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‘Each thought is a new mind’: Here and there in Journal 299

I liked the rain sound there was when the window behind me was open but it was getting windy. There was moisture on the sill, in the channel, and so I closed it and now there’s sound but it’s duller, muted.  [Page 174-5, chosen at random using a random-number generator. Part of Sunday, 7 April 2019 journal]

Facts (as in public records) and journals transcend the styles or fashions of an era, and so are timeless, and are informative that way in telling of shared experience, understanding. Artworks produced for others are made to fit the style of the times, whereas Thoreau’s and others’ journals are not public and so are timeless, closer to lived experience — what’s likely to be common consciousness across the years. [Page 143, Fri. 5 April]

People who see the world as narrow, closed off, versus those who see world as opened, undefined — this may be partly why I wasn’t an engineer. Not all, but many I met that first year of college seemed to care only about getting a high-paying job, and I, well, didn’t. I’m not sure I can say what I cared about, but it wasn’t a high-paying, high-status job. I guess I don’t care enough about joining the establishment (the bureaucracy, etc.) to be too bothered about this whole admissions/”elite” university scandal.  [Page 11, Tues. 19 March]

It’s hard (or impossible?) to write a nonfiction description unselfconsciously, without being aware of the oddness, the artificiality, of writing words to describe a real event. To write words, you have to have a different perspective from one who’s just experiencing and writing later from memory, as when the cat sat on my lap yesterday and I wrote about it at same (or seconds after) time. [Page 196, Thurs. 11 April 2019]

There’s a lot of becoming, not as much being, in these journals. Context of ideas matters — in fact, perhaps it’s context that, indirectly, gives rise to ideas or mental states — the context of my mind being open as I walk dog or drive or even when I walk hallway at school, even when I’m on a journey to do something, on a mission, I still look at hall-walls and if I expected to have my thoughts disrupted, my mind opened, every time I looked at that Exquisite Corpse quote-covered billboard, it probably wouldn’t happen. With respect to the “becoming” and “not being” statement above, I was (I think) referring to my journal writings reflecting not a state of literary perfection but these journals as revealing the thought-process of, well, perhaps of creating (brainstorming, mind-dumping) and the process of, well, the process of being conscious? The process of processing? [Page 159-160, Sat. 6 April]

Part of the Exquisite Corpse display in the hallway outside my high school classroom. 28 May 2019

Back after a pee. On my way to pee, I leaned over sofa back and petted kitty and called him a “squirrel-faced rat” and then I mentioned the “rats and super-rats,” and I said Justice Cat was a “super-rat” for messing with Holly Golightly’s feelings. That story presents a world that can be fun to inhabit, for a while. [Page 110, Sun. 31 March]

I saw, through the swinging kitchen door at our diner, big pots hanging from the ceiling. These reminded me that this is a business that is in operation — that if the business closed, all these particular tools would be gone — we’d have to imagine them. So much of what the diner work is is stocking and restocking things — the jellies, syrups, ketchup, silverware rolled inside napkins, etc. If I weren’t so stupid-tired, I could probably clarify this, make some clear point about how I was looking at those pots and thinking how much work there would be in imagining all those old shops and businesses and restaurants in long-gone eras of these small towns. [Page 61, Tues. 26 March]

I had some thoughts during testing yesterday and wrote them on pocket pages. I’d long thought of testing days — my proctoring, when I’m mostly prevented from doing any work — as mindful, but I also have to pay some attention to the students and also to the clock, so it’s not really as mindful a situation as I’d thought. A couple times I’d prepared within 30 or 40 seconds before the five-minute mark on the countdown (we used an online stopwatch and projected the countdown onto the board) to give the “You have five minutes remaining on this section” announcement and then forgotten to do it when the timer got closer. My colleague in the room was the “room monitor” and I was technically “the proctor,” and she did the announcement once and she reminded me a couple other times. I’d feel this was a sign of bad (or worsening) memory, except that I don’t think that’s what was happening. I think this was one of those situations where I’m a new mind at each moment of consciousness — that I awake with a new mind, and that new mind doesn’t include the old minds’ thought/intent. And by “awake,” what I mean is that each crystallization of a new thought is a new mind, is a new moment of consciousness — each thought is a new mind, rather than a mind having/hosting/birthing a thought.  [Page 189-190, Weds. 10 April]

[Editing process for the text above: Generating a random number, turning to that page in the journal notebook, reading that page for an interesting idea, and typing it in above. The theory prompting this method is that each sentence, each  idea, is a moment of consciousness, and maybe each moment, each idea, is equally important, so randomly directed selection would give a grouping of texts not bound by topic or by my favoritism. I want to create texts that are samplers rather than thematic statements.]

