Tag Archives: 2007

The water comes from the west, the field there

It was still snowing …, but warm, mid-30s [°F], and slushy when we got back up to the houses. [My uncle] Luck and I played in the meltwater running thru his yard. Luck acknowledged it was play, but he also wanted to break up any slush dams holding water in his dogs’ pen, so we tried to clean snow and slush out of the culverts in Luck’s driveway. I made a channel thru his front yard. The water comes from the west, the field there, and runs by his dog pens and under the culvert just south of his house and then east thru his yard — there’s a waterway there — and down the pasture ’til it joins the water flowing north at the foot of the sled hill.

[From journal of Mon., 26 Feb. 2007, Journal 82, pages 16-17]

Write what you’re passionate about writing!

For so long I’ve been writing stuff I didn’t think anyone would care about. I cared about my memories and family stories, but I didn’t think anyone else would. And so, no wonder I wrote only first drafts and didn’t come back to them! When M told me my idea about prose vs. poetry could be an essay, my very next thought was: but where would I publish it? I didn’t see the point if I couldn’t publish, and I didn’t have the drive or sheer will to write it and find a place for it. And so now, though, I can see that that’s a prime example of how I’ve been short-circuiting myself for years! Feeling that I had to keep one eye on market at all times — but that wasn’t the passion for me, you know! Now I’m thinking passion: write what you’re passionate about writing! Write what you’re burning to write! Write the book you hope you can finish before you die — your life becomes precious to you rather than endless and empty. M said I’m so attractive when I’m feeling positive, when I’m excited about stuff.

I am passionate about journals! Passion doesn’t always have to be — is better if it’s not — manic, but a felt-need — my need to do morning pages.

[From journal of Tues., 18 Sept. 2007, Journal 90, page 93-5]

I harmed my reputation with some of those people, largely in an effort, I can now see, to get attention.

I read parts of the cartoons-about-Bush book Bob gave us. It contains Tribune Co. cartoons from 2000 through mid-2007, and what struck me is how much Bush has gotten away with his stupid plans and actions. But then I remembered: yeah, I’ve been wondering that since he got elected. I’ve been wondering every year how he’s gotten away with as much sh!t as he has. And finally the public has woken up to Bush’s idiocy. I mean, you (any person) can do and say whatever rude and obnoxious things you want to, and politicians can — well, the president can — seemingly get away with doing even illegal things— and in truth, the worst — or only real? — consequences are impacts to your reputation. Talk-show hosts like Limbaugh can be as juvenile and crass and rude and insulting to others as they want to be — but other people retain the right to think worse of that person for their rude behavior — giving them enough rope to hang themselves. And there’s not much else to be done. If Rush Limbaugh says something stupid about Barack Obama (or something else — I can’t recall exactly who said what about whom, but I heard about a talk show host who said a dumb, mean, juvenile thing about somebody who didn’t deserve it), we have the 1st Amendment, and beyond libel protections, there isn’t’ much to be done. So you just wait til others pick up on this reputation. I mean, even if people don’t indict Cheney for the things he’s done, they would never put him in another position of power. They might not impeach Bush, but he’ll be remembered in history as an idiot. And in a sense, he can’t do much about that, and it’s good advice to do what you want regardless of others’ approbation. But that advice is better, maybe, for artists and positive innovators, than it is for bullies —maybe bullies should care what others thing.

And as I write this, I’m thinking about my own pot-stirring of years past — at the Daily Illini, … Yes, I harmed my reputation with some of those people, largely in an effort, I can now see, to get attention. I didn’t think I could just be a nice guy. I thought I had to have an edge, I guess, though it wasn’t always that conscious. Sometimes I’d just blurt things out, or I’d feel an impulse to point out someone’s hypocrisy, etc. That’s just who I was back then. I’m more mature now, less critical, but still don’t have many friends where I work. Oh, well.

But this is the thing about Bush — he can be and do what he thinks best. He can take crazy (to me) positions, he can do wrongheaded (to me) things. And well, this is the thing: I’ll think badly of him. But he has long been a polarizing figure. Bush seldom reached out to try to get consensus, or to really convince others of the merits of his position. He mostly just made up his mind and “forget the rest of you.” Books about him have been suggesting that his real decision-making process was, in fact, on the inside (and not just how it appeared from the outside) just a narrow-minded, ideological, differing-P.O.V.-ignoring process.

And so, he can work that way, but then he lives with the consequences — no broad support for his programs, no good favor, no willingness of the people to go along with him — and so it goes. You can be a jerk, but don’t expect others to like you.

[From journal of Fri., 28 Dec. 2007, Journal 95, page 44-7]

What is wonderful about that cartoon: not the plot but the stuff that could be considered the voice of that artwork

M said the city forces you to interact with other people to get your life, to get done those things you need to get done. It forces you to interact, and as you get sophisticated (or, what getting sophisticated means is), you learn whom to trust.  In the country, rural/small-town life, you already know everybody—everybody knows everybody, for good or ill. Once people know you, your reputation is set, as good or bad. In fact, your family’s reputation is set. There was another part to this thought that I can’t recall just now.

