BEING THE ADVENTURES OF A SEMI-NOMADIC POLYMATH ARTIST, MUSICIAN & WRITER
Essays, poems, and collected ruminations are being collated and compiled in a parallel journal at Dragoncave. I never know what I'm going to write about next, so if you desire to keep up with what I'm writing and thinking about, you really need to read both journals. Some overlap may occur without prior warning; sorry about that.
896. 31 August 2008, Paso Robles, CA
I had good dreams for once last night; dreams of companionship, travel in happy company, and nesting on the edge of a cliff, protected by earthworks, and with others whom I liked.
I find myself collapsed more than imaginable, no doubt a byproduct of finally, finally letting go of months and more of accumulated tensions. Its that, when you let go, you fall so far into collapse, necessary as it is, that it feels like the pendulum has swung almost too far in the other direction. Mixed metaphors aside, Ive been sleeping longer and deeper these past few nights.
Sometimes you cant stop the storm, and youre not supposed to. Theres a reason you dont get to know about, till later, maybe. I found out this morning that a significant percentage of burners left Burning Man already, because of a major, major, serious dust storm; it drove people away, and made the news. So, my reasons for being turned away at the gate were medical and physical, at minimum. It falls into one of those categories you cant do anything about, because youre not supposed to. It unfolds the way its supposed to. Probabilities aside, which universe do you want to live in? The one you actually live in, or the one that kills you, after lots of unnecessary suffering? Your choice.
near Tioga Road, Yosemite, CA
895. 27 August 2008, Tioga Road, Yosemite National Monument, CA
Fuck Burning Man: I just got ten minutes of HD video of an eight-point buck feeding by an alpine meadow stream!
Its a beautiful day, and Ive been getting great photos and video all day, and its still early.
Halfdome, from scenic overlook, Tioga Road, Yosemite, CA
Merced River, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite, CA
894. 27 August 2008, Dayton State Park, Dayton, NV
I slept deep and well and long. For the first time in over a week, no dreams of violence or attack. I had no rational reason to avoid Burning Man; perhaps there were dreamtime reasons?
Very late, the Pleiades appeared in the sky; then later on, Orion was on the horizon as the waning sickle moon rose, silver and shedding little light.
I admit I still feel paranoid and at-risk. I guess its an emotional hangover as much as anything else.
I slept with my big pocketknife in my hand much of the night, and I raised shields around my entire campsite before I was able to get to sleep.
I let the sun warming the tent wake me this morning, and left the travel alarm in my bags in the truck. I refuse to get back on the treadmill today. My only goal is to drive through Yosemite today, on the way to Paso Robles.
Sometimes the trip you intend, that you set out on, is not the one you end up taking. Thats just life. Nature and geology are messy, are clumped, take sudden re-directions, and are often chaotic. So why wouldnt life be Chaotic also? All life is chaotic. Narrative life-stories are just fictions we create to impose order onto chaos.
But Im still glad I camped here rather than there.
Indeed, I slept well.
Part of me was wondering, as I drove away after talking to those peoplesurely a corss-sectional outcrop if not a comprehensive onewhy do we have to come all the way out here to make radical art, to be radically self-expressive? Isnt it more important to take it back home? Perhaps such a gathering creates an opening that does allow some people to take it home with them. Perhaps its a place of practice.
But I make art every single day.
And much of it is art that many consider radical.
I dont need to be there, to do that.
Postscript (6 months later):
Ever since then, my intuition has been more accurate about many things. I can say that now, I guess, and not be misunderstood. Truth is, it went to a new level of accuracy, following all this. Maybe something broke through, or something broke loose, because of everything, all the emotion, or the force of it, or whatever. It's a theory.
893. 26 August 2008, Dayton State Park, Dayton, NV
Im camped here, have just finished dinnerham steak, stir-fried with basmati rice, green onions, a dab of pinot grigio, and Wollersheim wine mustard; if you cant eat well while traveling, then why botherafter a day that has left me shocky, shaken, crying and melting down again. Obviously, Im not at Burning Man.
Yesterday, after meeting those nice people from S. Beloit in ElkoI realized that I had completely misread the directions to Burning Man, and I was 300 miles off course, in completely the wrong part of the state.
That was bad enough, but Id already driven past my limit for the day, and there was only an hour of sunlight left. I ended up spending the night at a cheap hotel in Winnemucca, having also by then driven through dust-storm yellow fog since Carlin, where the room was okay but the desk clerk was undertrained and incompetent, so check-in was excruciating. Well, you get what you pay for: the room was cheap
I got on the phone to B. for some moral support and feedback, and was briefly reassured.
But later I had an actual full-on panic attack: hyperventilating, weeping, going into physical shock. I was in Dayton, NV, by then, holding on to my composure in the grocery store checkout line so that I wouldnt look crazy to any of the people there. And I called 2Bears for more moral support, and was again briefly reassured.
And then I had a huge, major, very important, life-changing insight:
All my life, my family and friends have continuously invalidated my perceptions of how things are. They always denied my narratives, and pooh-poohed my stories. All my life, I have been told that what I knew to be true was only fantasy; that I couldnt possibly know what I know; that my intuition was just my imagination. All my life, Ive been able to see deeply into things, into people, see behind the masks people wear, see into their souls and hearts. And all my life, this has been doubted and denied. I learned to shut up about my insights and knowings, and I began over time to question and doubt my own experiences to the point where I am incredibly easily derailed by the disbelief of others.
Actually, it wasnt just my family, but the whole culture. 2Bears pointed out that mystics always have this problem, in our rationalistic culture. We are always dismissed.
And the fire keeps away the darkness.
Primitive, primal fears.
Ive been feeling paranoid and scared all day, too. Reflecting a total hit to my self-confidence and self-esteem.
taking one last look at the stars
before getting into bed for the night
a shooting star:
892. 25 August 2008, Elko, NV
I came up the east side of the state, driving along the Basins between Ranges, up here to Elko. Elko, the home of the annual cowboy poetry gathering. Its a nice-looking little town, actually. I followed my intuition here, not knowing why, and I met a couple of people in the parking lot at a Smiths grocery store (I used to shop at Smiths in Taos), and it turns out theyre from South Beloit. My chatted a long time in the parking lot, and figured out we had some mutual acquaintances in Beloit. My intuition said go to Smiths instead of Wal-Mart, here by the interstate, and this must have been why, to meet some folks from back home, and have a good conversation with them.
Later, Winnemucca, NV:
I realized, leaving Elko, that to get to Burning Man, by coming this route I have added hours and hours to my driving time. I could have been there already. I was really upset for awhile. Instead, I wont make it today, but have stopped at a hotel in Winnemucca. My intuition led me to the cheap yet good hotel here. I stopped driving early today, too, because I was exhausted, and reluctant still to go any further. I was emotionally very upset by my miscalculation in the driving directions.
But it was though I was led to Elko, rather than continuing across Nevada on Hwy. 50. Ive driven that route before, and I can say from experience that going up and down, up and down, up and down those Ranges is hard on the eardrums. You pass over several ranges on Hwy. 50, and each time you go up and down 3000 and more feet of altitude. Its hard on the truck engine, and its hard on your ears. The pressure changes alone gave me a migraine last time, and sore eardrums. Ill go that way again, someday, but not in a day. Ill take my time. I definitely want to spend more time at Great Basin, as well.
As soon as I left Elko, the sky began to fill with dust. The sun was a bronze disc through heavy brown and tan clouds, thick dust in the air. Apparently, this is a major dust storm, the worst for a long time. It apparently has swept right through the play where Burning man is. I dont mind having missed having to set up camp in the midst of a roaring dust storm. I dont mind missing that experience at all.
Being in a hotel, spending more money than planned, but on the other hand, being clean, and being refreshed after an emotionally difficult day. Tomorrow I will still try to get to Burning Man, but Ive talked it over with some friends on the phone, and Im not sure Im actually going to stay. I will drive to the gates, and leave the packages I have been carrying with someone who I can trust will deliver them to the camp I was supposed to be part of. I will trust my intuition, and I will know who to give the boxes to. I will fulfill my obligations to the friend who asked me to carry these boxes to Burning Man. And then I will decide what to do next. I make no decisions in this moment.
