Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 30, 2011

Had a choice between the roller derby and the theater last night. Chose John’s Labyrinth at MF. The atmosphere in the café is richer each time I go, old friends, new friends. The ensemble of actors is smoother, too, professional, effortless. The backbone of the art of it all is inspired directing. That is not often the case. I say to B who was ushering “How’s it going?” and he says, “Not so well, I went to the doctor and she says the cancer is back, and it’s terminal. I have four months.” Absolutely no line in the world can follow that one. “Alas!” maybe. The play was John’s best-- that I have seen-- and daring in conception.

Ste’s painting arrived, but was slapped with a 25 pound surcharge of some sort, which he cannot pay. It was a bad idea from the first. I felt it, should have given up, but still don’t understand why such a simple operation involved so much thwarting and complexity.

Met M in the Ingle’s parking lot. She had a bag full of rodent poison. She said, “I consulted with my animal medium– I went to her so I could learn to talk to my dog; my dog is the one who first warned me about the mice–and she said that before I poisoned the mice I should give them fair warning, which I have done: putting drawings of death and dark images that mice would understand around the house, so at least they would know what’s coming and be able to make conscious decisions. It’s only fair.” I offered the loan of a cat and of my immense, and possibly hungry, blacksnake, but the dog had already agreed the poison was the way to go; it wouldn’t give him issues about no longer being the only animal in the house.

Day cold but blazing bright. I weeded and weeded, wounding myself in the process of freeing the pink antique rose from its tangle of wild honeysuckle.

Friday, April 29, 2011

April 28, 2011

Dark of morning. Distant lightning.

Bruce’s letter about My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is harrowing and, if representative of a general condition, discouraging. Numerous good reviews, some raves, didn’t lift ticket sales above 30%. It’s scary. I want to say, “Do my show! I’ll save you!” but for the fear that the gods would be listening.

Scent of blossoming locust over the city. In my garden, the scarlet lupine, a bevy of iris, the pink bank roses, some terra cotta groundcover on the slope I had forgotten planting.Planted one more white lilac, spiderwort, white bleedingheart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 27, 2011

Bruce’s call opened my heart in ways that I suspected it would, and am elated that it did. I haven’t been able to write. Writing I am this morning, in a flood, a commission here, a jeu d’esprit there.

There was a robbery at the Flood, the perpetrator of which was apparently caught pretty clearly on video. Though I didn’t do it, I somehow expect the video to show me. I find that odd, but I do remember back in elementary school feeling the same thing, that somehow there would be irrefutable proof that I did something I didn’t do. Don’t remember of that ever actually happening. Maybe I’ve been watching too many DVDs of police procedurals where someone gets elaborately framed. The fact that I couldn’t think of a reason why doesn’t matter; neither can they. Actually, now that I’ve denied it, I do remember it happening in the past. I’ve gone down in history as the one setting off false alarms in the dorm at college one spring. I wasn’t. At camp Y-Noah (back in Indian Guides, to plumb the deep past) I rose early to go to the bathroom. While there I noticed that someone had left sizeable turds on the floor. I was, like, six, and this amused me. But later that day I was blamed, because I had been in the lav before anyone else. I remember the vehemence of my denial, and my astonishment that public opinion remained, nevertheless, against me. My faith in justice has always exceed any actual incident of it in my life.

A bumble bee has been hovering for three days over my hydrangeas against the front porch. They won’t be blooming for weeks yet. Maybe she wants to be first when they do. Maybe she is a divinity sent to guard my house. She can be startled into flying away, but she’s back in seconds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 26, 2011

Peg’s retirement gala. Though not adequate for how much she accomplished and how many lives she touched, it must have been gratifying to see so many faces from so many phases of her life. We sang horribly to her, but it made her smile.

