Category Archives: From the journals

I mentioned ego

I mentioned ego — oh, in “Breakfast at Victory” essay. Mike said we need the ego or we’d get pushed around in life. But what did he say — did he add a caveat on to that? I said it sounds like my daily-life ego versus creative freewriting nonego, the value of letting go of ego at times, too.

A conversation like that — only 10 minutes or so, he sat in chair opposite me. I could’ve asked several things — how do you compare Chicago to here [Denver]? Or I could’ve given my opinion of a certain philosophy — but those, while OK, would’ve been kinda silly, too. We go to an interesting point in that conversation, and we each recommended a book to each other. He said he teaches that Huxley book [Perennial Philosophy, maybe]. I think he said he uses that text in class.

[From journal of Sat., 9 August 2008, Journal 103, page 374]

I have long struggled to figure out where my writing could fit

I have long struggled to figure out where my writing could fit among the acceptable — published — writings, and only recently have I been willing to be unique and say, f**k it, I write what I write, I’ll make my own niche. That takes some gusts, even in the arts — how I wondered why [a local artist] was willing to do her cartoony style when she could have chosen more typical representations. But she choose, at some point, at some level, to be unique, to keep her own style. … and so, yeah, here we are. And the other part of my acceptance was to say, you know, I’m just not gonna worry about comparing myself to others. I’m not gonna worry that my peers are more accomplished or make more money. I’m gonna be happy with the money I make now! As M said, we aren’t in desperate need of money, so we’re fine! What more would more money do for us, you know?

[From journal of Mon., 14 July 2008, Journal 103, page 111]

Making ink squiggles on paper

Anyway, yes, what else? So, yes, it was nice to snuggle, and it was cool enough, low-humidity enough, to do so (unlike today). That’s what I was saying yesterday — how wonderful it is to be alive, … how wonderful it is just to do those universal things — snuggle, as one of several things — kissing, etc.

It’s raining again, a bit, not a lot. Anyway, yes, and a bit of distant thunder just now (8:19 on clock that’s 5 minutes [fast?] — not quite as good as the clock-lightning strike in Back to the Future, but there ya go. Anyway, (hey, they couldn’t have known the exact second of the lightning strike, either. Anyway, don’t start picking apart the logic of a time-travel movie. But that’s a pretty obvious one — and yet, how else would he ever get home? The movie would become more of a tragedy than comedy — stuck in 1955! Anyway, so what else? The rules on these pages are keeping my handwriting size and spacing (leading) in check. What else is there to say?

Not much. Not much. Not much. Not much — the visual regularity of repeated words. You start to see patterns, the “rivers” (I think that’s the term, from graphic design) of the white space between the words in a block of text. I unfocus my eyes at times and notice that rivering. But I hadn’t done that with the “not much” line. I was just noticing the regularity of the word shape and size, how it stood out from other text because it was so regular.

Anyway, after 4 repeated words, I did find something else to say. It seems such a waste of opportunity, not to mention how tedious it seems, when my students in their Morning Pages [journals] repeat a line or a word for a whole page. No thinking is involved/required, but it’s only the thinking, the inner voice, listening to it, that makes writing interesting — else all you’re doing anytime you write is just making ink squiggles on paper.

[From journal of Mon., 7 July 2008, Journal 103, pages 30-1]

It’s juvenile to have the attitude that you have to overturn everything, push everything to see if it tips over.

It’s juvenile to have the attitude that you have to overturn everything, push everything to see if it tips over. Maybe that’s a necessary developmental step for teens and young adults, that “change the world” stage of life. One wants to know what are the reasons for the way things in the world are, and, yes, some of the reasons are arbitrary, not rational or purposeful, but traditional and/or arbitrary (say, school structure). But that’s how the world is, that’s how we find it, and frankly, why rail against these small things — say, silly laws, teacher licensing, etc.? Just go along with little stuff so you can pursue the bigger, higher-priority, stuff: being happy, raising kids, having good relationships, etc. I guess those are bigger things , although, I guess, I mean — when you have a good marriage, that seems so much more real, more important, than school regulations.

The world pales in comparison to those intimate moments with your spouse (or child, or friends, etc.). The simple pleasures, as they say. The lullaby “Baby of Mine” (from Dumbo movie?) comes to my mind, its image of mother-baby bonding. These little pleasures of being human, of being alive. These things that we don’t talk about much — it’s hard to talk about them, because they aren’t words. The joy of cuddling with M — it’s not an ecstatic joy. It’s just, well, nice. It’s something that has to be experienced. There are organizations promoting all manner of changing the world, but there are no groups promoting cuddling one’s spouse, frequent hugs, loving your kids, playing with your dog. These common pleasures — for me, writing in my journal — this, too, is not radically new to the world. All these things I’m describing — there’s no game so no winner, there’s no fame or money involved. It’s simply the pleasure of being alive, of not being alone. Why don’t we talk more about these things? Why is so much of our media talk about policies and issues and material wealth and so forth, all these abstractions, all these externals. We tend to downplay these joys that everyone (well, almost everyone — not those in comas, say) can experience, the things we’re already capable of. We don’t need to lose weight or make money or work hard to hug our spouses or play with the dogs.

