Category Archives: From the pocket pages

Freeing myself from having to know: March notes

Corn crib that had been more vertical just a few days before this picture was taken on 10 March 2022.

View east along Holcomb Road of flipped corn crib, 10 March.

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My mind as I paid bills this morning — why was it accurate (even when my brain’s tired and stressed)? I make mistakes sometimes, sure, but the general accuracy is impressive and mysterious. [1 March 2022]

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The (or “a”) story of one’s own life (or of any nonfiction…?) can be told in any way! … I could tell my life-story in many different ways. I could just tell random moments, say (I could pick out only “key” life moments or events, but who’s to say what moments are most important?). My judgments of what matters are not unimportant, but they’re also not necessary. Over lunch, I read at LitHub a piece about Marcel Duchamp where it says he moved to Munich: “He spoke no German, and all he said about his stay was that ‘Munich had a lot of style in those days. I never met a soul and had a great time.’” And I was struck by how easily one can joke around and seem glib and dismissive by summarizing a whole period of time, ignoring the particulars of one’s experiences. I’m not interested in being glib. I’m not seeking cleverness. I want not to write every moment of my living down, but when I do write, I want to be honest (though still there is some shaping to stories, to what I say, almost unconsciously). And I wrote during 4-5 period journals today that my journal writings are mostly written in real time. And the “10 Best Structured Movies” video I showed twice recently suggests that chronological stories are causal stories — and I don’t need causes! (No need to make causes prominent — just show random moments! It’s the implication that “this moment is meaningful because I included it here” that makes things seem too precious.) [2 March 2022]

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Lovers become family. Not all lovers, of course, but I’m pointing out that a new couple, a first-years couple, has the love and the lust, but once we’ve been married for several years, M is more my family than just a lover. It’s a relationship more about relying on a person rather than merely fancying that person. [2-3 March]

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Random is not equal to arbitrary. It’s arbitrary (motivated by feelings, customs, conventions, etc.) for me to choose moments of my experience to share as a life story. Randomly chosen moments aren’t deliberately chosen — but are legitimately not human-influenced. [4 March]

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Freeing myself from having to know, to be right, or be wise or be entertaining! Feeling freed by this idea of using continuous writings, not needing to make points. … Blue sky, bare tree limb — I saw these things on north side of Holcomb Road as I realized I felt free. [4 March]

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Sitting outside Byron library for just a few minutes this morning, I thought how little human interpretations matter to nature (to the physical world). [5 March, 9 a.m.-ish]

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If you live long enough, you’ll see some sh*t. Being alive overwhelms some (and it overwhelms me — my situation does at times). [11 March]

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A decades-long career is made of moments — like the body of my writings is made of daily writing moments. … The remembered moments are too many of think of as a sum. [14-15 March]

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Writing from within my life about my life (as I understand it) — novelists make idyllic (simple) worlds and they seem to do it from outside of their own lives. [17 March 2022]

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I have ideas and publish them. I’m not sure what I or others are supposed to do (if anything) with them. [17 March]

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Could I write without making “of course” (obvious) statements? Of course, “obvious” statements might not always be obvious to every reader. [18 March]

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Rain patterns on cooling towers, Byron nuclear reactor, view from northeast on 18 March 2022

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Of course there’s no meaning in seeing things I drive past. Meaning comes from my mind. [29 March]

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Readers may not always want to face my writings — they aren’t escapist, aren’t easy. My writings (I’m thinking here of my blog posts of random journal bits) are open, are loose, are not hard-edged, are not bounded clearly. They’re clouds. [29 March]

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Feelings are sharp at first feeling them, even if later you can get distance, so don’t poo-poo the feelings. And when I feel well, I can relax. Feeling bad, I feel an urge to ease the bad feelings, so it seems harder to relax when I’m already depressed. (I feel better now than I did 20 minutes ago). [30 March]

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Male and female cardinals in my backyard, 27 March 2022.

Cardinals kissing blurrily. 27 March.

Witnessing the male-cardinal gaze. 27 March 2022.