Myself, I spent the day feeling professional defeat very keenly. Then a phone call came quite late from BH, exactly the person whose voice I needed to hear to be convinced Lincoln was still alive. My spirits along with my hopes for the show are revived. I did have to pump that information out of him, a little, for he’d actually called to say I’d lost everything I’d invested–about $13000,–in the financially catastrophic run of Pink Carpet. Glad as I can be now that I didn’t convince anyone to come along with me. Now, I don’t like losing that much money, or any, money, but as I told him, I’d invested only what I could lose, and the revelation that The Loves of Mr Lincoln is still on eased the shock. My entree into theater production (large scale) was not a success. If Magnetic Field folds, then I’ll be 0 for 3. But I also had the thought that I have never done anything–or avoided doing anything–because of money. The odd corollary to that is that I have plenty of it. Maybe I should be careless about other things, too, and grow rich on what really matters to me by not really giving a damn. I say that as though I’m joking, but the longer I let it reverberate in my head the more it begins to sound like Universal, if very queer, Truth.

A hand appears at the bottom to keep us from falling quite all the way.

Incredibly beautiful Korean film on DVD: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 25, 2011

Robins calling in the near-dark. Slept most of Easter day away. I wake feeling better, no distress in the stomach, but still exhausted. This is the way Paul describes his celiac, but I had thought mine was something less dire, something nameless and not worth a trip to the doctor. I did complain about it to the doctor once. She said, “Do you take antacids?
“Do they work?”
“Well, there’s your cure.”
It’s the sort of diagnosis that I believe and cherish.

For three years now I have kept a photo of Ginger’s son– Sean, is it?– on my desk, replacing it with the new one that comes with their card at Christmas. This one is a happy kid who’s just come out of the sea, his hair and t-shirt wet, holding on to a waffled plastic something, probably a float. The composition is actually rather glorious, with blue sky, darker blue sea, white shirt, and right down the center the family of reds, made of the float and his sunburnt face.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 24, 2011

Bach on the CD, gentle Easter evening. Came home after Easter Vigil last night ill. Spent the time from 1 to 3 AM throwing up, for the most part. My throat was raw from that, but it did manage to get through the services in reasonable voice. Headache, exhaustion, stomach titanically upset– wondering if eating one (albeit large) piece of bread was the cause of all that. Got home from church and slept until 6 PM, until moments ago.

Putting the finishing touches on the rearrangement of my house. Though there is more storage area by the addition of a large bookcase, and the severe culling of another, there seems still not to be enough space to put back in everything I took out.

SB facebooks that he will be directing at the Hanger Theater in Ithaca all summer. That means no start, again, on Lincoln. I know in my heart that this is a dead issue, that it will never happen, but there is so much good that would come out of its happening and none whatever out of its not that I cling tenaciously to brutal hope. Life is full of circumstances where all the good lies on one side, and yet you know at some point that the other side will, pointlessly, maliciously, prevail. I wonder why they bothered. I wonder why I did. I trust God’s not confused about my disgust with him.

In the midst of the banging, clattering Easter services I thought this: what if we led everyone out just before sunrise to a quiet forest, and had them face east. Then, as the sun rose, we went to each individual, each group and said, in a quiet voice–for the Magnitude needs no amplification-- salvation is created. What if we did that? Although I must say the story of Mary at the tomb moves me, and I sat in my chair each time and wept. Little FK in the children’s choir saw me once, and a tear rolled down her cheek. I wonder if she thought I was sad? Maybe I was, and because it was Easter morning, confused it with something else.

Dusty pink buds on the antique rose.
April 23, 2011

Haverty’s delivered my furniture, and I spent part of the day gardening and part of the day working my book collection from one case to another, discarding, in the meantime, the complete Paulist Press series of Western Spirituality that I was saving for a time of calm perusal that never came. Thousands of dollars lost to me from a time when I was counting every penny, though not quite wasted, as Thomas Murphy says he wants them as he begins his career in the priesthood. Their gathering dust unopened had been weighing on my mind. What I have not been doing is giving any thought to Holy Saturday, though the service tonight may do that, if I can keep from my mind bitterness at the length of it. Holy Week used to be so special to me. There are several poetry cycles to honor the days and stages of it, but that is gone away. In my life God’s betrayals are more obvious than his benefits, and I cannot set my anger–even my contempt–aside long enough to regain the old spirit. I’m like a child ejected from his home by a bad father, standing outside, looking through the windows, but having neither the will nor very much of the desire to walk back in and start it over. What guarantee– not even guarantee, but hint– would there be that it would be any different? Even children of the Spirit must leave home and light out on their own.

