400. 14 April 2006, Pinole, CA
bright sun on scaled windows
opaque with grime
train floats past
damp with rain
homeless under soiled blankets
bundled in corners
out of the wind
palatial estates must be nice
but way more than I need
and more than I want to work
so hard to acquire
in stark white late afternoon light
who could want more than
this sea air, this clear light,
this openness and vista?
gray cities, gray light
fall winds gust in April
no matter where you walk
its into wind, headwinds blasting
down the tunnels of asphalt, glass and steel
that are these streets and tall buildings
gray light, gray eyes
a canyon of isolations
and furrowed intensities
people rushing, rushing
to get nowhere
nightfall brings more bitter air
lights of the city
blue, gold, white
night lights neon shouts
glare of presence
spaces between writhe
with drunken possibility
moving lights and traffic flow
long veldt grass dancing
in waves under cold black skies
a fevered ache
missing the warm touch
of your naked skin on mine
399. 13 April 2006, Pinole, CA
Familiar feelings, late at night, of being totally abandoned and on my own. Nothing matters, and nothing I can say will matter, or make any difference. I just spent half an hour stripping that poetry critique site I frequent of most of my recent comments, posts, and responses. Feeling totally cut-off and attacked. Of course this all has to do with being completely stressed out over a lot of other things, too, all happening simultaneously, all beyond my ability to cope with, and all draining and exhausting. I just want to withdraw and hide in my cave for awhile. Of course, just as I feel that, the world always reaches in after me, demanding things from me: people calling me and emailing me all day to request materials, give unwanted advice, chase me down, whatever. Only one of them I actually wanted to respond to, but I ended responding to them all, feeling hounded. We go on, we endure, we fucking endure, we go on, never matters, never seems to change, I keep hitting those same walls, over and over again. Patterns and repetitions are a sign of neurosis, or some such psychobabble determination. Cant break out of my own patterns, apparently, and too tired to keep trying. I need a vacation, and theres no way, not now, not for a long time. I need a long drive to somewhere, and theres no way, not right now. Everything just bites right now. As usual, nothing I can do about it, or at least nothing effective, or worth doing. Endure, endure, endure. Elijahs 400 days and 400 nights in the wasteland. Eliots Wasteland interminably revisited. Screw this. Getting nowhere. Totally helpless. The only thing left to do is to give gratitudes wherever they are, and I know Im in trouble right now, because I cant find either silence or gratitude.
398. 12 April 2006, Pinole, CA
The rainfall in the SF Bay Area is setting hundred-year records. The news is full of stories about flooding, mudslides, streams overflowing their banks. We had another three inches just yesterday. Theres never any thunder and lightning, though, which I miss from the Midwest. The weather stays cold and damp, even though we were treated to a dramatic sunset tonight. I went out and took photos of the pink and golden clouds.
The land has never looked so green. The hills are emerald and shining. The pear tree on the north side of the house is bursting all over with small white flowers. The ivy and grasses are tropically lush, and its been raining so long without break, now, that to trim them back would require a machete, as though I were hacking through jungle instead of suburban yardage. The orange poppies growing wild on the hillside here, and all up and down the road, have been brilliant markers in a sea of overgrown, lush greenery. The air is monsoon wet, indoors and out; I was coughing again yesterday, in all that rain, feeling like a fungus has taken up permanent residence in my lungs. Not so bad with the coughing today, though I still feel tired and depressed most of the time.
The only genuinely positive thing in my life right now is the DVD projects I am making from my photography and artwork, and the music I am recording, just as fast as I can, alongside the video work. Everything else continues to be a drag, a sucking black hole that coughs up dark and angry, lonely feelings. It pleases me more than I can say, the reception that these videos are receiving from my creative partners back in Chicago: I was worried that what I was assembling would, like everything else in life lately, just suck. Its a relief to hear that they like the work Im doing. Ive been getting some good feedback about the online virtual CD, but only a small number of comments. I went through a spike of writing a lot of poetry in early March, and accomplished a lot of pretty good new pieces, some of which Ive been posting here; but now its back to the doldrums. Or rather, the usual: when I am doing a lot of music and art, poetry comes a distant third, and not much comes out. Its pretty awful on the poetry critique site these days, too; lots of weird personal shit going on, and I feel pretty ignored, since my poems get almost no comments whatsoever. Time to save them off and wipe them out again, probably. Tired of the bullshit. Well, it goes in cycles, and I was due for another cycle of taking my marbles and going home; no other group of artists, ever, in my experience, gets as bent out of shape so very easily as poets online; egos so fragile you apparently only have to breathe to offend some people. Not to mention, I think the quality of whats been written lately is pretty low, generally. The doldrums, indeed.
Ive known for a long time that the audience for my particular poetry is small and probably sporadic; and I really wouldnt compromise what I want to write, just to be popular. I write what I write, with no justification necessary, and no apologies offered. I know it can be out there, both in subject matter and style; but if I were any less experimental in my writing than I am in my music and artwork, it would all be a lie, and I would be doing a disservice to myself and my artwork. Its all part of this road Im on, this spirit road, with its warriors job description. My artworks are all part of the healing work; they are all part of the toolkit I am using for spreading light, love, and healing, wherever and however I can. They have their own life beyond mine, once I have turned them loose in the world, and more than one piece of music and art has, Ive later been told, done healing work for some person. Im not a Warholian, my fifteen minutes of fame may never arrive, because thats not really what my art is for. The creativity serves the other, central purpose in life. And its also an outlet for me, to help me keep my perspective and equilibrium. Plenty of people dont think its any good as artwork, which enough to keep anyone humble; plenty of others do.
397. 9 April 2006, Pinole, CA
Following the spirit road, wherever you are led. Its a job without a portfolio, resume, or job description. Dont bother mentioning it to most people, who simply dont get it.
Scenario: Somebody asks a group of poets: So, what do you do for money?
For me, the most interesting part of this question is not the list of jobs and careers I've had, which has been a long oneI seem to collect skills and experiences the way some people collect booksbut that through it all, nothing has been able to keep me from being creative. Most of the "wrong" decisions I've made in life, from the viewpoint of livelihood, social and family expectations, and cultural attitudes, have been because I felt I had no choice: I had to make the decisions I made, because the alternative was to sell my soul, and die inside. This took no innate courage; it seemed plainly necessary, no more. The choices I've stumbled into have led me towards mostly not making a living, or at least not in any coherent, consistent, stabilized manner. I have the perfect "writer's resume," from the era when you used to read about all the odd jobs that writers would do to collect experience, before publishing their award-winning novels, plays, or poetry. Pfah. Whatever. That and a slice of bread will give you an open-faced sandwich. There's no question that all the "wrong" decisions I've made have had their consequences, mostly negative, with regard to having a career, advancement, or any other form of social expectations, not excluding familial incomprehension and occasional estrangement. All through this, a process of learning to keep my word and live in integrity with my spiritual callings and my creative daimons, I have steered a manageable if occasionally obscure path; but the truth is, I have no clear idea where I'm going, or what to do next, only where I've been and what I've recorded.
But all along, the real job has been one that's never fit comfortably on a resume, a job description, or an answer to that perennial cocktail-party question, "So, what do you do to make a living?" I attend few cocktail parties, although I'm comfortable traveling in many social circles. Are you a gentleman of leisure? a gentleman of poverty? living in a cave, monk-like, ne'er-do-well, adrift on the winds of change? a monk or a bum, and is there a difference? Was the difference between Merton and Kerouac merely the locus of monastery grounds? The difficulty is that "What do you do for a living?" is a question that most people equate with "Who are you?" Here, meet my friendwho are you?I'm a doctor. No, really, who ARE you?
Every artist knows those are differing answers, and lives within the double-tension of that difference between lives and callings, work and soul, job and necessityprice enough to pay for following one's calling, perhaps. That tension between questions and answers leads me to ignore the question, most of the time, as simply the wrong question to ask anyone. Far more interesting questions are, where have you compromised? where prostituted yourself? where been an ungrown child? where have you sabotaged your own excellence? where felt the victim? and where, if at all, incorporated and integrated these into yourself, the unfinished person? There are expected answers to the question, which I cannot give, because they don't matter; they're the fictions of a lifetime. The unexpected answers are far more alive.
What is the real work, then, if its not some job that you do to support your art and just pay the bills?
Let's try a re-phrase of an earlier statement another poet somewhere made, which was "every poem comes at a price," or something close to that in meaning, if not literal statement. The meaning that that poet was going for was a Romantic idea of suffering for the sake of your art; which I objected to, and still do. Let's think about it this way, because I see this emerging from many of the personal stories of artists who work various odd jobs, and skip college or grad school, to pursue the art of living and gathering experience. I re-phrase the statement as:
It is not a price one pays. It is, rather, a sacrifice one chooses to make.
Some might pay a higher cost, in their given sacrifice, than others; but who is to say which cost is more dear, to the soul of an artist? And the element of *choosing* to follow one's muse, to follow one's path, which is in itself no determinant of ultimate success or failure, is a common enough thread that it's noteworthy. As is the element of not-choosing, in the same way.
The element that I see emerging herein is the choice an artist makes to pursue their art, regardless of other costs. And if there are other responsibilities, such as to family or children or other long-time companions, than there is a balance to be found, in life, between living and Making. Where the choices fall is what I think is interesting. There are also some choices that we accede to, rather than setting out to follow: choices that time and happenstance lay onto us, that we might or might not have deliberately chosen for our lives; in which case, choice lies in the arena of how we respond to those situations and events. Choices that we have to face because of, for lack of a better word, fate.
