Quarter of ten at night.
Lately my thoughts at night, lying in bed, are rather difficult since I revisited my childhood memories by means of old music. Basically I am concerned for my mortality and what that means for me personally: heaven, hell, or maybe nothing will greet my consciousness when I cross the bar, in Tennyson’s words. He believed he would meet his Pilot at that time, and you know, that’s a poem I ought to read again… I just did that, and he said he hoped to meet his Pilot face to face, but he wasn’t a hundred percent certain. It’s a beautiful lyric poem; I wish I’d written it myself. But as far as the question of the afterlife, I might as well resign myself to ignorance, for it’s a puzzle no one has ever solved for humanity.
Beginning in my thirties, I used to dream recurrently of being in the house alone during a power outage. I flicked a light switch on and nothing happened: no power or light. I was already a ghost in a dark house. It always makes me think hard about the nature of existence: what is the light and where does it come from? And where does it go when it’s gone?
The morning is still benighted for two more hours, but even so, I might go to the store at opening time: six o’clock, and see Michelle. What makes a nice person nice and a mean person not nice? Michelle is made of sugar and spice, in accord with the old nursery rhyme. In colloquial French, the word for “nice” is sympathique; and “mean” is mechante. And the person who wears a frown is malheureuse. The rain is forecast to start again at noon today. It’s warm enough outside to go without a jacket. I think Aesop would probably like to get more chicken strips, so I’ll oblige him if they still have those. Pretty soon I will leave the house and just pretend there’s an invisible sun in the sky.
Six fifty five. I heard about Michelle’s weekend while I was at the store. More out of control stuff; her life seems quite unmanageable, so I hope she gets some help. Perhaps she’s been a little too nice and not assertive enough with the people who push her buttons. People generally talk about their “spiritual leader” nowadays, but I’m very skeptical of this, of course. No supernatural power is going to take control over your life and make everything better. It’s all up to you to take the wheel and drive your life like a car, with as many passengers as you wish. Even God can take a back seat if you must have one. I won’t go to hell for saying so, either… Now the sun pushes over the rim across the street from me, illuminating gray clouds. The gibbous moon was directly overhead when I went out an hour ago, accompanied by a few stars through an opening in the cloud canopy. Nature is enough.
“Knowledgeability.” I opened Apple Notes and typed this word in for spelling accuracy. A funny kind of word: take “knowledge” plus “ability” and jam them together. It came up in my blank book because I was writing of how my former band mates paid me a compliment on my knowledge of music and other things: and yet I wasn’t sure how to spell this simple word. Was I supposed to omit the “e” in “knowledge” before adding “ability?” Sometimes the purest simplicity escapes me, like the color of a person’s eyes or even the shirt they are wearing. Call me obtuse. Call me absentminded.
Ten o five.
The wind is really whipping; it just missed me by a half hour. Aesop was very excited because I bought him some doggie chicken strips this morning. He’d been picky about his breakfast and ate it only as an afterthought. I’ve still got the drippy Herb Alpert music in my brain, but to be honest I actually like it. I believe it helps me process some difficult emotions, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right now it’s “The Sea Is My Soil,” with an acoustic guitar that’s slightly out of tune. Besides the sound of the wind it is silent in the house; an occasional car goes roaring on the highway to the north.
Another note on A Connecticut Yankee: no nature means that people are not only free but also they are equal. Jung has said that “nature is aristocratic,” and inequality begins there. But Twain said that if you remove the clothes from everyone, distinctions of social class will disappear and people are all the same. He was probably an early behaviorist, a believer in learning theory. And there’s nothing to prove that either perspective is right or wrong. If everyone started out with the same advantages, then maybe the view of Mark Twain would be correct. Unfortunately, for ethical reasons no one can run that experiment.
Aesop is going to pout now until he gets another treat of chicken strips. Pavlov’s Dog is salivating.
I told Aesop I’d feed him at nine fifteen, but I might hold off just a little bit longer. He’s getting a drink of water right now. Echoes of last night’s service rise to my mind, specifically the “hold us in love” part of the Holden Evening Prayer. I think there’s a food pantry this morning, but going to church tomorrow should be enough for me. I made a point of attending the memorial for Katie because she was my friend. I’ve been to the little store and seen Heather. Didn’t get rained on, though the air looks kind of blue. I put on a pair of very lightweight slip on shoes that feel comfortable to me because it’s about utility and not so much fashion. Aesop is waiting patiently for his breakfast. Some idiot is mowing his lawn when he’ll probably get wet. It’s not what I would choose to do. The greens outside are really green from the gray day, but it’s getting quite dark suddenly. Maybe he’ll say, “Retreat!” and quit his project.
Ten o’clock. The dog is fed now while the darkness out there grows and a cloudburst looks inevitable. “Into the cloudburst naked / I wanna get my face wet / It’s been buried in the sun for years.” I wonder what Thomas Dolby thinks of the pandemic? I’d really love to know. His lyrics dealing with history are so spot on; depressing but very good, very deep. Now the rain is coming down and the sound of the lawnmower has ceased. Welcome to Oregon weather.
