Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30, 2016

First almost perfect night on stage last night, with a tiny audience to witness it.
Lunch at White Duck downtown with J D and his wife and their increasingly beautiful toddler son.  He receives $4600 for our song commission, asks what I want of it. I say $200. He thinks I’m joking. I sat in a café and wrote the text over cappuccino. Not the same thing as work.
Rushing home before meeting with Z, I discovered two cartons on my porch, which I knew were the turtles I ordered from Florida. Unpacked them and put them in the bathtub with some water until I could attend to them, but even then the time was brief, just that between seeing Z and heading out for Waynesville. The razor backed musk turtle was perfect. His name is Minos, after one who was a sea-king, and then went down to be a judge of the underworld. I set him on a stone at the edge of the pond, went in to do an errand, and when I returned he was gone. Submerged, I hope; I’ll look for him today. The red slider, however, was enormous. Too big for my pond, I thought, an eating machine beside whom there could not be much else in the pool. I put him back in his packing box and drove him to Beaver Lake, where I figured he’d have a home right for him. A couple was pushing their baby in a stroller by the lakeside, so I walked over and said, “Would she like to see a turtle?” The little girl played with the turtle for a moment (looking then less like a turtle than a colorful, angry stone) as I explained what I was doing. “We have a pond,” the man said. “A big one,” the woman added, “full of koi.” They looked so hopeful. I explained the turtle’s needs and gave them the box, telling them to choose between the lake and their koi pond. I figured my little friend would prosper either place. And so one turtle is kept close and the other set to a fate not fully known. I feel blessed either way.
Joe the tree guy turns out to be even more beautiful than Nick the lawn guy. My luck in these matters holds. Joe is beautiful and cheery, like a kid. Nick is beautiful and solemn, like a figure in an icon.
Planted like a maniac– two roses, more waterlilies, a witch hazel tree. The crows use the pond to soften or dampen–or perhaps to conceal–their food. Haven’t seen Minos since I left him on his rock.

April 29, 2016

Final in Introduction to Literature. As with almost every semester, students who slogged through the semester don’t show up for the final. I can’t figure that out. Some come late, confident. Too many duties and appointments, layered like pastry in baclava. The German and the Japanese iris remember an old alliance.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28, 2016

Turbulent days.  Fixed upon the pond, to have it right. To Kung and Lao Tse I added the small golden koi Egypt, Sumer, and Akkad. All of them vanished instantly and became invisible fish. Yesterday it entered my heart to have turtles, which cannot be caught or bought locally, but only by the mail. I have a red eared slider and a razor backed mud heading my way through the aether. To prepare for their coming I bought a shoal of feed minnows. These I saw in the morning– before there was direct light on the water– and under them Sumer and Akkad moving in the very deepest places. Added water iris. God-like Nick came and gave me a surprisingly cheap estimate for removing the north fence. Waiting for the arborist to come and give me an estimate on removing the last of the sour walnuts. Got a cheap, ugly haircut. I sleep all the time. I have become a cat.

April 27, 2016

Japanese iris blooming. Hauling of boulders to make one garden into another. Watched my students take their final for the ten thousandth time, for the ten thousandth time enraged at the ones who erase and hesitate and linger after the others have gone. I smile and say, “take all the time you want. Put it in my mailbox when you’re done.”  Thus have I staved off murder. The windows stay open all the night.

April 26, 2016

Revised Saint Patrick’s Well. It was excellent; now it is unanswerable. Feeling quite well and quite spent at the same time. Ruined my computer by downloading the protective programs it admonished me to download, and now everything is accomplished through a wall of sludge.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 25, 2016

Bad matinee for me. Coughing fit in the middle of the resurrection scene. Last classes today, and so goodbye to all that. Tried to buy fish or turtles or something for my pond, came away so disappointed I assumed Fate had something else in store.
But in the evening I sat in my garden and tried meditation, moving meditation after the inspiration of the Dervishes. I heard the twilight birds, and Will digging away across the street, shouting to his daughters and being shouted at by them. When I opened my eyes the sky was dark and luminous at once, one star, which I took to be Jupiter, in the cobalt center.

