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CXXX. 8 January 2005, Chicago, IL

Spent all day in the studio with Andy and Al yesterday, We got a lot done on that one piece. I think almost all the tracks are in place: now all it requires is editing and shaping, which I can definitely trust Al and Andy to do very well. It’s like sculpture: you remove every piece of material that isn’t the finished artwork. We added a few more tracks of percussion, including some Tibetan singing bowls.

Today, after getting a quick lesson in making videos in Vegas from Al, I came over to Alex’ place, had a shower and some food, and promptly fell asleep on his couch. I am really wiped out. I made some networking phone calls, and made plans for Monday, but I think today is a day of rest. I’m so tired, I doubt I could do anything, anyway.

So, I take time right now to focus on integrating recent events, and recovery, and rest. If we didn’t go out again today, that would be just fine.

There is still a ton of snow everywhere, it hasn’t melted much. Chicago got a whole foot of snow during the storm, it looks like. Trees and front lawns, with their ornate metal fences and porches and banisters in some older neighborhoods here, look like decorated postcards of Victorian Christmas scenes. It’s all very picturesque, even as some folks are still getting their cars stuck, and there are still snow banks deep enough for certain Dragon to disguise themselves in, awaiting stray sheep to wander by and be devoured. I’ve been too busy to take that many photos, but here are a few.









Later:

Alex surprised me this aftgernoon with a couple of gifts, one of which was a massge. It was so good, so relaxing, that I napped afterwards. I woke up covered with a warm blanket.

I feel a thousand percent better. Still tired, but relaxes rather than exhausted.





CXXX. 7 January 2005, Chicago, IL

A long late night talk with Andy last night; went to bed very late. Today Andy and Al and I spent all day in the recording studio. We only got one piece done, but we got it seriously done. Many layers of tracks have been added to the mix, to be edited through and reductively separated later on. Getting the foundation down, though, has been achieved. I played three layers of frame drums, a couple of Stick bass, and three ISFS solos floating over the top of the ostinati. Marimba, flute clouds, and other percussion. A flute solo by Al to be added later.

All week I have been struggling with the feeling that there is always more to do than I can get done. It breeds impatience with everything. I feel like I have so much more to do, and like none of my plans reach full fruition. Partial accomplishment, yes, of course: but not complete fulfillment. We get one thing done when we hoped to get three things done. That sort of thing.

Realistically, it’s a false expectation to plan so much that can’t be shoehorned in the days. But I also feel rushed and pressed for time: I’m only here a few more days, then I have no idea how long it will be till I get here again. I have at least two more projects to try to accomplish this visit, and I fear I won’t be able to complete them. Prioritize, yeah, sure, whatever. It’s still frustrating, and makes me impatient.

Am I ready to go back? Hell no. Am I ready to stay in Chicago? No, not at all, not at the moment, although people have been tempting me all week to do just that. (I need distance and time from the mess of moving my last chattels from MN to WI.) If it doesn’t work out in California, I will come back to try my luck here, then. But living day to day, no idea when that will be. Months or never? Who knows? I just cannot predict, anymore. Anything can still happen.

That I’m so very tired is evidenced by my impatience with recalcitrant tech, and my short temper. I’m trying to keep it down, and it just keeps leaking out. I’m also more physically clumsy than normal: normal for me is not clumsy, but lately I keep bumping into things, or knocking things over. Nothing awful, just noticeable.





CXXIX. 6 January 2005, Chicago, IL

Slept in late today, totally exhausted. Feeling decidedly unambitious today. How many days and weeks have I been under stress? Too long, I’m sure.

Nice to see Alex, although he needs more time alone, to deal with his own stuff. No complaints. I want to support him whatever way I can, even if that means I get to spend less time with him. Space: the final frontier.








CXXVIII. 5 January 2005, Chicago, IL

Snow starting late at night, lasting all night and all day. Met with Sage and Betsy and Al for lunch at Penny’s, a multi-ethnic noodle joint on the corner of Sheffield and Roscoe. Excellent food, even better company. Sage is looking better today; recent events in his own life have taken their toll in the past few days, but today he looked calmer if still tired.

The snow in Chicago is beautiful, even as it ties up traffic and makes travel a little dangerous. This is the first real snowstorm they’ve had here, I’m told. A day to work indoors. Having kind of a bad technology day, though: why is it that our sophisticated tech just keeps schmutzing out for no good reason? It’s a sign of how tired I am, and stressed out I’ve been, that I have no patience, no stamina for debugging, and just want it to fucking work. For once, for once, I would like all this crap in my life to just work, without trouble or wasted effort and time. I suppose that’s too much to ask.

Tonight, an evening in the studio. Then maybe a night with Alex, if he’s feeling up to it.

I take stealth photos and candids, whenever I’m in Chicago, on the streets, in restaurants, in stores, wherever I go. A junior college lets out in the afternoon as we drive by: black-clad art students with their portfolios and guitars; girls giggling in groups; snowball fights; clusters of backpack-toting, down jacket-wearing kids stamp their feet at the bus-stop.











CXXVII. 4 January 2005, Beloit, WI

Amazingly, I seem to be done. And wiped out tired, too, no surprise. Got everything stored in the garage or basement, the hallways cleared. My bedroom looks pretty full to the gills now. Oh well. I am so incredibly tired from all this. I wish I could believe it was all over for now, but my basic self is wondering what’s next.

Now I’m just waiting for my ride to Chicago, and hanging out with the parents. All is relatively calm and loving at the moment now. It’s the rollercoaster I don’t trust: the ups and downs.



Light snow. Heavy snow on the way, supposedly tonight or tomorrow. I can’t even think clearly right now. Bleah. Argh. Ick. Snore. Watch my slowly collapsing. Collapsing. Thud.








CXXVI. 3 January 2005, Beloit, WI

I’ve had nothing to say much of this past week. It has been mostly a grind. Nothing creates drama like family. I’ve been dealing with my aging parents, my mother’s Alzheimer’s problems, and simultaneously trying to get the stuff I brought back from my storage locker in St. Paul into the basement here at my parents’ place in Beloit. Also, some socializing, which has been good. But I’m wiped out, and glad it will be over soon. I so badly want to get to California, and turn my back on everything else, I can taste it.

Almost, almost done loading stuff into the basement from the garage. Only had three or four parental meltdowns this past week. Last night, coming back from Madison, where I’d had dinner with some friends there I hadn’t seen in over a year, and also from selling off some books and CDs, I walked right into a major parental meltdown. It really pissed me off, which is okay, as I used the energy to carry stuff down into the basement and organize it and store it. There really is plenty of room here; it’s just that it has been full of empty boxes, which I have broken down to recycle, and things have been strewn haphazardly for years, with no organization. I’ve thrown out a lot of trash, taken at least two loads of old crap to Goodwill, and torn down more and more boxes. There is now more than enough space for my crap. So, all day today I loaded it in. I also did some organizing in the garage, and put boxes and stuff on the shelves out there.

I’m tired of this, though. I will be glad to go back to Chicago tomorrow. It’s been a chore, and case of tiptoeing around everyone all the time, and taking the flack when I didn’t tiptoe enough. I’m exhausted, and I’m sick of the whole process. I am no longer sorting things out, but just stuffing the boxes where they will go. At the moment, I don’t want to be back here anytime soon. Whenever I do come back here, though, I will probably have to do more sorting and pitching and organizing.

Don’t fucking call me a packrat or say I have too much unless you can honestly look in the mirror and say you travel lightly on this earth with very few possessions. In this whole process, which has lasted literally months at this point, I have gotten rid of the majority of my possessions, and each time I sort through, I reduce it to less and less. What I keep: my library of resource books; my music; the artwork and music that I have created over the years is a substantial percentage of what’s left; and very little of purely sentimental value. I keep things of historical value; but I am not at all a sentimental person. Nostalgia is wasted emotion, with no benefit for living in the Now.

The lessons: again, the rollercoaster is the problem. Support turns into accusations. Feeling good about reconnecting with old friends turns into bitter ashes when I get blamed for things over which I have no control. Yes, it’s true, this move-in upsets Mom, as any disruption of routine upsets her because of the Alzheimer’s, but when it’s over, she forgets. One night in a rainstorm she kept coming downstairs in the middle of the night, stirred up. She’s always hated bad weather, and storms (the opposite of me, who has always loved watching a good storm), but now she gets paranoid and restless and won’t fall asleep. It’s really hard to take, and harder to watch. Fortunately, when she came down late at night, I was still wearing clothes. Geez.



Right before Christmas, I posted that literary personal ad on Craigslist. I got an immediate reply along the lines of, “Are you sure you posted this in the right area?” Which meant zero, as if you cruise the personal ads on Craigslist, they are usually pornographic and all about instant fucking gratification. Literally. Any posting of more than three lines is unusual, and there are literally hundreds a day. In fact, some idiots re-post more than once a day. And of course, it’s all about sex, sex, sex, fucking sex. So, I didn’t expect much.

Then, yesterday, I found I had gotten a more thoughtful reply from someone, so I replied back. He sent me his website address, so I looked it over; he’s an artist, and some of his work was very interesting. At the very least, we might meet and talk art, if nothing else. Queer artists are always interesting to talk to. And some of his artwork on his website was homoerotic.

Perhaps the difference between erotic art and porn is the distance between your knees. If the legs are spread too wide apart, too much revealing, it’s porn. Or something like that. It’s another fine line, of course, blurred by personal supposition, like all such definitions.

I want to do a lot more erotic art, and soon. I want to do male nudes out in nature, mostly, but other settings, too. I need to get some more models; maybe I can find them through Criagslist, who knows. I hesitate to put that sort of artwork on my current portfolio website, though, as I want to keep that client-friendly. At some point, I might register another website, and put it on the new server, with all-new contact info. Something specifically for that homo eros creation index of desire. I guess, even talking about it, puts it on the list of things to do. But not at the top of the list, not this week, anyway. Not like I can’t do it later.

Have also been toying with the idea of doing a separate website for my fonts. Make it official, and commercial, etc. Can always run links back to the main site, if I want to. Things to do, places to go, people to influence.



Later:

Great. The weather has turned fierce and wintry. It’s been freezing rain and snow all day, and tomorrow promises more. My ride to Chicago just called, and wants to leave in the afternoon instead of the evening, to avoid the worst of the oncoming weather. Can’t say as that’s at all a bad idea, but I was counting on tomorrow afternoon to finish up. Now, that’s not gonna happen, and what seemed doable now again seems impossible, and a last-minute killer crunch, and a major stress-out. Goddammit. Nothing is ever easy. Well, never mind. I just talked to Dad about it, and I’ll get up earlier and do it. I can sleep after I get to Chicago, even if I stay up late tonight, and get up early.



Yet Later:

No worries. I got over my panic, got to work, and worked hard. Got a lot of stuff in the garage up on shelves, broke down more boxes, and prepped more stuff for loading down. Tonight I will focus on putting things away down in the basement, and packing for leaving. There are things I need to take with me, and that I need to ship to myself. I can do that from Chicago, no problem. Just deal with it in the next few days.








CXXV. 27 December 2004, Beloit, WI

Got to work today, in the garage. It was still cold, but in the twenties instead of the single digit. I sorted boxes of books, picked out some more to try to sell, and tomorrow morning I need to organize the CDs for selling off or giving away. Still shedding baggage. It’s really not that much stuff to deal with, it’s just mentally difficult to do it, and I keep having to dance around both Mom and Dad’s issues. It makes it exhausting, frankly.



I feel torn up about the tsunamis in Southeast Asia, the destruction and death. It’s a part of the world I know well, and care about very much. It enrages me when the American media, covering this, asks stupid, ignorant question after brainless, idiotic question.

They keep harping on warnings and preparedness. You fucking idiots: ask any geologist. There is no way you can either predict or prevent a tsunami like this. Well, you can predict one will occur, after such a strong undersea quake, but only vaguely where it will hit or what damage it will do. Chaos theory is in charge of this situation. This one was devastating. There is almost nothing you can do. It truly is a force of nature, you can neither stop it nor deflect it. It’s not a preventable natural disaster. You can only get out of the way, flee to high ground, and wait for the waters to recede. And there are likely to be aftershocks.

Not to mention that the dying hasn’t stopped, and won’t for awhile. There will be cholera, and other problems because of the contaminated water now. There is no infrastructure left, now, in some areas, and it will take literally months or years to rebuild roads, schools, and everything else.

Not to mention the cultural reasons why this happened, and will happen again. The Western media is focused on warnings, and prevention, and are clueless, in their ignorance of both culture and geology, as to why that simply will not work.






CXXIV. 26 December 2004, Beloit, WI

Recently I have been trying to write a personal ad for myself. I wanted to try to attract the kind of man I wanted to spend time with, fool around with, play with on the beaches of sexual libertinism, and thus sow my oats wherever I might travel. What follows here was my most recent attempt:



The Garden of Forking Paths


The sexiest men alive all read Borges. They are the polyamorous polymorphously perverse men whom I am interested in encountering. Like the men who prowl the hardware stores at night looking for a quick romp back in the lumber department, the men who I wish to encounter prowl the labyrinthine stacks of the Library of Babel, roaming the reading rooms with arcane tomes such as The Tantra Sutras, The Qabalah of Sex and Loving, and the Geometry of Desire. They know, presciently, that they will encounter just around the next corner the man with whom they are destined to meet. The carry opened books in their arms that guide them through the corridors of the Library, and along the rose-encrusted ways of the Garden of Forking Paths. In their eyes are visions of the jaguar of love, prowling his tracks with relentless joy.


