Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31, 2016

Made a dawn raid on the garden at the Phil Mechanic, liberating iris from the chaos that probably looms before us. I would have said I was dividing them had I been caught. But I made the garden and should not be expected to watch it be plowed under without a remnant. Chill, bright morning. Came home, planted the iris, pruned the roses for their winter sleep. There are a lot of roses. Pruned the magnolias. A swan is floating on Beaver Lake. Fought with God last night. Woke with a recently unusual sense of physical well-being.

January 30, 2016

Excellent morning in the studio I had been on the verge of shutting down.

Brother Ron Fender is dead. My former student Gawain– whom I remember as a golden light, merry and beautiful–lies dying in hospice.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 29, 2016

I wanted to gather good memories together. This was in response to hours and hours in which it seemed that the only memories that came to me spontaneously were sad or defeated or embarrassing. What if I had to cast a Patronus and could think of no good thing? I thought of twilight in Valeeta, when the people disappeared and streets were stone canyons filled with cats, and one man came from a stone house with a fantastical instrument. He sat down on a stone, and as Venus first twinkled in the sky above him, played on “Lascia chi’o pianga” on the fantastical instrument. I thought of the bar in Sligo where I came, thinking to cap off a long day, and the musicians meeting randomly at the side suddenly hit an improvisation of such sublime and solemn beauty that everyone sat staring at the floor. I thought Evensong at Saint Patrick’s. and then walking to the sauna in Dublin where the love was wild and holy. Lascia chi’o pianga. I thought of Temple Square in Temple Bar, the gypsy buskers singing with their balls and stomachs. I think of the road near Gort where I walked in solitude, with the red deer snoring around me, and the moon came up and the sky was a blue bowl with a few stars in it, and I was so happy that for a moment I thought I had been unborn, and alive in paradise.

January 28, 2016

William Byrd in choir rehearsal, that mastery of emotion and form, and afterwards the thought that if music had stopped with Byrd it would have been perfect and utterly achieved.  But music did not stop there. Then who thought anything was needed beyond Handel? Beyond Beethoven? The history of art is a kind animal whose segments are separate moments of perfection, grown together, moving together somehow toward some unguessable and distant goal.
More documents from the real estate people. I have to lie down. And then I sleep.

January 27, 2016

Full days of classes returned. Mine are engaged and lively, and I am grateful for it, especially since every semester now is a referendum on whether I shall retire or not.
News about the new owner of the Phil Mechanic. Whoever he is, I suppose it means at least upheaval and probably disaster. The River District is so ruined now there can be no lateral move, only out. I responded to the news with a turbulent night in which I had half-dreams of moving out at once, of shutting my studio down and never painting again. Am I any good? Has it all been an expensive vanity? I’d contact the Art Department at school and let the students come and commandeer my supplies. The balance was that I love painting and am happy doing it. Is that a balance? I couldn’t figure it out fully in the chaos of sleep. I rose in the morning and went directly to the studio, where I thought I’d take a few treasured possessions and then give the rest away. Instead I took my coat off and painted. A long time. Blissfully. Well.

January 26, 2016

You’d think that finally having the papers signed– are these even the final papers?– would be a relief, but my final reaction was a flood of sorrow and resentment. W delays as much as he possibly can, knowing that I have given him tens of thousands of dollars and allowed him to buy a house, and my only requirement was dispatch. But dispatch would mean not doing it fully his own way. I see no end to this. Why should even good deeds turn into despair? I am amazed sometimes by my lack of emotional resources. Some things I simply cannot shrug off.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 25, 2016

Rose and went to the Y. The Y was dark and empty. Veered off to Starbuck’s. Starbuck’s was closed. Went to the bank; the sign on the door read “open at 10.” All for a coating of snow two days before. Started at 2 PM to await Will’s arrival, to sign the papers that will enable us to sign the papers. He came after 7. By that time I had worked my chest into knots so that it crossed my mind I was having a heart attack. This has not been a good twelvemonth. People have taken the opportunity to treat me as it is in their power to do, and that has ranged from indifference to vicious malice. I know I’m supposed to be able to take all this with equanimity. To have control over my own feelings. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