I have rearranged most everything in the house, and the cats explore and climb and curl up for a moment, trying out new spaces.

Carolyn has been generating huge quantities of garbage. The bags pile up till the cover of the waste bin cannot be closed, and at morning there is a big black crow on top picking gashes in the black bags. A striking image, if a terrible mess by garbage pick-up day. I’m guessing that she means to depart without going through the process of selling her house. She told me once there was some irregularity with the deed, and it is clear from my window that there are severe foundation problems. I’ll watch through the summer and see. My dream is to buy her lot, level her awful house, extend my garden.

Voodoo lily coming up through the dirt like a red thumb. The towhees, sir and madam, are the blessed spirits of my porch.
April 22, 2011

Solemn Good Friday.
April 21, 2011

Bought a leather jacket in Ebay. It stinks so of cigarettes that I can’t stand to have it in the room with me.

Discussion in Lit class of what we should have studied instead of what we did. The idea that one can read things on one’s own is not big with my students. I think that I remember our having a clear idea of what was going to be presented in class, and what we would have to get on out own (for me at the time Kerouac, Tolkien, Wolfe, contemporary poetry), but the world has changed since then.

Bought a bookcase and a new dining room set. It cost almost exactly what I made from the Sun weekend. That is economy. Planted exotic cobra lilies and two kind of flowering maple.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011

Blood-red anemones blooming. I wish I had planted more.

Received comments from the participants at the Wildacres retreat. Something had been bothering me about that event, and now I know what it was. What people wanted was to be in a situation where they were forced to write. They didn’t want to learn anything substantive from the people, like me, brought in to teach them, but to sit and write their own thoughts to prompts given by us. It’s not that any of that is bad, but to pay for it seems strange. You could sit in your own living room and say to yourself, “Now I will write about the first time I realized my dad was not perfect” and save yourself a lot of money. What they wanted us to make them do was what they should have been able to do on their own. No one who needs such an occasion has any chance of being a real writer. Some of them hated being “lectured at,” though it’s a puzzle why else they would have come all that way with their checkbooks open. Why come into my classroom if you don’t anticipate my saying something you need to know? They seem to have felt good about what they were doing, though, so perhaps they got their money’s worth anyway. I did not feel good about my performance there, though now I see it was because I felt I gave them too little of what they said they did not want at all. Writing without necessity is why there are too many writers in the world and, ironically, so little writing worth reading.
April 18, 2011

Woke from a dream in which I was not only brutally assaulted by some sort of demon, but also made interesting art.

Early this morning finished Vance.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 16, 2011

Lully on the CD.

Big rain driven by hard waves of wind. This started last night as I was leaving the Civic Center and making my way to the car. I couldn’t see the sidewalk in front of my face. I’d ushered for Bravo Concerts, last night featuring a dance purportedly honoring Lincoln. Generic and formless, it could have honored anything else just as well. There was some talent on the stage, but none of it belonged to the choreographer. C was filling in for B, who was in the play at the Magnetic Field. C seems a little haunted by the task he set for himself. I feel like a traitor for not showing at the MF more often, but “When?”, sang Plato’s ghost.

Planted yesterday, notably elderberries, and left them for God to water, which he has done. Occasionally you have to set people tasks at which you know, for the moment, they cannot possibly fail.

Took it into my head to send the Markhams the paintings I did of their street in Ennis, and to send to Steve an imaginary rendering in oils of his garden. The process was expensive and laborious, and I realized when the cartons were packed and labeled in front of me that I couldn’t tell which was which. I sent them anyway, in a gesture of despair. If they’re wrong, both parties are going to be weirded out. Circumstance counseled at every step to stop, but I did not.