And, look at you here, wanting to change the world to be more this way — let that go, too! I’m mature enough to recognize when I’m going down that “change the world” mindset — hey, there’s no reason to change the world! I mean, why resort to abstractions? You don’t need to prove the value or joys of cuddling — that’s the point of cuddling! These things you haven’t experienced as a 20-year-old, and as a 20-year-old, you believe those abstractions are important somehow.

(I looked up Lara Logan on Google yesterday, the CBS Iraq correspondent. Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media guy, said she had plenty of ambition. But she’s been living in and reporting from war zones for more than 5 years now — she’s 37 or so, I read — so much ambition. At times that seems exciting, to have this career path, be nationally known. But at other times, her life seems terrible to me — how can she live in a war zone and not have that affect her — stress levels, nightmares? Perhaps she’s one of those who burn bright and burn out, Roman candles, as the comparison goes. As Kelly ___ from Daily Illini, who reports from Middle East and Chechnya — a true believer, of sorts — a committed person).

See, it’s funny that I would say I want to change the world. The whole point is that these joys are, well, they don’t need promotion. They’re self-explanatory (sex is nice, even when our media takes it and perverts it, turns it into a game of f*cki*g attractive people, of “scoring” — not just the media, some people [do this too]).

The whole point is, I had to mature to the point where I could realize that I’m — that I’m alive, in this body. And all kinds of people have all kinds of ideas and goals and needs and views and — f*c*, this is more awkward than it needs to be.

When I was younger, in my early 20s, I thought that what reality was, was abstractions: living a unique life, being creative, changing the economic or cultural shape of the world. And as I get more mature, I can see those things don’t matter so much as I said they did, as I used to think they did. At age 20, I wanted to be Unique, Important, etc. At age 30, 34, I want cuddling. Well, see, it seems silly to even write it. Cuddling just is. It doesn’t need promotion. So many of the joys of life are so common as to be nearly universal. And yet we don’t talk about them. (I guess I’m saying these things should be talked about because then, as a 20-year old, I wouldn’t have been deceived — and yet, maybe this is something I had to learn on my own).

I can’t even write about this. It seems dumb and words are blocking the simple point — my life is basically unremarkable to others, but it’s pretty wonderful to me. In a sense, it’s a selfish thing, but in another sense, these things are wrapped up in consciousness, which is essentially private. It’s nice to experience cuddling, to experience conversation, to experience the “miracle of childbirth” — it’s a pretty common miracle, has happened billions of times, but it’s still miraculous to you. As a parent, you have created life, you’re witnessing a new life, the beginning of life (as it was also miraculous to witness Gracie’s death). These so-very-common experiences continue to be the most significant, the most profound, the most wonderful, sublime experiences. And they’re basically impossible to share, to tell others about. Even when people have both (each?) experienced these things, there’s just not much to say.

[From journal of Sun., 6 July 2008, Journal 103, page 20-3]

New dog ‘Sam’: ‘He’s cute and oddly tiny’

sam 2008 (3)

Puppy Sam, eyeing a gray cat, partially visible at lower right corner of photo. Both animals are near the door to my grandma’s goat-milking house. Late summer, 2008.

Some facts from trip [from here to Denver and back] — gas receipts: …

Totals: 83.52 gallons, $316.07, avg. price/gal = $316.07/83.52 = $3.78/gal avg.

Total miles: 2389.5 miles/83.52 gals = 28.61 mpg at avg. speed of 70-75 mph in 2008 Scion XB, with now just over 20,000 miles

Well, clearly, I’m burying the lede here — [We] got our new dog yesterday. We brought him home and sat under safety tree and [grandma] P. and [uncle] L. and [cousin] E. came and P. just says, “Sam.” So after we said the name the other day, and P. said it, unprompted, uninformed by our earlier discussion, we decided on “Sam.” He’s cute and oddly tiny — a runt, perhaps, or a little malnourished, what with the worms and all …

sam 2008 (4)

Puppy Sam, with his frequently used expression of concern.

And we had the puppy home in early afternoon and we walked him to quarry. Most of the way he walked himself. We joked that maybe he’s already 3 years old. He seems very smart and oddly proportionate. Most puppies are disproportionate. But his paws aren’t even very big, as [my grandpa] and M pointed out. “The World’s Smallest Lab,” I called him this morning.