April 24, 2016

Saturday’s performance not stellar for me. Did my mind wander? Why would it choose then to do so?
The concept “carpooling” means, clearly, that I am supposed to drive everyone every night.
 Rose in time to get things done, then found I could not bring myself to do those things.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 23, 2016

Shakespeare has been dead 400 years. Just heard the story that he and Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton had a rousing night on the town from which William never recovered. I hope that is the truth.
Earth Day, and I gardened heroically, large shrubs and little flowers. Staggered with tiredness afterwards. Napped a hole in the rest of the day. I have determined to take out the northward fence and make a barrier of vegetation between the apartments and myself. Meant to paint, meant to write, did nothing but dig and sleep.
No sightings of my wondrously camouflaged philosopher fish.
Opening night last night went well enough, to a middling but enthusiastic crowd. I substituted a few words here and there, but the damage never included a full line. Was praised for my Camillo more than quite could be believed. I was inventive and responsive, but my lines were not quicksilver. Florizel blowing hi breath in my face, the smell of breath and a body after a full day– quick thought in that crystal-etched moment of how little intimacy I have known. The birds chirp and the water in the pond runs. In moments I must be in the car again.

April 22, 2016

Much lamentation for Prince. I knew him mostly because Ginger used “Raspberry Beret” and “When Doves Cry” for her aerobics class. The man who runs the bakery shop on the corner was grousing because Waylon Jennings didn’t get an equal send-off.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21, 2016

Catastrophic rehearsals turn slowly into decent rehearsals, and there is one night left before an audience. Share the dressing room with two beautiful boys (and others, but you look at some, and not so much at others) with a sense of gratitude. I wonder what it’s like to look like that all your life, or even part of it. Must give you an ease and a sense of belonging that I have never felt. Leontes, Hermione, Perdita, all quite good. Paulina draws out her revelation scene (maybe it’s just uncertainty with the lines) until you’d rather hang yourself than see the woman finally come to life.

Coffee with DG, after a year or so. Made me happy to be with him.
Bought two bluish silver, deeply speckled fish, whom I named Kung and Lao Tse. They’re the pond’s first macroscopic inhabitants. Bluish silver speckly is apparently the one color which matches the bottom of the pond best, and I have not seen Kung and Lao Tse since I dropped them in the water.
April 20, 2016

Met the Boy in a stairwell and had said “Hi” in response to his chirpy greeting before I realized who he was. Missed opportunity for cold-shouldering. He really is a weasely, destructive little thing, a sort of academic Ted Cruz.
Tree peonies in immense pastel flower.

April 19, 2016

Pond is now electrified. Almost as soon as it was filled, it received a blanket of maple keys. I suppose if it were areal pond in a real forest it would have the same. Disaster hits my email. I get hacked, send out bogus messages to selected people, discover that my contacts list has been erased (building now for 20 years) and that my new mail gets deposited, for some reason, in “Recently Deleted.”   I have a hard time negotiating the pointless.
M’s retirement party, where we sing my adaptation of “American Pie.” M was a blaze of energy and dedication, and what is more, the only person senior to me in the department. Now I’m the Grand Old Man and I’m not up to it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 18, 2016

The exhaustion that haunted recent days seems to be cycling out. More now what I recognize of myself. My six senior projects are gathering on my head at once, so all energy will be needed. Good classes. Another student confessing what it’s like to be asexual, to have no particular erotic inclination. I listen, think to myself, “you just wait.”  First dress at HART not the disaster it might have been, but in many ways a disaster, many actors still with books in their hands. I managed to muddle through, never quite losing my bearings or my lines, but not exactly the product I want to put on the stage opening night.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17, 2016