 

‘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.

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

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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 teh 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.

First buyers of Rochelle-area land

Here are the names of the patent holders for the lands that eventually became the town of Lane, and later, the city of Rochelle. Patents were granted to those who first bought the land from the U.S. government, and here their names are placed on the 1840-41 township survey .

Information on patents came from Bureau of Land Management General Land office records (links for Section 23Section 24, and Section 25 patents) and Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales Database (link here).

Click on maps to enlarge.

Modern-day landmarks (using Ogle Co. GIS) for comparison:

Map compiled from 1840-41 survey, 1853 Lane plat, 1872 Krause map, and GIS property ID number data (the third part of the ID numbers indicate which quarter-section and which quarter-quarter section a parcel lies within).

Observations:

• The higher ground seems to have sold earlier, and to have been improved (with fields) earlier than the low-lying ground. This isn’t surprising, but it helps explain why Rochelle was settled where it was and not a few hundred yards west or east or south.

• Sheldon Bartholomew died 9 Dec. 1846, according to the 1878 History of Ogle, page 507, just two months after applying for the land patent on two of his parcels listed above. He was the second one buried in the cemetery he had established, located just southwest of the intersection of 7th Street and 8th Avenue. The 1878 history says Sheldon was the second person in this “burying grounds,” as it was called in an 1856 deed. It would seem that the Bartholomew family dedicated property at the far north edge of their property, and that this burying grounds also lay next to the Ottawa-Rockford road. These grounds also occupy land that is elevated a few feet above other parts of the town.

• Sheldon’s wife, Charlotte, remarried to “Mat” Powell and, as Charlotte Powell, she sold to R.P. Lane most of the land that would become platted as Lane, and later, Rochelle.

• But the plat of Lane extended into land originally owned by William Fulton. I would need to do more research to see if Lane owned that Northwest Quarter of the Southeast Quarter when the plat was filed 30 July 1853.

• In making this map, I was surprised to see that all of Lane south of about 4th Avenue had been part of the grove of hickory trees. I suspect that those trees were cut down and removed by the time the town of Lane and the G & CU railroads were constructed, in 1853.

Having new ideas is fun

It’s possible to leave behind one’s old ideas and have new ones, see the world anew, and it’s fun to do this!

This is the message I have to share with the world: It’s fun to create! It’s deeply satisfying! It shows the world to you in new ways — it reveals new aspects of the world. It shows that there’s more to the world than we know. It has shown me that ideas are not the truth — ideas I thought were real I now see as arbitrary. A lot of my new worldview has come from creative experiences.

It’s a wonderfully simple message! But it’s one that was a long time in coming to me, perhaps because so much of our culture is now provided by and accessed through commercial means — bookstores, art galleries, TV, movies, magazines — all these commercial forums — and we see art as having the purposes of getting us fame and money (or career).

Maybe my message, what I model to the world, is that I like my life even without getting published! I’m not perfect, not the only model to follow, but my way of living — which includes the daily creative act of freewriting my journals — is pretty fun and interesting and worth trying.

I don’t want to define myself as someone who writes about only a certain topic, or who writes in a habitual style or tone. I want to share my work style, my process, and then go on to create my own particular things. I want to demonstrate creativity in its least-restrictive form, which is that I’m not trying to make any product to sell. If you, as an artist, decide that you’re gonna make something for someone else, you’re already limiting your creativity — you’re abstracting whom your audience is from your limited experiences with other people, with the result that you’re condescending to others, assuming to know what others want or need. And then there’s the problem of there not being really all that many ideas within the range of tellable stories — whereas in my writing, I go well beyond stories. I may be limited by words, by thinkable thoughts — not all experiences can be easily described — but I can look at words as merely a medium, as the tools I use to have the creative experiences I enjoy.

The types of texts that get published — novels, nonfiction reports, celebrity interviews — are so narrow compared to all the types of texts there are, including diaries, conversations between non-famous people, descriptions of regular life, real places. There’s the bias toward the spectacular that seems to leave regular lived life in real places largely unexplored.

