Notes in a Time of Not Writing, #1

There’s so many things to say, so much to catch up on. I don’t know where to begin or end, so I’ll start somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle of a bath on a Saturday night at the end of March or beginning of April.

Water. I love it. All water. The mesmerizing and meditative quality of water. An implied unknown in its depths. The movement, the sound of it, its independent ever-changing form that can’t be shaped or molded, and the overwhelming mystery and vastness of its quantities. Creating patterns while resisting routine. Possibility is the word that comes to mind. When I look into it. Possibility. One place to another, never stagnant.

It calms and it stirs me up. I drag my fingers through it and watch the rings of light flicker across the surface, feel the movement on my knees and legs.

If only we could accept ideas – accept each other – accept unexpected circumstances – as much as we can accept water simply for what it is. This

independent and ever-changing form. That can’t be shaped or molded

beyond what it is doing momentarily.

Water responds but can’t be entirely controlled. No rigid and tired principles and values to cling to. If only we could better accept ourselves the way we accept water.

And experience more freedom. And the paradise before us here on earth. Embracing us. All of us. No it is not stupid to have this thought. It is absolutely not stupid. And

it is not even for you or me to decide

what is stupid. And I don’t even care what you are against. That’s tired. I want to know what you are for.

I start with this excerpt, this particular piece, from the mess of words I wrote for months and didn’t post, because I had the kind of writer’s block that tells you so many lies.

Writing reflects the mysteries of life and consciousness. I can’t tell you what makes me feel so timid and afraid inside one minute, and so bold and carefree the next.

I, too, have been afraid to express the total fullness of life.

And I admire this element, water, that most reminds me what living is. Is to change. Art is this thing that has to embrace a state of allowing. Total and complete. Allowing is really the state of creativity, of touching creation.

But original creation encounters resistance from pre-existing, established entities. Which in some historical sense matters, but in an absolute sense means absolutely nothing.

I consider the fears and the insecurities and the haunted dreams. I consider the histories and the responsibilites and the rebellions and the failures.

And I gather all these thoughts in my hand, with all the feelings attached to them, every single feeling, and I open my hand over the river, and I lean and bend my mouth toward them, I inhale and bend toward the light with all these thoughts, toward the water’s direction, and I blow.



Advertisement

Early Rising

It’s 4:30 am. Not sure why I’m up but I don’t fight it. I decide my colors for today will be lavender and midnight blue. I pull on my black leather jacket. For breakfast, something creamy and green. Matcha tea. Color is what drives me, every day. What gets me going, what wakes me. And the quality of light, and the character of light, on the color.

There’s form – lines, shapes, relationships, concepts – and there’s words. But first there is color.

First there are flowers. And then there is the street. First there are the lime-green trees, the terra-cotta tile, the wrought-iron chairs. And then there is the parking lot. And then there are the words.

The words for these roots of existence.

I’ll wander over to Peet’s, the first place that will be open.

I decide not to write, I mean not to edit something more serious. Thinking is tiring sometimes. I want to do something simple right now. Something easy.

Spanish classical guitar music. This is life, real life. Life is passion to the core. We’ll never truly give it up with age, as the myth goes. But we can pretend. We are free to create our own tragedy.

This why we need poetry. This is why beauty exists. Life is passion.

To the core. It’s the one thing you’ll never forget.

I step out into the dark, the first light just peering through.



How to Be Unserious In a Very Serious World

Every once in a while it’s best to have a night where you break all the rules.

Stay up until 4 am, eat dinner way too late, drink fine wine and too much, blog something that nobody wants to read, make a big mess and don’t clean it up, text the toxic/perfect= intoxicating people and laugh it off, say something outrageous online somewhere, let people think whatever, indulge in all sorts of things you shouldn’t have, ignore everything, call it a success of a night, and move on

To the next even more successful day.



Afternoon Notes Before Losing an Hour

This isn’t writer’s block. A real block is supposed to be when you want to write, but can’t. Or you’re just writing in circles and not getting anywhere. And can’t get out of it. It’s less of a choice. More of a nightmare. But this is a welcome resistance. I haven’t wanted to write lately. Sometimes you just don’t want to. Sounds kind of bratty. No. That’s absurd. Stop it.

