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]

She said I’ll be missed, which I will

Worked 10–5. We were ver’ busy. I was on “dress” table, and kept making jokes to keep myself from getting too serious, which helped to keep whole team loose. Ronald came today. B__ and A___ both worked — B__ is ver’ nice. I’ve been friendly with her. Christine expressed her frustration with the McMoron J__ through looks (rolling-eye-type looks) and putting her head on my shoulder, in a sort of giving-up-comfort-me type of  gesture. I said, “you know, Christine, it’s not hard to fill the bun cabinet,” and she said, “I know.” Told Cindy I was leaving soon. She said I’ll be missed, which I will.

Left at 5. Stopped by Subway and bought a pop from S___ to validate my presence. On a second impulse, I went back inside and asked her to coffee. She had to work late and gave me one of those “I don’t know …” kind of looks, which is not unusual, considering she has a boyfriend. But she didn’t say “no” or “I have a boyfriend.” I didn’t consider my offer too forward. Who knows? I said I’d be back before she leaves the 20th.

Home and complained to mom about work. Dad came over. He is rather opinionated and destructive (not a good word) — fiery. Just as I started to nap, Sh____ called and wanted me to come in. I really wasn’t all that interested, but decided that I might as well, since one day she might actually ask me to something interesting.

[From journal of Sat. 7 August 1993 (written 8-8), Journal 4, pages 248-9]

Jog if you like it, don’t jog only if you’re trying to live forever

How the fact I’m alive one minute to the next is only because I keep breathing, heart keeps beating, all the countless chemical reactions my body requires are still going on. And this attitude is different from usual attitude toward body in that I think we’re (I’m) so frequently distanced from my body intellectually/emotionally. Even at the doctor’s office, my blood isn’t my own, etc.

Other people are Spirits or Ideas, not their bodies, you know — and I think it’s not just me, that this attitude is also a cultural thing, a culturally chosen way (that is, arbitrary way) of looking at a body, as if it really were something separate from your mind/personality.

And not that the body’s something to worry about (so much of medicine sees body as something to conquer — take these drugs and everything will be fine. Like the farmer spraying chems on fields and thinking everything will be fine. Yes, chems are the language of life but just because you’re shouting things and things you want seem to be happening doesn’t mean you really understand what you’re saying, or who else is overhearing your shouting and being affected by it).

And I’m doing the same thing (similar thing, anyway) when I sit in front of TV and stuff my face. And I’m not talking about dieting here, just that when I’m not paying attention to the food I’m eating, I’m not paying attention to my body. I mean, I’m not going to stop eating all treats just for a “healthy heart,” which is obsession and the heart is basically uncontrollable anyway. But I am ignoring what body needs, when I’m full, etc. More like neglect. And I’m not saying my goal in life is simply to live long, like some people’s seems to be, starving themselves, lots of pointless exercise, etc.

At some level, I think it is authentic to recognize you’re not in control, that you’re totally at the whim of your body.

Yet I don’t want to get into the habit of feeding my face, because that’s taking the body for granted, also inauthentic. That’s thinking that the body doesn’t matter, that my identity is my mind only — I’m saying the body is also part of one’s identity. What it means to live mindfully is to acknowledge the body — to eat mindfully, away from the TV, but not worship the body or think your body won’t change (all those who put looking good, plastic surgery above all else, or those who do things to avoid dying). Jog if you like it, don’t jog only if you’re trying to live forever or something.

[From journal of Sat., 6 Nov. 2004, Journal 39, page 104-6]

Creating as sitting and seeing what happens

I put some Nina Simone in [the CD player]. Not sure she’s as helpful for creating as word-less music. I said to Mom last night that words don’t have the sensory impact that visual art & music do —though spoken/sung words are more immediate than words on paper.

So, I like the idea from page 62: creating as sitting and seeing what happens.

Just now I feel urge to write that Ian, next door boy, is covering his partial plywood sheet leaning against blocks of snow. He’s putting a layer of snow on the plywood.

I should nap now, as M is doing.

[From journal of Sunday, 26 Feb. 2012, Journal 154, page 64]

The silliness that kept it somewhat interesting

The women there were mothers who had no choice, needed to support their families, and yet still see them, so they worked 3rd [shift]. Avery was not a career move for the binder ladies. [This sentence dated 9/15]

Little ladies who came in at 5 a.m. every morn to punch index dividers.

Sue C___ — talk we had the last night of overtime — she wants to be E.M.T.

All those women there who got trapped/thrown into this situation, no choice but factory work. Didn’t want 2nd shift — couldn’t see their kids at all if they worked 2nd.

My little black book.

The silliness that kept it somewhat interesting — I think it was something like a release valve: the throwing of paper balls, Sam and her stickers, Debbie and her lewd comments — Jeanie on her knees — “why don’t you wait ’til Ed gets here so it’ll do you some good”

Sam telling me to go get the hand fork by pumping her hand up and down, looked like masturbation.

[From journal of 5 Sept. 1994, “Work at Avery” factory, Journal 6, page 145. See more about this place, written on same day, here.]

‘Purpose is just an illusion of dreams and desires’

Anyway, I don’t want to get caught up in abstractions and outrages and abstract outrages. I thought about telling M about the ___ but then I thought, meh, I could confine this to my journal and not demand M’s attention. And after I thought of letting go, I felt lighter, unburdened, and more conscious/aware of being alive here and now.

On my camera — no, my phone’s — photos, I saw a pic I took earlier this week, a pic of one of the sayings on (one of the Exquisite Corpse poems) the hallway billboard. It seemed key, somehow, pertinent to me at that moment when I took pic (and here’s what I photo’d): “Purpose is just an illusion of dreams and desires.” (Of course this wasn’t the only saying from Ex. Corpse in the pic — there’s also: “So I learned a new chapter in life: You only live once. Or twice.”)

