Monday, August 30, 2010

August 29, 2010

Sunday morning.

Last night I dreamed that I was starting college again, but I was very poor and could not live in a dorm, but rather in a campground where everybody had his own tiny tent, and they were side by side in long rows. The tent was more commodious than I had expected, but still I spent most of the time looking for someone to whom I could explain that I couldn’t possibly live like that.

Rose this morning, wrote some, read the night’s e-mail, put on my shoes and jogged a little (a very little) came back and attacked the front terrace with pruning shears and saw. Cleared out all the errant saplings and great swathes of strangling or sticking vine. When I was finished and came inside to shower, it was not yet 8 AM.

Working hard on writing–perhaps harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, one project in one genre suggesting another in another. Wake in darkness, write, go to the gym, maybe paint a little, nap, write deep into night. . . .There’s a level of frenzy to it, as though I had to build up an oeuvre quickly, before it is too late. I keep expecting the sap to dry with time, but it does not, or at least has not.

The new owners of the Usual introduced themselves to us last night. They are trying very hard. Their task is tricky, though; DJ observed that it is like hosting somebody else’s party.

Returned to Cantaria– still bad music rendered with utmost perkiness, the problem which drove me out before. We have a couple of concerts where such a thing is called for, though, so I’ll be patient. Supper afterwards, and I was not anxious to be elsewhere. The sabbatical is already calming me down, opening me up to the slow unfolding of things.

The first moonflower bloomed last night. I saw its remnants when I went out in the garden this morning.
August 27, 2010

Early morning. The house is still full of moonlight.

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 26, 2010

MH said, speaking of our old scoutmaster, “He hated me even more than he hated you.” I heard the shocked reply coming out of my mouth, “He hated me?”

Added another chapter to Under the Two Mountains, one that had not been foreseen at the beginning. It’s funny. The book needed it. I went out to celebrate, to the wine bar at 5 Walnut, thinking that as much as I have written, I have almost never celebrated at the completion of a book, assuming that it would come to nothing. It is clearly a women’s bar, or women’s night at the bar. I looked around to see what women wear for other women. It’s bolder than what they wear for men. A lesbian couple talked animatedly at a nearby table. One of the couple was very like a male adolescent, because she was, or because she was imitating one. I’m still analyzing the moment to understand why I found it repulsive. Maybe it was just that the male adolescent she was imitating was repulsive.

Full moon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 25, 2010

Golden waterlily gleams softly in the twilight. Was pruning and weeding when the insurance man visited Carolyn. He was very skinny and awkward, like a character out of Flannery O’Connor. He looked at my yard and said, “Oh, you favor the natural look.” Then he praised God, extensively, for the abundance which caused me to have to be out there pruning and weeding.

Patrick and Co finishes up the trees, and light strikes places where it has not struck in this century. Ferns turned their fronds sunward to say, “What the hell is that?” Patrick smelled like the richest perfume when he was done with the pines.

DT is killing himself with indignation. I am customarily indignant, but he makes me look like a little bodhisattva of calm acceptance. He is indignant with his colleagues, with his bosses, with people no longer present to arouse his judgment, with the architecture of the new-built farm houses, with the speed of the cars entering the highway, with the flowers selected for the village gardens. I do not always know what standards are being violated to arouse his indignation. I tell him to calm down, to be at peace, and I don’t recognize my own voice saying those unaccustomed words.
August 24, 2010

Dark morning, fiddling of the musical insects. The drive back was a record-breaking nine hours. It might have been slightly briefer, except that at a rest stop on 81 in Virginia I heard, amazingly, someone call my name. It was Al DiMartino, a ghost from the past. Al is one of those guys who seems to talk nothing but bullshit, but when you go to check it out, everything he says is true. So, I received the recitation of the unlikely turns in his story, all of which I’m sure are genuine, however byzantine. His main occupation is as an ombudsman’s helper. He works for a lawyer, and when the lawyer’s efforts at arbitration or reconciliation fail, Al apparently comes in with his two dogs and touchy-feelys everything to start moving again. The fact that I had never heard of such a thing doesn’t mean it doesn’t exits. He asked about Nick, and I realized I haven’t seen him since 1996.

Patrick and a woman were in the sweet gum when I got home. She was cranky and resistant, and they hadn’t got much work done. She was also, improbably, as beautiful as he.

