The Bell

Eight thirty.

The rain is supposed to begin late this afternoon. My mind is a blank except for the last chord of Mark Egan’s “Waterfall Cafe.” Like a spontaneous burst of purple fruit. Intoxicating and wonderful. It’s all that remains to me of my drinking days, just a nostalgia of heavenly bliss. I used up all the bread and salami I bought on Sunday.

Quarter of ten. I stopped and chatted with Karen for a few minutes. She told me that business is slower due to inflation on groceries and everything. People don’t have any money for hair styling. My own experience had belied her opinion— until I got to the store and paid $4.79 for a burrito. But still, some things are going up while others are not. I don’t pay much attention to prices anymore, and I never carry cash. If I obsess over numbers, then I get triggered to drink. The flow of currency is equivalent to the flow of alcohol as addiction overtakes you and dashes you on the rocks. So, I avoid quantitative thinking like the song of Sirens. 

I hear a squirrel on the roof. Yesterday afternoon was insane with the activity of squirrels, jays, and sparrows competing for acorns. They were busy at it until nightfall. The natural world is confused just like the human world. Their habitat is being destroyed, so obviously they move where the food is. Tomorrow morning will be the ringing of the church bell in observance of the firefighters and others affected by the wildfires. My pen pal remarked something romantic concerning the bell; it’s a symbol that people are a collective. It reminds me too of the novel by Iris Murdoch, wherein the church bell betokens Christian love that reaches back many centuries. The bell rests at the bottom of the lake, sleeping deep in the human psyche. Then one night it is dredged up, dripping and slimed with algae, and restored… I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll attend the church bell ringing. It’s a long way to walk on my rickety hips and knees. Maybe I’ll be offered a lift home. 

State of Nature

Five o’clock 🕔. I made my trip to Grocery Outlet and bought some very fresh foodstuffs. The dry salami knocked my socks off, and the banana peppers were super hot and tasty. I ate about a third of the loaf of sourdough bread. On my way to the store, I figured out who the real tyrant was: it was Pastor and the church. Now that I’m free, even food tastes better than in the chains of Christ. The full rainbow of colors is again available to me. This afternoon is quite beautiful, but the air is still a bit smoky. My new aqua bandanna works great, so I’ll use it often and might get an extra one. The cashiers at the store were exceedingly friendly and nice, and it just felt like the beginning of my life. Part of me is a little scared to be without religion, as if I must be possessed by the devil or something. But no; this secular life is natural for me, and minus the reference point of the church, the idea of the devil makes no sense. This is my life au natural, stripped of all fictions, much like what Nietzsche envisioned. Everyone ought to be this free and pure… Tomorrow I have nothing planned except to call my sister and get some food for Aesop. Tuesday I have X-rays to show up for. Wednesday they said more rain. Other than that, I don’t know what I’m doing next week. 

Equinox

Quarter after eight. I’m preparing to go to the store, primarily to buy Snapples. I’ve been getting away from soda, out of boredom with the same old stuff…

I observed a few fallen leaves on the street. The blocked gutter at Fremont created a little pond, as usual. I heard more bird life than is typical; wonder where they’ve been all summer. There were lost coins on the pavement, and even a discarded Bandaid. In the market, Michelle was wearing a pink sweatshirt over her blouse; yesterday it was Snoopy and Woodstock. She is always kind to me. I saw Derek on my way back, and we exchanged a hello, nothing more. The vehicles were missing from his driveway, which seemed strange. I’m counting down the minutes to Aesop’s breakfast, as he begins to lose patience.

Nine forty. The damp street, as I plodded along, called to mind countless times I’d gone to church by a hop, skip, and a jump. I reminded myself that it’s been the same old me for the past three years. And yet, the self can be a vessel for big changes. And no one may ever be expected to stay the same forever. People grow and progress with the passing of time, and the natural world we know is changing too. There’s no revoking it. The universe that began as a mere point of light and exploded into diversity keeps expanding like a balloon, and everything in it gets farther and farther apart… I encountered only four people at nine o’clock this morning. Overhanging tree limbs dripped water on my head here and there. I’m ready for the fall season. 

Vendredi Matin

Eight fifty.