The sexiest men alive read Cavafy. They can recite “Days of 1904” in bed while making sweaty, sensual love. They can with a whisper or a single eloquent word so heighten the pleasure of coitus that one’s mind explodes into a blank field of white light. These are the men who linger in the cafés lining the road that leads to the lost Library of Alexandria, the way they hold their rolled scrolls and Library satchels indicating a semaphore of specific tastes, lusts, and desires. Their hair is fragrant with butterflies, their hands warmed between mine on cold, damp nights.


The sexiest men alive will frolic nude and unashamed on beach or field or mountain, and shout Whitman at the top of their lungs. They take off their clothes as soon as they come home after work, and stay naked till they must go out again. They will lie in bed reading, eating chocolate-covered fruits, making love to you with their voice and eyes. They open themselves to your kiss after being turned on by your mind. They reveal themselves to you by the inkstains on their fingers, and the direct stare of the hunting eagle. They pursue the geography of pleasure between cities, and in trackless wastes they follow the arrows of their desire.


I look for you in the Library, in the cafés where pretentious black-clad art students juggle portfolios with stacks of Beat poetry, in the alleys behind used book stores where we can dumpster-dive the arcane of civilized history. I seek you on the streets in October, with the wind blowing leaves across your eyes. I whisper quiet secrets in the back corners of dim rooms on the waterfront, sharing hidden desires and oblique strategies of ensorcelled enchantment. I look for you on the shores of an ocean drenched with sun and rain, where we can shiver together in caves washed with kelp and sea-foam, where we c an hold hands openly and leave wet footprints behind us that the surf will wash away in our sleep. I hunt for you in the basins of light that spread between the thighs of mountain ridges. I am the voice of rustling insect wings that wakes you before dawn. I am the star in the tree that guides you home, and I am the fox that makes a den between your thighs. I know you for the true saint you are. I love you for being the spirit of light and shadow intertwined, this rough beast that slouches between desert and sea, seeking a home between the pages of a book of fables, secrets, and truths that no one yet has spoken aloud. I am the scarlet wing of the blackbird looking at you from a fencepost. I am the rim of the earth, encompassing you. I want to make to the whole sky, and you are the night constellations.

I look for you among the lilies and the rosebushes, the twisting vines of the arbutus that overhang an orrery, in a hidden grove in the Garden of Eden. We meet to compare the lore of snakes, and play the game of rat and dragon. I engineer this Library search so that you hear my voice rising to you from the scent of catalog cards. I dwell in your innermost mind, and whisper in your ears every sunset. I am waiting. Pull this living card from the between the ranks of desiccated leaves spread across the tables where you wander to read. I await your discovery, and our destined meeting, inevitable, just around the next corner.




There were some other paragraphs I contemplated including but in the end left out, thinking that they might push even further at the bounds of pretentiousness, and by adding more to the project, make it rather less. There was, for example, the paragraph on Umberto Eco:

The sexiest men alive read Eco. They know how to travel with a salmon. They languor on the beaches of the Island of the Day Before, discussing among themselves what is the true name of the Rose, while watching Foucault’s Pendulum swing back and forth in the trees nearby, dividing the day into itself and its self-parody. They are the semoticians of desire and dream, destiny, death, destruction and delirium. They are symbols that stand in for themselves, remembering everything in such clarity that there is no time to actually reflect, only remember.

With that oblique reference back to Borges, via his character Funes, who remembers, I sought to return circularly to my opening.

I am still waiting for an answer.






CXXIII. 25 December 2004, Beloit, WI

I cooked a traditional turkey dinner tonight, with all the trimmings. Not as perfect as the similar meal I made last year, but pretty good. (Couldn’t get the potatoes as fluffy, and the asparagus was just slightly undercooked.) But the turkey was perfect, and so was the gravy I made from the drippings. I guess I’m getting better at this. Anyway, I feel pleasantly stuffed.



Later:

I find myself, seeking a way out of myself, wandering in Borges’ Labyrinth. I wander the corridors of the Library of Babel. I peruse lost researches of the occult reaches of paleontology. Under my fingers, blind fables of the saurian world come alive, roaring. I turn to another aisle and witness the shaping of books out of butterflies. Somewhere amidst the dust and the tomes about astronomy of the 12th century, there is a key. What door it opens I can only imagine, and, imagining, open it in my mind. Which is perhaps more real than opening it in another world. What it opens onto is a vista also of mind and imagination, a palace between worlds.

Dawn breaks there. There is something alive there. Nothing moves there, except the amber light. Sunset is a place on a hilltop there.

I close. I open the other. Into it I pour myself, butterfly or book. These words get tangled on themselves, in the Labyrinth. What altruism it is to imagine that anyone outside myself has seen this place. It moves, swiftly, and the air over the shelves twitches with dust motes. Filling the empty spaces of memory, a voice rising from a book. Spines break under my hand. I see into the infinite. There is a light there, like the light of an eye that has been blinded by the desert sun. It watches nothing, and nothing is where it moves to.






CXXII. 24 December 2004, Beloit, WI

Got the truck unloaded this morning, with Dad’s help, although the weather was if anything even colder than before. Returned the truck, and pretty much collapsed. I went to do some last minute shopping for food at the crush bar at Wally-Mart World Empire, and survived the massive hordes of last minute consumer shopper folk. Do all gifts have to be expensive things we do not make ourselves? Are we expected to be little consumer drones who spend instead of commune with one another? It sure seems that way. I’ll say this much: the last few months of living in the desert, without TV or radio or much else, has been a shift in perception, mostly underlining my attitudes about modern culture rather than being filled with stunning new revelations. I find myself working to be non-judgmental, while at the same time dismayed by the imbalances and ordinary insanities we take for granted. Most people live unconsciously, never even thinking about this stuff. How awful, and how sad.

Then after all that, came home and napped and showered: the past few days, the rush of moving these last Things from storage locker to garage here, however temporarily, has been exhausting. I still need to deal with the Thigns, but not for a day or two. A day off, then back to it. Tomorrow, I plan to cook for Mom and Dad, a full turkey dinner with trimmings, as I did last Xmas for them and myself.

As for chattels and so forth, it looks like everything survived the trip safely. That ends it: last physical ties to Minnesota now gone. Released. Endings and beginnings. Releasing and tying up loose ends from the past, to be able to live in the present. Stripping away the baggage. From now on, we seek to travel with luggage, but without baggage.

Cold and clear tonight. After coming back from Xmas candlelight surface with my parents at their church across town, I look up through the trees and see the almost-full moon covered by patchy clouds. Almost full, rich with pregnant light. Silver on the tree. Swift shimmer coat of fire.



Infinite Gratitudes

The following paragraphs I first wrote three or four Yules past. I present it here again, somewhat revised, as a statement of purpose as well as a statement of intent and celebration. As Meister Eckhart said, If the only prayer you prayed was Thank You, that would suffice. That is the spirit in which I feel linked to Spirit, no matter what else I am feeling or enduring or celebrating. As I write this, on PBS right now is a Bill Moyers documentary on Amazing Grace. The synchronicity stands as a reminder of the movement of Grace in my own life, especially in recent months. I stand by this as an article of remembrance and, dare I say it, faith:



For all those events, people, and experiences in this life and all others, that have helped me to grow and change and evolve, I give gratitude. Where I am is what I am.

For all of you, your infinite variety, your infinite diversity in infinite combination, and all that you have taught me, I give infinite gratitude.

For everything you have ever given me, will give me, or have never and never will give me, I return infinite gratitude. For every means of support I have been graced with these past hard days and nights, for every care I have been given, for every surprising bit of caring, I return infinite gratitude. There is no loss, no absence, and nothing missing. Everything you need is already there. Everything I need to live, I already have, or will receive at the merest asking.

For everything that challenges me to grow, release, clear, let go, and Just Get Over It, I give endless thanks. Especially for those moments that offer me endless opportunities to clear and release judgmentalism, hatred, and close-mindedness, I give deep and infinite gratitude.

For everything that bleeds, infinite peace.

For every night that has challenged me with the depths of darkness that are the heart of the Divine, for every morning I have re-awoken after surviving the night, infinite thanks. Help me make it through the night.

For everyone whose heart has not yet fully opened, because of fear, grief, misunderstanding, hate, or desperation, infinite layers of white light, and infinite layers of the highest form in the Universe of the bright blue light of compassionate loving-kindness.

For every soul whose sacred contracts have not yet been fulfilled, infinite time and infinite patience. From this life, to the next. Not one soul shall be lost. We journey together. For every kindred soul, born again and again, till we get it right, thanks for playing the Game. There is always an infinite number of second chances, to get it right next time. God does not judge us, or anything we do; we judge ourselves. God only waits. You are all expert players, and you all, always, win. We go forward together. For every bond of karma both not yet formed and already released, infinite learning, infinite grace, and infinite love. The Buddha and the Cosmic Christ not-two.

For every aid and comfort, infinite gratitude. For every act of tough love, infinite gratitude. For every spiritual slap upside the head, every reminder to trust, surrender, and have faith, no matter how challenging, how painful, how fear-inspiring, how resistance-defying, infinite gratitude. For every moment of utter hilarity–that laughter which brings us into life in the Universe of Essences–infinite gratitude. For every mutual shedding of tears, whether of suffering or of laughter, infinite gratitude.

For every pointless moment of ecstasy or despair, infinite gratitude. For the emotional rollercoaster, infinite serenity borne of infinite gratitude. For every curse and vow and damnation, infinite compassion. For every lover, infinite transcendence. For every cosmic self-judgment and self-flagellation, infinite compassion. Breathe in the fear, breathe out the ecstasy and serenity. For every senseless act of beauty, infinite gratitude. For every meaningless suffering caused by lack, infinite abundance. For every collapse into an illusion of poverty and suffering, infinite fulfillment. For every absurd and illicit and senseless desire, infinite fulfillment. We create our own realities.

For every word and world of blessing and hope, infinite gratitude. For every word and world of hurt, infinite gratitude. For every bridge between words and worlds, infinite gratitude. The Way is Light, and Love, and Truth, and Healing, even when the Way is Dark, and Separation, and Pain, and Alienation. Guidance comes from inside and from outside, there is no separation. The natural world is the supernatural world.

May we all receive blessings of perfect protection, grace and ease, and Light for the highest good for all concerned.

Merry Seasonal Festival of Light in Darkness Of Your Personal Choice!





CXXI. 23 December 2004, Minneapolis, MN

Spent all day yesterday at the storage locker, working. In the clear sunlight, it was tolerable, and not too cold; but the high temperature was only 4 degrees or thereabouts. As soon as the sun started to go away, it got quickly cold and I had to stop. I got 90 percent of the loading done yesterday afternoon, plus a Goodwill run, and also a run to Farm & Fleet to recycle the marine batteries that I’ve had for the past two or three years to no purpose, since I haven’t been playing in the woods or off the grid, which is why I invested in them to begin with. One can always acquire such things in future, if there is need.

It’s about stripping away baggage. Leaving things behind. No longer clinging to what does not serve you anymore. The more of the past you release, and the less you live in your plans for the future, the more you can live in the present moment.

It was very cold outside last night, and a fire in the fireplace is a good presence. I will get the rest loaded today, and do another Goodwill run, then take off for Beloit. Maybe one or two last shopping stops. Need gas in the U-Haul, too. Last night I had dinner with two of my best Chorus friends at my favorite restaurant in the Minneapolis, Saigon on 38th at Grand Ave., and then spent an hour or two talking with Sinden, one of my oldest friends. That was a good evening, despite driving around in the cold. I feel tired but not wiped out.

This morning, it is bitterly, dangerously cold. I wanted to get right at the storage locker, but as it’s sunny again, I am going to wait a little bit and let the land warm up if it can; even a few degrees can make a difference. I hope the truck starts this morning. It was minus 11 at 8am today. I need to do another Goodwill run today, then finish loading, and leave. I want to get out of here by noon, but I may be a little late on that front; it’s just too damn cold to be reckless this morning.

I had to take breaks to warm up in the truck cabin, once or twice, while loading up. When you can’t feel your toes or fingers, even carrying boxes around and getting aerobic, it’s time to take a warming break.

Somewhere to the south and east of Minnesota, it snowed up a blizzard yesterday. They’ll have a white Xmas in Illinois and Ohio, but no one could travel last night, and no last minute shopping at the malls. Which of course everyone on the TV news seemed to think was the most important aspect of the whole affair. What nonsense. A nation of consumers, who can’t seem to think for themselves. Life lived out of balance.



Fallout from the Vision Quest I facilitated at this past year’s Gathering at Kawashaway, last August, is similarly out of balance. Apparently, proposals have been made to the community Circle, that are presented as a design to care for each other, but when you read between the lines, are obviously all about fear and control. I feel detached from both this process, and any outcome. I wasn’t planning to attend Kawashaway Gathering in August 2005, mostly because of logistical reasons involving long travel distances; but this just cements my intention. You can, under these conditions, guarantee that someone will try to “confront” you about it all. So, having a relaxing vacation-style Gathering, where I can just be left alone to relax and have fun, is out of the question. Besides, the whole Vision Quest Gathering this past year was anything but fun for me; I was either Working or putting out fires, and had not a single day of relaxation or fun. (As for another Faerie Spirit Gathering happening at Kawashaway, I haven’t heard a thing, and wonder if it’s even on anyone’s plate.)