I have lived both sides of that choice, at various times in my life: making big bucks in the corporate design, marketing and advertising worldsand not miserable while doing so. I may have lacked full time for art-making, but I still somehow managed to make art, survive as an artist. Occasionally I ran headlong into the conflict around selling my talents while trying to maintain my personal integrity, but I was usually able to find a balance I could live with; and there were a few occasions where I had to choose my integrity over the job, and moved on. At other times, such as now, I have lived a very monk-like existence, and dealing with both the anxieties and freedoms of being destitute. As the old samurai saying goes, "When you know you're going to die, you can do anything." There is a freedom to having nothing, even while there are limits to what you can do, in other ways. But again, finding one's place along that continuum can be a matter of choice, and what we choose to sacrifice in order to follow our path.
But I can say, heretical and misunderstood as it usually is: the path I chose which led me to where I am, was ultimately a spiritual path. It was not in service to poetry, or music, or even creativity as a wholealthough all of those are manifestations of the path.
I feel so wiped out today, after the SFGMC concert in Santa Rosa last night. I did double duty, as I played Stick bass on one number; so set-up, tear-down, driving myself to and from the gig, with gear. Ironically, I played Stick on the only ABBA tune of the lot that I find even remotely a good song, Fernando. So, it was fun, and it went well; I only made one or two minor errors during the concert, and pretty much played well the rest of the piece. There were also four guitarists, and drums, adding to the texture. So, my Stick debut with the Chorus.
In the auditorium lobby, there was a red tabletop covered with black-riverstones and bones, representing those the Santa Rosa community has lost to AIDS: a very shamanic spiral symbol. It stopped me in my tracks, and its an idea worth repeating, sometime and place. Maybe a spiral dreamcatcher Ill have to make, later.
I realize one thing, when it strikes me in the face like this, that, to hang out with the gay community here in San Francisco, is to be around death a lot. Maybe Im tired because on some level, whenever I am with the Chorus, I am shamanizing: I am fulfilling my function as a necromancer, a clean-up artist, a psychic janitor. It takes a lot out of me, some days. Yes, we celebrate and affirm lifebut its Zorba dancing in the face of death, in the path of the thing that almost kills you, but doesnt. There are a lot of walking wounded in our community still; and a lot of survivors guilt. Do we really deal with it? Probably not often enough. Do we do enough grief work? Probably not. So, the existential shamans have to take up the slack. I know Im not the only one; but its still hard to carry it, some days.
The drive to and from the gig was long and tiring, and I got home late and low-blood-sugar cranky. J. made me some snacks, and I drank a lot of orange juice. When I eventually got to sleep, I kept having fitful dreams, and waking up. I slept a long time, eventually. But Ive been tired and out of sorts all day. I took a two hour nap around sunset, and just made some later dinner. Maybe being sick the past two weeks before this outreach gig, and maybe my energy was low to start with. I just feel so wiped out, tonight. I wanted to get some more audio work done; instead, Ive been staring off into space, doing almost nothing. I know that sometimes you need a day off, a day to collapse and do nothing; I could ask for better timing than having to do that today, is all.
Well, fuck it. I know theres other shit I need to do, as well, but tonight I want to finish recording enough new music that I can send it off to Chicago tomorrow, to add to the growing stack of projects were building our future on there.
A haibun, since I am unable to sleep:
we consider death not enough, or too much
In the lobby at the gay men's chorus concert, a red tablecloth covered with black riverstones and white bones, each ritually-placed counter one lost to AIDS: spiral symbol of stones from the river, spiral of life continuing, passage through death to another life. Upstream, the dying congregate, at the hinge of the spiral, turning, dancing back to life again. These bones shall rise, bones of time, memory, relic, rehearsal, reliving. Red fields of blood, memorial poppies, blood shed, blood toxic and deadly as imagined sin, blood infected, blood redeemed. Stones of grief, stones of laughter, polished black stones of healing and respite. The black river of life smoothes us all, in the long end.
shaman roll the bones
footprints pass behind
western red sands
You realize, when these snakes gather at the table and stare, that to be within the living gay community, is to be with death. Yes, we celebrate, we affirm lifewe go on, we live for all of those who cannot. It's all refusal to be defeated: a samurai cliche. Zorba dancing in the face of death, the log falling down the mountain that just missed killing us, the accident on the highway where we lose everything but ourselves. The death of love, the fear of kisses, the death of lovers, survivor's guilt. A carpet of red tears.
shaman dance on graves
flowers of deep feeling
396. 7 April 2006, Pinole, CA
On a hot sunlit day,
if one ever comes again,
I want to go down naked to the sea,
past cliffs misted
by rain-pools evaporating from their shelves,
down to the sand in a half-moon bay
to play in breakers and lie naked
on sands baked white, soaked grey
with sweat, rain from our bodies.
We put on clothes, we take them off again,
we put on masks, personas and fables,
and take them off again
under the sun, lying naked,
mindless, letting all thought fall away.
Mineral logic, the slow flaking
of self into smaller selves, the emptying
and polishing away of all edges
into rounded sand grains.
Let my worry so erode,
let these dreary days so run off my skin,
water into sand, withdrawn, riptide,
until only vegetable logic, a strand
of kelp basking in the light,
395. 6 April 2006, Pinole, CA
To make something of the ambient, techno/trance, dub, and spacemusic tracks Ive been recording lately, Ive created an online virtual CD, titled Of All Things Most Yielding. It only exists as a webpage, not as an actual CD, for now. I expect I will eventually officially release it. This is an experiment; I plan to publicize these new tracks, maybe get some airplay on a couple of prominent podcasts, then officially release the album later. For now, Im doing giveaway, potlatch, free music. It feels right to do it this way. I even created album cover art and type, although theres no actual album.
Meanwhile, tonight I am tracking new material. To get the Zen Garden Meditation DVD finished, I am tracking new shakuhachi recordings. Just me and the bamboo, the supernal flute, and quiet meditations. I am so not a great shakuhachi player; I love the sound of the instrument, but Im hardly a great player of it. If I can manage to compose one or two halfway-decent pieces, and perform them even adequately, I will have accomplished something good and rare. I only half-like what Im recording, tonight. But Ive been feeling very pressured to get this creative work done, and its bringing up all my latent perfectionisms, so I know Im not objective right now; the best I can do is plow through it, keep on doing it, and hope it serves. I hope it does serve, well enough, at least, to accomplish our goals.
Im spending almost all my time and energy on music this week, in this intensive studio mindset, leaves nothing for poetry. Ive been doing tons of good poetry lately, I feel like, and now Im switching creative channels to where I need to be, for the next while. This month will be an intensive fulfillment of DVD project work; I have to get as many done as I possibly can. I submitted a few finished poems over the past few days, on the encouragement of others. Well see; Im not even sure anything will come of it, and Im not giving it much attention. I have music I need to focus on, instead. Channel-switching. Ive talked about that before, and its true: I rarely ever feel creatively blocked, because I can switch channels, music, poetry, visual art, and pick up in one channel if another is not moving; its like changing gears, and you have to change mindsets, too, but it works.
394. 4 April 2006, Pinole, CA
The threshold, what Victor Turner calls the liminal, what Jung and Otto call the numinous, what the alchemists and ritualists of the Western magickal tradition embody in that being known as the Dweller at the Thresholdan embodiment of an ideafor most people in culture, the threshold is a temporary experience, a place one goes then returns from. Changed, perhaps, in some wayas an initiate, a person now past the thresholds of sacraments such as marriage, ordination, baptism, puberty rites. But some come to live in the threshold as home, to see it as a place of permanent settling. It is a dynamic, ever-migrating home, perhaps, but a home nonetheless.
I spent part of the afternoon chatting with a man who lives in a 20-foot camper as his home for the past ten years. He rents a garage and hookup from a friend, and lives in the camper. A computer, full bathroom, a keyboard, for hes a professional musician, and a simple life. Theres even a woodstove in the camper. I kept looking around and commenting in admiration, it is so close to my own ideas and dreams of existence. A simple monks life, able to be moved, rooted at times but portable. We chatted about all sorts of things we have in common, from music to both having parents in Wisconsin. A very pleasant visit. I continue to strive to work for something similar, in my own life: partially rooted, basically living in a home base, but still nomadic, a home on wheels.
I am astounded that things that seem so simple, the elegant observations of a poet on Zen and concentration, evoke such enmity and dismissal in other poets. Its always fascinating how much people who basically agree with you can vilify you and attack you for saying things they basically cannot disagree with, but somehow must assert their distance from. Is it all reduced to ego? It often seems that way.
I remember now, just before going to bed, how angry and violent my last dreams before waking were, this past morning, and I hesitate. I am tired, and want to sleep. The dreams were a long sequence of violence and anger in a place I cant name; it was all men, there, and I wonder if it wasnt a reflection of some of my frustration with the gay men I know and am socializing with in the Chorus. There are cliques, of course, as any group that large will form. There are the hierarchies of administrative tasks and direction, which do not offend me, and the hierarchies of cliques and the un-cliqued, which would irritate into protest any anarchist interested in direct democracy and direct action. There are the usual justifications and rationalizations for inaction, when some who are responsible seem disorganized or abdicating of their roles, and there are also the always-unspoken aspects of an internal culture long-established and habitual, that one is dropped into clueless and uneducated, and in which one fumbles around willy-nilly, unintentionally making as many enemies as friends. Usually for all the wrong reasons.
I think of this in relation to the Faeries, too, and some of the personal politics at some of the Sanctuaries, which in some cases I think have blocked community growth, and even the necessities of infrastructure. Dysfunctional infighting is a terrible thing to behold. That is keeps coming up again in discussion after discussion about Zuni tells me that a pattern is going on there, entrenched and empowered. I always notice and pay attention to patterns.
I shed all this, I free myself of it with the aid of grace, I release it back into the nothingness form which it arose, to be replaced by infinite layers of white light and lovingkindness. I will not be put into the middle of long-standing rivalries that I know or care nothing about. I will speak up, as I feel it necessary, to fulfill my shamanic function, and my integrity as a warrior, and thus my secondary role as an unavoidable prophet. It genuinely astounds me when people say something is really hard when it isnt; of course, I have my blind spots, too, so I understand a personal weak area in others. But I honestly dont understand the lack of understanding, on some fronts, when I encounter it. It seems to blatantly obvious; I just dont get it.