Bristlecone Pines, Great Basin, NV
891. 25 August 2008, Great Basin National Park, NV
I feel reluctant to leave the Mountain. Reluctant to start the day, to get up, to get out of bed, to do anything. I could stay here another day or two, and be content. There is healing for me, up here on the Mountain, in the light and breeze and long vistas onto the basin below. I could easily stay here awhile more.
890. 24 August 2008, Great Basin National Park, NV
Im at circa 7000 feet above sea level and soon to take a cave tour. Lehman Caves here are in the limestone karst on the east side of the mountain range, below Davis and Wheeler Peaks, right at the park station and store. There are campgrounds below here, and above. Trails go all the way to the top of Wheeler Peak. After the cave tour, I plan to drive up the mountain and camp for the night. Theres a campground at 10,000 feet, near the bristlecone pine grove on the high mountain lip, right at the treeline. Im not worried about finding a campsite; thats a pretty hardy place to camp, even during the peak of the season.
Ive been feeling fragile and brittle all day. I could go on, drive further west, but I just need to stop moving for the rest of the day. Just. Stop.
Salina Dry Lake, UT
I left Salina and headed out across Hwy. 50. At first the morning was clear and bright. By the time the sun rose high, the air got very hot, and there was a little haze. Driving past those last few little Mormon towns before you get to the real edge of the desert, there is green everywhere, from crops and trees around the houses and buildings of the towns. Then the road curves off to the southwest, and the heat kicks in, and the land goes flat and arid, toxic and hot, arid and alkaline. Out across the Dry Lake, the heat mirages create illusions of lakes, in which the distant mountains are reflected, shimmering. I stopped here before, when I was passing through. I stopped again, and shot some video of the mirage shimmer in the far distance, almost motionless under the sun. The soil here looks solid, like hard-packed sand and grit, but its actually rather soft, when you set a tripod in it, or walk on it. Its very alkaline, since its a runoff lake bed at peak rain periods, as rare as they are.
The traffic going by was sparse but steady. No chance of being totally abandoned, totally alone. A little comforting to know that, actually.
Davis Peak, NV
A sublime end to a hard day.
I loved the cave tour. Its a small wet cave with beautiful formations. At one point the farmer who discovered it had to knock paths out through some formations, and there was tourism even to the extent of making one chamber into a ballroom. But there are still many beautiful formations, including some unique varieties I havent seen in other caves. I took a lot of photos, most of which will probably be blurred, as there was no real opportunity to take my time. Its a small cave, but a lovely one.
I love caves.
I am camped now at 10K (ten thousand feet!) or above sea level, at the Wheeler Peak campground. There are other people around, but not close by, so I feel alone with the stars and the wind in the trees. I feel very close to the stars here. I can see and hear planes go by overhead. Out across the basin to the east, I can see Notch Peak in Utah, which I was on the other side of this morning; Ive seen the same notched mountain from both sides now.
straddling the Utah/Nevada border
When I was stopped out by the Dry Lake, shooting some video, the third door latch on the truck broke in my hand, trapping part of the seat belt in the third door. I was so angry. This is the second time this latch has broken, since Ive owned this truck. I hope I can fix it again. Its a measure of how on edge I still am that I flashed into a towering, shouting rage. Im still fragile, still easy to push over that edge.
I felt brittle the whole rest of the day. Although the cave tour, and my decision to camp here tonight has gone a long way towards healing that.
Davis & Wheeler Peaks, UT
I am so tense all the time, I realize, because I am forever waiting for something else bad to happen. This has been so habitual for so long. This was a daily anxiety the whole time Dad was still alive, and I was living with him. Its only logical that now I find it hard to trust the universe that all will be well. Its hard to impossible, to believe that. And Im still so brittle, anything that goes wrong just kills me emotionally, pushes me right over the edge.
Its not very late into the night, but Im beat. I drove out to an overlook just at sunset, after setting up the tent, and shot some footage of the last light on the mountain peak, as the wind got colder and I started to feel seriously chilled. Then I came back here, started a fire, and started dinner. I have lots of scrap wood at my firepit, and Im building a blazer. I made a nice dinner, then put the camera on the tripod and tried some star photographs above the firelight illuminating the circle of trees to the west. Theres a lot of quaking aspen mixed in with the pines here.
I am lying in the tent, looking out the tent flap at the stars for awhile. No insects to other me. There is healing here. The stars seem so very close, so bright and familiar, thick and crisp.
Capricorn is just setting over the mountain, behind me to the west. The River of Stars is amazing tonight. You can almost hear the stars singing, that light hiss you feel as much as hear.
Ive had a little altitude sickness today, some shortness of breath at these higher altitudes, and Im always thirsty, but its not too bad.
Dinner was good. Chicken stirfry with green peppers and rice.
889. 24 August 2008, Salina, UT
Dreams of personal attack and destruction on my property, which push me over the edge into rage. Woke up a little shaky, but its another hot morning before a hot day. I dont feel rushed to depart, though.
I was unable to get to sleep last night until I got up again, turned on the light, pulled out the maps, and made some decisions. Namely, I am going to go to Great Basin today, period. Once there, I will spend the night there, and drive on to Burning Man tomorrow. I am not interested in destroying either myself or the truck in another long 500 day drive up and down ridges, pushing all the way. I am already stressed out, and I went to bed with sore shoulders from the tension alone. I need to rest and relax today. I will go to Great Basin, and probably stay there all day. Fuck it. I can drive direct to Burning Man tomorrow with no more actual mileage than to Reno, from Great Basin.
Its not good that Im starting out the day already so tired that Im shaky, so stressed out and on edge that it only takes tiny things to push me over, and into a rage attack. Its not good. Im trying to accentuate the positive, and its a real effort at the moment. The struggle itself is difficult, and Im so tired I cant do any better. Im already shaking. I dont have it in me to push any harder today.
Later, sitting in a restaurant, Salina, UT:
I know Im repeating myself, but I have to write this out in more detail. Im in a restaurant, waiting for my breakfast order. At the table next to me sit a state trooper, A BLM ranger, a National Parks ranger, the local sheriff, and a deputy. Theyre all talking shop before they start their days. The BLM ranger, an older man, leaves first, having just a cup of coffee before going off on all-day rounds. I overhear stories they tell each other about dumbshits who got in trouble with bears, with each other, in each of their jurisdictions. Some really funny and twisted stories, actually. I cant transcribe them fast enough to get them down here. But its interesting sitting next to law officers talking shop; its surprising to me how familiar it all seems. Maybe thats from my past of hanging around hospitals and emergency rooms: nothings shocking.
This morning, Im tense and irritable. I pretend to be normal in the presence of the cops, hiding in plain sight. They dont notice me.. Im agitated and emotional already this morning. Hoping that breakfast will settle me down for another long days drive. Or not. I wanted to make it as far as Great Basin last night, but the sun went down as I was arriving here, and those last 200 hundred miles? no way, not in the dark. I didnt want to stay in another hotel, but oh well; it did give me a chance to get online, delete a lot emails, download photos from the camera, etc.
I dont want any more stress. I can feel stress building, and I dont want it. I want to enjoy this long drive, as odd as that might seem. I want this road trip to be a vacation, not another cause of stress. This is supposed to be relaxing, not painful.
My last dreams before waking were of someone throwing colored water, like they throw on each other during the Depavali festival in India, throwing colored water in my truck window as I pull into the entrance to Burning Man, damaging my truck and my cameras, and then being unable to understand why I flashed into rage at the insult.
I admit Im feeling prickly and dangerous today. Good thing the local cops cant read minds. I really want to call someone to talk it out, get it out of my system, and of course Im cut off here, and no ones answering. Predictable.
Im getting a late start to my day. Its going to be Really Hot in the desert today. Im scared, after that dream, of anything happening to the truck, of heat damage, or overheating the engine and boiling over. I dont trust me own judgment, this instant, to make the right choices. Waves of emotion. Sometimes its best to do nothing. Do Nothing.
How can I possibly regret stopping and spending time, yesterday, taking photos and video, or listening to the silence out there in the emptiness? Not even though it delayed from getting as far down the road as I had wanted to go. I dont regret it. Im not as strong as I used to be: my endurance is not there, and I have no reserves. I havent had any reserves for a long time, I think. When I hit that wall of exhaustion, thats it, Im done, game over, no more for that day. This is the new me, after everything, and I still run up against my own limits. I guess its still hard to know why they are. Or to accept them.