When people act out of a baseline of fear, without trust in either the process or the native intelligence of their friends, we get this sort of control-queen proposal. In essence, take care of everyone else first. Take no risks. Make no ripples in the community. Don’t make waves. Don’t do anything risky. Be “safe” at any cost. At any cost. Even the cost of personal freedom, personal responsibility, and self-empowerment. Self-empowerment means watching out for your own needs, not modifying your behavior so that no one else worries about you; some folks will worry, no matter what you do: it’s what they do.

The irony of a scale-comparison to the current right-wing trend in national politics is obvious; does anyone else see the direct parallels? How, out of fear, an attempt is made to clamp down on life’s chaos and unpredictability, and codify rules of conduct, and how the trade of (the illusion of) safety for personal freedom is presented as a logical choice? It seems obvious to me. But one of the Constitution’s Framers said, and wisely: Those who would exchange liberty for security deserve neither. –Benjamin Franklin. Attempts to control such things, on whatever scale they occur, are totalitarian, and if not kept in balance, shift away from anarchism towards fascism.

On one level, this makes me feel rather sad; not for myself, but for others, who seem to have some growing up to do, on the emotional and spiritual levels. There are hard lessons for them on the horizon, descending on wings on black flame, if only they knew: lessons about trust, and faith, and surrender. (All lessons I am still learning myself, I readily admit.)

On another level, though, it is all very predictable. Actions dictated by fear are always very predictable. It is only when people act from love, self-confidence, self-empowerment, and self-worth that their actions become spontaneous, unpredictable–dare one say it: free. And I love being surprised by free thinkers. Surprised by freedom, by joy. Only someone who is truly free can act without fear of consequence. Not irresponsibly, mind you: but with mindful freedom. Free thinking with all the awareness of what personal responsibility means. Mindful self-care and mindful response-ability. (This is the foundation of anarchism.) That seems to get overlooked a lot, in all this created drama. And all drama is rooted in fear.

As one of the principal actors of the Vision Quest events that precipitated this pseudo-crisis–for it was and is a crisis only in the minds of some bystanders, not any of the principals–I refuse to engage in any “discussion” that promises to be merely fear-based accusations rather than an actual dialogue. I have nothing to defend, or explain, or justify, and I will not let others dictate the direction of discourse out of fear. I will be neither reactive nor resistant. Nor will I be coerced. (Blatant coercion tactics were used at me at last year’s Gathering, and I refused to play then, so you can bet I won’t play now. Get real.) It is best to ignore it all. When the fears subside, perhaps some rational perspective will be restored. I doubt that will happen this year, though.

Shedding. Finishing past business. Tying up loose ends. That’s really why I came back here to the Twin Cities, for this brief visit. End things. Release ties. See some people I will remain connected with, in future. But clear and release all the baggage that has been accrued here. Put some things to bed for good. Let it all go, and learn to live ever more in the Present Moment. As the Thomas Dolby song puts it: I Love You, Goodbye.



The real problem with fear-based stuff is that it’s all about: Me, Me, Me! It’s Basic Self talking, rather than Higher Self. Ultimately, it’s about the Ego trying to control the World. The opposite of Taoist going-with-the-flow. The opposite of trust in the process, but rather an attempt to direct and control the process. You can’t. It’s impossible. But we stubbornly insist on trying.

I know this one, as I have done it myself. We all have. There is no guilt about falling into it, because it’s a trap we all fall into, at times. There is no judgment on getting stuck in it, as it’s a human thing. But it’s also a lower-level human thing–as I said, Basic Self–and something we can evolve out of it, if we choose. Love is evolutionary, as it moves towards trust, faith, and surrender, and away from the rollercoaster of the basic-self emotions. Being possessed by one’s runaway emotions is infantile; by contrast, mindful trust is an adult function. Growth consists of letting go of the reins of Control, and just letting things be as they are.

A friend of mine insists that anger and fear always appear together. I am not totally convinced of his position, as I have experienced clean anger without fear, and clean fear, without anger. (Call it terror, perhaps: that trembling in the face of the Infinite.) But he makes the point that where you find angry reactiveness in a person, knee-jerk responses, attempts to control discourse with a sledgehammer, there you will find fear at the root. As the saying goes, Fear is the mindkiller. Of this we have all seen endless examples. Lashing out in anger is indeed rooted in fear.

The Spiritual Warrior does not lash out in anger, but wields her weapon from love, not fear or hatred. If you do not love the prey, if you do not acknowledge that the person you have just wounded is the same Divine Person that you are yourself, then you kill yourself a little bit each time. If you keep killing yourself in this way, eventually you die inside, no matter how long your body walks around. Fear kills the self. And the Self, and the Higher Self, fear kills those too. If you let it possess you, fear kills any chance you have for personal growth and evolutionary change.

And as for the ego, there is an element of all this drama that smacks of that Need To Be In The Right. To be validated, to have one’s point proven and made manifest, at any cost. A kind of stubbornness.

Well, I am perfectly willing to be wrong about all this. I am perfectly willing to be labeled as In The Wrong, as I have nothing to justify, and no interest in being In The Right. If, by my silence, I am mistakenly assumed to be tacitly acknowledging some bizarre sort of complicit guilt, by keeping silent, I am willing to be so misunderstood. It’s nothing I could do anything about, anyway, if no one wants to be overt about it, instead of covert.

And as for being wrong about motivations and intentions, nothing would please me more than to discover that I have misread the situation, from my distant viewpoint, and to be proved wrong in my analysis. I would love to be proved wrong about that, and discover that nothing is being put forward from any motivation other than compassion. I wish I was proved wrong more often, in such cases. But as I said before, actions taken from a baseline of fear are very predictable.






CXX. 22 December 2004, Minneapolis, MN

Pale northern sunlight on the snow, bright enough to wake me in the morning. At least it’s sunny today, as it could be warmer to work outside, Those finger-gloves Alex gave me have been a boon, as my hands would be frostbit without them, from working at the storage locker yesterday.

I got maybe a third of it done, and the two fragile tables stored up top. I worry some today, as my back threatened to give out yesterday. I hope I can make it, in the cold, lifting heavy boxes. I plan to spend all day at it today, with a break or two to get out of the cold. I also need to get to an internet café today, to check my email. It’s not quite 10am yet, and I’m ready to go out the door. Hopefully, I can get the vast bulk loaded today, with cleanup tomorrow before driving down to Beloit. Because I’ll have to unload it in Beloit tomorrow, too, so I can return the truck to U-Haul on Friday morning. I’m feeling kind of brain-dead this morning, so I’m hoping I can do the mindless stuff first.

It’s better than I thought, in one way, though. I was afraid I’d have to do more sorting and purging here, and while I can do some, I hadn’t realized that I left the storage locker in a more organized, more sorted state than I’d thought. Since I’m short on time, I’m giving up trying to do much sorting and organizing now, and just loading it up. Godz, I’m tired of this already, though. If I felt able to abandon it, I would, but I don’t.

Well, I knew this would be a big, painful push this week. I knew it would hurt, and be a whirlwind, and not much chance to sit and think about things, and integrate. I knew that coming in. It’s not a problem. I’ll just have to collapse after Xmas, give it a day or two, then do the sorting and storing in Beloit. I can always do a Goodwill run or three there and then.



Remember what I wrote a few weeks ago while reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire? Here's a new review that makes some of the same points: Desert Solitaire review. It's not that Abbey is a bad writer, not at all. It's that he has been put on a pedestal as an environmentalist and nature writer, which is something he can't live up to, with his own personal inconsistencies as well as those in his writing. Like I said before, Desert Solitaire could have been a much better book than it was.






CXIX. 21 December 2004, Minneapolis, MN

Solstice time. Cold and wintry outside, with last night's snow sparkling the ground, and heavily overcast above. Ice crystals on the windows.



Decipher the world: sensify it, organize it, make it one, two, lined up and libraried.

Order yourself: make yourself a box, a hide, a blinkered horse coach, a shield.

Never consider: if you have all the answers, there are no more questions.

But questions are far more useful than answers, and only questions open doors.

Answers kill the world: by being too complete. Self-contained. They do violence to the real flux of life.

Construct a daily self-discipline, a program of practice and mental toughness. But let the rest of the world be flux and change. How you move in it, responsive, merging, must remain flexible, adaptive, situational, tactical.

This is the way of the Warrior.



Feeling rushed and under pressure today. I don't know if I can do this; I doubt, I fear, I worry. I will push myself during daylight hours, while light lasts, then other errands after dark. Do what you can, let go of the rest. Let go of a lot, probably, that I had hoped to do; worst of it, some people I won't have time to see. Idea occurs to do a dinner party, with as many gathered as I can; impractical, probably, but strategic.






CXVIII. 20 December 2004, Tomah, WI

Riding the Greyhound bus from Beloit to Minneapolis. Not the worst way to travel, but not the most comfortable. The ride pounds my back and kidneys, and the not enough leg room. I suppose if somehow in the next few months I manage to ride the train, I will have traveled by every usual means available these days: a list of ways to get around in this modern world.

Dad wondered if I should make this trip after Christmas, but honestly, now is better. It would be even more rushed after Xmas. I may only have three days to do this right now, but I can at least empty out the storage locker, and bring it back down to Beloit, and spend that week between Xmas and New Year's Daze sorting and stowing it. I doubt I will have much time to see people in Minneapolis, and I doubt I can get it all sorted out up there. So, hectic, hurry, flurry, whatever.

Right now, stopped at McDonald's in Tomah, WI, the roads are awful and the snow is falling. More than two inches here already, and they forecast freezing rain in the Cities, so this trip could continue to be stressful and interminable. Nothing to do but endure.



Later, in Minneapolis:

Heaven is sleeping on a rug on the floor in front of a roaring fireplace. Heaven is sprawling out, not having to curl up. Heaven is not riding anymore today or tonight. Heaven is talking with good friends you haven't seen in months.

The rest of the ride wasn't so bad, except for the gradual leg cramps and back soreness. I'm sleeping on the floor rather than on the couch because I want to sprawl, and I can. I've slept on much worse.

Tonight, here, crashing, after midnight now. Long talks, and laughter and tears. Tomorrow, dive in to the physical task of dealing with the storage locker. I'll do the best I can, even if I can't get it all done. I will get done whatever I can, then pile it in and deal take it down and deal with it later on. Rats: I forgot to call Beloit to tell them I made it okay, and now it's too late to call. Once again, I guess I can't do anything right by them; oh well. Delayed by snow, after all.

You know what? Fuck it. I'm doing the best I can, and if it's never good enough, it's still just the best I can do. This is that point where I could get all upset about it again, and beat myself up about it again, and you know what? I just can't tonight. I'm too fucking tired. Tomorrow has to be soon enough.






CXVII. 18 December 2004, Chicago, IL

A "nothing" day. Stayed up really late last night talking with Al, and doing computer madness. Today, slept in (I miss Alex already). Then, spent most of the afternoon working on the website; the wireless connection speed here is amazingly fast. I have mostly finished the basics of the website now; even for those places that don't yet have content, or to which I want to update or add content, there are now placeholders if not finished pages. It's a grind, though; I can only work on it for a few hours a day, before I lose concentration. Whatever. I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.

Watching Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on DVD as I work. The silences, the long slow takes, the transitions, the avant-garde music: all set the standard for many movies to follow, the style and form. Aliens and Moderns, cowboys and astronauts. Touching the black monolith.

Also, watching John Cage From Zero, those four short films that use indeterminacy to present Cage and his thinking. The distortion is the signal. Anarchy as freedom. Cage talks more than once, especially towards the end of his life, about the utopian side of unemployment, which is self-employment, self-education, self-determination. The best form of government is no government. His infectious, irreverent sense of humor. I have nothing to say and I am saying it.








CXVI. 17 December 2004, Chicago, IL

Last night, I went with Alex to downtown Chicago, where he was going to his last drawing class of the semester. I hung out in a Starbucks, working on the computer, till he picked me up. Then we walked the six or so blocks to Millennium Park, east of the Loop, with its Frank Gehry structures. I'm a big Frank Genry fan; I like what he does with organic forms. I took several night photos there, of the ice rink at the Park, of the streets of Chicago, full of shoppers and revelers, of the very very Modern architecture, the outdoor performance stage with both chair and lawn seating, and a network of girders overhead with lights and sound systems hung from its web, and so forth. The lights in the performance area were constantly changing, cycling through different colors, an ongoing light display.








One of the most fascinating features of the Park, though, is that huge mirror-polisher sculpture on the west end of the park, overlooking the street and ice rink: like a giant polished stone bean laid on its side, reflections distorting the lights all around it. It looks like something alien has landed, but it also looks organic. Underneath, not only the vision gets distorted and warped and twisted, without, one might add, the use of drugs, but there's a little parabolic dome in the center, that amplifies and focuses sound. We took photos of each other under there, with the reflections, and I took shots of passersby and the surrounding cityscapes, reflected in the curves of The Bean, as some have started to call it.








Like I said, I'm a Gehry fan, not least because his ideas are structurally liquid, based on organic forms, outlined in metal-clad forms that float and fly. He completely breaks up The Glass Box of Modernist architecture, that still-living legacy of the Bauhaus and De Stijl ideologies of the first half of the 20th Century. The history of architecture in the past century has been all about utilitarianism, to the point of corporate soullessness, and the reaction against it. What Gehry and his ilk do is give us something to look at, and walk through, that ties us back to nature, with uneven, almost fractal forms, curves and circles and lines that lift and launch, rather than just sitting there like another collection of Platonic geometric solids. Gehry has said in interviews that, since he have these new composite lightweight materials that can do these shapes, why not use them to make these shapes, instead of staying stuck in the same old square-edged boxlike thinking of the Modernist wave of the past. In other words, Gehry makes us think about space as much as he shapes it; he forces us to examine space differently, and, literally, learn to think outside The Box.










