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440. 1 July 2006, Pinole, CA

spider

wall-crawling, come to a shut door
and diverts across the wall
a ninety-degree turn

to some other way of being

now paused by a stack of books
some tawdry, some old, some
otherwise poetic mound of pages
and waits

for a movement of air
a breeze blowing in the opened
window, a hesitant web

of supplications

you’ll have to choose
for both of us, spider,
if you want to get out



A single day's journey, today: Dreams of violence and anger, then a lot of yard work under a hot sun, then a drive with music across blank asphalt to another part of the realm. What serves me. It’s just an emotional day, nothing new or special about it. A very pleasant and entertaining potluck party all afternoon at some friends' house who are fellow artists: long talks about music, art, consciousness, life, and relationships; all those things that shape our time here, that give us things to do. Long evocations of the falling sun and the blinding gold air near sundown. Homeward, a blandishment of disconnection. One more reason to yell at the walls. Then, Taoism stories, and poems before bedtime, in voices not your own, but true voices nonetheless. Painting with light along the riverbanks, weaving with fronds and talons of color across a screen of rainbow light.






439. 29 June 2006, Pinole, CA

Yardwork

Trimming the rosebushes, evading thorns and briars. Snipping deadwood stems, hardened and brittle, leaving behind greening stems that loft lingering pink-red petals. Yanking out long runner-grass streamers from the tangled mat undergrowth, entrails of rhizomed exotics now tucked into this landscape. The porch cleared of thorns, yet blurred layers of dead rose petals still lie in the lee of the railing, scenting the air with old loves and fresh desires. Deep reds of the hearts of angels. A pause for a beetle-crossing, slow black-carapaced trains of night. Across the yard, licorice vapors rise from felled sheaves of star anise, a whole circle of ferny stems now tousled and severed. Decimation of the skeins of winter grass, fallen into chaff and yellowed seedpod. Dead vines glow in the lowering light, golden and pink, pink the sky, and purpled.

gardens at twilight
perfume still dusk air—
the corn-husk scarecrow






438. 29 June 2006, Pinole, CA

I just stumbled across a poem I'd improvised a few years ago, by request, on the topic of Gallup, New Mexico. Slightly cleaned up, here it is:



Gallup, NM

The skies are never cloudy there.
Lost men play with their knives there.
Badger hides in the canyon there,
and won't be found, not by suits.

Everyone has a mine there. Nothing ventured,
everything mined. The malpais skirts the edges there.
Rugs are mailed to Crownpoint from there.
The sun sets east of there.

Monsoons settle in, there, and wait.
Something tickles the feet there.
Mysterious beetles, black-tongued, questing.
Strong men with narrow waists move cattle there.

Don't ask who that is, coming over the ridge.
It's Dawn Boy, and it's you. Badger at your shins.
Coming down the ridge, past the old black land,
out of the sky and into the plaza.






437. 25 June 2006, Pinole, CA

I find myself close to being lifted up again, and I wonder why I resist it. Then I stop resisting, and close my eyes, and wait. What I see is a line of white light, shading to indigo at the edges, sheeting out across the black void. The light ripples, gently, and burns actinic, a slash in the whole (hole) of space, light leaking somewhere else, heaven seen edge-on, the smile on the face of the void. What I see when I open my eyes is the green leaves and pink blooms of the rosebush outside my window, trembling in the slight sea-breeze, backlit by the sunlight filtered by moderate fog. As I watch, the breeze fades, but some larger blooms still tremble on their stems, and the light continues to fluctuate, now harder, now softer, now directly bright, now softly making the roses glow from within. And then I close my eyes again, and there is nothing inside but silence and emptiness. I feel myself breathing deeply, and I hear the sounds of the outside world. There is only this, and this is enough.

And then I am illumined: instead of being lifted up into the white light, instead I see and feel every cell of my body crack open and catch fire with blinding white light. The surface matter burns away, the cells crisp up and burn into dust, lit from within, and I am nothing but a body of white light. Rather than being lifted up into the light, it emerges from within, and I am surrounded by light, as before, but having gone nowhere. For a long time, I breathe light, and nothing moves, all is still. Then the eye of god closes, and the light courses away into the void, leaving me still glowing. I feel my body begin to truly, fully relax, for the first time in months, my shoulders lowering, my breath deepening, my need to move, to go do anything, all gone, and I rest in a sustained stillness that is like the relaxation before sleep, though I do not sleep, I do nothing, while the lingering echo of white light suffuses me and I am content to rest in the ever-deepening relaxation. I am as rested as if I had slept another full night.