This, too, can be sacred: Feb. 2022 notes

There’s something deeply satisfying in my letting go of thinking that I’m publishing writing for others (where I get disappointed if there’s not a big reaction), and, instead, I am starting to appreciate my blog as a reader, too (especially the older stuff I’d kinda forgotten making).  People who write for others (at websites, say) are paid to (in part) follow, work within, those familiar forms — so as to please, ease readers. But I’m doing my own style and I appreciate reading my writings and I am satisfied by writing these — the whole project is valuable to me! This is the overlap I mentioned! (in note dated 31 Jan. in previous notes post). [1 Feb. 2022]

The outdoors seldom demands much of me. There’s rain, cold, sure, and my body’s hunger, sure — but mostly it’s relaxing to go outside. [1 Feb.]

How fun my mind is (usually!). I like most (not all, but most) of my thoughts, observations, jokes. I just don’t need to tell others — that’s about my ego. I can just watch my own mind for, well, entertainment! (a deeper kind of watching?) I’ve had a thought like this one before — but I don’t think I was as pleased by this thought then as I am today. I’m not feeling needy (now!). I’m self-satisfied and self-sufficient!

[later the same morning] I’m not always an agent, one who acts, but I’m an experiencer — watching as a big part of being alive. Keep experiencing. [1 Feb.]

I make writings that interest me, for various reasons : recording, amusing, palate-cleansing, etc. [1 Feb.]

My Exquisite Corpse statements are not palate-cleansers but mind-treats! I have said for weeks, months, that I like those surprising statements for clearing my mind, my usual thinking patterns. Today, though, they seem like a treat to my mind, an entertainment! [1&2 Feb.]

We take in others’ ideas to forget ourselves. But what if it’s my own work from before — it’s new and not-new to me? [1 Feb.]

Intersection of Chana Road and Brick Road, Pine Rock Township, Ogle Co., Illinois, 13 Feb. 2022.

I’m not always able to watch/observe my mind’s voice, right? Say, if I’m feeling strongly or if I’m interacting with others (yes/no?)? And it’s not really me watching a tree, say, it’s me watching me watch tree? (Sounds Sartrean, with his self-awareness component to each bit of consciousness — I’m not saying he’s wrong — I’m also not saying I agree). The point of being alive is to watch my mind (?). [1 Feb.]

But why should others entertain me? (They do it — or offer to — for money.) “Entertain yourself,” adults tell bored kids. [1 Feb.]

RE: Watching my mind: Of course I’ve learned from others — allusions as memories of that. But also, repetitions (as songs on FM radio) and dumb messages (as from ads) — I’m tired of seeing common ideas (the limited range of ideas one usually hears) in common forms. [2 Feb.]

Driving, showering, dog-walking: These are partially engaging actions. My mind is not deeply engaged when doing these things. [2 Feb.]

I noticed yesterday that my Byfest posts contained moments (or descriptions of moments) of things I found silly, weird, and also, dumb. I used to think I was cynical (and I don’t want to always be looking for dumb things everywhere). But maybe there’s more to this: I expect things to be smarter or more aesthetically interesting than they often are? Maybe? But it’s not just disappointment that I note. I also note absurdities, like frog seeming to float over police department. I also seem to just write observations when I’m, say, writing at home or at a cafe. [2 Feb.]

I heard a DJ on an FM radio channel say, “There is such a thing as a time machine, and it’s not a DeLorean” — it’s repeats of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown, DJ said. But then my journals are time-machines, too — they’re written at a point in time, showing the image of my mind at the time of the writing. [2 Feb.]

Looking north from Brick Road. 13 Feb. 2022.

I looked at leaves shaking in snow and thought how essays (like that E.B. White one about cabin) are artworks, are not trying to represent reality, are polished as artworks. There wouldn’t need to be a polished moment in lived experience — as if there were any polished moments in lived experience!

“My groin felt the chill of death” from “Once More to the Lake” essay — that’s the line that surprised me when I read it. Now, after seeing comments online about how essay compares E.B. White’s childhood to his son’s, I see the tidiness of conclusion — it’s tidy and not real, by which I don’t mean that E.B. White didn’t feel it. But in the essay, it’s too damned tidy, as if he wrote essay in his mind during this trip to the lake — which would be distracted, inauthentic, living. [3 Feb., 11:09 a.m., 5th hour]

Essays aren’t where writers work out their ideas — freewrites might be. I feel shock and joy at realizing a deeper truth — and the insufficiency, or, the false artifice, of a common definition or belief. Artifice in essays is false, but it’s also overly familiar (to me). I go artless (in my journals) to find new ideas. [4 Feb.]

Cat got so close to my face as I lay on couch last night that he looked like he had one eye — cyclops cat! [9 Feb.]

