Category Archives: From the pocket pages

‘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

19 Oct. 2019: An Image and an Idea

Hummus plate at Sahara Restaurant, Rockford, Ill. 19 Oct. 2019.

φ  “Verse Vice-ah”: a poem title?  [19 Oct. pocket pages]

22 Sept. 2019: An Image and An Idea

22 Sept. 2019. On the front of the truck parked facing me in Oregon, Ill.

φ  You even don’t have to fret about other drivers not using their turn signals!

So much dross!

I don’t try to communicate through my drawings—so why should I try to communicate through my writings? [Fri. 18 Oct. 2019]

Maybe I don’t care which texts of mine I publish to the blog. The texts just offer readers an experience of hanging out with and listening to me. [18 Oct. 2019]

My journal texts: so much dross! Once I’m dead, no one will care—and that’s OK—it’s freeing. These texts aren’t set-and-dead [as texts seem once they’re published]. Openness: However I wrote that I feel today, I won’t necessarily feel that same way tomorrow. I can embrace being weird—I might as well! That way I don’t have to try to seem normal by justifying or defending my writings or myself. I can let go of trying to seem normal and instead just seem my weird self. [Sat. 19 Oct. 2019]

15 Nov. 2015

 

A Possibility for Meaning: Random bits from Pocket Notebook 157

My dog, Gracie, was going around the pile to get [flying disk toy]. Her spatial powers, prediction. She tried one spot, couldn’t get there, didn’t try any others, went right to an opening on the other side of the wood pile, a little path in. [Page 3, 16 March 2006]

Random lists of words: There’s no meaning there, and yet, what’s valuable is the sounds of the words, the interesting juxtapositions and metaphors/comparisons, shaking your established concepts. [Page 83, 23 March 2006]

School trains people to be not-themselves, to play roles. That’s all others could do–no teacher is needed to tell you to be yourself. [Page 89, 24 March 2006]

Earl” show last night was funny but didn’t really make me laugh. Intellectually funny, but is it possible to be intellectually funny? [Page 93, 24 March 2006]

If people go to the city to Become Somebody, to Make Something of themselves, maybe people who stay in small towns by choice are trying to Be Nothing, no one, to not make anything of themselves. Sure, some want some attention—big fish in little ponds. Maybe an ambitious person in a small town is an anomaly, square peg in round hole, etc. But maybe it’s not even that—maybe I’d like living in a smaller town, maybe I’m not really one of the Ambitious. I’d just like to live in a college town. Or maybe I am ambitious, in addition. [Page 73, 22 March 2006]

Coyote—heart, eye, C-section. [I think this note refers to memory of dissecting a coyote my uncle had hunted during my biology class in fall 2002. Guided by a biology teacher who knew far more about dissection than I did, we cut out and looked at the coyote’s heart and eyeball. A student in this high school class said the chest-cavity smell reminded her of her C-section.] [Page 87, 24 March 2006]

I was wondering if, in a sense, only ideas matter, if only the judgments of others matter–the taste-makers, the givers-of-cultural-value that the article on book prizes talks about: professors, critics, curators, etc. Books don’t have inherent (intrinsic?) value except as paper. Walking into grocery store this morning, I saw a newspaper and was drawn to it, to examine it, like it was a fascinating object, but it is just a paper with symbols. (This idea’s an example, an instance, of an idea echoing and rolling through my mind. Laundry was nice to do this afternoon because it was not mental.) [Page 127-131, 30 March 2006]

Tone—how people read poems, you can tell when they’re ending. [Page 85, 23 March 2006]

The experience of learning to write each poem: writing a poem is learning (attentively, recursively, inductively—you’re not telling the poem how to be, you’re learning what it is, trial and error) how to write that poem. You’re sorta passive—involved, attentive, but you’re not controlling the process, the experience. (This isn’t entirely my idea; I read someone else say that each book teaches its writer how to write it.) And it’s about the process, the learning—that’s the value, not in the poetry commodity. I wouldn’t have said this last year. Last year I would’ve been afraid to tinker with first drafts—but that’s missing the point of the experience. I think that I thought, until recently, that I wanted to have this Ability to Write Poetry—this talent, like Superman has flying ability, to whip out poems with a flick of the wrist. No: I now conceive of writing poetry as learning to write poetry, entering the creative experience, entering creative mindspace and playing. And somehow that makes it easier than thinking of writing poetry as an Ability, a thing either you have or don’t have. Being willing to engage the poem. And the other thing: being done all the time. Moving in wholeness. Not thinking I have to get the poem to some perfect level. [Page 47-57, 21 March 2006, 5 p.m.-ish]

It’s boring to see kids’ journals filled with same word over and over. There’s no surprise, no change, not even a possibility for meaning there. It’s boring to look at. Little value in looking back at those pages. Even dull pages that say things like “I’m bored today, did that yesterday” have at least some interest for me as a reader. [Page 69, 22 March 2006]

5:33 How our first reaction to city is how different the people look (from people in the small town where I live)—handsome and trim and well-dressed and having real jobs. They look like the people on TV! (M said she had that reaction on a prior visit to Chicago; I had it this time.) [Page 155, 30 March 2006, I think]

‘Don’t be so self-conscious as to write about it!’: April notes from pocket pages

“Paid actor endorsements for products. Individuals in the spot are fictitious.” Photo’d from TV 20 April.