So moves the action of grace in our lives: by it’s own will, love, and timing. It will come, all unannounced, when we least expect it, whether we yearn for it or not, whether we feel we deserve it or not. It is a gift that we always and never deserve.

I am awakened in the light of the eye of god. I am sustained by the breath of god. The roses move in the breeze and the ever-changing light, and the sounds of life return to my awareness, present yet remote. I listen to the silence of the voice of god, and that silence says everything that need be said, today, or any other day.






436. 25 June 2006, Pinole, CA

The day after Pride, I wake from fitful dreams, having gone to bed with a very sore back, sore from all the walking and marching and carrying a heavy bag on my shoulders all day. I tried to get some other stuff done last night, but was so wiped out, I let it go. I saw one or two Faeries yesterday I hadn’t seen in awhile. I marched with the Chorus in the parade, so now I can say I’ve done that. We marched and sang and did choralography all at the same time, on hard asphalt, for about an hour or more; my feet and knees were sore the rest of the day. Both mornings of Pride I did Chorus activities, getting up early to get into town early and participate; yesterday afternoon, I crashed for a long nap in the evening, and I also came home earlier than I had thought I would, as I was so tired out. Also, too many people, maybe a million and a half people. There were times when the crowd was so bottlenecked it was worse than any traffic jam. So, tired, overstimulated, and overwhelmed, I headed home when I felt done. All in all, though, a good experience that I’m glad I did; and now I can say that I’ve done it.

The Faerie Village at Pride, which had been peaceful and calm on Saturday, on Sunday was little more than a freak show. There was nudity, of course, but there was also exhibitionism, one guy in particular who was getting off on being photographed, all oiled up and jerking off; he was putting on a self-porn show. Even I took a photo of him. Hundreds of tourists were checking out the Village, even the side of it that said Faeries only, and it was more like a freak show than a place to sit and be oneself. It was too crowded; there were no quiet spots. The band I heard playing was good, much better than the pounding dance tracks coming from every other Pride stage on Sunday. (Music flash: where is the depth in such music? This was the only band on Sunday that had depth, in the Dave Matthews vein; everything else was surface flash, impressive but shallow.) So, I didn’t stay long, because it didn’t feel to me like faerie space, more like a freak show, wherein the faeries were the freaks on display for the rubes. Not at all how I want to be a faerie, although obviously some faeries are into it. I wonder how many of the nude men were actually faeries, or were just taking advantage of faerie space openness to do their own thing. Some, to be sure, including Mr. Exhibitionist, no doubt.

This comes on the heels of reading a Gathering Call from one of the Faerie Sanctuaries that writes about the return to our spiritual roots as Faeries: why we originally came into being: spirituality, contact with the Divine, being two-spirited androgynes. They wrote, and I feel, like a lot of the original intent has gotten lost under a layer of “party till you drop.” I’ve been saying for 4 years or so that this is a necessary re-alignment of intention, and it looks like I’m no longer alone in saying it. Partying is fun, but it also doesn’t lead you anywhere significant. The same is true of much of the drug use and overuse in faerie space, whatever the drug is. I choose not to use drugs, ever (an occasional glass of wine with dinner doesn’t count); this Gathering Call asked for a drug-free space, focusing on intentional spiritual work, and it used language I found very intriguing. I passed it on to some other faeries I know back in the Midwest.



Gleanings towards memoir and spiritual autobiography. I find I write this sort of thing, on occasion, at white heat, not really trying to edit it or form it into an essay, but just letting the memories spew forth. This is occasional writing, nothing formal, and nothing I feel ambitious about completing anytime. I prefer to write randomly about this, using zuihitsu as a template, the form of formless, restless literary wandering over the entire landscape, and letting it come as it comes. I am an undisciplined writer, I guess.