Tragically fragmented and harassing week. The students have it worse than we do, but I suppose their resilience is greater as well. I think I did nothing but garden and brace for the next blow, but I also returned to the Vance play. I could finish this weekend, if I kept concentration. There were panicked messages from BG, who did not respond to my observation that I was waiting for some comment from him about the script before I went forward.

Thursday evening at NC Stage, then alcoholic celebration with Russell and Maria at the Vault. I for one was very drunk and very loud, relying on my companions’ state of inebriation to keep me from looking like too much of a boor. MM said One Flea Spare, the play at the theater, has the finest language since Shakespeare. It certainly has not. It has fine writing without that writing being apt to the stage, or convincing coming from the mouths of even hypothetical persons. A better comparison would be Racine, in any case. Acting, as ever, sensational. I note direction too little, and mostly when it is bad. Maybe that’s because the best direction is direction that disappears into the fabric of the performance. Not noticing at all is the best possible comment about a director’s achievement. The tables in the lobby were piled with meats. That is how one goes to the theater!

My desire for the alpaca farm in Alexander was diluted when I noted that you need 4-wheel drive even to look at he place.

First hummingbirds at the feeders.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 10, 2011

Mist like a spill of gray satin in the valleys.

Closing episodes of the writers’ conference. If I take the participants’ testimony, I was far more helpful than I felt like I was being. When people come hungry every morsel is sustenance. Angela sang “May the Long Time Sun” at then end, the song I failed to have sung to me, because I left Koinonia in secret and in fury. Drove down the mountain feeling terrible about all the people I would never see again. It doesn’t take me long to develop a crush, or a hopeful dependency, or whatever it is. One of the things that passed through my head on the twisty road was that my life as a writer is over. That’s the opposite of what one is SUPPOSED to take away from such an event.

Got home and planted two white rose of York, which had come in a box when I was gone. Enormous midnight blue anemones grow amid the ordinary ones. This weekend was the one that brought buds out on all the trees which I’d thought winter had killed, even the unhopeful sticks that came from the arbor day people. My fraction of an acre is paradise.
April 9, 2011

Wild Acres. What must be remarked upon is the extreme, the awesome, the almost disturbing silence of this place. Dead silent. Away from the crowd last night it was silent as mist. This morning, with the sky pink and gray, there is not a bird singing, not a branch rubbing against a branch. A most solemn and heroic silence. Are all the hills round about as silent as this? I suppose the very act of going to find out would bring silence to things which might have been crying out. Are we the cause of the silence, or a local mitigation of it?

Contrary to expectation, I enjoyed my first evening here. My legs were more of a bother than I expected (though that is relieved this morning), but the company was cheerful and the introductory meeting–where we all introduced ourselves and we featured writers read–was by several levels of magnitude less tedious than it might have been. Apparently I read “The Friend at the Pool” to good effect. I liked it as I was reading it, its simplicity and mirth a happy surprise. Mark Smith-Soto read some ferociously good poems. All in all, though, I didn’t think the featured writers were that good, and maybe that will be an encouragement to the participants.

Just now, far down in the valley, a cardinal whoops and a mourning dove coos.

Back at the side of my old friend Luc. People lose contact. I don’t like that so much. I would still be buddies with the kids I was buddies with on Goodview Avenue if the world hadn’t changed around me.

Evening. Two of my three sessions are behind me. I will never admit to what degree they were pure improvisation, as shall the next and last coming up in half an hour. It is possible that we shall all be washed away by then. Arguably the worst weather on Planet Earth rages outside: torrential, gale-driven rain interspersed and sometimes replaced by sizeable, concussive hail. Thunder rolls. The roof shakes. The walks overflow with new creeks armed with white pellets of ice. I don’t know what the wild creatures do out unprotected in this calamity. Since I moved here I’ve been amazed by the flooding of mountaintops. It seems counterintuitive, but one sees it again and again. Something is making tremendous noise, and I’m not sure what It is. Maybe all these trees drummed by hail and wind at once.