393. 30 March 2006, Pinole, CA
I realize the Basin & Range has become a metaphor, since Ive been thinking about those hills and valleys for days, of this emotional rollercoaster I am sometimes on these days:
these snow-capped peaks,
the high thin air filled with light
hyperventilating exertion of the climb
and the bitter alkali depressions
Lack of compassion from fear, and also from helplessness, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to help. Someone recently described the problems that caregivers such as nurses and hospice attendants, priests and therapists go through not as burnout but as compassion fatigue. I think thats a brilliant term, and Im going to steal it and use it from now on. Compassion fatigue: exhaustion from helping others. We have to remember to take care of ourselves, too. Otherwise, if we collapse from exhaustion, we are no good to anyone, and can help no one, least of all ourselves.
driving across the Basin & Range
A black pickup truck in an open landscape. Somewhere in western Utah, on Highway 50, at the edge of the last Mormon-named farming towns, that last sign that says, Next Service 124 Miles, and you make a quick prayer to Somebody that you have enough gas in the tank, the water jugs are filled, the radiator doesnt leak, all the engine fluids are topped up, spare jar of oil in the toolkit in back, and you floor it, leaning into the acceleration, as the asphalt streams out before you, flat and level and straight as an engineer could make it, a geodesic across the desert, spinning out, spinning off, across the moving rim of the horizon, into a vessel of grey light.
of lone driver, lone drive
All these bowls have old names. Off to the south-east, under clouded-over skies, a mirror of flat alkaline lake; none of these lakes go anywhere, theyre all low-terrain catchments, so the rains wash mineralized salts from the hills, and the only way the water can leave is to evaporate, leaving behind crusted salts and desert varnish. So toxic, so salted, theyd kill you, or your engine, just as quick. The road is silent, but for the sound of wheels. You take your hands off the wheel, and let the truck drift smoothly onto the yellow line, straddling the dashes, aimed at the long distances that never seem to get closer.
drink where salmon
have never returned
sweet wine of sweat
You stop, every so often, to take a photo, and to get out to stretch your legs, and pee. You have to stop: the rhythm demands it, in words no one has ever said. The photos come out bland and lifeless: empty shots of nothing, no sense of scale, grey fields with thin dark lines across them; its all flat and too distant to give any sense of dimension. You'd need to drop a skyscraper into the drowning pan, to give it perspective. Even then, it would just melt into the Big Empty, reflecting in the salt mirrors as it dissolved.
this melting fog
in a sheath of open sky
You pull over, after hours of nothing moving anywhere, in the middle of nowhere, and just at that moment, a car zips by going the other way: the only car you've seen in an hour. Isolated cars single free ions in a sea of vacuum; too few to make a decent probability wave. Suddenly, a call overhead, a flap of hawk wing. Whats there to catch out here, brother wind? A lonesome jumping mouse? Surely nothing that doesnt taste of salt and sweat and endless silence.
getting out of the truck,
stopped in your tracks by sky
birds fly up forever
At each summit, rain or clouds so low to the road you can stretch out your hands and grasp veils of fog. Or snow, in the higher passes. Slot canyons the river-carved roads up the sides of each range, then the sleety summit with robot weather stations white sentinels by the roadside, maybe a picnic area where slick tables huddle and shiver. The further west you drive, the colder towards night it gets, and nowhere to camp. Tall wind-shaped bonsai pines curve out from the rocks, in the wind's lee. Another hawk, another field being watched for voles. Then you come out over the vista over yet another long, low basin, each more desolate than the last, your ears aching for respite, and at last, for the touch of a hand.
circle of pines
veiled by blowing snow
eyes of the earth
When you stop to listen to the wind, there is only the distance. The long silence between outbreath and inbreath, ritual pause, as whole worlds fade away then come into being again. This lowering sky. Long ago there were other voices here; the rocks, embedded with ancient seas and other low skies, remember them. You'd have to take your hammer and chip the outcrop just so, at this oblique angle, to find the polished strata where the vibrations are buried, fossil tracks in ripple marks of a shallow-duned sea that sank long ago into the dreams of snails.
scratching to get out,
light-taloned feet of old birds
fresh rain ringing stones
In some far late-night hour, approaching sleep reducing my concentration to haibun and haiku, and nature photos, and how they blend together without losing themselves, I remember Bashos emphasis on the poem arising from pure observation, the rich layers of evocation he was able to place in the details of observing the natural world, the Zen existential loneliness and rustic simplicity of wabi-sabi, and I hear the silence outside my window once more. Those black starless depths, silent and unmoving. The eyes of the night. Ink-dark shadows cast by no lightthe temple of Night. Be with us in our dark sleep tonight, Dark Mother, and wrap us in your grace, as the dark hounds come in. The indigo wells of sleep. The absent moon.
392. 29 March 2006, Pinole, CA
Ive been indoors all day again, avoiding the rain again, and nursing this bad cold. Lots of computer work getting done, though.
Taking a break for dinner and tea, I re-read Basho for solace.
Its easy to say along with Basho and the old Chinese poet, an old truth that is still true: The capital has always been a place for those seeking fame and fortune, but its a tough place for an empty-handed wanderer. I have my four-tatami room here, my little hut supported by friends. I even have some students and artistic collaborators. But its still a hard life, not a cushy one, and Im not sure when or if it will ever become easier. I gave up my attachments to doing things the hard way some time ago, and I affirm that again. I would accept an easier life, if it came along, because this one is tiring. Im also sick of being sick, at this point.
Its interesting to think that Basho and Isaac Newton were both alive at the same time. That all the ferment going on in Baroque-era Europe, the wars and pox, the scientific Enlightenment, and the Puritan rebellion; these were all happening at the same time as Basho was in his hut in Edo, writing and teaching, and making his travels and his travel journals. I feel more akin to this empty-handed wanderer than I do to the European masters alive at the same time. Was it is the enlightenment, truly, or just a rebellious pendulum swing away from the Church and religion, and towards the repression of the non-rational in favor of the rational? By throwing out mysticism, we gained a great deal; but we also lost something, when we threw the other away. Now its time to find that middle balance-point where these can all co-exist.
391. 28 March 2006, Pinole, CA
I seem to be doing two things with my time these past few days, with a serious chest cold keeping me indoors, mostly, and a serious lack of funds keeping me away from distractions like grocery shopping or movies. Not sick enough to feel totally out of it, but too sick to have any energy to do much outdoors. Details, details. Not to mention, I'm sure I have this continuing respiratory condition due to the incredibly rainy season that's been happening here in NoCal; haven't even been able to mow the lawn lately, because it won't dry out enough to not choke the mower. So, the two things I've been doing the past few days is writing lots of experimental poetry, and making audio recordings. I've made several new pieces of computer-based space music, using OhmForce's QuadFrohmage to create drum tracks out of odd loops on my Mac laptop, recording them in Sony Vegas on my Win tower. (I feel like space central command, with multiple computers all wired together, mixer and mic cables strewn about at semi-random. Fire phasers!) Two or three of these generated drum tracks have now been mixed with ambient pieces made in Acid, and with some Stick loops I'd recycled from previous unused material. It's interesting to go back to dub, which historically is an experimental genre more than a pop genre, when you get right down it. Dub and reggae were among the very first "pop" musics that I ever got into, in collegeup till then, it was all classical, experimental, jazz, and gamelan for this boy. So, with a couple of new dub pieces under my belt, I'm feeling an odd return to personal roots. And new spacemusic tracks, techno that's heavy on the ambience and light on the beats; it's interesting to so heavily process a non-percussion loop that it turns into a drumbeat, which you can then flange, phase, and make slow changes to over a long period of time. Gradual process music. Some tracks have granular synthesis elements to them, too. There's definitely Stick content working its way into the mix, too, with basslines played on Stick. I just finished a looped guitar thing which my ear hears as needing a bass solo, and maybe some Infinite Sustain. I also have at least one tabla track that needs a piece built around it. Stick in the mix, but not the only instrument involved. I know that will offend some Stick performance purists, but the point is to make the music with the tools, not put the tools before the music. We do what we do to make the music we hear inside.
390. 27 March 2006, on the train to San Francisco, CA
This cold rain, almost every day for months now, with only occasional gaps, is giving me Wintermind, and affecting my health. I have a cough I can't seem to get rid of. I can hardly wait for summer to dry us out, and heat everything up. Id rather be in the desert at 100 degrees, right now, than put up with this rain any longer. Heck, Id rather be the in the Midwest, where at least they know how to construct houses against just this sort of weather. It might be cold, but it wouldnt this cold damp lung-filling humid frigid crap.
Im going into the City for a meeting regarding graphic design for the SF Gay Mens Chorus; although, of course, today the train is being held up by computer problems. Rain related? Who knows. Needless to say, the trip is taking an extra long time, for no apparent reason. And then, of course, more walking through the rain once I actually get to the City, assuming I ever actually get there, carrying Stick and backpack.
Im tired of all this endless endurance test, this waiting and frustration; Im at the end of my endurance. Should I even be investing any time of energy in future goals, or just trying to get through the week? Week after weekI have no answer for that. The oracles all say Im doing the right thing, but theyve been saying that for years. It erodes ones faith, after all this time.
Later, San Francisco:
Sitting in the Three Dollar Bill café on Market St., after meeting and before rehearsal. Two cups of tea and a bowl of minestrone soup later. Feeling a little better. Im just at the edge of my physical limits all the time these days, every little thing turns into drama, and the roller-coaster goes up and down with the greatest of ease, its rails lubricated by rain and exhaustion.
This is an LGBT café, in the LGBT Center in town, where the Faeries meet on Saturdays, apparently, and it feels comfortable and welcoming here, relative to some other places around the city. I dont mind killing an hour sitting here, sipping tea, and gathering my thoughts and strength for the rest of the days needs.
