Category Archives: From the pocket pages

Listening rather than talking: Notes from Feb. 2004

§ Listening to conversations, looking for assumptions, possibilities — You can’t advocate all is relative (because that’s not a relative-truth statement) but you can keep an open mind to multiple possible interpretations. Further: it’s not even that you have to be actively looking for things, observations, or even personal directions.

I’m learning you don’t have to be active, only open, receptive to the suggestions that appear in your mind — they’re a little bit subtle, not always obvious, so it helps to be open to them, listening rather than talking. [19 Feb. 2004]

§ Noticing T’s hands: If I had just noticed him and mentally said, “there’s T__,” I wouldn’t have looked closely enough to observe something new and unexpected about him. Saying “there’s T__” is, M said, a kind of prejudging, and to observe freely is an act of nonjudgment. [19 Feb. 2004]

§ A few days ago, when snow just beginning to melt, walking Gracie at night, melted spots looked like hieroglyphs painted on the snow, and walking around the edge of [my neighboring uncle]’s white pines, it didn’t seem there were trees there — there was the snow on left and a complete dark void on right. Walking Gracie this Monday morning, in dark, we tried to stick to high ground — water everywhere, but puddles and streams in low ground. [23 Feb. 2004]

§ Are students fundamentally passive, liking to be shown things, to be told a story (whether students are sitting down or involved in the demo)? Or is student passivity not fundamental but merely contextual or cultural — maybe in this culture, students are passive. The nature of schooling is external — being judged. [24 Feb. 2004]

§ “Controversial views are professionally sexy,” writes Jane Tompkins [here, I think, about college professors, I think]. I’m not sure what is professionally sexy about teaching high school — being a winning coach? [24 Feb. 2004]

§ Not only is there no privacy at school, there’s almost no time in the day to think by yourself. The way high school is set up, it’s relentlessly public and also relentlessly “productive,” or intentional. There’s no downtime for kids or teachers. You’re supposed to be busy all period, all day long, and only 25 minutes for lunch, so that too is a hurry. “Idle hands are the devil’s playground” or whatever the old-fashioned saying is. [26 Feb. 2004]

§ At first, it feels like a relief to be near the completion of the yearbook. But then I think, maybe it will even out my emotions, and my stress if I don’t make a big deal out of this. If getting done isn’t a big deal, then not having it done (earlier in year) won’t be big deals either. [27 Feb. 2004]

§ [One student’s name or another student’s name] or both said [colleague] C.S. said something in her class about me talking too much in our [teacher-education] class, something about when Hagemann starts talking, everyone sits back, puts down their pencil — apparently they’re settling in for my “dissertation.” I’m not saying that’s impossible for me, but I don’t recall doing that during those classes. Only a few times did I speak, and only once did I go on for more than a socially acceptable length, or so I thought. Although it is an interesting question — Mom and others accuse [a certain someone] of not reading signals and going on too long. [My grandpa] says I talk lots, but that’s because I enjoy conversing, not because I trap people who want to leave (I think, anyway). I’m not so blind to signals. “Mind Wide Open” guy on NPR last night said some people (autistic, but not only those) can’t read those people signals, but they can learn to do that. Listening to my comment, maybe this is what C.S. means: I don’t always just spit out my point. But I feel my points are a bit nuanced, require support, not just opinion. And anyway, why worry about what C.S. thinks of me? I didn’t think much of her comments, either, and I didn’t talk about her in my classes.  [27 Feb. 2004]

§ How it makes me nervous to have kids [students] with idle time — as if I’m just taking on the teacher personality attributes. [27 Feb. 2004]

§ Maybe it’s not that I say too much; maybe I’m just too intense? Just too much for some people — lots of these other teachers aren’t as interested in deep conversations as I am, M is, D is, C.L. was, etc. [29 Feb. 2004]

[Entries above from Pocket Page notebook #93, 18 Feb.-29 Feb. 2004]

All their peculiar, particular intimacies: May 2021 notes

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Tree blossoms. Ogle Co., Ill. 7 May 2021.

⇒ I don’t seem to recall learning those skills I use the most often — tying shoes, etc. But also Google Classroom — I’m comfy with it now. A little surprised, I felt this morning, to think I used it a year ago, before I knew it as well as I do now. [4 May 2021]

⇒ “He solved Legos!” A puzzle can be solved — there’s one way the pieces fit together — but not Legos (that’s an infinite game?). No one right answer! [5 May 2021]

⇒ There’s no meaning in the setting, but there are examples (calm animals or calm (or tense) people) and attributes (sunny or foreboding) and associations (memories and ideas associated with certain settings). [5 May]

⇒ “Setting” — I have to travel through every inch of distance from house to my classroom. I’m always in a place. [6 May]

⇒ Listening to Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” and feeling a sense of ease from the lush arrangement. And that’s the feeling that professional-polish is supposed to give: a sense that experts are in charge, I can be passive and taken care of. Amateur art offers (or requires?) listener dis-ease. [6 May]

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Baby catalpa tree leaf. Ogle Co., Illinois. 7 May 2021.