The weekend’s participants are more varied and less purely literary than one usually encounters at events such as this, I suppose because The Sun is itself as much spiritual and political as it is literary. They are game and attentive, only occasionally combative. But three classes in a day is hard even if you’d had a semester to build up to it. I don’t know how much money I’m getting for this, but unless it’s a great deal indeed, I will have earned it. One man– who everybody says looks like me–insisted that I admit that my Sun stories are “gems” that only a person with special knowledge could have written. People come thinking that authorship is a fraternity one enters with a secret password rather than through actual labor. They want me to give them that word. When I say there is no such thing, they assume they have asked in the wrong way. You see it in their faces.

I’ve been too exhausted to socialize much. At every break I lie down, nap, my customary way of fighting off the fever. Socialization would just make me frantic concerning the brevity of all such things.

Later evening. My central responsibility is despatched. The last session was a tooth-pull. I hope it didn’t show. Entirely my fault for being shoddily prepared. When I hear me talking about writing it seems an infinitely noble undertaking. When I hear me talking about writing, I never mention envy or disappointment. Such purity in me, when I speak of it.
April 8, addendum

Wild Acres. The vague familiarity this name brought to mind arises from the fact that I have been here before, when Cindy Ho led the Lit Dept on retreat. The ironic– or maybe relentless–aspect of that is that I had to leave early on that occasion because I had phlebitis; now I arrive with it. I was delirious that time and ran my truck into a hill thinking my brakes didn’t work (I was pressing furiously on the clutch). Not that bad this time. It is quite beautiful, though I am too tired and feverish to leave the room until after a nap.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011

Looking out over my lawn in the dark of the morning, I realize that one of my best buys was those two LED flowers, one red, one yellow, which have been glowing through the nights in my lawn, summer and winter, going on two years. They keep the domestic night from loneliness.

Struck by phlebitis in the middle of class yesterday afternoon, amid some pronouncement about Yeats. Previous such experiences forearmed me, and there were pills in my desk. I took them and continued class, came home and collapsed. I think it will remain a mild attack. There were no chills nor nightmares, though I did wake in a cleansing sweat, and my leg is in pain, not bad, but persistent. The worst part of this is that today I drive to Wildacres to be a featured writer in The Sun’s “Into the Fire” festival. Dozens of people have paid hundreds of dollars to–I suppose in part–hear me. I could not phone and say I wasn’t coming. No one believes it when someone calls at the last minute and says they’re sick, though I must be more tolerant now, seeing that is sometimes the case. Unless there’s a turn, I can make it. Events such as this are sources of ambivalence in my life. I don’t like doing them, but I know for a fact my career would have been different–better–had I done more of them, festivals and workshops and little celebrations where one goes to be humiliated and exalted in the same moment. I prize my time so much, and yet so much of my time has come to nothing because I did not cultivate a public. I told MO that I didn’t feel prepared and he said, “Just turn on the charm.” I’ll have to. I was not well enough last night to work. I hope there’s enough of it, of the charm. I feel fraudulent at writers’ conferences because, though I know how to do it, how to write, I don’t know how it’s done. It’s like asking a bird how she flies. One has read what other people have said. One looks at oneself writing, and hopes something is deducible. It would ruin this business if people understood that nobody can tell you how to write, or show you how to write, though if you are a writer already they can certainly break bad and foster good practices. Maybe I misunderstand and everybody just goes there for the company.

Who taught me how to write? I had people who encouraged me, but reading was the primary teacher. The encouragement allowed it to happen, though. The encouragement kept me from turning to other, easier, or more sociable, things. The encouragement was all. The rest was already there, and but needed the junk to be chipped away. Even today the encouragement is all, though one is too proud to say so.

One of my students pointed out there are only three more class sessions. I had been picturing a near infinity stretching off toward some indeterminate summer.

Yellow and pink tree peonies in bloom. Wish I had friends who could come and look at my garden.
April 7, 2011

Stepping away on the cross-trainer, reading Shelley, wanting to cry out in the big room at the Y “Epipsychidion is the greatest poem in the world.” It would have had the distinction, anyway, of never having been cried there before.
April 6, 2011

Adder’s-tongue, blue anemone, daffodil, violet, toadshade, trillium, lilac. Planted moonflowers I sprouted in a jar on the windowsill.

