Saturday, April 29, 2017
April 29, 2017
Up early, coffee and a little writing, a visit to the farmers’ market, then a good, brief session at the studio. Stopped homeward to buy a blue nikko hydrangea. While planting it I noted that of the five hydrangeas I’ve planted on this property, one prospers and another sports three or four leaves on the tip of its twigs. Last summer, hot and dry, caused considerable mortality among the new plantings. Doubt this year I’ll plant anything beyond May. Good news about Peniel, which I refuse to believe. Put it in my hands or keep it to yourself. The universe who cried “Wolf!” Looking out the tiny window as the sky grays. If the day should end in rain, it would be perfect.
Practicing tunes–at least one of which I hate-- for a brief concert at the Orthodox center tonight.
April 28, 2017
Driving onto campus as a hawk, flying just above the level of my car, made his way into the near woods with a squirrel in his talons. Made this into a blessing.
Baby shower for A and M at one of those beer gardens along the river. Wonderful fun. I pass them every day and barely notice they’re there. Large, happy crowds. It really doesn’t take that much to make people content, at least for a time. A sign by the river pleads, “No hank-panky on the banky.”
Everyone at the university crashing forward, the end in sight.
April 27, 2017
Most beautiful rococo pastel sky at dawn. I went to the Y and ran on the treadmill, watching before me a man with the most beautiful back and the most beautiful sky-blue T-shirt upon it. Shapely men at Starbuck’s. Drinking coffee, reading Woolf, noting them.
My tulip seedling’s leaves are covered with a golden down that shines quite metallic in a certain slant of light. Still waiting for it to lift into the sky.
S thinks I’m going the right direction with. Meyer Wolfshein; that effort is, therefore, practically in “automatic.”
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
April 26, 2017
Three attacks of cramps last night, the second, prolonged and agonizing, maybe the worst one yet. I could feel my heels being dragged toward my ass, and I could not stop it. So angry the cats didn’t know if my screams were pain or fury. Woke exhausted because of them, but did good work at the studio, bought two new roses and planted them in big rich compost-y holes. Napped until late afternoon, alas, but there is time to do a little writing. The drive to Waynesville was hell for traffic yesterday, but, stopped dead in the road, one had time to contemplate the unbelievable beauty of the after-many-rainstorms spring mountains. A little rabbit has his form under the low roof of my hostas.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
April 25, 2017
Sweet spring day. No class. Hit the gym for the first time since before Venice. Sit in the empty café writing grievous poems, weeping without restraint, glad that nobody but me goes there at that time of the darkness. The rain slackens and the sun comes out. Accidentally encounter TD at the High Five, feel hatred for him, a little, because of so many things before me in his life, even things that will bring him no benefit. Spade into mush another round of bamboo shoots. Finish planting all the annual seeds, though toward the end “planting” meant tossing handfuls of seed in underdeveloped dirt to give them a fighting chance. An ounce or so of forget-me-not seed could inseminate the world. Good news about Peniel; the press I sent it to adores it, but wants to offer it to St Julien first to give it a better chance. I say yes. I say yes repeatedly and inevitably. No one says yes more than I. I should be further along every single road.
April 24, 2017
Sweet cast for Gatsby. I’ve enjoyed the company in the last two shows I was in. Left early for rehearsal, but because of the rain there was no highway construction, so arrived forty minutes early, listened to the radio in my car. Horrible night, though, some image or thought tilting me over into darkness. During the ride home I heard myself whispering The Lord has delivered me to the demon over and over as a kind of mantra. Strangely, it brought comfort.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
April 23, 2017
Remarkable, Noah-evoking volume of rain. It started late last night and continues to this hour, at the edge of light, though the night roar has become a whisper. Good for my gardens, unless it was enough to be bad for them. I hope my fornicating opossums have shelter.
The sink on our level of the studio is constantly getting clogged, and what is clogging it and making it stink is food–remnants of salad, rice, wet tea leaves. Only one of us ever eats there, and when she wanders about tragically declaring the sink is clogged again, I want to ask “Why do you think that is?” It’s hard to believe she hasn’t made the connection between her salad floating on a pool of stagnant water in the sink and a clogged drain. Long ago, when Celia was doing the same thing and I outlined what happened I was accused of “mansplaining.”
Mansplaining is when I man gives a woman instructions or information which she needs, but resents needing.
Novel shapes drew me out into the garden in the still-driving rain. I knew what they were. Rain had brought spears of new bamboo out of the ground, six, ten feet away from the original stand, as had happened last year. Some of them were two feet long and had not been there at all on Friday. There I was, hacking away at them with a hoe while they were still tender enough to hack. The yard would be a bamboo thicket in five years if I allowed it.