CXV. 17 December 2004, Chicago, IL

A lot of dreams lately where I am under multiple attack, the kind of dream I know I get when I am feeling pressured from many directions, and have too many things to do, and am struggling to keep it all sorted and organized. Under strain on multiple fronts.

Last dream before waking:

I am at the cabin in the northwoods. It is early summer, and I am sitting naked in the clearing, enjoying the warmth and breeze on my skin, watching the light play in the shimmering yellow-green leaves of the birch stand. I hear an animal noise of to one side of the clearing, and cautiously I turn to look, hoping it's not a bear. I see a large mass of feathers, some big bird, worrying at something on the ground. At first I think it's a turkey pecking at a pinecone, then it turns its head and I realize it's a huge bald eagle, on the ground, picking apart a vole or mouse it has just stooped on.

I freeze and remain motionless. The eagle is only a few yards away from me. I feel both excitement and fear: Why is it on the ground? Is it injured? Did it just stoop there, nearby, to kill and feed? Will it attack me? As I watch, moving only my eyes to follow it, it finishes its feeding, then turns its head to examine me with first one eye then the other then face on. It opens its beak and makes little querulous sounds from time to time. Then it hunches its wings up and walks, waddles really since eagles aren't that graceful as walkers, right in front of me, across the clearing and up the trail that leads into the woods. It passes in front of me, no more than four feet away. I watch it move across the clearing and out of sight over a hummock in the trail before I move.

Then I jump up and go over to examine what it had been worrying at. There's nothing left but a little spot of wet earth. I find some small feathers the eagle has shed, and pick them up and carry them with me.

Very cautiously, I follow its tracks up the trail. At a spot where the trail turns off the to side and up to a place where there's a finger of land that sticks out over a valley, a natural viewing spot, a scenic overlook, I catch up to the eagle, which is now dragging something over the edge of the cliff. I can't see if it's nested there, or takes off into the air, or is injured and not flying at all. I choose not to approach this wild thing any closer. I don't want to disturb it, or threaten it, or encroach on its space. I will wait back here for awhile, then go look, just to give it space. I look down at the ground near my feet and pick up a huge black and white long wing feather. A perfect feather, a gift from the eagle.

The Eagle has landed. Walking Eagle: too full of shit to fly?

I wake up in the bright sunlight feeling strangely upset and emotional about all this. Was the eagle injured, or playing that way to entire me to follow it? I think of Eagle, the power I am supposed to be working with, this year. This was pretty vivid, pretty direct. I followed. I received the gift of an eagle feather. I don't know what happens next.









CXIV. 16 December 2004, Chicago, IL

Three words to be removed from your vocabulary, according to Leonard Crow Dog, the Lakota shaman: Try, Wish, and Hope. I would also add But and Should to that list. These are all words we use to beat ourselves up with, in two ways. Firstly, by setting up expectations that are ideals, that can never be met in the real world. The purity of Platonic philosophers aside, no such purities actually exist in this world. Secondly, by beating ourselves up when we inevitably fail. As fail we must, because we aren't really in control of life and change and accidents: we can only do our best to meet them face-on, and meet them with honor, flexibility, and with personal integrity and an ethical stance: this is the ay of the spiritual warrior. Crow Dog is one of the ranking Sun Dance shamans of the Lakota now. I have always felt connected to Frank Fools Crow, who was also a ranking Lakota shaman, and who died in the 1970s; he left behind a legacy of both integrity and standing up to injustice, by, among many other acts, being a spiritual leader to the barricaded AIM members during Wounded Knee II in the mid-70s. Bear Butte, the first of the Black Hills that rises from the Great Plains in western South Dakota, was a sacred place to him. When I first drove across the country in 1993, I left tobacco at Fools Crow's statue at Bear Butte; there were many offerings of tobacco and garlands and sacred cloth, and many other prayer objects, at this place. Bear Butte is a place of vision, used by Lakota shaman for many years; you can feel the power there, when you visit.



I'm sitting in a Starbucks in downtown Chicago, while Alex goes to his drawing class at the school nearby. I work through the photos from yesterday's plane trip, and I think about sacred space. It may seem surreal to think about that here, with the shoppers walking by, bundled in their winter garb, but sacred space is something you carry with you. I feel it with me now, surrounding and protecting me in a bubble of Otherness. I have no tobacco to offer here and now, but later I will leave some for the Spirits, where I can. People walk by in the mall outside this window seat: a little blond girl who smiles and mouths Hello, and to whom I wave back; fast-moving pedestrians eyeing me and my laptop. Perhaps it's a remnant of yesterday's weaving, but I still surrounded by layers of light and protection. I have never been afraid of Chicago, anyway: I don't know why, but it's a big city that has never bothered me the way some others do. I just feel secure here.

In the Black Hills, there is also Devil's Tower, made famous by the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but known to this geology student well before. It's a volcanic dike that rises vertically from the plane, the remaining throat of the shield volcano that once covered this land with lave flows. Now, weathered columns of basalt the size of freight trains and houses stack up into the sky. Lakota myth tells of the seven sisters who were chased by a bear god; they fled up the sides of the Tower, and the bear god chasing them gouged the sides of the Tower with his claws. The sisters fled into the sky, where they became the Pleiades, and the bear god followed, still chasing them as the constellation Westerners call Orion. Every culture has stories about these constellations, and the nearby star Sirius, in Canis Major, following Orion's heels up the sky. Winter constellations in the northern hemisphere, there are 60 degrees of arc between Sirius and the Pleiades: a full sixth of the sky.

The streets are lit at night with spirit as well as neon, if you have eyes to see. There is magic in the air, if you can sense it. Nothing special about that, or about now: it's always there, if you are open to it. Zoom out: the whole land is alive. Zoom in: each person walking through the mall, the walls of light, is alive with lifelove. Do you see it? Feel it? Sense it? Don't run from it. It's just power under life.










CXIII. 16 December 2004, Chicago, IL

(Somewhere in the back of my head, Willy Nelson is singing "On the Road Again." I should probably make it official, and add that tune to my iPod.)

In Chicago today. Alex is off to one of his art school classes in the morning, and I'm sitting in his brightly sunlit apartment while he's gone, just relaxing after my travels. It's warm and pleasant and sunny in here, and clothing is optional. I re-wrote some of yesterday's musings, to post on Stickwire. Sorry for the repeat, and I wanted to remember the day's lessons. Anyway, here's the gist:





Yesterday, I flew from Albuquerque to Chicago, with a layover in Kansas City, on Southwest Airlines. I like flying Southwest; they're small, they're funky, I have always had a good flight with them, and they treat people like human beings. Plus, they can get silly over the intercom while in the air, which the only national-level airline I've ever heard do that.

Like that time I was flying into Chicago a couple of years ago, and the stewardess sang over the intercom, to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain": "We'll be landing in Chicago in five minutes ...." and did the whole standard landing speech in song. It was so good, the whole plane burst out in applause. But I digress.

I wasn't going to bring my Stick with me on this winter travel expedition, as I had never flown with it before, didn't want to check it with the baggage, and all the usual worries one has about flying with musical instruments. But Al talked me into it, dangling the probability that we would do some studio work and recording while I was in the area. So, at the last minute, I tried to figure out how best to transport my Stick.

I don't have an official Stick Enterprises gigbag, although that has moved to the top of my wish list as of now. I didn't want to show up with my beat-up old hard-shell case, as that would certainly get the Stick checked rather than allowed as carry-on, or so I thought.

So, what I ended up doing is packing the Stick safely amidst extra clothes–and my art portfolio, which I brought along to try to show at some Chicago galleries while here–in my duffel bag. I also printed out an official government to the TSA letter about how musical instruments have to be allowed as carry-ons, and took it with me.

I showed up 2.5 hours before my flight at ABQ, since I had been told by an acquaintance who flew out of ABQ recently that they were slow and inefficient. I also prepared to project my nicest, sweetest personality aspect to all TSA folk, so they would be nice back to me. I got up to the ticket counter, got my boarding pass, the very nice lady there didn't bat an eye at my Stick. Go right on through.

I got up to the security checkpoint, did the usual stuff they ask you to do nowadays: take the laptop out and send it through the X-ray separately, take my steel-toed boots and big brass-buckled belt off and send them through, as they always set off the machine. Put the Stick on the belt in its "roadcase," too. I was polite and friendly to the guy with the wand at the people gate; and I didn't set off the alarms, despite the adamantium lacing my skeleton (ahem), and got right through there. Grabbed my clothing and Stick and walked on to my gate. No problem whatsoever.

Total transit time from being dropped off the curb, going to the ticket counter, and passing through security: twelve minutes. Oh well.

Never needed to explain the Stick, never needed to flash the letter, or anything else. (Although they did page me to open my checked bag, because TSA wanted to open it to inspect it; I had my pocketknife and some electronics in there, like my battery recharger, which I'm sure looked like a bomb part to somebody. "Paging Mr. Sharkey. White courtesy telephone please." They also put a nice little note into my bad saying they've opened your luggage for inspection, so when you arrive at destination, you can feel like your privacy has been completely unnecessarily invaded, and feel good about your government.)

So, I sat there at the airport gate, pulled out my laptop, and wrote for awhile. I have been flying regularly since 1965. I have never flown before with either laptop or Stick, until yesterday. Part of the day's excitement was the novelty of having joined the 21st Century in terms of Executive Travel With Technology. Call me a hick, but it was a moment.

No one said a thing about my Stick, no one batted an eye, no one ever suggested I should check it. It was among the smoothest, easiest traveling I have ever done.

When we were landed at Kansas City, however, and they changed crews for the last leg to Chicago, I got into a conversation with one of the stewardii about carry-on musical instruments that was one of those surreally ironic moments in musical life that made me wonder how friend and NS/Stickist Don Schiff was doing, minus donuts. (I'd had chocolate donuts before leaving Taos in the morning, at least. maybe that counts as a DS Moment?) Anyway, she told me that I could have brought the Stick on the plane in its hard-shell case, no worries. She flew in and out of Nashville all the time, and they were used to musical instruments in hard cases going into the overhead. She told me she had had guitars, violins, and a whole lot more from time to time.

She also told me about this violinist who once had come on a plane she was stewarding. He had a 30,000 dollar violin in a soft nylon case, and was terrified it would get crushed in the overhead, although it was too big to put anywhere else. They went around on that for awhile. Finally, she looked him in the eye and asked him, "If you have 30,000 dollar violin, why don't you have a sturdier, hard case for it, for when you travel?" He finally answered, "I don't know."

She was concerned because the Chicago leg was a full plane, and she didn't want my Stick to get damaged. In the end, we packed coats and garment bags into the same compartment with my Stick, rather than hard bags. Everyone was cool, and the Stick was probably more tightly packed and safer than me, by that point. And my polycarb Stick is slightly more durable than a violin in a soft case: can you say, kindling? I knew you could. But I took her point from the story. She thought it would be perfectly good for me to bring my Stick in a hardshell case next time.

Point taken. Live and learn.

So, the moral of the story is: I overthought the process, and it could have been even easier than it was. As it was, though, the only hard part of transporting my Stick this way was having to carry it around in the duffel bag, plus my laptop case; by the end of my travels, my shoulders and back were sore, and I was ready to not have to carry things around anymore. And also, fly Southwest: they understand. (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Southwest except for being an appreciative, future repeat customer.)









CXII. 15 December 2004, Albuquerque Sunport, NM

I spent an hour this morning setting up fields of sweetness and light to get through airport security. I also asked for columns of Light to built all over Taos, in places I've been, and places I have things stored, and for people who live there. And so I breezed through security, effortlessly, politely, sweetly, and with no hitches whatsoever. Amazing what you can accomplish by projecting a harmless sweetness friendly helpful person aura. Even my Stick in its "roadcase," consisting of a duffel bag in which the Stick lies wrapped in clothes, got through with neither question nor comment. All told, about twelve minutes from door to security pass-through.

Paging Mr. Sharkey, white courtesy telephone please.

I heard my name being paged. (I flashed on both Laurie Anderson's and William Burroughs' voices saying that line. And it was a white courtesy phone.) The baggage security people needed the combo to my suitcase to check on what was in it. My pocketknife comes to mind. So, almost a total breeze. Just a minor blip.

So, of course, I got to airport well over two hours before my flight, which now means I have almost two hours to kill. Which is fine. I can sit here and quietly read and type, and snack. Try not to eat all my snacks before getting on the plane.

They even have free WiFi access in this airport, so I can work while I wait. Welcome to the 21st Century–here's your wireless! Your cellphone! Your postmodern ironic commentary courtesy of Laurie Anderson! Oooo-eeee É. Hey, Sharkey É. He's Mr. HeartbreakÉ. Once again, the artists are the prophets of the land. (Too bad nobody listens.)





Somewhere in the air over Texas, on the way to Kansas City, then on to Chicago:

I've never actually flown with a laptop before. Or my Stick for that matter. I feel entirely decadent, entirely sophisticated, entirely Business Executive, and maybe a little like a rural hick in the Big City for the first time. Golly gee whiz! I'm on the plane, writing this, the landscape passing me by below and outside, feeling entirely Modern. I watch avidly as the landscape changes from mountains to plains to winter prairie. As a dedicated amateur geologist and chaos theorist, I take photo after photo of the formations and lands below. And the clouds, what few there are on this clear day, thinking of Mandelbrot's famed aphorism:

Clouds are not spheres.