There’s the event (the Super Bowl, say), and the publication of stories and opinion articles about the event (a column about the Super Bowl) is another event. [14 Feb.]

I don’t write much about my time spent sleeping. [14 Feb.]

Sunset along Limerick Road, Ogle County, Illinois. 18 Feb. 2022

Photos don’t convey a consciousness (not like writing does). I look at the sun rising today — If I took a picture of it, viewers of that pic wouldn’t know that I feel different about it on different days. It annoys me today — I can’t appreciate it when I’m tired and stressed. [15 Feb. a.m.]

Traveling to see things is passive — I don’t have to go anywhere in order to have engaged, active experience. [18, 19 Feb.]

I’ve been seeing tree glints this morning as I drive east. Frozen water drips off tree, lots of mini-icicles. [23 Feb.]

This, too, can be sacred. It’s so easy to think that Midwest locations are on flat, farmable (useable) land so that no spot seems sacred. So it seems a bit of a revelation to realize, yes, that the Midwest too (not just the shore or the mountains or deserts) can have sacred spots. [28 Feb. 2022]

A liminal space: December 2021 notes

¶ A story is a pre-chewed idea. Do your own chewing! (1 Dec. 2021)

Sunset with traffic control. (3 Dec.)

¶ 4:40 p.m., Paynes Point: Seeing sunset colors change reminds me of paint colors changing when I mix them. They got purpley, the sky and my paints. (3 Dec.)

¶ There won’t be answers (not likely) in my pocket pages [these note-taking writings]. Why would there be? Answers to my big questions in life come from me at the time, in the moment(s). So how to describe what’s there in the pocket pages: just ideas, descriptions, that came while I lived. It’s particulars. (6 Dec.)

Some foodstuffs are pluralizeable and some are not. (8 Dec. 2021)

¶ The fir branch in my car versus the story about having the branch. The story is more interesting than the stick? Any artifact is glorified by the story about it? (8 Dec.)

¶ A bias in consciousness — a consciousness seeks simplicity and forgets particulars and the broad view? And it’s easy for a consciousness, for a mind, to be confident in its choices though its info be limited. (This is a good thing to remind myself so I stay humble!) (8 Dec.)

Out of context, my handwriting on classroom’s whiteboard. (21 Dec.)

¶ My aesthetic is both minimalist and maximalist at different times? Pictures of snow, simple shapes — but also pics of weeds, dense images — in my drawings, and in my writings, too? (8 Dec.)

¶ That my flesh is animate today, that itself is special, even if it’s easy to take for granted. (well, yeah, I take my existence for granted — else I wouldn’t be thinking!) (10 Dec. 2021)

Justice Cat says “nope” sometimes when he sleeps. (21 Dec.)

¶ A liminal space between experience and conventional expressions of that experience (conventional forms and ideas). I’m interested in this liminal place. I’m interested in writing things that explore this place, that aren’t securely in the convention. (10 Dec.)

¶ A student wrote in his journal that it’s neat to see ideas in his head show up on paper. I commented that I still feel that writing process is a little bit magical, too. (10 Dec.)

A surprise alien head in a local boutique. (23 Dec.)

¶ A thought today: that novelists of the 20th Century were famous because being famous helped them sell their books. Fame was instrumental in that way — maybe fame was not the purpose nor byproduct of publishing, but a sales tool! (13 Dec.)

¶ Meta-writing isn’t about any topic — it’s about the act of writing, about being alive, being conscious (sorta — it’s not about anything because I shift topics so often). Meta-writing is what comes to my mind, not what I think would interest other minds. (17 Dec.)

Sam dog curled up on our dec. (We would have let him in whenever he wanted it!) 30 Dec.

¶ The landscape is calm, there are decorations for Xmas. But I have work to do. I remind myself that my consciousness is separate from my environment. (20 Dec.)

¶ I realized that I was imagining the driver of the truck tailgating me — when of course I don’t know at all who he is!! (21 Dec.)

¶ There’s a lottery to give away money — but not one that gives power. (Say, like a lottery to allow a random person to be a governor, or a CEO.) Rich people are still docile? (27 Dec.)

This rose to my consciousness: Notes from October & November

§ Maybe it’s hard to talk about the present moment and about existence because, well, language was mostly needed for talking about distant (in time and/or space) things, not things we (the speakers of language) could see around us or things all speakers and listeners had (for example, existence). [6 October 2021]

Backlit, green-tipped maple leaf. 13 Nov.