⇒ Illusion of independent living: We seldom live (at least, stereotypically) in multi-generational houses, but then parents get old and our filial ties mean we’re — not obligated to care for them, but if you like them, you take them in and care for them. And you realize that independence — your parents’, yours — doesn’t last forever. Maybe I was never all that independent at all, just an accident away from taking care or needing to be taken care of. [18 May]

⇒ Vague idea about how bad (childish, beginner’s) writing is too generalized, form-filling — not specific and detailed and weird enough. [20 May 2021]

⇒ We exist to perceive a tree with a certain shape in the wind? And then to look again and see that tree’s in an other shape. [20 May]

⇒ Playing Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good,” I thought of a fall evening, crisp breeze, at my mom’s family’s farm, feeling happy. And it’s cool a song can do that and I can experience the remembering and let it go and not try to hold onto (live forever in) that moment. [21 May]

⇒ Parents invite their children to live with them, see all their peculiar, particular intimacies. [21 May]

Sculptures of my consciousness: April 2021 notes

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Prism in a spoon. 1 April 2021

¶ The present is a date that doesn’t already have a description associated with it, as historical moments do. [5 April 2021]

¶ Ideas for an intro to my journal bits on this blog: I’m tired of narrative, how it skips time, makes only some moments seem valuable, how it’s abstract and knowable only after the fact. Narrative can’t be lived. It has a place, a value, but I’m looking beyond it. How I live — text precedes topic. [9 April]

¶ Philosophy for sick people — what would that look like? Philosophy is kinda useless if it’s only for the well. Sure, philosophy can help us live while healthy, but also, why can’t it do more when we’re sick? My writings are valuable only to the living, the healthy —  the dead can’t do much with them. It’s funny how physical things like books can seem real — but the curtain’s up only a brief time. [14 April]

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Farm field. Holcomb Road, west of Stillman road, I think. Ogle Co., Illinois. 15 April 2021

¶ Reading is internal — nothing is created. I can’t tell how well students read a text without having them do something else to show they’d read it. Reading itself leaves no external marks — duh — but it shows learning is internal. [14 April]

¶ I’d rather be open-minded than keep thinking dull, old (inadequate) things. … I want to embrace not-knowing, not telling myself that I know what to do. Sure, I mean, it’s been good to remind myself to help M [as she cares for her parents], not oppose her or critique what she’s doing, etc. But I don’t need to fall back on inadequate generalizations either. The thrill and giddiness of having a new (to me) philosophical insight or idea. [15 April]

¶ My brain is biased toward big events, odd events, experiences associated with strong emotions, as I learned in Brain-Based Learning class. My brain seeks to glean and learn — update the sensibility, ability to respond. But the brain doesn’t track what my daily experience was, what contexts were — the journals are needed for that. [16 April]

¶ I had thought recently about the sense of possibility that made high school and college exciting for me (for anyone?). For most adults in our 40s, say, things settle into patterns — I like my life, I like knowing my niche — but it’s unknowing that makes earlier years feel different? [19 April]

¶ A literary sentence is one where you ask, how could this statement be true or meaningful? [20 April]

¶ Literary sentences as sculptures — useless but attention-drawing. … If I look at both Exquisite Corpse lines and journal bits as artworks — as sculptures — not trying to make a point, a claim about reality, but just existing to be considered, like a sculpture exists. Exquisite Corpse lines as philosophical possibilities — my journal bits as records of my consciousness — sculptures of my consciousness.  [21 April]

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Pasta salad made for us. 20 April 2021

¶ Lately I’m seeing images (trees along tracks this morn) as too brief to be real. I saw yesterday an image of a few snowflakes falling — slowly, and they seemed each so distinct. It almost seemed surreal: snow flakes against white tree flowers in background (as I looked south out school windows). And the trees, along east side of railroad tracks north of Bethel Road, they looked almost like columns of a cathedral with sun coming through. And yet, these images — I didn’t feel like photographing them — I guess I’m thinking of images as mental (consciousness) phenomena — it’s a perspective-view. Images are human creations, not nature’s creations. Nature’s physical and biological processes create the snow, the sun, the trees, but it’s the consciousnesses that do the looking — from a particular spot (some spots have more captivating images than others) at particular time. And these images don’t — can’t  — last because consciousnesses change! And these images I’m talking about also include human-created images: ad-images of idealized people and idyllic settings, and even art’s images (paintings, photos) try to stay around but these are obviously not real, not live-in-able. I might want to live in an idyllic setting I see, but I know I can’t — living there would destroy the simplistic image! [21 April]

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Bright oak leaves, dark maple leaves. Ogle Co., Illinois. 29 April 2021

¶ Multiple readings: why should we have the convention of reading a text only once? … Re-reading as one of many alternative ways to encounter a text. [21 April]

¶ 30 years (it’s nearly 30 years — OK, 29 — since I graduated high school) is like a year, or even like a day, only longer (a jokey way to explain duration). [22 April]

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Young maple leaves and flowers, I guess? Ogle Co., Illinois. 29 April 2021.

¶ Enjoying a poem — it’s funny that it should be hard. I, basically, could just explain to my students what my finding-joy-in-poems mind finds. [26 April]

¶ All artists putter and do ablutions and none of that is why readers (or other art audience members) care about artists. Readers can’t know me socially when I write — I’m necessarily by myself, alone, in my own thoughts. [29 April]

¶ Walking dog tonight, I thought about getting back home. Then I stopped thinking that, and thought that I was OK, that I could slow down and just look at stuff. And I wonder if it’s easier to be calm now as an older person, now that I feel I have accomplished something with/in my life. [30 April]

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Bleeding hearts projected onto vinyl siding. Ogle Co., Illinois. 30 April 2021

What is there to learn? March notes

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Pock-marked ditch snow. Headed east on Holcomb Road, just east of White Rock road, Ogle Co., Illinois. 8 March 2021.

∴ Can melting snow look good? It’s pocked, dirty, with tar chunks in it in my neighborhood. It’s not the smooth and sculptural texture I like. And yet, there’s a challenge to me to find beauty or at least cool images in melting subsiding snow. (10 p.m. As I took old-snow pics this evening, I realized I had done similar pictures before.) [29 Feb. 2021]

∴ The clock keeps moving, across the calendar days, the calendar chart of daily highs I copied into journal from photo of TV screen this morn. It’s weird to think I lived each day, yet each day went like today does, the hours seeming to pass quickly. [1 March 2021]

∴ Dreams can be random and surreal but it’s interesting how often they are narrative, at least within a scene. I kinda understood the logic of what was going on in dream scene I described in journal this morning. [1 March]

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COVID-era advice on high school flooring. 2 March 2021.