April 22, 2017
Went outside to the frantic calling of crows. When I went to look at what was disturbing them, I saw four opossums in the east lawn. I thought two were dead and the others contemplating eating them, but the two on the ground were actually mating, and the other two watching, or maybe waiting their turn for the use of preferred space. It was strangely Edenic, two ardent lovers rolling around in the wet spring grass, studded with purple wild phlox. I went to the High Five and had coffee with Alex, and when I returned the opossums were still at it (maybe the pairs had traded off) and the crows still cawing. I wondered what the crows’ stake in this was. Were they mocking? Cheering? Just minding their neighbors’ business? I didn’t realize there were so many hulking marsupials in the vicinity of my back yard.
Two visits to the studio, the second partially to amend a mis-vision of the first. Did some good work, some that will need to be looked at a second time.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
April 21, 2017
Deep fog at the end of night. The birds must not be affected, for they are singing in the distance. Yeats in the morning. The thing I have hated most about teaching? That when I ask, “Are there any questions?”, the questions are not about the matter at hand, but about grades and assignments. They think that getting good grades is their job. It is not. S keeps me afloat. Sometimes people are just interested.
Friday, April 21, 2017
April 20, 2017
The beginning of the Time of the Bursting Forth. Red peonies gather like a little constellation in the back–their first year. My first pink, rather ragged, rose appears. Buds swell. Good day in the studio. Cleaned out space for Richmond. Stopped dead three times on the road between here and Waynesville. I of course suppose that mendacity and incompetence is the cause of traffic hell, but whatever the cause is, it’s a mile or so beyond by turn-off, so perhaps I’ll never know. The Great Gatsby is a thin play, and I wonder if anyone who hadn’t read the novel can follow it. I like my fellow cast members.
April 19, 2017
It’s hard to convince students that their deeply held convictions are faith positions rather than rational ones. They believe they have reached a final truth–a humanistic secularism that reverses rather than redresses older power structures–and that deviation or criticism is a kind of depravity. How this is different from radical religious bigotry I can’t tell, except God is out of it. I am not too agitated, as in general I hold the same beliefs as my students–held them before they did– but I want to be able to keep perspective, and find some way to shade a little perspective into their sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific, certainty.
Returned to HART for the first rehearsal of The Great Gatsby. It’s good being back on the stage, though I heard myself sighing with relief that my part is small and the play is short. So much for ambition. The traffic between here and there almost makes me repent and regret.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
April 18, 2017
Lord, you gave a demon rule over me. It cannot be forgiven.
Arrived on campus to see, under a conifer tree, a robin and a thrush squabbling violently. If the object was possession of that tree, the robin won. The thrush flew by me and lamented musically in the branch of the tree beside my head.
My first meeting of the Cathedral endowment committee. Though I didn’t express my opinion straight off, ultimately I don’t know whether I will be a good influence or an irritating one. The Cathedral’s investment pattern is very conservative. I could make them a far higher return, though of course, as they would point out, at proportionately greater risk. Is this a world not to risk in?
Monday, April 17, 2017
April 17, 2017
Easter Monday, giving my classes the Easter 1916 reminiscence.
Odd phone call from H, who says she thinks of me all the time. Really? Guilty conscience? Is she writing a check?
My poets are not writing. Neither am I, so I don’t have suggestions to make.
My white dove was back, having her quiet bathe in the pond cascade.
Terrible spiritual upheaval, followed by terrible exhaustion.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
April 16, 2017
Journey through Holy Week more meaningful than it had been in years. The men sang the Good Friday service. Standing on one place is, because of my back and my legs, the hardest and worst thing I can do, and of course most of what the choir does on holy weeks is to stand in one place. Entire Passion chanted Friday while we stand. I am in something approaching agony, and I remember all the verses where people long to share the agony of Christ, and I smile as much of an inward smile as I can imagine, doing so (weakly) without any such desire. Solemn and beautiful, nevertheless. One of my students followed me to the Good Friday service and claimed to be moved. Went to Tenebrae sung by Pastyme Friday night. One remembers those times when the singing was so perfect that music was heard perfectly, through a veil hardly a veil but a shimmer of light, and this was one of those times. The Des Pres Miserere was an entire world, one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard. At one point we were meant to kneel, and as I did my chest and sides were seized with brutal cramps. Again, I wondered if I were sharing in some medicinal portion of the Lord’s agony. I listened to myself breathing in little gasps against the chest-crushing pain. Good Saturday at the studio, interrupted by the wasteful extra rehearsal that is a tradition as immovable Easter. All hours of all days pulsating with vernal light. Holy Saturday was profound and beautiful to me. I was filled with joy when I was meant to be filled with joy. Sam came. It was not the place to ask him how and if he had been moved by it all, but I hope he was. Two services on Easter are too much for those who perform them, but just right, I suppose, for those who attend. Zach’s son was baptized at 9. Brunch with the usuals at Ambrosia, then a long, hard, restorative sleep. When I woke, I saw a white dove at pondside, pure white, not a mark on her. I watched while she took a drink and had a little bath. I turned my back for a moment, and when I turned back she was gone. I take her for an omen.