§ Art: How will this mind, my mind, transform the data, the image — the fall colors of foliage along train tracks, say? [6 Oct.]

§ Questioning my own life-story. [6 Oct.]

Ogle County rainbow ends on grain elevator. 8 Oct.

§ I’ve seen only 45 rainbows in my life? I think I see about one a year — how few that is. [8 Oct.]

§ I am living a writer’s life! I’m piling up the texts, scrambling to work. Kinda funny that I have an image of “a writer’s life” — it’s not necessary to have such an image. But it made me happy to think that I’m OK, on track, even. [13 Oct.]

Sammy Dog, getting chest scratches. 2 Nov.

§ “Like I’m the assh*le?” I said after someone pulled out in front of me and I got really close to this car. Well, yeah, I was being an as*hole by tailgating. [13 Oct.]

§ Blogging last night, from 6 Feb. 1997, I was reminded that there have always been times (since I’ve been an adult) that I’ve felt I’m trudging through my workdays. Would I, once retired, feel that way? [15 Oct.]

§ A literature of particulars — not general statements about beauty or loyalty, no talk about paradise (as I saw on a poem book’s spine). [19 Oct.]

§ My writings show process of having new ideas — still, it’s easy to not notice the moment a new idea comes to mind (or to text). [19 Oct.]

There’s a fine line between evidence and B.S. 9 Nov.

§ I want to show process. I want to show not story or theory, but living, in my writings (probably not the first time I’ve said this). Daily drama, daily deadlines matter — they’re part of the texture of being alive. To be alive is to try to understand, to wrestle with ideas, as I do in my journal. The struggles and weirdnesses of daily living — these are glorious! Let’s revel in them! It’s not like living is dull outside of big events (the ones that usually make the stuff of fiction & nonfiction). Real people are weirder than characters! [20 Oct.]

§ So I talked for 10-plus minutes in Creative Writing 1 last hour in an attempt to describe why I think journal-writings are interesting. I’m not sure I did much more than stun the students with a lot of words — ah, well. Maybe it’s too far from their experience, or maybe it’ll make sense to them later. I start to feel ashamed that I struggled to communicate — but that’s OK, too. I shared my thinking. [20 Oct.]

A leaf and its rubbings. 31 Oct.

§ On my commute to school, I heard a weird sound. Got out, got a stick out from under the car. But this rose to my consciousness. I slowed for STOP sign on Church Road at Rte. 64. I don’t know when the sound started, only when I noticed it, when it rose to my consciousness. That’s comforting, to realize I’m not really in charge. It’s reassuring to think: duh, of course I don’t know all that’s going on, but I only know what comes to my awareness! I can’t be in control of everything, especially if I’m not aware, if I’m only becoming aware of what my brain selects for my consciousness to notice! [25 Oct.]

§ I’ve thought of reading or being told a story (being an audience member) as a kind of leisure, entertainment. But maybe storytellers, performers, also need to focus, too, and that focus is a respite from reality the same way get getting absorbed in a story is also a respite from reality (mental respite, escapist). [25, 31 Oct.]

§ 4th hour: It was nice to work 3rd hour (prep) while I heard rattly wind outside through open window. It was calming enough, sweet enough, to even make doing work OK. [29 Oct.]

A different kind of leaf-rubbing, in a city street. 13 Nov.

§ I wish more teachers would talk about beauty, joy, in ideas. Yes, I know beauty’s in eye of beholder. But beauty — or trying to make beautiful things — motivates us , gives reason and and urge to learn the skills teachers tend to dwell on. [1 Nov. 2021]

§ I could adopt a bemused attitude about most of the things that I see (and used to feel bitter about). I think the point of being bemused at what others do, rather than being annoyed by it, is that when I’m bemused, I’m not as critical of others, not expecting them to act in a certain narrow way to meet my expectations. It’s better to let people do as they will (whether I think it’s folly or not) than take narrow, critical view of them. [2 Nov.]

§ One of my students said he feels walking into my class is like walking into a college lecture. He said this to a peer in my classroom. And, yeah, he doesn’t know what college classes are like, but he does know high school classes. Anyway, he’s a bright-enough kid to appreciate what I do, and it’s a great compliment, I think. I said something to him about how I want to challenge my students to think. (The funny thing about his comment is that I wasn’t trying to teach English 2 like a college class — I thought I was being simple!) [11 Nov.]