HS keeps erupting from Asheville High. What kind of person is it is who, when corrected for a damaging error which harms or misleads others, doesn’t apologize for the error but rather demands apology for having it pointed out? Nearly everyone around here, now that I think of it.

Dennis and I motored to Cleveland to see the Art Museum, which was woefully under-utilized and quite beautiful. I remembered almost nothing from before, and so everything was a revelation. Former visits were hardly systematic, so maybe I was seeing truly new things. We crossed over to the Botanical Garden, fluttering with neon butterflies in one room and twittering with jewelbox birds in another.

Afternoon: great limbs of the sweet gum come down, and light falls where it has never fallen since I lived here. The scent of the sawn wood is incredibly sweet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 23, 2010

Birthday of my art: 44 years. Beginning in that room I saw from the street this time, the room that is someone else's.


August 22, 2010

Hiram gleams with the remnants of last night’s rain.

I began this journal, the first volume of it, in Gray Dorm, just across the street, in January, 1969.

Drove to Akron twice yesterday. The first time was to see the new Art Museum, which is impressive, and contains a better collection than I remember from the olden days. The space does somewhat overpower the collection, but that seems to be a trend in contemporary museums. Stunning film about a black woman wandering the arctic.

No one here remembers anything I remember.

Here is an odd thing about downtown Akron: nobody was there, there’s nothing to do once you’re there, and still there’s no place to park. Evolution is toward the institutional and away from the personal: all the downtown stores are gone, but the university and the public library gobble ever more space. Main Street and environs are bright and cheery, empty, faceless. The Summit Street Art Center where I saw the play is not in use, or wasn’t on that summer morning. What the cultural scene is there I can’t imagine. Are there theater companies? The girl in the museum bookstore said there was an important artist’s studio up on Carroll Street.

I stopped by Maytree, twice, once at the north entrance and once at the west. As was the case Friday for the drive down, the emotions I was feeling in the forest are hardly available to me now, and even to describe them feels rhetorical. It is best that some things be kept in the heart. “Hidden” is the word I almost used; perhaps that is what I meant. Maytree is the holiest place on earth to me. Some glamour was on it in the morning, which but intensified that conviction. When I penetrated the jewel-tone interior of the trees I whispered, “Do you remember me?” The wind blew lightly, and there was a great hail of cherries from the realms of light above. I did write my immediate feelings down in the little journal I carry with me. When I rose up from doing so, I noticed a little cat just inside the circle of the forest, who had been watching me the whole while. I think the cat was the Holy Ghost, trying to figure out what to do with such a troubled spirit.

The Ellet High get-together at the Erie Station in Tallmadge was festive and satisfying. Would I go back and do high school again, knowing what I know now? Knowing what I know now, oh yes. I was one of the group about whom everybody said, “Oh, you haven’t changed a bit.” What they mean is that we are still recognizable under the ruins. Others, I had no idea. Y was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen when we were seniors and we began to talk a little. Now he is an old man. Someone is out there with a a great heavy trowel, a steam shovel, leveling everything. Long talk with AC. Once when I was running an errand for one teacher to a class full of varsity athletes–and I could barely look at them for the mixture of curiosity and humiliation which then ruled my days-- AC said, “Hey, Dave,” smiling out of that body which was (and still is) that of a Norse god. He probably doesn’t remember that kindness, but I do. Eddie said he and Linda walked past my house every night. I had always felt a curious, protective spirit out there. Didn’t know it was he.

Drove past Foxboro. It is now yellow where it was pink, dad’s mural doors painted over in yellow paint. Everything else is, from the outside, much the same. I took a deep breath, immensely, unaccountably relieved by that.

Hiram 2

August 21, 2010

Wandering about the village last night I found the Dugout Sports Bar, which had opened only the night before, which saved me the drive to Garrettesville, and which occupies the space formerly occupied by the Hub. Two rums and coke cost $5.00. I met Julie, the central casting pretty blond honky tonk waitress, who for some reason wants to move to Greenville. Neither she nor the bar owner knew how to run the computers. I met Brian, with his big white football jersey and his backwards baseball cap and his shiny face. Brian hauls furniture for a moving company, and does a little mechanic work on the side. He lives in Mantua. Brian’s life changed when he became a father at seventeen, His son is now fourteen, and is the center of his father’s concern. Brian wanted to watch NASCAR rather than football because his son, invited to Bristol by a friend, was in the audience. The son’s name is Dominic. Dom had been heavily on Brian’s mind. He talked about buying him school clothes and shoes, and about how his ex-wife, a hippie, is no help at all. Brian and Dom want to move to Myrtle Beach. Brian reminded me so much of Marco that I thought this is who Marco might have been had he not found art. I was very grateful I sought company that night, and found whom I did. I also thought Dom must be one of the luckiest boys in the world, to have such concentration on him at absence and distance,