He’s a biter. We had — I had, anyway — forgotten how bitey little dogs — puppies — are. And this morning I introduced him to [uncle] L’s dogs, who were barking at him as he was near [grandpa’s] pond as if he were a cat. I took him down there to L’s and he shivered a bit, and the other dogs were reluctant to meet him. Chester [a bloodhound] not too reluctant, but Sis [a hound] came within 10 feet and started to leave. I had to call her near, and Spuddy [hound-mix] was very leery, too, almost leaning sideways. … L came to his front door and said big dogs think little dogs are too needy. He said [his old dog] Rufus wouldn’t get near his own litter he fathered with Annie.

sam 2008 (1)

Neighboring bloodhound Chester meets Sammy dog as pup. Late summer, 2008.

I went to Byron and got film and stuff. M said while I was gone, Sammy was carrying around a piece of newspaper folded only once — and there was an ad for “Sam’s” something on it. He met Kiki and Beezus [my grandparents’ Lhasa Apsos], who had been going nuts inside the house but weren’t really all that interested once they met him — later, inside P’s house, he chewed on one of those other dogs’ beef bones, and neither dog scolded him. He stayed in P’s deck pen while we went to Rockford — Beef-A-Roo, Petco …, Farm & Fleet for pen and crate. We won’t force him into the crate as we did Gracie on her first night. And there was very little separation anxiety last night. We set up pen and crate and, pen around the crate, with crate door open and a blanket inside and a towel over … for dark. When he picked out his own spots to lie down, he was going behind the front door or under chairs — smaller, darker spots. But then [his seller] said she had him in a pen by himself at nights and let him out into the hallway (or something like) near the miniature horse during the daytime. She said he was smart, but she didn’t say, and we didn’t ask, what she meant by smart, how she could tell that.

He — he’s just so small. And it’s — suddenly there’s a dog’s presence in the apartment again. Really pretty easy, that was. We cried about Gracie last night after looking at dog foods at Petco. And how hard it seems to pick a good food, how we used to do that for Gracie, pick a food that was healthy and wouldn’t give her allergies. And how that was stressful and it felt a little stressful last night and then I thought, eh, it doesn’t need to be stressful. Don’t approach dog ownership like that, thinking it has to be stressful.

How small he is — his ears not much bigger than the width of my thumb, and he’s got that puppy swell — a touch acrid, a slight bit like a skunk, but not offensive. And so cute now — I took nearly 3 rolls [of film pictures] yesterday alone. I want to document the early cute stuff — he’ll soon not be that. Yet he doesn’t really have a personality yet as older (adult) dogs do.

Ah, well. We’re going to Sycamore, to court.

We handle dog rearing better now than we did with Gracie.

OK, I checked: his ears are more like both my thumbs together.

Swimming in quarry: he followed me in. He got feet wet, hesitated just a bit, then walked in, then swam. I didn’t even have to introduce him to it.

He just plows through things, going forward and over, not around, legs and things in his way.

sam 2008 (2)

Small Sammy!

[From journal of Weds., 13 Aug. 2008, Journal 103, pages 401-404. Pics of more-mature Sam here, here, and here]

‘Do you think there’s anything, you know, cosmically, that amounts from all this?’

Though I like the routine school (work) gives my life, I am liking the summer, too. I’m finally relaxed enough to take on new projects, like cleaning, and even if we barely have the energy to keep clean while I’m in school, at least if we do the big organizing projects during the summer, when I do have energy, that’s a good thing to do. …

Birds: I remember last summer thinking that it was fairly quiet in the morning long before the end of summer. And last Thursday, I saw a baby robin at Mom’s house and a baby oriole, both could fly, and [my grandma] last week shut the gray cat into the milk room to protect a baby robin somewhere in the yard. So the baby birds are about to leave the next, and then they’ll fly away — so maybe early-mid July is normally when birds start departing? You always notice the return of the birds in spring — their noises after the winter’s quiet. But you don’t notice their absence. It’s not as striking. Some birds hang on, etc.

D.M. and email — he asks, “Do you think there’s anything, you know, cosmically, that amounts from all this? Like energy we’re generating with emotions or anything? … It looks to me logically like we’re animals … is there anything behind any of this, in your opinion? Anything more? Or is it this, and then we die, and the billions grow and roll on.” Also … “Obviously, you don’t know — I mean, no one does, but I know you like to think about ideas and I’m curious about your idea on this — I don’t think I’ve heard your take on this for a long time. It’s true to pattern as we get older. I think we’re supposed to believe more and more there’s got to be something, right?”

A more in-depth reaction later, but first thoughts: I’m still figuring out how to get along in this life, let alone trying to figure out afterlife. … Where meaning?

