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.
Four ten in the morning.
I can hear it raining right now. Yesterday I noticed how the oak tree is beginning to drop its leaves, which now are a deeper gold before they turn to burgundy. My brother used to say he remembered when Mom planted that tree, sometime in the Seventies, and today it towers over the whole neighborhood, an arboreal giant. Many of the leaves fall in my neighbor’s backyard and onto the roof of his shed, but he doesn’t say anything. When life was less harmonious for me with my sister, I didn’t appreciate the red oak; but currently it gives me some happiness to think of the leaves it has shed every year since my mother passed away. I tend to forget that trees are living things because they don’t move around the way animals do, and that’s very foolish of me. Every cell of every tree has a nucleus that serves as its brain and intelligence, and every tree has to breathe like you and me. The only difference is that they breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, which benefits us who breathe oxygen.
My brother was quite a naturalist when I knew him last, or rather he was torn between this and civilization. He was always at home in the woods or at the coast, the mountains, or wherever it was pure wilderness without the taint of humankind. I wonder if someday he might just vanish in the woods with a fishing pole and a few beers?
Seven thirty five.
The sun is just coming up, and there’s frost on Roger’s rooftop. I got a better sleep last night but my dreams were not lucid. At midnight I finished up another blank book, commenting on the faces I saw at Bi Mart yesterday afternoon. They were all unfamiliar to me, so how can I love them all universally? It is Christian doctrine to love your neighbor as yourself, but when everyone is a stranger it can be quite difficult. I think this is why Joyce is important to remember, pointing out the relatedness of all humanity, like a big family. But for me, family is a problem, and has been ever since I fell ill thirty years ago. A lot of bad feeling between our homes, a Hatfield and McCoy feud. Or more like a Cold War. So that my family appears to me as those strange faces in the Bi Mart parking lot yesterday… Aesop doesn’t feel well right now, so I’m going to watch him for a little while.
Quarter after eight. I know that my mother never would’ve wanted for her family to be so divided. Perhaps it ought to be a family unified in Christ, and the same church for all of us. It’s only resentment in me that gives me the defiant independent spirit. Or maybe these ideas are just learning from books, not from experience? I get a bellyful of ideology and would like to level everything down to what you can see and hear, taste and smell and touch. Now the sun blasts into the front window. A few leaves have turned on my maple and oak. I’m ready for a little adventure, but I fear that my dog is unwell this morning.
Nine twenty five. The people at the store looked rather shabby, including me, and spirits were pretty low. I ran into Melissa and her boy at checkout and said hi. Cathy arrived at nine o’clock and finished my transaction at the register. When I was going home I thought of Melissa’s kid, asking myself if I’d ever be mature enough to be a father. I’m probably too egoistic to consider such a thing. And I thought what is it all for when you bring a child into the world.
Quarter after eight.
This morning it’s overcast and not very warm outside. I will feed Aesop before I go to the market since we got up a bit late. Everybody is tired and uninspired from the lockdown. I’ve been feeling bored with my life recently, looking for something new and different to do in a day. The other day I spotted a woodpecker in my magnolia, though I’m not a birder necessarily. I’d rather be a watcher of people, quite honestly, but they make themselves scarce these days.
Nine ten. Heather was too absorbed in her phone to give me much attention when I stepped inside the store. It hit me as being rather rude, though she seemed oblivious of her effect on others. Maybe next time I’ll say something about it to her. She’s not a rational person, from what I’ve seen of her… I saw two great piles of wood where two trees had been destroyed on Fremont Avenue. One pile had a sign on it: “Free wood.” The other one said nothing. And this cold reticence begins to get on my nerves. I encounter it everywhere, and people don’t seem to give a damn how other people feel. It isn’t just my perception. Not an exaggeration—
Ten forty. My sister called, interrupting me in mid sentence. This was a nice thing to have happen. I’ve got Thomas Dolby music in my head, from The Golden Age of Wireless, while a gentle wind agitates the maple tree outdoors. The sun is out in the pale blue sky, shining on Roger where he works in his driveway. My sister talked to me about Halloween past and present, and how the pharmacy at Bi Mart is being taken over by a bigger company. The way of the world…
The thought of the Christmas season came over me while I was eating lunch. Maybe I really have been a Judas for the past twenty years, and the best thing for me is to open my heart to my family and their concept of human life. Christmas is a big piece of that. Even my mother once celebrated the season, decorated the house with a tree, tinsel, lights, ornaments, and so on. At some point she grew jaded and sour and lost all faith, or perhaps she had never understood the reason for the tradition. My own Christmas spirit died when my mother passed away… or went underground and dormant. Maybe this year Christmas will come to my home again. And I’ll probably go to church tomorrow morning, though it’s not a church that my family would choose. In the end, it’s not an intellectual thing.