This has been an almost effortless trip so far. Driving down from Taos was easy, almost no traffic, and only two minor slow-downs in all that construction north of Santa Fe. The ride up here is, so far, smooth and steady. I feel deliriously happy. (Which I don't entirely trust, as I've learned to not trust the roller coaster ride. But which I accept as is, and don't cling to, and don't require to last.)



Now the air is graying with haze below, and deep high-atmosphere blue above. We are over cultivated areas now, somewhere over Texas or Oklahoma, I'm guessing. Circles of auto-irrigated fields punctuate the dry desert brown of the surrounding land. Every so often, a branching-fractal form of a river valley with tributaries. But this is the flatlands, one of the most boring drives in North America. Not much else mars the landscape.

I could drive across this land, but it would take days. And when I drive, I don't like to be in a hurry; I like to be able to stop and contemplate the land from time to time. Take a photo or two. Listen to the wind. Merge with the landscape.

Albuquerque is on the edge of the Rockies, and you can see this from the air. Few mountains between there and these plains. The Sangre de Cristos to the north and east, that spine of first mountains running up into Colorado.

I dream again of the Basin & Range. Few places have affected me as much in recent years. I must go back to Utah and Nevada to explore more. Maybe next summer, maybe next fall. I guess the PTB want me to be in CA for awhile; I don't yet know why, but for once I won't complain. Hard as life has been lately, the other thing I dream of is the ocean. The silences. The coastal vistas.

Auden's The Enchafed Flood comes to memory again: Desert and Sea, those wildernesses between Cities. The Sea another kind of Desert, as out on the ocean you can't drink the water any more than you can on the alkali flats of the Great Basin in Utah/Nevada. But such beauty in the Wilderness. And such necessity. Going there is what gives us a sense of geologic time, and our own scale in the universe. It's not only necessary knowledge, it's healing knowledge.





Now we are passing crop squares, cultivated checkerboard: a pattern I am so familiar with from flying over the Midwest. The erosional scars of riverine and alluvial watersheds make badlands of chaos between the orderly fields. Chaos and order intermixed, with an infinite boundary of ever finer scale distinctions. Not only "nature" is fractal, but we are too: after all, we are part of nature, whether we accept it or deny it.



Waves of clouds, air-rivers governed by the same laws of fluid dynamics as the watersheds below, the same fractal forms, the kinds of scale. Once you start perceiving the world this way, it becomes a consistent worldview, and habitual, as any genuine paradigm shift becomes. Clouds are anything but spheres. Even the Earth is not a perfected sphere, but an oblate spheroid. Gravitational gradients and anomalies pock its surface like pits on a golf ball.





It's tempting to formulate the world as perfect Platonic solids, absolute geometrical forms. It's convenient, it makes the math simpler, and one can imagine that the Universe is perfectible, in a quasi-utopian way. But a real look at things, a real perception, cannot avoid seeing the imperfections, the little gouges, the fact that even good and evil have an interpenetrating, fractal boundary relationship. This is very Taoist: intermingling dark and light, the seed of the one always found in the center of the other. Yin-yang whirling circle. Chaos theory and fractal math are Taoist, I think. And truly, the universe is more beautiful for being complex, rather than less. The infinite variety and diversity of forms and principles, combining in infinite combinations: this is beauty.





Fields of clouds over cultivated fields.

There is a sameness to the land now: the same variations of boxed fields, roads, jagged watersheds, feathered edges meeting straight lines, box meets waterfall.

Straight rulers of a county airstrip on the edge of a small town.

Even though I'm tired, and could use a nap, and had only a few hours sleep last night, I'm too excited to sleep now. I think of the coming nights in Chicago, and feel even more excited.

Taking photos now of clouds, rivers, valleys, hills of white mist and water vapor swarming by.





Somewhere in the air again, between KC and Chicago:

During the layover in Kansas City, the sun went down with brilliant crimson clouds. Now we fly at night, and the land below is marked by sodium-vapor lights marking towns and cities, and the moving headlights of vehicles, and the yardlights of farms. Everywhere the flatlands.

Dropping into KC airport, though, just before the sun went down, we feel through layers of clouds. Then, the land below was revealed, gray and green and lush. So much water! I guess I have gotten used to the desert, to see so much water as an excess of riches, of unbounded wealth and abundance. (And it makes me think about waste, and how we as a species take water for granted. All the recent geology reading puts it into another perspective, too: water comes and goes, lakes and rivers shape the land, then leave their deposits behind to lithify. New lakes and oceans and rivers appear, and scrape the new land with new erosion. And endless cycle, but also a transient one: the average life of a lake or river is only a few millions years, at most. Many last much less than that.) As we get closer to the ground, I see the ponds are iced over, while the rivers still run free. Green grass is many areas, and the trees linging the riverbeds stikll mostly green.

One of the flight attendants tells me that I could have brought my hardshell Stick case onboard, she's seen it before. I thought I couldn't, that if I brought the Stick case they would insist on checking it. This flight is almost full, after the half-empty flight from ABQ to KC. But I got folks to stuff soft coats and bags around the Stick in the overhead, so it's actually very well padded now. Some folks had to check their carry-ons, the flight is so full.

She also told me a story of a violinist who was traveling with a nylon soft case. He was worried it would get crushed by other carry-ons. She finally asked him, "Why, if this is a 30,000 dollar musical instrument, would you carry it around in a lightweight nylon bag?" His reply amounted to, "I don't know." Food for thought.

Have Stick, Will Travel.

Well, even having learned all that, after the fact, I am still glad Al talked me into bringing my Stick along to the Midwest. Now we can do some studio recording inChicago when I'm here. Plus, with the laptop–this is still so novel, typing while flying! What a way to keep myself entertained~–we can do both website and music work while I'm here. I still plan on spending at least a week in Chicago at the end of this month of Midwest sojourn, before flying back to ABQ. I have to think more about the possibility of an Austin trop, though, now that I have a set date by which I need to get to LA.



I finish the last of the grilled cheese with bacon and turkey slice sandwiches I made last night, preparatory for the trip. The plane is dark; some nap, some read. I write. Reeling and writhing.








CXI. 14 December 2004, Taos, NM

Once again, before a journey, I find myself restless, excited, edgy, and wired. I often do not sleep well the night before departing on a trip. Everything's ready to go, finally. I am going to bring my Stick along after all, in a pseudo-gig bag that is basically a duffel bag; I don't have anything else, and I don't want to check it, so I just plan to be calm, cheerful, and friendly–doubly so because Mercury Retrograde has been fucking over everything lately, making everything harder than it needs to be. Gaagh. I can make myself nuts getting wrapped in this. Screw it. I've prepared the best I can, even checking in with the PTB about taking my Stick, and got a positive answer. So, prepare all you can, then Let It Go. Nothing bad will happen. Stress out later, not beforehand.

I'm also wired because, as usual, the PTB test me to see if I want to go, first by making everything take longer than it needs to, then by dangling reasons to stay in front of my nose, at the very last minute. This has always happened when I set out on a journey, or move, or make a change. They always check your commitment level, to see if you really mean to do what you intend. It's annoying, but it's predictable, so you can spot it and deal with it.



I have made serious progress on building this new website. It will never be complete, but like Zeno's Paradox, always approaching completion. But I have added a little bit more every night this week, and have completed sections, for now. There will always be more to add, as I make new material. This Road Journal, for example. I never set out to make this into a daily writing practice, but that's what it has become. Maybe the whole point here is writing practice: daily discipline, meditation, and self-exploration combined. I think of Christina Baldwin's books on journaling, Life's Companion: Journal Writing as Spiritual Quest, which is much more profound than most such books. As ,much as Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way set the standard, and has been useful to so many, Baldwin goes deeper. It is also a uniquely laid-out book, in that on every recto is the narrative thread, but on every verso are exercises, quotes, parallel texts: as though it were two books in one. This richly-layered way of presenting a book adds so much more than the usual book format: it becomes hypertext and palimpsest and codex all in one.

Hypertext is one of those concepts, like relativity, that seems obvious in retrospect, but the day it was first described, the world changed. Thinking in gestalt clusters is the way I have always thought: I remember describing this to my high school English teacher, and drawing inept diagrams to try to explain it. Lateral thinking. Visual thinking. Interval thinking. Intuitive logic. All terms that apply, even though the basic point is that it's non-linear and gestalt, and above all fast. Parallel processing, if you will. Hypertext creates relationships, making connections obvious. It's a way of thinking more akin to Leonardo's Notebooks than Cartesian linear logic and philosophy. My non-linear, multitasking mentors: Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, John Cage.



Later:

I got errands done, finished deciding what to take home with me, and then went to socialize with the gay boys at the Taos Inn, our usual Tuesday night social hour. When I got back here, pulling into the driveway, I looked through the windshield and saw the most amazing meteor I had ever seen.

It fell between Orion and towards Taos, from my vantage point to the north of town. It fell very slowly, almost like a fireworks bomb that was falling. It moved very slowly, and it was bright green. It scintillated, too, like a child's sparkler thrown into the air on Independence Day, and falling to earth. It seemed to last a few very long time, as time stood still for its passing. I've never seen anything like it before.

A last gift? A last blessing? A connection, to be sure. I have an idea few people saw it but me. Credo in astera.



Almost ready for bed. Suddenly tired. The fire in the fireplace crackles and shifts, making music the clear the ears after other music that grates on the nerves. Silence and stillness. A falling star hissing. Nothing else.






CX. 14 December 2004, Taos, NM

Lying in bed in the morning light, in that hypnagogic state between waking and Dreaming, and doing Reiki, I had the sudden vision that, if money is just energy, then I can tap into it any time, the same way I tap into the Reiki energy or other forms of energy I work with daily. It is not separate. It is a vast field of energy just hovering up there, waiting to be tapped into. I can manifest it any time I really need it.

Ice on the ground this morning, till the sun bleeds it dry. Memories of falling stars over there in that part of the sky, not disguised by the bright light-scatter blue. You can see them behind the daylight, still. Know they're there, in the inner eye.



And the flow of money-energy is related to the flow of sexual energy. How you get turned on by both. By having both, by desiring both, by using one to pay for the other (Prostitute archetype). Both located in the second chakra: physical manifestation of creative force. What we bring into the physical world. (In balance with the sixth chakra, which includes manifesting creative force in the non-physical realms of thought, spirit, intuition, insight.) Money turns you on. Sex for sale, which is the law of enticement behind every advertising campaign that uses the semi-nude human form to sell any product not directly related to sex, and all those that are. (Not that most sales aren't related to sex-by-products, for example, perfume, underwear, other rude unmentionables. One thinks of those infamous videotapes of bikini-clad women holding semi-automatic guns.)

The line between "pornography" and "erotic art" sometimes lying in the intent of the artist (and model), and sometimes in the profit margin. If you take porn, frame it, and hang it on the clean white walls of a modern art gallery, it turns into art: because of the frame, because of the gallery context. If you take beautiful nudes photographs, enchantingly lit and captured in camera, and put them on the internet, someone will eventually view them as porn. Sometimes the only difference is the time and money spent on production values. Porn is supposed to be cheap and throwaway; erotic art is supposed to have artistic merit, and endure. (Calling it "art" can make it so.) It's okay to look ata erotic art, come back to it and look at it again, give it time and attention; we're supposed to feel guilty about doing the same with porn.

We're also supposed to feel guilty about spending too much thinking about money, making money, having money, desiring money. But in our post-capitalist marketing culture we swim in now–what Hakim Bey has called Too-Late Capitalism–we think about money as much or more as we think about sex. We worry about not being able to pay bills, on one end of the scale; on the other, we worry about having too much money, or making the next deal. We are compelled to be sexual about making money: some call it the biggest thrill in life. Others, the biggest sin in life. They're both correct. You can get addicted to sex as much as you can get addicted to money. You can also get addicted to poverty and abstinence, which after all are only negative attachments: you can spend as much energy (money is energy) denying or suppressing their presence in your life as others doing pursuing their presence. Whether pro or con, it's the same amount of energy spent on it.

Spending energy, energy expenditure: a financial metaphor. Energy exchange: an economic relationship. We talk about everything as though it were money, or sex. It permeates the contemporary language so deeply we barely notice it.

What, really then, is the difference between prostitution and high finance, between erotic art and porn? In the end, it's not the energy we spend on each. It's our attitudes towards them. We exalt art, but we suppress porn. We consider big money "dirty," but we say "profit is good." You supposed to be wealthy but not too wealthy. We're supposed to be beautifully, sexually attractive, but we're considered shallow if we spend (spend!) too much time and effort (spend money!) on our physical appearance. We're told "the flesh is evil, and sins of the flesh," so we screw around in secret rather than openly, because we cannot not screw around. Keeping it hidden creates both hypocrisy and the underground, unrecorded economy. (Even the fetish market on eBay, protected by the anonymity of the firewall and login name: secret exchanges.) Every vice on the black market to fit every financial, sexual kink. The black market for stolen paintings is about possessing a forbidden object: so is the black market for sexual prostitution. Objects, not subjects.