It rained last night, thank goodness, so now you can see the sun and ordinary clouds. I walked to the store and bought a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese. These things lead me to inquire about nature and artifice, or nature and what is man made. During the Renaissance, people believed that nature is God’s art, and that human art imitates nature. Like Plato, they thought that our art was a process of making copies of nature, which in turn copied the spirit world. Some people believe the dichotomy of art and nature is a false one. I don’t know, but it’s very nice to see the natural sun and clouds again. I was also thinking of how the world is “too much with us” when we don’t drink or escape some other way. We are all bound together as current events unfold day by day. What impact does this have on human freedom? Are we like pilot whales who beach themselves following the leader? There’s a song in my head by The Police called “Truth Hits Everybody.” The nostalgia of forty years ago…

Nine fifty. Yesterday morning I began rereading Macbeth. Although the “instruments of darkness” are at work everywhere, Macbeth is still responsible for his ambition for the throne. A murder is just a murder, regardless of the activity of the devil. The prophecy of the weird sisters incites Macbeth to assassinate the King of Scotland, and the deception of the powers that be have set a trap for him— but still he should resist the temptation. Perhaps his will is weak. His decisions are easily swayed by external influences. I guess the bottom line is that Macbeth really wanted the throne for himself. He envisioned the dagger before him from his own wishes… What a gory play! But I think Macbeth was overall rather spineless. As for the element of the supernatural, I don’t really know. Some of it is purely his imagination, as when he sees the ghost of Banquo… I should be finishing the play today, and then I’ll do more thinking on it. 

Le Dimanche Matin

Eight fifty.

We are currently socked in with a thick fog outside. I can hardly see the houses across the street. About three hours ago I ordered myself a birthday present of a sci-fi novel anthology. I just wanted something to commemorate this three year mark. Yesterday I thought about my work experience and how my boss was an alcoholic. I had a good streak of sobriety going before I started my job. After working for eight months, I lost what I had. I really hated working for that guy, but I was stuck with him. I didn’t realize what my options were until years later. Shame held me back from doing what would have benefited me. Today, people can criticize me all they want, but it won’t make me drink again. And I’m very wary of toxic people.

Ten ten. Vicki wasn’t pleasant at the store, but I’ve never liked her very much. I just got a text from someone from church to congratulate me on three years. I bought a cranberry ginger ale and something to eat. The fog makes things appear surreal. The little perching birds seem to be confused; they think this is mating season. I see a lot of fox squirrels in my backyard and in the neighborhood, scrounging food for the winter. Fall and winter will surely come. I don’t feel so doom and gloom today. Last Monday was very odd, yet we got through it. I guess the pessimism was only me after all. My sister attributes the bizarrerie to this particular year, 2020. If that’s all it is, then I really hope next year will be more normal. It’s kind of a wonder that I stayed sober through this year, given everything we underwent. But it’s a consolation to know that we’re all in this together.

Quarter after eleven. The fog is lifting a bit, but there’s still some wildfire smoke. It’s nice to have cooler weather. Aesop has been very good over the past week. He let me brush him last night. I don’t know what happened to Damien a week ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I feel a little lonely, and alone with my memories. Pastor said that in person church services will resume on 18 October. I don’t know how to feel about that, or whether I will attend. It’s an emotional thing. Meanwhile, my reason says the Jesus stuff is absurd. The people in church have been wonderful to me, of course. They’re like no other human beings I ever knew. If my mind were to mirror my heart, I’d have no problem with attending worship. There’s something compelling about a mass of people who are all doing the same thing. I reckon we’ll see how it all shakes down when the time comes. 

Evacuees

Four o’clock.

It’s been a very strange kind of day, with thick wildfire smoke choking the Valley, tinting the sky apricot and orange, the sun raspberry. I’ve gone out in this mess twice today, but they advise staying indoors. The residents of Marcola, which is the east side of Springfield, are preparing to evacuate. Before I had a nap this afternoon, I was imagining the worst for our future. It seemed like the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps even more advanced than that. But not everyone is thinking that way. I called my sister and she was quite levelheaded about the fires. And then, when I walked to the salon and the store, plenty of people were out and about. On my first excursion this morning, the traffic on the Interstate seemed rather normal. I observed that some streetlights were still on against the smoky obscurity. It feels like some idiot’s demented nightmare, but I wonder if the idiot is only me. I added together the fires, climate change, the pandemic, the protests and counter protests, and the election, and came up with apocalypse. Another factor in my deduction was the way some bloggers are leaving WordPress. Dear reader, will you become one of them? 