To call it writer’s block is easier than justifying not-writing as a legitimate process. The percolating. That sounds a bit cringe but anyway. The “negative space” of writing. Negative space is important in pictures. But nobody talks about a negative space of writing. But you could say there is one. There’s a few. The one that’s between the lines, perhaps. And the one that’s between the thoughts, the emotions, during the writing process. And the silences and solitudes. That sort of makes no sense. Or it’s not very linear. Anyway. Space is perhaps what I’ve been craving. Because I face people all day. It would be funny, embarrassing but funny, if people from that particular professional setting read any of my writing. It’s a mistake to think that anyone really cares that much. But it’s also a mistake to assume they don’t at all. But let it be. Nothing of consequence will happen. Some might think I’m a bit crazy just because I said out loud the embarrassing things, but why is that so bad. Nobody is normal – unless they’re delusional.

I don’t earn money as a writer, and it’s never been important to. It seems the language in me just wanted to be a traveler, a wanderer, picking up and dropping different personas along the way. With no one to answer to. A gypsy that got me to pay for its freedom with a lifetime of day jobs. It wanted to be a spirit, not so much a material presence. Sometimes I imagine I’ll bring her down to earth. But she’s hard to pin down. I don’t even always understand her.

It’s 3:33 pm on the clock. And then it’s 4:00 and the bell tower clangs. I’ve been sitting. The refrigerator hums. The cat sleeps. The water fountain gurgles. I just want to exist. And I want to express that existence. More so than now.

There’s so many things writing doesn’t need to be. Writing just needs to be true. The most polished is so beautiful. But its place in the best of the best is too obvious.

You can make something so right and so correct that you’ve sucked the life right out of it.

I’ve always liked the idea of prose, essays or stories, that sort of falls apart before your eyes.

Possibly, but not necessarily, in a literal sense.

Always admired imperfect art, even disorderly. Not in a literal sense per se. Something unexpected, unflinching.

Art that seeks the blind spots of us, and jumps in.

Art that seeks the blind spots of us.

And jumps in.

The extra light is coming.

It’s 4:44 pm.


After the Envy of Old Strangers


I had so much to say, and now there is not much to say at all.

A quietness is the need of the moment.

I used to walk so quickly, everywhere, for any reason, for no reason.

And now it is SLOW. So… slow.

I think it’s learned.

The days of racing around, sweating, killing myself for a buck every night. It had become a habit that spilled over into everything. The pace of stress, of urgency.

A state of panic was normal.

But we can also trace that back to a sad childhood. A university education can teach you skills, but it can’t teach you that you deserve to use them.

Those days are another life. This life is different.

It’s a Friday night and I could be the one to go out. I used to envy those who had the luxury. I’m not going to but I feel so lucky.

This is my own kitchen table, by the window with the view of the hills, the neighbors’ yards and rooftops, a tall pine tree, fog rolling in over the evening. I can watch the sky go dark.

A flat of nectarines in front of me. A half-glass of wine.

Fish, rice, cauliflower – not much in the fridge right now but it’s enough for dinner.

I don’t need as much of everything as I used to. Too much, was routine. I don’t need to devour everything. I can just exist with it.

This didn’t happen overnight. It took two and a half years to begin to settle in.

Nothing is particularly urgent anymore, unless I want it to be. Emergency is no longer routine.

Emergency is no longer a lifestyle.

It’s so much more enjoyable. But mostly I am surprised by it.

I didn’t know it could be this way.

I never knew how anyone could be so calm.

I am grateful to be bored.






Noon

A gorgeous melody breaks out into the overcast air on an otherwise quiet Sunday. Outside, from the church tower. Melancholy but absolutely perfect, in some minor key, filling the whole neighborhood. There’s a sense of complexity in it, an old-world maturity.

I have to stop what I’m doing and stare out the window at the bluish-grey glowing skies and rooftops and tall trees, listening. The beautiful view from my second floor apartment.

Long after the music quits and the birds tune in, so light underneath that bolder frequency, I still hear it over and over. The feeling resonates.

What would life be without music?

Maybe we would never be able to remember ourselves.

Our true selves.