Kerouac’s On the Road is a book that captivated me when I read it at age 19 — I think I understood it as instructive, that I could perhaps view my life as he viewed his. But now I see that book was the telling not about Kerouac’s regular life but about his vacations, essentially — he wrote his scroll as a story told to impress and/or amuse others. What remains is the challenge of how to live daily life in a rewarding way.

So what interests me now is escaping narrow definitions of what life is or could or should be and instead dipping my toes into the unknown, into what’s beyond the definitions. I want to have my own ideas, do my own thinking, and if I never feel like advocating my ideas to others, that’s fine — maybe I can advocate my process!

Everything I publish might be read as an exuberance — defined in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate 11th as, in part, “joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic,” “plentiful.” I’d never thought of myself as exuberant before — maybe this is just a positive spin on the “intense” adjective others have used to describe me.

Over time, I do come to new ideas that seem to solve my problems, increase my understanding.

And when I publish, I don’t need to have everything nailed down and tidy. I don’t have to fret whether I seem a respectable, authoritative-type voice. I don’t need to post — my experience is already had; I’ve already had the joy and satisfaction of the earlier journal-writing session! So publish whatever! I don’t need to publish — there’s some good freedom. And once I’ve realized that, it gets easier to publish!

 

‘The most thing I want’: April’s notes from my pocket pages

Searing visage of the minivan in which I drove students to state WYSE meet. 10 April

“They’re adult-ier than me,” said a 23-24-year-old woman who was soon to be interviewed for a teaching job by three school administrators. 1 April.

Perhaps I understand other people by creating models of their minds — and those people I don’t understand are those whose minds I have trouble modeling. I can’t even imagine. 3 April.

A book-length text isn’t a natural or automatic form of expression for anybody — in other words, nobody accidentally writes a book — so it must be a formal construct, an intentional creation, and I don’t want that level of formality. I’m looking for text-forms that come more naturally. 5 April

Most humans are women. So maybe we shouldn’t think of men as the default — or typical — person. 5 April

I don’t need to be a critic at all! For a long time, I have had the idea that what intelligent adults do is critique things. Perhaps I learned this from my older family members who had strong opinions, and maybe I had this reinforced during my liberal arts education, the point of which seemed to be training me to interpret and analyze and evaluate. But nobody’s asking me (in most of my life) to do these things. So I don’t need to. I don’t even have to care enough to critique things — I can let go of the sense I often have that I should always have thought-out opinions on contemporary society, on politics, or on educational policy. Instead, I can let go of my criticisms and just do those creative things I love doing. 5 April

Dandelion-pollen racing stripe on my dog’s forehead. 22 April

Part of my critiquing and complaining is a feeling that I could be or would be or should want to be in charge, in control. But I can finally admit to myself that I am not now, and probably never will be, and don’t really want to be, in control of any institution or group. This being the case, I can free up a lot of thinking-time by just not fretting about the functioning of these big things I’m not in charge of. I can save my energy and do what I really enjoy. What it comes down to is that I don’t want to be a cultural (or other kind of) critic, as once I thought I did. Instead of analyzing and evaluating, I want to have new ideas — that’s what is primary for me. 6 April.

Who I am, who I want to be — these are becoming the same, and that feels good. 6 April

My cat in my lap. 8 April

Why are my dreams usually narratives? They’re not abstract; they seem to be first-person narrative — though even it’s in the first-person, I often feel the dream is being told or shown to me. I’m not in charge. 7 April.

I’m starting to see why someone facing death would say they’ve lived a good life and not be super-desperate to keep living. 7 April.

Slime from where I’d dumped into my garden some nightcrawlers collected from the street after a rain. 27 March

“Nerds have the funnest fun,” said my student while on our WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering) state competition trip. 10 April

I’m interested in whatever I have to teach me. I’m referring here to how I seem to learn, to receive new ideas, insights, from my own mind, my subconscious, whatever, when I freewrite in my journals. 11 April

Me, Mr. Hagemann, in front of the “H” (for Hagemann, I tell my students) built near what had been my senior-year apartment building at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 10 April

It’s probably better — humbler, and more promoting of social calm — if I think of myself more as the annoying person (who should keep quiet) rather than thinking of myself as the fascinating person (who should keep sharing every insight with people) in any group of people. 11 April

“A rectangle is basically an oval,” said a senior student, to much peer criticism. 11 April.

My WYSE students at U of I: Lexy, Alec, Abe, Nick, and Matthew. 10 April.