August 20, 2010

Garrett Suite, Hiram Inn, Hiram, Ohio. This is the room I had the last time I stayed at the Inn, and the one I was hoping for this time, for no special reason other than my insatiable and mostly scorned desire for tradition. The history of John Garrett, III, Revolutionary War soldier and founder of Garrettesville, hangs on the wall. I had neglected to take into consideration that there is nothing to do within thirty miles, except for a few sleazy bars in Garrettesville, where I might find myself before the night is over.

Dawn on the mountains was predictably beautiful, but I have to say that the drive was pretty awful, not because of anything that had to do with the road, but because of what was happening in my mind. It is difficult to access that depth of emotion now that it is passed, but I felt as one near the end of his days, with nothing accomplished, with everything promised withheld, every prize offered in life or dream diverted to someone else, outcast from the first memory to the final hope. I am not convinced that was an untrue vision, merely not a very useful one. Not much good to moving forward. Zach helped me survive it, for during my massage yesterday, he told me of his meditation technique, how in the face of “monkey mind” it comes down to determined concentration. At one point my spirit was as troubled as it is ever likely to be, and the only thing I could think to say was, “I meditate on the heart of God.” This somehow I snatched out of the depths. I thought I would have to repeat that hour after hour, concentrating inhumanly, to stay out of the Pit, but it was only a few moments before I could feel the possibility of calm opening up in that wasteland. Now it seems very strange and foreign and long ago, even if it is not.

Wandered the Hiram campus. One thing to be said is that there are a hell of a lot fewer mosquitos here than back home. I still feel at home and comfortable here. School is not yet started, but the campus teems with friendly, beefy kids, perhaps a football camp. Denny led me to expect a wasteland, but all is charming and beautiful. If I were to categorize the difference between now and then, I would say that then things were arranged to suit a group of very sophisticated (I’m steering clear of “effete”) faculty. Now it seems to be arranged to please kids. I don’t know that one is better than the other, necessarily, but there is clearly no ccatastrophic decline. . . only change. . . which is difficult to take, sometimes.
August 19, 2010

Education administration is the enemy of education.

Off to Ohio tomorrow, and in good time, too, I think, for I’ve entered one of those phases where I seem to be getting on everybody’s nerves. CJ asked me to protest the reduction of theater classes at Asheville High, which I did, and received a note back from the Superintendent chiding me–correctly–for really not understanding the issue. The truly interesting thing is that CJ and the Superintendent gave EXACTLY the same account of the event, but with differences in interpretation that are nothing short of remarkable. I do love English, and all its potential for wild misunderstanding. In the note I sent to the Supt (actually, I THOUGHT I was sending it to the principal of Asheville High, but who knows what routes these things travel) I also asked that English teachers there stop teaching “between you and I” as “correct in a formal situation.” Of course it is never correct, and I wonder what, in English, constitutes a formal mode. ANYWAY, blistering note back from HS, who used to be a colleague at UNCA, excoriating me for slandering the entire English program at the high school (him particularly, I gather, though I didn’t know he was there) and for failing in my uppity way to note that language changes through time. Language does change through time, but in some cases that truth is hopefully invoked to cover up what is merely an error. The wisdom of the folk cannot always obviate individual ignorance.

This has been an awful day. About 1/3 of it is left, and I look for redemption.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18, 2010

Heavy rain, then heat, then heavy rain. Planted ferns today, and transplanted a little volunteer spruce tree, so I am glad of the rains.

I’ll need to stop reading the news of the university from e-mail. It’s distressing. You’d think the university would be the one institution that would resist cant and fashion and hold to the Good, but it isn’t. I’ve read the histories of Oxford and Cambridge, though, and they fell for absurd ideas in their long history, they championed the temporary and second rate, so nobody gets singled out. I’m out for a semester, so maybe I should just let everything be and hope the wheel has turned again in four months. A description of the creative writing program implies that it began with Rick. I have vanished from my own history.