January 24, 2016

Liszt on Pandora. Very wintery.
For an hour before it went behind the hill, the blaze of the moon upon the snow.  We lost power a couple of times yesterday. It seemed gratuitous, as though someone down at the station wanted us to experience the full effect of the blizzard and so pulled the switch. Still not even the scratch of a bird upon the snow. I have done well two days mewed up. No cabin fever, though thank wine for part of that. Thank stations on the TV that I never explored before. Today I will get out, though, stretch my legs. They are calling the storm “Jonas.”
In dreams I was being patronized by Hugh Capet, who was not dead and had applied to have the throne of France returned to him. He had learned to use social media, and had chosen to praise me as a writer. His favorable comments were carved on a polished slab of wood in front of his palace. I went to Paris by night to steal it. It was very snowy, and I cut the slab away from its supports and brought it home on a sled.
Tried to order roses for my garden. Too absurd. Will wait at least until the ground is visible.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

January 23, 2016

Eerie flat whiteness all across my yard, unmarred by any bird or animal track. I myself moved about in the snow a good deal yesterday, but all that is buried and smoothed by wind and further snow. The one exception is on the porch, right up against the living room windows, where there are human footprints. They are not mine. They are quite small, as if they were a child’s. Someone was watching through my window. Was I there? If I am upstairs I can’t hear someone knocking, but–
Have been thinking about J’s play, and the works I heard in Omaha, and my own work, trying to distinguish what it is I mean when I say a play is good or important. I certainly don’t mean that it will be, necessarily, popular. I don’t even mean that it’s “entertaining” in any objective way, though I certainly find following its turns and intricacies entertaining. I can be bored from time to time in plays I admire, just as one might be at odd moments in the greatest production of the greatest work in the world. I mean they are fulfilling, as a good workout fulfills the body. “Fun,” in the way–the apparently curious way–I intend the word, as much participatory as receptive. The issue comes up in Cantaria when people cry to sing music that’s “fun.” What they mean by this is show tunes and ditties you can put into a drag show, and I honestly don’t see what’s “fun” about them. Are people equating “fun” with “effortless”? Many plays I’ve loved have real problems, real holes and lapses, but that it because they have dared so much. “Polish” isn’t part of it. I worry about polish when I’m disappointed in the play and turn my attention to production values.  Maybe I’m finally on the verge of dividing “art” from “entertainment” in my own mind, though I believe that my own “mature” work has been the effort to marry the two, as Shakespeare did. Figure out the difference just as you obliterate the difference.

Music of the Spanish Renaissance on CD, bought at the National Gallery, Dublin.
Dream before waking. I had been doodling and writing in the Ellet High cafeteria. I got up to get something, and an important theater producer had come by and seen where I had written about plans for a big production of Washington Place. She was standing there when I returned, beaming, pointing to the page and saying, “Yes, this all will happen.” Then a beautiful red-haired man sat down beside me and lay his hand against my ribs. He said, “”Give me time to read the inside.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

January 22, 2016

Pandora seems to have selected ragas for me for this white-and-black morning.
Considerable snow wafted and piled by considerable wind. It is very beautiful outside. I watched it from my bed, gently descending past the street lamps. I went barefoot to the trash can, and am now fully, fully awake. As an adult I have feared the snow and the cold– feared the cold almost morbidly. I would like to get back to a former impulse of delight.
Went to the Magnetic last night to see what will likely be the only evening of the Asheville Fringe not snowed out. Alex was working concessions. He handed me a play he wanted me to read, “because I won’t be seeing you tomorrow.” It was the first I knew classes had been cancelled the night before, which seldom happens, but which gave a mood of ease to the night. The feature was J's Mother Tongue. I have thought in the past his work was flashes of mightiness diluted by passages of smart-alecky-ness, but those proportions have changed utterly. Mother Tongue was overwhelmingly brilliant, and the parts which were not brilliant were miscalculations of a brilliant talent. He was not well served by one of his actors, but the rest of that, too, was exemplary. A, for instance, is one of Asheville five best actors (the number is arbitrary) and goes from strength to strength. I remember when he was so handsome you’d sit down and gape when he walked into a room. Sometimes I think “If I could only sit so-and-so down and talk out the problems of his play,” but I couldn’t do this with Julian. Our imaginations stake out claims on very different parts of the world.  I don’t understand what he’s up to. But I do understand when he has speared the White Whale.
A day fully my own ahead of me. Praying that the power stays on. The cats look out the window. I opened the door and Maud put one paw onto the snow, whirled and retreated back into the house. Maybe I’ll build a house for the wildcats in the mountains, that they too can retreat and curl up on a scarlet rug.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 21, 2016