Ω

What am I supposed to believe about/from a piece of fiction? [1 April 2019]

Ω

Most businesses are, or potentially are, so ephemeral. Even big companies need to keep making sufficient money consistently to survive. It’s remarkable that banks are willing to lend to these ephemeral entities. But banks lend to people, too, and surely people are ephemeral. A business must be tended more-or-less every day, like pets, to stay alive. [4 April]

Ω

In creating a text, writers are offering a reading experience to others. What would be the full range of reading experiences? [4 April]

Ω

Cat on chest, dog in hand. 2 April.

Ω

The moment of me looking at the textured black plastic of my open car door this morning, a glimpse that I had, a moment of being conscious and seeing some real object — and it’s not that I want so share this experience — or do I? Maybe I just want to record this conscious experience, this experience of an familiar object. [5 April.] Or: what is obvious here and now (at present) is merely an idea through writing. [6 April. ]

Ω

That disconnect of seeing and reading about local buildings in a book yesterday, and then I could go see the buildings today — I had some of this feeling about Monroeville, too. There’s an excitement in (or created by?) the reading? The dissonance in “here IS what I read, imagined.” [5 April]

Ω

Bored dog waiting for me to write outside the local library. 7 April.

6:25 p.m., at the same benches on the east side of my local library where dog and I were a couple-three (or four?) weeks ago. Here I am. I did moments ago remember a thought that came during this morning’s journals but which I don’t think I wrote: that reading, in its ability to pull attention (and thus, minds) away from the here-and-now is kinda magical — or at least it’s a kind of power that reading (or words, basically) has (have). Maybe this goes to the core of abstraction or thinking or imagining — that is, having a mind helps people learn from past experiences and prepare for future ones, and so thinking can be used to help us, but being too immersed in thinking (in mediated experiences) isn’t necessarily good. Thinking is a tool capable of being used or abused, or both. Well, it’s a lot milder than my last time sitting here while the dog wanted to keep going. And, well, I am at this spot again as I write. I’m at a place on the earth that’s not my dining room table (where most of my journals get written, even if I don’t state that fact every day). I suppose readers would have to take my word that I’m here. I could describe the bird song and traffic noise and the leaves rattling as they slide on pock-marked concrete. [7 April]

Ω

If there’s no overall theme (organizing idea) in a publication, then one’s attention is on the publication itself — a magazine or the Today show or my blog (who’s only organizing principle is me). [8 April]

Ω

The library’s tree. 7 April

Ω

Where my attention settles as I drive. I look from place to place, I notice various things — yet I still attend to driving. This process of what I notice seems somewhat opaque to me.  [8, 21 April]

Ω

George R.R. Martin’s fans don’t care about him except for his writing of novels. I think I’d like to have readers who would care about me as a person, and not just as a supplier of story-product. [8, 21 April]

Ω

Spiders write poems at local video store. 7 April

Ω

A property — not land itself, but a piece of land as a property — is just an idea, and a deed is just an idea — but so too is history just an idea. These suit each other. History is made from ideas, not from land or other objects themselves. [9, 21 April]

Ω

I wrote a while (years) ago that I’d want to get a Ph.D. in now — not in the idea of now, just in now. But this has got to be metaphorical — Ph.D.s aren’t given for being. There’s nothing, really, to report — or is there? There’s no need to report from awareness. And there’s freedom from ideas in the present moment. (Like the Emerson quote about out not needing to bring rags into the new hour — but quoting Emerson does precisely what he says not to do, of course). [9 April]

Ω

I knew I was close to school but it was hard to know how close when fog blocks landmarks. 8 April

Ω

Writings are at best a way to instruct myself (or others) at other times to be mindful — or IS there a way to read mindfully? [9 April]

Ω

Perhaps it’s my decision to judge my own situation at a particular time as being as happy as a story? My cat’s partly on my lap, partly on the table. His head’s ahead of me. It can be that. I just eat my cashews and raisins and I pet cat’s head and choose to do nothing more. But don’t be so self-conscious as to write about it! The cat shares his consciousness (he yawns and snaps jaws shut, then does left-ear grooming) with me. And now he’s down. I was (and am again) reading on my phone a New Yorker piece about Nelson Algren — mere ideas. [10 April]