Drove to Statesville, to the high school auditorium, to hear Stephen M play with his touring band. Got there early. Stephen had left me a pass, and I drank Cheerwine and sat in the auditorium and ran The Winter’s Tale  in my head. I’ve known Stephen since he was a child, when quite by accident I stayed at his family’s B and B. There was an attachment, immediate and difficult to define. Have kept in touch–much on my side and a little on theirs–ever since. The last time I heard him play was at a music festival in a tiny community center in Corofin God knows how many years ago, and there he was, a grown man in a high school auditorium on North Carolina, so warrior-handsome I didn’t know what to do with myself. The music was disappointing– heavily pop, trad standards prettified by wash after wash of Riverdance– but one must get the gig, and maybe being at the edge of a transforming warrior tradition, making the music new with each hard touch, was my dream rather than his. He dedicated a set to me, “to a family friend, if he’s in the audience.” I was. It was thrilling to hear my name spoken aloud in a far-off land. Went backstage afterward and we caught up inadequately. Had my picture taken with the band. Drove home, fighting drowsiness the whole way. Home before midnight. I miss him. With no rights in the matter.

April 16, 2016

Got a bucket of water from the little circular pond near Beaver Lake, to innoculate my pond with whatever protists might have been abiding in that bit. I would have lingered, maybe found a tadpole or two, but the area was overrun with birders. Why does bird watcher talk always sound so idiotic? W came over for a chat, and because I promised him my cattle trough, now superceded by an actual pond.  He remarked on the rich soil I left him, which he is digging up and taking to his school garden in Swannanoa, to be replaced by raised beds in his front yard.  The fence was, I thought, so his girls could have a space to practice tumbling, but now I guess they do that among the raised beds. All in all, a very eccentric use of my old house. The neighbors must remark---

Friday, April 15, 2016

April 15, 2016

The two jolly workmen finished and filled the pond today. The electric pump is not yet installed, but the pond lies as a pond does, and I am going to keep track of it to see how long it takes to populate. If past experience holds, there should be striders on the water in the morning. Emptied the old ponds, the ones in watering troughs and wash basins, with a maximum of effort, bearing their rich waters to the new plantings bucket by bucket. I should be happier— I’ll know how to feel when the first wake crosses the still water.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016
Rose late in the middle of vivid dreams. Went to High Five to study lines and write, and then it was a day of gardening. Planted all the bulbs- callas, dahlias, etc– that had been in the truck for a week or so, and may have been killed by the heat of it in daylight. We’ll see, but I decided to give all of them a chance. Went shopping at the two sides of the city and came home with hydrangea (to replace the ones the diggers killed), bellflower, and two stick-like paw-paws. Planted, watered, watered, watered, napped, and now it is time to start my evening. Maud sets her paw down on the back of a stinkbug, picks it up, inspects the bug to see if she has done any damage. Smell of summer in the still air.  

April 13, 2016

Finally, the premiere of The Birth of Color will be October 6-9 in Budapest, at the Kiscelli Museum.  Empires have been built in less time than it took this to see the light. Even as some scholar in Germany emails to warn me about Tristan’s probable (nay, certain) plagiarism. Old news, new news. Doing badly at rehearsal. Dazed with exhaustion at the end of the day.

April 12, 2016

The pond diggers have buried a whole garden plot– except for a rose, which was obvious enough to be worked around. I take a deep breath. I think of all the gardens of the world ploughed under. I wonder of the hydrangeas can shove up through the red dirt anyhow. Doing quite awful in rehearsal.

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016

Waking with a sense of–except for this eternal cough, which has turned into a voice like a stump grinder–physical equilibrium. The drive to Cary was an ordeal of drowsiness. Not one second was free of the fight to stay awake. Finally had to pull over at a rest stop and sleep briefly, violently, the dreams red as blood, but enough to satisfy my brain for a while. The venue in Cary was an old hotel that had been adapted into a community center, this time set up to honor the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, and therefore rife with friendly Turkish-Americans. I was early (despite the nap) and wandered into the little downtown and plopped myself on a bench in the cool sunlight to study my lines. Pretty town. Me in the center of it, cramming down Shakespeare. Wandered over to a streetfair where I bought cookies and a rock painted over with an old image of a cheetah, from a woman who wanted to take a picture of me for her Facebook page. Nine of us read (some recorded) and I sat there rather grimly trying to figure out the principle of selection. We seemed to have nothing to do with one another, and I was the only one who had assumed the honorees (Hikmet and Rumi) required poems with a Levantine flavor. Humiliating question-and-answer afterward. The festivities were to run into the evening, but I had a four hour drive, so I left after the reading, fighting off sleep, then, the whole way home. Flirted with a guy at the Iron Skillet, he a slender redneck with adventure in his eyes and the smell of a day’s sweat. So, it is the dark of Monday morning and I have my check and my three minutes of singular glory.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April 10, 2016