Only stepping barefoot onto the darkling patio assured me that it had in fact snowed during the night. Cancellations fly– choir practice, my reading in Sylva on Saturday–and yet there really is no snow. Maybe it’s coming and I’ll eat my words.
Good classes and alert students. Taught a brilliant class on poetry yesterday. My waking short of breath in the night was the result of cold medicine. Surprising how quickly that becomes automatic and habitual. Took none last night, slept like a bear. I slept in the room where I like to watch the snow fall, but none fell.
Stock market catastrophic to my finances. Nothing to be done. It does make me hate silly people who ruin my fortune with their own skittishness.
Have had the last few days a renewed awareness of chaos– that my life has no particular center and one thing happens after another with no sense to it. This is not a novelty, of course, but the things that happen have seemed more than usually random or mutually to cancel one another out. The open road is a powerful symbol for me, and I realize now that may be because I have never felt myself to be on one.
The little heater hums at my ear. It probably does no real good, but it sounds like warmth.

January 20, 2016

So, we make a date to sign the papers for the sale of 62, and W phones, and I can say the words along with him, “Oh, I forgot that I had to–“ So we postpone. And the snow comes and we postpone again, though all one of us has to do is walk across the street. Has something has happened to the house that he doesn’t want me to see? I quell my rage because each time this happens it seems so small, but the cumulative effect of its happening a dozen or so times means rage in any case, quelled or pure. The world is divided between those people who set a date and, often to their own detriment or inconvenience, then do everything they can to meet that date, and those who shrug such things off as though their own convenience were the only thing.  People who think thoughtlessness is an actual argument. I have given him every advantage, including tens of thousands of dollars, saved him from being turned down by every mortgage firm in the world, allowed him to buy a house, allowed him his way with a house he doesn’t own. The only thing I asked for myself is that we sign the papers quickly and have it done with. That was February, 2014

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January 19, 2016

Did not leave the house on Monday. Did not even open the door, but sat either upstairs bundled or downstairs bundled, or unbundled in the bedroom where all the heat goes. Today seems even colder, but one must at last be out and about. Worked hard on the Hiram book, hauling it past a rough spot. Most of the weekend’s agitation was over nothing, a lesson not fully learned, as the Monday agitations are upon me and I do not bring past experience to bear. Except I do, a little bit, standing off from my own tribulations, watching them as if they were another’s, maybe the least bit amused. DJ gets our hotel reservations for Denver. I’d thought–even half hoped–that something would prevent my going, but nothing has. Yellowish gray dawn.

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 18, 2016

Was yesterday productive? I think it was. Brought Emma and Ellie to the seaside.
K’s birthday dinner at Bouchon, which was crowded and festive, and seemed enough like a real French restaurant to suit me. The help is faultlessly cheerful and sunny. But why were all those people out on a freezing Sunday night? Among us it was a happy company, and I reveled. Skipped Cantaria, and blessed God for it, as it was mostly choreography.
Waves of near-fury over the forms that must be filled out for the transfer of 62. Most of it is idiotic, though some of it isn’t. I say that out of insincere courtesy, for all of it, actually, is idiotic.
My study has just now gotten warm enough to work in–or rather, I have just now accustomed myself to the cold. Dark without. Bright within.

January 17, 2016

Monteverdi on Spotify.
Curious bright sky in the night, low clouds-- snow clouds I suppose-- down against the streetlights.
Listening to a radio interview with someone who calls himself a “Buddhist atheist,” I happened to think what a shaky position atheism is from which to discuss matters of the spirit. Insisting on atheism as a legitimate take on God is like asserting tone-deafness should have a role in the critique of music. It is a deficit and not a perspective. In other areas, insistence on the non-existence of something that others perceive and take wholly to their hearts is thought of as impoliteness, if not idiocy.
The yearly blast of “Lift Ever’y Voice and Sing” as the recessional.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16, 2016

JD conveys a commission to write for him a text about dragons to set for his youth choir. He gives me Shel Silverstein as a model. It sounds unlikely, but I sat in High 5 and wrote merrily, so perhaps it is already done. Left the cafĂ© and made for the studio. As usual, Steve and I were the only ones there, his dedication, or should I say obsessiveness, like a bent bow. A number of tourists came. Except that they all admire the light, you never know what they’re thinking. Painted well, fighting off the ache in my shoulder that makes it hard to lift a brush, among so many other things.
Felt phlebitis rising in my leg, fought it off. Bless antibiotics.
Made an omelet of surpassing excellence.
My life is awry, in not a bad way, but simply a way that is awry. Maybe just need to settle into a routine for the semester. Watched seven different kinds of birds in the Wells Fargo hedge.