∴ A student in creative writing wrote something that reminded me of The Matrix‘s “brains in vats” example, a familiar example in philosophy. I can use these familiar examples as tools to classify ideas — and hope to find unclassifiable ones! [3 March]

∴ A colleague called me an “autodidact.” Maybe a higher-level autodidact question is: What is there to learn? What can be learned — what can be considered? Autodidacticism leads to epistemology? Maybe, but my point might be that my auto-learning might have led me to my questioning mind and my philosophical orientation/inclination. [5 March]

∴ I see my house and street and neighborhood differently on weekdays from on weekends — the symbolic meaning depends on my mood or mode (whether I have to go to work or not). [5 March]

∴ Nomadic lifestyle vs. settled/agriculture lifestyle: Settlers tell (sorta) the land want to do. Nomads respond to what the land does. They go where the drought isn’t (maybe). But farmers control what the land grows — and some of the land is declared dumping grounds, etc. [8 March]

∴ A student notes that the R. Carver story “Popular Mechanics” uses only pronouns, no names. This reminds me of what I wrote in school journal this morning: that there’s a label on today (the date), but not using a label might help me attend to today as the only day — lack of labels makes the description feel closer (more real?) [8 March]

∴ It’s banal to write, but a huge factor as one lives is societal pressure — and job pressure. (It’s easy to forget about this when thinking of historical figures’ lives.) [10 March]

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A pandemic year’s worth of journals. 13 March 2021.

∴ I made my way through college — “got my paper and I was free” — and I found my passion, my calling, in and through writing. I didn’t know what project I would want to do, but I found it thru the process! I didn’t go to some top school or follow some particular curriculum all that closely — I didn’t need to. It’s almost magical — the benefits of trusting my process! [10 March]

∴ I don’t expect there will be any life’s milestone when I will feel great relief. I mean, retirement, maybe, but it’s OK that I don’t feel that relief or accomplishment. Living each day is the point. [12 March]

∴ Why should people — individuals, non-business types — have to advocate for actions to counter climate change? It’s the companies selling things, externalizing pollution, that caused this. It should be their push to clean up. Or, at least, some other biz interests (like insurers?) should shame the carbon-sellers. [17 March]

∴ Writing from within various moods — a strength, not a weakness. I suspect there is this feeling that, this sense that,  narrators of news articles, op-eds, even poetry and fiction — most published forms — want to be seen as voices of authority, rather than voices of particularity, peculiarity, and/or vulnerability. [17-18 March]

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Birds at March’s end. 31 March 2021.

∴ March: It takes a whole month to go from snow-ground to grass-ground. [30 March]

∴ 3:20 p.m. With 5 minutes before I can leave school for the day, I want to sit here, logged off (instead of looking at an online list of best records by women, as I did yesterday before leaving) and just talk about how I’m tired of sitting for most of the time between 7:45 and 3-something. I did some grading today — also got sick of doing it. And that’s OK, frankly. It’s OK. It’s just a work day. I’m headed out soon. It’s 3:24. [31 March]

Wisdom comes irregularly: Notes from February 2021

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Snow shape. 13 Feb. 2021

‡ Learning from others’ examples, being around them — they teach unconsciously and I learn unconsciously? [2 Feb. 2021]

‡ Politicians, journalists, marketers use simple, conventional language in order to communicate as widely as possible for a purpose. Complex language in poetry is play? [2 Feb. 2021]

‡ Nobody gets paid to learn (unless you then are expected to turn around and do it). Learning must be entertainment! [3 Feb. 2021]

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Tree shadow. 23 Feb. 2021

‡ A poem is a mechanism for conveying thoughts a reader has never had before. It’s a text that rewards slow-reading! And most messages aren’t new, but images are — images without themes or messages attached (like my “Split my Thumb” poem) Of course, there’s the danger of narrowly defining poetry. [4 Feb.]

‡ I expect to see certain things published to Internet on certain days — regular features. I expect to be entertained, but I don’t otherwise expect too much. I don’t expect wisdom from these repeaters. Wisdom comes irregularly. [10 Feb.]

‡ It’s easy enough to talk about tragedies happening to people who are merely ideas to you. And it’s easy to imagine places, to talk about vast, distant places, using names (and how easy it is to overlook the places between). [10 Feb.]

‡ The radio annoys. I mean, sure, sometimes I like it or I wouldn’t have it on at all. But sometimes it’s so repetitive — it reminds me that it’s only a small realm of sounds and abstractions, portable enough to dominate any space. I’d rather see and be in a particular place, without common sounds. [11 Feb.]

‡ Remind (sorta) myself at the sink today at 6:30 a.m.: I’m the one who’s deadline-pressed. I usually do think of clocktimes on school mornings. And this clock-awareness is why I can’t get outside myself to relax in mornings. [11 Feb.]

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Village Commons Bookstore in Dekalb, Illinois, closed this spring after 51 years in business near Northern Illinois University, according to the store’s Facebook page. Shown here 18 Feb. 2021.