My stomachs upset. Nerves.
Bottom line: my own health comes first, before everything else. before everything.
Food and resting help. Breakfast was good. My stomachs still fluttery, though.
Maybe the lesson is that you just always have to work through this stuff, work it out on your own. Cant expect help, cant ask for it. Which is in direct conflict with the conventional wisdom that everybody needs help, sometimes. Paradox.
Camping outdoors is healing, for me. Even if its hard physical work, and leaves me breathless at altitude.
Something I forgot to mention earlier: Yesterday I saw lots and lots of hawks. They appeared, as they do, messengers from heaven, every time I was thinking: Slow down. Ill get there when I get there.
888. 23 August 2008, Salina, UT
In a hotel in Salina, Utah, just west of the Fishlake Forest Preserve, which I remember passing through also at dusk when I came this way in fall of 2004. On that trip, I came down the road, having driven all day from Colorado, passing through and spending time at Arches National Monument. The crests of the Basin & Range had snow on them, and it was raining in the basins: no night for camping.
Im jittery and shaky tonight, after another long days drive. Tomorrow will also be a long days drive, all the way across Nevada, over the Basin & Range on Hwy. 50. I want to stop in at Great Basin anyway, in the morning, even though I didnt make it there tonight to camp, which I had hoped to be able to do.
I spent the morning in Flaming Gorge, then a couple of wonderful hours at Dinosaur National Monument, so no regrets. Im feeling scattered and overtired. But I did alright today, hiking up a steep trail to see the petroglyphs below the top of a cliffside, including one of Kokopelli the flute player.
I also had a long talk with a park ranger. She also had been a caregiver for her dying parents, so we shook hands and congratulated each other over that. She was interested in the DVD process and business, so I gave her a couple of copies of the LCG DVDs, and my business card.
I have to recommend Hwy. 191 as an impressive scenic route. Very beautiful mountain vistas, or down in canyons, or on the rims; in all ways a lovely road. I came across it from Flaming Gorge, and it rose up into the hills, through national park lands, and down into the region just north of Dinosaur.
Dinosaur National Monument, UT
Passing through several kinds of terrain, from alpine to banded desert, along high precipices overlooking verdant valleys, tunneling through canyons lined with pine and painted rock, and into the long mesas and valleys of eastern Utah near the Colorado border. An occasionally white-knuckle drive but a continuously beautiful one. I would cheerfully come this way again.
Green River, Dinosaur National Monument, UT
I feel beat to hell, physically, but I dont want to go to bed. Not yet. I feel emotional right now, like Im lost and scattering in the wind. It was a long day, but beyond the emotional intensity of talking with the ranger about caregiving for our parents, and the physical exertions that I did today, which was pretty good, breathing hard at altitude, but I did it, it was a pretty good day. Maybe Im nervous about tomorrow, or Burning Man.
The more I think about Burning Man, the more upset I get. I may just not be ready. I dont know if I can do another 500 mile drive tomorrow. The truck almost overheated today, going up this one huge pass; and there will be several passes to go up and down tomorrow. Driving the Basin & Range is all about going up and down. Ive done it before, but that was before everything else happened that changed in my life. I may need one more day. Im feeling pretty bad about everything right now. I hope I can sleep.
887. 23 August 2008, campground at Firehole, Flaming Gorge National Rec. Area, near Rock Springs, WY
Up at dawn to film the sunrise. The clouds and mesa tops were beautiful in the changing light. But it all changed so slowly that I mostly shot stills rather than video. I did shoot some video with the intention later of time-shifting it.
Doing Reiki on myself in the tent in the early morning sunlight through the screen. Altitude sickness symptoms: headache, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, sour stomach, tiredness, achiness. Im working on it. I wont be in the mountains long enough to fully adapt, which takes about six weeks or so, so Ill cope as I can.
Green River, Firehole, Flaming Gorge, WY
Its quiet here in the morning. The occasional sound of a boat on the river, which in the canyons sounds at times like a distant jet engine or motorbike. A raven croaks nearby. Last night the coyotes howled at moonrise, and again later in the night. I awoke both times: my people, calling. Its going to be hot again today, as I drive through Utah. Another long couple of driving days, then a week of no driving at all. Progress? Well see.
Im enjoying the silence here, as usual. And also as usual my senses are expanding, becoming hyperacute, and I can hear things beyond the normal. Wherever the spirits lead me today, yesterday they led me here and it was a good place to be overnight. I like this isolated campground, only about half full last night, and far removed from the rest of the world, although only 30 miles or so from Rock Springs.
886. 22 August 2008, campground at Firehole, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, south of Rock Springs, WY
offering of sage, picked as deadfall right here
in the campfire
under the stars, no moon
Some of my abilities seem to be returning, after being long quiescent. I am still seeing animal spirits around me.
After setting up camp here and cooking dinnerwhich was hard, as I hadnt eaten in several hours, and it was another very long day driving, and I am experiencing some altitude sickness, all of which is debilitating. (I hope its just altitude sickness.) After setting up, I made dinner, beef to build the blood, and green onions, and chips for starch. Ive been drinking a lot of water today, in the dry heat and high altitude. Its going to be cool tonight, but not cold.
I shot video and photos of the sunset line creeping up the formations across the river inlet from here. Im on a bend of the Green River, in the deep river valley. This reminds me of the Rio Grande river valley below Taos, only there are more bends and formations on top of the cliffs. Some very strange hoodoo shapes.
The campground is mostly dark and quiet. Some late arrivals are still setting up as I write, but quiet hours begin soon, and at least theyre being as quiet as they can during set up. The night is still warm, comfortable enough to be in without much shelter. This area was furnace-hot till the sun went down behind the mesa across the river.
I stood by my campfire a long time, offering sage I gathered as deadfall out in the dark beyond camp. I offered more prayers for healing, for wholeness, for body and soul. And for the world.
I can see the stars through my tent screen. I stood watching the River of Stars for awhile, and the stars began to move, and take new shapes; as they have before, but not in a long while.
At sunset there were birdcalls, those black and white magpies that I used to hear all the time in New Mexico. In the far distance upriver, they almost sounded like coyotes for awhile, till I realized what they were.
Driving today was long and tiring. I spent all day on the road, but I saw parts of Wyoming I never saw before, driving down from Gillette towards Caspar and Laramie. That eastern region of the state is all about mining and coal and natural resources being taken from the ground. Billboards offering employment in the mines. Long coal trains between Bill and Caspar. The North Platte River flows through there, and is very beautiful in its verdant valley, cottonwoods and willows in the bosque, surrounded by dead brown hills and arid sage desert. Driving south from Caspar towards Rawilns, long stretches of nothingness. I let the emptiness enter and soothe me as I drove. I stopped and got out to shoot a herd of pronghorn antelope far across the sage desert; the wind of passing trucks whipped my hair as I was shooting, but they couldnt destroy the silence and emptiness. I took a lot of photos while driving, too, of land formations and interesting colors in the strata of the exposed hills.
Enough new material here for another DVD, of course. Could call it: The Western Lands.
Its cooling down, and theres a slight breeze moving my tarp off the roof of my tent. I hung it for shade against the few artificial lights in the campground, but it might be all right without it, as the light over the bathrooms goes out after awhile, if no one walks by.
Today was a long hard day driving. Im pretty sore. But it was worth it, to arrive here, at this beautiful campground and lovely bend of the river, under the River of Stars. This morning I wrote several haiku about yesterday, as I looked over the photos. I am feeling more tired and non-verbal today. Much mental chatter, the constant monkey mind, but nothing of substance. Im too tried. I will watch the stars for awhile, then go to sleep. Im glad I made it this far. It means that tomorrow, all day, will be in Utah, and a lot of driving but also a lot of stops. Tomorrow I hope to camp at Great Basin for the night, if I can make it all that way, before the last day of driving to arrive in Reno to meet people before going to Burning Man.
I hope I can stand being around people. Today I was really challenged not to get angry at stupid drivers. One or two very close calls on those long back roads. There was a steady amount of traffic, it wasnt as isolated as I imagined it might be.
Bear Butte, WY
885. 22 August 2008, Gillette, WY
The last couple of nights, I have had deep and comforting dreams where I was in familiar home-places, and was disoriented upon waking because I was somewhere else. Oh, I see, Im not in the Midwest, Im in a hotel.