A fiction idea: A protagonist learns that the nemesis has died, partway through the novel. 11 April

You don’t get to choose who likes you or your writings. You won’t necessarily impress a particular person, and you can’t necessarily make your enemies jealous. 13 April

Be careful what you decide is normal, I told my sophomore students after they’d expressed some harsh social views. What’s normal in our small town isn’t what’s normal in Chicago. 13 April.

Giraffes behind a barn door at “Ag Day.”

I often hear high school seniors bluntly announce their opinions about certain classes and teachers. Maybe this quasi-rudeness is useful in helping other students to figure out what’s popular. If students were quiet and less judgmental, they might not know how to fit in with each other. New York magazine has an article about people forming friend-groups by sharing certain views and excluding those who have different views. Perhaps if one has no views, one is in no views-group. 13 April

“Ah, the miracle of new life! Isn’t it easily made fussy?” I said to my wife of a tiny baby at a nearby table in our local diner. 16 April

Coulters in the coffee grounds, at “Ag Day,” 21 April.

When I do my own writing and thinking, my ideas expand, branch outward, into new ideas — but there’s no way to grade that type of thinking within a school situation. In class, we limit, or condense, thinking to what’s testable — in other words, what’s already known. Schools can’t handle new ideas. 18 April

My father-in-law begins a story this way: “This girl at work — OK, not work, but at church, and she’s not really a girl — she’s 82 years old …” 25 April

A calf-side map of an imaginary white island. On Jasmine Calf at my school’s “Ag Day,” 21 April.

“That’s the most thing I want for my birthday,” said an elementary-aged girl to an older girl about a journal at Target store on Rockford’s East State Street, 29 April

My dog seems to be dreaming when he’s sleeping and his legs start twitching. Does he know that he’s dreaming, like I do once I’ve woken up? The dog doesn’t have the dream-like experiences of watching movies and TV that I’ve had. 30 April

A statuesque farmwife at my high school’s “Ag Day.” I imagined that she still sometimes wonders what her life would have been had she finished that M.F.A. program. But then there are eggs to gather and geese to feed.

‘Want a chipmunk, Christina?’: Recent notes from my pocket pages

“So I’m gonna die when they’re gone,” said a senior in my creative writing class, of her parents leaving for two weeks. 6 Feb. (Almost three weeks later, she remains alive.)

McView out McWindow, Oglesby, Ill. 14 Feb.

McView out McWindow, Oglesby, Ill. 14 Feb.

“Maybe when a tree falls, it might actually have some realism,” said a boy in my high school’s hallway to another boy, before 4th hour. He may have been talking about a video game, but one can only wonder. 6 Feb.

I called my dog Sam “Tsammi” several times yesterday. My wife eventually got annoyed. 6 Feb.

Sycamore tree over Watterson Hall, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Sycamore tree over Watterson Hall, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

“This pen writes horribly,” said a student as he put a pen on another student’s desk. “YOU write horribly,” she answered. “I know — the pen reflects that,” he said. 6 Feb.

“I just need a metal bucket and a trip to the hardware store,” said a student, about his homemade forge/metal work idea. After another student had teased him about something, he answered, “I’m sorry; I’m a Fahrenheit peasant.” 7 Feb.

A student asked me if I went to high school with his older sister. Finding out that she’s a few years younger than I am, I said she probably went to school with my brother Dan. The student said, “She is talking about your brother because she calls you ‘Dan.'” 7 Feb.

“I was spraying perfume up in my nose,” said a student after her chemistry classmate had spilled stinky butyric acid. The classmate said said that, after the spill, he had been “sniffing up all the barf, and it wasn’t that bad, really.” 7 Feb.

From Williams Hall, Illinois State University, 14 Feb.

From Williams Hall, Illinois State University, 14 Feb.

What each person in my life represents to me symbolically. Maybe my mom represents a certain quality, my dad another, and each of my friends mean something else. This isn’t to say that these people are only symbols to me — but that perhaps these symbolic meanings are part of my concept of each person. 8 Feb.

His “dad is hot, bald, and athletic,” said a student of his classmate’s father. 9 Feb.

“You can’t tell me my card isn’t nice,” said a student to me about a “thank you” card she’d written me, on behalf of the senior class, to ask me to help with supervision of the graduation ceremony. 9 Feb.

After I said that my dog and cat each have their own bedrooms in my house, my student said, “I would get rid of my brother in a heartbeat for my dog to have a room.” 9 Feb.

