I’ve been up since two twenty this morning, and I don’t even know why. So I read parts of my journal and then, at four thirty, reread “To Build a Fire.” One of the ideas foregrounded in it is the wisdom of instinct versus the folly of rational judgment. The man in the story who freezes to death has no connection with the earth. Also he lacks imagination and experience. His dog, on the other hand, has both the ancestry and instinct to know how to survive, even when it’s 75 below zero. These counterparts of man and dog remind me of “The Prussian Officer” by D.H. Lawrence, which describes a contrast of two soldiers, one centered in his head, the other in his body, but each dependent on the other. London’s story was published first, in 1908… After that, I moseyed over to the market and bought some essentials for the day. It’s still painfully early and the sun has hardly cleared the trees on the east side of my street. By this weekend it’s supposed to be in the nineties here, and already the climate makes me feel rather odd, affecting my behavior a certain way. I see Roger outside his house, up with the birds today. There’s not a breath of air outdoors. It’ll be a long haul. When it gets warmer this afternoon I’ll fire up the air conditioner and hang out beside it…
I couldn’t contain the nightmares last night, so it was a miserable time. But this morning, everyone else is in a good mood. Cathy was very nice to me at the market and introduced me to her trainee named Thomas, who will cover weekends. He’s a young guy with a black beard. The day is wet out although the rain that comes down is very light and fine. The spring rains remind me of my philosophy class with an old Jewish professor at the university a long time ago. My route to the Education buildings took me past the Pioneer Cemetery on my left and in behind the Knight Library. I always carried my Duck umbrella and my book bag with me to class and I took notes using a spiral notebook, which I suppose was traveling lightly. Dr Zweig wore a suit the day he lectured on Wittgenstein, but other days his back bothered him and he could be a bit crabby. The talk he gave on William James inspired me, though his specialty was Immanuel Kant. He spoke convincingly about transcendental idealism and the virtues of the thing called reason, which could guide a person rightly and overcome any difficulty.
Beyond the university campus it’s a dangerous world of small minds and attitudes. My whole family has pretty much disowned me for my mental health issues, so it’s really hard to forgive them their prejudice. What has been my crime?
The wake of a beautiful sunny and warm day with a lot of social activity outdoors. During the mid afternoon I wandered over to the salon to chat with Kim about her successful divorce. She seems to feel quite good, or as she said, relieved. The first thing she will do is purge her house of everything that reminds her of her ex husband. And from there I strolled to the market for the usual treats. Deb asked me about my dog, so in kind I asked her about her cats, which she said were big and fat. She has tomorrow off, when she said she will mow the lawn and simultaneously get some sun. Every spring and summer Deb basks in the sun and turns a deep brown… Later, I waited at home for my yard guy to come and mow my lawns, but evidently he had other plans or something came up. Out in the street I could hear Diana calling to a neighbor, “Are you looking for your dog?” And I guessed the rest… I’ve read up to Chapter 8 of The Portrait of a Lady, impressed more by the style than the plot, which isn’t very kinetic, but kind of holds still for a dozen analyses. The writing is anything but crude. Its fineness and sensitivity are Victorian, a little bit boring, though the book may be worth getting to the end of.
I played the bass for about an hour. In the process, I stumbled over the chords to “Walkabout” by The Fixx, an old New Wave band, and I began to detect a thought pattern behind my creativity. The thrust of the song is self examination to determine your personal beliefs. It kind of goes along with my observations of Baudelaire’s poetry last weekend, regarding the discovery of novelty, innovation— invention, whether it comes from heaven or hell. My only disagreement with him is that he never thinks outside the Christian mythos.
Meanwhile, my brain keeps returning to a scene from Bartok’s Mandarin, where the chorus starts to sing, low at first and then swelling to a scream, and finally decaying in a weird wail…
I still don’t feel one hundred percent. The virus I had seems to linger, affecting me physically and mentally. The weather this afternoon is as insipid as it was yesterday, gray and breathless like a cadaver, while the funereal fog creeps in to make specters of the trees across the street. All in all, macabre and surreal, complementing the mood of the Bartok ballet. And in some degree, the echo of Baudelaire.
Quarter of nine.