Ω

My arguments today with a student about the merits of To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d like to be seen not just as someone who has thought-out views or a strong point of view, but as someone who’s analytical method/approach can be followed. I don’t want to scare students off — I’d like (hope) they find something in my model worth following or trying themselves. Of course, I may never know if I’m a model for anyone else — I don’t know that I told my mentors that they were models to me. Maybe I did tell a couple of them — yet, what is it worth to tell them this? [10 April]

Ω

Inches of April snow. 15 April

Ω

What I write (even journals), others can probably read. If I can write it, others can read it. Even if I wrote in a code, it’d be decipherable. I mean, I’d really have to work hard to write in a way that wasn’t readable. (This in light of my mom’s point that diarists wouldn’t write if they didn’t want their words read.) [10 April]

Ω

My wife said that the reason why romance stories often have love in extreme circumstances (between two unlikely lovers, say) is to convey a sense to readers of how their own love-story seemed unusual and unlikely — though of course it can’t be all that unusual, since people in real life fall in love quite often. [10 April]

Ω

My wife said that when neighborhood kids gathered in our backyard one day last week, they all watched our dog turn away from them and poop. One kid said, “It’s really big!” about the dog’s butthole-dilation or the turd circumference or both. [11 April]

Ω

Nonfiction is creative, I told my writing students, in that the writer chooses what to write and how to write it. [11 April]

Ω

My work gets done just by me going to work everyday. I don’t gotta obsess over getting done. [11 April]

Ω

Half my face and a wall of deed books at the county recorder’s office. 17 April

Ω

Lot lines create properties AND places — a field or pasture isn’t a spot until there’s something to mark it. [11 April]

Ω

This afternoon I wondered if I had anything more I wanted to write before the calendar day was over — like meeting a paperwork deadline. But I don’t usually think that way — dates on each note are more like “New Message” signs than time capsules (though maybe they’re both). [11 April]

Ω

What’s the large number of times I’ve unbuttoned and unzipped my pants (to dress, to pee, etc.) — a few times a day for thousands of days! After calculating, I realize I’ve been alive almost 16,500 days! And if I unbutton 5 times a day, that’s over 82,000 unbuttonings. Of course, some of those days I wore shorts. [12 April]

Ω

Reading Rochelle City Council minutes from 1874 for a research project I’m doing with some of my high school writing students, I thought about how detailed these are, how they don’t tell a great narrative but in their particularity of dollar amounts and votes and actions taken, they seem to make their time seem not all that distant — at least, as compared to how distant seem the 1870s settings described by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her Little House books. But then, she was writing about the 1870s decades later, and writing through her memory and nostalgia made those times seem distant. But the 1870s were modern for some people — and it was not really so different being then from being alive now. A person’s basic consciousness surely hasn’t changed that much. But there are several popular autobiographical fictions — including those of Nelle Harper Lee  and Jack Kerouac — that were written years or decades after the events described therein. I’m suggesting a distinction between writings done soon after the events occurred (like city council and other official records, but also journal-writings) and those stories written years later — that maybe there’s something about telling stories years later that makes them easier to tell, that the writer’s mind has a chance to shape the story just through remembering and retelling the events — and this years-later writing perhaps lays a sense of clarity of meaning over events that soon-after writing doesn’t have. However, these told-years-later stories take on a sense of the mythic, the better-than-real-life, while soon-after writing feels more authentic to how life is lived. I feel like it’s taken me years to stop trying to find that mythic-story sense in my daily-lived life. [16, 18, 21 April]

Ω

I’m not special to my journals. I’m necessential (necessary and essential), for without me, there’d be no journals getting written. But there’s a difference in being special to one’s family and seeming special to one’s fans. My family needs me for financial and emotional support in a way that my fans (should they exist) never will. In their need, my family and friends appreciate me, but don’t see my mind as quasi-magical (an attitude I may have adopted towards certain artists I’ve admired). My consciousness, my experience, aren’t special to others — except that others can read about these. People who don’t write their experiences remain unspecial because they remain unknown. [17 April]

Ω

As I grew up, I first became conscious, and then as I developed my consciousness (through experience, education, etc.), I became aware of others and of the world. I formed models of and opinions of others and of things in the world. In later years, my development seems to have been in becoming more conscious of my own consciousness, of my own ways of thinking. I think this is where I can still learn: questioning why and how I have the models and opinions that I have [17 April]

Ω

Forsythia blooms, 19 April.