435. 24 June 2006, Pinole, CA

I was thinking a few days ago about what the difference is, if any, between mind-drama and real drama. I know I’ve been a drama queen at times, and written out some things on here that are less than sunny or enlightened or fun, but then I have to ask myself: if there are genuinely dramatic events going on in one’s life, is one really being a drama queen? I mean, let’s just take a look at the list of events in the past week and a half since I got back from Chicago: housemate issues around expectations, miscommunications, and double-standards (which have been addressed, though not fully, I feel, since I don’t feel at all listened to, just dictated to, and in an openly, admittedly punitive manner); a phone call from my Dad saying he’s been diagnosed with colon cancer, and has to have an operation for it; another of my best friend’s father died in hospice, after a long illness and homestay; long phone calls with family about Dad’s upcoming operation and recovery, and the contingencies we might have to visit, including moving him into a care facility and closing down the house in Wisconsin (long term rather than short term, most likely); broken glasses (which I quite ingeniously fixed, if I do say so myself); concert commitments with the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, amounting to 6 performances and 3 extra rehearsals in the space of a week, because it’s Pride Week in San Francisco; plus the usual, existential concerns about money, health, and so on. So, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I feel stressed and insecure, uncertain and exhausted. It’s a daily struggle to find peace and get off the emotional roller-coaster. Yesterday, on the BART train home from Pride, I had to contend with a person who targeted me for his paranoid delusions; I basically ignored him, but you still feel like your aura’s been contaminated with someone else’s bullshit, after something like that, and you have to purge your own system of their toxic waste. (Can you hate a madman? not really, because they are out of their minds, and do not have an awareness of the disconnect in their own systems between intention and consequence. But you still might not want to sit near one, on a train.) The lingering memory and sensations of being lifted up into the white light, in the midst of all this drama, and the certain knowledge of continuing commitment to creative work, are about all that keeps you going. If the rest is destined to change, so be it. I feel like I’d like nothing better right now than living out of the truck, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, camping in a park, and cooking over a wood fire, for a long time. I’m neither insensitive nor an idiot. I have a pretty good idea about where people are coming from, and if they’re receptive or not to viewpoints other than their own; I choose not to waste my energy where it does no good. I choose, furthermore, to not give them free rent in my mind: dust out the cobwebs and banish them from the porch. We now return you to what really matters.





434. 17 June 2006, Pinole, CA

Got back an hour ago from a Chorus concert up in the Napa Valley area, in Yountville. It was a good concert to a small house, a blend of several concerts from over the past year. A greatest hits concert that I gather they do every year. I felt it went well, although getting there was a little rough: 100 degree heat melting the roads, and lots of sun-struck drivers wandering slowly across the land, when I’m trying to get somewhere, not just drive. Got home, though, in record time. I feel tired yet content at getting through it, considering I’ve missed the past three rehearsals. There was only one piece in which I was stumbling, and I still managed to get through it. I projected a lot of energy at the audience.

During the rehearsal for the second half, before our dinner break and doing the show itself, there was one point where I was standing there in semi-darkness, surrounded by people sprawled everywhere, as one of the smaller ensembles did their thing and everyone else waited for it to be done. In this dark and quiet moment, I found myself sitting seiza, then standing up, hands out, and I was lifted up, up, into that place of white light, that place I have been lifted into before, at least one time. It was the true lift-off, even though as before I was still aware of what was going on around me; of course, returning, I felt completely wiped out and as though things were completely changed, and no one had noticed anything. Odd how that works. They call you when they call you. No controlling the timing, although I find the timing today amusing. Since that moment in the white light space, things have been very clear and radiant, the rest of the day. I gave my all to the performance, was emoting with the music, projecting energy, acting it all out, to the best of my ability. I had made my dinner earlier in the day, my spicy beef and asparagus recipe, and I’m glad now for the grounding food, after the lift-off, to help me stay grounded when I needed to. Driving home after the concert might have been weird, otherwise. I am very tired now, and doubt I will be awake much longer, as one of the aftermaths of these visions is that you tend to feel like you’ve just run a marathon. But I feel good about it, and content, as well as wiped out. Big glass of orange juice. Chocolate. Bedtime.