§ In the world, there are some people capable of caring for themselves, and some not-capable. And as long as I’m in the world and capable, I may need to help the incapable people. [12 Nov.]

§ Bobbing along on a sea of thoughts — living through my days that way. [12 Nov.]

My school’s Commons area, facing east toward main office, about 3:45 p.m., Friday, 5 Nov.

§ Thinking about how much I value my writings, I started to look at news sites, as I often do, and then I wondered why should I look at others’ articles (often about newsy things I don’t really care about) when I could look at my own cool posts! What media could be cooler than my media, especially because of the forms: daily journals and blogged random moments from those journals? It’s worth reading my blog, whereas if I made distinct articles or essays, these wouldn’t be as cool for me to read. But it makes sense — I like me! I like my own jokes! I interest and amuse me! Screw “social media”! Me-media! I can’t really be jealous — whose experience would I want rather than my own?! I’m not going to only ever look at me-made media. But it’s a good option to keep in mind when other media disappoint.  [17 Nov.]

§ Confronting the creative moment — a pretty good adventure, even in a school. [17 Nov.]

§ A satisfying unity of my writing, publishing, and my philosophy: Belief in moments as primary. [18 Nov.]

§ Value idea about how comics and so many other writers veer away from depth toward shallow relatability. (This reminds me of a note from 31 Oct.: I read a thing that said not all art needs to be frictionless, easy for audiences to understand.). [19 Nov.]

Gophers, I believe, were undermining my carrot crop. 11 Nov.

§ Realized that I don’t spend much time describing driving for as much as I do it. [22 Nov., a.m. commute to work]

§ Did a freewrite today (starting from a first line) and I just (simply) wrote stuff that amused me. I really didn’t fret trying to write a story — I just heard a dialogue between two speakers and it was jokey and that’s OK! Why struggle to met some external standard of storyness or poemosity?! Just write what interests or amuses you, do that only, and only that! (at that time of freewriting creation). (I liked writing this phrase — “do that only, and only that” — but it’s silly in this context. It’s better to have an open mind than stick to any idea!) [22 Nov.]

Road view, White Rock Road, just east of Stillman Valley, in Ogle County, Illinois. 11 Nov.

§ There’s value in just writing down and photographing everyday things (and not just for album covers!). [29 Nov. 2021]

Something almost alchemical there is: September notes

Double-crowned carrot grown in my garden. Smiling Sam dog behind. He was probably waiting for me to give him the carrot to crunch. 9 Sept.

‡  Paul McCartney & Wings songs — Wings songs feel good — it’s a cozy sound, or image, or both (sound-image?). Wings songs don’t feel deep, usually, but there’s something soothing, comforting there (“Uncle Albert,” I’m hearing now, the beginning slow part). And maybe part of what I mean is that I could dwell within Wings (or any other artists whose mood I like) songs rather than listing to news — or other artists I don’t like. … My random journal bits posted to blog have a cool mood, too — not quite the same feeling as Wings (I’m listening to “Let ‘Em In” now) but there’s something I like about the mood/feeling/mindset my pieces seem to have. My journals as bits of my mind packaged (in a good way), bits of experience. Perhaps my texts convey a mood that I don’t feel as I go through my days and that I don’t convey in person? [9 p.m.-ish] Something almost alchemical there is about how my words, my texts, seem not so special when I write them — but time lapsing (and seeing my words typed) makes them seem more interesting. Realizing at about 8:45 that I needed no more stories or songs or etc. tonight — so I’ll go to bed. [1 Sept. 2021]

‡  Fractional poems — 2/3rds of a poem — no cohesive whole! which is kinda saying it’s not a poem, if you believe cohesion is needed. [2 Sept. 2021]

‡  Humans can affect things — but only in the ways things can be affected. You can push a brick but you can’t make it cry. So a human pushing on a brick (or affecting the spin of an electron) isn’t so different from another thing in the environment doing that affect. [2 Sept.]

‡  “You know how that goes, ” I said to a teacher colleague, about how a class can fall behind — and, as a veteran teacher, she does know — so I don’t need to tell her. Say only new things! [33 August]

‡  Physical background is calming. Something about how the trees and sky are always there, no matter what’s going on with me, is calming — if I can let go of my stress ideas (like deadlines) for a bit. [2,5 Sept.]