389. 25 March 2006, Pinole, CA
Everyone always wants to be right, to be in the right, to be correct, to be superior, to be correct while everyone else is proven wrong: to be the American myth of the solitary hero against all infidels: Gary Cooper in High Noon but with library books instead of guns. The absurdity of it is that, as every scholar knows, you can find literature to back up your prejudice, if you look for it. It's like statistics, which can be shaped to bolster virtually any argument. But its absurd, when it has an axe to grind, a point to prove, a reputation for factuality to be made at the expense of others. As if the search for truth were a competition.
So, back to the mystics, who do not compete, who do not see a battle of good and evil, in fact who say that seeing things as dualistic is itself the sin, because there is nothing but the Oneness of All. Its a perspective not in fashion in our world today, nor has it ever been very fashionable. As I am under attack for my knowledge of and belief in this Oneness, so do I ask forgiveness for those from whom I feel separated, and for myself for not being strong enough to bring to see that we are not, in fact, in opposition. I cannot do more than hold space and pray, right now.
Ideas for remix typefaces:
1. take those bulletholes from Smith&Wesson Corona, and transfer them over to Courier, and call it, Dont Shoot the Courier.
2. a distorted grunge version of Mistral, call it MistGivings.
388. 24 March 2006, Pinole, CA
This has been the worst Mercury Retrograde on record. Everyone with even a smattering of energetic sensitivity has been going through bad times. Computer deaths, and worse. Music gear problems, spectacular equipment failures at gigs, although everything works just fine later, as though nothing had happened. Lamps that dont work, then work the next day. All of it pointless and irritating.
At the start of this week, my dad calls me to tell me that my mom fell, and he had to call for help to get her back up, because he was no longer strong enough to help her get back up by himself. So, hes made the difficult decision to put her in an Alzheimers care facility nearby. All this, after a month of kidney stones, pneumonia, doctors, hospitals, and so forth. He has come to realize and accept that he cant take care of her at home by himself anymore.
I think the decision is probably for the best, but were all emotional about it, nonetheless. I mean, think about it: last Xmas, when I was home, will be the last time I will have seen her when she was actually living at home, the family unit still whole and unbroken. Maybe thats all a myth and an illusion, but it still feels very wrenching. You think youve mourned for something, but it still causes more pain, when it actually happens. Thats the horror of Alzheimers: it goes on for a very very long time, without let up. Its exhausting.
Suffice to say, life sucks worse than usual, lately. And there doesnt seem any way out of it, it just keeps going on and on, endlessly looping. Nowhere left to go for help.
fifty-foot red oaks
drop pollen fronds on my truck
spring visits home
quick dive inside, windows up
that, or sneezing all day long
donning hazmat suits
we picnic in the back yard:
brush fuzzy greens off the cake
would you prefer a scone?
Ive been trying to mow the lawn for weeks, but at most we get a single dry day in between rainy ones. Everyone says its an unusual rainy season, very much more than usual. Flooding possible. Meanwhile, the lawn grasses are green imitations of African veldt, almost knee-high in spots. Nothing is dry.
crows fly up, on fire
where sun touches sea, ignites
this midnight wind
387. 14 March 2006, Pinole, CA
in the dream, rising waters
cover the mountain road
till my boots flood and I
take them off to stroll back
barefoot and cool
in the dream, falling snow
has quenched the fires
in every chimney of a land
asleep for centuries
dreams within dreams
in surrounding hissing silence
I wake to sun, at last
386. 13 March 2006, Pinole, CA
So, heres what I didnt want to write about: Last Tuesday, driving home late at night after a gig in Palo Alto, exhausted and a little put-out by the drama around the gig, not excluding four hours total of driving, I was almost in a major car crash. One year, one month, one week, and one day after the camper went over the cliff in New Mexico. Well, not exactly, add a few more days to that equation. But I was having PTSD flashbacks about the camper crash for two days. I was a useless pile of quivering jelly, unable to focus on anything, leaking tears at anything, just being your basic emotional wreck.
Now Im back in the saddle again, but I have some new limits and boundaries on what I will do, driving to gigs and rendezvous. Some guys from Craigslist, responding to an ad I posted well over a week ago, wanted to meet up with me, for, you know, basic sex, but I was not at all into it; Im still not. Im still feeling emotionally fragile, and having to drive down to Palo Alto again on Saturdaythe second time in one weekreally fouled my mood. New rule: such drives will no longer be undertaken closer together than two weeks. A little margin for error, in case of emergencies.
So, heres what happened: on a dark offramp on Hwy. 980 and 580 heading past Oakland towards home, where there are no traffic-lights, some asshole had abandoned their car by the roadside. Now, there was no shoulder there on the ramp, one of those elevated ramps. The car in front of me, being an idiot, came to a complete and total stop, right beside the parked car, completely blocking the road. Never mind the other traffic bearing down on us a hundred yards to the rear. Never mind the car in the other lane, so that I cant swerve around to avoid rear-ending the idiot. I slammed on my brakes harder than ever before. Had to come to a total halt. Had to jam on my newly-replaced brakes so hard, the ABS kicked in; the ABS never kicks in, unless theres show or ice on the road, and this was a clear warm night in California with no precipitation. Then the idiot nonchalantly goes on again, as though nothing had happened, after Id almost been the middle of an accordion. I stomped on the accelerator, trying to get up to speed before I in turn got rear-ended. Then, one of those cars coming up from behind tailgates me for the next half-mile, for no reason, as its now an open road, and the other lane is now clear. I wasnt going the speed limit, no, not after all that, and I was shaking so hard in the car as I drove on towards home, I was freaked out. I didnt pull over and stop, because there was no place to, and if I had stopped, I never would have made it home that night.
But this was the closest I had felt to not giving a shit if I lived or died, or some asshole killed me driving, in over a year; since, really, when the camper went over the cliff in New Mexico. It threw me off for days afterwards. At least the new brakes actually worked. At least the truck didn't get totalled; I don't think I could have survived that. At least I made it through this, too.
385. 12 March 2006, Pinole, CA
Gandhi: Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart desires must come to you.
Cloud formations very dramatic these past few days, shapes and types normally seen on the stormy Plains, not here. Freak late winter snow storm, leaving snow in Marin and in the hills south of San Jose, blanketing the hills less than 1000 feet above sea-level, and visible from the sea, as though the Sierras had suddenly taken a walk to come closer and peer in over the bay. Incredibly cold weather, too, at least for CA. Ive been huddled down in my room a lot, wearing lots of layers, running the computers and heater to stay toasty, burning candles, drinking lots of tea.
Ive been writing lots of poetry, though, and some essays. I have this long essay Im writing in stages on visionary poetry, that Ill probably pull together and post here soon. Ive been writing haibun, and other related forms, and a poem a day as part of a challenge, mostly haiku on my part. More about that in a minute.
the shock of snow touching sea
Late winter freak storm. Snow graces hills south of the Bay: alpine peaks seen from sea-level, where last fall was only dead brown grass, a few hundred feet up. The sudden vista of something Himalayan, and hidden, till now, rushing near. Startled roads wind through low, iced passes, stranding the unpracticed in the surprise of deadly driving. Scattered purple clouds cluster over the coastal range, now, in aftermath's stillness, and the blue silence beyond. The Bay Bridge seems distracted, awed; snow never gets this close to these whispering girders. Will the world end, now? Now, that everything seems about to melt? When the ice strikes down, wetting the road and the hills with absent benediction?
will spring ever come
to these shivering apples?
rusted trucks aim home
The past several days, Ive been participating in a write a poem a day practice with several other poets, online. I wasnt originally going to participate, and this is not at all how I write poems, normally; I usually wait for poems to come to me, and am just receptive to them. Readiness is all. But then, I jumped in anyway with this group practice, since Ive been being very creatively productive lately, anyway; lots of things to get done, and I feel swamped and overwhelmed at times, but continuously creative throughout it all.
Yesterdays prompt for the poem a day practice was to write out the whole process of doing a poem. What I wrote out is below. I almost never work this way, although in my journals I tend to spew like this, then pick out the gems later, to make poems from. Most of my poems do begin in my journal. But this was an interesting process in mining extraction: start with the spew, then whittle it down, then again, then again. I ended up with a couple of decent haiku, I think. So, here is the whole piece, as a literary exercise, an example of how I usually dont do things.
The truth is, I usually skip all this stuff, and go right to the end-result haiku. Maybe it all happens on some deeper level, this spinning and pruning, but its not a fully-conscious level. Maybe its a kind of intuitive logic, where you skip all the intervening steps to arrive at the end result directly. It was interesting to make all the intervening steps visible, for once, but I dont think Ill be doing it this way very often: too much work, and Im not that interested in having to be in conscious control of the process all the time. Its interesting to watch the process, every so often, but its not anything useful as a habit, I dont think.
The piece begins with free-writing, just spewing, automatic writing, almost. Then I pull out key words that catch my eye. Then I do that again. Gradually, the process narrows down from the spew to the finished poem, which is obviously much shorter and condensed than the original spew.