433. 16 June 2006, Pinole, CA

Here’s another bumper sticker idea that totally expresses what I feel right now about the arrogant hypocrisy of many Westerners who seek to debunk any and all potential miracles nowadays as hoaxes, but who accept, on faith, miracles that happened two thousand years ago. What, only one group of people in history ever accomplished miracles? only one person? all others must be cast into doubt? If that's not a form of zealous idolatry, pull the other one. If you can present faith in one miracle, does that preclude faith in all other miracles, actual or potential? There can be only one? Balderdash, and classically ethnocentric. So, here’s the bumper sticker (courtesy of a line from a poem by a friend):







432. 15 June 2006, Pinole, CA

Back in California. Mixed feelings. I had thoroughly cleaned and organized my room before leaving, so it was nice to return to an oasis of calm organization. But I’d been staying in Chicago for two weeks, and by now it had seemed comfortable and familiar. I guess now that wherever I camp out for more than a week comes to feel like home. I have little other sensation of "home." And, of all goes well, I’ll be hitting the road for a longer trip at the end of July and into August. I’m developing a route with planned stops, and we’ll see if I can afford to do it all. Mostly camping or staying at friends’ places.

It was an exhausting plane flight, fully loaded, and I couldn’t get comfortable. My hip hurt the whole way, and my back, and my abused left arm from so much playing music and lifting boxes this past two weeks, and my hip still hurts, this early morning blue hour I awaken after having crashed into deep sleep soon after arriving back here. (A skunk passes through in the early morning, when I’m awake and typing this.) I tried to nap, but I was too wired, too crowded in, too on the defensive because of all the people too close to me. (I took a shower before bed, to wash off the travel.) I couldn’t write, or read, really, and there was nothing to look at out the window as it was cloudy the entire journey, so I was left to simply endure in silence.

The Chicago trip was very productive, but totally exhausting. I did a lot of good recording sessions, and we had some great conversations and got a lot of business done, and I’m wiped out again, I’ll need a few days back here to recover, before I can get into the saddle again. A day or two of just crashing and burning, if I had time for it, would be nice; but I don’t, really. I have to unpack, even, before I can get back into a routine, here. The disorganization caused by travel, by things still in the suitcase, and so forth.



Later:

In addition to recording piano solos late one night last week, a couple of afternoons ago, I was able to record almost an hour’s worth of solo flute. Much of it raw and gestural, only one piece, really, a piece. I need to listen back through all this material, which I will do soon. I have a great deal of audio editing to do. I recorded with three Sundanese suling of various tunings, mostly salendro and degung, and also two transverse bamboo flutes I originally got from John Niemi, a flutemaker in Hawai’i. One was that original four-hole meditation flute, and also the gypsy flutre, much harder to play well. Then I recorded two longer pieces with shakuhachi again, especially my bass shakuhachi, with its very low, sweet pitch. I played with a very breathy tone, which was at first a performance limitation rather than a stylistic choice, but as I warmed up I kept the breathy tone, as an aesthetic choice. We’ll see how it all sounds to my ear in the next week or so. It’s raw material for editing and splicing together, even if it doesn’t contain a polished piece by itself.

There are two segments of audio that I recorded, while shooting video of waves, ripples, and reflections in the river behind the studio, that I want to edit for the podcast. One is an ambient track of the birds in the trees around me, the river going by, sounds of city such as sirens in the distance, and sounds of people playing some sport event or other in the park across the river. The camera’s microphone was very sensitive and picked up a great deal more than I knew it would; I was not paying attention to audio while recording video, but it turns out there is a fair bit of useable audio on these video tracks.



Later:

An estranged and wandering wizard contemplates the road of the sea. The sun’s glimmer stands on the waves as though a carpet of glinting flowers on the pavements.






431. 8 June 2006, Chicago, IL

My dreams the last few nights have been exceptionally vivid, all-encompassing, even violent at times; many things to get done; on a mission; last night, defending my group, and the lives of many strangers, from a known enemy; the uncertainty of guessing their next move, what they will try to do next, and being prepared to meet it. For two nights in a row, I’ve had a hard time remembering where I was and what I was doing, when I awoke; it took awhile to shift realities. Of course, I have a lot to get done in waking life here and now; I’m working hard on new projects, and I’m going to be playing a street arts festival downtown this weekend, so I have lots to prepare before then.