Yesterday I finally felt like I was in the mountains, like I out West. But Ive changed so much since I was last here, so much has happened, Im completely different, even if the land is not. So everything once familiar feels different, too. Its why I havent been able to feel connected to any place on this trip so far, why Ive felt so out of it. This morning, at last, with scalloped clouds in the dawn sky, I feel like Im in Wyoming. And today Im going to break the route that I took before, and go a different way: south instead of northwest. Last time I was here I continued on into Montana and Idaho; today I will probably spend most of the day in Wyoming, traveling down towards Green River, probably ending up in Utah. After that I want to be at Great Basin in eastern Nevada, and have the day to cross the Basin & Range, and take my time doing it.
I worked hard yesterday. I worked all day when I wasnt driving. My photography and video is work. Its my work. Its what I do now.
It was hot all day, and I got a little sunburned driving. Then it cooled off quickly once the sun went down last night, and was windy and cloudy. Its high thin clouds today, partly cloudy but pretty. Once again the world matches my mood; or vice versa.
As I sit writing this, the sun rises over the neighboring hotel building: benediction.
Devil's Tower, WY
I refilled a couple of my water bottles with the cold well water at Devils Tower, and have been drinking it all day. Delicious, healing waters from a sacred place.
884. 21 August 2008, Gillette, WY
Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasurable it may be.
Ive been working hard all day, and Im very tired and couldnt drive any further than Gillette tonight, but I feel good. I retraced my route form last trip, visiting the Badlands, Bear Butte, and Devils Tower, although I stopped in different places, with different light than last timewhich was winter, this time its summer, and hotter than blazes all day long, well over 100 degrees according to one readout, and Im sunburnedand I made different kinds of photos. I am reviewing them now, and liking several that I see. I am also playing with converting the best of them to black and white from the color originals.
I was reading Edward Weston: Color Photography before leaving on this trip, and it both inspired me and stimulated my thinking.
The prejudice many photographers have against color photography comes from not thinking of color as form. You can say things with color that cant be said in black and white Those who say that color will eventually replace black and white are talking nonsense. The two do not compete with each other. They are different means to different ends.
Black and white is more artificial than color, actually: rather, it allows for more of the photographers control and input. One is reduced to pure tone and form. Some subjects are better suited to color, because there is critical information in the color values. But one reason B&W is still consideredrightly or wronglythe more artistic medium is because it is more akin to artifice than is the quick color snapshot.
You find a few subjects that can be expressed in either color or black-and-white. But you find more that can be said only through one of them. Many I photographed would be meaningless in black-and-white; the separation of forms is possible only because of the juxtaposition of colors.
The artist can adjust tonal gradations in editing and printing. Westons exquisite and influential prints were all 8x10 contact prints from the negative. Ansel Adams developed the zone system for B&W printing, and was equally influential. Both of them were masters in the darkroom, which is where the print really came to life, reflecting the artists input and intuition. Printing is more like painting than making a negative, perhaps.
883. 20 August 2008, Murdo, SD
Its been a long day driving another long hot day another heat wave even after I promised myself not to drive so long so far in one day on this trip unlike last trip still I am retracing my route from eighteen months ago when dad was still alive and I drove out west that cold january I am retracing my path as far as devils tower wyoming until I veer south through wyoming one of my favorite places and on into the deep southwestern desert
when I crossed the missouri river today the land changed as it does from eastern verdant farmland to hillock and hummock or bare grassland rangeland but I still dont feel like Im out west yet I expected to feel a sense of arrival all I feel is a sense of farewell
when will I feel home that sense of being in my proper place settled rooted strong I dont know its beyond imagining for now I just keep traveling on across earth face and into the days end
sunflower fields everywhere dancing in the endless wind the strong and heavy wind that flows from the rocky mountains done to the great plains and across to the riverine and great lakes country of my original home although the west is my home too the mountains and passes and high country of these states from north to south each bigger than the last each requiring more endurance than the last to cross
lakota territory Indian hills circle powwow fancy dancers under the united states flag the sun on the hills and now in the late night wind and stars and the smell of mown hay
on the road vision
expanding across open prairie
a great blue heron
at last I feel on the road
the windy sky
heavy with clouds
endless wind and sky,
fields of golden sunflower:
sun goes down
then comes up again
driving over rolling hills
I am writing some haiku-like poems as I travel, sometimes writing them without stopping driving, in a little notebook with a dragon on the cover. Its a metal cover, a hard case that means I can carry it anywhere without damaging it. I dont care if these are formally haiku; I find myself caring less and less about form, and more about content. Perhaps this is a product of aging, of maturing as a poet.
Denise Levertov writes in a 1991 essay in her collection New and Selected Essays:
We have long assumed that it is an aesthetic truism to assert the indivisibility of form and contentbut there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the statement, after all. Perhaps it needs to be reformulated, to say that although inadequate formal expression always diminishes or distorts content, yet form itself can be perceived, admired, and experienced as pleasure or stimulus even when the readers attention is not held by content. Thus, while content cannot be fully appreciated without a fusion with form equal to its task, from can be apprehended and absorbed in and of itself. The assertion of indivisibility does not cover this contingency. At all events, I as a younger poet was often drawn primarily to the structure or technique of poems I read, and paid less attention to what was being said; whereas the older I grow the more I find myself concerned with content, and drawn towards poems that articulate some of my own interests. This primary importance given to what doesnt imply a loss of interest in how; if a poem strikes me as banal, trite, flabby, pretentious or in any other respect badly written, Im unlikely to read further no matter what its subject matter.
In one respect I differ with Levertov above, as I was never principally interested in form over content at any time in my career as a sometime poet. This is especially true for me perhaps as I am always most strongly drawn to content in poems that is transformative, spiritual, shamanic, or mythopoetic and archetypal. Not even in haiku, which is the dominant form I use, other than those I myself have invented, or discovered, or developed. I admire perfection in haiku, and in haibun, and I emulate a certain kind of self-complete totality of vision in these formsthat point at which the content and form do complement and complete each other.
What we can take from this adjustment to the theory of the unity of form and content is the perhaps bitter realization that bad execution always kills a poem, whereas great content cant always save a poem purely on its own. Good execution, or performance if you will, makes or breaks a poem, regardless of content. This is true even if the content is something that under normal circumstances would intrigue and inspire me. Nothing kills the buzz like banality and clichés.
I care less about form than ever, except again for those forms Ive developed on my own, and haiku. I keep expanding the palette, but I also keep my distance from normative poetic formal values. Few things interest me less than academic arguments over the technicalities of bad poetry. I cannot claim any special knowledge in any of this, or any special aesthetic insight; I stumble along like the rest. What I do know is that I find myself more often than not in the pathfinder or inventor and explorer role, rather than the duplicator or imitator of tradition. Ive often been accused by being experimental in my writings; I dont dispute that, nor do I take as pejorative, although sometimes it has been proffered as such. My point is that it doesnt matter, and I write wherever it wants to lead, and dont care beyond that about the technical details.
old days when indian boys raced barefoot across the trampled grass sprinting horses crossing the sea of grass old days when the girls raced also old days when everybody won something respected for something praised for something
sea of grass ocean of grass step out into the midnight wind I hear voices calling old ancestor voices my father's voice my mother's on the midnight wind a distant sigh the dream of roads and somewhere behind the moon a lost edge of the world tirelessly rising into the sun
Staying in a nice hotel tonight. Bit of a splurge, but I need a break. Im exhausted. I just went swimming in the pool under the stars and the endless wind. Key Largo is on the TV; a movie Ive been thinking about since I was there. Its dangerously windy out there tonight, and who wants to tent up in that, assuming you could erect the tent at all? Plus, I would like to check my email and also post a few things, so I am indulging my need for that. Ill be offline for a long time the rest of the month, so this is also clean-up night. The pool was nice, and Ill take a shower soon.
I was talking today with Sage about romance, and how I am not really a romantic in the Western literary sense. The art of courtly love has always seemed silly and artificial to me. The closest analog to what I feel, romantically, can be found in Japanese samurai love affairs, as depicted by Saikaku and others. Except when they get sentimental and weep into their sleeves, the courtship via poetry, ceremony, and circumspection is what feels natural and normal to me. Seducing with the mind, not just the eyes. Once again I am proven to be more Asian than Western in my inner self.
