lives too much in the future, cannot be content, or probably ever happy. The reason to make art is simply to make art: no other reason. All we can do is make art, and make art, and keep making art, till we drop. Don’t make art for fame and fortune—those are accidentally achieved, on the evidence, since for every great artist who achieves fame there are usually several just as good who don’t—and by all means don’t do it for posterity. Do it for yourself. Do it to please yourself. Do what you have to do, to satisfy your own artistic urges. Do it because it’s as essential to your well-being as breathing.

I have no idea what I will be remembered for, if I am remembered at all. I don’t think about it much, except to note that the art that I personally care about the most is, ironically, the least likely thing for which I will be remembered. On the other hand, the art that I make, that I myself value the least, is the one for which I continuously receive the highest level of encouragement. I note the irony, without judging it, or anyone who participates in it, including myself. It’s actively amusing, when I do think about it. I note that the encouragement and praise does feed my ego, if I let it; but praise is not essential to making art. I recognize that I’m good at more than form, genre, and medium of creative artwork; I recognize that I’m good at more than one thing, and choose to not choose between them, and choose not to value one medium over the rest. This also has meant that I don’t choose to do only one medium of art-making; a polymath stance that is neither universally supported nor understood. The artform out of which I personally get the most satisfaction, music, is the one artform which has never provided me a steady income. In some ways, that’s liberating, because I don’t feel forced to compromise my music, to prostitute it (even though I would, if asked to), or to change it in any way to please others. In other ways, it is the root of irony: the painter who will be remembered for his memoirs; the poet who will be remembered for her journals. Where we bury our egos in our work, sometimes so deeply that we ourselves are not even aware of the place—those are the places which can kick us back, hard. Any ego I develop about my artwork, in any genre, is profoundly laughable, and the irony of legacy both reminds me to keep myself from getting inflated, and also puts everything in perspective. I think perhaps the true test of art is: will anybody give a damn about it in a hundred years? It’s okay if they don’t; I won’t cease to paint, even though I know my memoirs will be what everyone remembers me for.

Sure, you can get good, useful feedback, critique, and support from other artists—some of whom will understand what drives you better, at core, than your loved ones ever will—and you might even develop an audience for your work. I’ve made my living, at times, from commercial and production art; but that isn’t MY art, and even though I always undertake it with the utmost craft and skill that I am able to bring to it, in the end I don’t care about it. It’s not the art I do for myself, to myself, out of myself. It’s time-bound and ephemeral. Ironically, of course, my commercial illustration work has had an inherently wider audience than any of my personal artwork has ever had.

The trick to preserving one’s sanity, in this unstable, back-biting and crazy-making world of art, though, is to not care about it too much. Non-attachment to outcomes is an important self-discipline that any artist would be well-served to cultivate.

So, that’s how you keep going: you ignore the irony of posterity, or laugh at it, always remembering that the last laugh will be on you.

The reason to do your art remains, simply, to do your art. Do it because it must he done. Do it because you have to. Do it because no one else can do it the way you do it, with your specific use of the craft and tools of your media. Do it because you can’t live without doing it. Do it because you have no other choice but to do it.

All audiences come later, if they come at all.

CCCXXXVIII. 17 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Season of mists, cold fog, rains, and chill bones. I huddle in bed, no hurry to go anywhere, do anything.

I can’t help it. I’m focused on other things. I took the night off last night from worries and cares, and read a novel. I might have watched a movie, but I read instead. After an afternoon spent meeting someone who might become a friend, I came home tired and napped for an hour. Then I went out to do some shopping errands. I realize: I’m all caught up, mostly. I have little to do till I leave for the Midwest in a few days; except to continue to prepare to leave, gather things for the trip, make some more crafts and gifts. It all suddenly seems very quiet, after weeks of rushing around doing so much. Everything feels a little distant, a little meaningless. Nothing to do but sit back and watch the world spin on; I weave, I spin, I think about not much at all. It goes on, without intervention, on its own.

A time of cold fog. Everywhere I turn, I encounter Orca. I open myself to becoming a Weaver, and everywhere I turn I meet weavings, and webs, and knots in the tail. A labyrinth of dream-whales and Spiders. I won’t tell you what dreams I wove last night, because they’re mine, this time, and not for telling. I mine the archetypes, they rise as they rise.

Magnitude 3.4 Epicenter 38.01N 122.25W

earthslide and waveshift. punches through, a fist of uncertainty, knocking you off your assumptions. each time, a little more liquid; till you assume nothing, and surf. slow waves from the east, through the mountain, and shrugged over the hill. two or three kinds of sound. the crisp surface ripples; the gong tone rebounding inside a bell; the spherical pressure of compression and release that gathers directly, simply. a child-god dropping a bell. deer raise their heads, spread locked knees, and wait. nothing shattered, nothing forged. a solitary cat stares past the eastern trees, towards origin. if you slid into the bay, tonight, today, volitional, arbitrary, you would enter the waters naked, all naked, in mind, blank sheet white mind, more emptied than the world of objects and slaves. this time, you kept your footing, and could restore the illusion of solidity you expect the ground to have. this time, you could pretend it never happened. this time, the scrapers ticked and came to rest again, briefly, paused in their slow flight to the arctic, and the sound behind the northern winds.

CCCXXXVII. 16 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Dream: In vivid detail, without spatial distortions, I am in the house on Lexington in Ann Arbor. It is my birthday party, and I am hosting. The first night, there are just four of us, and we have a good time talking and drinking until dawn; the second day, many more of my lifetime’s friends arrive; but many of them are into each other, and don’t even acknowledge my existence. Granted, I’ve been up all night, I’m tired, and probably look it. There is heavy rain outside beginning in the late morning, and lots of people are wearing brightly colored rain slickers. I wonder when someone will turn on the DJ PA system and start the dancing. No one seems into it. I feel cut off. Finally, a little annoyed, I take off my rain slicker, go into the front room and sit at the piano. Music always helps me when I’m feeling down. The interesting things about this dream, to me, are the vivid, non-surreal, non-distorted spaces of the settings, and the complete linear time of the dream; everything was sequential, from beginning to end, happening in real time, like it does in real life. No jump-cuts, no leaps, no breaks; all a continuum. That’s a little unusual for a dream, for me. My emotions were some familiar ones of not being an insider, not being at the center of things, not really even being noticed—in fact, being ignored—even on my own birthday party. A blend of resigned acceptance, annoyance, maybe a little too much passivity about it all, and watchfulness. I most enjoyed myself when I took an initiative, and started a process without giving a damn about what anyone else thought. It’s one way to really sort out your friends, too; one wonders why some even bother coming. Except of course that these are memory-friends, many of whom had an impact on my life at some point, even though they’re as standoffish in real life now as they were inn the dream. My dreams are usually very different than my waking life; this one was a remarkable mirror.