The novel is well and truly finished, though tinkering follows, and what revisions I cannot yet know.

I am sleeping too much. I am spending too much time putting off the next enterprise.

Lovely letter from DV, quoting Yeats as though it were the outpourings of his own soul.
August 17, 2010

Sang for Dan Marshall’s memorial service on Sunday. The simplicity and surety of his spiritual life–as everybody spoke of it– made me think hard, as I have always had an adversarial relationship with the Lord. The reflex to think that everything is for the best, and that all things happen because God is watching out for me and that is exactly the right thing to happen is so far from my nature that I can barely think of it except to wonder. Or to assume people are making it up, and fight with the dreadful heavens as much as I.

Hired Patrick, who advertises himself as Tarzan the Tree Man, to trim the great sweet gum so Kelley isn’t nervous, and a few pine limbs that look ready to fall in Carolyn’s parking lot. He is the cutest boy in the county, all tanned and muscular young male energy. I gave him the job without getting a second estimate. A bit of a chatterbox, but one endures that for the sake of all else. Just looked on his business card to discover his last name is Purdy. That’s too good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Derrida and Company

August 16, 2010

Reading a draft for a student who is doing her senior thesis on Beckett and Derrida. She’s doing a good job, especially considering that she must overcome what is essentially, on Derrida’s part, more an elaborately defended error than a point of view. Derrida does not understand how language works, and his whole edifice is built, house on the sand, upon that. Philosophy, I think, goes most astray when it fails to be informed by poetry. Most contemporary philosophy seems to be quibbles over words, and the quibbles become pointless (as if they weren’t already) when one points out that words are less like stones than they are like light glancing off the stones. Amid the varying shimmers, we know the stones are still there; we know what stoneness is; the variations of light have not altered that, nor contradicted that, nor caused the stone not to be a stone. But we now acknowledge facets that were previously unknown, which alter and enlarge stoneness without in any way negating or contradicting it. Yet I have sat through a humanities lecture during which the philosophical lecturer spent an hour worrying about the identity of a person who sometimes plays rock music in a stadium and sometimes does not. Is he a rock star or isn’t he? That he is a rock star when he’s playing music in a stadium, or when someone references his doing so, and a papa or a student or a drug addict when he is doing things pertinent to those identities seems obvious enough to me, but did not enter the lecturer’s selection of possibilities. If I go around calling myself a rock star, I don’t think people fall into despair because their concept “rock star” is now negated, but rather assume I mean to aggrandize my reputation in some pursuit or other: “On trivia night in the bar, I am a rock star.” Theoretically, this could be the open flood gates of linguistic chaos, but in actual life, it is nothing of the sort. What am I to do when someone asks me who I am, and I realize I can answer, “Man. Teacher. Poet. Writer. Painter. Mystic. Scientist. Conservationist. Democrat.” Does my self come into being with each identity, and then suffer annihilation before transitioning into the next? Is “Scientist” a lie if “Mystic” was the truth? Nobody with an understanding of how language actually works would accuse it of alienation when it means more than one thing by a single word. That I can use the word “good” with ten different, sometimes quite ironic references, does not alter either the word’s meaning or my conception of “the good.”
My student alleges that “It is raining. It was not raining.” (quoted from Molloy) is a sign of alienation, that the character is unable to understand his environment because the words which he uses to understand it are unreliable. Yet if one quotes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the summer of hope, it was the winter of despair” few would identify that as perceptual confusion, but rather as a clear and rather luminous description of a chaotic situation. Derrida and his ilk (I admit I don’t know who all I mean by “ilk,” but I mean something) are like boys who make up an elaborate game– lovely and amusing though not in any way objective– and then waste most of their time squabbling over “rules” that they just invented. “It is raining. It was not raining” says no more about language or identity than “The rock is dull. The rock was sparkling.” It is purely personal, purely perceptual. Neither language nor identity has altered in any way. The weather has; the light has; the mood or perspective of the observer has. Or the observer might be a scamp playing with words just to cut a figure in the world of Philosophy, which seems to have descended to a playground full of people cutting figures.

I despise the disciples of Derrida for the same reason I despise certain evangelical Christians: they insist on a very particular and arbitrary vocabulary and set of references, so that their argument can never be revealed as ignorant and mischievous.