January 15, 2016

I’m at school by 6:30, reading and preparing, trying to keep clean my record of never taking work home.

Chat with T at High 5. So, my jealously was abated. His present ambition is to write badly, deliberately badly, to come down to the perceived level of Country music. My theory is that it is never profitable to make anything less well than you can make it, but I am not certain that’s true. People who succeed with bad things–and there are many, even a predominance–are, I think, working at the top of their abilities, which place luckily coincides with public interest.

Energetic and engaged classes. K paid me a visit, the vacation having restored him to his radiant and energetic self.

January 14, 2016

The pond-maker came yesterday, and we chose a location and qualities for my pond, though with the stock market plunging (and plunging) I don’t know whether I’ll be able to afford it. I have until March to decide. The pond maker is a big round-faced pleasant guy from Dayton, whose mother was Miss America after having been Miss Ohio, and whose father is a champion hairdresser. He has written articles about frogs and toads, but someone didn’t know that free frogs, too, must breed in water.
Enjoying my classes, without certain conviction that they are getting from me what they need.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

January 13, 2016

Waking at the right time–if a little early-- with the right attitude. Maybe the rhythm of this semester is going to be exactly right.
I had not mentioned that on Sunday, during the service, I couldn’t sing “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate” because every phrase was suddenly real to me, and I was too full of emotion. The psalm moved me, too, the one about the voice of the Lord splitting the flames of fire and shaking the wilderness.
Cocoa at High 5 yesterday. T and W were over in the corner plotting –still-- their glory road to Hollywood, and I was bitterly jealous, though when I asked myself why, I couldn’t answer. The flame of that has passed.
Bought a new wren house (it’s a bluebird house, but I get wrens, which is well enough) and saw a wren holding onto the car window, looking in where the house was, as though already anticipating moving in.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12, 2016

Woke at just past 3, rested, so I prepared manuscripts, fought with the computer, went to the Racquet Club, where, during my workout, I found myself choosing men whose friendship I’d pursue if I knew how. I’m past the stage of easy friendship, with peers anyway, but the turn of phrase or the timbre of a voice or a vacancy of glance into the darkness through the windows can make me wish for more, can make me wonder, “what if?” No stranger would think I am lacking in social life, but I do. Balanced forever between greed and satiety---
I was in particular pain when I got up, and I used the workout to force specific areas either into crisis or compliance. Compliance seems to have won all the way down the line. Blessed be. Almost fell asleep in the whirlpool.
My replacement was mediocre, at best, in the humanities lecture yesterday. The Boy’s action was detrimental to every single quality and occasion except his own vanity. You wait for the mills of the gods to grind a little finer, a little faster.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January 11, 2016

David Bowie is dead. He was one of the few celebrities I actually saw in the flesh: he asked directions of me on the corner of 8th Avenue and 42nd Street, when I was staying at the hotel that once was there (this was about 1977 or so). I was so awestruck I couldn’t speak, but handed him my map. He looked at it, handed it back, went on his way.
First day of classes, and I met them all. Except for an overload of senior projects, I don’t think it will be a bad semester. The kids seem engaged, merry & upright.

January 10, 2016

Cold again. Shoes make a sound on the grass like walking on paper.
Cantaria made $4600 from All Is Calm, which I think of as princely. The exhaustion fades in memory, the pleasure sharpens.
Nevertheless, I was impatient in rehearsal. Not them, but me.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 9, 2016

Woke after a marathon of amazing dreams with a buoyant sense of well-being. I was certain that I had a vanilla milkshake with me, and searched the room for it for a moment before understanding it was the stuff of dreams. During the dreams I would wake briefly, and when I sank back I would be in the middle of a new Broadway finale, with new gorgeous costumes and new dance numbers, singing songs of real wit, that I wish I could remember now. It was the opposite of an actor’s nightmare, for we were brilliant, and I was brilliant doing my little turn in the dazzling company. One of the songs admonished men who were having trouble dating women to try to seduce a man, an experience that would, according to the song, prepare a straight guy for anything a girl would throw at him. The title and recurring line of the song was “Put a Little Leather in It.”