It’s a cold, dreary morning. I huddle under my blankets as I write. The room shakes, briefly, for only seconds; I hear the earth boom: a small earthquake rolls through.

Small earthquakes in the region. Looking at the map, I realize my sense of the direction from which the waves came was accurate. I felt the waves; the room itself barely shifted, and my belongings only slightly creaked.

The USGS maps them in realtime, and they’re all put onto the Internet.

CCCXXXVI. 15 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Dream: I follow a photographer friend to a local dam and reservoir; he drives, I ride my bike, so I arrive late; it’s near sunset; before I go down the long slope to the area at the foot of the dam, I pass by the waters above; the dam is in the middle of a developed area, it’s surrounded by houses and city on all sides; the concrete seems to thin to hold back all that water, yet there is no feeling of danger; the waters of the reservoir are serene and calm, deep blue in their depths, reflecting the sky like a mirror; to one side, near the lip of the dam, I see a small group of houses; an overflow pond has been turned into a water garden in their midst; there’s an abstract sculpture in the pond, half-covered by water; somehow I know it’s a fountain, although it’s not running right now; when I finally get to the public area at the foot of the dam, I realize it’s a public area; there are tourists everywhere, and dam workers, and safety officials of some kind: I walk down the slope, having locked by bike in the parking area; my friend is already there taking pictures; we wander around, taking photos. The image that is most compelling to me from this dream is the still of the dam waters up top; their serenity, and mirror-smoothness, reflecting the colors of the sky, with intimations of hidden depths below. Like some people, where what we see is the reflection of the sky, making them seem shallow; but there are hidden depths. I’m that kind of person, I know; people constantly misjudge me, in my depths.

CCCXXXV. 14 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Bought my plane tickets last night, for the trip to the Midwest over the holidays. Woke up to a real pea-soup fog, the first I’ve seen here. Visibility less than 100 feet.

Dreams of going through a three-part Sufi training initiations. The details fade in my mind, but I know I passed each part of the test, and that they were challenging and difficult. They were moral and spiritual tests, more than purely physical ones.

As the sun rises, a bright white spotlight overhead, the fog begins to urn off, and shadows take form through the window, and begin to develop contrast. The grey-scale world becomes saturated with color, and light and shadow emerge from the infinite blankness. Later, blue sky and soft breezes. If you don’t like the weather here, wait an hour; as they say.

Later, night:

I cleaned house most of the day, then went grocery shopping. Now, after a brief attempt at a nap, the room still half-cluttered, dirty, and in need of vacuuming, I am re-mastering an old text/sound poetry piece I did back in Ann Arbor, in the early 1980s. Called a stone flute, it was based on shamanic poetry and texts, and some other sound design elements I pulled together at the WCBN production studios. It took me almost a month to make this piece. Now, tonight, editing it slightly, and adjusting some volume levels, I’m saving it as an MP3 to load up to the podcast. It’s interesting to re-visit these old compositions, sometimes, to hear what’s changed in myself since then, and what I can still stand to listen to. The cringe factor is pretty low for this piece, which is good. It’s a full 30 minutes in length, which fulfills my desire to load up around 20 minutes of content a week to the podcast; it’s not a rule, just a commitment I made to myself when I first started doing it. I need to record more readings soon, too. maybe I’ll get that done before I fly to Chicago next week, for the Xmas holidays, visiting people in Minneapolis, and more studio work in Chicago.

I’m looking forward to getting my new audio/DVD computer set up here next month. I have loads of old radiopieces on tape, that I want to convert to digital and make into CDs, and/or load up to the podcast. I have literally hundreds of hours of this old material, more than enough to do my own radio show all over again; even being selective, there’s a ton of it there to go through, digitize, and re-purpose. I will confine myself to original and re-purposed material, just to be as clean as possible about copyright; nevertheless, there will be many hours of material available, when I get into it.

CCCXXXIV. 13 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Plan for a land art piece at Moolack Beach in central coastal Oregon. Build a spiral cairn in the outflow of the stream that comes out of the hills and over the beach. Use the rounded stream stones to build it. First build a spiral shape out of the stones. Then add layers of stones until the spiral cairn is made. Do this by the water’s edge, preferably at low tide. Photograph each stage as it is made. If I can stay there long enough, also photograph each stage as the tide wears it away to nothing.


The image of this piece comes to me as I lie, half-asleep under the covers, as my room warms up with the space heater running. I like the room to be warm when I’m in it and awake, but I turn the heater off at night, because I like to sleep in the cool. J. and I went into San Francisco today, though, and I felt a little chilled by the time we got back home tonight; so I’m warming up, before I do anything else. I really need to clean and reorganize my room. I’m starting on it tonight, but I’ll get serious about it tomorrow, probably.

CCCXXXIII. 12 December 2005, Pinole, CA

A sudden poem: after a nap, cooking dinner, watching a movie that made me weep, I review some of my photos of the Japanese Garden in Portland, and then a poem comes forth:


every entrance
glazed with one more open gate—
we step between worlds,

koi spun under their mirrors,
red and silver reflections

I walk slowly through the cold rain in the garden. My tears mingle with the rain. Heartsore over a fight with my beloved, I look down, feeling like something has died, and see the koi slowly move under the pond’s mirror-surface. Everything slows down, becomes still. How can I live like this—always alone, never to be with someone I love, except in brief, intense glimpses? The koi gather at my feet. Perhaps it’s feeding time, or perhaps even their slow, cold blood can feel with me this anguish.