I did too much caffeine yesterday afternoon, so now it’s hard to sleep. Still, I’m thankful for the autumn and the rejuvenation I get from it. I used to have a friend who played guitar, and also was a fan of Washington Irving. Months ago I bought the volume that contains the Sketchbook and never popped the plastic on it, as if saving it for a special occasion. Halloween might be a good time to bring it out. My sister’s family had a miniature dachshund named Ichabod, probably inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” though they likely didn’t read the tale. The definition of a classic. I read it at least once, and then my book perished in the house fire… I remember all the resentment and bad feeling between our families, and at some level it still exists. When I learned the basics of cognitive therapy I severed myself mentally from my family, widening the gulf between us and increasing our incomprehension. This is something that language can do. But if I wanted to return to their mother tongue, I suppose I could, though it would mean paranoia for me… and maybe for them too. Also it would restore a sort of telepathy among us, which is a little spooky to consider. It’s like a heavy morning fog clinging to Sleepy Hollow, oozy and archaic with obsolete words.
Six twenty five.
My taxi ride is about two hours away. The traffic of diesel trucks on the Beltline sounds quite loud. Now I have to go out in the predawn darkness to the store for Aesop and me. Thomas Dolby: “My Brain Is Like a Sieve.” A song of forgiveness.
Quarter after seven. The excursion was fun. Michelle told me she has arthritis in her foot; unfortunate when she has to stand all day. She helped me max out my food credits. When I left the house it was dark outside, but on the way home already it was growing light. The clouds are packed in layers, cloud on cloud. My thoughts are hung up on the same problem, cognitive therapy versus analytical psychology. Rational or emotional thinking… I scroll back about nine years. My online girlfriend started dating another guy, so I had to decide whether to keep her for a friend. Was I capable of doing that? But now it’s just a dialogue with the ghosts of history. Once in a while I get the opportunity to show some courage. With the lockdowns it’s been harder to do. Or maybe the lockdowns are themselves the opportunity? Playing safe gets boring, and it doesn’t get results.
Eight ten. The crows bicker noisily over something. Aesop was very hungry for his breakfast, scarfed it right down. Sunlight burns through a little.
Ten forty. I’m back from the agency. Kind of nice to see Misty. Feeling better from the change in temperature and the promise of the new season. I stopped the statin for cholesterol a week ago or longer: a good move. I remember things I did 19 years in the past because now I can feel something again. It’s a bit like a homecoming, except I miss my family as the perversity crumbles. I could harden my heart for only so long, and now I see all that I might have missed before.
Dawn is rising. Sky looks clear. Last night I considered psychology and religious ideas, but still I hesitate. I’ve seen what can be done with them in treatment programs. It was a nightmare for me. Today I perceive the whole industry as a racket. Maybe I’m just undecided on DDA meetings at the agency? I want Misty to be happy, but not at the expense of my beliefs. I’ve had good results with cognitive therapy, so why should I confuse myself with another approach? I don’t think I like the agency or its agenda, and I wonder how I ever got involved in this huge mess. I feel like my free will has been taken away from me. Fortunately my annual review is in mid October, and then I can speak my mind. It seems like every organization wants to sell you their opinions. If you don’t buy, then they will do a hostile takeover.
Eight twenty five. When I allow myself to feel very much I get paranoid. There must be a place in between realistic and romantic, but I haven’t found it yet. The rows of purple clouds on blue morning sky were very pretty as I trudged west on the sidewalk. My dad died 22 years ago today, but now I’m thinking more about my mother, or really a fusion of both parents. My dog Aesop waits very patiently for his breakfast while my heart plays “Mosaic” by Mark Egan. Exquisite. What would the world be like without music? There would be no worship… The squirrels in my backyard always seem so happy and playful, even when they work, caching acorns and apples for the winter. I have two trees that turn colors in the autumn: the maple goes gold and the oak a dark red like burgundy. I think my mother appreciated these things more than I can, but I’ll try harder though it gives me pain… Before long the neighborhood will be looking kind of like Sleepy Hollow. There are unfathomed depths to the soul that I’d forgotten about. This fall will be interesting to see.
I heard the rain start again tonight from my bedroom. If I was sleeping, I don’t remember my dreams, though there was a semiconscious thought process. My dog is not sleeping well either. So I got up and came in here to make a few notes. The streetlight is on outside my window and a couple of cars have passed by. The same wooden light post has been there since these houses were built in the early Sixties. There’s an undercurrent of the same old spirit when my family first moved into this house in 1971. This community can be an interesting place if I open my heart to it. Certain pockets of it have resisted change over the years. I need to go easier on the church pastor, I suppose. It’s probably true that my parents were hedonists, contributing very little to the neighborhood, especially my mother. While my dad was simple, Mom willfully sucked pleasure out of life. She did it without consequences for most of her life, until a heart attack cut it short.
I wonder if there’s an ethic to being an aesthete like she was? She got the idea from Hollywood. I remember watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with her on television. Marilyn Monroe was the original, pretty much, with a lot of imitators. I don’t know that much about it. I think my mother admired her a great deal. It’s hard to know where she would have fit in; perhaps as a bohemian artist among other artists. Someone needed to guide her on the right track, but there just wasn’t anybody to do this. Mom was far smarter than the moral majority of churchgoers and gossips and other shallow people.
She was the next Michelangelo.