I never get writer's block. I can always find something to dredge out of the middens. Even on darker days, like this one, I can go inside and pull something out. Although it's not always a poem, or a word. Sometimes it's an image or a musical phrase. A mood evoked by three chords, a melody of absent-minded contemplation.
block dredge middens
darker days one inside pull out
word image phrase mood
evoked melody absent
The hinge where spirit enters, the heart of the music, the dance, the poem, the aspirant. Into the chest a sudden wind. Eyes covered, ears open, mouth half-shut in waiting. Prayer flags whip the wind blackly silhouetted in front of piled Maxfield Parrish clouds. Over there, a tree waves its arms at darkness. Jay cries from blank branches of the ash grove, scrying alarms across the window. Denuded rose shrubs peer out, scraggly and shorn. The lights coming on everywhere, making nothing of it all. Denial of the void opening shadow.
hinge enters heart
aspirant chest sudden wind
eyes ears mouth prayer
flags whip black clouds
over there tree waves at darkness
jay blank ash scrying
lights making nothing void
A camera for a hand. The blue touch of whale-spines rising from sleep, out of the fins of dreams. Spin, carpenter. Hung there freely, turning in the slow wind. The sound of ropes, the creaking cedar chandeliers. Absorbed ivories of half-awakened pianos gathering dust in corners where mice have dreamed. Dark cape of someone there, by the road as you drive by, then not-there. An outline of emptiness. Triggered pampas grass whitening flares burst from the hills over the widening gulf of the sea.
whale-spines rising from sleep
the blue fins of dreams
hung turning, ropes creaking
dust in mice-dreamt corners
emptiness flares from the hills
over the sea's outlined gulf
Warm breath of ants in their sleep. Rising, the red honey of slow lust. Burst mounds of nectar-carrying hives, the spell of sun hydrating the eclipse. A hand, a lens, a silvered photograph. Lotus, candle, and scimitar. Quick flicker of the edge of blades; a handmade stamp signing black ink remembrance. Make it permanent, this ice. Make it cold and razored, blooded and red-eyed, fanged and clawed. Released wolf roves the bones. Grins of dice in skulls. Deer buried in a fall of red maple pages.
warm breath of ants, red honey
burst hive eclipse
hand, lens, lotus, scimitar
this permanent bloody ice
fall of red maple pages
darker days pull one inside out
evoked melodies and words
the heart's hinge makes sudden wind
aspirant void, making nothing
trees wave at darkness
whale-spines rise from sleep
the blue fins of dreams
surfacing, flaring from the hills
dust-mice dream in corners
red honey, red maple leaves
lens of ice, and eclipsed lotus
ants breathe warm in their sleep
trees wave, black prayer flags
whale-fins rise from dream
and surface, flaring
in aspirant sleep, eclipsed
a lotus of ice
384. 5 March 2006, Pinole, CA
The downside to this increased energetic openness and Sacred Heart vulnerability Ive been developing over the past year is increased sensitivity to things like Mercury retrogrades, which just get intense and nasty for me, no matter what the stupid astrologers say about how theyre not bad things. Not to mention my gear, which is in my field, acting up in basically impossible ways, at peak times for this energetic stuff. Computers misbehaving in ridiculously stupid ways.
I went to bed angry and frustrated, had intense dreams, woke up with a feeling of snow in the air. Its cold and grey outside, but snow would be strange, here. Still, I know its snowing somewhere, today; I can sense it. Rain, cold and hard, will come here, too, Im sure of it.
383. 4 March 2006, Pinole, CA
if there is anything the sky can do for you, ask, but ask
the trees first, those climbers and lifters who rise and fall.
a grey day, simmering in anticipation of summer clarity, but not
today, not now, not this huddled chill, these chimney ashes that fall.
I can't be any clearer; it's not in me, not in us, to move lament but in
slow stages, small seagull steps, lizard hops, and riprap left to fall.
boy aflame with red anger, eyes bright, heart vivid but lost
in its own reflection; boy, do you see how your own rage must fall?
away: away with the blue sun, the dark noon, these empty but never
emptied eyes, hair alight, slack-jawed and syrupy pretenses of that fall.
we choose to stand naked on exposed rocks above the tide, but we
see past the etched horizon, winds and light-sheets, to a place where we may not fall.
I suppose one could call these experiments, loose ghazals. Its a strict Arabic/Persian form, which I find interesting in that it gives a short-form poem room to breathe; but like most such formal poetry, I tend to break up the form, deconstruct the song, break it up, make it looser and more suited to my needs. Ive never been good with pure formal poetry; it makes me chafe, and want to break free.
So Ive been prompted to write ghazals lately, but most purists would think them all wrong, and probably bad. So be it: Im not writing to please the purists, especially not the purist formalist, who have never been my audience.
Im still just as interested in writing haibun, too. This next one is a homoerotic haibun, again, which I did last month but have since revised:
Crying over you, too tired for sleep: the absent lover, the phantom kiss, the missing caress. I touched your secrets, holding you like no one had; you sighed, content. Now, all gone, this winter night leaves nothing but cold iron smiles. By the empty roadside, six little Jizo herd my wanderings. Cleaning out boxes, old pictures of you, your other lovers, I slide them through the shredder, make slices of the past.
of young men loved and loving
ashes in the mouth
The sweaty afternoon we read Jataka tales, playfully touching: this naked dream world. Hiking trails above the woods, skinny-dipping in an alpine lake, pine breezes cool heaving chests, ancient red rocks bathed in sweat. Ten thousand Buddhas, carved from the wood of your flesh; or one, in your heart. Before you left, the last time, "Let's pretend," you said, "that we still love each other."
his silk robe unfastening,
lace-of-willows behind the ear
frost every night now
382. 28 February 2006, Pinole, CA
Interspersed sunlight and showers today, with dramatic cloudscapes. Its warmer, too. Every few minutes, a spit of rain; then sunlight dries the road, just in time to wet it up again. I went over to the corner market, and picked up some fresh red potatoes to make myself a meal, which Im about to go do. Then I drove over to the local Goodwill, and found three books; Hyemeyohsts Storms Seven Arrows, first edition hardcover, with all the illustrations; Paul Theroux Collected Stories, a great travel writer and novelist whose work I feel parallels my own life at times; and, on a whim, Howard Eves 1963 textbook A Survey of Geometry, Vol. I. What the hell, geometry is fun. I was standing there in the store, reading it, and some of the text was sparking geeky poems in my head. This could be a good source book for drawings and phrases. But what the hell, I actually understand geometry; its always been fairly easy for me, because of its basis in visualization. Unlike number theory, which is purely abstract and mental. This book barely gets into non-Euclidean geometry, a little light Lobachevskii; and it predates fractal geometry by a decade; but, like I said, a whim. Itll be fun to review this stuff. I had a guy come over for quick sex earlier today, too. A different kind of geometry.
Theorem: There is only one tangent intersecting the circles of desire and satisfaction, and overlapping the combinatorial set of the perfect arrangement of bodies in contact with each other. Proof: To be repeated later. One hopes.
I laid on my couch-bed for a couple of hours, this evening, re-reading Storm. A beautiful, sad, and profound book. Life goes on, in the Circle, forever, despite all the death and pain. All things are enclosed in the Circle, the Medicine Wheel, and it is each of us, all the time. A beautiful Way.
Ive felt some longing for the road lately. But I dont know where to go. I dont have any goals at the moment, just dead trails. No plans, just this new work I have to push through as soon as I can. It feels claustrophobic to spend so much time in front of the computer, but its necessary, and an investment in future plans. Dont dare to hope: just do it.
Geometries of desire.
381. 26 February 2006, on the BART train
Its been raining all day, since yesterday, actually. I didnt unload the truck till just before heading into the City for rehearsal. Its warm rain now, though, and the air is warm if very humid.
I went to bed early, unable to stand up any longer. Then I woke up at dawn, and got online for awhile, then went back to bed and slept till after noon. Ive been moving slowly all day. Done some email and a little computer work, but nothing really. I spent most of the day moving slowly, and writing, sorting through poems, and editing and re-writing other things. Have hardly had an appetite, although I may have had too much sugar already. Could use some protein.
380. 26 February 2006, Pinole, CA
If you get rid of the demons, if you get rid of the disturbing things, then the angels fly off, too. Joni Mitchell
I felt, for the first time, more than tolerated or ignored, this morning, at Retreat. People sought me out to ask about the Stick, and tell me how much they liked my playing last night. I did a really upbeat piece, I think, when I played. It was high-energy, it grooved, and it soared, all at once. Fusion, prog, groove, whatever. I did a lot of the things I often do, but I felt a lot more confident and grounded than I sometimes do in solo settings. People were interested, this morning, in talking to me about it, my music, and related topics. Its the best introduction to a new group I could have thought of: candle burning brightly, concealing bushel removed. I even sold several DVDs and CDs this morning; cash in hand, thats always a nice feeling.
It was warmer last night, but still cold this morning, and damp. I went and ate breakfast, then took the tent down. By the time I had moved the truck out to the parking lot and morning rehearsal started, it was raining. Its rained all day. I drove back through the rain, window rolled down to take photos as I went, heater running.
The tops of these rounded green hills with lone sentinel pines shaped by steady winds. only miles from the ocean; but I drove back to the city in the rain, taking my time, savoring these winding country roads that switch back across valley notches and slither down next to the streams that have carved out the valleys. Sometimes heavy rain, and going a little slow around the curves, with the roads slick, cautious. How we drive has so much to do with who we are.
Talking to people this weekend about gay culture and life, and social justice, and activism, and politics. I outed myself as a witchwhich seemed safer to say at that moment than shamanand anarchist. I realize that I care nothing for what the Olympics have become, and have watched none of the TV coverage. Its not an international show, really, but an exhibition of the worst sorts of nationalism, fronted by personal competition that always has a taint of nationalist competition. In the past, you could cheer for the most talented athletes in the world: now, youre supposed to cheer for your countrys athletes, regardless of their level of skill or ability. Its pointless. Worse, its regressive. More bread and circuses, more ways to be an ostrich while the world burns itself to a cinder. So, I dont even care who wins or loses, and neither do those judgments mean anything.