The most peaceful and satisfying moment all day is playing the dulcimer quietly in bed before going to sleep. I recorded some of this sweeter music, as well. I was thinking about doing this all day today, and even though Im falling down tired, it feels healing to have done some music. I was thinking too of how much Ive missed the creative work I couldnt do all these man months when it was all drowned out by continuous crises.
882. 20 August 2008, Mitchell, SD
Im at a Perkins for dinner, having stopped after driving since noon. I lingered in Minneapolis this morning, talking with B. and J., then going to one last bookstore. My last dreams before waking were angry: another dream wherein a group is ostracizing me for something they think Ive done, which in fact I didnt; and my rage kicks in, in response to both the unfairness and the stupid tribalism. I felt stirred up this morning.
Ive been driving now for about 5 hours. Im going to try to take it easy this trip. I will try to go another 100 miles before stopping, to get as far across South Dakota as I can, before starting off early next morning again. I would love to capture some sunset on the prairie video footage, if I get a chance, and conditions and location are favorable. I love the open prairie skies. All day long there have been tall white mountains of clouds building all over the land. Distant castles in the sky, many-layered, tall, exotic, blocking the sun periodically but not the high heat of the day. This could be another heat wave. It could be in the 90s tomorrow, and has been in the 80s all day today.
Theres a huge farm show just off the highway as I pull in. Big colorful tents, lots of equipment in the sun, and parked vehicles and people walking along the show lanes. In the restaurant, some of the conversations around me are about farming, and the show. Other than the Corn Palace, its the biggest draw to Mitchell right now.
Im feeling mostly neutral. I am doing my best to remember my promise to myself to not overdo any of the driving today, but to take it easy, take my time, take lots of breaks. I have an agenda of places I would like to visit, on the drive out to Reno, to meet up with the people Im going to go to Burning Man with; but its flexible. Mostly today I am driving, just to get across the Great Plains, and into the Rockies.
I still dont feel like Ive left home yet. It was so traumatic getting out of town, when I left Beloit, that Im still feeling burned out from that; I guess. I feel like Im not really here; like Im a little checked out. A little numb.
Ive been listening to my new CDs in the truck, ones that I acquired yesterday and this morning, shopping in the Cities. I have a nice stock of new listening, to get me through this journey. I am aware that when I get to California, I will probably ship some things home, to lighten my load. There are probably a few things left where I used to live, that I must ship. I spent a long time on the phone today with Sage, talking about various things. It passed the time driving, but it wasnt entirely joyous for me; the subject matter was not very light. I am feeling selfish, like I want to explore my own feelings, not be a sounding board for everyone elses. Im also aware that Ive been just insane with emotions lately; unbalanced, volatile, fragile, and easily triggered. I am still there; I cant envision ever moving past this, at least not right now. Most likely it will be long after its done before I realize that it is. I just cant see down my own road that far, right now, its still too fogged with returning feelings. This is not easy. Its very hard. I am looking forward to being alone and out of reach of contact, soon. I am looking forward to not having to talk to anybody, to not being intruded upon. Out in the Big Empty, I can just be myself, and hear myself thinking.
881. 19 August 2008, Minneapolis, MN
Ive had a good day. Did some shopping, found several new CDs that I had specifically been wanting to get, modestly Renaissance music, plus some others, a couple of books, and at Goodwill a lovely little childrens toy of a dulcimer: a mountain style dulcimer, but with a cardboard resonating box! The cardboard is heavy, and covered with faux wood grain patterns. The instrument plays surprisingly well, and has a sweet sound. That was the major find of the day. I played it in the store, and drew a lot of attention and questions and about it from other shoppers and from staff. The synchronicity is that I had contemplated bringing my good mountain dulcimer along on this trip, then decided not to, as I worried about it standing up to the harsh environments I plan to be in. I have no such worries about this instrument, made of cardboard and pine. It will be just fine in the desert. The main worry is to not get it wet, ever. Its sturdy for something made so cheaply and out of such simple materials.
Later I had dinner with S. and E., who I hadnt seen in awhile, and was very happy to reconnect with. E. being my music partner in Wind, Sand & Stars. We went to an Indian restaurant, where I had a wonderful chicken tikka, We talked into the evening, and I was filling them in on everything thats been happening with me, including starting over again. Then I went over to Wilde Roast to visit with other friends, till that coffeeshop closed and we went out and stood in the parking lot. I played the dulcimer for my friends in the dark, under the streetlights.
Ive had a good day, Im in a good mood. Yesterdays drama and angst not lingering. Living in the moment, still, taking it hour to hour, day by day, week by week. Its hard to imagine it will ever be any different than it is now. Part of me can imagine such a future, but most of me can only see the present. I am also still having a lot of reassessment of my life history, in light of the recent past. Thats a process that makes me feel a little self-absorbed at times, but its necessary and sufficient to let it happen as it will happen.
Tomorrow I begin the journey proper, moving westwards across the northern Great Plains, starting with the long drive across South Dakota.
880. 19 August 2008, Minneapolis, MN
Yesterday, leaving, was hell. I had computer-related technological drama in the morning, and lack of sleep, which is normal for me before a departure on a big roadtrip, two or three emotional meltdowns, crying on the phone, in the car, and later, and a lot of exhaustion-driven angst. It was so hard getting away this time. It was painful and hard to get it all together and go. There were a few things on my To Do list that didnt get done, but will be handled in my absence. And I got most of them done, too. I made long lists over the past three weeks, and I got most of that done. Id have an idea for what to take along, and Id do it. Very few things are left over; although one or two Ill have to resolve while on the road, before arriving at Burning Man. (A pee bottle for in the tent at night. More water storage units.)
Im still an emotional basket case. Everything is running at fever pitch, and Im not in the drivers seat. Ill do my best to manage it, but the truth is, more meltdowns are likely.
I spent some time this morning clearing and releasing in my second chakra, which manages both sexuality and finances. Theyre tied together. Ive noted more than once that a clearing in one area creates a clearing in the other.
879. 17 August 2008, Beloit, WI
Its Independence Day in Indonesia: fresh white paint has been splashed on the houses and gates, the walls clean and bright, red and white banners and flags will be flown, feasts and parties and parties and celebrations will be had.
In my dreams, I am in my grandmothers house; its no house from memory, but an old beautiful house with two large front rooms, one with a piano, the other a curved room overlooking a calm harbor; I am there reading though all the books, one wall at a time after having left a gathering of people; a tall man has come as he does weekly to vacuum and clean; I am somewhat in his way, but we work around it, and I help clean a little. This dream seems vivid and emotion-filled to me, containing some significance.
Yesterday I spent the entire day preparing and packing for the next journey. I leave tomorrow sometime during the day, when I am ready. I still have lots of things to do, but I got a great deal done, and I feel Im on schedule. I feel much better prepared for this trip, and I have a better handle on supplies to meet my needs both dietary and spiritual. Im not rushing into this trip like I did with Florida, where I really only had two days to prepare, and I missed a lot of important details.
Then at night I booted up GarageBand for the first time ever, connected my MAudio MIDI controller keyboard to the laptop, and worked on a piece of music. Actually I just sketched things out, based on one of the new pieces Id recently composed on Moms piano, but its all about learning the software right now. Its good that Ill be able to compose like this when traveling; it will fulfill an important need.
This morning I am sitting writing this on the new (used) laptop on my sun porch, nude in the armchair, in the cool air of the morning. I have been so tired lately that I have been sleeping the night through again, and not waking in the middle of the night. My sleep patterns still have no routine that lasts more than a week; its all still in flux. Im still learning to go with the flow and not try to force it into a mold, and also not judge anything. Thats getting easier; I just go to bed when I cant stay awake any more, and get up when I get up; which is usually by mid-morning regardless of when I went to bed. It doesnt matter; Im just observing.
I still feel sore and tired a lot. Im thinking its the physical components of grief and depression, and not a UC relapse. Its funny when you hope youre depressed rather than having a relapse. Strange world, ennit? I need to get back on a pills routine, though, for vitamins and other things I need to use to take care of myself. Ive let a lot of that slip this past month, between Florida and the hard times emotionally since I got back.