Against my own determination that there was no room left in the ground, I planted today two crape myrtles, one purple and one dark pink.
August 15, 2010

Kathy and Les have sold The Usual Suspects and soon will be moving on. We’re told that there’ll be no evident changes, but we all know better. It’s the end of an era. Not only do good things not last forever, they don’t last very long.

In the dark hours of this morning I finished the first draft of Behind the Two Mountains. In every case it went somewhere other than I expected it to go, which is a good thing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 12, 2010

The dog two doors down barks, and barks, and barks, without stopping, without taking a breath. This is not a usual thing, so one goes over and checks on the old souls who own the dog, to see if it’s one of those Lassie situations, and you’ll find somebody face down in the grass. But no. The dog barks, and barks, facing a particular direction, so you face that way too, to see if something’s coming.

Caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. I’d been working in the garden, and I am a slab of skeeter bites and sweaty mud, not a clean place on me.

My Netflix rotation has piled on my TV a stack of films about Broadway– histories of the Musical, great performers, that sort of thing. Now, what one realizes, mixing the videos with what one has seen oneself on the New York stage, is that most of these shows are really quite awful. The “beloved’ ones are no exception, and indeed may be worse because nobody dares note their awfulness aloud. One cut featured Celeste Holm reprising “I Can’t Say No.” Now, it is possible she was having a bad night, but even that considered, one got the point after verse one, and the rest was a kind of agony. One cut featured a very old Ethel Merman singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” and if you didn’t know you were supposed to think of it as a Broadway classic, you’d think it was the worst thing you’d ever heard in the world, somebody’s deaf grandma singing horribly, and loud enough for herself to hear. Most of the songs are boring because drawn out to make sure that every halfwit in the audience has gotten the point. They do not build, they underline. Some, like West Side Story, or Guys and Dolls are not awful, but the virtues of the rest consist chiefly in stellar moments, in half-remembered performances, or, most of all, in a sort of nostalgia people can get for things they never actually experienced. Classics of the Broadway musical stage are for the most part willed into existence by the longing of the audience to be present at an event, to partake in something wonderful. That what they are seeing is NOT wonderful is swept away by the desire that it should be. I remember sitting through the execrable Billy Eliot, and realizing that the mad ovation around me was rising from people who had seen a completely different show, one replete with the beauties it should have had, one which touched the soul as much as the check book. They had created a hit where there really was none. Part of this is the cunning to charge so much that you HAVE to have a good time. Most big musicals are sold on the basis of their identity as an event– “a must see”– “see what everyone is talking about” rather than on any intrinsic value. I’m not actually complaining about this. It is part of the magic of theater to make tinfoil look like gold leaf, but what I’m considering now is the ways in which REAL theater, GOOD theater can switch this rose-colored spotlight on itself. What do we have to do to electrify people about the EVENT of coming to a new play, or a challenging drama, or a comedy that does not rely on hitting people in the groin? Maybe we have to come up with a version of those backstage movie musicals of the 30's and 40's, with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, where the production of a fluffy musical is made to seem the highest calling of talent. I think this can be done. I have always thought that the most challenging theater is as much for the masses as Annie, if anyone had spent the time helping the masses to know what to look for, if anyone had glorified the process in the same way that hoofers and showgirls have been glorified. Step Right Up Folks, You Are About to Experience Something New and Hard and Wonderful! You Are About to Go on a Journey! You Are About to Convulse Your Soul! Yowza Yowza.
August 11, 2010

Working daily and nightly, and usually in great joy, on my novel, the third of the summer, but the first to be built from scratch. I try to read it over and ask “is it good?” but how can I trust any answer I give back to myself? It seems good. It seems imperfect. Then it seems far more imperfect than good. Then it seems marvelous. Just write, I suppose, and plod around in the morass of criticism later.