Another book I picked up Santa Fe last week is The Blackwinged Night: Creativity in Nature and Mind by F. David Peat. This is one of those books I love to read, that links both physics and art, science and creativity, and shows how inherently a part of nature the creative act is. (When we create, we are One with the Creator. People imagine the Creation was just set into place and turned loose, but it is still being Created, and we are in part the instrument of that Creation. Or one instrument.) This book doesn't give me a lot of new insights, but it affirms and validates things I already knew to be true. (Why people think these ideas are still "radical" or "experimental" says everything about the slow nature of the Tribal mind, and nothing about the real experience of creating.)

Remember how I have been talking about chance operations as a necessary open window for inspiration to enter into my creative work? Here's what Peat says:

Being aware of and making use of chance has always been a vital aspect of creativity. Artists rely upon chance as an important element within their work. Chance allows something Other to enter, something that is unplanned. Chance is the tip of an iceberg, a door into the infinite.

The painter Gainsborough splashed ink marks over some of his drawings to give them a special visual texture. Jackson Pollack laid his canvasses on the floor and walked around them as he poured and dripped paint. After Marecel Duchamp finished his Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even), it cracked in transport. Duchamp looked at the pattern of cracks spread across the work and decided that they added to and, in a sense, completed the work. He also preserved the dust tha settled on the glass while it was in his studio.


[I think of how the galleries and the collectors want to see the illusion of control and completion in a finished artwork. They want to know how it was done. They want to see, and pay for, a finished, self-contained coherent product. They want the intention of the piece to be explained to them. The sometimes inarticulate painter can't tell them, because the artist knows that it was a product of chance and egolessness–and in the case of a smart, cagey artist like Duchamp, what the artist pronounces as an "explanation" is an oblique poetry of intellectual deflection, itself a piece of performance art–but the non-artist, influenced in their thinking by the culture's dominant mindset of categorization, the same mindset generated by centuries of organized, efficient manufacturing, think that you can tell a van Gogh or a Pollack what to paint and get predictable results. The chance principle operating in art is in part the merely the recognition of life's unpredictability. Chaos theory in action.]

In the end, however, it is not chance itself that is important but our attitude toward it. Accepting chance means remaining in the state of openness to the moment. That is where creativity lies.



Field theory of energy. Spreading hands wide to grasp force and flow. Not to grab it, stop it, take the illusion of control. But to attract part of it to the body, magnetically, and in the body transmute it into matter. Many artists talk of the waiting period before beginning to work; the fallow period, the inner work that comes before the outer work. To the manufacturing mind, this looks like doing nothing, but it is in fact the most intense, often the most painful, period of the process of creation. There can be great suffering in it: frustration, alienation from the outside world (in order to emphasize the inner), turbulence, anger, discontent, suffering, pain, even a kind of violence. Some artist have described how they even feel such things as bodily sensations. Carrying the work inside you for months before giving birth to it. In at least one case this has been mistaken for physical illness, which then goes away when the artwork manifests. Actual, physical, bodily manifestations.

Note that this doesn't mean that every work of art created by the artist will then be a great work of art. It might be the best thing that artist has done so far, or it might not. You also have to exercise discrimination and the critical faculty. You may to re-write, or paint over, or set it aside for awhile to revise it later.

I'm talking about the process of creation, not its product. Not the thing you sell, but the way it was made. Not the object or result, but the subject of consciousness. Relating to other persons as objects is to have that factory mentality; relating to others as subjects, when you yourself are also a subject, is relating to them as actual persons. (Harry Hay's ideas on subject-subject consciousness.) The artist works with the tools, and has a relationship with the tools–often far more than with the product or object made with the tools. Once a piece is finished, it goes out the door; but the tools stay with the artist, and in the case of a master craftsman, the tools are valued and cared for as if they were subjects, not objects. I can send all my artwork out the door, but the computer-based tools I make them with stay with me for a long time. How long have I been using Photoshop, now, to create the images I see in my mind's eye, my third eye, that I could never get out for others to see till I started using Photoshop to shape them? Almost 15 years, now. Relationship with one's tools. Dale Chihuly generates literally tons of new glass pieces every few years; but he doesn't build a new glass studio every time he starts a new project. Some best-selling writers still do their work in longhand on yellow legal pads with a pen. Sculptors may keep their same chisels and hammers for decades, unless one breaks accidentally. Then they buy a new chisel or hammer and have to start all over again getting their hands used to working with the new tools. A familiar easel. A favorite chair. An old beat-up manual typewriter. A certain kind of paper. A favorite pen. The piano you've had for decades, even though it becomes harder to keep in tune. Your laptop. The creaking floor in the coldwater loft dance studio. Relationship to tools.






CIX. 13 December 2004, Taos, NM

A day spent in the dirt of the road, getting dusty. I found a storage locker and a place to store the camper: the same mini-storage place, actually. I stripped the camper down to put the most valuable gear in the locker. I also had to clean up a broken bottle in the food cabinet. But it was in the 50s today, so a good day to do physical work. Then I spent some time planning and packing for being in the Midwest. I am taking one bag to check, and my laptop in its shoulder-bag and my portfolio: and that's all. The rest will have to stay here, awaiting my return, to grab it and go further West.

Also called Dad to apologize for my call the other day, and told him not to worry. I hope he heard that. I do have plans, after all: whether or not they come to fruition is another matter. When I get back here to Taos, I hope to go to Austin, TX, for a few days; I may have to give that up, as I need to be in Los Angeles by the 20th, as I am going to NAMM after all. I've been invited, and I'm going. This is potentially one of the best networking situations I could ever ask for, and it manifested quite suddenly in the past few days. After NAMM, then, I'm going to drive up to Pinole and stay there for awhile. As I said, I have plans: it's jus that they're not always going to come to fruition, or in the way I expect them to. The difference between itinerant and nomadic. The place and time that the Powers That Be want to be in, regardless of what I want, and towards which They push me. So, I can continue to make plans: but I must remain detached from outcomes. That's the struggle, ennit?

Sitting by the roaring fireplace, writing this, and reading. I'm tired. I need a shower and to do laundry. I am ready to fly away, a day early. Tomorrow I can spend a little time doing last-minute packing and chores, but I am traveling so light via air, that it can all be done in minutes. And I am so very much looking forward to seeing Sage in Chicago, and Al and my other good friends there. I wish I could take my Stick on the plane, but I don't have a gig bag, so I couldn't carry it on, and I refuse to check musical instruments: that's just too bloody risky.



Later:

Outside in the bitter cold, the meteors are falling fast and thick. It's mid-December, and the Leonids are peaking. I stood outside with the camera on tripod for awhile, taking time exposures. Now I'm huddling by the fireplace with a cup of tea, warming up. I'll go out again in awhile, when the world has gone to sleep and only fools go out in the cold to look at the sky. I'll take some more time exposures, and we'll see what we get.






CVIII. 12 December 2004, Taos, NM

Last night, writing that Basin & Range poem, I felt that charge I haven't felt in awhile: that feeling of being connected, hooked up, mainlining the juice coming down the wire from Spirit. That buzz and tingle in the veins as your blood fizzes. Doesn't guarantee the poem is any good, of course; you still must look at poems later, to see what you have. But the process is ecstasied by being connected to something deeper and truer than just one's surface-level mind.

I had another insight tonight: being in Taos has been practice for being in California. No, really, think about it: there are so many LA people here, so many "film people" here, talking about their "projects" as you overhear them in the caf?s and restaurants; hot young creative talent, producers, lawyers. The place is thick with colonists from both coasts, LA and NYC both. No wonder they drive as badly here as they sometimes do. It's saner out on the rural two-lanes than it is in Santa Fe or Taos; as isolated as you are out there, as least you're not being boxed in by people who are being simultaneously impatient and mañana. And then there's the layer of insular Spanish culture: and be clear about it, New Mexico has more of Spanish culture to it, then it does of Mexico. The Hispanics here can tend to look down on the Mexican border-crossers as harshly as any east coast snob. The Spanish culture here goes back 400 years: the United States is nothing to them. And then there's the Indians, to whom everyone else is still an interloper and a newcomer. This place is more segregated than Detroit in some ways.

I'm having a night of doubt and fear, and struggling to get through it. I understand now that when they talk about monks in cells wrestling all night with demons, it's both metaphoric and literal; I've experienced it first-hand.

I dream of the Big Empty. It's not that I want to be in the middle of nowhere, it's that I don't want to be here.



I go outside to look at the cold clear night sky one last time. I never tire of the stars. Whatever else I have experienced here in the high desert, seeing the stars so clear almost every night has been a blessing and a balm. I can look at the familiar constellations and put my own troubles into perspective, at least sometimes. Sometimes the stars seem the only constant in life, along with the stones of the earth. As I stand there, wondering how many times more I will be able to see the stars this clearly in the months to come, seeking solace, a bright meteor streaks across the western sky, lighting up fully half of the heavens. A gift, and a reminder. Little moments like this can restore faith, if we let them. Faith in what, though: that's the issue.

I believe in the stars. Credo in astera.

I believe in orogeny, and the stones of the earth. Credo in terra.






CVII. 11 December 2004, Taos, NM

I sneezed and coughed, and my back hurt again. I can't find a place to sit or lie comfortably. Sitting too long and my shoulders knot up, carrying all the tension of recent weeks. I crack my back. It's not that bad. It hurts tonight, but it will better in a day or so. I can't do much tomorrow, except maybe organize the camper preparatory to storing it. Maybe do some packing for the plane trip; I'm taking a valise and a couple of carry-ons, that's it.

It got up above 50 today, warm and hot and sunny. Deceptive. It's teasing me. Now that I prepped to leave, suddenly the weather turns hospitable again. The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum: Finagle's Corollary to Murphy's Law. I put a fresh log on the fire a half hour ago, but now the fire is flaring up and popping and cracking, so I don't want to leave it unattended till is settles down, ready as I am to go to bed now.

Because I couldn't really do anything else tonight, I got a tremendous amount done on the website. The chicken-rice hearty soup concoction that I made too much of yesterday, that I didn't find appetizing last night after I made it, and thought I might have wasted it, was delicious tonight: the curry seeped in overnight, and I brought it to a slow roil and let it simmer for half an hour before eating it tonight. The meat that tasted rubbery yesterday was tender and chewy tonight. I also printed negatives. I also picked up prints that were made at the local photo store, and had several ideas for gifts to make from them. I'm making my Xmas gifts again this year: hand-made is more meaningful than bought, and I can't afford to buy much anyway.



the choice to wait on wavecrest, or plummet

dream of high mountain passes
in snow, in sleet, whitened trees
banked against the wind, laced, encrusted
half-hidden from the deer that trail between

snowlight blooms, floods, fills

dream of empty places, the space
between the space over the distant range
ridge standing upended in astonishment
high mist covering the close peaks, roiling
holy rolling over range and basin alike

cloudlight dissolves, drowns, embers

somewhere below you in the empty air
an eagle soars up its namesake canyon
dreaming of a home on tree-lined cliff in the sun
somewhere upstream, upcurrent, upwind

sunlight flattens, closes in, reduces vista to veil

dream somewhen of waking, hot, leaden
emergent bronzed skin and sculpted redrock
evaporating in air-shimmer, a mirage of one
standing tall against the outcrop, dawn, desert
too hot to move, breathe, or dress

starlight in memory, fills, cools, splinters

I haven't been here long enough to die yet
yet I must leave, must change my life: enough
to make windows in the clouds, climb this hill
decide to live, decide to live, decide again: live

darklight wraps, covers, remembers: majesty
of bristlecone survival, thrive of return and enduring



Form emerges naturally from the poem itself. I wait to hear the poem's phrasing, how it breathes, which reveals the form it wants to become. Neither is pre-determined: no setting out to forge a new soul in the uncreated conscience of my race. Those long, long drives across the Southwest return in memory: days spent behind the wheel, listening, watching the world go by. A clamor of distance, a broken sky. I felt more free, more alive, more happy, then, than I have in years. The only improvement would have been the right companion with me, riding beside me, in silence, also watching and listening: nothing else necessary. In the Big Empty, you learn to be silent, to be still, to be patient, to wait for the next line of ridge to approach, however long it takes. Till suddenly you are rising again, foothilled, creeping up the side of the nest summit, chafed between cracks in the verticality of air-filled gargoyle-faced outcrops. You can see it coming a long ways away. Then suddenly you're there, blinded, boxed in, the long view gone, and the focus of your survival narrows to what is right in front of you, right beside you–possible falling rocks–and you squeeze yourself up out of the pipeline the way the rocks themselves liquefied, so slowly, and squirted themselves at the sun. A few drifts of snow, a blast of wind, rain on the windshield. Then it's the slalom downslope, slick and fast, a quick ride on a wild horse, winding between blind cuts again, till you spit yourself out on the next plain, maybe narrow enough you can see the next ridge, like mineral flats between canyons, or so wide you can't see the other side, lost as it is behind the thick air and what falls through it. Again and again, all day long, till your ears fill with fluid and pain from twenty ascents and descents, all day, all night, and no stopping till you hit ocean, salt air, damp wind, cold sheets, and a night of writhing because you want to be still moving. You toss in bed, fingers tightening around imaginary wheels, because the drift of the earth propels you into dreams, fast dreams, long drive dreams, and it takes days to actually arrive. And that is what makes up the form of the poem: those long mineral silences punctuated by sharp peaks of precise meaning. Nowhere on earth so syllabic.



The form of this poem matches that of the Basin & Range, which was its inspiration. (Drive west from Colorado on Highway 50 across Utah and Nevada, and see for yourself. It will take you days, or a lifetime.)