Tomorrow I depart. I can hardly believe it. I never imagined any of this would actually happen, when I was so drowning under everything not too long ago. It seemed so far away at the time; and now its here, and its time, and Im as ready as I can be.
878. 16 August 2008, Beloit, WI
This morning I went to the farmers market, and got some things I can prepare and eat on the road. I leave in two days. I have some groceries Im going to give away, too, or freeze before departing. Im going to gone for several weeks.
I also bought three full-bodied chrysanthemum plants, and I just planted them in the front walk area, close together, to make big clumps. One is dark magenta, almost purple, a beautiful color. Another is rust-colored, and the third is pale purple. Color varieties that look great together. I enjoyed getting in the dirt, and planting these plants just now, shirt off and sweating in the heat and direct sunlight. A little tan wont hurt my pale skin.
It felt like good therapy to plant flowers. Getting your hands into the dirt and shutting off the worries. Ive been depressed a lot lately, and finding it hard to maintain an even keel. Planting flowers felt terrific. I can see why gardening was such therapy for Dad, all those years he worked, and came home after work to be in the garden for awhile before dinner. I always knew it was therapeutic for him; I am beginning to know why, now. Plus the vibrant colors look great. I like a little wild, unkempt look to my garden. I like the Japanese garden look, but I also like the English wilderness garden look. A little ragged around the edges, for wabi-sabi. So I planted these new flowers in an asymmetrical triangle, close together, to let them clump out and be one giant mound of green and color.
Then I got out the camera and took lots of pictures. I love to photograph these things, no matter what happens to them later on. Ill probably also end up like Dad, who always took photos of his garden every year; there are bins full of these photos in my basement. Well, even if my photos of my own garden add up to his in number, eventually, mine are digital, and easier to store.
The day I was in Chicago was the best day Ive had for awhile. We had a productive evening, lots of good ideas and planning, and once again looking ahead. I need to spend more of my time creatively this way. Ive been getting away from it, and its not healthy. I need it more than ever. It gives me a reason to live, and to think about making plans for the longer term future. I need to be able to do creative work, and not just exist, not just be passive. I can get caught up in the whirlwind, and neglect my creative needs. The day I spent in Chicago, this week, I felt the best I have felt in weeks. It was a very good visit for me to do, and Im glad we could make it happen.
But you know, sometimes you just have to go deeper into it, first, to get out of it. Sometimes you need a good wallow, then it burns itself out. Its when you repress or suppress those darknesses that they come back to haunt you later. They need expression, they need release, they need to flow, just as do the good feelings. If you block up one kind of feeling you dont want to have, you end up blocking them all; theyre all interconnected, you cant kill one without deadening the whole system.
Im thinking of kenosis again, of emptying. Losing yourself to gain yourself, and gain more than yourself. Of how kenosis leads to ethics, not just restfulness. Taking yourself out of the picture gives you insight into the rest of the picture because youre not blocking your own view, youre not looking through (as many) filters.
877. 14 August 2008, Chicago, IL
A quiet gray morning. In the studio last night, going over business and music Things To Do for LCG. We had a productive evening. I might do a little shopping here in town before I head home. My day is not over-planned.
The broken plastic doll heads in the alley garden here have multiplied. There may be a conspiracy. An attempt to be fruity and multiply till theyve taken over the garden.
876. 12 August 2008, Beloit, WI
Last dream before waking: I am trying to repack the truck before getting back on the road, after having been at a location for awhile with friends; things are disappearing from the back of the truck, gone missing, being stolen. I cant find them, or the people involved. Everyones innocent, of course.
I feel like crap all the time. Either Im angry or depressed. Or both. Im irritable and short-fused, and the least little things make me explode with rage. Im sure Im no fun to be around. Things keep going wrong, entropy keeps increasing, and I keep losing those battles. Im feeling very picked on, very oppressed. Im constantly frustrated; which was reflected in that dream. I can certainly see elements of that dream recycling hard feelings from the Florida trip: the people who are bystanders rather than helpful, the losing of things out of the truck (like my disappeared sunglasses), and so forth. In some ways this is facile interpretation, though, because both life and dreams are reflecting a deeper truth here, some deeper wound that is in my face on all levels. I know what it is, of course. I just dont know how to cope with it. I choose not to control or manage it, by the way: nothing so facile in that arena, as well.
Im having an endless succession of bad days. A good day has become something thats not a bad day; a neutral buoyancy day. A day I dont burst into tears or whatever every hour on the hour. Endure, endure, dire, endure.
I am concerned with this physical exhaustion I keep feeling. Im hoping, as odd as it might seem, that its a byproduct of depression, and not a relapse of the UC. I can cope with the former better than the latter. Ive also heard from the doctor that my cholesterol is up; just one more goddamn thing every day.
875. 11 August 2008, Beloit, WI
filtered dusk light in
the photographers eye:
clouds and green flash
Driving home from shopping in Janesville, I stopped to watch and take photos of the sunset over the fields. It was quiet, peaceful, silent except from insect noises and the distant highway.
Ive had a shitty day. Several rounds of exhausting emotion, wiping me out. Just overcome with tears and grieving. Every time I think about my own future, and all the bullshit I have to deal with, I get so overwhelmed I just burst into tears. Im beyond coping. I can barely get through a day, much less think about months from now. I guess this is a kind of depression. Ive been sleeping a lot extra lately, too. I cant help it. I just shut down, although my mind continues to race. I dont feel physically well, either; tired and blah. This is really difficult right now.
People ask me how Im doing, and Id really have to say it depends when they ask me. There were several times today when I would have answered that I didnt care if I lived or died, I was so wanting to be over all this. Other times, I was more or less okay. Neutral buoyancy is the best I can hope for, and seems to be what I can achieve, at times. But not much more.
Im feeling really down and out. Its getting on towards midnight, and I just dont care anymore about much of anything. I suppose Ill go to bed soon, but who cares. Im just tired of everything. I want to talk over my problems with somebody, but I dont have anybody right now who I can talk to. As usual, everybodys busy or unavailable. It just never works out. I always end up back here, alone. Im so sick of this, I cant even say how much. I just want an ending. Any ending. I just want this crap to stop, I dont care how.
This entire day has been a struggle to care. To find a reason to get out of bed and go on; I didnt find one, I just got up anyway, and did a few things. It seems like nothing.
Sanguine, draped in melancholia and mildly hysterical weeping, wondering if Ill cry myself to sleep tonight, wondering if I fell asleep and never woke up if Id really care, not caring really about tomorrow. There are always things to do. There will always be things to do. New bad stuff hits you every day. It would be nice to have just one day where nothing hit the fan. Just one day. Im not even going to pretend that I care, though. At the moment, I dont really care if I wake up in the morning. Thats not melodrama. Thats exhaustion.
You want to do something mildly dramatic and self-destructive, as a way of getting peoples attention. You know its ridiculous. You know there are always better ways, and alternatives. A little somewhat anxious voice at the back of your mind cautions you against doing anything really harmful or dangerous. But youre curious, finally, about who would really care if you disappeared.
Every day theres something new thats gone wrong with the house, or my body, or something. Every single day. Im at the point where I cant really be bothered. If I go away and came back and it was all gone, maybe it would be a relief. I feel like the recent past has been nothing but things being taken away from me, every day, whittling away at my life, taking it all away, devouring it. A daily losing battle against entropy. Im so tired of feeling like Im supposed to fight it, keep a stiff upper lip. Im so tired of that. I really want to just break down and dissolve, and let it all fall away. Instead I get these constant messages that I have to go on. Its all lies and false fronts: I may look like Im coping, but Im falling apart, Im disintegrating, its just the worst dissolution Ive felt in a long time. And Im supposed to somehow be able to cope with this, pay bills, fix things, take care of errands, do stuff like that? Really? Its unimaginable. It feels so pointless and alien.