‡  Most work is done for particulars. But media is made once for general audience. A dentist or doctor works on one patient at a time, construction guys work on one building, teachers work with a few students, cooks prepare this meal for particular people.

It’s media and showbiz people who aim not to amuse a particular few but a mass audience. (And makers of mass-market products are the same — but belts, cars, etc., these are practical, needed things, unlike media.) And maybe this is why media jobs are easy for newspaper companies (for example) to lay off.  [4,5 Sept.]

Lilacs blooming out of season. Ogle County. 4 Sept.

‡  Quick calculations as I washed my hands in bathroom and saw a couple light brownish spots on my face: how many days one is alive as one nears age 50. Just my commutes: 2/day times 180 days in a school year equals 360 commutes per year, for ten years equals 3,600, times 3 (for a teaching career of about 30 years) for 10,800 commuting trips in a career — and I can’t do more than 2/day. I can live only one day at a time (no parallel days, no getting 2 days of commutes done today).  [15 Sept.]

‡  I can’t argue with matter — such as the car pulling out ahead of me, slowing me down. Might as well accept it. (I wrote this, and then a couple minutes later, I drove around a car slowed down to turn right into a restaurant’s lot.) [15 Sept.]

‡  It is wonderful, when I stop and think about it, that I feel basically good and whole in my body and especially in my consciousness, in my mind, most days. I often feel good enough that I can forget about doing self-diagnostics (sorta) and actually go look for tasks to do or ideas to consider. I feel good enough at a foundational level to even want to (sometimes) experience problems — for the thrill, the excitement, the challenge — that’s (clearly) remarkable — that when I feel good (so good that I can forget about myself as a mind and as an organism and even as a being), I almost wish I’d feel worse! I can forget about my body and mind for a while (though eventually I’ll be reminded of body when I get hungry or have to pee) and think only (consciously, at least) about the topic or question on my mind. M, because of her illness, has less of this ability (or less of a chance) to forget herself. [16 Sept.]

‡  Maybe the irritations I feel in my 40s (and 30s, etc.) are a kind of practice for tolerating irritations when I’m older and can do less to change irritations. [17 Sept.]

‡  I find my mind in a foul mood today. I don’t think I get in foul moods like this over summer break. And, of course, I know this mood isn’t meaningful — I’d like to blame other things for this mood, I can’t — and I hope I’ll feel better in the next couple hours. [20 Sept. a.m.]

3:44 p.m. I didn’t know how to feel better — but now that I’m out of school, away from other people, I don’t have to feel better — I can sit with my ill-mood. How to describe it? Not wanting to do things, not wanting anything but to feel better … it’s weird to not feel joy in the things I usually feel joy. [20 Sept.]

‡  On earth, with trees and birds, no, I don’t matter. But, I have a mind, so I do matter! [21 Sept.]

Clouds in a seeming center-radial arrangement. Looking east, north of Rochelle, Ill. 22 Sept., about 7:45 a.m.

Close-up view of some of what looked like brushed-on clouds radiating from a central point. 22 Sept., looking east on Bethel Road, about 7:40 a.m.

‡  When I’m feeling depressed, my identity doesn’t seem to cheer me up — it seems too static, to obvious, too merely there, to be meaningful. [22 Sept.]

‡  Don’t sell — just give — my writings. There’s something a little desperate in Jack Kerouac writing and selling things just for the money. [23 Sept.]

‡  I feel today like I’d like to think about only what’s in front of me to do right now (and not think about later, even a couple hours from now. Existence is what’s now, even as I imagine earlier and later. I’d like to be a character in Father Brown, if those characters realized that they could appreciate things as they were/are. [23 Sept.]

‡  I just remembered that Charlie Lindy isn’t around — he’s not in the world — to go eat fish at Newman Hall. That memory can’t be existing now. [23 Sept.]

‡  Big Accomplishers — Chris Columbus, Jeff Bezos — all the petty stuff they do everyday that gets elided from their biographies — and from how they conceive of themselves, too, maybe? [23 Sept.]

‡  Once I’ve seen elderly incapacity, how can I not think of it coming for me (maybe)? My colleagues don’t seem to see this — though, no doubt, some do. Once you’re diminished (by accident or stroke or dementia), your world, your realm, physically and mentally, shrinks. And I can admit, I fear this some. [23 Sept.]