I want convergence, not competition. Cooperation and conviviality, that bring us together, rather than the shadows of diversity that drive us apart. Because nationalism is not diversity, its egotism. Diversity is appreciation of difference without being threatened by it. Competitions always involves threat, and judgment. Conviviality and cooperation involve finding those places we work well together, and in complementary partnership, our strengths filling out each others difficulties.
hills drenched with gray mists, sea-dew and glory,
now green with razor spring grass, as I tear down the tent.
summer has no hold where the river runs rust, a sulfur spring,
leached lichen spilling onto exotics, horses slid down with intent.
voices rise in chorus from the hillside, reflecting pine to eucalyptus,
outside silence, inside the heart a storm of words, arising, content.
roads to savor, to unwind out like tangled ropes, cows hunched under
low skies, my window rolled down to the sights and smells: rain portents.
refuge of the roads, silent noise of tires on wet asphalt, the hills
alive with sentinel pines astride ridge and mountain: for these signs, a sky's tent.
how we drive has so much to do with who we are, the threads
of hand and wheel and rain all twist together, with linked intent.
wool blankets make a warm nest, the extra tarp thrown over,
till wind slides it off, and cold stars glare down, ice on the tent.
as we retreat from the overwhelmed displays of color and time, rain and
aliens landing on the roof, and not enough time: it's enough, be content.
All my life, people have been telling me "just pick one artform, settle down, and get to be great at that." All my life, I've been fighting the battle against that, which to me seems like a real narrowness of mind, and pointing to artists, musicians, and writers who have all done more than one thing well. I point to a group of people who I view in many ways as mentors and role models, who set a standard that I aspire to, even if I fail to achieve it: Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, John Cage, Gordon Parks, a few others.
Because I know it's possible to do more than one thing well, and since I do more than one thing well, this sometimes feels like a battle against prejudice. The prejudgment lies in the assumption that people can only ever be good at doing one thing. That's simply not true. Even among "ordinary people," like your average farmer or salaryman, I have met numerous individuals who excel at their hobbies as well as their professions. I think you can do well whatever you feel passionately about, whatever you care about.
Now, listening to and watching a documentary last night, after a weekend of making music out in the countryside, and needing to be still and integrate, I hear a terrific quote that says it all for me, that describes exactly how I feel about the process of creativity, and says it as succinctly as anyone has ever put it:
Anytime I make a record, its followed by a painting period. Its good crop rotation. I keep the creative juices going by switching from one to the other, so that when the music or the writing dries up, I paint. You rest the ear awhile, and you rest the inner mind, because poetry takes a lot of plumbing the inner depths. I mean, the way I write anyway, it takes a lot of meditation. Without the painting to clear the head, I dont think I could do it. ?Joni Mitchell
So, were doing all this ABBA music in this SFGMC concert period. I cant stand ABBA, I never liked them, I cant stand disco, I never really liked it; I think that whole period in White Music was execrable. Go ahead and take away my Gay Card, I dont care. I tolerate it, to be part of the Chorus, and also be able to do the really top-notch choral music thats also on the concert, the excerpts from original commissions from this Chorus, a part of their history of spreading the message of diversity through music: Naked Man, Exile, and Metamorphosis. I was part of the Metamorphosis premiere during those two years I was part of the Twin Cities Gay Mens Chorus, and I was one of the people who was interviewed during the commission process; the piece was made up of all our stories, everyone in the Chorus who was willing to be interviewed by the composer and librettist. It was a very powerful experience, very memorable, very moving. Thats the sort of music I think moves us forward, and helps us get the message out. The pop music a lot of gay choruses do, in my opinion, is pandering to the audiences expectations. Granted, many audiences are that shallow; but still.
So, I was thinking about it: what was I listening to in the mid-70s, when ABBA first became big? I was listening to classical and experimental, of course: Debussy, and Steve Reich, and Cage, and so forth. I was also listening to jazz, and to Motown, and had yet to get much into rock, punk, or reggae. My background is in classical, after all, and I was never into much pop music at that time; partially because most of it was crap, as it always is. I was just about to discover Joni Mitchell, and it was a real life-changing musical adventure that that discovery put me on; Im still on that path, I still view Joni as something of a role model. I didnt have more than a smidgen of interest in Broadway musicals, or showbiz, at that time, and I still dont. I know that material, because I know a lot of music, inclusive. But its neither my great love as a gay man, nor is it particularly even on my radar until one of these gay stereotypes puts it there.
So, I may be gay, but I reject every cliché or stereotype about what a gay man is supposed to be, supposed to listen to, or should have grown up listening to: that is oppressive rubbish, the stereotypes about us that we use to oppress ourselves. If we were really liberated, we would be able to listen to anything, or do anything, without stereotyping or rejection: we would truly be as diverse as the mainstream community, and as wide-ranging in taste. The evidence is that were not, not yet: but these stereotypes are not innate or essential. They remain a form of internalized oppression under which many gay men suffer, and have not yet done the hard, possibly painful inner work of freeing themselves even from their own assumptions and stereotypes. Theres a lot of ostriching going on these days, and a lot less activism. Thats not necessarily a sign of cultural assimilation; it could just be burnout.
379. 25 February 2006, Walker Creek Ranch, Marin County, CA
Now, night again, warmer than last night: no ice on the tent. The sky half-clouded, Orion and Sirius already descending into the west.
I played five minutes of solo Stick at the No-Talent Night show tonight, after which people were sharing thoughts and feelings around the campfire. I received a lot of great comments about my playing, afterwards, but I felt disconnected at the campfire, in the gathering cold, and a little cynical, and knew it was time to leave and go off for solitude and integration. Always a sign that Im saturated, done, had enough of people. I talked for awhile with a small group off to the side. Much more to my liking, small groups. Its hard for me to feel included in a lot of what people say about their feelings for the Chorus: much of it echoes the Heart Circle talk of Radical Faeries, with some very similar thoughts about finding ones family and home, but more lubricated with alcohol, and way more passing around the talking-stick at random. A talking-talisman thats an alcohol bottle doesnt really work for me. Its all well-meant; I just dont feel included, yet. Maybe I will, someday, maybe I wont. There are too many men for me to deal with at the moment, except in small groups. But just when I start to feel cynical, I get men coming up to me to tell me how much they liked what I did on Stick. One or two want to buy CDs tomorrow morning; so, Ill bring them along with me to morning rehearsal.
I did five minutes of high energy prog-rock playing, basically. A solid bass groove, high-energy and fast tempo, then a screaming guitar lead over the top. Changed the groove three times, all in D modal, and did different kinds of chord layers over it. Then a big finish ending. It was fun and upbeat, if not my best-ever playing. I felt calm and focused, like this is an area of certainty in my life that is rock-solid at this point, and impervious to fears and doubts. Many folks had never heard of the Stick before, so I turned on a new bunch of folks to it, which I always love to do. Us evangelists for the instrument always like doing that. Some had seen Stick before, but it had been years since theyd seen anyone play one live. Well, world domination is a long-term goal for Stick, and we do what we can to move it along, increment by increment.
I have doubts and fears around ever really being a part of a group like the Chorus. Frankly, there are areas that really put me off: like the drinking. Ive gotten used to Faerie space, where things are more observant, more thoughtful, more deliberate, more intentional. There is a lot of that here, but its mixed in with folks who just want to party. Gay culture: there are things I dont like about it, and things I need, whether I like them or not. Its just the way it is. Im learning to deal with it, and cope, and make my way in the world. Piece by piece.
Now, a second night seeing the stars bright before bed. That alone was worth this trip. It is always worth a trip to find a place where I can merge with nature, spend some time in it, and emerge refreshed, more myself again. A spiritual tune-up. Shaman goes hunting.
I almost forgot: when I was at Pescadero, a few days ago, a hawk flew right over me, twice. Once when I was approaching the beach, and the parking area. Then minutes, later, the same hawk swooped within mere feet of me, riding the cliffs-edge air-pressure wave, the way the gulls do. He sailed along, then turned inland over the marsh. A very pleasant visit from Messenger.
I must go to Pescadero as often as I can, to keep my balance, in this year of rapid changes. Maybe Ill be able to hit Butano State Park for a night or two of camping, later, and spend a lot of time at the shoreline, in the sun, in the air, and making art, weaving, being naked. All things that are good for me.
This morning, woken by the sunrise light just after dawn, listening to the owls and other birds in the trees and overhead. Nearby, a pair of wild turkeys kept me awake, with their stupid dominance battles.
Night sounds. People going to bed. Tired now. Just needed to write some of this out, get it out of my system, and be able to go to bed now.
378. 25 February 2006, Walker Creek Ranch, Marin County, CA
An afternoon moment. I need to take a break from total overstimulation and overwhelm. Too many new faces, all these rehearsals later, my voice tired, my need for solitude to recharge and integrate rearing up. I might or might not participate much for the rest of the evening. Play it by ear. No pressure. Especially no pressure on me to conform.
Here I am surrounded by gay men, very few of whom I am attracted to. I havent been using the AIDS aura scan here, and I dont want to, or know if I ought to. AIDS has really hit hte Chorus hard, they have a painful history with it; those are waters I don't want to stir. I see no need. If it kicks in, then theres a need. No pressure.
The light is softening towards evening, with a little haze, after a blazing clear morning. The dawn light was veiled and whitened by gray fog, but that burned off and the pines and eucalyptus were stately in the bright white light of the middle day. Now, the haze is in, and the dew is already settling on the grass, hours before sunset. I slept deep and well last night, although my head was full of the Chorus music wed rehearsed, which was annoying. Tonight, I will remember to listen to something other before bed, to clear my ears. No pressure.
377. 24 February 2006, Walker Creek Ranch, Marin County, CA
Its midnight; Orion is just setting, with Sirius to follow. Its good to be able to see the whole sky full of stars. Theres ice on the tent, under the clear sky: dew from the nearby sea, the inlet of Tomales Bay only scant miles away, freezing on the tent. Inside, heated by three candles, writing. A long day, just over. Im camping out here, for the next two nights.