Last night, I had the opportunity to record solo piano music on a freshly-tuned baby grand piano in the recording studio. I played for over an hour, and I think I got at least 3 or 4 good pieces out of it. Some judicious editing might garner me some more. One or two improvised pieces feel like finished pieces, on playback. I haven’t had an opportunity to play a good piano, and record improvisations, in many years. One comment I got back was that I had a focus and direction and intentionality when doing this that I don’t always have on Stick; that was interesting, since I really don’t feel any better, in terms of playing technique, on piano than I do on Stick; if anything, I’m even rustier. But it sounded great, and felts really good. I knew it was time to stop when I felt like I was repeating myself, and losing focus; but I’d tracked over an hour of music at that point.

My harmonic sense on piano is based on diatonic clusters that create dense polychords and 9th and 11th chords. I don’t move harmonically in a traditional tonal way. I prefer cadences that don’t use the classic V-I tonal cadence; I avoid that pattern, without ever losing focus on the center tonality. So I’ll do a VI-IV-II-I cadence, or a VI-VII-I cadence, or a IV-I cadence; or just avoid playing a cadence altogether, without losing sight of the tonal center. In minor scales, I often avoid the sixth tone of the scale, which when I do use it comes as a shock, and an equivalent hinge-tone, which can provide different feels for the same scale. This is a style I am aware of doing without conscious intention; it just evolved over time. I played some stuff I really don’t know where it came from, that surprised me technically, not knowing I could do that. There were moments of pure inspirations, and things just went where they went, and this morning, I couldn’t tell you what happened. That’s usually a good sign, creatively: to get out of the way, and just let it happen, and be unable to remember later what decisions were made in the moment.

It was refreshing, and I felt surprisingly capable at the keyboard, last night. Capable of more than I thought I could still do. I surprised myself: it didn’t all suck.



weed and wildflower,
side by side, leaf-shapes alike—
one with thicker stem








430. 6 June 2006, Chicago, IL

More vivid narrative dreams last night; the details escape me, because I didn’t write them down first thing on waking, but overall feel was one of traveling with purpose and intention.

I spent part of yesterday writing an autobiographical sketch, that had been prompted and asked for by some writer friends. It’s something I generally resist doing. It tends to open up a Pandora’s Box of memories, and I just spew and spew and spew. I realized yesterday, though, while spewing onto the page, that I didn’t have to set out to write a coherent narrative; instead I just let it come out in randomly-organized vignettes, more zuihitsu than linear story-telling. That’s possibly the only way I could really write anything like an autobiographical sketch: as zuihitsu. I will probably write more on this over the next few days, then gather and organize it into a single piece; but I will leave the order of events random, letting them be written as I remember them, not rearranging them into a personal narrative history. Memory is associative, anyway, tied to triggers, and tends to emerge in topically-related clumps. We remember bits and pieces, then remember more about them later, and add those on. It is a literary artifice to then present memories as strictly narrative, just as biography is a kind of creative nonfiction, a literary style rather than a purely objectively-factual style. Memoirs are notoriously fast and loose with historical facts and context, because no one ever remembers the same thing in the same way as anybody else. While that might irritate some anal-retentive historians, I applaud it as more authentically representative of the human experience of diversity.

I went for another walk in the sunlight yesterday. It felt good to feel the muscles pull, the hips and knees loosen, the back relax somewhat, as I walked. I realize that the past few days were downtime, after all the flurry of activities and drama of the past month or so. Yesterday and today were the first time I felt like responding to correspondence that I had left dangling before the family reunion and Dad’s birthday party. I feel like I did my duty to that mass of obligations, and now I just want to put them behind me, and Do The Next Thing.






429. 5 June 2006, Chicago, IL

After a long talk and dinner with a friend, after which we both crashed hard, I dreamt I was flying along the highway, cheerful and happy. It was normal and real and even fun; I was probably a little smug about it, since other people noticed me and got out of my way, although I tried not to get in anyone’s way; I ended up arriving at this place where I paused to rest, and listen to conversations; in a slice of activity from waking life, I recorded some ambient sounds on my laptop, then processed them with granular synthesis; I was tired from flying, it’s hard work, more like mentally-willed propulsion than anti-gravity jumping or leaping; then a whole bunch of art posters in folders arrived, and I’m supposed to take them to my workplace, only they’re too much to carry on my own while flying, so I bum a ride from a friend. I woke up early today, and have spent the last hour or so writing, reading, and thinking about things. I put out the word on one of the Radical Faerie lists that I am looking for places to stop and visit, and maybe even stay for awhile, around the country; I’ve gotten a couple of good replies, but they’re all on the east coast so far, which means I’d love to visit but probably not live there. I still feel like I’m supposed to be based in California, at least for now. Who knows, though? It can all change at any time.



