Quarter after ten. It feels very cold outside. I put on my jacket and chattered my way to the market for food and, for a change, a Coke. I told Vicki about the burrito pricing mixup, so she entered the new prices in the register. In addition I asked her when there would be more dog food on the shelf. She answered something vague, but at least I put a bug in her ear. Aesop doesn’t like the Costco brand of canned food anymore, and I said so.
As I plodded there and back, I began to consider the introduction to the Montaigne book. The striking thing for me is how he lets the contradictions within himself remain. He doesn’t impose unifying principles on his own experience, makes no attempt to systematize. And this is called diversity. It impresses me as the very opposite of Joseph Campbell, and even of modern natural science. It seems rather lawless, like chaos to me. And yet it is a valid way of perceiving the phenomena of life. According to biology, without organization a life form breaks down and dies. Without it, perhaps the sciences could not exist as they do today. But still Montaigne reminds me that some people leave the particulars as they are, and they don’t operate on what they perceive. This kind of variety means a minimizing of conflict which in the extreme would otherwise result in bloodshed…
The Coke is a little gross, bubbly and acidic and ultimately unhealthy, though it’s a treat just the same. Tomorrow I have physical therapy again, this time taking a taxi both ways. I plan on not doing the homework. Erin can then decide if I should continue the sessions.
Sometimes I see myself as an aesthetic person, and this applies even to the experience of sitting down to read a book. The volume in my hands is like a succulent meal, like the best prime rib or shrimp scampi. There’s something obsessive about it for me, perhaps even manic. Moreover, taste makes waste. On the other hand, life needs the seasoning of beauty to render it palatable. The weather, speaking of beauty, is cloudless and perfect, the sky a blue pearl. Now the maple leaves begin to change from green to gold. On the fringe of my mind lurks the figure of Neil Peart, whose inconsistencies make me wonder if he ever read Montaigne.
Quarter after nine.
It’ll be Michelle at the store today, so I’m happy about that. The song in my head is “Speak Like a Child” by Jaco Pastorius, one I hadn’t thought of in a long time. I wonder what prompted it? I got my original copy of this album in the winter of 1989, but not sure where. Someplace Downtown or in the Valley River Center.
Ten thirty. I spoke with a handful of people while I was out just now. Kim gave me a piece of quiche, saying it was her first attempt at it with a crust. It tasted great to me, especially the peppers and ham. She told me a little more about her husband’s life. The first person I encountered was Colin, walking his dog Lolo up our street. We talked a bit about the postal service and receiving our ballots in the mail. At the store, Suk said hi, and Michelle assured me that there will be cottage cheese tomorrow. The weather is beautiful again today, the sunshine soft and orange. Part of me would love to glut my senses with some pleasure, as in the old days. But I have to settle for sunshine and poetry for my sources of beauty. I’ve also been invited to record with the church singers Saturday night, so maybe I’ll go and do that. It should be a colorful time to go see my friends in church. Color is what my life lacks, making it a T or F existence, logical and devoid of quality. It’s like food without flavor, no seasoning of any kind. There’s something to be said for taste in human life. I think most people would agree on the importance of color and harmony, like savoring a good rainbow sherbet. Or maybe a lyric poem by Wallace Stevens? The stark words in black and white belie the impression of a prismatic spray between the lines…
My mother met me in the clearing of
A verdant hill, and wearing weeds of love
She schooled me how to scribe these very lines.
She told me her mistrust of metric feet,
That every word must fall upon the beat
In order so the incantation shines.
Like Hecate to the sisters of the weird
Mum wasn’t, yet the purpose I had feared
Obscurely looms as vapor from red wines.
Innocuous she seemed in sunlight fair,
The beams reflected on her auburn hair,
But her design was one that undermines.
Therefore I concentrate with all my might
To rub this apparition from my sight.