‡ How weird the world — well, more or less anyplace I might sit and look — might seem if I didn’t remember (if I let go of thoughts of) how the world works, how particular things work: the explanations I keep and remind myself why things look the way they do and work the way they do (the necessities of paying rent, for example). … If I sat and looked (staying away from media) long enough, the world might seem newly, wonderfully weird. [15 Feb. 2021]

‡ This is in part a reaction to my thought last night that I don’t need to be making things — that it’s OK to sit and stare. But the capitalist ethos is about making things to sell. It implies that a person doesn’t matter until you’ve produced something (so this undervalues disabled people, sick people). And we often even talk about films and shows and books to watch and read as if we need to be doing that (consumption as a form of productivity). But, of course, I’m still conscious, and my consciousness doesn’t always need to be focused on some productive task! Maybe now that I’ve got 340-plus journals and decades of pocket pages written, maybe I am less interested in being productive. I’m more ready, as an older man, to be less productive — to discount the value of more things accomplished. And I don’t need to dwell on things I’ve already created. [17 Feb.]

‡ The value of my writings to others: Can my mental activity help others with their mental activity (their understanding of things)? [17 Feb.]

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Brick Road, west of Payne’s Point, Ogle Co., Illinois. 4 Feb. 2021

‡ Photos of snow don’t quite satisfy as an experience because snow is cold. It’s felt. Images of snow seen without feeling cold kinda don’t work, aren’t accurate. [18 Feb.]

‡ Capitalism is social — what can you make or do for others, to get their money (produce!)? It doesn’t seem to care what an individual wants to do — in capitalism, things matter only if they matter to other people (see my previous comment about how being productive, rather than just being comfortable or observing or just being, is a capitalist value.) [18 Feb.]

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Headed west, Lindenwood Road, rural Ogle Co., Illinois. 18 Feb. 2021

‡ I don’t want my written legacy to be a few generalizations but a few particulars. I could boil down some “life lessons” to pass on to future generations — but, no, I want my legacy to be texts written on particular day, at particular place, because focusing on life not as generalities but as particulars has been one of my best learnings. I thought this after thinking about [a former student’s] essay for grad school — she wants it to work, to get her admitted, so she doesn’t mind getting advice — she probably doesn’t mind incorporating others’ suggestions. Whereas in my own writings, I’d likely keep my own errors and quirks. I wouldn’t much want others’ help, especially not their particular word choices (general feedback would be OK if I sought to publish. And then I thought: what I would leave to the world [above]). [24 Feb. 2021]

‘Oh, sorry. I thought you were someone else,’ she said. ‘I think that sometimes myself,’ I said.

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Frosty milkweed pods. 4 Jan. 2021.

§ Most public/ambitious people won’t be wise, so why read their books? [6 January 2021]

§ How I got over being clever and found, well, if not transcendence, at least something valuable, in being just myself, … recording my mind-voice. A far weirder (and a subfloor more foundational?) place than I could intentionally conceive. (I have been in recent minutes, reading about clevernesses in Confederacy of Dunces.) [6 Jan.]

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Up-close trophies. 15 Jan. 2021.

§ When I have conflicts with others, I try to resolve them or avoid the person, end the conflict pragmatically. But conflicts with myself — or, let’s say, arguments with myself over what I should do — these conflicts endure (R. Hugo essay quotes someone saying that your important arguments are with yourself). [8 Jan.]

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Salt fractals. 29 Jan. 2021.

§ I don’t want to win the lottery (two of them are at $400 million now/lately). I don’t want to be hated or envied. Also, money just buys you others’ labor. [8 Jan.]

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Low-angle sunlight on snow. 26 Jan. 2021.

§ My organizing idea, my gimmick, as it were, is not that I’m funny or that I make new forms of writing — but that I write in real moments from within my real life. I don’t want to state generalizations (as Vonnegut does) as if I’m lecturing from some indistinct, authoritative (established by seriousness of tone ) perspective. I write from within lived moments. My publication approach came from within my method and my writings!  I just didn’t always see that. [13 Jan.]

§ My journal of yestermorn (I think it was) felt calm — and I thought, calmness should be (is) just as valid a tone of a literary piece, a text, as tension is. I don’t gotta be tense to use words (as a lot of texts do). [13 Jan.]

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A snow bowl of sunlight. 26 Jan. 2021.

§ Not all my deeds and thoughts get recorded. Some are forgotten and that’s OK. [14 Jan.]

§ I prefer to see each moment as whole in itself — what exists exists — rather than seeing it as lacking, wondering what’s next, as a story mindset would seem to imply. [14 Jan.]

§ There’s that light on — those lighted windows in garage door at old [recently moved out of] house in my neighborhood. I see it and I think an abstraction — not every time, but sometimes: that this is an example of how things really will just stay where someone left them. Only humans can act. 

And I think, too, at a meta-level, that this instance-to-abstraction leap is something a lot of writers, especially poets (like Frost, maybe) seem to do. As a younger writer, I wondered how they did that — how did they make that leap? Now I’d say it’s pretty easy, almost automatic, to my mind. It’s connecting a particular to an idea I’ve already thought. It’s not always a new insight, so it’s merely a pedagogical poem that does this. [14 Jan.]

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Rural Ogle County, Illinois. Afternoon, looking south. 29 Jan. 2021

§ Of course my journals written in real life will be meta, will regard the acts of writing and thinking. It’s only within a performance that performer and audience pretend it’s not really a performance. [14 Jan.]

§ Try this exercise: Every sentence [in a text] has only four words. [21 Jan.] I tried that in a school journal on either 21 or 22 Jan. It’s a limitation under which to work. It did feel a little like writing a poem. [23 Jan.] Simple focusing on words, having a limitation — trying to write to iambic pentameter, for example — does put me (and students?) in poetic mindset. Of course, that’s not the whole of being creative. [29 Jan.]

§ I’ll be struck at times by a certain lyric or poem line or how a movie actor says/does something. Today it was in a song by Gotye (“The end, always the end” — this line got my attention). These things can seem fixed, even if they’re not all that meaningful. It’s there. My older poems seem more profound than newer ones — maybe this explains why. [22 Jan.] 