What things are better than sex?

A homemade chocolate fudge truffle at the candy store after hiking in the sun all afternoon, that is so rich and intense in flavor that you can only half of the truffle, and have to save the rest. One bite is enough.

Hearing music you composed and performed coming out of the multiple-speaker amplification system at a place like Millenium Park, or some other huge public arena. It’s something you wrote, and here it is, being played back, literally larger than life. And you can’t get that grin off your face, and you want to do it again.

Knowing in your body, so you get all tingly, and the hairs stand up on your arms and the back of your neck, as you stop where you were ambling on the trail, that just being outside in nature right now, in the sun and under the trees by the river, with the light breeze tickling your bare skin, and the birds in the trees and on the water, the willows reflecting in the thick green-black waves, rippled by waves, as you feel your awareness expand till you are everything, and everything around you is part of you, that this IS eros, this entangled intertwined being that is one and also many, that this IS sex, sex that encompasses the whole mind, body, spirit, self, soul, and all my relations.

Ham steak and orange juice and brad you made yourself for breakfast, yum!








428. 4 June 2006, Chicago, IL

An absolutely glorious day, so of course I’ve spent most of it indoors, working on the Flowers DVD. Oh well. A friend is coming over to visit, and I think we might take a short walk down to the river and back. Other than working on Flowers, I have no agenda for the day. I am almost caught up on website updates; I did a lot more of that this morning, finishing updates to the websites Poetry section. It’s mostly to keep the creative juices going. I can only stand to stare at the monitor for so many hours at a time. I also am making bread this afternoon; in the machine, mind you, not hand-kneading, but it doesn’t matter. That bread smell permeates the house, and fills the air with earth magic.








427. 3 June 2006, Chicago, IL

Took a walk in the breezy air and hot sunlight this afternoon, partly just to get outside, but also because I know that my body needs it, and so does my soul. The past day and a bit have consisted of me needing downtime, after events and travel of the past month; I just stared at the wall a few times, but also caught up some on my online housekeeping. A little editing, a little writing, some podcast work. Then I woke up today and spent a few hours catching up on poetry writing and reading and commenting. I made a few check-in phone calls, and still have a short list of emails I need to write and send off. A poet’s correspondence takes a lot of time, sometimes.

It’s a warm and vibrant Saturday out there now, with people wandering the streets, playin Welles Park, which is only blocks from. I walked up Western Ave. to the El station, and picked up a Chicago transit map, so I could figure out how to get around. I might take the train downtown to Millenium Park sometime during this visit; or take in a museum, which I haven’t had time to do for some years, in Chicago. I’m here long enough this time that there’s no pressure, and enough spare time around set plans to get a few things done.






426. 3 June 2006, Chicago, IL

Colors

Light from a purple candle tells me what to say. Disconsolate, unable to sleep, I re-read Ryokan: dewdrops, the sheltering bamboo, one robe, one bowl, the moon at the window, now cobwebbed and dusty, the old hut now a hermitage for foxes. I sip fruit juice and spell the rain. Brief showers give way to sun, but the roses still tremble in the alley, and ghosts of horses stroll through. The light changes, blazing orange, as vivid as fresh juice, and shadows gather near the basketball hoop, becoming the traced outlines of young men, sweaty Marines in Khe Sanh, a buried trail of wounds, something left over. The air thickens with steam, humidity, and blood vapors. Suddenly the limbs of telephone poles turn green with ivy, breaking the spell, and the ghosts disperse across the tarmac. A quick tattoo of hooves and soldiers’ boots. The lemon sky, the breath of greening rivers, cottonwood plumes dripping and drifting along. This sudden stillness, this pause while the world holds its breath.