It’s kind of nice outside, except cold. The metallic clouds barely mask the sun and there’s no rain or breath of wind. When I got home from the store, I gave Aesop three chicken jerky strips, after which he flopped down and asked for a tummy rub. Cathy was just arriving to work when I came out the front doors; she said hi and asked if I was keeping warm. Across the road from the salon I saw a handful of seagulls mixed in with the crows; I don’t see them very often anymore. Evidently they found something to scavenge in that parking lot. The music in my head is by The Crusaders, from a disc I spun early last week. I love hearing Larry Carlton on guitar, with his volume swells and glides up the neck. Also his eclectic chords, like on the fadeout to “A Strange Boy” by Joni Mitchell… A friend told me that she had gotten around to reading “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe and really liked it. And she was impressed with the word “tintinnabulation,” which is archaic and seldom heard anymore, though it’s an awesome word for ringing. Now she says she’ll probably get herself a nice book of Poe’s stuff, so I hope she does that… The cold sun shows itself through lavender gray clouds. I’m having a good Saturday morning.
Last night there was a power outage for about 80 minutes. My cell phone has a flashlight that came in very handy. I turned it on after making a call to the utility company, and then went to bed to curl up and wait. When I got up this morning I was dying for a Snapple tea, so I finally went out in the cold waste and marched to the market. I only slipped once and caught myself from falling. Michelle said they had gone through a lot of milk at the store. Apparently people were stocking up on it for the weather conditions. I bought four sandwiches, two Snapples, and cookies for Aesop. I was very glad I had a pair of ASIC shoes for making the trip. The snow on the ground was quite deep in places, above my ankles easily. I saw the mail truck go past my house before I took off. The sky is white or close to the color of lead; almost silvery, and it reminds me of a painting of a snowscape by Claude Monet. A friend gave me a framed card of it for my birthday in 1993. Lost but not forgotten. Her name was Janet, a volunteer at American Cancer Society.
Five in the morning.
Yesterday at noon I started reading Native Son, and after a while I reflected a little on the abstract of power in our personal lives. I used to hesitate to use this word, but now it seems like the best one for the condition. By the way, yesterday the thought of alcohol never crossed my mind. It only occurred to me when I was asleep and dreaming that I’d been drinking occasionally for the past four years. I could hand control over to my subconscious mind, but who would be so foolish to do that? This would overturn rule by reason and create tyranny of the soul by the instincts, according to Plato. The Platonic model is something I learned very well at the university, and it resonates with Freudian psychology. I kept running into these ideas in Renaissance literature, for instance in Sir Philip Sidney. Now I wish I had read the whole book of The Old Arcadia, yet I think I learned the take home lesson… I don’t think I’ll leave the house at all today due to the snow, which by now is frozen and treacherous. In my head I hear Pastor’s acoustic guitar playing our holiday medley last Friday night. We sucked at our performance but nobody cared, though this apathy is precisely why we continue to be bad.
Quarter after ten.
The sun is out in the blue sky and everywhere there is snow. I picked up three bags full of empty bottles and left them in the kitchen. My visit with Sean is probably still on for today. I kind of dread it because the dog doesn’t like me being on the phone or my iPad with someone else. Generally I feel rather uncomfortable with the circumstances today. After a tough holiday we get this weather disaster. I also miss my Snapple tea this morning. I just have this exaggerated sense of immobility, of being stuck at home when I don’t want to be.
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?
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.
Eight thirty five.
The trees have all changed color for the fall. I saw two skirting the market parking lot with burgundy leaves. On my own street, I turned and gave a backward look: much red and gold on either side. In addition, the leaves are well into the process of falling. It’s predicted to rain early this afternoon, continuing into the night. I plan on going to Bi Mart after one thirty today, but I think I’ll call a taxi. Round trip should cost about twenty dollars. That’s what money is for. If you don’t spend it, then it just sits there useless. In itself, money is a valueless fiction. I noticed a new publication on Amazon this morning: the Black Books of C.G. Jung. I felt tempted, but then I remembered why I’m leery of his stuff. He tends to be ethnocentric. For this reason, I always prefer the mysticism of American writers, specifically Emerson. He was passionately abolitionist at a time (the Civil War) when it really counted. Emerson also could be humble in his quest for wisdom, always open to new possibilities and input from people.
Nine twenty five. It definitely felt like rain on my hike to the store. The gray clouds boiled and swirled overhead. There isn’t much light outside for the overcast. It’s the kind of day for staying home and being quiet. Tomorrow I have physical therapy again, with Erin. I neither dread nor anticipate the session. I had some strange dreams last night, inspired by a book I almost bought. Because they were unpleasant, I canceled my order when I got up today. I met with nobody when I made my trip. At eight o’clock in the morning, it’s a ghost town. But I did see a handful of cars at the espresso shack drive thru. There were a few signs of life. And then there was Vicki…