When I asked myself what the difference could be this year, I believed it must be the round of muscular prayers, quite recently, after my return from Venice, in which I faced my long rebellion and asked for the grace somehow to bring it to an end. I have been Satanic, in a way, though when applied to me the word is several sizes too big. I have wanted my will over the Lord’s. I fought the Lord because His will (for me) is antic and mine is just. I have considered–and I consider now–that what I want for my life is better than what the Lord wants for it, or to say it another way, the Lord has never seemed to want anything in particular, but only to thwart my vision and desire. Not that, he says, but never This. I did think and do think now that my insistence was right. But I am an old man and He has never yielded. People say “Give your will over to that Lord,” and maybe they are right. I couldn’t pray “Thy will be done,” but rather, “Let me find a way to pray ‘Thy will be done.’ Let me want you more than I want my life.” I don’t know where I am in this process, but I do find some peace, and could face Easter without bitter recrimination and regret. Could face it as though I myself were an unfolding flower, a white bird at the water’s edge.
Friday, April 14, 2017
April 14, 2017
I’m going to write a book called “Watering Meditation,” where you gather and dissipate wild thoughts while watering your garden. It’s the most calming thing I do in a day’s time.
The Solomon’s seal is blooming in the shady corner of the fence. The Jack-in-the-pulpits arise and unfold, including one which skipped last year altogether. I thought it was dead, but here comes the emerald spear.
R brings his absurdly beautiful eyes to the studio, to see if he wants to rent a little space from me. I felt he had decided against it, probably because he is very neat and I, at the studio, am a slob. But a slob who is painting well and inventively at the moment.
Loving Gogol. The High Five is, for some reason, the perfect place for Dead Souls.
Maunday Thursday service lovely, though the protracted and leisurely removal of all vanities from the church tested my patience. The point of a symbol is that it is symbolic. I try to think of foot washing in the same vein as the scriptures suggest; I do not manage, quite. What is the modern equivalent? Donating an organ? Paying the rent? Nothing seems intimate enough. Passionate sermon. Grumpy drive home through the night. Rage at Maud for vomiting on the couch. She knows very well what I mean, and when I begin shouting, looks at the vomit and runs out of the room.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
April 11, 2017
Slept with the windows open. Turned off the study gas heater.
Good work at the studio. Ray has returned from a sojourn that was, he says, disappointing. I missed him. Much planting and watering in the garden, the weather so perfect for it that not to is a violation. Began reading Dead Souls for class. Gogol is new to me.
W bounced his mortgage check. The whole enterprise has been fantastically elaborate, various accounts changing from month to month, midnight trips to the door, children in tow, check in hand, invariably the day AFTER one was told to expect it, everything an enterprise and a project. Some people have a talent for needless elaboration; I have no tolerance for it. The gods afflict me.
April 10, 2017
Woke ill. The illness involved a mighty flux, waves of mighty flux, which got me to wondering where all of that could have been stored. Improved through the day, so that by the afternoon I had achieved the single greatest gardening day of the last year, new beds dug, old ones enlarged and brought close to the ideal in my mind, into the ground an array of annuals. Comments from the school children about our reading at the Glasshouse were posted, and one said “David was cool.” Found myself wondering of what my coolness consisted, so that I might reproduce it at need.
April 9, 2017
Palm Sunday felt festive this time, with the undercurrent of dread, which it is meant to have. The music was good. Rushed from church to school to set up for my students’ senior readings. Everything went well there, too, except that in the midst of each reading I fell asleep and was awakened at the end by the applause. No one mentioned it, so maybe I got away with it. Have been enjoying Cantaria rehearsals, perhaps because of Simone’s greater precision, perhaps because we are, after a long drought, doing decent music. Supper with DJ at Avenue M.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
April 8, 2017
Theater last night with Sam, Peter and the Starcatcher, a lively and satisfying production, many of my friends on stage. The show depends unusually on charismatic cast, and luckily had it. Staggering in the parking lot with exhaustion.
Saturdays are the best days. Rose early, had my cappuccino at High Five, went to the Tailgate Market (where I bought $25 worth of worms for the raised beds. $25 gets you a thousand worms, the man said) and then to the studio. Painted briefly, well. Came home and dug and planted for the balance of the day. Many square feet of new planting beds, and into the ground with a selection of exotic arisaema (tried this before, failed; more careful this time), cornflower, touch-me-not (which I remember from my father’s garden), black sunflower, cosmos. Less tired than I was yesterday after doing nothing.