‡  Living with less media is one way of living a bit more like living in an image (in a good way). The things I hear in news make me less likely to have my attention on my surroundings, on my being alive. [24 Sept.]

‡  Think about the ever-present my material body lives in — versus my time-jumping mind. [24 Sept.]

‡  At some level, we are, or ought to be, aware that our bodies die when they will, without any meaning, without our lives having really meant any meaning. Bodies don’t mean. Only ideas mean. [24 Sept.]

‡  Recognizing that I’m a passenger in my body. I am my body, sorta, but my mind exists only as well as (or worse than) the body does. This is not to endorse dualism, but it’s weird that I often feel “I” am distinct from my body, that “I” applies only to my thoughts and feelings and awareness. [27 Sept.]

‡  My dog walk yesterday as entertainment — no money needed! Radio ads, local NPR fundraising — these are paying for the entertainment via radio. Pop songs are the kind of things that one has to pay for (or not, of course) — but why would I pay for pop songs? … I don’t mean this as self-righteous or preachy. I just hadn’t thought so explicitly before about how singers who make albums want to sell their sounds — that getting rich is part of the dream of fame — but it doesn’t need to be. … Maybe musicians do want the affirmation that wealth brings. But I pictured today as I drove … Prince (or, well, any other pop musician) in a studio, hoping to get people to buy their sounds. Of course, maybe artists in studio don’t think about how listeners will hear their music — but how could they not, really? They’re making music to sell! I’m just thinking more bluntly about people who make art to sell. And I’m feeling confidently free of that impulse. I’m glad I have ideas and texts to share — and I know a text doesn’t have to sell. … There’s a joyous freedom in my writing and blogging and it feels wonderful — wonderfully pointing out a system different from the one that exists now. … There’s a spiritual aspect to this — that I’m focused on, I’m seeking, well, what’s real and how to live!  [27 Sept.]

‡  Money’s magical — it can be turned into food, buildings — it’s abstract and it only works on people (not on dogs, say). The more money you have, the more you can cause to happen (though still there are things beyond your control). I feel like being less ambitious, letting go of control, being passive — like an object is. [28 Sept.]

‡  I’m in a different mind when I’m working? This might be why it’s hard to imagine and describe one mind (work mind, say) when I’m in leisure mind. [28 Sept., 3 Oct.]

‡  “Now — well, it was now, when I wrote ‘now’.” Not a quote, but a bit of imagined dialogue about how the current moment escapes word-labeling (sorta). [29 Sept.]

‡  My body is an — is the — object I gotta move over 24 miles of roads each day to get to work — over each foot, each inch, of 24 miles. [29 Sept.]

‡  I’ve never before had a brain (and/or mind?) with this much experience! [30 Sept. 2021]

Cleave these completed poems! August 2021 notes

A bee’s under-milkweed respite from rare rainfall (we’re inches below normal this summer). 21 Aug.

† I could look in tree bark or other textures for quasi-letter shapes, words, sentences — yes, it’s interpretive, but kind of a cool random-writing/interpretive idea, not so different from Poetry Bingo [an activity in my creative writing class] or from that stone that was interpreted as having runes but it was decided they were glaciation marks — a human’s judgment. [4 Aug. 2021]

Blueberries in cereal milk. 2 Aug.

‡ Story, telling stories: One, a story describes distant actions. To tell a story on paper and to read a story someone else wrote, both writer and reader are distant from the experiences described in the story. Two, how one tells the story, constructs it from one’s perspective (but carefully, being fair to others there who may hear it). I’m more aware than ever … that a story is an argument from one that one’s experience and one’s reaction to it are justified — “I was justified in getting mad because” of the story I tell. [6 Aug.]

Resurrection lily up close. 10 Aug.

† “Have you heard the story about” X event, we say, or we say, “have you heard about” X event. It’s interesting that we refer to stories about events rather than events themselves. But, of course, if I’m not present at the event, I do know only the story (and not the event itself) and illustrative pics & videos. [10 Aug.]

“The bronze ink of underworld waterfalls” grabbed my attention when I found these last-used-years-ago transparencies in my classroom. I think my students and I had been writing a poem together here. 13 Aug.

† Arts reports in news programs give more attention to what’s already getting attention. [16 Aug.]

Ogle County life: crayfish on Weld Park soil. 15 Aug.

‡ My journal bits aren’t parables. But there is an implication of … of what, exactly? Of recording, writing? Of any moment being interesting? [18 Aug.]