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Some kind of sunset. 11 Jan. 2021.

§ I don’t know, on any given day, what texts I should be reading or should be writing — which would make me feel good, etc. I just don’t know that. My standard judgments aren’t the same each day. [25 Jan.]

§ As I waited post-vaccine, a woman walked past and said something like, “Hi, Mark!” Then, “Oh, sorry. I thought you were someone else,” she said. “I think that sometimes myself,” I said. [25 Jan.]

§ If you sit and look at any particular tree — it’s not that the tree is so interesting, your mind is! [29 Jan.] My creative method: Throw stuff on paper. Go look at it later. [29 Jan.] Something cool there is about writing the thought of a moment (as previous two notes were). [29 Jan.]

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Crow pile at greenhouse. 29 Jan. 2021.

This day for me is as open and contingent as any day for anybody ever: Nov. and Dec. notes

My view from beneath the shrubs at school where I eat outside so as to not be maskless in my classroom during pandemic school. 4 Nov. 2020.

§ My daily-living journals are a detective story — a story of me trying to figure out what’s going on around me.  I’m taking stock every day: “Here’s what I know, here’s what I wonder.” [4 Nov. 2020]

§ Once I’m dead, I’ll probably care about as much about writing and my writings as I do when I’m asleep now, which isn’t much. [5 Nov. 2020]

§ “I got couscous so you can stay alive,” said a mom to three kids elementary-school age, two girls and a boy, at a Woodman’s grocery store. One of the girls had made a comment how they each were carrying two things — I saw no cart or basket with them. [7 Nov.]

§ My job helps me get food. There’s no food in a bare field. I thought this while eating my store-bought food outside school yesterday and imagining I was out walking in a harvested field at north horizon. But there’s no food there. What saves me from hunger is my ability to partake in the system: I have credentials, job, money to shop for food others made. [9 Nov.]

§ Politics flattens people into partisans. There’s power in groups, and yet, I don’t want to think partisan. I don’t want to be limited. I don’t want to have to think about politics at all — let leaders make decisions. [19, 23 Nov.]

Gasoline refueling. 7 Dec. 2020

§ Even if you’re critical or cynical, your body exists. Being critical or cynical, those are just ideas. It can be unpleasant to be around (in the company of ) someone whose ideas I don’t like. There’s a sense in which people embody their ideas (values, attitudes, etc.). People will act out their values and will defend their ideas, with force sometimes. But, once you’ve died, your ideas are no longer part of your body; one’s death draws attention (mine at least today) to the body. The ideas seem to fall away, become these things unrelated to one’s existence — my point being that my attitudes and ideas (especially those that are general criticisms) aren’t all that important to me while I live, either. [30 Nov.]

Sunrise, Ogle County, Illinois. 15 Dec. 2020.

§ As I waited and looked at passing train cars (containers) at Flagg Center last night, I thought how I was merely looking. I wasn’t doing anything else more significant than that. As I looked at train, I thought, one day, if I go senile, I won’t appreciate sitting and watching a train pass. But now, at age 46, I can choose to do that. I’m not senile — I’m young enough to choose to look at a passing train. And I thought, somehow, that Kerouac died at about the age I am now, but he wrote his novels about times he had, things he did, when younger. And if I write now about my ideas and experiences now, my peers won’t care — but following generations might once they get to be my age. Kerouac wrote of his youthful exploits to show other young people things they could do — I do the same (not intentionally, but de facto) for older people? [30 Nov., 1 Dec.]

§ I don’t think of today as “1 December.” It’s just morning of a fall/winter day. [1 Dec.]

§ I’ve had dreams like this — I’m at school, working, but nobody’s here. I’m doing well for sitting in my room by myself for 8 hours a day, I said when asked by a passing human in the hallway how I was doing. Of course I’m thinking existential thoughts in this teaching-remotely era. My job is to do work for people and with people but the people are no longer here. There are Reals behind the screen, who do the assignments, yes, but I end up spending hours by myself.  [1 Dec. 2020, second day of fully remote/online teaching, 2 p.m.] 

§ I misspelled “example” as “exmaple” — a former maple? [3 Dec.] 

§ While walking dog this morning, I thought that this will be a typical day. Then I thought, no, it’s a particular day — today — and the day is open. And my mind can be open to it. (The danger of being older is feeling you know enough.) [7 Dec.]

§ Most literary texts intend [are intended by their creators] to engage readers as texts — I’m not as interested in doing that in my texts. Rather than presenting a whole, alternative world or worldview through my texts, I’d prefer to point out (I think) the limits of words and of abstraction, too. My texts will point away from themselves or their adequacy as texts. The texts I write, the ideas I have, seem less about conveying a wholeness and more about pointing away from language and abstraction and pointing toward the physical world of raw experience (or experience of consciousness in the physical world). I can’t say that every one of my texts in fact does this point way — but this is my general perception of my work and my inclination. I’m not interested in polishing my texts. I don’t need to create a complete theory or self-contained abstract world. I prefer to write spontaneously from within (or “out of”) my life. I don’t want to write from a pose of years later. And I am not interested in crafting and polishing my prose for a performance to readers . This is where I seem to be — these seem to be my (to this point) truest, profoundest wishes. [7 Dec.]

§ Political scientists and journalists who look to explain societal and voters’ tendencies — I’m not that interested in that level of and focus of rhetoric. NPR and other national news organizations’ stories are so often at the policy level, talking about wide-spread problems. Individual problems seldom matter. [9, 14,15 Dec.]

§ Advice to myself: Practice not criticizing others publicly, but doing it privately, and only to learn from criticisms. Ignore, don’t make fun of, even, others. I’m seeing lately that I’d rather ignore foolishness than oppose it and suggest my own approaches. [10 Dec.]