Everywhere I go, spiders. Everywhere I turn, wild things come to me. The black dog of comfort. The wild birds of joy: hummingbirds at the feeder whisper hello, suckle, and blur into nothingness. The wind whispers in the cedars and reddened maples. The path is strewn with vivid leaves. I shiver; even this heavy quilted jacket is too thin for the chill I feel inside. I move along the path, beside the pond. The koi follow, watching, waiting. Red blurs into silver, as I crumble into tears.

I find myself in that place, tonight, between recovery after a storm, tired but not calm, and feeling more emotional than is ever comfortable. The least little thing can set me off into angry frustration, or tears, or laughter. It’s all very volatile. My heart pounds in my chest: the Sacred Heart, feeling more pain. Every book I’ve opened in the past four days has had the same messages to say about anger, anguish, love, and the dark night. Let’s make it explicit, shall we:

To summarize: what I’ve been getting out of these texts—which is harder than simply quoting them, and therefore is worth doing—is applicable to both the Sacred Heart and the alchemy of suffering into creativity. When you open the heart wider, you will of course feel more pain; more of other peoples’ pain, the world’s pain, even your own pain; it can bring you to your knees, the suffering you take on. But at the same time there is an equal motion of compassion: the suffering you feel is more deeply relieved, more truly let go of, more genuinely alleviated. You open yourself ever wider and wider, and it hurts more and more–and it also heals more and more. Not just yourself, but everything. The ripple effect cannot be overestimated: it truly has the power to change the world. This is the truth of the Crucifixion, and the dark night of the soul: the more we hurt, the more we are healed.

Now, this isn’t a form of spiritual masochism: get off that moralizing hobby-horse right now. This isn’t to say that you go seeking out suffering for any inflationary reason, or that “suffering is redeemed” simply by being a self-abnegating act. There is no ego whatsoever in the Sacred Heart: it is a force of nature, acting with its own laws, directing itself where it will. I can go whole days and feel nothing but a vague, generic compassion; then, always be surprise, I am caught up, and brought to my knees. I don’t exercise it like you’d exercise in a gym. My will, and my desire, are not engaged. The process doesn’t require anything more than my willingness to be open to it, and to be a channel for it to flow through. It functions independently of everything I want, or think I need, or desire. When I encounter genuine suffering, I can only be moved by it. My consent is required, and my choice, and my participation; but my personality’s desire to try to direct the movie of my life, is not.

I have a new old Buddha statue in my room, made of aged wood. In his cupped hands he holds an opened lotus flower, which is the holder for a tealight candle. When I place a lit candle in the holder, the flickers up onto the Buddha’s face, arms, and chest, and throws moving shadows on the wall behind that make it seem the statue is breathing. Whenever I light a candle and place it in there, on these dark nights, I feel less alone, less burdened: aware that I am not alone, no matter how lonely I might have been feeling.

CCCXXXII. 11 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Dreams that I am driving down the Oregon coast from Portland, only inland, along fertile country roads, at harvest time. I stop at a farm-store, where they have fresh produce and delicious breads and pastries. I select a bread for the road that is a meal in itself; rich and potent. One loaf will sustain me through the rest of my journey.

In another dream, I am a new teacher in a new school somewhere in the same area. I had started by being in a store, looking over new electronic devices; then I was in an empty classroom, waiting to begin; then, called away from the classroom, I come back and there is a delivery notice for a package, in my mother’s handwriting; I go to the office to try to retrieve the package, but the long lines keep me waiting a long time; waiting, I read about the local news, local dramas, local tragedies. I find myself going back to the farm-store, not knowing where else to spend the night but in my truck in their parking lot. There are no other accommodations for travelers in this area, that I can find.

I wake to misty, filtered sunlight, thin clouds overhead, and dew covering everything. It’s chill, and I wrap myself in my Tibetan-wool shawl that Alex gave me up in Portland.

Last night, I found an email list on Yahoo for radical faeries who live on the central Oregon coast. I wonder if there is a move to make a sanctuary there. I am still looking for a place to live, to be based in, while I do my work.

I read some advice from the Dalai Lama this morning, on karma, life, and right living. It makes me think of some aphorisms of my own, applicable to kids as well as adults. So, here are a few:

Random Aphorisms:

1. Always speak your mind with confidence and clarity, and try to speak out in a way that doesn’t hurt people.

2. Adults, raise your kids to be brave and smart. Kids, raise your parents to be happy. (They’re older now, and sometimes forget what it was like to be a kid.)

3. Everybody, back in the sandbox! Time to play!

4. Stir the pot as long as you need to, to get the stew right. Stir the poet, too.

Hey, if aphorisms were good enough for Oscar Wilde, as an artform, they’re good enough for me. (Not that I’m remotely as witty as Oscar.)

CD Review. 8 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Kate Bush: Aerial.

Kate Bush's new CD is in two parts, A Sea of Honey, and, A Sky of Honey. I have been listening to it on the drive up and down the Pacific Coast, and in the truck back here again in the Bay Area.

The first of the two CDs, A Sea of Honey, is a loosely related suite of introspective takes on life, its daily challenges and joys. On my first couple of listens, I thought it a tad self-indulgent, but forgivably so, and it has some classically kate Bush surreal moments. Kate has a way of looking at things, almost sideways, as though no one had ever seen them before, as though the most everyday situations were completely unknown beforehand. This is one of the cores of her approach to writing, and so, even when I found her subject matter less than fully engaging, there remains a frshness to her viewpoint. For example, the second song on the first CD, Pi, really is a song about mathematics, chaos, order, and the obsessive analysis of the Universe. (Hard not to think of Darren Aronofsky's much darker, mystical, suspense-thriller take on the subject, in his movie of the same name.) She focuses on her young son's impact on her life on at least two tracks, most overtly on Bertie; these are tracks in which almost every parent will find some feeling they have shared. The song Mrs. Bartolozzi, which could as well be titled Washing Machine, contains many moments that remind me of Sylvia Plath; of a woman trapped in a domestic life, possibly an abusive life, who needs to break out, wherever she can, from her bleak existence. How to Be Invisible is a dark, almost noir groove that builds towards both climax and evaporation. As usual, the sound design is amazing, unique, the guitar tones not like anything you've heard before. The first CD ends with A Coral Room, another quiet, contemplative mood; both indoors and out, sad and ecstatic; it is here the sea of honey really comes into focus.