Justice Cat recuperating at home after an illness. 7 Aug. 2021

† “Pull up your sock, Justice!” I keep telling my cat. His shaved band on his right front leg looks like he’s got a sock drooping down. [19 Aug.]

‡ Anything and everything people do for money is foolish (at some level) in the sense that it’s not authentically you. It’s a game of meeting others’ expectations. [20 Aug. 2021]

† Consistency in intellectual positions is a value, but there’s no need for consistency (it’s not a value or standard) in living a life! I can change my opinions, have contradicting or differing ideas on different days of my journals — and that’s OK! Maybe intellectual argument positions should be consistent, but a living person’s views don’t have to be! [20 Aug. ]

A prairie plant in my stepdad’s plantings. 20 Aug.

‡ There’s no need for me to get my writing into competition for publication, attention. I heard my local NPR station’s promos for people to send in poems to be read online or to send in back-to-school “perspectives” (90-second essays). But I have no need to submit my writings for comparison to others’ writings! My writings are my own! I feel no (or very little) need to compare my writings to others’, to compete with others’ — my writings are mine, are from my life — that’s all. No other standards matter! [20 Aug.]

† At lunch today, I read in article at LitHub the line: “One of the traits most commonly associated with people on the spectrum is an inability to lie” — and I laughed: That’s me! And I’ve suspected my spectrum-place. [25 Aug.]

‡ Writers must model other minds, to see if what we’re thinking and saying would be explicable to (and interesting to, and persuasive to?) other minds. [25 Aug.]

† Of course I didn’t have lots of girlfriends — I wasn’t typical! I was seeking deep connection. The existence of atypicals undermines the necessity of the normals’ norms — the normals’ choices, too, are arbitrary, and the atypicals reveal that (by contrast)! [26 Aug.]

A view of my summer morning commute — contrast to winter ones posted earlier. This is facing south on Church Road, south of Route 64. 26 Aug. 2021.

‡ Residing in realm of “we don’t know” (vs. “we know”). Knowing ideas is not knowing the world. Characterizing is inadequate. I could spend more time not-knowing (meditating)? But, I’m giving up certainty. Sometimes I assert things but I also question — and by writing, I empty my mind to paper. A goal of being wise as knowing nothing (not being misled by flawed ideas)? Related points: my wait-and-see attitude toward [a family situation]? And the arrogance of selling “solutions,” as some companies sell themselves as doing. [27 Aug.]

† No branding is needed for my journals. There’s no need to stand out by a simple brand. Like a fingerprint, people’s journals have so many differences from each other. And showing off, showing one’s credentials, is not needed for intimacy. You like my voice or no. [27 Aug.]

‡ No one lives in historical time, the time-mood in which people look back  at the past. Even people 100s or 1000s of years ago live in present-to-them time, as we do now. [30 Aug.]

Cloudbreak over student parking lot, from my supervision post. 23 Aug.

† Poems unfinished — poems like my drawings left to viewers to interpret. Viewers can find a recognizable thing in one part (not a whole-image portrait). Creative readings of published poems — cleave these completed poems to make them more interesting for me to read. Read just the first halves of lines to free my mind from too-familiar patterns. Pushing back against obnoxious control of the author over their published poem — as if the writer’s mind could be better than randomness or better than silence. Let texts be as wild and unexpected as experiences! I could rewrite each new issue of American Poetry Review as it arrives! Why should I read text in the way the author wants me to? Why not read every other world or paragraph or …? (Yes, I’ve said “read creatively” before, but it seems more profound, more freeing, today!) Freeing the mind from having to “get” the single pattern of a text. The power of short sentences in my creative readings, in my McKuen erasures. [30 Aug.]

‡ I like creative reading because I’ve read too many stories. I’ve heard the same songs on radio, and the same kinds of songs, too often. So I mess with them. I may not always have the mental energy needed to play with texts (creative reading) but I am pretty sick of existing ideas — play isn’t too tiring. [31 Aug.]

† What happens to Matt (to me), I thought as I walked hallway to get to photocopier, might just not matter that much. What I think of it is the interesting-to-others (possibly) part. Whether Matt lives to 48 or 88, whether he publishes or not, gets cancer or not — these aren’t so interesting as events. So maybe I shouldn’t (and maybe I already don’t) write about experiences as all that interesting — except as parts of the world that passed through my mind. [31 Aug. 2021]

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]