§ How you react in a given moment on your own — an obvious point, yet worth saying: For all the formal learning we do, a person is acting as seems best in each moment in each present. [10 Dec.]

§ The hawk taking off from power pole and flying above my car, while I also saw cows in pasture to my left an abundance of a world for me to see on this sunny, frosty morning commute. [10 Dec.]

§ Longer texts pull us in. Shorter texts push us to do our own thinking. They more like prompts than stories — and they’re cool for that reason. They’re like koans for meditating on. And there’s no reason to read many at once — don’t keep reading — go off and think! [10 Dec.]

§ Short texts can be part of the physical world (and of my experience of physical world) more than long texts can be. You can read entire short texts while walking or driving by (example: my bulletin board in hallway of Exquisite Corpse text-excerpts). [10 Dec.]

§ Christmas IS media? Even the shepherds had to be told (by angels) of the significance of what was going on. Christmas songs, stories — but more broadly, Christmas is a human event (of course) — food, presents — it’s things we do special for each other [14 Dec.]

Harvested cornfield, Ogle County, Illinois, afternoon of 15 Dec. 2020.

§ Yesterday as a day full of moments — momentary experiences. There’s no experience of yesterday (as a unit) — and any store of yesterday is arbitrary. I’ve said before that each thought marks a moment, feels like (creates the feeling of ) the passage of time. Maybe each thought is also its own experience. A report of my day’s experience would be a report of each thought? Though I’m not even aware of every thought, especially when I’m engaged in working. [16 Dec.]

§ There is no perfect story in real experience, no idyllic endings. But no cynicism about that — why should there be tidy endings? We don’t need to be cynical about that. [17 Dec.]

§ Of course others have done similar things before — but you’re doing them now. I saw a cow near a fenceline eating dry (tan) grass this morning, and I thought that a lot of what that cow does, and what I do, has been done by other cows, other people (respectively). But the cow is eating this particular grass this particular day for its particular body’s nourishment. This moment, this act, has historic significance. But even if not for historic significance, there’s now significance. [17 Dec.]

§ This day for me is as open and contingent as any day for anybody ever. My dad’s death day was as open for him as my day today is. [22 Dec.]

§ To sit in a house alone now without media isn’t so different from sitting in a house alone 50, 100, or more years ago. The fashions change, but not the consciousness? [22 Dec.]

§ Each day has tasks and moods. Today’s won’t seem significant by tomorrow — which will have its own. This is living — each day’s journal has (describes) each day’s struggle? Why read those later — to be reminded of this? [23 Dec.]

A farmstead where I lived almost 40 years ago. Track Road, Ashton, Illinois. Photo taken 23 Dec. 2020.

§ Old farms were set up so old farmers could have the conscious experience they wanted. They liked feeding cows, or whatever they did there. What a person’s willing to spend (invest) in buying a store or house or certain equipment to have an experience — I’m not willing to pay for a store, but for notebooks, yes. (And we who live now don’t need to feel guilty if we decline to take on the maintenance burden of earlier generations). [23 Dec. 2020]

The hum & crackle of possibility in real life: October pics & notes

 

My view from beneath the shrubs at school where I eat outside so as to not be maskless in my classroom during pandemic school. 5 Oct. 2020

‡  You need to double-check/peer-review your work when there are standards for your work — and there aren’t any for new ideas. [5 Oct. 2020]

‡  The work my brother and I did in building my new deck: we were moving things (dirt, concrete, lumber, etc.) around. The things, unlike my students at my teaching job, had no say in what work I was doing. Nor did I question my work, what I’m doing and why, as I do in my teaching work. [5 Oct.]

‡  There’s no time travel because only physical forces can cause physical objects to move — so what could replace objects how they were at an earlier time? [5 Oct.]

Foliage in Ogle County, Ill. 8 Oct. 2020

‡  3:56 or 57 p.m.: A minute ago, while driving on Lindenwood Road, I saw a white-faced black bovine sniff and rub its head on a trailer hitch in its pasture. [5 Oct.]

‡  My mind isn’t quite an animal’s mind. So it might as well be open (a human mind as its own kind). [6 Oct.]

‡  With my mind open, I can be at home (or at ease, at least) anywhere. [6 Oct.]+

‡  What ideas do you have about ideas? — I could ask this of my students. I’m thinking of my “creative reading” assignment today, and when I asked what they’d come up with, my student L. said he’d written sentences that were meaningless. I wonder if kids think writing has to refer to something real. If they don’t get see that it’s words themselves that prompt mental images and feelings — that our minds will find patterns in word groups and sentences, as I’ve said in other classes when we do “Poetry Bingo.” [6 Oct.]

Pre-mums. 2 Oct. 2020

‡  Is it possible that readers like to feel needed by their authors? And maybe my readers don’t feel I need them? [6 Oct.]

‡  I’m an exemplar of living my life the way I live it. I don’t seek fame because, well, I want to see what life is like without that. I want to not work at fame, anyway. [7 Oct.]

‡  At one’s job, one has to adapt one’s mind to doing what others want and find valuable. Some people go to trainings in order to learn to think like their bosses (about new trends, say). These people want practical help. But my ideas aren’t always practical. My ideas are usually meant to provoke new thinking, not to practically tell would-be bosses what the currently popular ideas are. [7 Oct.]

Central beam of new deck being built by my brother, Dan. 14 Oct. 2020

‡  I’m tempted to take pics of lovely color on trees. But I’m skeptical of what I’d do with those picture. I don’t want to present that lovely moment as lasting. It seems a bit unreal — is it worth preserving? We get that impulse to preserve when we see these brief colors. [8 Oct.]

