Category Archives: From the pocket pages

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

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]

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

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Cat on chest, dog in hand. 2 April.

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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. ]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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The library’s tree. 7 April

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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]

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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]

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Spiders write poems at local video store. 7 April

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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]

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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]

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

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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]

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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]

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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]

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Inches of April snow. 15 April

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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]

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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]

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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]

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

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

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

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

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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Forsythia blooms, 19 April.

‘Look at these things that are where they are’: January pocket pages

Snow drift as a moon rise. 20 Jan.

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Everything lasts just a moment — specifically, here, I mean the laughs after a joke, the cry after a drama scene, the blown-mind after hearing a new idea. These all last only briefly. After that moment, I might remember that an artwork is good without feeling that first-moment reaction. 6 Jan. 2019.

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“I’m bad at walking, buddy,” I told my dog, Sam, when I slipped on the hardwood floor near our blue couch and he, on the couch, looked up as startled. 6 Jan.

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Lights around a city-owned treetrunk. 2 Jan.

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If “I don’t care” means almost the same as “I don’t mind,” then “care” would be a synonym for “mind” — caring is akin to paying attention? (In the movie “Lady Bird,” a character says that paying attention is the same as loving something.) 7 Jan.

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As of this January 2019, I have outlived Thoreau,who died at age 44. Fitzgerald was 44, also. I learned this weekend that I’ve also outlived Kierkegaard, who died at 42. George Gershwin didn’t make it to 40. Of course these people are each more accomplished than I am, but, in a petty way, I feel good about having outlived them. I have a chance to keep thinking, keep learning, and perhaps to become more wise, more thoughtful than any of these dudes were. I also realized recently that Heidegger was only about 38 when he published Being and Time. I was intimidated by that work when I was an undergrad, but now that I’m older than he was when he wrote it, I feel I might have enough wisdom to understand it — or to dismiss it as not all that important!  9 Jan and late Jan.

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Sharply drifted snow. 20 Jan. 2019

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We don’t get to make many choices about our families. We don’t get to choose our parents or any other ancestors. We get to choose our romantic partner, and we choose to have kids (but we don’t get to choose the kids’ personalities or other qualities). And the choices we do make, we often make at a fairly young age, and then live with the consequences the rest of our lives. 9 Jan.

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An aspect of being in a location near-but-not-within a town — for example, being a couple miles outside of a small prairie town — is that distance, seeing that distance one is away from the landmark, is part of the experience of being at that location. When you’re in the town already, or when you’re in a forest, or other vision-limited place, you don’t experience distance. Also, when I’m looking at a town from a distance, it might as well be a landscape painting — it’s not real from a distance. Work happens up close. 10 Jan. & 16 Jan.

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The process of memorizing a poem — all these quasi-thoughts, demi-thoughts. On my my way home from work today, I memorized Shakespeare’s “When in the chronicle” sonnet, and in the act of memorizing, I noticed many things: there are maybe many views, concepts, of the poem helping me get it into my head, such as a four-line structure (from “when…” to “then…”); how “praise” is in there three times; the dismissive tone of “wasted time, … ladies dead and lovely knights; the contrast of “our time … you prefiguring.” Basically, memorizing is a way to get a close reading of a text, but also, it seems my memorized version might subtly include some of these structural pattern realizations/insights listed above. 11 Jan.

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As a real middle-ager, nearing age 45, maybe I should challenge myself to do things beyond my routine — read philosophy, memorize poems. My routine may not be satisfying enough. 11 Jan.

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Snow drift topography. 20 Jan.

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“God, use common sense,” said a high school student to another outside after school. She said “God” more as an interjection, but I thought of it, amusingly, as direct address. 14 Jan.

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I’m tired of meaning things, asserting things through public writings. Don’t preach — let cool ideas seep through your blog posts of journal texts, off-handedly. I don’t have anything that I need to say to a general audience. Also, I don’t have to have a certain tone — just be interesting, no? Switching topics is OK! I do look forward to the regularly published columns of a few particular writers, who tend to be interesting on varied topics. 15 Jan., 17 Jan.

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Ice melting off my car’s windshield. 22 Jan.

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Because I have lived in small Midwestern towns where there are few myths/characterizing stories about the places (as opposed to, say, the idea about NYC that it’s exciting, or that San Francisco is artistic — simplistic stories, yes), I wasn’t distracted by these stories — I paid attention to what was here. 15 Jan.

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My career as an example of not setting goals, not being ambitious (which word has a negative history). I don’t need to portray myself as a hero or as a model. I live for me — to see how my life turns out! 16 Jan.

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I think that people who might like reading blog posts of my journal texts would be readers who might appreciate not knowing what I might say. Publishing my journals is a self-centered act, but it’s also being honest, open, maybe vulnerable — not seeking that authority that journalists and most nonfiction writers seek by trying to seem normal and reasonable in their narrative voices.  16-17 Jan.

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View of sun on a snowy day in downtown Rockford, Illinois. Church Street at Mulberry. 25 Jan.

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My lyrics to “Feels So Good”: “Feels So Good — IT feels GOOD, IT feels GOOD, you know it FEELS, FEELS, FEELS, so GOOD…” 17 Jan.

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I feel that I finally have the confidence to (publicly) be my own kind of writer, and I feel I could be satisfied being my own kind of writer. It makes sense that I wouldn’t be sure of the public value of any of my atypical, idiosyncratic writings. But I am choosing to be idiosyncratic in my publishing of my journal texts, and I’m not trying to fit into mainstream publishing. 17 Jan.

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Ronald Reagan’s 6th grade classroom, Northwest Territory Historic Center, Dixon, Illinois. 25 Jan.

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Hallway poetry, overheard before 5th hour: “My locker,/when I open it,/is gonna smell like crap,” said a sophomore (I think) girl to another girl. 17 Jan.

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What portion of all my thoughts are written down? Most of the new insights, yes, but not the daily, getting-around thoughts. 18 Jan.

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A celebrity — having celebrity-level fame — is a business opportunity for the celebrity person as well as for others. Media fame is about and for making money, not artistic quality. More to my point, if I’m not trying to sell (my writings, say), I don’t need to be a celebrity (nor try to become one). 18, 22 Jan.

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(During my morning commute, after crossing railroad tracks) Look at these things that are where they are — road signs, tree limbs, crossing-gate posts. They’re not imagined, remembered, or dreamed.  18 Jan.

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Detail of 2nd floor of a building in downtown Rockford, Illinois, on Main Street, I think. 25 Jan.