The grinch cartoon was on cartoon network last week. The TV’s guide info described it as a “curmudgeon” who ruins Christmas. The grinch as “curmudgeon”? It’s not wrong, but it’s not how most humans would describe that cartoon. It’s precise, just not accurate. That description misses what is wonderful about that cartoon, which is not the plot but the incidental stuff: the tone, the narration, the songs, the visual style—just all that stuff that could be considered the voice of that artwork, which, as I’ve come to see in recent months (or last couple years), is all that really matters about an artwork.

When you boil down/summarize a story into a plot, or a philosophy into one idea, well, lots of people have told the same plot, the same idea. Few ideas are totally new to human consciousness. But why you would cherish a particular telling of a story or a particular text or a particular writer’s/artist’s vision is for all those less-tangible aspects. Not that these are preset: you might like one artist’s sense of spontaneity and glee, another one’s (Verlyn Klinkenborgs’s essays) precision and … its cold accuracy, it’s precise polished brilliance, which is wonderful, but spontaneity is good, too, you know. “We tend not to do live animation. It’s hard on the animator’s wrists” [approximately] goes the line from the Simpsons where Homer is Poochy. So much of art has the polish, the “high production values” of Hollywood and network shows—professionals—even if the script is pure sh!t, tired dreck—

(pretty, byootiful—well, I was thinking “pretty”-denoting words, words that denote beauty, were themselves pretty-sounding (melodious) words—lovely, nice (but then “nice” is a feint compliment, or a dismissive), gorgeous—whereas words denoting “ugly” are ugly words: ugly (contrast hard “g” to the “j” sound in “gorgeous”), hideous, feo, repulsive—or am I just mistaking connotation for bad-sounding?)

and why I say all this is to defend my own budding belief in spontaneity—how I write spontaneously. Well, maybe that’s not the best word—though Kerouac uses it, doesn’t he?—”Spontaneous Prose“—and Dylan’s line about not wanting to do a 2nd take for recording—”that’s terrible,” as quoted in Beat Reader. The Beat ethic of not editing, though that itself can become an ideology. I mean, I admire Klinkenborg’s precision at times—I found a description (on Amazon) of VK’s writing, …[that said that] his search for the perfect word and phrase shows his love of words. And yes, I know Thoreau supposedly did many rewrites/revisions of “Walden”—and yet, and maybe this is just me, with my perfectionism, but the concept of having to go through multiple rewrites seems tedious. I’m not sure several rewrites are what I need. I tend to overedit and would boil my ideas down to that ridiculous one-line summary. M told me last week that my less-edited, more spontaneous email was better than the second, more edited one.

[From journal of Sun., 9 Dec. 2007, Journal 94, page 37-9]

Very dramatic skies to the north—painted roughly, with wide brushes—bruise-blue and white

Well, hot yesterday afternoon, humid. Dinner at Olive Garden because I didn’t know what to make and the thought of sitting in kitchen to make it was no good. And so, there we were, Olive Garden, then Office Max, and when we came out of there about 7:10, very dramatic skies to the north—painted roughly, with wide brushes—bruise-blue and white, etc.

My elbow aches a bit—too much writing? It’s OK to rest it when need be. So, anyway, the clouds came eventually over Stillman. They were coming from the west, moving toward northeast, the news at 5 said, and so we got rain here at 8:30–9. I had walked Gracie briefly because it was already lightning in the distance. When I got home at 8—bed at 9—forgot her pills, though.

Oh, well, I needed the sleep. So here we are, ya know. New journal—it doesn’t say “acid-free,” maybe it isn’t, but oh, well. So, I’ve got some papers to grade quickly this morning. I didn’t feel much like grading yesterday during study hall or 10th hour prep or after school, so I’ll do it this morning, before school and during Morning Pages [writing time in class]. And so, there you are.

I’ve been tired last two days, not sleeping so well, but I slept well last night. We watched TV 8–8:30, but then satellite started going out at 8:30, so from 8:40 ’til almost 9, I just sat here, in this chair at this table, watching the skies light up. Didn’t see many strokes of lightning, but whole-sky stuff. I’ve probably taken some risks in walking dog, etc., when there’s been lightning out. You don’t think about a lightning strike being a real possibility, but then L___’s dad—she was a student last semester—her dad was killed by lightning., and now I’ve got her brother T___ in study hall …

So there you go. Anyway, there we are—two storms last night, 8:30–9, then another one about 2:30, with closer lightning. So 1.75″ of rain in gauge out by the garden, which may or may not include the 1/4″ yesterday. And I watched a couple minutes of morning TV, local. They said there could be more rain, same pattern as last night, tonight. Already the second wettest month on record (since 1906) in Rockford—the wettest month on record in Madison, 11″+ in Madison, and still a week to go! Rain seems so commonplace now when two years ago we hardly ever saw it.

So, I’m writing in this new journal—maybe I’ll only get to three pages today. I started later than I did last two days. I got up 5:20 last two days, but today, dog came by my bed at 5:31 on clock, two minutes before alarm. She’s good at her timing, that dog, and she had to pee right away, out by peonies. And there’s the Grace dog.

