The Firmament


Church was pretty good today. I certainly like the cooler weather much better now that it’s here. It was good for me to get out of the house and mix with people. Nancy said she couldn’t believe that I’d never read East of Eden and I ought to do that. She is not the only one I know who really liked that book.

Right now my mind is a blank slate. I hear the squirrels scampering over the roof while the sun tries to appear. I know there are deep and painful feelings concealed from myself down inside. Early this morning I stopped on the sidewalk to scan the sky. It was quite dark and the clouds were autumnal and evocative of other times hidden within me. They formed a patchwork of my memories, with behind them the soul of space like an ocean of air. Below, the tree line, and to the west the apartments built three years back, at the time my own house was restored. People and things come and go like clouds in heaven. The firmament alone does not perish.

Once on that same sidewalk I found a black sun hat ironically soaked by the rain and appropriated it myself. I took it home, drip dried it on the curtain rod, and started wearing it next day. This “hobo hat” is long since lost, but it was the time that I began planning my recovery.



Two ten PM.

The florid sunshine today had me foaming at the mouth, so I got out of the house a few minutes and looked around me. My own street was pretty much inert and deserted, but around the corner a car passed me, and then I saw Randy at his car lot working with the tow truck driver and using his phone. Directly overhead, the blue sky was peppered with sparse lonely clouds, white wisps in the air. People on the ground took little heed of them, instead dragging up Maxwell Road like bats out of hell. To the right of the sidewalk by the store, I noticed a bed of purple flowers that smelled sweet and one or two honeybees for pollination. And of course I saw more people and cars in the lot. When I walked into the building, Deb glanced at me but said nothing. She must’ve thought I was stupid for wearing a hoodie on an 80 degree day. But Cathy helped me out at the register, saving me the 25 cent up-charge for using plastic. No one seemed as drunk from the sun as I felt, sort of like Meursault on the beach before doing something insane. The sun gives its bright orange to the green and blue everywhere, like a sweet dessert you can eat, or a fermented fruit that makes you crazy. Yet somehow I found my way home and gave my dog a chicken jerky treat: my contact with reality.

A Little Improv

Five thirty AM.

This is Sunday, my day of rest at last. The light is coming up gray again after probably two weeks of this sunless stuff. Yesterday morning I got caught in the downpour without an umbrella coming back from the store. I got a little wet again in the afternoon when I left Karen’s place. I just remembered that she gave me a refrigerator magnet that I put away in a pocket of my shopping bag. I looked and found it still there and now it’s on the door. It’s interesting, the little symbolic things people do, the things we think that project ourselves onto the world. So that a bad mood reflects bad weather or the reverse in a Petrarchan way if you’ve ever read his sonnets. It’s a beautiful quality of human nature to have this confusion in perception. My dog is still sleeping in the middle of the floor, dreaming doggie dreams of doggie things. His universe is essentially canine because of his nature. The same is true for the squirrels and every creature that creeps or slithers on earth. Sometimes I see snails and night crawlers on the ground at my feet and pay them no heed except to observe that the worm is a hermaphrodite, having both kinds of sex organs. What do worms think about? 

The other kids in eighth grade PE class called me “worm” when we played flag football on the field outside of Kelly Junior High. The ball took a bad bounce and hit me right in the groin. The weather then was like today, gray and wet, and soon I would be reading in the library for third period instead of playing flag football. It was more fun to read Lloyd Alexander than to be called names anyway. “Be kind to nerds. You may just wind up working for one.” And then you discover that the oligarchy of school was a false one. 


Seven fifty five.

The next day it rained. And it’s more than a light drizzle; just a steady medium rain to make everything green. My umbrella got drenched en route to market, and wouldn’t stop dripping after I shook it out. A wonderful old Herb Alpert tune plays in my ear, probably from the album SRO back in the mid sixties. Often my mind doesn’t discriminate today from decades ago, so all of time is allowed to coexist at once. It’s sort of like the character Benjy in the Faulkner novel, where his memories are indistinguishable from what goes on right now… I was able to buy a nice potato salad this morning, and since the Snapple teas were gone, I got myself a Coke. The place was quite busy with customers even for a little after seven o’clock, and everyone was kind and considerate to each other. There’s something rather mystical about rainy days, taking me back to my early childhood in Astoria and Salem, though it was over fifty years in the past. At some businesses I qualify for a senior discount, which I find drily humorous. As I was going out the door I ran into Lisa from Karen’s salon at one time. She was there to grab something before heading out to work. Now as I finish this, the rain keeps coming down like so many mental events today or yet to come.