You seek clear boundaries where there are none. Dream and life and dream and movement and silence are neither bounded nor separate as you imagine. It is not even a continuum: it is simultaneity. This is not experimental poetry: this is life, transcribed.






CVII. 11 December 2004, Taos, NM

Well, I definitely hurt my back, so I am forced to take it easy today. I spent much of the morning going over photographs, and looking at some in black & white. I also figured out how to print transparencies on my inkjet, and they look good. I am making negatives, essentially, to later make sunprints. I love the look of sunprints, which are essentially ferro-sulfate cyanotypes. I have been emulating this look in Photoshop for some years now, but thanks to a supply of treated paper found in a funky little store in Berkeley, I can make actual sunprints.

I also went back over my plans to produce a stock photo CD. In Minneapolis, before I left, I was able to do two or three photo shoots of objects for travel and navigation: compass, sextant, globe. These are all brass instruments (except the globe, which is wood), reproduced from 19th century models. Arrangements and close-ups. And then there is my small collection of vintage typewriters, which I also photographed several times. I need to go through this material in detail, arrange it, edit it, organize it, and then make a prototype CD for sale. Maybe through my website, maybe submit it to a stock agency. Stock agencies could be a way to sell art. I need to spend more time on this, obviously, but either over Xmas break or once settled in CA for awhile, I can get at it there and then. Meanwhile, here's a few teaser images.












Later:

I drove around town this afternoon anyway, looking for storage places and RV parks. I found a few of the ones I had called. Most all the offices were closed, though; lights off, no one home. It will have to wait till Monday, then, till I can get this resolved. My friend whose place I’m staying at comes home tomorrow; I hope he isn’t too shocked by the camper and fully-loaded truck in his parking lot. I’ll just have to explain the truth: I can’t get it done till Monday. I suppose I could have gotten it done Friday, yesterday, but it just didn’t work out in terms of timing, not to mention my back. A day sitting down and reading won’t kill me. Everything is timing, it sometimes seems like.









CVI. 10 December 2004, Taos, NM

I was able to get my truck up and down the hill today, no problem; the road was clear. The campsite was muddy, though, so taking the tent down and storing gear in the back of the truck was messy. But I did it, and got down before dark. Unfortunately, because the ground was uneven and slick, carrying one piece of heavy gear, I twinged my back; it still hurts, tonight. I hope it is better by tomorrow, when I still need to get the camper to the RV storage place, and find and rent a storage locker somewhere. Great. Renting storage spaces all over the fucking country now. How nice.





I didn't do it today because I needed to decide what to do: change plans or abandon them or make new ones or keep on as planned and go forward. I talked it over with a friend, and decided the best thing to do was not to disrupt plans, not to make things worse, not to give in to self-defeating drama, but do nothing. Go on as if nothing had changed. Although because we got the camper down before I leave for the Midwest, I will now have to pay for two months' rent instead of one, just because of the timing.

But I can come back and talk to the gallery again before heading to California. Although it was tempting to just leave for CA now, and not wait, I really need to see Sage in Chicago, and I really need to end the resource drain that the storage locker in St. Paul has become. I have no idea how I'm going to pay for any of this; I'm tired of asking for help, but I guess I still gave to. I guess I will still go to Austin for a quick visit before heading to CA, but I might not give it a full week; leave it open for now, and figure it out later. On top of which, I need to put some repairs into the camper and truck before departing for good; not sure how to pay for that, yet, either. Oh yeah, and somehow a rental truck get whatever stuff I can get from St. Paul to Beloit; and hope I can find room to put it all. I hope my back survives all this: I feel really out of shape, after the hauling and driving and loading of the past few days.

I guess I'm not supposed to be in Taos. I guess I'm not supposed to be in New Mexico. I gave it a try, and it has been a difficult, painful experience overall. There are things here I could love; but nowhere on earth is it a good place to be if you can't make ends meet. I guess the Powers That Be want me to be in California. I feel pushed, hard, to go there: the barriers to an extended stay there dissolving, and the barriers to living in the high desert over winter just getting worse. I guess it's pretty obvious on some level that I'm supposed to be in CA and not NM. I only hope I can finally find some settlement and income there. I don't care where; I've come to love all of CA, especially the Pacific Ocean coast. I know more about the geology now, too, which is something I always need to know about where I am.

In Santa Fe the day before I found a terrific bookstore on Cerrillos Rd.; they carried the last two books of McPhee's four volume Annals of the Former World, his series on geology and geologists, plate tectonics and the people who developed the theory. I've been reading the whole series with great interest and pleasure. I picked up at this bookstore Rising from the Plains, which is all about Wyoming, the place I first went to study geology, and a place that is still special to my heart. I want to go back to WY again, if not soon, then eventually. The Tetons, the Snake River, to mid-state basins, so vast, surrounded by mountain ranges, and Yellowstone up in the corner by Montana and Idaho both. It would be good to go back and look at rocks there again. Reading about it, memories are vivid, and I can see the areas the book describes clearly, having been there a couple of times. Reading Rising from the Plains has been the fastest of the series so far, since I alerady know the terrain, and much of the geology.







On the way down the hill, and driving out through Arroyo Hondo, I stopped several times to take photos in the evening light, as the cloudless sky painted the mountains red and the adobe buildings with that beautiful amber light. These might some of the last photos I take of this area, for awhile, or for good. I can't predict the future anymore. So, I take more photos of the beauty here, to sort through later. I have barely sorted through the rest of the pics I've taken since leaving WI last August, or from the CA loop trip in October. It has been a real ride, with lots of pics for evidence. Over winter, as usual, is when I usually sit down and do most of my artwork; winter is for creativity, for going within, for looking things over and making new work. I might get some of that done in Beloit over the Xmas break, if I set up my computers there; but there will be time for more, later, too.
















CV. 10 December 2004, Taos, NM

I am forty-five years old, and I am dependent on others for my income and my well-being. While there is no inherent shame in that, there is a naked outcrop of economics made visible by circumstance. Is it interdependency or parasitism? Is it neighborliness, the old bonding together of pioneer families to support each other when one was in need, or is it vampirism, living off the lifeforce of others? Powaaqaatsi: the Hopi word for life lived at the expense of others. Am I owed a living, or must I invent a new life?

What do I give back in return? Something of value, or nothing worthwhile? Maybe the lesson for me here is to learn to accept what's given, and that money is not the only form that an energy exchange can take. Maybe it's about learning to live without money at all. Barter. Exchange. Trade.

Someone years ago did a numerology reading on my name, and said I had a karmic debt about money. That has haunted me for decades, giving me a narrative of retribution for past sins. I've imagined many stories around it, in which I was the bad guy before, and dealing with the consequences now. But it's simplistic to imagine a fall/redemption story like some Biblical god extracting vengeance for being a bastard earlier on. (Karma is mostly misunderstood by Westerners as some sort of post-Judeo-Christian payback system; when in fact, karma means, simply, the fruits of action: all actions generate karma. Only by becoming still can one cease generating it.) It may in fact be a lessoning, a series of experiences one has to master before being able to progress. (And karma may be released through Grace.) Am I supposed to end up totally homeless, living with the destitute of the nation under a bridge somewhere. Humbled by God into literal, abject poverty; no one left to bail me out. (Which may be the point: total trust, when only God can rescue you anymore.)

My monkey-mind fixates on Neale Donald Walsch's own story of being down and out, as he tells it in Friendship With God, in my opinion the best of that series. My worst fear is that I am not done yet, nor ever will be; I am terrified by the thought that I haven't hit true bottom yet, because the bottoms I have I hit so far have all felt nearly fatal. (Or is that drama-queen victimology?) If I am still sinking, I am terrified of this abyss. I thought I knew the Void thoroughly, already. Maybe not. I feel paralyzed to act, feeling that every choice I make is wrong, and will only make things worse. It feels like that record of actions I've taken so far has been a record of wrong choices, choices that have only gotten me further into trouble or misery. I'm afraid that whatever action I take now will only make things worse again; and I'm afraid it will get worse no matter what I choose, like some pre-programmed destiny of misery. How far am I supposed to fall? All the way to extinction? (So be it.)

I know I've taken vows of poverty in the past, and I know that I have released most of them. I still keep discovering new layers to this lesson, new ramifications to those old vows, that I still have to work through or release. Meaning doesn't always come from action; sometimes it comes from letting go.

I feel like one of the forgotten, the disappeared, making those usual governmental pronouncements about "economic recovery" seem even more ridiculously inappropriate to my life, and inept to fix it. I have become one of the marginal, the overlooked, the unwashed, ungodly, and needy. I am a welfare queen. I am in the eyes of my own government a lazy wastrel, being told constantly to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I feel no energy to attain that; perhaps that is chronic depression. I've lost any faith in the bootstrap model, and most of my will to conform.

An image comes to mind, of my transport breaking down in the middle of nowhere, say, the Big Empty of the Basin & Range. But in this image, instead of getting caught up in screaming angst again, I see myself sitting calmly by the roadside, waiting for whatever help that is being sent to arrive. I could even set up my tent, build a fire, settle in overnight. Wait for whatever that is coming down the road to arrive: trusting that something will come along.

Meister Eckhart and some of the other Rhine mystics say that falling into God is "sinking and cooling," a settling like planktonic lime on the oceanic abyssal plain. God knows I've expended enough energy on drama. Maybe all this has been intensive karma-burning, clearing away the past at an accelerated rate: it's not fun, but it's changing me, too. Maybe it will cease the day I no longer get caught up in drama: sinking and cooling. Maybe in fact it has been all about burning out the drama, and the urge to drama. Such intensity of emotion and mood-swing I have come to feel on this path; till you learn at last that you are not your emotions.

Can I trust the process? I am still divided on that. Maybe when I fully learn to trust, the drama will go away entirely.

Or maybe not. The chaos never really goes away. It's an infantile fantasy to imagine it will. But how I react to the chaos, or rather how I don't react, is the lesson to be learned. A reminder from Caroline Myss in her audio program Spiritual Madness: Chaos never goes away. There will always be more chaos. But how you respond to chaos, makes all the difference. I'm trying to hold onto that. Maybe the lesson here is to learn just that sort of non-attachment that doesn't generate drama whenever my plans fall apart again, as they are bound to continue to do.



The Book of Uplift

orogeny of awareness and emblem. sea-crest run of angels rising. plumes of light.
bright tracery, stitching ghost after ghost. evidence and displacement.
run along the ridge, dive in these basin waters: talc, gypsum, salt, sand.
here nothing protrudes but what has been raised: shoulderblades of giants.
poetry of naming times and habitats: extinction, communion, unarbitrary love of eagles.



In a society of surveillance, how can one keep even one's thoughts private? It's Orweillian. How many times have you been on camera today? Who watches the watchers? Who is watching you right now?

If God watches even the sparrow fall, what about you? The Divine exists at the point of paradox, the cusp of catastrophe, the balance-point of turbulence between stable states. God is both the detached Newtonian Clockmaker and the engaged conscious Immanence of the mystics and the quantum physicists. God watches everything, and lets it be; catching and caressing what falls, taking joy in what rises. Because God is Love, and loves everything from the paramecium to me, and cradles us all in Its hands. Setting the Universe into motion, then stepping back and observing without interfering; but at the same time engaged and Present, weeping with us and being joyful with us an we weep and experience ekstasis, joy, lifelove, Unity. Wholly engaged with Creation, even as It allows us the choices we make towards entropy or evolution. No judgments come from God: all judgments come from within ourselves. We judge ourselves, me make our own contracts. And, sinking and cooling, underneath it all, mantle and core, lies the Godhead, the impersonal faceless Godhead, Brahman, out of which form emerges and heats up, and back into which it sinks and cools. Coming into personal being is both rising out of the Godhead, and falling from Grace: rising and falling into the illusion of separation from Unity.

Why do we do it? Why play this game of separation, pain, suffering, joy, angst, redemption? It's all illusory, after all. Maya. Why do it at all? Why not? There is no why, no answer to that question. And even if there were, it would be irrelevant to know, irrelevant to the process of moving past why and into acceptance, non-attachment, and evolution. I don't know if I will ever get there, or when; yet every crisis I go through lately burns out more of this need to know why, which is after all the source of most of the angst, and all of the drama. So be it.

Out of my abject humility and personal paralysis, this morning, a sermon arises. Go figure.






CIV. 9 December 2004, Taos, NM

Late night:

I feel bruised again, struck down by another bad day. I also feel physically run through a wringer, achy and sore and exhausted. I'm going to bed later than I thought; earlier, I lay by the fireplace under a blanket and did Reiki on myself. I am back in Taos tonight, after two days in Santa Fe. It's become obvious, or seems that way, that I'm not meant to be In Taos. I've tried it for months, and I'm sick of it. It's not working. I thought New Mexico was the place I was meant to be, but I guess it isn't. I am drawn to the land here, still, but I could give a fuck about most of the people. (The urge to hermitage?) And it's hard to feel like you belong anywhere, when you feel trapped like this. The desperate poor. I feel like I know something of what that's like, now, from my own experience; it gives one a certain empathy.

P. and I got the camper down the hill just after sunset. I still need to go back up the hill and retrieve the rest of my belongings that I've been storing in the tent; it looks like tomorrow will be another day warm enough to get up and down, possibly with my own truck, as the snow and ice continue to melt off the dirt road in the afternoon. He pulled the camper down very carefully with his 4x4 Bronco, then I transferred the hitch to my truck and pulled it to the friend's house I've been sleeping at most of the past week. Tomorrow I'll pull it to the RV place near the county airport where I can store it for a month or two. I also need to find a place to store my other belongings, so I can retrieve them later.