The second CD, A Sky of Honey, is the real masterpiece of the album, and is built around several samples of bird songs. This is a continuous suite of pieces, such as Kate’s suite The Ninth Wave from Hounds of Love; as such, it is a characteristic form for her work, in which we find some of her best, most operatic, most conceptual writing.

Some singer-songwriters are genuine poets, whose work stands alone, as written poetry on the page, as well as sung. Many of Joni Mitchell’s pieces fit this criterion, as do Bruce Cockburn’s. They work, not only as song lyrics, but as poems. Kate Bush’s lyrics are not, on the page, as engaging or powerfully poetic, to read, as Mitchell’s. But here’s the truth: It just does not matter! As a performer, composer, vocalist, and writer, Kate Bush is without parallel. The things she can do with her voice go beyond anything one normally expects, or receives, in pop music. Some of the sections of A Sky of Honey are explicitly, directly inspired by birdsong, and we find the recorded bird cross-fading into Kate’s voice imitating it, morphing into it, or doing a conversational counterpoint: an actual coversation, a convincing dialogue.

The bird analog is made explicit on the CD’s cover art, as well, with its field of golden honey-colored sky, and what looks like the rough rocks of Monument Valley in the desert Southwest; the art is split in the middle, as though reflecting the sky and rocks in a vast, still lake. But then you look more closely, and realize suddenly that the rocks are not really rocks, but waveforms, soundfiles, peaks and valleys of birdsong. This is one of the more poetic, mythic tie-ins for cover art one has seen in a very long while.

This is why I don't care when her words are even borderline cliches. She is still doing something fresh with her approach, even when seh uses a phrase you've heard in countless other songs. What she does with her material is what makes her work so very powerful. Very few other recording artists are capable of bringing the listener along to reach such an exalted state of being. At her best, this is what Kate Bush does so very,very well.

And Kate Bush is a dancer. In many of her songs, the way she ornaments a vocal phrase, or articulates a line, you can feel the physicality of it, the movement, the shape. At times, when the music turns on a dime, as in Nocturne, you can see and feel a flock of birds suddenly change direction in midair, with perfect coordination, in perfect unison, as the music swoops and dives—and you are among them. She does this in part by layering her own voice on numerous tracks to create an entire choir of voices; it’s one of the more potent effects on this CD.

My favorite tracks are the concluding movements of the suite, Sunset, Somewhere in Between, Nocturn, and the title track, Aerial, which move from sunset, though night’s darkness, and to dawn. Are we in a dream? Is it real? Have we been sleeping, and are now awakened? Or is it somehow, as with Chuang Tse’s butterfly, that we were awake in dreams, and are now asleep? The question blends into the pulsating, danceable music, brilliantly arranged and performed. I ofund myself listening to this section of the album over and over again, as i spent hours and hours driving through mist and rain on the Pacific Coast, in Oregon and Northern California, on a recent drive down from Portland to San Francisco. The music kept me going, kept my driving, gave me a deep reason for my life: to become as exalted as this music itself.

It’s been years since the last album that Kate Bush provided for us, and the wait was well worth it. Very highly recommended.

CCCXXX. 7 December 2005, Pinole, CA

I find myself more and more drawn towards the probably pretentious literary merits of what I’m doing here; not that there are any merits to this at all, I find myself seeking a rationale, a justification for this increasing tendency on my part to let this Road Journal be more random, less personal, more observational, less and less like a diary. That was my original intent when I started it, after all, and perhaps I’m just coming back to my intentions with more clarity after months of experience. I will continue to post little essays here in greater preference to daily diary-like entries. I find that I mostly post daily events when they are of merit, or when I’m actually on the road, gathering impressions and days like fuel for an invisible fire.

I find myself interested in creative nonfiction, which too many people think is literary journalism and nothing more; it is, in fact, simply non-fiction done with literary craft and tools. The personal essay is a form of it

I find an exact literary precursor to what I am doing, and what I intend to do, in the classic Japanese form of zuihitsu—“following the brush”—or so-called random composition. I found in my library back in Beloit three volumes that I mailed to myself here, so that I can re-read them, and consult with them, and absorb their style all anew. They are:

The Pillow Book (Makura no soshi) of Sei Shonagon

As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams (Sarashina nikki): Recollections of a woman in 11th century Japan

Essays In Idleness (the Tsurezuregusa), by Kenko

I also think of Basho’s haibun in this way, and his Narrow Road to the Interior has been something I return to again and again, in more than one translation. It is not really zuihitsu, not really random, but it is the record of a travel experience, and even though it is a product of high artfulness, I reckon my own Road Journal is, if I dare any comparison, a smaller, less perfect sort of travelogue with poems, a similar evocation of where I’ve been, the emotions felt, the experience had, the memories left, the words left behind in the traveler’s wake.

For modern examples of the zuihitsu form, I turn to books like:

Erskine Lane: Game-Texts

Bruce Chatwin: The Songlines

Pablo Neruda: Memoirs

Gary Snyder: Earth House Hold

There are others, I’m sure, which I’ll run across or remember later.

I find a centre here in these works where there is no apparent centre. I find something to hold onto where others see only chaos and randomness. They are random composition only in the sense that they include everything, literally everything, and the spotlight of attention is apparently random in its movements, now focusing on this, now here, now over there. But the cohesiveness is that of actual life—episodic; full of little memorable details that compel emotion even in the shadow of worldly great events; emblematic of the personalities of the writers—rather than an artificial linear narrative imposed on events and thoughts, out of either a sense of duty, or of a sense bringing order to a chaotic universe.