8:20 AM, at Tranquility Cafe at Swedes [hospital]: M’s getting X-ray, then CT scan. I’m not waiting in the waiting room where she left me, but … does she … well, maybe I should be there to support her … but somehow I don’t feel I need to — it’s just X-ray and CT scan. I can’t even be in the room with her. Still …

[From journal of Wed., 9 July 2008, Journal 103, page 47-8]

I’m special to this journal-text: Without me, there is no text

10th hour:

Saw: The outdoors during the fire drill last hour. … Saw KF send new schedule for next year. Meh. Dude teaching dual credit speech is here just two hours/day, I saw.

Did: Thought I could write this journal about how I’m special.

Topic today is about a time you felt dispensable. I feel that way around here, [at school], especially in department meetings, where I don’t feel I get much agreement on my ideas (B__ pointed out sometime this year that he was agreeing with me and how odd it was for him to do that.) …

I recorded that 13 people are gone from this 10th hour, for Kish [community college] registration, maybe.

Me as special (and I’m trying to save paper today so there’s enough left for tomorrow’s journaling) — I’m special to (within the context of) this journal-text: I’m the author, the creator, the pen-mover. Without me, there is no text. And yet, does that context matter much? I guess that’d depend on how popular this text ever got — which, now that I’ve written about …, maybe I don’t want these texts out there.

9 p.m. (8:59) Tues. Eve.: In what sense am I (or, do I want to be) special?

[From school journal of Tues., 16 April 2019, Period 10, Journal 300, page 242]

I was showing pictures of piles of legs after Civil War surgeons cut them off

I was showing pictures of piles of legs after Civil War surgeons cut them off of wounded soldiers. B___ said he got bad news about his leg. He’s left class everyday at 2:40, today, too, though I realized it’s “FLEX” Thursday and the pass said 2:45 but we’ll be out at 2:15. I told B___ he can leave whenever — he has a A PASS! What can we school people do to keep him here?! Nothing — not if he’s got a pass. Then I___ joked about taking B____’s crutch.

Topic today is weird food. [My memory recalled] beaver balls [my uncle L.] made back in mid-’80s (when I saw that beadwork turtle and fixated on wanting to own it. I didn’t feel like I was immature then, but I don’t do that sort of obsessing now …).

I’m not sure I said well, earlier today, the sense of calm I’ve felt lately. So, I did add one grade to each class last hour in In-School Suspension [supervision duty]. I was alone and read about Ford and Chevy cutting their car lines last year and losing brand loyalty and then I updated grades enough to not trigger a notification … though I’ve still got big stacks of papers to grade at some point, but I don’t need to pressure self.

“Borch,” said B.D. yesterday to me after she’d called R. “b*tch” and thought I was correcting B.D. But I thought she’d said “porch.”

[From school journal of Thurs., 14 Nov. 2019, Period 10, Journal 312, pages 88-9]

But what if you can’t trust your senses?

I am wanting to continue the philosophy discussion. Let’s start today in 4-5 — we talked last week about one definition of real — that you go by what your senses show you, but what if you can’t trust your senses? What are situations where you couldn’t trust them? What you’re seeing can’t be real? Seeing something, you’re not sure what? Or me and my wife last night, each saying the cat was with each of us separately. I assume she was wrong. We do trust our senses  — sometimes we have to — and yet, what if we can’t? My example last night — “fake news” or conspiracies? Life after death? Ghosts?

[From school journal of Tues., 29 Oct. 2019, Period 4-5, Journal 312, pages 43-4]

I could use to nap

I could use to nap. I could also use to think less, do more, be less self-monitoring. But, then, I know that this, too, is a summer phenomenon. It can come and go, it’s OK, you’re OK. (S*it, now I’m between rules on the page; this line is narrow.)

Also — books: many of my books, I regard not merely as hunks of paper, of words on paper, but I tend to think of the associations of the books with their authors, their times. Brautigan and the hippie era, mystique, is part of my interest in his writing. Yet, that’s doomed to fail, of course, trying to return to an era — well, to my limited, narrow, arbitrary view of that era. Watching Little Big Man‘s scene at the drugstore, I thought how it maybe wasn’t all that different to be alive, to be conscious, to be a person and have a life, then in 1870s (approximately) as now.

Eh, don’t bother looking for answers. You’re basically just tired today. Bed about 11, but then M came in later. I had oatmeal for dinner last night — that doesn’t matter. Fu*k, it’s been another half-hour of writing. I’m gonna nap.

I got water and thought of yesterday’s thought: our well water runs cold after a couple minutes. But with city water from water tower, will it be warm in the summer? Or not? But we’ll also have cold water at the fridge supply. What I don’t yet know about town living.

[From journal of Sun., 5 June 2011, Journal 141, page 185-6]