[From journal of Thurs., 23 August 2007, 6:09 a.m., Journal 89, pages 1-2]

He notices everything

I noticed last night that the broadcast networks seem a little pixelated, lower quality picture, less detailed, [via satellite] than over the air. M said she wishes I hadn’t said that because then she noticed it. The installer guy said M’s husband wouldn’t realize it had been installed. She would surprise me with it—but she said, no, he notices everything.

My consciousness is a burden to me, I wrote in yesterday’s pocket page. Not most of the time it isn’t, but these days at school when I’m tired, it feels like a burden. What to do with my mind, my attention, when I don’t want to be at work—when all I want to do is be somewhere else, preferably resting—

[Brother] N is right—it’s stupid to complain about your job—and yet, there is this idea, for white-collar work at least (and maybe this is absent from blue-collar work) that you should like your job, that your work should suit you, match your interests—that your work is more a part of your identity than it is, maybe, for blue-collar workers.

[From journal of Fri., 23 Feb. 2007, Journal 81, pages 199-200]

M was filling out a questionnaire this morning.

2:24 p.m. Borders in DeKalb. …

M was filling out a questionnaire this morning. Here’s some things she wrote: (Paul Simon greatest hits on speakers)(she volunteered this sheet for me to look at, and she told me these answers, too)

Describe your spouse’s personality: introverted, fun-loving, talkative one-on-one, honest, intellectually inquisitive, thoughtful

What do you like most about your spouse? Incredibly supportive, calm and stable, funny, tolerant, ability to communicate

What do you like least about your spouse? Critical of others (not usually me), messy

… Other questions on this questionnaire—useful for character sketches? Name, address, phone, age, occupation, sex, date of birth, place of birth, religion, height, weight, does your weight fluctuate, if so by how much

Marital status: single, engaged, married, separated, divorced, widowed, living with someone, __ remarried: how many times?

With whom do you life?

What work are you doing now? Does your work satisfy you? Jobs in the past?

[From journal of Thurs., 2 August 2007, Journal 88, page 53]

Just nauseous at the thought of eating either

We went to see [uncle] L’s baby pigs last night—three little guys, not yet three weeks old. That’s pretty young to wean them, L said. They’re in a little lean-to he built bordering on his horse corral. Cute pigs, but it’s weird to look in their eyes, their sentient eyes, and think that one day L will kill them and eat them. It’s a form of lust, in a sense—wanting their bodies. M asked if [L’s daughter] was gonna be bothered by L killing them.

I remember that rabbit I couldn’t eat at [grandma] P’s—and also lamb, I think. I remember sitting there at the table in breakfast nook, just nauseous at the thought of eating either. If these were separate occasions, I may have melded them in memory. Mint jelly on the lamb, maybe it was cold, I remember poking at a little white tube—an artery?—embedded in the meat. Goat, I don’t think I could eat goat, either. And that time (this was back in ’80s, when we lived here [upstairs] before) I walked in P’s kitchen and saw red bones sticking out of buckets—gristly bones, probably like how my brothers clean meat off deer legs. It’s not perfectly white, the bones. But I think that image gave me nightmares—and maybe that was just a kid thing. It doesn’t bother me now to see my brothers butchering deer, or L skinning beaver (though when I saw him pop apart that beaver’s spine in Dec. ’03 when I went to talk to him about how I’d taken that coyote to school, the sound of that spine coming apart sticks in my head—it seemed just a bit too much like my own spine. How easily that spine came apart, too. But it hasn’t given me nightmares).

I even ate lamp chops from Dad’s lambs when I was in high school. That didn’t bother me too much. But maybe I was a proto-vegetarian all along.

That stew my aunt C’s Chilean (?) boyfriend made, with big chunks of everything—segments of corn on cob, and a hunk of flesh on bone—was that rabbit, too? How I sat on P’s sofa and watched TV, not eating much of the soup sitting there in front of me, on end table, I think.

[From journal of Weds. 6 June 2007, J85, page 265-6]

Committing to care

Your spouse isn’t your flesh and blood but you come to feel strongly about caring for that person, and so when you adopt a kid, you’re committing to caring for that person. That “committing to care” is how it came to me last evening as I thought this. Maybe I thought in those terms because of how I’ve committed to care for M, which commitment has required more actual care (rather than merely theoretical duty of care) of late. Mom admired my patience with M, and M last night said I was “a saint.” “Could I be St. Jude?” I asked. Saint Sweetie, she said. And I’ve been OK, though I feel a tad guilty when she says this. I was quite solicitous early on, in June, but the last few weeks, I haven’t quite doted on her every minute. I’ve had to distance myself figuratively from her concerns—though in my nervous state, certain … [things] would get to me—and so I’ve also distanced myself physically from her—like being gone 4 to 7 p.m. yesterday (Supervalu [store] after Mom’s).

[From journal written Sunday, 15 July 2007, Journal 87, page 143]