Quarter after eight.

Tomorrow I have an appointment at the agency in the morning, so I’ll get to do a little sightseeing on the way by taxi. It is yet another overcast day here, making it about a fortnight since the last time it was sunny. I actually like it when you can see great rolling billows of gray and white clouds in the springtime, and the rain doesn’t bother us in Oregon. At dawn, the clouds often appear blue, even midnight blue, and on afternoons they can be purple. Occasionally it hails here with pea size stones or it will rain mixed with snow, though not usually in April. I find it interesting how the natural scene complements what is going on sociopolitically, like the weather in a Shakespeare tragedy when it sympathizes with human affairs. Sometimes I feel like a radio for frequencies borne on the air and traveling right through everybody, these long, slow waves bearing information of the world. In an astronomy class I learned something about the different kinds of rays. Gamma rays are very fast and cause cancer if you are exposed to them. But radio waves can go through you without doing any harm. Conceivably, everyone is a radio receiver of sorts, though we don’t think about it much. The desirable thing might be to wrap a colander in aluminum foil and wear it on your head in order to bounce off the airwaves. This was actually a joke I heard from a friend twenty years ago, maybe not so funny, and not my original invention. I also heard a paranoid guy say at a gig that he wasn’t wearing a wire, even though the doorkeepers believed he had one. At the time I wondered if he was off his meds, but the show went on anyway, and the bandleader took all the money and paid us nothing for the night’s work. Meanwhile our audience at Taylor’s had disappeared, everyone, to my shock, having found a lay for the weekend. 

The Horizon

Eight thirty five.

In my tizzy this morning I forgot to avoid the rush hour traffic when going to market. The same guys were back, working on the road again, and the cars were backed up in a long line in each direction. I got yelled at by one guy because I would have tried to go around the work area on the right side, but he told me what to do. So I crossed the road twice and made it to the store, where I found Cathy working again. The sun was low in the blue sky, a very fresh and sobering sight in the chill air of winter, like the ritual pot of coffee. I figured it was a two Snapple day. Also I bought a pouch of bacon strips for Aesop. Outdoors, the sky was immense and cold, but it seemed far away from the human workaday world of Caterpillars and asphalt and guys in lime green jackets directing traffic with signs and walkie talkies. The heavens were somehow alien and other from the workweek and human business, something imponderable, removed, and utterly silent. And then I regained my own street and noticed that Lenore’s car was back in her driveway after a few days of absence. Right now the clouds are moving in to block the sun, giving things a lemon pallor while my dog waits for his breakfast. It could be an interesting kind of day. 

Ordinary Holiday

Nine o’clock in the morning.

It was only 30 degrees out, so I had to watch for spots of ice on the pavements as I walked along. The sun flamed low in the east, a great orange glare. I found a new letter for me in my box at the curb. Passing Kat’s house, I saw her black cat wedged in the blinds, observing everything from the window. Karen’s salon was deserted for the holiday. When I reached the bushes outside the store, I disturbed a few small perching birds that took off suddenly, to my surprise. Heather had very little to say this morning except that she felt tired. She went to bed early, missing the fireworks at midnight. I said that I’d stayed up in order to comfort my dog during the noise. Business seemed rather slow; I saw only one other customer, a white haired woman behind me at the counter. Back on my street again, another pedestrian overtook me, apparently out of nowhere, and I watched him stride sure-footed to the north. I also encountered a masked woman with her dog in front of Dell’s house. All through my trip I didn’t think much, but concentrated on my footing to keep from slipping. The ice in some places was made of little star crystals that you could see while the sun kept rising forgotten in the blue east. Aesop gets breakfast in ten minutes, the most important thing. 

Soft Pedal

Quarter of nine.