‡  At end of my commute home: I heard on radio “Love on an Elevator” (Aerosmith) and thought how distant rock as an art form can be from experience — not the lyrics, but the bombastic music. Rock is formal, not personal or in time. [8 Oct.]

‡  Maybe no moments are important as one lives them. [9 Oct.]

Concrete, clay, tile. 14 Oct. 2020

‡  The magic’s in the seeing, in my own attention, not in getting others’ attention. I saw a pattern of columns in a row as I headed outside — I thought about taking pics but didn’t. I don’t need a pic. The magic is in the experience, in the seeing. [13 Oct.]

‡  Being conscious means having context awareness (when and where you are, what led up to a particular moment of experience, etc.) But if you write about a particular moment, the text strips that context awareness away. [14 Oct.]

‡  Were it possible to do work unconsciously, would/should we? [14 Oct.]

Sky in Ogle County, Ill. 16 Oct. 2020

‡ The hum (the crackle?) of possibility in real life — that’s not in film or on TV, except maybe in live shots. [15 Oct.]

‡  Possession, in the sense of “these trees are mine because I see them.” Why revert to ownership, which is odd, too. [15 Oct.]

‡  We inflict intellectuals upon the young. The professor’s non-academic peers don’t need him/her (except to consult on practical matters, for law, science profs, etc.). Even literature and philosophy profs, we consult on questions within their specialties, but not as general life-models. People get learnéd, and then we inflict them on the young. [16 Oct.]

Ogle foliage. 23 Oct. 2020

‡  The real learning we do simply happens through repetition — that real learning is unintentional, unconscious/subconscious. It proceeds/happens without metathinking. Examples: the skills you do at your job everyday, or how the journal-writing I do every day has trained my mind to get faster, smoother, at producing words. Perhaps all the new-material learning we do at school is too specialized. When we say kids should be lifelong learners, are we saying that because workers learn new things? But mostly we don’t learn new things. We do old, familiar things again and again. And we value repetitions — experience — in technicians, surgeons, etc. [19 Oct.]

Oaky undertones. 24 Oct. 2020

‡  My monologuing, as in my journal-writing, communicates moods. Whatever I write about, even if it skips from topic to topic or is unclear, readers can probably discern my mood at the time I wrote it — anxious, relaxed, whatever. (Maybe that’s the essence of a journal monologue: I’m alive in this style (mood) today, now.) And moods seem important to communicate, I guess. [21 Oct.]

Lorado Taft’s “Eternal Indian” (aka Blackhawk) Statue, Oregon, Ill. Recently restored. 24 Oct. 2020. See previous state of statue here.

‡  Thinking of historical people’s bodies (say, typical people who lived a 100 or more years ago) — how they were dressed, what they used for transport, it’s easy to forget that these people also had desires. They were as desirous of money, sex, etc., as we are now. They were as eager to make money as people are now — we now can afford (in my region, anyway) not to farm every inch of land (as Illinois farmers did generations ago) because we have other jobs and investments by which to get money. [21 Oct.]

View west from base of “Eternal Indian” statue over Rock River toward north end of Oregon, Ill. 24 Oct. 2020

‡  Having confidence that you’ll get fed is part of what creates relaxation on vacation. If food’s scarce, there’s no ease. [21 Oct.]

‡  How I get captivated sometimes by images, idylls — maybe I want out of my context? [22 Oct.]

‡  “Just assume pretty. I can’t do it anymore,” my wife said after she’d pointed out some lovely natural scenes, and then did that several times, as we drove along River Road in Ogle Co., Ill. [24 Oct.]

 

How different pandemic school looks. Students in the high school where I teach don’t use lockers this year, and furniture has been removed from classrooms to allow recommended spacing between students. 26 Oct. 2020

‡  We must choose what we’ll say about any topic when we start to write about it. I’m pointing out that whenever one crafts a nonfiction story or description, biography or eulogy, one has to leave out a lot — and one must choose what to leave out. What attitude would I take if I wrote about my school, say? [26 Oct.]

Fuzzy sunrise. Ogle Co., Ill. 30 Oct. 2020

‡  There’s no why — it’s what sounds good. I’m thinking here about how some music-analysts talk about pop music in terms of chords and keys (which is like when some English teachers talk about literature in terms of alliteration and metaphor) and how these are levers that artists can pull to make music. But I suspect that most creating artists don’t think first about these levers. They probably have a germ of an idea and explore it and follow it and make decisions (using their experienced-but-open-minded judgment-faculty) based on gut feelings — rather than intentionally thinking of the levers. [28 Oct.]

I voted early this election in the basement of our old courthouse and jail. 31 Oct. 2020

‡  There’s nothing I wanted to compete for, jobwise or businesswise. I sometimes think I could’ve lived a bigger life — have had more money, fame, titles. But then, I don’t really regret these lacks at all. I never wanted to compete for a job or to get more business. [28 Oct.]

‡  As someone whose main message (frequent perspective) is to question the common ideas, I don’t need to create a whole alternative body of ideas. I just need to point away from (question) the common ideas. [30 Oct.]

‡  I’m not going to win awards (which, almost by definition, are mainstream, Establishment) and maybe my point — the main message of my writings (not that I have often thought about my writings having a single message, but if they did) is to question the common ideas of the Establishment, to say that there’s always more than one way to do things and to think of things. So my point is to show that there’s a good life to be lived without Establishment praise. [30 Oct.]

“Used Pens (need sanitized).” Early voting office, Ogle Co., Ill. 31 Oct. 2020

‘Arting’ as relaxation practice

Drawing dated 24 March 2012 from Journal 156, page 18.