fallen pebbles cast
ripples across reflections—
low-weeping willows








425. 2 June 2006, Chicago, IL

I’ve been here two days now, escaping from Wisconsin, and immediately diving into DVD and music work. After everything, my Dad’s 80th birthday party, the many guests, all the work, and everything else, it was just too much, and I felt wrung out and beat to a pulp. The first night here, though, Al and I made three big multilayered mesa-shaped candles, with many different earth-toned layers, and five wicks apiece. We made three, and I’m keeping one, which I'll ship to myself in California later; I already have a box of books, CDs, and other things to send to myself when I go back to California in a week or so. Last night we sat out in the yard behind Andy’s studio, overlooking the Chicago river, talking about business over grilled chicken and a nice chianti (which I had brought from Wisconsin); we talked late into the night, sitting by the portable firepit and surrounded by tiki lights in the garden. Earlier, before sunset, I had gone down to the river to shoot some video; I focused on the reflections of willow leaves overhanging the banks, with the green smoothly-flowing water disturbed occasionally by ripples. The birds were a shouting chorus in the high branches, and the sunset was golden through the thick foliage across the river. Loose dirt falling from the upper banks. The reflected leaves turning into geometric patterns of waves as ripples spread across them. My endless fascination with water and reflected light.

world-sphere water-drop
refracts the green-grey trail—
rain on a rosebush



I’m compiling the poems I’ve been writing this year, which turns out to be more than I had thought, quite a long sequence of haibun in particular, and redesigning my poetry pages on this website. I also look back and see that I’ve written several long prose-poems and haibun about driving across the Big Empty, the Utah and Nevada Basin & Range; so, I’m going to give those their own page, with illustrations. This periodic revision of presentation gives me a chance to update not only the materials but the way I present them. Older poems fall away, and the best of the newer poems come in. I find it challenging but also refreshing. It stretches the mental muscles.






424. 28 May 2006, Beloit, WI

I am in the midst of the Family Drama, being here in Beloit with all the family present. We are here for Dad’s 80th birthday, and a big family reunion of Dad’s side of the family, all of his siblings together again for the first time in years, plus various cousins; many friends and family visiting, many of whom I haven’t seen in decades. I am finding myself once again in some closets, having to stifle who I am, in the face of unintentional ignorant comments by some people, just to keep the peace. And I’m running out of patience for it. I have enough emotional turmoil to deal with, seeing Mom and Dad in their current hard places to be, to be able to have much strength left over in which to tolerate a lot from other people. I find myself prickly and easily annoyed, and less willing to stifle myself, and more willing to speak up. I am quite aware that I’m not starting anything, merely refusing to say nothing in the face of injustice; and also quite aware that many will see me as the troublemaker in any such circumstances. A prophet is never loved in his village, or his family, it seems—and I am losing my ability to give a fuck, either way.

Once again, I find John Cage’s example leading me into a good place: not of resolution, but of moving past difficulties as if they were not there, simply by refusing to speak to them, as that reifies them and makes them real. This is an attitude he developed from his early Zen explorations, after finding himself in personal and professional difficulties. Because traditional Western means of finding resolution, including psychoanalysis, were not working for him, he turned to Eastern means. His tactic, then, was silence. You say nothing in the face of oppression, because giving any system your energy makes it more real. In reading an article about this period of his life, I encounter a fascinating footnote stating that a great deal of work remains to be done, linking homosexuality and the turning of many artists in the pre-Stonewall era to Eastern philosophies as an alternative means towards resolving their personal difficulties. There is a connection there, certainly, for me, as well. I wonder at the parallels. Such a study remains undone, as far as I know, and would be fascinating to undertake.








423. 24 May 2006, on the plane, somewhere in the air over Nevada

harvest of clouds
snow-covered Sierras
herded fragrant wisps

On the way to BART, the city bus broke down: the engine just died, at a stop sign, for no apparent reason. Never had a bus die like that on me before, but I made it to the airport in time, anyway. Not too late, an hour before flight time, rather than two hours, is all.