My friend wrote a kind of free verse mantra she addressed to me rather than posting it to her blog, which I thought was really very nice of her. I’m reminded that a good part of creativity is generosity and sharing. Again today the sunlight is burnt orange from atmospheric smoke. My pace on my way to the store was deliberately slower this time. I caught myself imagining negative scenarios and willfully screened them out as the cars on Maxwell Road whizzed past. I saw a guy on a motorized bicycle signaling for a right turn with his left hand. A motorcycle also went by me to my left. When I entered the market, Michelle was jolting herself with a Mexican Coca-Cola: real sugar instead of corn syrup and bottled in a glass bottle. By the soft drink cooler I hovered and hesitated, choosing from three different Snapple teas, finally settling on peach in honor of my Texas friend. Going out again, I held the door for a young guy who hurried to catch up, so I didn’t really do him a favor. This day so far has a different feel to it; it’s more relaxed and peaceful for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the overcast of dirty lemon clouds? Things are muted as if by a damper or the soft pedal on a piano. If I were the type to pray, then I’d pray for these clouds to rain… 

A Human Mirror

Quarter after eight.

It was another red dawn today: “Red skies at morning, sailor take warning.” I hesitate to go out in the cold, would rather be comfortable indoors. Tomorrow there is church again at seven o’clock. I plan to go and participate. I hope Roxanne is feeling okay. During the wee hours a while ago I started reading The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla out of a nagging curiosity regarding the content and his attitudes in general. It had been a big mystery to me. Fifteen pages into the book, it appears to be simply a realistic diary of a person’s life, starting with his family background and the people he has known in his native Spain up to his 21st birthday in 1918. I think his project is to describe things with very little personal bias, being a human mirror of the life around him. This is sort of the contrary of Romanticism, full of ego and bombast. But I’m getting ahead of myself… It’s almost time to feed Aesop his breakfast. I count down the minutes to him while he gets increasingly excited and vocal.

Nine thirty. I bundled up and went over to the market. Saw nothing unusual. My neighbor Jeff passed by me in his burnt orange Mustang as I was coming home. I can never remember his wife’s name, but I think it’s Sara. He used to be a high school science teacher. He has a long white beard with a swarthy complexion and a little snub nose. Jeff doesn’t invite much conversation when I see him on the street. Outside of his house he flies a skull and crossbones pirate flag, and his mocha colored boat is called the Second Wind. Just across the street from him is Harry’s house, an old conservative guy who lost his wife over a year ago. He used to have two Doberman pinchers in his garage. His daughter Cherie lives on the cross street to the north. Occasionally I see her in his front yard, trimming rose bushes or whatever to help out… The clouds have burned off, showing the light blue winter sky. Yesterday at noon the sunshine was intense, or maybe I’d had too much caffeine. I hope for a serene day today, calm and quiet, except for the rock and roll noise from my bass guitar this afternoon. 


Eight o’clock.

No email from my friend yet. I don’t know what she is up to today. I don’t want to go to church tonight or on Sunday. I’m going to boycott Christmas and just take care of myself. I know how to do this better than anyone else. I think I’ll leave the church for good. Religion is usually a right wing thing.

Nine thirty five. It was lovely to see Michelle this morning. From her I bought a new orange bandanna and peppermint candy ice cream, plus ribeye chewy treats for Aesop. It was cold and a little foggy outside. A pretty girl on the sidewalk passed me and we said good morning. I saw Dell carrying some cardboard boxes out to his car. Michelle helped a customer with the propane tanks while I was walking into the store. Her temperament is a lot different from that of Vicki; kinder and friendlier, not so jaded and sassy. Her logic is not so clouded by personal hurts. She is always fair dealing with people, but when she is on the receiving end of injustice, she’ll defend herself. When she had more money, she used to go to the theater… My pen pal let me know that she’ll be late today… The changes are coming a bit more swiftly now. I sense a shift in attitude and mood around me generally. Christina on Wednesday was kind of fun. She even said it was fun working with me after we’d done some exercises in physical therapy… I am hopeful that musicians can play again when vaccines are available this winter. Just wait it out and see what happens…