At the café I pondered the realization that I may never have “followed my dream” because I hadn’t precisely settled on one. Since the first I wandered toward the light, thinking that going in the right direction with all deliberate speed would reveal the proper course. I wrote poetry without considering what it would be like actually to be a poet. I went to grad school without considering how it would feel to be a scholar. I walked onto a hundred stages without any firm idea of being an actor. I began writing for the stage without much though of BEING a playwright. Was this a mistake? I thought the universe would appreciate my keeping an open mind about these things, my doing without specific attachment to the outcome of the deeds. I want to say “it doesn’t seem to have worked out very well,” but maybe if I had determined on a set identity, my sorrow at failure would be keener and sharper than this vague, gray sense of disappointment. What was it I wanted anyhow? To find the way, I suppose.
Friday, April 7, 2017
April 7, 2017
Readings yesterday in the Glass House. Local school poets were funny and inventive. My colleagues were. . . I don’t know. . . my mind was somewhere else, and I was fighting massive chest muscle cramps that made it hard to breathe. Got through “YMCA”; people seemed to like it. Fought reading The Awakening for years. My class made me read it, and it is quite good, despite being, thematically, pretty much what I expected. Outside is terrible wind. It’s supposed to get worse as the day goes. My wind chimes are frantic out in the dark garden. Our VP has pulled out of Cantaria because he likes his Sundays and “would rather enjoy them uninterrupted.” Someone must have looked at him sideways; we’re trying to decide whom. People can be such asses. Outstanding, besides poetry and fiction, at the Glass House was the level of hatred aimed at the Boy, who is on sabbatical now and cannot feel it as he ought. All my new planting is seeds, which are not going to be hurt by this inclemency, unless they’re blown right out of the ground.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
April 4, 2017
One of those great days when everything gets done and everything gets done well. Coffee at High Five, accidental contact with TD, still (like me perhaps) beating the waves of hopeless ambition. Then off to the studio where I painted well and happily. Tiny animal portraits for framing. Then most of the day spent gardening, digging new fragments of beds, filling containers, gradually getting into the ground the mass of annuals, bought last fall: nasturtium, alyssum, yellow lupine, black violas, red achillea, spearmint, a big orange annual daisy plopped down in a vast blue urn. Never sleepy, never particularly spent. Not even a nap. The only thing that didn’t get done was writing.
Monday, April 3, 2017
April 3, 2017
Baroque recorder music from the kitchen below. Heavy rain, straight into the ground, chilly, wishing it were a winter rain.
My voice is back, and, allowing some hoarseness, gets through whatever I need it to get through. Great Praise. In Cantaria rehearsal we belabored our customary jazz-pop standards, and then pulled out Bibel and Cassals. The difference was immediate. At the end of the hour I felt that I’d had fun, that I’d accomplished and learned. Jack said, “That hour just flew by.” I searched my understanding for the difference. I don’t think it’s just that I reflexively favor “Classical” music; I think the serious music we do is probing, exploratory, necessary expressive of an artist’s spiritual and aesthetic quest. Most of the pop music we do is a second level arrangement of what is already a second level composition, made to make an impression and therefore a buck in the crowded pop market. Do people like it? Probably. Ought they to? Another question entirely.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
April 1, 2017
Someone banged on the door while I was watching TV, and by the time I answered was a running blur in a yellow jacket at the end of the driveway. Worried a little until I remembered it was April Fools night. Second time that’s happened, though the first time was a pair of girls.
Sam and I intended to see the play at UNCA last night, but it was, remarkably, sold out.
My Mexican yard guy appeared and apologized for vanishing at the end of last year (I hadn’t noticed). He had photos of the wreck of his truck, which had prevented him from mowing the lawns he had contracted to mow. I said yes, welcome back, but wondered if I should have paid him immediately (He’s very bad at billing) or helped him buy a new truck, the replacement looking like it itself had been in a wreck. He is apparently bad at everything except mowing the lawn.
Planted johnny jump-ups in the open space gouged by the men putting in the new sewer, Might not get enough sun.
Huge progress on the Hiram book, The Book of the Roses, which I had actually not intended to write. I take out huge once-precious passages, but the text seems always to be just as long as it was.
March 31, 2017
Extreme clamminess, and odd feeling all about me. The Internet says the feeling of cold clamminess is probably related to anxiety, but I cannot locate any particular anxiety.
Hauled myself through “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” unsuccessful in my determination not to weep. My poor students.
Staggering with iron deficiency. Buy a new bottle of iron pills. Oddly, planting he final new tree peonies (total cost with shipping over $200) does not seem to exacerbate it. Anemia is a diseases which doesn’t hurt, and I should be grateful for that. Well, the cramps brought on by dehydration hurt mightily. Anyway--