Chemical Stew

This is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. I avoided my laptop all day yesterday. I wrote some decent posts using my iPad. Today, I hiked over to Bi-Mart and bought Vitamin E and a kit for removing earwax. I have taken one of the vitamins at 400 IU. Afterwards, I felt dizzy and drowsy. I just need to get used to it. Years ago, I took 800 IU daily on the advice of my psychiatrist. I think his reason was to prevent dyskinesia from the old antipsychotic. Secretly, he was also thinking of my heart… It is very strange to look at the blue sky today and see something ineluctably here and now, and to know that here and now is much different from any past I ever knew. The sky appears whitish with smoke or a sort of smog, but it is unlike any ceiling I have seen in the past. A typical summer sky in the NW looks azure, a deep, rich blue. Partly, it is because I am sober that I perceive the heavens as they really are today. Drunkenness could blot out reality and replace it with whatever I desired… In addition to the afternoon white skies, I have observed that the predawn light in the east is virtually greenish mixed with peach. It looks like a kind of chemical stew, improper for the dawn, and quite disturbing. This change in color and climate is what we have done to our habitat… Damien is coming tomorrow at noon to mow and to collect what I owe him. Otherwise, I have no plans for Sunday or Monday. On Tuesday I have my lab appointment at nine fifteen. I must be ready to leave an hour before. I cannot think of what else is going on next week. Wednesday is forecast to be 99 degrees. Tomorrow: 91, I think. Hopefully, my portable a/c will arrive soon. I paid for it a long time ago… I asked Aesop if he would like me to brush him tonight. He seemed a little uneasy about it, but I think he will put up with it… I dislike the Editor feature of this app. It doesn’t allow me to use contractions without it flagging them. If I took its suggestions, my idiomatic English would come out quite plain and sterile. I’d look goofy. Therefore, I’m going to use apostrophes anyway. From my experience so far, I think I prefer writing with my iPad. Okay, I’ve told it not to check for this issue.

Quarter after five. I’m gazing again at the dirty sky. It seems so unnatural, and for that reason, ugly. A good rain might help it… It’s about time for dinner. Just a burrito. Sometime thereafter I can take my other dose of Vitamin E. I don’t remember the last time I took a gabapentin. The good news is that I’m not chemically dependent on any drugs.

Nature Replaced

Quarter of noon. When I consider climate change, I think that the spiritual stuff makes no difference. All of our religious ideas are thrown into turmoil as we stand by and watch the fruition of scientists’ predictions over the past 40 years. What are we supposed to believe now? No one seems to know. As yet, there are no generalizations for us to steer by. I can only advise people not to have children, because life on Earth will be insupportable at some point, and before then, radically changed. It is pleasant to dwell on the past, on the era of arena rock, or to read books written centuries ago. It’s nice to reflect on times when there were butterflies and honeybees, and bird life abounding. But today is not the same, and tomorrow is imponderable. Still, now more than ever we need a bard for the future. Someone must come forward and do today what Whitman did 150 years ago. There are still stars to guide us, even if they turn out to be global position satellites. Maybe we can build a “machine messiah” to be the voice of reality, and maybe it will croak “nevermore” like the raven in Edgar Allan Poe. “Computerized clinic for superior cynics / Who dance to a synthetic band / In their own image their world is fashioned / No wonder they don’t understand.” 

Sunday Noon

Nine fifty. Sheryl’s belief in masochism was very offensive to me as a rational person. I outgrew this kind of mentality by the time I was nine years old. Rational transactions just made more sense to me. Anything else was authoritarian and might makes right. Reason and purpose make right, not force and domination… I’m getting drowsy.

Eleven thirty. Clouds have rolled in, saving us a little from the sun. But I still don’t feel very good. I feel oppressed by life, by factors that I can’t control. It seems like there’s no difference between the weather and society. It is all one force of nature, totally out of my hands. Is that a superstition? A mystical notion? And what governs our fate after all, and can prayer change it? A fire sacrifice to the gods, burnt offerings. It’s a primitive way of thinking, yet we still do it. The whole feels greater than the sum of the parts sometimes. We feel like puppets of the master in the sky. It’s only a feeling, but it may be right. The strangest part is how we’re all doing it together, like a cosmic dance. Like a Shakespeare play… The patchy clouds have become an overcast sky, as if in answer to someone’s prayer. Free will may be a mere illusion. And maybe we’ll never know.

A Bigger Design

I’m not feeling very intellectual today; no bright ideas. I’m frustrated for some reason. Loneliness, I reckon. Freedom is great, but in solitude it isn’t worth much. Except for the fridge noise, it’s very quiet in here. Add to that the looney music in my head and you get my interior theater… The theater suddenly reminds me of a scene out of Dawn Powell’s Dance Night, which I read in December three years ago. What a strange novel, improvised and out of the author’s control. I ought to finish Come Back to Sorrento and see what plot surprises come up. It’s interesting to observe an unstable writer doing an unstable book. Powell’s vision of reality will be rather eccentric and on the wild side.

Six o five. I just paid my CareCredit bill and now my balance is zero. It must have been 10 or 11 years ago when I opened an account with them. It was a lifesaver when I had no money for veterinary bills, and when Henry’s health was deteriorating with old age. And again I acknowledge that good things happen to those who stay sober. I feel much more in charge of my life since ceasing the alcohol. I don’t feel ashamed of my poverty at all; it’s still sufficient to live on comfortably. Nature has provided for me in ways I don’t always perceive. It takes perspective and a long glance backward to see what’s been done for me. The pattern behind my life suggests maybe that freedom is illusory, and there’s a bigger design at work than just my petty will. This bigger design is ever active and will provide for the future as well. Someday it’ll all be quite clear what nature intends. Hold on to the wave until then…