This morning when I left the house, the water in the birdbath in the front yard was frozen solid, that in the back yard, still liquid.

Le Roi Danse one of the great movies. Random pick-out at the University library. Riveted the whole time.

R snubs me the hall. Must be because I refused one of her sinking-in-syrup critique sessions, where every comment is made to turn a little curve into something unrelated, endless, exhausting.

Rage turns to elegy. It is an improvement.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 4, 2011

The yard is Eden just now, with its blanket of violets and roof of azure.

Circe punctured my left leg with her claw, and though the mark was nearly invisible, it leaked lymph all day. The light pants I had on in the morning I had to change because the leg was obviously soaked with fluid. I couldn’t see any reason why it need ever stop (not being blood with its clotting agents), but it did, in the night, with a towel wrapped around the spot. I bet in a more credulous time I could have presented that as a mark of sainthood.

Sinking under the weight . . . .
April 3, 2011

One of those abysms about which it is better to say nothing. Sometimes my anger is so great I would tear down the sky if I could get a hold on it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 2, 2011

Five cartons of live plants arrived un the last two days, so when I could clear all other tasks to plant them (today) I did. It may have been the day in my life of most digging and planting, and I feel exactly as though it was. I won’t remember everything, but there are new beds of gentian, mollis, Solomon’s seal, cinnamon and ostrich fern, ginger, four o’clocks, a Lincoln lilac, an expensive arisaema, Of those already in residence, the first–white–tree peony bears a great billiard ball of bud.

Party at J and P’s last night. They’ve invited me several times, but I never went (despite my affection for them) because they live miles up a difficult mountain road, and long ago I learned my pleasure in these things diminishes in direct proportion to the difficulty of access. But, I went. No one thought a Prius would make it up the slope, so I was meant to park at the bottom of the twisty road and phone to be picked up in someone’s four-wheel drive vehicle. Turns out I had no reception from there, and so I began to walk up the mountain, lugging my 12 pack of Harp. The road was very steep and I was trying sweatily to hurry, but I had no idea how far it was, so I kept trying the phone until, at a certain height, facing Asheville, I got a signal. I thought I had gone a goodly distance by the time P came for me, but the road was very long indeed. I would never have made it on foot. I thought at that point my misgivings had been justified. Delicious food and, for a while, interesting conversation. When men start quoting statistics at one another, you know the evening is gone. Big, sweet dogs. Snow was falling when I careered down from the heights in G’s jeep.

After the gardening work-out I had developed the desire for a hamburger from an old-time hamburger joint. I found the Newbridge Café, one of those places you speed past on the highway every day without looking, but which turns out to be friendly and idiosyncratic and picturesque, and to serve exactly what you craved.

Late. Took AJ to La Boheme at the Wortham. AJ was the perfect companion, entering totally new experience with a totally open and excited mind. As for the opera, it has probably been better sung in the history of the world, but it was beautifully directed and expertly acted, and left one with a feeling of compact richness. I had seen it long ago–in London–but didn’t remember it was funny. People talk about it all the time, but now I’m there agreeing that it is a masterpiece–and hardly idiotic at all, for an opera. When Mimi gets the muff I nearly burst into tears. So little to ask . . . Actually caught bits of Italian as they flew by. It was helpful in this sense, for I could hear how generally pronouns disappear when the verb reveals the meaning.
April 1, 2011

Dark. The radio says “Libya” and then it says “cutbacks” and then there is some plaintive voice telling out its woes. My woe, tiny in comparison, is too much to do in too little time, and me spoiled by nearly a year of uncrowded schedules.

Cantaria sang for the opening reception of the Queer Studies Conference yesterday afternoon. We did not sing well, but we sang exuberantly, and, I think, pleased the crowd. The Chancellor was hugely gracious, and her house, where I had never been, is beautiful. I think a house with too much space would disconcert me, or perhaps I’m just too used to my little burrow on the hillside.

Covered my tenderer plants last night, but I think it did not, after all, freeze.