Dark of frozen morning, heading toward Cary in less than an hour. Yesterday was one of those days when every detail went wrong. A wrong movement, and you double over with muscle spasms. You meet someone to do him a favor–a major favor–and he’s an hour late. Get to your destination without the stuff you needed to bring. Answer the wrong phone call. Open the seltzer water and it explodes. Way past accident or coincidence. Ending with an essentially sleepless night. Art opening in the evening. It was festive, I guess, but for every ten people in the hall one entered my studio. I can’t figure that out. The lights were on. Cookies and wine stood on a table at the door. Welcome breathed from every canvas. Months ago I sent Night Sleep to a regional publisher, and I was told that it was accepted for publication. Not a word since. Neighbor Elizabeth comes into the studio and says her twelve year old daughter had written a book that those same people are publishing, and would I like to write an introduction? Exquisite, Lord. Exquisite. But I did sell a little painting, The Burning City, to the musician. Was that meant to make up for everything? Anything? Lay down a little, studying my lines for The Winter’s Tale. When I nodded off to sleep I immediately began to dream an alternate version.

April 9, 2016

 Baked pistachio cookies before dawn for the “opening” tonight. I wonder if anyone will come.

 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at NC Stage last night. I’d said on several occasions that I never needed to see that show again, but perhaps I did, for this one was the best I remember (of course I can’t judge the ones I was in), swift, lacking in self-indulgence, thoroughly considered. The play itself is false, and it’s hard to overcome that. But so far as you can, they did. Afterwards at Sovereign Remedies, a festive evening, with handsome kids from NCUR (decidedly not Wesleyans) drinking themselves silly, and one of my former (gigantic) students as bouncer. Dreamed rather beautifully, of wandering the streets of some Italian city at night– a festival night–and meeting a dark-haired Irish kid who wanted to spend the night with me. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, I will. Yes. Yes.”

Friday, April 8, 2016

April 8, 2016

Continuation of violent, strangling coughing, at the end of which I go lightheaded.  The doctor said “You’ll get over it.” Don’t think so.
Excellent workout, pumping away on the elliptical while studying my lines. Worked on a reminiscence in the gym café.  Stupendous work at the studio. Project Runway, the TV show, inspired me to work in cloth, and the results are, to this point, delightful. Steven set up an “opening” for us for tomorrow night at Phil Mechanic, so maybe I’ll have one finished by then. Returned home to find two guys had already begun digging my pond. I said “I think you have the wrong house.” One guy went white; the other grinned and said, “Well, do you want a pond?” Mr Delay delayed not in handing me a contract and asking for a check. Interesting levels of dirt in the yard. . . great chunks of still-living walnut root. . . urban archaeology. . . no dinosaurs yet. Yet one more freeze threatened for tonight.

April 7, 2016

Free for a moment, I drove to Togar’s and bought two beautiful rugs. D wasn’t there, so they let me take the rugs without paying until she should set a price. Wow. Stopped by NCUR at UNCA and heard S give her presentation on WWI novels written by women. She was poised & everything she needed to be. The girl before her was at pains to prove that Milton thought Eve the more upright and responsible of our first parents. Took all the kids from Houghton College to Marco’s afterwards for pizza and much conversation. S is S’s daughter. I knew her before she was born. I knew her mother when she was married to someone other than her father. I knew– but then, I didn’t know her. Might not have picked her out of a crowd until she spoke. Amazing. I mentioned that Asheville is Beer City, and they responded, almost as one, “We’re Wesleyan!” I reminisced that I had spent time in the Lamb, the pub in Oxford where the Wesleys invented Methodism, most certainly over a glass of port. The information passed over their heads into the void.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