The real courage, it seems to me, is in letting the universe be what it is, and not trying to impose onto it our sense of what it ought to be.

The core of Zen is direct pointing to reality, seeing what is really there. Not the finger pointing at the moon, but letting the finger dissolve into just seeing the moon. The core of my life has become engaged in an ongoing process of stripping what is inessential, leaving behind only what I really need for this journey. increasingly, I realize that’s little more than myself, my tools of travel (a road-worthy truck, tent, and bedding), and the few books I really need as guides. For the rest, I scatter artworks and writings and music in my wake, like so many fallen leaves. I barely have the energy or time to gather them into a random chapbook, or online journal like this one, before I take off again on another journey. I have come to look forward to each departure, as much or more as I look forward to each arrival, or return.

CCCXXIX. 4 December 2005, Paso Robles, CA

Still feeling a little raw and wounded in spirit today. After last night’s venting session, feeling raw physically and mentally, too. In the morning, I read from Animal Guides by Neil Russack, a Jungian psychologist. Animal familiars come to me all day long.

Heading out to do shopping with B. and B., a stray black dog appears, wearing no collar, and keeping its distance from the three of us; until I go outside by myself, and sit down, then it comes to me for petting and burr removal, licks my face, leans into me, accepts a rubdown. Walks around the house and yard, then comes back to me a second time. A friendly spirit. Not entirely sure if was actually a dog, if you know what I mean.

Pulling into a store that’s closed on Sundays, for an attempted pickup, across the highway, two horses are at the far end of the field. They immediately come over to the fence right near us, and wait. As we leave, they look right at me.

Shopping at a funky pagan-owned nursery that has acres of plants, but also acres of weird lawn sculptures, two cats: a big grey tabby, who smiles as I scratch under his chin, and purrs. I small half-kitten calico who follows me all around the grounds; walking right beside me, right next to me, right behind me; goes off to explore some aisle of plants, then runs to catch up to me a minute later.

CCCXXVIII. 4 December 2005, Paso Robles, CA

Notes to self towards future arts and crafts fairs: Don’t bother. It’s not my audience. So what if I get a lot of interested looks, if no one actually buys anything? Too much work for no reward. Everyone loves your work, and you still aren’t selling any of it.

Dreams last night of being under attack; still wiping away the traces of a difficult day, with overstimulation and too many people. (It was an indoor bazaar, after all; so everything gets reflected back at you, instead of escaping into the sky or earth, like at an outdoor art fair.) Another dream where I meet the band members of the band Low. Another dream where I am supposed to do something, it’s never really clear what, but it’s urgent and important. Very little sleep the previous night, preparing for the art fair, and a lot of necessary venting, about my whole life, really, last night. I wake to sunshine, still tired, but not wanting to go back to sleep. I have to write about, and I am writing it.

Why do so many artists seem so angst-ridden? Sometimes it’s because they actually are. Other times, I think, it’s because they feel they have to be, that it’s expected and/or necessary, or just part of the job description. In our culture, artists take a constant hit to their self-esteem; even buyers at craft fairs will exude an attitude of Why don’t you get a real job? Families, friends, and the culture in general are not supportive. The more sensitive an artist is, as a person, the harder that can be to cope with. In other cases, I think beginning artists buy into the Romanticism of the classic cliché of “the starving artist,” an archetype I repudiate for my own career. Or they believe that they have to be that way, because artist are often portrayed that way in popular media, film, story, history (and history IS a pop media as much as a literary one, have no doubt of that), and music. Many narratives of the tortured artist that one could cite, from Edgar Allen Poe onwards.

(For example: I have equivocal feelings about Ed Harris’ movie Pollack. On the one hand, it’s an excellent movie, very-well done, and a brilliant job by Harris, who is someone I respect. On the other hand, it simply repeats some of those Tortured Artist clichés; I mean, Jackson Pollack was in some ways the classic inarticulate, tortured artist, himself a symbol of many others of the type. He was drunken lout who also happened to be a gifted artist; the problem, still unresolved, upon which the cliché is based is: would he have been as gifted an artist if he wasn’t so messed up personally and emotionally? Perhaps. But this merely repeats the symbol, embodied in one man; it doesn’t add much to the symbol cluster of the artist as an archetype, it mostly repeats existing stereotypes. And yet, it’s a terrific movie, and a very affecting one, about a single individual artist, who really WAS like that. So, what do you do? It’s a conundrum.)

The universality of the argument of literature as a collection of special cases doesn’t hold up. You can’t argue on the one hand about universal human experiences, then with the other hand argue solipsistically that no one can really ever communicate with each other. Either we get talk with each other across that great divide, or we can never, and why bother trying. So, to paint artists as a unique sub-class within the larger species is perhaps not helpful, even if there’s some truth to it, on evidence. Artists do what they have to do, because they’re compelled: it is a kind of madness, after all.

CCCXXVII. 2 December 2005, Paso Robles, CA

What I’m Reading Now:

Models of the Universe: An anthology of the prose poem. Edited by Stuart Friebert and David Young. (Oberlin, OH: Oberlin College Press, Field Editions. 1995.) This is the most comprehensive anthology on the topic I've run across. It's arranged chronologically, and includes, from the beginning: Aloysius Bertrand, Ivan Turgenev, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Léon-Paul Fargue; up to recent work by Amy Gerstler, Michael Chitwood, Tom Andrews. The anthology also includes some pieces by Kafka, WCW, Hans Arp, Borges, Henri Michaux, René Char (a favorite of mine), Seferis, Francis Ponge, Italo Calvino, Elizabeth Bishop, Ginsberg, Bly, Steve Martin, Merwin, Simic, Charles Wright, and many many others. Some I'm sure we can all think of were left out, for various reasons, and the anthology is already gigantic; the editors were tempted to include nifty passages out of longer works, but decided to go for self-complete works by preference.

Here's a bit from the introduction:

The prose poem is a very special invention, like a chair that flies or a small dish that produces food for forty people. In turning to it the poet seems to put aside the discreet or flamboyant costume of poetic identity and, in a swift and unpredictable gesture, raid the other world, the world of prose, subverting categories and definitions, defying the drag of the prosaic, turning everything inside out for a moment.