Bad Writing

I rarely used to write as candidly as I’ve done on certain recent occasions. Breaking the rules of what I’ve felt would be a better thing to write. A more worthy thing. Not sure how long it will last. I’ve felt the impulse waning, and the writing shifts into other topics. But that’s partly a diversion from my tolerance level for my own stories, which aren’t always so comfortable. But – I’m a little bit of the mind that one’s own story is the most (perhaps the only) quasi-honest thing that they’ll ever have to offer. Writing involves persona, but a persona does have roots.

When venturing into the darker places, I’ve thought “am I making myself look bad?” Aside from the heart-to-heart with close friends, I would try to be more enjoyable than what is real, in real life. Try to avoid subjecting people to actual reality. It’s the polite thing to do, right? But this is a blog. On the internet people have a choice to tune you in or turn you off, or just turn your page to a better day. A more productive, enlightened, insightful, less self-indulgent, more palatable day.

I’m inclined to get personal because I’ve wanted to see more of it around and the brand of “truth” that it offers. And because people like to say things in life aren’t personal, even though sometimes they damn well are. And because some like to say that you shouldn’t write about the personal, and especially that you shouldn’t blog about the personal. Why not? I do it because I don’t want to be a vegetable. Because I am not an emotional zombie. Because nobody is.

Nobody is any of these things, and yet with current trends of cancel culture, conspiracy violence, and a revolving door of media-corrupted and debased relationships underscored by apps treating people as a pizza to be ordered, a mounting loss of respect for basic humanity is upon us. To write the personal is, in a way, to stand for humanity.

It seems tragic to have to remind ourselves that humanity itself is intrinsically worth something. And that it deserves respect on this basis alone. And that humanity is why we are doing what we are doing — everything we do. Because of love. Because of need. Humanity is everything to us in fact — even when we forget this. And we were not put on this earth merely to exist as an extension of somebody else’s agenda, or for whatever our value is or isn’t to them.

So how can the personal be so offensive? Does it seem too… feminine maybe? Too low? Too self-important, unless you’re a celebrity whose stories are automatically more valid than yours because they are rich and famous and you aren’t? And so everyone wants to hear their story, but only for the tabloids to take them down later also? For their humanity. Or is the personal just too real, as if we are not even grown up enough to handle that? What exactly do we need to reject about it? Don’t write about yourself, we’re told. Don’t talk about yourself. Why not?

We have stories. Why not tell them? What exactly is so offensive about a first-person narrative now? Is it really that much more “selfish” than anything else? Or is it just that it doesn’t sell as well as a how-to? Is it less practical and functional? Is it less… “good business”? Maybe even less…. bullshit? Does everything have to be monetized to have any kind of value? Does human experience have no value? Are our most unusual personal narratives “crazy”? Obviously that’s all total nonsense. Yes I said obviously. Let’s stop playing dumb because we can do better than this.

To understand humanity one has to get personal. To piece together a complete picture of history, even, we study people’s letters and diaries. Women’s history would hardly even exist without such accounts. Without the surviving poetry of World War I and II veterans, that entire front-line perspective of the very real horrors and consequence and the human cost of those wars would be missing. What about works like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? We’d just never know. All the history we’d have then is “big history.” Only life’s biggest winners — the most powerful and influential. And grossly incomplete. The personal does have its place — even in the most important research.

Everyone has their take on what’s going on in the world. Everyone has their take on what’s going on with another person, with groups. To write the personal is almost more responsible, because one presumes only to know oneself. Of course we do not really know others, much as we like to think so. We can only theorize. Yet if you write yourself and pretend that the writing is of others — of characters or even real players — it would seem more respectable to forge that little white lie.

Shouldn’t we pretend to be “above it all” to help our career and reputation? I struggle with my own cowardice too. To write the personal is to actually share. To allow oneself to be seen, beyond hiding behind signifiers that would elevate our status. But to write the personal is also to subject oneself to something as fraught and complex as the ideology of our own existence. And as fraught and complex as the admission of ourselves as sensory and emotional beings. Sensitive beings. Souls, even. In doing this, our stories propel us all into bridging the gaps of our differences. Enabling myths to be dispelled and theories to evolve and opinions to expand. Is this why the personal can seem so offensive in theory? Is it too demanding to step into another person’s experience, or even to dive more deeply into our own? The personal can be as antagonistic to core beliefs, as much as it can be seductive for its intimacy. Does its seductive quality make it too easy?