Drawing, coloring—”arting”—more a relaxation technique/practice than a “making” technique—and that’s OK! [From pocket page dated 26 March 2012]

Good writing seduces, bad writing awakens: March 2020 notes

Outside Union Dairy, Freeport, Illinois. 7 March 2020

‡  Saw an “L” shape on a rural road. It tipped and became a squirrel. [2 March 2020]

‡  Patterns are not icons — by “icons,” I mean cliché images, like “the lone tree in the field,” such as the one I drive past most mornings. Iconic images are ones I try to avoid photographing, no only because they’re clichés but also because they seem to imply a meaning (a lone tree represents solitude, loneliness, etc). But patterns — like, say, a certain repetition of ice crystals or a sequence of toys on a shelf — aren’t cliché or meaning-heavy. [2 March & 9 March].

‡  When things are set close together and similar, that’s asking for them to be compared. [4 March]

‡  Maybe most teaching is coaching, having students do and redo certain things until they are automatic: rehearsing a play or performing a cheer routine. But I don’t always like the coaching model, even with fairly routine things like fixing sentence fragments. I want my students not to memorize a routine but to be able to respond to different sentences. [5 March]

NIU campus, approached from the west. 5 March 2020

‡  There’s not much narrative coherence in dreams. Also not in life, if you don’t stay in the story (like today, I’ll find myself at N.I.U., which is not a normal setting for my lived experience). [5 March]

‡  A history of smells: What were the common smells someone alive in a small Midwestern town would’ve smelled in 1858? Horse manure? Wood smoke? Body odor? (My mom says her grandmother, born in 1904, remembers there being a smell to most adults, before bathing was frequent.) Being an adult in the 1990s, I remember when most public restaurants and bars smelled of cigarette smoke, and since smoking in public places has been banned, those smells indoors aren’t as common today. I wonder too about a personal history of smells. In my life, I love the smell of wintergreen, perhaps (as I found out in recent years) because my mom used wintergreen candies to encourage my progress in being potty-trained. I also strongly associate the smells of woodsmoke and animal fat with visiting my uncle in the barn where he skinned, fleshed, and dried pelts of beaver, muskrat, raccoon, and other furbearers. [7 March]

‡  How many days I’ve been conscious — ALL of them! — for all the decades I’ve been alive. [9 March]

‡  Good writing seduces, distracts. I get pulled into spending too much time reading online, and escapism has a place in my life, sure. But bad writing — unpolished, not-publication-smoothed — wakes one up. Finding a misspelling in a story disperses the spell that the narrative casts on the reader. On the other hand, maybe it’s OK to not be under a spell! So many businesses want an audience’s “eyeballs,” people’s attention, to get money from them. What about a literature that doesn’t want to capture readers’ attention? That might be a non-capitalist literature, available for free. Or maybe the distinction isn’t good/polished writing versus bad/unpublishable writing. Rather, the distinction is smooth, easy, familiar, bingeable versus prickly, new, legitimately attention-repelling. [11-12 March]

‡  We teach each other — subtly, indirectly — all the time. [11 March]

‡  If you need to market yourself, you need to have a brand, be unique, stand apart. But if I don’t need to market myself, I don’t have to claim to be unique. [12 March]

‡  Fitting into a discipline — say, becoming a trained ballet dancer — can shape you, and perhaps there is value in being shaped. But there’s also value in the uncarved block! There’s value in seeing individual people not as generic people in school (or other) systems, not as role-players, but in seeing them as uncarved blocks themselves, as individuals full of potential! [12 March]

‡  The vague dread — awaiting the spread of the pandemic virus. The dread of not-knowing — having a serious situation I’ve never seen before in my whole life. I get image of low, dark blue clouds on horizon. And I wonder if perhaps this could become the kind of event after which a lot of things  change — hopefully for the better (a better social safety net, etc). I just noticed a Slate.com article: “We’re not going back to the way life was before.” [midday & afternoon of 12 March 2020]

‡  I have already joked to a couple people about the woman I saw at grocery store yesterday with three boys whose cart was nearly full — it included several boxes of Pop Tarts. My wife said you can tell what people value — she said she saw a dude with three cases of Snapple. The guy who helped carry our groceries to our car said his boss had texted him — he showed us the text — something like “keep stocking t.p.” [13 March 2020]

Dandelion-greens salad, fresh from my yard. 23 March

‡  Why we have other people around instead of just having cardboard cut-outs or pics or texts that people have written: texts, personas, images, and ideas can’t respond. But a person can respond — which also means that the respond-able person isn’t any fixed, steady, permanent idea. A real person isn’t always cool or kind or any trait (traits being defined, fixed). [24 March]

‡  A reminder to myself: you know, you can’t go dine out or go get coffee — but you ARE still alive, for god’s sake, meaning you can still look, think, write, relate to others, etc. — all the stuff you’d do were you located in any place, say, like in a waiting room or in a park or something. In other words, it’s not like getting a latte or a particular meal or buying a book, etc., would be all that satisfying. The tastes aren’t all that important. [24 March]

Empty downtown Byron, Illinois, Weds. 25 March 2020, afternoon.

‡  I’m starting a personality profile of our neighbor dog, a big Labradoodle named Paisley. I decided that she’s a Wings fan — “Listen to what the Paisley says.” My wife said, “Paisley does NOT strike me as a Wings fan.” When I told my neighbor about my supposition, he said Paisley’s much more of a Bob Seger fan. [26 March]

Our cat sleeps like a hibernating chipmunk. 28 March

‡  I remember days (four days) later the woman at the produce aisle last Friday, who saw my shopping list and said she should’ve made a list, too. [31 March]

Our cat worships at our home printer like it’s his god. He had ignored it before it was plugged in and came to life. 30 March