It shouldn't happen, this gesture; it upsets the makers of categories and the givers and second-guessers of prizes. If poets don't even stay where we put them, among their lines, then there is no way to account for and contain their doubtful magic, their darting forays into the language whose meanings and habits we work so hard to categorize and make stable.

I think Baudelaire's definition of the prose-poem is still one of the best:

Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?

I also think this: innovators and explorers write prose-poems, because such also tend to ignore the rigid boundaries of categories and rules. Indeed, these works "upset the makers of categories." But the problem is not with the prose-poem, the problem is with too-rigid definitions of what poetry is or isn't.

Anytime I see a category that is too rigid, a boundary that is too fixed, I feel the grip of death around my throat, around the singer's throat, the lark's throat. I want to ask, what is the maker of such a rigid boundary afraid of? For fear is at the root of such rigidity, always. The usual dictatorial regime that would try to dismiss, diminish or deride the makers of prose-poems is a regime based on fear of change, fear of difference, fear of, ultimately, wildness. But, in the end, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." And that refers to inner wildness, too, not just the national parks.

I think of Bruce Cockburn's song, Maybe the Poet:

Maybe the poet is gay
but he'll be heard anyway.
Maybe the poet is drugged
but he won't stay under the rug.
Maybe he's a woman
who can touch you where you're human....

I think of Robert Bly's best written work, his anthology of poetry criticism, titled American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity. The title alone denotes awareness of the tension and creative growth inherent in the pull away from rigidity and fixity, that leads to exploration and experimentation.

Real poetry is not tame, polite, mannered, or snivellized. That's a battle we still fight against the forces of entropy.

Some more from the anthology's introduction:

That prose poems still provoke snarls and yelps is an excellent sign of their fundamental health and success. We are identifying a tradition that is not only fun to review as history but alive and well and trying on disguises at Woolworth's at this very moment.

It's the continent of the sphinxes, hippogriffs, and manticores that the prose-poem explores. No maps to this territory? Then make new maps.

Borges, the inveterate inventor of arcane references and maps that may or may not have existed, blindly trawling the labyrinthine Library of Babel—his work has also been called meta-fiction. I like meta-fiction as a label for much of this work, too. (I have a poet friend who thinks Borges is a puerile short story writer; he doesn't understand that Borges isn't at all intending to write short stories: he's writing something else entirely; he's a fabulist, a writer of meta-fiction, a fantasist, an existential surrealist; pick a label. This is not the continent of Raymond Carver. It's Atlantis, Mu, Babel, the place where the roadmaps end.)

People also talk about the short-short story in this context, but at root I think they're slightly different animals, denoted most clearly by the short-short's clinging to linear, logical narrations: they are often snapshots, vignettes, excised slices of life that can fit into a pocket notebook. I recall writing such things as a teenage fledgling writer encouraged by my English teacher (who also encouraged me to submit to writing contests, which I won). My introduction to the short-short story came through science fiction, which perhaps colors my literary response to the genre; the most memorable writers of the short-short in SF were Robert Bloch and Arthur C. Clarke, although many other established SF writers have experimented. The whole New Wave in SF, the literary convergence of speculative fiction with literary intent—most clearly exemplified by Michael Moorcock's New Wave magazine in Britain, the Dangerous Visions anthologies edited by Harlan Ellison, and by writers like Samuel R. Delany, Roger Zelazny, Tom Disch, and others—was in many ways operating in parallel to the development of meta-fiction by Borges, Cortazar, Calvino, and others. In the 1960s, Borges' story Funes the Memorius was included in one of those annual "World's Best SF" anthology books—my first actual introduction to his writings—which gives another indication of how those boundaries couild blur. One might legitimately at times call Borges an SF writer, just as one might legitimately at times call Delany a meta-fiction writer. For example, his vast novel, Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand. His earlier shorter novel, Nova, is explicitly a meta-fiction, exploring the Parsifal myths.

Another writer who commits these kind of exploratory sins, in Sam Shepard. His experimental plays such as Tongues, and his short fictions, collected in Cruising Paradise and Hawk Moon, could easily fit into this genre-blurring mix I'm discussing. Shepard has in interviews explicitly stated that he is looking for new forms, new structures, whenever he writes; even his most mainstream, narrative plays contain material that breaks through into some other level.

I keep coming back, basically, to the blending of genres, the blurring of boundaries, the abandonment of fortified lines of demarcation. It seems to me that the prose-poem by its very nature, is very raison d'etre, is a violation of genres, a blending of genres, a merging of genres. It's that unknown continent where the animals blur together into unusual, monstrous forms not seen back in the Old World.

I wonder if some of how we decide this short-short story is a prose-poem is in how we read it: do we read it with poetic appreciation for the beauty of the language used, the concision, the metaphor, the rhythms? or do we read it as a straightforward narrative, a slide in a carousel of other slides, none of them projected for very long?

CCCXXVI. 1 December 2005, Pinole, CA

Back in Pinole now, after a sleep with intense dreams, I see this morning that the packages I shipped from Chicago have arrived. Some prints and CDs, and a couple more musical instruments, my dumbek, two synthesizers. My palette of musical sounds, on hold for so long as I traveled with so few belongings, now expanded to include more sonic options.

Tomorrow I am right back on the road again, to Paso Robles for an arts and crafts fair. I have several errands I need to do today, to get myself ready for that. I feel way behind in making things to sell, but I also have my new DVD for sale, so that’s something. I need to be efficient today, organizing everything for the weekend, and then hit the road.


Did some necessary shopping today, and running around with J., then had to unload the truck finally in another sudden downpour. Tired and sick of the perversity of the universe right now, not to mention soaked to the skin during the process. Hopefully nothing got too wet. The rest of today I need to focus on craft-making for the Paso Robles art fair on Saturday.

CCCXXV. 30 November 2005, Pinole, CA

Just back in Pinole an hour or so ago. The drive was very hard. I feel both tired and wired. The household is already asleep, and I have not awakened them by arriving here, tonight.