“Can a chicken and a duck have a baby?” asked a student, apropos of very little. Hearing “no” from a classmate, she argued, “But they’re like the same thing.” Another classmate commented that she “looked genuinely confused about that, too.” 9 Feb.

Gray in a hurry. Wall above urinal in men's bathroom, Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Gray in a hurry. Wall above urinal in men’s bathroom, Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Writing my journals, I confront myself — I challenge my own opinions. There’s the conflict in my journals. And it’s nice, too, in journal writing to not have to have my ideas in relation to others’ ideas. I don’t have to consider those until I start my workday. 9 Feb.

I heard someone in school hallway use the phrase “like a fish out of water.” That prompted thoughts of why we don’t describe a state of comfort as “like a fish in water.” 9 Feb.

Ideas of my ego-mind: that set of ideas I put on in social situations. Perhaps these are old, inflexible ideas, like an armor — because I don’t want to trot out new ideas and seem more socially awkward than I already am? 10 Feb.

Pole inside Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill., 14 Feb.

Pole inside Coffee Hound, Normal, Ill., 14 Feb.

“I just got so caught up in the bunnies. Want a chipmunk, Christina?” asked a student to her classmate after I offered students some stickers. 10 Feb.

“I can’t walk through the hall with all these cats on my binder,” said a student, of stickers a classmate had put there. 10 Feb.

“I have to go perform a piece about the Holocaust. I can’t have cat stickers on me,” said a theater student. 10 Feb.

Mural on west side of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Mural on west side of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

“I need to eat and then go try not to kill myself,” said one dude to another outside the Watterson Dining Commons at Illinois State University. 14 Feb.

One creates stories from what we see, from what we experience, and even from a dream experience, as I did today. 16 Feb.

“I do all I do so I can get into the books,” a student said, of getting quoted in my pocket pages. 16 Feb.

“… I’ve got candy in mah truck, I’ve got soda pop in mah truck …” said a student to her classmate, during study hall. 16 Feb.

North part of west wall of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

North part of west wall of building on Beaufort St., Normal, Ill. 14 Feb.

Rhymes (and other rhetorical devices?) are used just to get readers’ attention? 16 Feb.

After I told a student that my cat’s name was Justice, she said, “That’s one of my favorite words! Not even joking, I was gonna get a tattoo that said ‘Justice.'” 17 Feb.

“All I’ve got in my wallet is three dollars and a Great Clips coupon. I’ve made it in life,” said a student. 17 Feb.

“I would only work at McDonald’s if I was homeless. So I’ll probably end up working at McDonald’s at some point,” said a student. He then added, “I’ll probably end up dead, at some point.” 17 Feb.

After a classmate called him strange, a student said, “If I wasn’t strange, I’d be boring, so I’d take this lifestyle over any other.” 17 Feb.

Peak of dirt mountain at construction site, Byron, Ill. 15 Feb.

Peak of dirt mountain at construction site, Byron, Ill. 15 Feb.

“Can’t talk now — watching a hedgehog,” my wife said, of a video of a hedgehog getting a bath as notice of a call notification came over her smart phone. 17 Feb.

“He’s way too shystee and smart for his own good right now,” said Qaytlin 2 Waitress of her young son’s cleverness. 18 Feb.

I told my wife I felt guilty doing nothing on Presidents’ Day holiday afternoon. She said, “It’s OK. Sit there a few more hours and it’ll be gone.” 20 Feb.

We can mean the words we say, and we can also mean the opposite of those words when our tone is sarcastic. But maybe sarcasm is the only non-meaning meaning; other than sarcasm, if you don’t mean what you say, you’re just lying. 21 Feb.

On a warm day, I saw some high school students and their preschool visitors outside my classroom, and through the open window I heard my student trying to teach Duck-Duck-Goose. One kid seemed he wasn’t getting it, as I heard my student say: “Try to chase me, Charlie, around the circle … Come with me. Let’s go this way, Charlie. … duck, duck, duck … run around the circle! C’mon, Charlie.” 21 Feb.

After I’d said in class that teachers tend to make bad students because they like to be in charge, a student called teachers “control freaks.” I asked my students whether they thought I was a control freak. Student answered, “the ‘freak,’ maybe, but not maybe the ‘controlling,'” and called me “the opposite of conformity.” 22 Feb.