In the darker times I’ve had the thought, would I be writing like this if I were happier? Perhaps no. But I would still be writing something if I were happier. So do I just pretend this current reality of my humanity doesn’t exist? What good will that do? Convince or encourage more people to sit alone on the couch by themselves crying in their own worst moments, thinking no one understands and fearing what will happen if anyone discovers their grotesque vulnerability? That’s no great service either. Will I ever be happy again? I assume so or can only hope. For now, I will at least do something with whatever is going on in the moment. What could I give, as an artist, more than these diverse momentary truths of my existence?

To worry so much about saving face is to never be free. And, I would argue, to worry so much about saving face is to limit what you have to give. To worry too much about saving face — maybe that’s the true self-serving disease.


Life Support III

__

At a certain point, there’s only so much that can be done.

I’m far from the first one to think that our situation now should be no surprise. We’ve been recklessly asphyxiating, mowing, crowding, disrespecting, neglecting, destroying the planet for generations.  Now nature is taking over.  Science could never move as fast.  Nature is in charge.

Nobody IRL wants to be the one to say it, or even think it.  What fools we are.  How self-important we have been as humans.  The unchecked egocentrism comes now to this. Of course, it is our moral and ethical duty to provide people with the best chance that they can have at survival.  We sacrifice for the sake of one another.  We value lives.

Why then does our true primary source of life, our environment, the earth, get left out of the equation so often in our daily political and economic consciousness?  This has been a permanent conflict of interest.  Our growing population and extended life spans, without any truly impactful or sustained attempt to mitigate its burden on our environment, the earth from which we are largely alienated.  Nature becomes something to visit and vacation, rather than to take as part of ourselves.

As much as we see and value ourselves, our society, our culture, we must too turn an eye towards this earth as our real and ultimate life support.

Now each one of us, any one of us, could die.  We experience this die-off just as whole swaths of species have died at our inattention, our neglect.  Few want to recognize how we ourselves have created so many of our disasters.  It’s easy to get busy and look the other way.

We must learn more reverence for that which is old, which has already come before us, and in this case, the one true elder.  We must care for it, above and beyond our own self-interests.  Nobody wants to say these things out loud, not me either.  How uncomfortable we are with nature doing the job that it does, to the extent we must do whatever it takes to regain control over it.  How uncomfortable we are as a culture with death, dying, aging, changing — not just in this instance but with the natural cycle of life, as we rebel more and more against these inconvenient truths.

Which brings us to the most difficult question of all. Are we even responsible enough, to extend our own lives? And what exactly would be the point, if we can not even breathe the air, drink the water, draw nutrition from soil, or exist without intermittent unprecedented calamities anymore?

Who wants to sit down and take the time, a long time, to regard nature with the respect it deserves?  Because ultimately we are not in charge.  The river is in charge, the glaciers are in charge, the ocean is in charge, the mountain is in charge, microorganisms are in charge.  Everything is different now as we can not pretend that’s not true.

We can not ignore another kind of science – climate science, environmental science.  So I don’t really want to hear them talk about science, until they’re ready to talk about that.

March 23, 2020 – March 31, 2020
(links added)


(Lockdown Journals Part VII, FINAL THOUGHT, II)

Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals I, II)


__

The 2,700 words of lockdown/pandemic journals written between May and Dec 2020 and posted here, are removed because I don’t want them here anymore. Except for this piece of it. I’ll be reposting the rest somewhere else. Plz contact if interested.

__


Part II

GRANDMA

Friends can be like family, but it is also not quite the same thing.  I find myself thinking about my mother, and other people’s mothers.  I know the multitude of reasons why I didn’t have a family of my own, which is why I have this lifestyle now.  To begin with, my childhood family story is a bit of a riot.  I still turned out ok, but harboring such a story has its consequences, that take a long time to escape.

I have two wonderful grandmothers who are still alive today so I’m very lucky in that way.  When I was a teenager I think, a younger teenager, I remember visiting one of my  grandmothers.  I walked in to the big kitchen and felt nervous being there.  She said, “Would you like a tuna sandwich, honey?” Her voice so calm and tone so sweet but I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know if I was hungry.  I probably was but couldn’t be sure.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.  I didn’t want to make her make me the sandwich, but maybe she wanted me to eat it.  I didn’t know.