At sunset, I found myself in the windy, twisty part of Highway 101 in northern California: pouring rain, fog, mist, slick roads, lots of traffic, pitch dark, and the usual 100-foot-plus precipice by the roadside, sometimes even with a guard-rail, but usually not. California is weird that way: they’re very inconsistent about where they install guard-rails and warning signs. Some places, you could go right over a cliff, and no comment. Other places, they over-protect you.

I’m completely wiped out, not even going to try to unload the truck tonight. A great deal photo work on the long drive, today, regardless. I found myself going from location to location, a professional photo shoot, intentional rather than aimless, stopping for long enough to get what I needed, not lingering much. Interested in places I hadn’t stopped at before, but giving them lower priority than the places I knew I wanted to stop: the arches, a few groves in the Redwoods area, some ocean vistas. I needed shots of the big waves coming in off the Pacific with the storms, close up and furious. I got all that done; and the day before I also got a lot of good photos, before camping at Humbug Mt. in the rain and dark. I didn’t find any more dreamstones at Moolack, although I did find several works in progress. The same gulls were there on the strand, and the backdrop of stormy skies over the lighthouse made for dramatic, high-contrast images.

CCCXXIV. 30 November 2005, Along the Pacific Ocean coastline, OR and CA

A moment of pure giving peace, as I did a spontaneous land art piece at the archway beach, just south of Humbug; the tide was in today, and rough; last time, I walked out a great distance on the flat mirror-sands, while today I paced the edge of the dunes below the road. Very simple: I placed a straight staff of cedar driftwood into the ground at the soft edge of a cliff, overlooking the beach. At its foot, a moss-covered boulder, and stones littered randomly. An alignment piece: aligning the rocks with each other; bringing myself into alignment. After photographing it from a few different angles, I felt calm, silent, at one with the surroundings; inner turmoil and noise stilled, at last, for now. As I got back in the truck, two ravens floated along the edge of the cliff, surfing the winds, silently hovered over the staff for just a moment, then drifted on. A blessing from the dark, fecund, inward side of the divine.

Arch Rock, Samuel Boardman State Park. This park contains some of my favorite vistas in Oregon; I want to come here again, in spring, and spend lots of time just here, in the park, and the surrounding area.

Walking under the moss-hung trees towards the vistas overlooking the sea-rocks, for the second time here, I Felt the presence of Cougar; perhaps a timeshadow memory, perhaps just the feel of the place. I leaned over the cliffs, taking videos and stills of the huge waves breaking over the rocks below. I felt more peace and silence move into me.

From the cliffs across a narrow inlet, after the rains, thin ribbons of waterfall plunge to the beach, meeting the surfline and tidal surge right where they fall: waters hungry for union.

Walking back to the truck: photos of the trees, and details of the wet, vertiginous landscape.

A banana slug on a fallen mushroom: symbols of decay, of the cycle of life.

Driving in the morning, listening to Bill Laswell and Terre Thaemlitz: Web (Subharmonic): perfect dark ambient music, no beats, for this cloudy, grey day. The music pulls me inward, into contemplation and meditation, as I drove, as I occasionally stop to take photos. Soundtrack for this season of mists.

I reach northern California before dark this time, and take a brief detour into the Redwoods up the Smith River, before curving back towards the ocean, and continuing down past Crescent City and Eureka. I’ve decided I want to drive the rest of the way tonight, even if it’s stressful and tiring, which it looks to be, as the rains are not letting up.

CCCXXIII. 30 November 2005, Humbug Mountain State Park, OR

In the morning: I slept pretty well. There were times of deep silence, when the rain had stopped and there was no traffic on the highway. Out of the tent, in the middle of the night: misty stars seen through spaces between pine boughs.

It’s a grey morning, brightening, chill and damp. I dressed quickly, and began to break down the tent. It’s not too damp, the rain lessened during the night. The campground host came by, and wondered if I’d paid for the camping place, as she couldn’t find the envelope; well, I had put it in the box, and she went back and looked and found it on the second try; but I was still two dollars short, as this was a space with electric hookup, which I hadn’t noticed, as I pulled in after dark last night. I felt annoyed by the whole encounter, at first; and later, resigned to it all.

I packed up the gear, loaded the truck, and walked down to the beach. It was cold there in the wind, taking pictures and videos of the heavy surf breaking on the shore, and the rocks. When I got back to the truck, I decided, what the hell, I’d already paid for the electrical hookup, so I plugged in the laptop, and downloaded the photos I’d taken yesterday and this morning.

Humbug, indeed. Twice, now, it’s been hard to light a fire here. Then that camping fee crap this morning. I did some clearing and releasing, and blessed the land, with all my power. Humbug, indeed. Well, hassled no more. Vanished. Cleared.

CCCXXII. 29 November 2005, along the Oregon coastline

Driving down from Portland on Hwy. 18 to the coast, when through some patches of heavy rain squalls, mists and low clouds, with patches of clear sky. I listened to NPR on the radio most of the drive to the coast; a show about the latest anti-gay pronouncement from the radically conservative Vatican. The was snow on the high exposed fields in the coastal mountain range; snow above a thousand feet. The radio weather predicted heavy snow in the northern Cascades, tonight. The start of winter; the Bear coming down from the north to chill the land and sea and sky.

At the ocean, very strong winds, a bruised grey sky, wild whitecap waves knifing the beach. Half of the sky, to the northwest, clear and blue; the other half greyed with clouds and rain veils. Very dramatic lighting over the ocean: rain squall and sun-ray.

I stopped once or twice at ocean waysides, to walk over to the cliffs over the water and take photos. It was warm in the sun, but frigid in the high winds. Below, the sun struck the water and made it blinding silver.

I stopped at Moolack Beach again. There was storm covering the southern sky, washing inland, a dramatic surge of thick air hovering over the lighthouse on the point to the south. At the stream outlet below the parking area, it was sunny and cold. I dipped hands into the water, freezing my skin. Rocks everywhere, exposed or covered over by sand. The recent heavy rain that had swept through earlier left the sand pock-marked and pitted. A field of rounded stones, half-covered in sand-splatter from the storm, painted rown with pocked sand on one side, the other side black and round and clear.