Spent the morning in the studio, where I was happy. At around noon the girl squad arrived across the hall, and I swear to God there was not one single moment not full of tittering. I looked, and they were full grown women. They have pasted drawing by their children or students on the wall, with little price tags under them. Sweet. Reached the end of my titter tolerance and came home, dragging three works to the framer.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

January 8, 2016

P in town for one night. He was weepy and in need of comfort, but he never revealed exactly what for. We slept together, but as chaste as statues. Sometimes that is right. I seem to have achieved something, but I can’t remember what.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7, 2016

Set out earlier this morning and the moon was different, a starveling curve just at the level of the roofs, Venus high above it an unbearably radiant. I watched a racoon hump his way in the light of the streelamps from one shadow to another.
J said of All Is Calm, “You and Jack carried the show.” Whether that was true or not, it was nice to hear, to balance my suspicion that I hadn’t done well.
Off to school to get my syllabi done. I am ready for the semester, in so far as to be ready is to be ready. Application is all.
Finished Uranium 235. I think I am well pleased. It is the beginning of an evening which might end in the theater.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January 6, 2016

Epiphany. If I go back through my voluminous, pointless writings I will find the passage from forty seven years ago, where I first began to record my life. Watched for the third morning the passage of the slim moon and her radiant companion across the south, in deep blue in the hour before dawn. Juggling one thing and another, managed to get my rental car returned and retrieve my own dear one in one swoop. My driver’s brother-in-law is a new student at UNCA. We discussed why minority students have such a hard time there. Dave, the owner at the body shop is burly and humorous and manly and almost irresistibly attractive to me. I said to him, “I hope not to see you again,” and he thought I meant the bother of getting my car fixed, whereas I meant something else entirely. The money paid me by my insurance is a solid hundred more than it actually cost. I will set this down as the opening salvo of an auspicious year. Have essentially finished Uranium 235. Wept at the ending, which is a good sign. Back to choir I think tonight, though I have no impetus but habit. The house is cold. I’m only comfortable when I’m asleep. Or inebriated. Dreamed this morning that I was the captain of a research ship that studied whales, and studied them by capturing them temporarily in huge containers attached to the sides of the ship. They were strange whales, with sharp angles and bright colors, as though they had descended from starfish. Dreams of water and sea life are auspicious for me.
January 5, 2016

Laboring away on Uranium 235, making a misstep in the evening which I go back and correct in the morning. It edges toward an end I do not yet foresee. Saw Sam when I went to pick up my Chinese. Remembered why I don’t retire upon this moment– the students, who are at this point the only reliably new things in my life. Crescent moon, brilliant Venus over the Racquet Club parking lot, in a jewel dark sky.

January 4, 2016

Managed to do a full weight series today–leaving out only the chest presses–without irritating my shoulder. Curious. What IS wrong with it, anyway? The crescent moon sailed above the gym parking lot, trailing Venus a little below and behind in a perfect peacock sky. I watch the Boy drive his pale car along the street, open the window beside my house and toss trash out onto my yard. I laugh. This is pettiness even beneath the pettiness of his life.

Monday, January 4, 2016

January 3, 2016

Movie day yesterday, then Mongolian beef at a Chinese restaurant I longed to eat at, and long to eat at no more. Desire is the child of denial. The only way to conquer desire is to have, or to have had.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

January 2, 2016

Thinking back on the audiences for art events in town, the group that is most conspicuously lacking is the UNCA faculty. Never have I seen the drama faculty at ANY theatrical event that was not on campus, and surely never at one of mine. The Lit professors do show up sometimes, but the rest– never. Administration SHOULD have a representative at every event, but of course they don’t. When I arrived I was cherished (a little) because I was a presence in the town. If I was blazing a trial, no one followed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

January 1, 2016

Nearly impromptu party here last night to ring in the new year, R and M and DJ and K and A and B. I made annihilating punch, and we made fun of the television personalities trying to entertain us into the new year. M explained her decision to give up acting in favor of working as a college registrar. I understood. Theater and I have remained friends because I never depended on it for a livelihood.  Went to Ingall’s and stood in line behind a wild brood, a distracted mother, four or five children clustered around one of those house-on-wheels things that can be used as a babysitter/shopping cart. As I watched, a little girl still strapped into the cart took a sucker off the display and hid it in the folds of her coat. I wanted it to be innocent, but it wasn’t, and the giveaway was the look on her face. She shifted her eyes away from the hand that had stolen the candy, staring up at the ceiling in affected nonchalance. I was looking at a shoplifter, and not at a little girl who wanted a piece of candy. Didn’t know what to do; did nothing. If the first day of the year is an indication of the year, then 2016 is going to be full of naps and lying around with a cat on my feet.