Of course no one wants to hear this. No one ever wants to hear this. They all want me buck up and be a man, and quit upsetting them with my honesty and crap. Of course no one will ever care one or another. Yes, Im dramatizing: but I really cant find any reason why anyone should give a fuck about whether I live or die tonight. Is this just grieving? or something more personal and all-encompassing? I find I dont really care. Theres a point at which answers do you no good, at which there are no answers. Wittgenstein said something like that. Im at that point. Answers and solutions and fixes just dont matter. Sometimes you just want to wallow in it. Im not even going to pretend that I care if I ever get out of this. Actually, thats unimaginable to me, right now. There are lots of places and situations that I honestly cant imagine will ever mean anything to me ever again, or that Ill ever participate in again. Its all a waste. My whole life means nothing. Its been wasted effort, and has led to exactly nothing. Its hubris to imagine that anybody will ever care. Its laughable that I could ever make any kind of living ever again, especially from my artwork. Its even more laughable that anyone will ever deign to hire me again for even menial jobs; Ive applied for those over recent years, and the results have been laughable. Either Im overqualified, or too smart, or too old. Im just destined to never be employable again. Im okay with that. It doesnt cause any more despair than I already feel. Mostly its just a big disappointment.
Will anyone ever read this, or care? I doubt it. Im not even going to pretend that I care enough to put on a false face about, Oh Ill feel better tomorrow, dont take it seriously. Maybe I will. But I wont pretend that I will, just to make you happy or comfortable. Maybe I will, maybe I wont. It doesnt really matter. Ive been to this place before, and Ive usually let the gods decide if I lived or died. If you think thats drama, think again; its the literal truth. They decided. Im still here. I do not owe anyone the promise to be here tomorrow. I do not owe anyone anything. I have to right of self-determination, and Im damn well going to determine. More importantly, no one has the right to take that away from me, even if they disagree with the possibility that I might do something theyd prefer I didnt. Thats not the point. The point is that you dont have to right to tell me not to do it.
874. 11 August 2008, Beloit, WI
In the last few days I have edited together two segments of multi-frame video for one of my own ongoing DVD projects, Waves. This has been a long time in the making; its the last of four short films for a set called Dreamtime Ocean. I am experimenting with multi-frame, multi-window video and still montage, and the results so far are mostly positive. Occasionally a segment edges towards the sublime, often as a result of the content, the beauty of the shot itself.
The multi-frame aspect comes in when I have more than one video image onscreen at the same time. The simplest version of this is two moving pictures placed side by side. But Ive expanded that to a palette of up to nine or ten layered positions possible onscreen at any given moment, including a full-frame image in the background behind a smaller window. Sometimes as few as one frame is present, sometimes as many as six. Positions change with shots. Sometimes shots are layered and duplicated in different positions simultaneously. The eye is called to move between frames, or to sit back and soak it all in as one larger overarching frame. One can focus in on one element in context, or use what in martial they call soft eyes, the relaxed vision that takes in all of the visual field at once, including the peripheral vision.
My first set of four short videos (can you label them films if they werent shot on film?), Basin & Range, was based entirely on collages and montages of my still photography, and also my visionary digital artwork done in Photoshop. This next set of short films was begun a year later, but I needed a lot of time for the project to mature to completion. In the interim, we began Liquid Crystal Gallery, our series of commercially-released DVDs designed to be both . We are gradually incorporating moving images in with the animated stills, to expand our palette and our horizons. I am probably not going to move entirely into moving picturesunless I suddenly get a gig as a cinematographer, or have some similar reasonas I am too attached to the advantage that still photography has, of being able to contemplate a single image for a long time, without distractions. This is that boundary region between painting and cinema, sharing some qualities of both.
This morning I was looking through Mark Magidsons book of still photographs taken while traveling for the production and filming of Baraka, one of the films he produced with Ron Fricke. Baraka is one of my favorite films of all time. Its all images and music, and tells its narrative without dialogue or traditional film structural narrative, using only a sequence of images and music. This is one goal for my poetry, one way of working, that I continue to pursue: a poetry of only images and musicality, that never tells you what to think, or whats going on, and speaks without voice, leaving the reader/viewer to interpret the work how they will, and how they can. Non-narrative is risky for both film and poetry: there are many who have expectations that will not be met. Some expectations that both audience and traditionalist art-makers have can be viewed as merely the products of inertia rather than necessity, however. Artistic inertia is never an excuse for closemindedness, although it is often the underlying justification. I do not promote newness for its own sake, either. What I promote is the appropriate approach the materials at hand, to accomplish the work as it needs to evolve. If that means using traditional verbal-oriented story-telling narrative, thats all to the good; but if a project requires one to step outside the linear story-telling box of assumptions about how to structure time-based art, then so be it, and that too is all to the good.
873. 9 August 2008, Beloit, WI
at dawn soft steady rain
sound of rivulets on the roof
pooling water under the trees
seeping into the ground
After sleeping late, and doing some video editing, I went out for a drive this afternoon. Partly just to get out of the house, but also partly to get out into the sunlight, take off my shirt, and soak up the warmth. The slow and steady rain this morning was actually cold, making for a chilly morning. I got up for awhile, but crawled back under the covers to get warm, and went back to sleep. (I feel like sleeping a lot lately. Maybe its the physical toll because of the emotional churning.)
I drove out into the countryside east of here, on the little county two-lane highways. County A is particularly nice, heading out towards Kettle Moraine territory. There was a long line of clouds coming in, like a ragged curtain across the sky. Some rain falling at a slant at the leading western edge of the clouds. I got several good summertime photos of the clouds and sky splitting the air over the fields, which are all thick and dense, approaching harvest time. Late summer richness of greens and blues and silk-yellows.
When I asked for healing at the Warm Mineral Springs in Florida, I realize, thats when all this emotional clearing and dumping started. It was soon after that vision, and my request for healing, which raised so much power that I couldnt feel myself doing Reiki for about four days after, that this emotional purging all began. So I guess this is part of the healing process. I opened up a floodgate, and a long process moved quickly forward. Its been hard to take some days. The past few days have been rife with unhappiness and anger, and a lot of clarity about some patterns and emotional issues; things brought forward from this lifes history to be cleared. Its a good process, although its also unsettling and disruptive. I dont know how long it will continue. I cant think very far ahead anymore, because my emotional weather is so unpredictable, day to day, hour to hour, afternoon, evening, and morning.
I feel good having gotten out into the sunlight today. And a little tired. Ive enjoyed the silence of driving through the countryside, with no music or TV to disrupt my thinking. Just the sounds of the wind, the tires on the road, and the birds and insects of late summer, dopplering through the car windows as I drive past.
I have started to write poems again. One or two, anyway. I have no ambition left for that process. It is what it is. I dont care if I ever post on a poetry board ever again.
872. 8 August 2008, Beloit, WI
crows at sunset
edge along salmon clouds
streams of light swimming upstream against the ether the sky the stars
half moon in and out of clouds and trees depending where you sit the crows
incessant plaintive lost once across the dry desert in the grey rain the sky looked
this way scalloped at the edges layers moving across each other in never rained
bleak and forbidden but near the skull pass the holes in the outcrop small sculptures
waiting to be laid arranged down onto tan dust iron slate black burned shale
scrape along the tide where an ocean remembers itself standing high here drowning
the road and every isolate driver moonreturn and cloud breakup ice coexistent ice
streams of loss everything flowing up and away leaving an emptiness the hole in the stone
the fireflies, peering through lost vessels, the curved ear canal
blocked with ancient sound, never dying away, never
Another day of angry and bitter irritability. I am still feeling cut off and abandoned, not really supported by those who say they will support me. The age-old lesson of never being able to count on other people. So, fine: let them fail, let it all fall apart and lead to nothing. I no longer care. If no one else cares, Im having a difficult time finding why I should. This dependency feels like a step back, not a step forward. It feels too much like asking for a parent for approval, rather than taking control of my own process. Ill give it one more attempt, after which Im just going to damn well do what I want to do, and screw what my advisors think of it all.
And tears while out shopping in the grocery store again. Constant emotions runnig all day long, tiring me out for anything else. I must seem crazy to some passersby, but I cant be bothered to stop. It comes as it comes. Later on, feeling helplessly tiredall I want to do is sleep, nap, go to bed, but my mind whirls when I do, and Im never down for longsuddenly I felt better. Maybe a little lighter, as if something had flown off and ascended.
A mental patient once wrote, Birds are holes in the sky for the souls to fly through. Thats a shamanic image, not one of illness. It makes you wonder how many mental patients locked up in institutions are simply people who did not get through their shamanic initiations, their soul-awakenings, and got stuck. How close to them I am sometimes. How frightening we both are to those who dont understand.