I had another minor meltdown today, though. Crying as I drove north in the truck from Santa Fe, not caring whether I lived or died. Just unable to take any more. I got the call from P. saying he thought he could get the camper down today when I was still in Santa Fe, but then I called Dad and told him what has been going on this past week, and that led to the tears and the emotional self-torture. I should know better than to tell him anything anymore: it only makes things worse. Well, he wants me to come home for Christmas, so that we can have a talk about it all–just about the last thing I feel like doing right now. I'm going to see if I can change the plane ticket, or get a refund or credit. At the moment, I feel like pulling the camper to San Francisco, and skipping Christmas entirely. The talk will be entirely predictable: Dad will just want to lecture me, and not listen to me–and I can't stand any more judgmental crap right now.

I don't want to talk about why anymore. Why is a question that only leads to suffering and pain, because I can't answer why, and neither can anyone else. There is no why. All I can deal with is, what next, not why. With what little strength I have anymore, which feels like none, I need to move forward, not backward. If I move at all. At the moment, I don't care if I ever wake up again, or whatever. Maybe it would be a blessing to plunge off the road into an abyss somewhere, and lose everything. I dunno. I feel too numb and bruised to even care about that much.

Godz, I am tired and sick of all this. I am so sick of everything always getting worse, and never getting better. I am so sick of life. Period. It's just too hard to deal with anymore.













CIII. 9 December 2004, Taos, NM

I don't know why I bother to make plans anymore, since they keep blowing up in my face. Back to zero again. No idea what to do next. Another fun phone call with Dad back in Wisconsin.

I give up. I quit. I have no idea what to do next. I don't want to hear any more people asking me why this or why that, and why I've ended up here, why I can't get a job. And all that shit. Because I need to deal with what to do next, not why I ended up here. I don't know what to do next; I have on ideas. No new ideas, anyway: just painful memories of everything that has fallen apart and failed over the past few years.

My biggest fear is that it's going to get worse before it gets better. I'm terrified that I haven't really hit bottom yet, that there is worse to come, that I can't stop it, and that I'll never get out of this constant tailspin of despair. Hope is an illusion and a lie. Survival itself may be an illusion. They keep taking more and more away, and it never gets better, it only gets worse.

Fuck antidepressant drugs: do not even go there. (And pays for that shit, anyway? You think I still have medical insurance? Get real.)

Fuck the positive shallow self-help speech. Fuck the whole 12-step mentality, with you quaint little phrases and set answers and pre-programmed mindsets. Fuck all of your easy answers. They do me no good whatsoever.

I'm surrounded by people who appear to have it together, who go about their daily lives with hope and faith and at least a fa?ade of happiness, because at least they have a place to live and a job that pays their bills, even if they hate their job. Quit bitching about it. I can't stand to listen to them. They sit across the caf? from me, talking about their next movie deal, or how to sell their multi-million dollar home, or whatever; and none of it ix even on the same planet as me. I cannot find it in myself to care.

I wandered around Santa Fe all day today with my portfolio, and found not a single gallery even remotely compatible with my art,

Speaking of lies and illusions, let's get real about that one, too: How could I ever have fooled myself into thinking I could have made a living from my art? How could I ever have imagined that anybody would ever care about it, or want to own it? What a lie. What a self-deluding fantasy.

Well, I give that up, too. I quit. I'm not even going to try any more. It's all a waste of time, and I might as well just add it to the list of failures, disappointments, and things that I am not good at doing. Why even bother? Why even keep trying? I see no reason to. What a pointless joke.

Well, I'm done. I don't care anymore. I quit. I'm just going to stop trying, because I'm done. I'm done with failure, and disappointment, and everything else. Why even give it any more energy, when nothing ever comes of it? I've been trying to years now, and nothing has ever come of any of it. Why go on?

Don't talk to me about endurance anymore. I'm sick of just enduring, just surviving. I don't care why, because why is useless information which you never get to find out, anyway.

Why am I even bothering with this? Even this is a waste of time.









CII. 8 December 2004, Santa Fe, NM

It's fashionable to list one's Top Ten List pertaining to this and that anymore, and while I don't like to follow fashion, I realized recently that in paring down my resources whilst living on the road, I had sort of created a desert island CD list by default. I brought many CDs with me, but the ones I've been listening to most from that collection make up this list. Some of these are CDs that I might not listen to for awhile, but I always come back to. I actually don't listen to anything permanently: I go through cycles. Some CDs I re-listen only occasionally; other cycle through much more often. Still other CDs I used to listen to, but rarely do anymore; some of these are only for certain moods, now.

Anyway, here's what I've listened to recently:

Hedningarna: Tra
Henryk Gorecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)
Kitchens of Distinction: The Death of Cool
Joni Mitchell: Hejira
J.S. Bach: St. Matthew's Passion
Bill Laswell: Hear No Evil
Tony Levin: Waters of Eden
Gabriel Fauré: Requiem
Balanescu Quartet: Possessed
John Dowland: various part-songs such as "Flow, My Tears"
Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians

This is not an official desert island list, of course. Things would add on and get dropped off over time. And such a list would also have to include:

Nicky Skopelitis: Ekstasis
Hilliard Ensemble: Perotin
Jan Garbarek: Rites (if not the collected recordings)

I would have to also have to have at least one CD of my own music with me. Not for ego reasons, but because there are times when I can't listen to anything else. Again, not for ego reasons, but for the opposite of that: to remind myself to listen to those inner voices that are the source of all the music I have ever made. To go within. And because at times I can't take the clutter of outside information channels: I need silence, and quiet. And I need to hear my own inner voices, and hear myself think.

Otherwise, my CD list is heavily infiltrated with classical music. I have no problem with most people I know almost never listening to classical; in most cases, they didn't grow up with it the way I did. On the other hand, some friends mostly listen to classical, and the snob appeal of the music is frankly a part of that. Many classical listeners feel superior for their superior tastes in music. It doesn't matter to me either way.

Classical for me is like pop for some others: it's what I grew up with, it's the only genre of music that I can mentally tune out while doing other things. I am so sensitive to musical environment and soundscape, that there are times ambient music drives me nuts. I hate shopping malls this time of year, with their endless repetitive play-throughs of Xmas holiday music ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Thank the godz they only pull out the Xmas Muzak for a month or two a year, because that is more than enough time in which to get permanently sick of it. I could also live without hearing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker again for at least a dozen years.

So, classical music to me can be innocuous background music–Erik Satie's "furniture music," Brian Eno's "ambient music"–in a way that no other music genre can. I am forced to tune in and focus on most kinds of music, just because of my sensitivity to sonic space; except for classical.

But there's also the fact that I understand classical music, especially contemporary and experimental classical, and to me it's like home plate. I started listening to avant-garde classical music before I hit puberty, and I never stopped. I had my teenage angst fling with Beethoven, then I threw Ludwig over for Debussy, a more subtle, meaningful composer for me. I played in the orchestra starting in junior high; and I was lucky to be in a city school system that believed in music programming, and had excellent music teachers. I played and sang some heavy-duty classical repertoire before graduating high school. I still prefer to listen to music from Bach and earlier, and Bartok and later, than that of the over-played, over-familiar Classical and Romantic eras; I do listen to Romantic composers, but only a little, and rarely as first choice. Mozart is timeless, but a lot of Beethoven is, well, nothing special. (Of course, his late works are incredible, intense, and very powerful, and I do listen to those.) Those composers who made their living as composers and performers, in those eras, were not above turning out a hack piece for money; the myth of the supergenius came later, and few of those working composers thought of themselves as Artistes rather than craftsmen. Well, not the majority, anyway. They were making a living at their art–the same way I am trying to live my own life in these times that are if anything less friendly to the arts than before–and they couldn't afford to be prima donnas when there were bills to be paid. Not that all of them succeeded at the business angles of life, to be sure.

What I'm trying to get at here is that I view all musical genres as more or less equal: they all boast examples of brilliance and beauty, and they all contain hacks and imitators. To my ears, quality is quality. Pieces that are great have something in common with each other, regardless of genre. But one thing I do like about classical is duration: most classical music is longer than the average pop tune, so you can do more with it, it can go deeper and further, because the time constraint (dictated by the idiots in the music industry who believe that their consumers all have short attention spans, whether or not there is any actual evidence of that) is not so severe.



Later:

I spent the morning catching up on computer work, which mostly means file management and organizing. I went out for awhile, and got the truck oil changed, and some chopping errands. But then I came back to the hotel. I had a bite to eat, but am thinking about going out for more. I needed a day off, I guess, because I had no sense of ambition. I have some letters to write, and some other things to do. So, I'm vegging. TV's on, I'm typing, and grabbing a snack. About all I have ambition for today.

I still plan to go gallery hunting, but tomorrow is soon enough. I don't like to do that unless I can get myself into a good mood, and today I haven't been in a good mood. I've been feeling tired, and depressed, and out of it. Mostly depressed.

Last evening, driving in, I suddenly felt really loopy, disconnected, out of it. Vertigo, and feeling really unfocused. It took all my effort to keep my attention coherent enough to drive. Getting to a hotel was a relief. Probably really tired. I dunno. Maybe it's backlash form the fact that I've tense and hypervigilant and living on edge for over a week now, and it finally catches up to you the minute you start to relax.

Or maybe the weather. It has been clear and cold and windy all day. I've been fighting off a migraine most of the day, one of those induced by what in Traditional Chinese Medicine they call a wind-invasion. I'm prone to these, have beenn for years, and have to watch out for them. Ibuprofen and acupressure and lavender essence to the back of the occiput. Wind in, wind out, seal and close.











CI. 7 December 2004, Taos, NM

So, a day of getting things done. I found an RV park near the airport that will let me store the camper for a reasonable monthly fee, once P. can get it down the hill, given a window of clear road.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to spending a few days in Santa Fe, now that I have some money. I need to call the RV repair place and ask about some repairs to the camper, cost estimates, etc. I also plan to take the portfolio around to some galleries. I also need to right and print a few letters, now that I have access to my printer again, having brought it down the hill. And I also plan to just veg. Sit around naked in the hotel room. Do boring, useless, pointless, brainless stuff, like chatrooms. And work some more on the website.

I have this new website almost fully loaded with the old content from the old sites, minus the chaff I've winnowed away. I haven't finished adding new content. I find I can only focus on this stuff for a few hours a day, or I lose my mental organization. I would have liked to get it completely done this week, but I won't. There's too much to re-think, re-design, change around and re-organize. Most of the sections now at least have placeholders, so the lnks work, even if the final layout is not done. The last major section to be added to is the Illustration & Design section, which will comprise a portfolio of commercial art and illustration I've done over the last ten years or so. I need to get this section done, frankly, so I can start jobhunting with it again. Samples of my graphic design work are going to help me get more such work, in future, is the goal.



Raven a black sculpture on a yellow Do Not Pass sign by the highway, shoulders hunched against cold wind.

Hawk in a tree overlooking a horse paddock, first hawk I've seen in a few weeks. White breast feathers fluffed against the wind.

It might snow again, who knows. It's not as cold as it was a week ago, with that many-inch snowfall. Promise of white cleansing shawl.

After nightfall, Christmas lights in every window, brightening, warming, beckoning, welcoming. A clich? of annual celebration. Orion partially covered with fluffy cloud, leaping there above the mountains. Bowl of the valley filling with night mist. Cold air bracing.



decadent transmission of mist: spare the absolute. shawl of honor.
declamation of the mirrors of blackbirds: in this light, shadows fall. abrupt.
the boy sings: I have lost my way. I have no answers. where is my empty home.
his arm a long white bone. in the seasons of ice and mist, the true life of silence.
sn answer from the hills. s long lifting. dark birds rise, loft, hover, disperse.



Winter clichés: Fire in the fireplace. Snow on the ground. Cold stars in the sky. Lights everywhere, decorating the trees and porches and windows of the homes all around. Where's that damn fat elf and his ridiculous flying sleigh?





NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist–slack they may be–these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.


I find a website that has a complete concordance of Gerard Manley Hopkins complete poems. I ifnd myself re-reading Hopkins tonight, after some years' neglect, looking for his despair and his exultation alike, to compare them to my own. His language a lark, a lilt, a freeing embrace, that lets the poem move past itself into something like Union with the Divine. This is what all great mystical poems do. I think, in English, of George Herbert, William Blake, Julian of Norwich, and others. All shall be well again, and all manner of thins shall be well, chimes Julian.

I find myself in Hopkins' Carrion Comfort, above, so close to my own yearning and darkness. And I wonder if all that I have been going through these past months and years is that my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear. How can I kinow? Perhaps I cannot. That sense of wrestling with the Angel is so close to me, though. I shall not let thee go till thou blesst me! cried Jacob to the Angel he also wrestled; and won, in the end. I have come so close to the end of myself, yet my anger and determination, and my sheer stubbornness have kept me continuing to fight, to wrestle, to endure past all desire to endure. It's true, you can't end yourself if They won't let you. So, you endure, on and on, and keep wrestling–holding on for dear life, for the last gasp, the last weakening grip.

I must keep going. I must continue down this road, past every desolation and desire, past endurance, till I reach the end of me. I can't go on, I must go on. Some days, you just feel like you're living in Kafka-land, or Beckett-world, and with no exit, you just go on.



 

 







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