Now I’m in the air over Nevada Basin & Range with partly hazy skies, overlooking the striations of ridges, valleys, and basin floors. Snow on the tallest peaks. I’m listening to Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal” for solo guitar, the Julian Bream recording, which is variations towards the theme of Dowland’s song “Come Heavy Sleep.” Then, to sustain the contemplative mood on this otherwise full aircraft, I listen to another full album of Dowland songs. Dowland was a perfect composer, who very much suits my temperament. As Britten also knew, Dowland is a great source for musical ideas.

I find myself, as I fly over the high desert, reading and thinking about Robinson Jeffers. His landscape around Big Sur, where he built his stone house and lived in it till he died. His discovery, there, of the seeds of a true way of writing, arising from the austere land itself. The beauty of the places he wrote about, some of which I have now been to and seen for myself. The lingering untameability of a landscape once much more wild and dangerous, that still, even while overrun with vacationers and sightseers, still maintains a strong, wild beauty in its core.





Later, somewhere over the Great Plains:

I nap lightly, but don’t sleep very long. Now I look down and see the rippled ground of Nebraska or Iowa, with its interfingering borders of cultivation and wildness: interpenetrating zones of wild domesticated and untamed land. Describable by fractal geometries, they make up a calligraphy of river and hill, ridge and shadow.



Near Big Sur
(a haibun for Robinson Jeffers)

So moon turns to summer. The hills are veiled with shallow fog, the shrouds of restless sea-winds. Yellow fields of flowering mustard, flowing monk’s-robes in the saffron afternoon, conceal the tracks of slugs and lizards. Over the mustard-tops, warm breath steams from a burrow, flagging the circling hawk, a prayerful target. A silent multitude. Farms of the living.

We descend these hills as runoff creeks fed by sulfur springs mixed with fogfall. Mist covers everything, morning ice on the glade, even in late spring. The crisp air rises towards the stars.

an hour into twilight,
silver stars revealed—
fog rolls away on wolf feet








422. 22 May 2006, San Francisco, CA

I spent the afternoon in Golden Gate Park, going first to the Conservatory of Flowers and walking around the grounds there, taking more flower photos; the building itself is closed on Mondays, which my guidebook neglected to mention.







Then I walked through the Park to the Japanese Tea Garden, which has free admission the last hour of the day; so I spent most of the day’s last hour in there, doing even more photos. It’s a favorite place, even when it’s as crowded as it was today. The later afternoon light was beautiful, though.



I took many photos of the tall stands of bamboo everywhere. And the flowering cherry trees were in full regalia, along with some camellias and chrysanthemums.



At the end of it all, my feet sore, I walked up to an Italian pizzeria up on Ninth St. I’ve eaten at before, and sat and ate a huge pepperoni slice with a drink. Then I hopped back on MUNI and retraced my route to downtown for Chorus rehearsal. I had walked enough today that my feet were sore before I sat down to eat, and my feet and calves were stiff, later, on the trek to the BART station after rehearsal. I felt tired, but content.



I took a few hundred more photos today, hopefully some of them will be good. Regardless, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. And it was me doing my work, which in itself feels good.





I’ve seen several hummingbirds at various times during the past week. There’s a tunnel the MUNI train goes through by Dubose Park, which cuts under the ridge before emerging on the other side. As I heading back downtown, as the train emerged from under the tunnel, a hummingbird flickered to a landing on the vine-covered wall of the tunnel entrance, landing on a vine, then moving into the thick tangle of foliage; its nest must be hidden in there. Last Sunday, sitting in a friend’s yard, we held still while a hummingbird sampled all the local flowers, on its regular rounds, before vanishing into the trees.

hummingbird
joy paused
on flowering vines








421. 21 May 2006, Pinole, CA

The past few days, in contrast to the earlier half of the week, I’ve been feeling unaccountably content, at peace, even happy. It helped that the presentation went well; I’ve basically felt good ever since. Even the household drama of yesterday could not pull me down: my good mood was impervious to entropy. If this is a level of breakthrough, so be it; if I get pulled back down into shadow, so be it. At the moment, I’m in the moment, and enjoying the moment.

I took yesterday off. Joe came over and we listened to music for hours, and talked, and other things. Today I have mostly spent doing file management on all the computers, and preparing and packing for the trip to the Midwest this coming week. I’ll be traveling for three weeks. At the moment I feel like I am recharging, rebuilding my energy, before all of it happens in the Midwest.




 

 

          

 








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