“Ok.”  I agreed to the sandwich.  So I sat down on the long polished wood bench at the gigantic kitchen table made of the same polished wood and I stared at the colorful woven oval placemats and felt awkward.  The dining room table was even larger than this one and it had its very own room.  The silverware solid, heavy, shiny.  When she set down the clear plastic plate with the swirly designs popping from its surface in front of me, something about the experience felt alien.  I think I was supposed to feel comforted.  The sandwich looked cute on the plate.  Fluffy.   Carefully centered.  Placed so as to avoid crushing the bread or patting down the mini peaks and valleys of tuna salad, so that the whole thing puffed up and out a little.  Grandma knew how to make it special.  How to make something so simple look like it had a personality.  I stared at it, and I didn’t understand something but I wasn’t sure what.  I ate it amid a mixture of odd and uncomfortable feelings.  I ate it; even though I am not so wild about lots of mayonnaise, tuna was still a favorite.

I wasn’t feeling that great though.  I think I was supposed to feel at home.  But I didn’t.  I felt bad.  The adult word for that feeling is guilty.  Grandma was doing all this, for me.  Grandma works so hard all the time, for everyone.  But I didn’t know that I deserved to be cared for.  I actually did not know.

She’d have to do the dishes, I thought, so maybe I should do them instead.  But there are a lot of dishes over there, from some other meal.  Should I do all of those?  I do not know what to do as I sit eating my sandwich.  I want to be a good kid.  But I am tired, so tired.  So tired.

Grandma’s beds so poofy like white and beige clouds I don’t know what will happen if I try to sleep in one, would I sink in too much and feel weird.  Anyway, nobody should be sleeping right now.  I shouldn’t fall asleep on the couch.  I shouldn’t be rude.

There is a concept of what family is “supposed to be” like, in a general sense of at least meeting and maintaining a certain standard.   If your concept of family is warped by tragedy, your concept of love may also be warped for a while.  For a while, but not necessarily forever.   Old wounds can heal.  Other people teach us things beyond the scope of the original family.

Ideas start changing, shifting, and feelings also.  Occasionally in leaps.  You might’ve managed essentially alone for a very long time, in the same way you’d always done because you did not know any different.  Until you do not want it to be that way anymore.  And know that it doesn’t have to be, and it won’t be.  Change might be too scary to welcome without a fight, but it finds you anyway because that is what is supposed to happen.  Especially if that’s exactly what you aim for.

I do not blame my mother, with whom I grew up, for the flaws she found impossible to overcome.  The alcohol, the violence, the homelessness, the intermittent chaos.  While she is accountable for certain things, I do not blame her for anything I could not do now, either, as the present is what I am accountable for.  I was the oldest child and things were harder to hide from me.  I do not know what it is like to be my mother.  Despite everything, she did give me gifts for which I am grateful, most of them unintended gifts.  Just because someone does not know how to love properly, or “normally,” does not necessarily mean that they don’t love.  Just because we do not get what we want from someone, does not mean that we should look down on them, nail them to the cross.  Even when it feels needed, it’s probably not even worth it.

Writing and reflecting about Grandma, her house, her homemaking, I realize I feel a different emotion than the way this whole situation has made me feel, even a different emotion than the way I used to feel during some of our visits.  Comforted. 

__

Everyone is dealing with this crisis in their own way.  Some people want to be alone.  But we have to keep in mind that others need us too.

We must keep in mind that it is one thing to say to someone that you are there, but it is another thing to actually be there.

It is also another thing to genuinely want to be there, but truly not be able to.  And this is really felt, or not felt.

Who is present?

Who is listening to us?

Who is holding us dear, in a crisis?

And who are we holding dear?  I recall some wise words Dad had shared.  He said, “Somebody told me once.  You know what, man?  If you want a friend, BE a friend.”

Connection is probably more important than ever, and we probably ought to insist on it above and beyond all else in whatever way we can accomplish it.  Even as I too struggle to live up to my own ideals.

May 16 – May 17, 2020

__