My insurance agent left the business, so now I’m looking for car insurance, and finding that having been rear-ended two Novembers ago is keeping me from getting the lowest rate. The accident was not my fault, and the police report says so, but the Insurance Computers seem to think a shadow lies on me none the less, for having been in the way of bad driving. Vicky at Geico talked with the omnipresent dipthong of some mountain women, where an “e” is inserted into every vowel. "Leyt mee loek this up an’ see whaet I caen deo.” One wants to say, “Love, don’t you know talking like that makes you sound stupid?” but one realizes that’s the point, that whatever news she comes back with she cannot be blamed for, because she talks like that, and what else can be expected? Very, very cunning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 9, 2010

Framing back from the framers: new in my house is the linen King’s College Chapel that I bought in Cambridge in 1970, the linen pair of avocets I bought in Cambridge in 2010, and my own oil-on-paper, The Shannon Estuary in Deep Time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 7, 2010

Compact, attentive audiences for the two evenings of the Jane Bingham Festival at All Souls. MA’s play was very smart, very young, gorgeously written in places, sometimes sacrificing the theatrical dramatic for the rhetorically dramatic, though– something every playwright must do the first time out. It was full of “fuck”s and I winced every time the word re-echoed through the holy space, though no permanent damage seemed to have been done. I edited most of the cuss-words out of mine for night two. My play the second night read better than I feared, worked better than I imagined, and is ready for the next thing I ask of it. This festival was the thing I dreaded at the end of summer, and now it’s over. Sam Bingham was in the audience to hear his mother honored. He fell asleep. He acknowledged this, and said it was honoring his mother, too, for it was what she would have done. Facing now the prospect of saying goodbye to almost everyone. Adam is already gone; Cody and Carly and Thomas and Michael are packing their bags. If this were a TV show I’d say “they’ll be back,” but I don’t think they will, and I hope, for their sakes, they won’t.

Excellent work out yesterday took away a measure of the August lethargy. Must repeat today!

Morning spent with Michael and Maria Bettencourt– meeting her and re-linking with him after six or seven years, at least. In those few hours I quadrupled my knowledge of Argentina and social work graduate programs. Ten minutes at the All Souls arts fair, enough time to buy a teapot from a former student.

People who talk about quality of life in Asheville fail to mention that Progress Energy the worst electrical utility in the nation. Scarcely a summer night goes by when we don’t have a flickering failure which crashes computers and necessitates the resetting of clocks. It would be a minor annoyance without the knowledge that we are the only ones (in the more than a few places I’ve lived) who have to put up with it. Did people simply not know how to hang the wires?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mitchell and Pisgah

August 3, 2010

B’s last day as my housekeeper. Did replace him, at a lower price, but, still, an era ends.

Denny and DJ and I piled in the Prius and drove to Mount Mitchell yesterday afternoon. The gift shops and the yapping families and the homey little restaurant make one forget how wild and beautiful the place is. Mist wrapped the world in mystery while we were there, but when it parted for a moment, the sun blazed on us with such ferocity it seemed we were near to it indeed. The roadsides were a constant fluttering of butterflies–which, now that I think of it, so is my front yard. I don’t remember their being so many or so large. Why I have gone so long without a major day hike I can’t explain, except to say, “painting. . . writing. . gardening . . . “ Miles of jewelweed and Jerusalem artichoke. Great envy of the ferns in hidden places under the trees. . .

Denny’s being here has put Hiram in my mind with some firmness. I remembered the absurd (though, ultimately beneficial) reason I had gone there in the first place. My father was in one of his moods, and had ruined my chances (so I thought in my ferocious youth) at my first couple of choices by refusing to fill out the financial aid forms. When the recruiter came from Hiram, I seized on it as 1) not Akron U and 2) named after Hiram Abiff, and I thought that concept would entangle my father, who had been an active Mason when I was younger. Whatever got him, the forms were filled out, and there I went. Went onto Youtube and entered “Hiram” and found what I supposed to be an official college recruiting video. It showed a bunch of oafy kids playing games in their dorm rooms, and the message–the entire and singular message–was that if you come to Hiram you can have fun with your friends in the dorms. I mean, that was IT. No mention of classes, of possible majors, of intellectual challenge. Camp Hiram, where the fecklessness of the 11th grade cane be extended indefinitely. I suppose as an alumnus I should have been more watchful, but, in the end, what could I have done? Tom Chema is willing to annihilate Hiram in order to have the right score sheet for his last chance at State politics. You can’t ask for whatever appointment he has his eyes on by saying, “I helped make our youth wise and good,” though you can by saying, “the deficit did not grow by a penny while I was President.” People who do thing for reasons other than the doing of them are the bane of all history. Dante forgot their Circle, but I will add one.

Denny said that not one member of the administration attended Wil Hoffman’s funeral.