Im here for SFGMC Retreat: a music rehearsal weekend, but also an escape from the routine, a social adventure, a chance to meet people. I keep my distance, some, this evening. Im slow to trust, when it feels unsafe; and there are too many new faces here, and too many unknowns, to blindly trust. Ive changed, in the past few years, towards being less willing to give myself away, or give my trust away, to people I dont know well; Ive been burned too many times, and had too many journeys of body and spirit. Its the warriors stance: open to whatever happens, reserved, willing to be cheerful and convivial, but sitting with your back to the door, and never fully dropping your guard. I choose to talk one on one a few times, and that goes well. Then theres this meet the newbies thing after, where new Chorus members introduce themselves, and they ask me to say something shocking about myself, so I come out spiritually; thats always a big hurdle, so I just throw it out there, and get it over with. Its harder, as Ive said before, to come out spiritually than to come out as gay. In many ways Im not a gay man, in that so many of the Urban Fag stereotypes just dont apply. I tell them Im a Witch, which is true enough, if not the whole story; I dont tell them Im a shaman, or a spiritual warrior. Too complex to explain in five words or less.
Theres a stream flowing by, not far away from the tent, that I can hear in this starlit dark. By the footbridge, crossing it, it smells of rotten eggs: its a sulfur-laden geothermal spring. The river source is stained red with mineral rust. There are other wells here, no doubt, and a cistern on the hill above, that serve this place, which is a county-run educational center most of the time, and an occasional retreat center. Cabins and buildings, classrooms, a dining hall, trails, a nature museum, a bathhouse, and more. I choose to camp, for silence and darkness, and privacy, rather than share a room in a dormitory. I hear the stream nearby, a steady chuckle over stones and fallen tree-logs: soothing, remnant, the rivulets of small waters with big ambitions.
I feel music or poetry rising in me tonight, before I sleep. I just need to dump out the days images, to start afresh the next day, with an empty mind and fresh receptors. All centeredness comes from refreshment. I need lots of silence and solitude, in integrate. This promises to be a weekend of severe overstimulation and possible emotional overwhelm.
Driving up here in the late afternoon light, as the sun began to highlight the hillsides and rough rocks exposed as islands in the green pastures. The winter rains make these hills briefly green; this is the lush time of year, when everything is green and fertile, and fresh; later, in the high heat of summer, it will brown out, and dry out, and sometimes go to fire. Then, fog season will re-wet it all, and then it will dry out again. These ancient hills, clumped together from remnants of old island arcs, seafloor ridges, and piled-together crumpled continents and slabs of ophiolite. These ancient hills, with their brooding, rounded slopes. In the wet season, patches of green-covered soil break loose and slide down: miniature avalanches, exposing abraded rock underneath. This sandstone and serpentine glop everywhere.
Sleep now, and wake refreshed. Ice on the tent: it will be a cold, cold night, but a pleasant, refreshing one. I sense a deep dark calm approaching. Something like the shadow of wild calm, on the horizon, clouds coming over the hills, bringing soft rain, and soothing fog. The mysteries of grass.
376. 23 February 2006, Foster City, CA
Historian and author Theodore Roszak on NPR today, talking about the ideology of the right-wing neo-cons. The idea of the Noble Lie, which is the Big Lie that history will prove to be right action, in the end: the problem is, when you lie, you lie. Neo-con ideology is an absolutist as religious ideology, which is also why these people are allies. The corporate angle is also problematic because corporations are not even remotely patriotic: they recognize no flag, they only pursue profit. (You can hear the whole show on the KQED Forum podcast, or via iTunes, or from www.KQED.org.)
everything ordinary depends on the scarecrow
standing in the field drenched with fallen rain.
dark eyes of crow scan the old hilltop fort
rooked with broken fieldstones weathered by rain.
we walked in the garden all afternoon, you pointed out
the azaleas, when crows dropped down to the lawn like rain.
songs burst from the redwing blackbird like exploding cattails
where he perches to shout his "I am" in the marshland rain.
the decrepit scarecrow has shoulders epauleted with claws
and black eyes watching the desperate farmer pray for rain.
Later, Pescadero, CA:
We got down to the beach and rocks at Pescadero, today, which was a blessing of sunlight, wind, and warm clear skies. I drove the back roads, with their windings and redwood groves and sudden vistas of hills and open spaces. Its almost March, and the beaches were crowded with folk at times, empty at other times. For awhile, taking photographs at the low-tide waterline, and gathering dreamstones, I took off my shirt and felt the suns blessing on my back as I worked.
This is the place: there are so many, its impossible to even find them all. But it remains a shamans task to find them: so many people here, I see walk right past them, and dont even see them, dont notice them. Perhaps they only reveal themselves to people who can See, or who need at least to see these stones.
Many new photos take the mind off the recent weeks emotional turmoils, and I find myself moving again towards some peace and meditation. I needed to be here, today, so Im glad it worked out that I was able to come here.
I also made another Alignment piece at Pescadero today: six tall heavy menhirs stood on end, leading obliquely to the waters edge, and the sea-buried stones beyond.
Im experimenting with ghazals, for now, but I have no intention of giving up haibun, which remains a perfect form for me to work in: flexible, evocative, the writing of all good things.
But here are a few more ghazals:
Heady fragrance of citrus, grape, and blood
fills our nostrils as we sup this passionate wine.
That night, cool and wet, when you arrived at my door
disheveled, your passionate kisses tasted of new wine.
Olives touched by sun, a lemon sliced and warming,
fresh garlic, your fingers on my neck an impassioned wine.
He made breakfast in the morning, passionate with a knife
and carving block, an omelette, an orange, a drop of wine.
It's night: somewhere, you're sitting awake, as I am here,
your passion making you restless, calmed by this light wine.
Red with secret passions, our fingers covered with spent seeds
and the blood of stamped grapes, pants rolled up, we dance in this year's wine.
375. 21 February 2006, Pinole, CA
I was reading Psychological Reflections: Selections by Jung last night on the train home from rehearsal, a book of quotations arranged thematically, and gathered from his Collected Works. I ran across a few comments that I think are relevant to my work, which I am quoting below. Jung had a lot to say about art and artists, and was himself a visionary?it's one reason I find his psychological work so interesting, in that he sought to include the numinous and transpersonal, and rebelled against reductionism and the tyranny of rationalism über alles.
One insight I find very useful is the recognition that everybody's experience and awareness of the universe is valid, for them. This is not solipsism?there are many overlaps between all our experiences, and we all have to deal with some very similar human experiences: death, love, grief, joy, suffering, eros, pain, etc. Where I think we get stuck is when any of us says: my way is more real than anyone else's.
The assumption that there exists only one psychology or only one fundamental psychological principle is an intolerable tyranny, belonging to the pseudo-scientific prejudice of the normal man. People are always speaking of THE man and of his "psychology," which is invariably traced back to the "nothing else but." In the same way one talks of THE reality, as if there were only one. Reality is that which works in a human soul and not that which certain people assume to be operative and about which prejudiced generalizations are wont to be made. Moreover, no matter how scientifically such generalizations may be advanced, it must not be forgotten that science is not the summa of life, that it is indeed only one of the psychological attitudes, only one of the forms of human thought.
The artist is the mouthpiece of the secrets of the psyche of his time?involuntarily, like every true prophet, and unconsciously, like a sleep-walker. He believes himself to be speaking out of himself; but the spirit of the age speaks through him, and what it says is so, for it works.
Whether the poet knows that his work is generated in him and grows and ripens there, or whether he imagines that he creates out of his own will and from nothingness, it changes in no way the curious fact that his work grows beyond him. It is, in relation to him, like a child to its mother.
374. 20 February 2006, on the BART train going to San Francisco, CA
Today, I woke up realizing that I felt no regret or guilt at all: guilt for losing my temper yesterday, shouting out my frustration and anger, and letting the world know exactly how pissed off I was. I did nothing but shout. I dont hit people, I didnt hit things, I just vented. I woke up feeling cleansed. Ive continued to dump toxins all day today, too, with a little upset stomach and some more verbal venting. Now Im headed into the City for Chorus rehearsal.
Some of the venting I did today was about the gay so-called community, my people. It always astonishes me how gay men, who have been oppressed all their lives, turn right around and keep doing it: to themselves, to each other. There is as yet no true Gay Liberation, because most mainstream gays are not yet liberated, in their own selves. They are still mostly walking wounded, rather than fully human, fully aware and actualized. There are so many ways in which I am not a gay urban fag, that sometimes I think I might as well be straight?except for my sexual attractions to other men. Its ridiculous, but its true.
I was watching a special on LOGO, the new LGBT cable channel, which is usually a pretty good channel, and there was a special about gays on film. Not gays in film, but about why gays like certain kinds of film and theatre, especially Broadway musicals. Someone made the comment that, There is always an outsider character in the movie or musical, and that character is who we identify with, as outsiders ourselves. I thought like retorting, Speak for yourself. It does nothing to explain my general total lack of attraction to show business, musical theatre, Broadway, or camp. Some other talking head proclaimed Judy Garland as the ultimate outsider, and of course there was footage from The Wizard of Oz. After Judy died, there was her daughter, Liza, to assume her mantle of outsiderness, with Cabaret. While there is definitely truth to the idea that I am drawn to outsider characters, none of these were ever ones I was drawn to; although I think Cabaret was a great movie, for other reasons. Judy Garland an outsider? No way! Not by my standards. How can someone that famous, that celebrated, that worshipped, ever really be an outsider? A lost soul, though? Sure.
Another segment was on camp in movies: the unintentionally comedic film, which was sincere in its intentions, but hilarious because it's so over the top and overdone. Like the Village Peoples single music-movie; like Mommy Dearest; like lots of other fairly bad movies. Thats a definition of camp I like, but camp is hardly exclusive to gay films. Its as universal as kitsch.
So, in my opinion, what gays are supposed to like, and do, is so laden with stereotypes, that it's hardly liberated, but only another form of oppression. when you're like me, a gay who doesn't fit into the stereotypes, and doesn't want to, you feel doubly repressed: rejected by the mainstream and rejected by your own so-called community. It's shameful.