I found no more completed dreamstones at the beach today, although I looked, in between taking photos of the flock of gulls standing at water’s edge, and the raging storm sky, and the light on the ocean. I had found three stones here on the drive up; a white stone with several rounded holes in it, none drilled through as yet; a large dark stone with a hole cut all the way through; and a smaller rounded black stone, with one small hole in one edge, like a bead-hole for a necklace. While in Portland, I worked on making dreamcatchers, weaving them from yarn and wool and other materials; in the center of each one that I made, I hung a small dreamstone, gathered from Pescadero earlier. Dreamcatchers with dreamstones: seems like a perfect combination, to me.

Later, Humbug Mountain State Park, OR:

Drove for a long, long time today. Past the dunes area, the sea-cliffs, and into the beauty of this last wild area of coastline before one reaches northern California. The roads here are long, the drives long and winding. I listened to Kate Bush’s new CD Aerial again in the car, especially disc two, A Sky of Honey.

I drove until the early winter dark settled down, then decided to keep driving, to get here to this campground by the ocean, in the northern shadow of the mountain. Almost no one is around; just the campground host, and one motor-home in another camping space. I set up the tent in the dark, after stopping in Port Orford to get more firewood, just in case, and a steak, to cook for dinner. It had been raining, and the air under the pine trees here was thick and moist, so it took awhile to start a campfire going. I cooked pepper steak—delicious. I skipped making potatoes, and just ate a couple pieces of fresh bakery bread from the loaf Alex and I bought in Beaverton a couple of days ago. It’s still early, but I’m so tired, I’m going to go right bed. As I set up the tent, it was clear and dark; I could see the Pleiades and Orion’s shoulder. I decided to cover the tent with a second tarp, just in case it rained again; I’m glad I did now, because as I finished eating, and cleaned up the plates and food items, and put them away, it began to rain again, a steady heavy drizzle.

Now, I’m writing this lying in my blankets, by candle lantern light, in the tent, under the tarp. The night sounds are dominated by the heavy raindrop sounds on the tarp, and by late night traffic noise on Hwy. 101, just across the creek from here. The second tarp is also trapping the warm air here in the tent, keeping it warmer than it might be otherwise.

In the morning, who knows? Dry? Wet? Either way, I’ll go down to the beach in the mountain’s shadow and look at the ocean. Heavy waves, no doubt.

CCCXXI. 27 November 2005, Portland, OR

Drove up to Olympia, WA, yesterday, to visit my youngest aunt. It was a great trip; Alex came along and kept me awake by talking with me during the drive up and back. It’s not far from Portland, which after all is at the top of Oregon, only a hundred miles or so. I’ll probably go back up to visit again, sometime when I’m in the Portland area again. Seattle is only a little further north from there, too.

On Thanksgiving Day, I cooked a traditional turkey dinner: roasted turkey, gravy from drippings, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, the works. It went quite well, and was easy to do, even in Alex' relatively unfamiliar kitchen. We spent the today indoors, and I fulfilled my personal vow to myself this year: giving thanks, eating dinner in the nude. We spent the nest day doing some shopping, at Goodwill and other places, and going around having fun and laughing.

I’m tired of the poet online boards again, after giving them another short attempt. People say they want me to be there, that they value my contribution, yet I can’t reconcile that with the really bad attitudes and the crap that gets thrown at me for no reason. Not that I want to set myself up as an authority figure there; but it’s difficult wading through the thicket of writer’s egos, and not always worth it. I’ll back off again, for awhile. Haven’t written any new poems much lately, anyway; I’ve been focusing on visual and music, and not many poems have been coming forth. It’s okay: I’ve been enjoying the silence within, when it arrives. Words aren’t everything; in fact, they’re terrible betrayers of experience, and inadequate to express what really happens, much of the time.

It’s a fair question why I let myself get drawn back, at all. I guess part of me is seeking praise; another part of me wants the conviviality of talking shop with other creative types; whereas visual artists are often so very inarticulate, you'd imagine that at least poets might have something worthwhile to say; ssdly, not so. The recent trip to Chicago to record music was a breath of fresh air, a real adventure into what I want to do, and how to do it. Things got put into motion, that I want to give my energy to, and follow through on. It helps that Al and Andy feel the same way, so the door is always open, always welcoming and supportive. I wonder about my choice of artists’ communities, in the case of the poetry board: perhaps it’s just poor judgment, to expect much from anyone there. What they say and how they act are often incongruent.


sunset of peaches and pears. green fuzz of cloud.
wanderer’s choice: waiting for sky to fall, the moon.
merge with vine, leaf, absent tree-trunk. remembered rain.
single yellow leaf: brick of falling. nagual ocean.
trill of leaving, spine’s brew: sun nets feathers, dreams.

Having driven around most of the afternoon, shopping, seeking this and that, sometimes walking for awhile, sky-watching, I’m now tired and feeling drawn. I can’t tell if this unsettled feeling is me, or on the global channel. I care too much what people think of me, probably. I posted some reply to the poetry crap that’s been going on; there have been replies made, but I find I don’t want to read them. I run from confrontation right now, since it isn’t necessary that I face it, all times, all ways. I deserve a break from the egotisms of others. It comes too of being asked to speak one’s mind plainly and clearly, and then being shouted down whenever one does so: that is simply disingenuous. Free and open thought and interaction are not really being encouraged, whenever actions and words are not in alignment with each other. When the verbal promise of community and conviviality are made lies by the actions of those who make the promises, there can be little trust. “Monsters from the id,” indeed. You get that a lot online, where people use the cloak of faceless anonymity to say things they’d never say face to face; they let their darkest selves out to play, with the apparent lack of reprisal made secure by the cloak of the faceless communications using anonymous names and signatures. It’s pretty much bullshit, and cowardice, and it will keep happening as long as there are people who choose to live unconsciously, and to let their darker selves rule them. Possession by the unconscious mind, indeed.





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