[From journal of Thurs., 26 Nov., 2020, Journal 335, pages 83+]

Sometimes, I’d like that person not to have to be me

There’s a sense in my hetero relationship — maybe in most hetero relationships — that the man’s in charge of house repairs, car maintenance, etc., fixing physical problems — and sometimes, I’d like that person not to have to be me — ha! I mean, no, it’s a natural role for me to fill — I don’t know much about cars , but I can change headlights, can do some things. … And, no, I’m not really saying I mind playing that role of husband — house-bound, the property manager, the fixer of problems not-emotional, not-social. I’m not saying I mind it, but I might be a little jealous, at moments, of not having my own bigger, stronger person to take care of sh!t, of having a real adult around to watch for housefires, kinda like I had when living in my Papa‘s house, I guess, it now occurs to me. And, no, I’m not afraid of having my own house now, as I once may have been. We can call repair dudes — and if we had money, we could get siding or other things replaced.  … Women joke that they wish they had a wife to cook & clean & mend & sh!t. I can joke here I wish I had a husband to do car maintenance — oh, yeah, my right rear car wheel locked up again yesterday morning — felt hot and smelled hot by time I got to school, and it was about -12° F. or -14° F. at [my school] when I got there (I think my car said -12° F., but it’s usually about 2° warm) and as I held my hand near the wheel to feel the warmth (a poetic-sounding line), I noticed steam coming off my fingers (and not the wheel) and my fingers didn’t even feel sweaty or weird.

[From journal of Tues., 4 Feb. 2014, Journal 191, page 136-138]

I do want to ignore the clocks I could look at

I’m not sure what time it is, and I do want to ignore the clocks I could look at. I’m guessing it’s around 8:45, based on the TV show (Hallie Jackson in for Will-he Geist on Today) — and yeah, yeah — M’s up since a little after 8. Walked dog … Sam didn’t wanna turn right there onto that street back to ___. Sam’s outside. He got [his cable] wrapped around tree and I let him off and he was being so calm and gentle. And I came in and stretched and saw him in same spot and went out again (temps in 40°s [F.] this morning, not too bad) and he showed me his belly and I scratched it. And I went to smell hyacinths on east side of house. I smelled the one west of garage door the last day or two. It’s probably late in April for hyacinths, but, well, that wouldn’t be a surprise, considering the cold. Last night I ate two bowls popcorn in late p.m., walked dog, and watched the 1968 Thos. Crown Affair (I like that abrev. for “Thomas”: “Thos.”) and it was stylish, I’ll give it that.

[From journal of Sun., 22 April 2018, Journal 275, page 90]

To decline what can’t help me

I’m not a leader or a server. I mostly want to — feel I got to, need to — follow my own path and sh!t. I’m at a point where I don’t — not that I can’t take advice from others, but that I — it’s important for me to know when to say no, to decline what can’t help me, to quit when that feels right. For example, I looked at a 1980-era … booklet Mom gave me about teaching poetry — sh!t, it’s bad. It’s — I can’t believe how bad it is: teachers who are sure that what kids need is to use specific imagery, to show-don’t-tell, and that literature communicates an experience (which is B.S. — as I’ve been saying lately, you can’t communicate experience).

Now, I don’t generally want to define my ideas in opposition to bad ones. Even if a dumb thing sparks an idea, you can still let the dumb idea go. But I got no useful ideas there for teaching poetry — OK, one or two minor ones, but nothing great, specific, that I can use today to teach in Creative Writing 2.

[From journal of Tues., 14 “Janviary” 2014, Journal 191, page 5]

I gave up that thought and felt relieved

Ready for bed at 9:30 tonight — earlier than recent Sundays and earlier than recent nights. Watched “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship” movie last night. It’s been out since Xmas but I’ve resisted watching it, didn’t want those characters to be in my head when reading the books but movie was well-reviewed and so we went.

I picked up a message there of personal discipline and self-sacrifice. I think how weak I’ve been of late — lots of sweets and TV, etc. No liquor or cigs lately, so not horribly unhealthy, just moderately so. But also, no school work done today.

Here’s the thing: about noon today, I had a clarity of thought: a choice of either (A) working all day to get caught up grading and planning for week ahead or (B) simply taking the day to relax. And I almost had enough energy and drive for A but not quite. I watched too much TV to completely do B either, though our walk to quarry and sitting in sun then talking to L. was relaxing. My shoulders relaxed and lowered. We were gone an hour and a half to 2 hours.

Telescoping back: today’s exercise was good but I haven’t exercised much at all this winter. But then warm temps (warmest ever on record, I heard) prevented winter sports and also I’ve been sick and/or busy.

But talking to mom last week, I realized I’m starting to feel much better as the days lengthen. Maybe I do have mild depression in winter? That would explain my funk, my lack of drive or desire — not profound, but I don’t feel like doing anything, and yet wasn’t relaxed either.

And today, too, I felt I couldn’t take the day totally off — pressures to do work. I realized I sort of need to work weekends this first year — a shame, that, because I really need at least one day a weekend to relax. And as a teacher, I have work do to weekends, or after work. At any rate, some work to be done outside class.

But it’s so easy for me to give myself pressures. Got to feeling mindful while sitting on picnic table, facing sun, with M., finally living in the moment, without thinking of “should” or “have to.” When I thought how pretty it was and that I should take pics of quarry floor before water rises — another “should” — I gave up that thought and felt relieved.

[From journal of Sun., 24 Feb. 2002, Journal 30, page 342]