Three thirty 🕞. I took out three bags of trash while Aesop made a loud racket in protest. It was embarrassing for me, but I had to do at least some garbage this week. It is so nice to have cooler weather again, so I can actually think. It feels definitely like October, and while it conjures up past autumns, I also have to ask myself where do I go from here. In the etymology of “decision” is the word for “cutting.” Basically I have to cut away my past and move forward without dragging along the baggage. The turning of the leaves and their descent to the ground will mean something different to me this year. I am neither a drunkard nor a Christian anymore. It remains to be seen just what I will be from now on. It’s very overcast right now; I thought I felt a sprinkle of rain, although the forecast says no rain until next weekend. Rain and autumn leaves are so typically Oregon in the Valley. I’m glad Damien got the new fence up last May because we can expect monsoons and high winds in the fall. Gradually the days will get shorter and a bit cooler, the nights jet black and often wet. I’m also glad I don’t drive a car anymore; it’s too expensive and too stressful to keep doing. Leave the driving to someone else. Many people are all too willing to do it. I look forward to my next journey to Bi Mart or maybe Grocery Outlet. It might be interesting to go there in the late afternoon, just before dark. I haven’t seen Silver Lane at night for a while. Grove Avenue is beautiful in the fall because of the row of trees fronting each house…
Mostly, I don’t feel many pangs or twinges of guilt or remorse anymore. Somehow I can duck these useless feelings. It may be a philosophical maneuver I learned from reading Sartre last spring and summer. It’s also a product of taking my Vraylar every night. Dunno; I just don’t feel paranoid like I used to, and that’s a great thing. I know someone who feels righteous about being depressed; he wallows in guilt as if he enjoyed the suffering. It’s not for me…
Quarter after eleven. The sky is getting dark with rain clouds. I hear thunder. Again the squirrels are very active on my property. Now it’s raining… I used to fear criticism from other people so badly, and I got the worst of it from my brother. But since I stopped drinking, the shoe is on the other foot. I think about him less than before, but I can remember how mean he could be. One thing keeps me straight, and that is the quest for the truth, whatever it proves to be. Another peal of thunder ripples across the sky. I feel more optimistic today, since the rain cleared the air outside. Earlier this week I thought I’d been psychotic, but the next day I felt fine. I actually like myself today, and life is worth seeing through to the bitter end. Perhaps we can colonize other planets, as has been the dream of sci-fi writers since HG Wells and before him to Poe. It’s a matter of how wise and how durable is the human spirit. A scrub jay screeches even in the rain. The creatures are all confused after the fires and the smoke for nearly two weeks… I owe a debt of gratitude to my pen pal for maintaining her composure while I was going a little crazy during the wildfires. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believed the end was imminent… An idea from Percy Shelley occurs to me occasionally: we all are really just one person, participants in the One Mind. Individuality is an illusion created by language, he said. It’s a trippy concept, yet there’s something attractive about it. I imagine that whatever happens, we all share the same fate… How curious to think about interplanetary existence. Or any solution humankind comes up with to the problem of the uncertain future. The sun peeks through the charcoal gray for a moment. I hear the sounds of the train yard off to the south. More screeching of jay birds. My cattle dog Aesop just got a drink of water in the kitchen. Life is better today, even if for just a day.
At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.
Four forty. I rested in bed for a while. Towards the end I began to hear “Strange Meadowlark” in my head, an old Brubeck classic that always lifts my mood. The temperature outside is dramatically down from the summer heat we were having before. Currently it’s 70 degrees. This relief makes it easier for me to function again. It was fun to play my Strat a while ago, and I might do it again tomorrow. Maybe even plug it in. I don’t have many thoughts about literature and life right now. Perhaps something about learning from our regrets but not beating ourselves up. I remember that I asked a woman cabbie out once. I never saw her after that, yet I don’t regret doing it. Life was strange early in my recovery. There are things I don’t recall, but mostly I just wish I’d had more self respect at the time. It didn’t matter that I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia at all. It finally becomes clear to me. What counts is that I am a very intelligent human being, and very worthy for that reason. I don’t know where I got the misconception that having a brain is a terrible sin. There’s not an iota of truth to that. So, it would have been nice to avoid all the therapy and the abuse and suspicion I received from the professional people who really didn’t know what they were doing. I’m so much happier now, without being stigmatized. All I needed was to take the Vraylar. Over the time since the fire, my blog has metamorphosed from being about schizophrenia to being about human life without labels. But this doesn’t subtract anything from the beauty of “Strange Meadowlark,” does it? The bird is an ugly duckling destined to be an awesome swan.