Four fifty. I’m going to Katie’s memorial service tonight. Tim is picking me up at six forty. I’ve had a rough afternoon because I listened to the CD this morning, opening up an emotional can of worms. Then I wallowed in pathos for a few hours, thinking of my mother, to whom I was very close. I guess I can snap out of it when it’s time to go to the church. Until then I’m just killing time, waiting for the sun to go down. I really can’t put my parents down for being hedonists. The church has me in a tight spot, and I tend to sympathize still with my parents and not with my sister. I’m not going to manage to be very rational today. Sometimes that’s okay. But it’s not my usual mental state to be soppy and maudlin. If I could just make the music stop.
Six o’clock. It won’t be long now.
Ten twenty five.
Aesop and I slumbered in this morning, and my brain was full of ominous and obscure thoughts. But when I finally got up, the world was kind to me. I had 13 emails unread and my trip to the market went fine. It was warm enough out for me to go without a jacket. The rain won’t start until around two o’clock, and then it’ll be constant for another week or more. The day is gray and green punctuated by trees that are turning gold or red. My brother has been on my unconscious mind lately, and what a pity how he is alienated from the family. I was thinking of him when I picked up a book of writings of naturalism. I might read more of it today; I have plenty of time today for reading or whatever. Aesop was hungry and scarfed down his breakfast with gusto a little while ago. A shaft of sunlight hits the ground under the magnolia tree. On the street I passed a couple of cats, a gray one and one black and white. A tree frog creeks in my backyard. I also saw two doves perched on the power lines behind a house on my street. I thought of climate change and its effects on the wildlife here and everywhere. When the food supply runs short, birds and animals go where it is more plentiful— obviously. So we see species in town we’d never seen before: woodpeckers and doves, for example. Wild turkeys can be seen around the city, especially Downtown… It looks like a good day ahead; I even anticipate the rain expected this afternoon. Aesop wants a peanut butter cookie, which I’ll give him presently.
People just aren’t getting it. The Covid pandemic is nothing. What’s killing us is an epidemic of lovelessness. I know people who have never been in love their whole life, whose heart is inside their head. The world could really benefit from reading Dubliners by James Joyce, but since no one is doing this, I offer a post about passion. No one is alive whose life energy is entirely from the neck up. D.H. Lawrence said the body is the soul. Still, no one listens. I knew a former pastor who, symbolically, was paralyzed from the neck down. He stated that the job of human beings was to “subdue the earth,” whatever that means, but I think he referred to his own body. In my experience, spiritualization is sterilization, and it’s everywhere. People are a bunch of severed heads running around, feeling absolutely nothing. When will we realize that our heart is in our chest and not in our skull? We are a species of the undead, merely animated corpses, and again, to quote James Baldwin, “Funerals are for the living.” The shadow of the Cathedral twists us completely out of shape. And the New York City subway tunnels and rumbles its way through the dead of night, threatening to irrupt into broad daylight.
It’s pitch dark outside yet, no daylight for another 45 minutes. Even then it’ll remain pretty dark from the overcast. My Snapple can wait a half hour. Bonnie Rose just fired up her black pickup truck across the street. If she can go out in the dark then so can I… By this time, the dawning light is visible through my front window, the black trees turning green and red.
Eight twenty. When I came out of the market, a gigantic rainbow arced right above it, and here and there it was raining lightly. A woman told her children, “It’s a rainbow. It’s beautiful!” The store was very busy, mostly with teens on their way to school, stopping to buy munchies. Whereas time dragged on before the sunrise, now it’s getting away from me as the world wakes up… Pastor is offering rides to church for Katie’s memorial service on Friday night. I was planning on going anyway, but getting a ride is a good idea, especially in the rain. It’s always interesting how a poet’s mood creates the meaning of a real scene— or maybe it’s just an absolute that a rainbow is a beautiful thing, aside from all human perception. I know people who believe so.
I catch myself being a jerk today and then I have to stop and reevaluate my attitude and behavior. The cabbie for the return ride was interesting. He lived through the great snow of 1969 in Eugene. I mentioned drought after observing that Kelly Pond had shrunk down to hardly any water at all. He said that in ‘69 it was dry for 120 days in a row. I was two years old that year and don’t remember much of it.
My meeting at the agency went pretty well, except as I said, I was kind of a jerk. I look back on my working days now and wonder how I endured the boredom of it. I was not challenged by the type of work I did. There was a coworker who understood that about me. She was very intelligent and incisive, and advised me to get a job in the larger community. But I stayed where I was because I thought it was safer. After a few years it turned into a big mess. The alcohol addiction usurped my life and in general I felt trapped. Today I still feel a little bit that way. Therefore, no situation is really safe. I’d like to do more fun things in the community and try to connect with smart people. Bookstores are a good place for me to start looking for intelligent life, and maybe a trip up on campus. The burden of being smart is that it takes more to keep yourself stimulated.