Student asked if I had Wite-Out. I did not. She said I don’t use it because “you don’t make mistakes — you have creative ideas.” Or I cross them out, I said. 23 Feb.

A student sighed loudly during a quiz. “Fail quietly,” I said. 23 Feb.

Residue of a lit class discussion (of "The Hollow Men," I think) on my colleague's whiteboard. 22 Feb.

Residue of a lit class discussion (of “The Hollow Men,” I think) on my colleague’s whiteboard. 22 Feb.

Student asked about what happens after one dies. “If you do stop thinking, what was really the point?” she said. She added that her dad wants to be buried wearing shorts because, he says, it’s hot where he’s going, and that he’ll be mad if she doesn’t play “Bad to the Bone” at his funeral. 23 Feb.

“Urethra!” shouted student during class. I asked why she said that. I was told that her classmate did not believe men had that body part. 24 Feb.

“Why don’t cows ever have any better ideas?” I said, apropos of very little, to my wife, who then quoted me onto her Facebook wall. I’d been thinking of the white face of a cow I’d seen above a feed trough at a farm I’d driven past, and I’d been wondering how it is that people have ideas about, you know, freedom and not wanting to become food, but cows, not so much, though we both have gray matter. 24 Feb.

Event entrance, but do not enter. At my high school, 22 Feb.

Event entrance, but do not enter. At my high school, 22 Feb.

“This is the most amount of white people I’ve seen in quite some time,” said Ashli Waitress, back at our small-town Illinois diner after having recently been on vacation in Hawaii. 25 Feb.

“Oh, buddy, it’s fantastic”: This week in notes

View southwest toward sunset from Hedge Road, 5 p.m. today, 29 Jan.

View southwest toward sunset from Hedge Road, 5 p.m. today, 29 Jan.

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When I judge or criticize other people or things, my judging is analytical, abstract, comparing some particular thing to some generalized standard. It’s a part of my ego, my getting-around-in-the-world mind. I don’t judge when in meditative or sleepy mind.  23 Jan. 2017

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“Molly, do NOT get diarrhea,” said a veterinary office worker to a white-muzzled old beagle wearing a pink-striped sweater. 23 Jan.

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Seeing lights on in houses as I drove home this winter evening, I thought how cozy the homes looked, and how cozy my own house probably looks from outside. But I don’t don’t often feel that cozy when I’m in my house, and maybe that’s because when I’m home taking in TV or online news, stories about problems everywhere (or anywhere) outside my house pull my attention away from my calm, cozy home and life. 23 Jan.

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Making meaning — and not just receiving others’ meanings — matters. There’s the essay, the try — we write essays to try to understand things, I told my students this week.

The big meaning, of course, is how one should best live. (It seems a little banal to state it this way, but “how to best live” could include practical ethics, useful metaphysics, everyday epistemology, etc.)

I find it easy to fall into writing about meaning. I’ve been tending toward sticking to facts — to basic observations — so as to let readers see meanings for themselves. 23 Jan.

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A small mammal path at the edge of a parking lot southeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection in Rockford-Loves Park, Ill. Sat. 28 Jan.

A small mammal path at the edge of a parking lot southeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection in Rockford-Loves Park, Ill. Sat. 28 Jan.

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All day long, we interpret others — we try to understand the actions and words of other people we see, meet, or interact with. These interpretations are theories we create and then employ to guide our interactions with these others. These theories can be judged as useful or not (rather than true or false), depending on how successfully I interact with others.

Truth is a judgment of a theory against an external reality, which we can never actually get to, since everything we know about external reality has to come in through our minds. But usefulness I can judge within my own experience. Whatever theories seem to me to work, I’ll call these “useful.” 24 Jan.

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Meanings, theories, interpretations — these aren’t as real was what actually happened. 24 Jan.

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All judgments are comparisons, and all comparisons are arbitrary (not necessary), so therefore, all judgments are arbitrary. Even when I call someone an asshole for how he drives, he’s probably not really and completely an asshole. 24 Jan.

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My blog posts where I just report a quote without explaining it: my audience is older people who don’t need a full explanation of why a quote is funny or interesting, like a child would. Adults must already think interpretively more than kids do. 24 Jan.

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A place at the corner of a gas station lot NE of Riverside-Perryville intersection, Rockford-Loves Park. Sat. 28 Jan., about noon.