Eight twenty five.
I paid my utility bill this morning. It was very low again due to the summertime. It amazes me that fall is almost here. I’m thankful that people treat me with respect these days, and actually care what I have to say. My relationship with my family is changing for the better. But I still prefer WordPress to Facebook; it seems a more intelligent platform because you have to be able to write… Today I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to be perfect. A song comes to me, “Walking on Air” by King Crimson. It makes me want to learn to play my Stratocaster better. But there’s that pressure again. Maybe I’ll just listen to the CD and admire Adrian Belew. If I do pick up my Strat today, I’ll be languid about it. I won’t expect too much of myself. I want to enjoy the experience and not be frustrated.
Quarter of eleven. I bought some mint ice cream and shared two dollops with Aesop. The conversation at the salon turned political again, accusing the other side of being political and hateful. It was typical redneck philosophy. I didn’t stay very long because I didn’t agree, and it was awkward for me. Under my conservative clothes I’m still an educated person. People can bray their ignorant opinions and I won’t say anything to their face, but as long as this is my domain, I will write about it. The same people are the ones who hate Mexican immigrants and refuse to learn Spanish to accommodate them. It was always an atrocious attitude. We treat nonwhites very shabbily, and at some point justice must be carried. I’m tired of seeing red everywhere I go, and I’m not the only one… Now I want to play my guitar for a while.
Turned to Stone
Humanity with fear is paralyzed,
Unable to enjoy a single pleasure,
Dissatisfied to even shed a tear
As if a Gorgon stared us into stone.
Medusa, hair of snakes, in spirit form
Sends out a signal petrifying all,
Revenge against her slayer Perseus.
But Perseus, the favored of the gods,
Is not asleep, and armed with sword and shield,
Is ready to behead her as before,
Releasing everybody from her spell.
So once again the world is free to feel
The joys and sorrows proper to its kind,
And more important, act accordingly.
Three thirty five. I’m not going to church tonight. I let Pastor know in an email this morning, and then I texted Roxanne. I wonder what the upshot of these times will be to posterity. We who are living through it sit around and scratch our heads. Nothing in our knowledge seems to add up. Our venerable traditions are unequal to the situation we face. I find the apocalypse prophecies especially inadequate, because at bottom, nobody wants to pretend there are righteous and wicked people. The objections I felt to the Last Judgment still stand. This is the real reason why I’m an absentee tonight. If one person goes to heaven, then everybody should go to heaven. But IMO it’s better to dispense with religion entirely and work together to save our natural lives. I like to envision a future of joie de vivre, as in the Picasso painting done after WW2.
Meanwhile, Rush’s “Madrigal” floats back to me, reminding me of a trip my parents took with me up to Victoria, BC. One evening, from the hotel we walked up the street to a restaurant with a glass enclosure where you could watch the chef grilling your steak on a big cauldron. I also remember buying a hotdog on the ferry and having a look around outside the cabin. The ferry was called the Coho, and it was black with red trim. On our second trip to Canada, we left the car in Port Angeles and just walked around Victoria. We may have taken cabs; I don’t recall. We shopped at Eaton’s, and Mom bought a teapot in the gift shop of the hotel. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Who needed heaven when Victoria was just across the water from Washington? I prefer to think that my parents went to Victoria when they passed away…