Evening: The mountains got into my blood, and without at first intending to, I found myself this morning on the slopes of Mount Pisgah, and I began to climb. The day was like yesterday, blue, clear, mottled with the rolling mist of the high places. I’d been absent from Pisgah almost as long as I had been from Mitchell, and it was well to reconnect with two old friends in as many days. All I remembered of the path was the rockiness of it, the way you have to pay attention or you’ll fall or twist your ankle. Once I was among the trees I was a changed man, or a man who had exchanged his eyes for organs that were part sense and part memory. Summer overflowed in voluptuous variety. Giant butterflies fluttered over white and golden flowers. Enumeration was absurd. At one point in my life I could name all the plants around me, but the same things do not grow on the Blue Ridge as do in the river valleys of Ohio, and, in any case, the abundance was beyond any remembrance, beyond any previous experience. Every few steps there was a tiny, discreet Eden, a hollow log with realms inside it, or a cove where a stone rolled away, now filled with pebbles and a pool and a waterfall coursing down a stick, a paradise of ferns and salamanders. Put your hand inside and feel the mini-ecosystem with a temperature ten degrees cooler than the air you breathe. But what I am trying to revive, these hours later, was who I was on the side of the mountain. I entered again the first life I remember as mine, the life that woke in me when I first walked in the forest, a wild spirit, not separate from the world at all, but able to hear the touch of the feet of spirits on the upthrust rocks. One thinks of Wordsworth, for he had some of this right, but not all of it. For me the wild thing knowing not what it was, but wildly and intuitively alive, never passed away. It hides in the doing of the life I sank into, but when I return to the forest, he is there, waiting. I am the same spirit whom the wild things know, and I do not undervalue that blessing, though I have tried without success to spread it into the life I chose among men. For one hour climbing the stone path under the trees I was as happy I have ever been, as happy as I remember being day after day when I was alone in the wildwood, thinking that was how all of life would be. I was pure. I was wild. There was no thought that was not a sensation, no sensation that was not a thought. Every step, every breath is a prayer– is two prayers really. The first is Thank you. The second is I do not understand.
August 2, 2010

The Internet is full of messages from people pleading that we vote for their show as the best of the year. This is why Asheville will never quite be the holy city of art it perpetually feels itself on the brink of being. Its artists don’t really believe in greatness, in quality. They do not seek greatness out to honor it or learn from it. They resent it, because it forces–or would force if hearts were pure– a re-evaluation of their own efforts. They do not seek to be better, but rather seek for the definition of quality to be altered to contain them. Predictably, not one voice which has asked deserves. They think Eternity can be created by a poll in a newspaper. Something can be created by a poll in a newspaper, but it is not Eternity. Maybe just a page in a scrapbook. I do not scoff at that. It is something.
August 1, 2010

Furious morning rain. I was shoveling the sweet gum detritus off my patio with the rain falling on my back. It feels cool and refreshed now as it dries. The sweet gum dropped a big limb into the neighbors’ yard the day I returned from Europe. Kelley looks up at its vast eminence and says “that really worries me.” She expects it to launch an attack upon her dog or her child, when so far the tree in its major shedding has missed everything. But who knows? My scorn of the danger doesn’t mean there is no danger. I have always loved that tree, and do now, for it is beautiful and tremendous. When I bought the land I considered husbandry of it one of my concerns. But perhaps Kelley is right, and it is just too vast to sit where it does. It could endure forty years without dropping another limb. In this rain, in the next five minutes, it could launch a branch the size of any other tree into her yard, or DJ’s roof, or mine. Come autumn I think I will remove it, with much sadness. But I’m already thinking what to put in its place. Basswood, I think.

Writing and writing. It is amazing–and I am truly grateful–how fluid my invention remains. Invention was never the problem for me. Publication was. I suppose Fate thinks this evens things out, though it really doesn’t: the one aspect failing negates the other, so the net result is emptiness.

In minor contradiction to what I’ve just said, returned to fan notes about Bird Songs of the Mesozoic and the poem “Lament for Turlough O’Carolan.” How people find this material is a mystery to me.

MM spaces out, and so the Jane Bingham Festival must be severely re-tailored. Re-tailoring is the thing I hate most in the world.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July 31, 2010

Slow afternoon rain. Got to the studio finally, where I painted briefly and not all that well, but enough to get the muscles moving again.