A place I could be for a while. Probably nobody but the lawn crew every goes to this spot, at the northwest corner of a gas station lot, but one could. It’s not a place that we typically think of as a place, like we’d think of going to a house, or a restaurant, or a park, etc., but this, too, IS a place. Northeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection, Rockford-Loves Park. Sat. 28 Jan., about noon.

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“If I’m talking and not thinking about what I’m saying, I’ll say everything wrong,” said student. 24 Jan.

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A door in the backside of the building at the northeast corner of Riverside-Perryville. This is across a little parking lot from the gas station corner photo. 28 Jan.

A door in the back side of the building at the northeast corner of Riverside-Perryville. This is across a little parking lot from the gas station corner photo above. Though this side of the building isn’t much to look at, it’s just as real — as touchable, as there — as the lovely front side of building is. 28 Jan.

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Everything can mean something. Everything can tell something, symbolize something (my obsessive mind, anyway, can interpret almost anything, which can be exhausting). Not general topics like “pencil” but THIS pencil: Who owned it? How’d it get here? We can play detective. Of course, with my practice at interpretation, as informed by my experiences and my sensibility, I’m probably better at making meaning than my sophomore students are — but I still want them to try making meaning through their essays built from a session spent observing in the school hallway. 25 Jan.

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Creating meaning as a writer and as a reader — two different acts of meaning creation using the same words, the same text. 25 Jan.

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“We get in trouble and then we look at our underwear and it’s matching,” said senior girl of herself and another senior girl, who had already said that when they wear the same underwear, they both get in trouble. I have no idea what prompted them to announce this in class. 25 Jan.

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At 4 p.m. this day, so much gray: the roads are gray, the bridge over the river is gray, water’s gray, reflecting gray sky. The grassy ground is tan, but also muddy gray. 25 Jan.

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Reminding myself: Just don’t look at stuff that is iconic, or resonant — certain houses, say, that seem to inspire thoughts of “my life would be better if only I lived there.” Stay in your own life, keep your attention on your own life, instead of mentally living elsewhere, in idea-realm (fantasy-realm, “solve all my problems” land). Just drive to your destination, just keep looking ahead, not off to the sides of road at houses. 25 Jan.

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My students lack the experience (worldliness) of adults, but they’re also open-minded (not world-weary). 26 Jan.

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People don’t go to an anthology or magazine of poems to get meaning, but just poems. So a meaningful piece — something you as writer really mean — you might publish not with others’ work but with your own, where readers can see your project, your point of view, your take on poetry, your world of poems, so that your poem is not competing with other poets’ in a poetry mag. Of course, poetry-mag poems are gonna be real poety-poems: ur-poems, practically meta-poems, where poets show off their poetry-writing skills to other poets. [A thought after reading a recent issue of Poetry mag, 26 Jan.]

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Even when I don’t find a particular poem I love, I like how my mind seems to let loose and I have new ideas — unrelated to the poems, usually — but perhaps the poems loosen my mind to think anew. 26 Jan.

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A kind of magic: the transformation of spoken words to a transcribed quote, isolated on page or screen (how the quotes I hear come to exist as words on my notepage). 26 Jan.

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“She has more problems than I can count, and I failed Algebra 2, so it’s not that many,” said senior student of classmate. 26 Jan.

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“When am I gonna use that in my outside life, except when I become president?” rhetorically asked my student, referring to the school’s required speech class. 26 Jan.

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A cracked-open box of telephone wires, possibly, NE of Riverside-Perryville intersection, 28 Jan.

A cracked-open box of telephone wires, possibly. Northeast of Riverside-Perryville intersection, 28 Jan.

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My cat was not moving his sleepy head this morning — only his eyes moved. And a horse and donkey I drive past every day spend a lot of time in their small shed. Animals spend much more time than people do sitting around, just being conscious, not doing. Maybe I need to do more of that to feel like I’ve really lived and been aware of it. When I’m getting things done, I’m less aware of being alive. Maybe animals living this way have a sense of really having been alive enough when so they don’t fear death when they die — not that animals can abstract like we can, but they’re so much more accepting than I seem to be. 27 Jan.

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“Oh, buddy, it’s fantastic,” said student to me about Avanti restaurant‘s gondola sandwich. 27 Jan.

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Not from my notes, but worth repeating: My brother Nace, who lives in Northern Minnesota and photographs sled dog races, northern lights, and moose, was recently interviewed on Duluth public radio about his pictures.

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Wires up close.

Wires up close.