I guess its no surprise if people who have been despised, vilified, and hated all their lives, would band together in cliques. But to me, it just looks like more internalized oppression, played out in unhealthy ways, within the so-called community. Its no wonder we cant seem to band together as a community, lately, to get any effective activism done: we have sacrificed community on the altar of everybody getting their own piece of the pie, and who cares about the rest?
Later, back in Pinole, CA:
Well, rehearsal went well after all. It was more convivial, too. At the same time, most of my uncertainties and questions remain open and unanswered. Will I be able to do this? Is this required for that? They make the claim that, like the Faeries: No one will be turned away for lack of funds. But heres the catch: if I have to put up the funds first, and get reimbursed later, then I AM being turned away, because I cant put up the funds first. Theres just no way, and no budget for it. It was bad enough having to suddenly get new brakes last week; other expenses are just not easy or likely to be doable. So, if thats the way its going to work out, then there are things that just wont work for me, because I simply cant do it that way. I can do sweat equity, I can do volunteer work, I can do other services; but cash is the whole main issue as to why I cant do more. Period. If they dont understand that, then we really are talking at cross-purposes. I will wait and see. I have names of people to call, to see if I can get a firm answer, one way or another. If I cant, that too is an answer. And a very clear one, from my perspective.
The bottom line with all this is: after all I've been through the past few years, all the changes and moves, and rejectionsmy trust has to be earned. I give it a lot less blindly than I used to.
373. 19 February 2006, Pinole, CA
In the east-facing window, past clustered rows of huddled suburban houses, green trees standing tall between, the broad expanse of sky spreads blue to the low greening hills of later winter. The half-wild roses tick their long staves at the panes in a slight mid-morning breeze. There are always birds. Plummeting from nowhere, an exuberant yellowback darts from thorny branch to green-leafed twig, singing its head off, making the roses sway. Back and forth, no reason but singing, leaping, a loud chorister conducting the day's congregation in this green nave. Sunlight whitens and bursts behind ragged leaves, new buds still green and tightly globed. Overhead, a lone high air-carrier scrapes a white vapor trail into the blue; following it with my eyes, I feel an old longing to be traveling, the road-hunger, the thirst for open air and light, away from every local god and binding care.
in clear morning light
a goldfinch bounces rosebush stalks?
planes pass beyond
boys on bicycles
wheel and circle like seagulls?
smell of fresh-parked car
Notes at Random:
Podcasting is the rebirth of freeform community radio programming?bigger, stronger, more anarchistic, better than ever.
BIG ANNOUNCER VOICE: Podcasting! The rebirth of RADIO! (echoes:) Radio! radio ...
Gaston Bachelard: Imagination is always considered to be the faculty of forming images. But it is rather the faculty of deforming the images, of freeing ourselves from the immediate images; it is especially the faculty of changing images.
M.C. Escher: Anyone who applies himself, from his early youth, to the practice of graphic techniques may well reach a stage at which he begins to hold as his highest ideal the complete mastery of his craft. Excellence at craftsmanship takes up all his time and so completely absorbs his thoughts, that he will even make his choice of subject subordinate to his desire to explore some particular facet of technique. True enough, there is a tremendous satisfaction to be derived from the acquisition of artistic skill and an achievement of a thorough understanding of the properties of the material to hand, and in learning with true purposefulness and control to use the tools which one has available?above all, ones own two hands!
I myself passed many years in this state of self-delusion. But then there came a moment when it seemed as though scales fell from my eyes. I discovered that technical mastery was no longer my sole aim, for I became gripped by another desire, the existence of which I had never expected. Ideas came into my mind quite unrelated to graphic art, notions which so fascinated me that I longed to communicate them to other people. This could not be achieved through words, for these thoughts were not literary ones, but mental images of a kind that can only be made comprehensible to others by presenting them as visual images. Suddenly the method by which the image was to be presented became less important than it used to be. However, one does not of course study graphic art for so many years to no avail; not only had the craft become second nature to me, it had also become essential to continue using some technique of reproduction that would enable me to communicate simultaneously to a large number of my fellow men what I was aiming at.
His comments speak for poetry and music as well as graphic arts, I think. There is a seductive side to the mastery of craft that can veer us away from our inner vision; and there are severe limits to words, and what can be expressed in words.
372. 15 February 2006, Pinole, CA
Eating at an excellent Indian restaurant in Berkeley this afternoon, coming out into the warm evening just at lingering pink sunset, replete with curry as comfort food, a late birthday dinner for myself, sponsored by J. Sitting there, watching the people walk by on the sidewalk outside as we ate, thinking of how odd Ive felt all day: hypersensitive to smells and sounds, my calves sore from the long hike in the City two days ago, so that Im walking with pain, and an odd gait. Ive been feeling off-kilter all day, some very physical changes. The truck feels weird to drive, and seems to touch the road with more sensitivity than ever before. Of course, the truck also has new brakes, and theyre rough; even so, I feel like I have a changed, unknown flesh.
Sitting there eating, watching the people go by, I started to see their auras, around their heads and shoulders in the failing light. Nothing new there; it happens fairly often, when it needs to, or when I choose to. Ive figured out how aura-seeing actually works for me: I dont see the aura directly, I believe; what happens is that I sense it kinesthetically, intuitively; the data comes in, and some part of my mind creates a holographic image that I see in my minds eye, overlaying what my eyes are seeing. At least, thats how it seems to be working today. I know Im not seeing it directly, but a projected image created from the data I am sensing. This is not to say Im imagining it all; experience has proven that it is indeed a real perception.
Then an overcoated man walked by with his little dog on a leash, and I could see black spots in his aura, and I knew he has HIV. Other people went by, and I could things in their auras, too. I looked each time for a trace of AIDS, and there was none. But I Know what it was I saw.
My first thought was: Great, just what I need, another very specific psychic ability: to see chronic diseases reflected in auras. The last thing I want to become is some psychic freak show, or even worse, some sort of saint. Im no saint, and I dont want to ever become some stereotyped cliché of a holy man, guru, or leader. I want no disciples.
Then I thought, wait, this could be useful. Its a very specific siddhi, but in the past these have tended to show up in my toolbox when they are about to be needed. I never go looking for siddhis anymore, and I dont cling to them. Getting attached to the siddhis can pull you off the path faster than almost anything else: they are not the path, nor the goal, they are no more than a byproduct. As you go along, and keep evolving and developing, more and more of them tend to show up, and paradoxically, you have occasion to use them less and less. You tend to use them less and less, because by then you have learned, often the hard way, how little actions tend to have big consequences. I dont want to generate more karma, by mucking about or interfering in other peoples lives; they have the basic right to fuck up, and learn, and go on, all on their own. Intervention is never useful to anyone, as they get to learn nothing from the lesson, and all you get is their karma, in addition to your own. Not a smart exchange.
Now, tonight, just home after making music with Fuse for some hours, difficulty with gear, loose cables or something, so that my volume was unpredictable, too loud or too soft at times, throwing off my focus and my musical balance. Distracted from the playing, because of having to deal with the technology. Some good playing nonetheless. Its cold tonight, a winter night, enough to make me shiver here in my room, till I wrap up in wool shawls and turn on the heater for an hour.
371. 13 February 2006, San Francisco, CA
I put out what I needed to put out. I smudged three times last night, and each time felt calmer and clearer. Yessir, folks: it is indeed environmental. So much for that theory.
I came into the City early today, before SFGMC rehearsal, and went up to Grace Cathedral. I didnt walk the Labyrinth myself this time, but I sat and meditated and watched several other people slowly moving through the space, and sitting in the center of the circle, meditating.
A very calming time. I stayed there as the light failed, and the sun turned the City towers golden against a deep blue sky, with little fluffy clouds to the west and south.
The Cathedral bells rang out the hours as the sun lit the world with that amber light of late afternoon. I was standing by the outdoor Labyrinth at that moment.
I took out my Japanese calligraphy pen and an empty notebook that Pam had made, and I drew and wrote in it for several minutes. Meditation comments. Enso. Zen sayings. Observations of the infinite.
Then I went back in and sat and watched the walkers for awhile more, before hiking down the hill towards Market St., and into the crowded traffic of the evening City, changing from daylight to night shift. Men in dark suits walking intermingled with the homeless.
Which I needed, as this afternoon. Dad had called to tell me Mom was in the hospital with a kidney stone. I was going to talk to her via cellphone, but the hospital had moved her room, which really upset her, and everything was crazy, so Dad called again to tell me why theyd never called to chat. He sounded exhausted, and emotionally wiped out, and I urged him to take of himself, as well as taking care of Mom.
Ive known for weeks that this year is going to be a year of very big changes. Some of them changes I will be making, and have already been making. But some of them will be events that are in the hands of the Powers That Be. I dont know what all the changes will be, and I cant control them, I just have to ride the waves, and go forward.
Later, on the train heading home:
Okay, back to what really matters, whats really important.
Sending energy to Mom and Dad. My Dad has realized he can't take of my Mom alone at home anymore, because of her advancing Alzheimer's, so he has had to find a care facility to put her into. He called to tell me. It's the right hting to do, but it is also very emotional. I'm upset that that is happening, and theres nothing I can do about it. Im not shocked, Im only a little surprised. But it makes you feel helpless.
I found a large-size trade paperback edition of Robert Pirsigs Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at Goodwill today. Id been thinking about the book lately, wondering if it was time to re-read it. I guess thats answered. This would be my third time through the book. I may have to do a Cagean writing through project on it, at this point.
But its a great book for quotes about traveling. This nomadic, rootless life Ive been leading: a lot of it finds commonalities in this book. For example, early on in the book he talks about the best kinds of road to undertake travel on, and I agree with all of this:
Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on good rather than time and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes. Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on. . . . Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as free. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where youre from and how long youve been riding. . . . these roads are truly different from the main ones. The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. Theyre not going anywhere. Theyre not too busy to be courteous. The hereness and nowness of things is something they know all about.
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