April 6, 2016

Quarrels with every batch of emails. It’s all right. Long-tailed bird in my yard today, glimpsed briefly as it flew, unidentifiable. Made a most excellent chicken soup on my first try. Day off that isn’t really. Blazing sky, pale blue with moisture. Taught Cantos for the first time ever. Have no idea what got through.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016

Unaccustomed jollity and relaxed atmosphere at rehearsal. Not so relaxed that I shouldn’t get a start on learning my lines.
Cold in the study, in the whole house.  The furnace went out the night before last, and though the weather is not the worst it could be for such an occasion, I’m averse to cold and it weighs on me. Tom the Furnace man says he’ll have it fixed by this afternoon. Tremendous noise as I sat in the living room watching TV, some sprocket or toothed wheel shedding all its teeth at once.
Tuesday is officially free, though filled up now with meetings and repairs and appointments so that it might as well be another work day. Actually, a perfect storm of distractions. Tom the furnace man grinds away at something in the basement. He calls and I stagger down the steps and he says “I didn’t mean to disturb you.” Officials from various parts of Administration took over our department meeting to tell us the various ways in which we were expected to do their jobs for them. The faculty is thought of as a support system for the administration. Cart not merely before the horse, but wholly detached from it.
Email from the never-arriving pond people thanking me for my patience. Patience is a vice. It fosters dereliction.
Pulling up infinitudes of wild chives. Arranging the crates and boxes for tonight’s hard freeze. 
Yet my bloodroots make a drift of white in the shadow of the house.  For that, praise.

April 3, 2016

Skipped church, went to Edna’s to do some writing. The place was unusually crowded, and I realized that the power outage that had turned my power off for five seconds had blackened everything up Beaver Dam since midnight, and hungry and cold people were flocking to the cafes for comfort. Tom and CoCo were there. At the table beside me was Tory, a young man whose PTSD was set off by feeling trapped in a dark basement, and then feeling trapped at the end of Beaverdam because a huge tree had fallen across the road. You had to pick an alternate route through the forbidding hills and gated condos. Wrote at my play about Iraq. Revised Uranium 235. The sky is ablaze, but it’s not warm enough for me to do the outdoor work I would otherwise have done. Took the tubs off the delicate ones I meant to save from freezing during the night. Much napping with Maud wedged between my belly and the open air.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April 2, 2016

Baking of cookies for Jack’s party. Had all sorts of ideas, but in the end took the one that was simple, so I could get the quicker to the studio, where I did new things, pleasing things, until the coughing-almost-till-you-faint drove me down the cold stairs. The party was fine, except that I realize I shall now be primarily in the company of old men. Tarzan of the Apes on TV, me remembering the first time I saw it at the Linda three generations ago.

April 1, 2016

Lying on my sofa in the living room, I stare through a 15-paned glass door, behind which is a stand of interweaving dogwood and redbud and the dark irregular lines of the branches that uphold them. One afternoon it was rainy and the background was steel gray, and I thought there could be nothing more beautiful than that, until another day, when the background was blazing azure, and I was sure nothing could be more beautiful than that.
So distraught and behind today that I almost cancelled classes, but didn’t, and had among the best days in class, ever. Finished the work I needed to do in a tenth the time I’d given myself. My drama class’s mini dramas are fun and far more advanced than I expected. I knew more about everything than I expected to. The moon I loved all through March hides her head away.

March 31, 2016

Rain, almost too gentle to wet all the ground at once. Purple fritillaria blooming in back. Grumpy morning failing to write at Edna’s. Lunch with SS, who has decided (with my joyous approval) to do Uranium 235 at the Magnetic. I’ll become known as “the history playwright” but at least I’ll become known as something. His loyalty to his playwrights is beautiful. I don’t see the same equality among us as he does, but----.  Day off blasted to pieces by errands and vague and unspecific malaise, which I may have eliminated by one of the world’s memorable and most unexpected bowel events. My body is changing in ways I’m trying to get used to, and which in some ways seem to be an improvement. One doesn’t expect that at this stage of the game.