Still, I feel melancholy and restless. I went out and worked in the garage, organizing shelves and sorting through things, storing them better and more efficiently. I am also sorting and packing for the trip out West; I leave in ten days, give or take a day. I learned from my travel problems, and dietary issues, on the Florida trip, and I am thinking ahead and preparing more thoroughly. A variety of foods to prepare when Im traveling, and enough variety that I will keep my interest without getting bored or frustrated, I hope. Being prepared is the watchword and blessing.
871. 7 August 2008, Beloit, WI
More dreams of driving, of Florida, of moments on the road. Recycling the spent time, integrating it into the present, for the sake of the future. I am working hard to plan my next voyage, and to be prepared to take better care of my needs. I am feeling anxious, a little restless; anxious about my home here; restlessness from wanting to not have to deal with it. I feel torn between the necessity of having a lot to do, and the desire to do nothing because the past months have been so intense and demanding that I could only steal moments for myself of Doing Nothing, never sustained, never enduring. Now is the time of year I just want to lie in the sun, Do Nothing, take a days hike at Devils Lake, Do Nothing, get out into the sunshine and air and light, with no plan, no agenda, and no goal. I just want a Day Off, the one thing I never seem to be able to have. I work harder than ever, trying to get everything done.
Im also irritated that it seems to take forever to get anything done when I have to rely on other people, and yet everyone expects me to be on top of everything, right away. Im irritated that the people Im supposed to rely on are never around when I need them to be, or otherwise unavailable. Im tired of being nice about it. Im tired of feeling like everyone else always requiring me to defer to their agendas, while mine continues to get neglected. Im tired of feeling third-string all the fucking time. Im actually furious about it right it now, and I dont care who knows; and it is indeed directed at everybody. I dont ask for much. Im not that demanding. I do indeed defer to other peoples agendas most of the timeand maybe thats the problem, because when I do need their attention, its not forthcoming, I dont need help that often, but when I do need it, I keep needing it at crisis point, because everybody is unavailable until it has already become a crisis. And Im sick of that, too. Im not really asking for all that much, and I dont really ask all that often. In fact, I go out of my fucking way to not bother people about my own needs. But then when I really do need them, its like Im a burden. Well, fuck that, and fuck everybody. Because when I do need your help, its good to know that its forthcoming. This isnt about my impatience, because weeks and weeks of waiting for other people to be available is not proper, regardless of my impatience. You dont do that to other people, yet you feel free to do it to me? Well, fuck that. I dont like having to operate at crisis point, just to get heard, any more than anyone else wants to. I dont like it anymore than you do, but if you would actually just give me some time before it got to crisis point, wed never have to go there.
Having another meltdown today. Very emotional, after a stressful day. Had a doctors appointment, and it went well; they drew blood for tests, just to see how I am. My last blood tests were beyond good, they were stellar; the doctor said he hoped that stayed the same.
Driving and crying. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. I was in the grocery store and just bursting into tears. Feeling very alone and isolated. Not bothering to try to reach out for help: Ive learned my lesson on that front. Its never there when I really need it, so why make it worse by trying to find it. I was putting lots of energy, Im sure.
Little moments of grace that pull me back from the abyss: something as simple as a stranger wishing me a good day. When youre feeling at your worst, that can help a lot. Its all part of this emotional cycle. Who knows if it will ever end. I cant afford to care, either way.
Fuck it. Im sick of it. Going to take the rest of the day off, and just do what I want to do. Everyone else can go hang.
870. 6 August 2008, Beloit, WI
Late at night, going through more old photos of myself. Revisiting my history for clues to my present and future. I discover my high school graduation photo: mitre board and gown, standing in the driveway of the house in Ann Arbor. My face looks just like my fathers. We are our parents children, even though we deny it, and no matter how much we have overcome that, and gone on to be our own persons. At some point in our lives, we were more similar to them than not. My face looks just like my fathers, because the expression is his. That formal look into the camera, serious, unsmiling, a penetrating look, not really convinced this is either necessary or fun. Ive seen it on his face often enough. I recognize it on my own. Although I will also say, my gaze is far more penetrating than anyone elses in my family. I have always put people off, because they can sense how deeply I see into their hearts. In this picture, that gaze is apparent. There is also the slight turn of head that I do when Im looking askance at something, not quite trusting it. Not quite trusting the moment, or the situation, or the motivations of the people Im with. I was no doubt uncomfortable during the taking of this photo, feeling like a dress-up doll in the graduation outfit, wanting to get out of those clothes, and impatient with the moment. All of that nicely captured in this photo, that I can read in myself. We are all much broader and more complex than we think we are.
compass and rose
together by candlelight:
869. 6 August 2008, Beloit, WI
Dreams of travel, somewhat recycling my recent trip to Florida; some places familiar to memory, that left a mark on me I didnt realize at the time.
I spent all day yesterday in Madison, and out in the countryside. Got some beautiful barn photos, but also had dinner at a terrific restaurant in Black Earth.
Today I return home to my morning spiritual reading, needed as ever to ground me and give me direction. I am reading a new, illustrated biography of Jung. The value in this biography is that it uses many letters and quotes, and tells the stories in his words, and those who knew him. There are parts of the story finally put into context that make more sense, now more than ever. His own patterns and inner forces shaped his life as much as his work. His heart attack in the 1940s gave him visions of dismemberment and regeneration, exactly like shamanic initiation, exactly like my own; these were visions I had never known about before. Some of Jungs best writing is in the letters, rather than the Collected Works, because they fill in the gaps and make more sense of context.
I am struggling with feeling blown apart in many directions, lacking a center or a purpose; I am barely holding myself together. What people see as me doing well feels artificial to me, just a mask that means nothing. I dont feel at all like Im doing well, or even remotely well. It all feels ready to fly apart at any moment. Part of me wishes it would, because then it would be over, and I could get back to assembling the pieces rather than trying to hold them together under impossible pressures. I dont feel up to the supreme effort.
I try to take a day or two away from it, and focus on something else, and it wont leave me alone. Distractions are only momentary, nothing keeps me afloat for long. Once again, the outer weather reflects my inner weather: the skies are stormy and dark, but nothing is actually happens; storms loom and threaten, but do not break over the land. I am tired of being teased. Why dont you just get it over with? Once and for all.
868. 5 August 2008, Beloit, WI
In my dream: driving along a familiar woodland road, which you sometimes have to share with horses and other animals and people, the road comes to an end; there are people fishing there, and playing; the nearby lodge is empty, but open; theyre rebuilding the road, and its blocked out here; so I have to reverse and plan an alternate route around this; fortunately I know the roads here, and have a plan.
Dream of doing Tantric energy work another man: energy glowing hands on heart; this is all done in mirror positions; hand on heart chakra, left hand on second chakra; then kneeling beside him, hands on front and back of second chakra. Erect the whole time.
867. 4 August 2008, Beloit, WI
Awoken before dawn, feeling a tension in the air. Within minutes a line of severe thunderstorms came through. As I lay back in bed, having unplugged everything, there was one, then two, lightning strikes right overheard, very close, with no delay between light and sound. In fact, for one of them, I saw the multiple flash that lightning really is: the plasma going back and forth several times through the channel it has burned in the gaseous atmosphere. And I heard several short cracks before the big boom. So that strike was VERY close by.
I guess when youre sensitive to energy, youre sensitive to energy. The buildup must have woke me up, and the release immediately released tension in me, and I went to back to sleep soon after.
In my dreams this morning, I am trying to get around town in a bus being driven by a friend; its just the two of us; we get to several destinations, but there are several close calls on rickety wooden bridges being rebuilt; or the bridges are sturdy enough but were driving too close to the edge. There is still a little distant thunder in the air, and the rains are sporadic, heavy when present, but not enduring.
Some interesting rolling thunder later on, with distant rumbles that seem to take forever to die. Eventually, hard rain returns after one more big clap. The storms are regenerating and recycling all morning, and shedding rain as they go. It makes for an interesting soundscape, variable and exciting.
sinuous, serpentine clouds
over the cornfields
Stalking across the prairie, isolated storms trail angled veils of rain from the cloud ceiling, which is broken and scalloped overhead, with sharp edges to one side, letting through the blue sky there, while underneath the rain sections it is solid grey. As you watch, lightning forks along the leading edges of the rain, tracing the periphery of the grey line.
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