In bed for two days with a sinus infection. I hit the point where my whole body rebels – as restless as a shaken bottle of coke – and then there is a cascade of emotions that turn inward.

Caustic.

Reminding myself that the emotions are nothing more than my mind trying to make narrative sense of all the lymph poisoning my system.

I remind myself it is lymph. I remind myself that this self-disgust will pass.


I think of a tree in a violent wind – shaking its branches like an evil monster.
It’s not the nature of the tree.

It’s not the nature of the wind.

The Santa Ana winds could cup me like God’s own hand. (A children’s bible’s illustration of God’s writing finger is burned in my mind – not remembering the story at all, just the context of bedtime.)


I am not this angry.


All right, having looked up the story: I am a little angry.
Geeeeez. Bedtime story? That? Seriously?

No wonder I’m praying psilocybin will become legal soon.


What crawls up the walls our unconscious has built… If you’ll excuse me.

I’ve been writing all morning. Things I don’t want to put into the world. But I need to get the words out.

In No Exit, Estelle says that when she can’t see herself, she wonders if she really exists.

It’s not a flattering comparison on any level, I suppose. Not in the context of Sartre’s intentions – at least not in the context of traditional interpretations of the character.

But I can only examine the validity of my thoughts when I dare to make room for a sort of reflection.

Inez tells Estelle to see herself reflected in Inez’s eyes: “I’m so tiny.”

There is an assumption that Estelle uses the mirror to make conscious adjustments to what she thinks other people see.

But what if what she sees is both the “ugly” truth that keeps her grounded and strong, and the acceptable facade: a kind of complexity of existence that requires reflection – a large-scale, unobstructed reflection.

Estelle is diminished without the mirror.

I find it odd that so many approach No Exit with a collective sense of morality that Sartre himself rejected. If Sartre can get behind Stalin’s choices, surely he can get behind Estelle’s?

Maybe Garcon and Estelle are in Hell only because Inez convinces them of it. “I’m watching you,” she tells Garcon when he decides to have sex with Estelle.

Yeah, that’s a problem for him now? It wasn’t before.

How bourgeois.

A collective sense of morality exists in Hell.

Inez is the torturer after all.


Funny how, once a character is on the page, the author loses control.

Sometimes I stumble on my own writing – an old poem, or a bit of a journal entry – and it is completely foreign to me.

I wrote a draft of a novel once.
And realized that I am a poet: fragmented.

Shattered.


All these truths that rise and dive beneath the surface like sharks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something has been off for too long now.  I’m still waiting for something to settle.

img_20200123_120041-012380131315136619107.jpegI can feel it there on the edge of the days. Something like a dream that is only brushing against consciousness.

A lingering mood, disconnected and undefined by circumstance.

The snowbells are up. And I have to remind myself that it is still January. We haven’t seen a flurry of snow this year.

But these too-light days are scattered over a heavy world in a kind of disconcerting flurry.

I’m waiting.

Wait. To wait is an oxymoronic. An action that is inactive. Or an action turned inward, really.

How do Beckett’s clowns keep from ripping one another apart?

The snowbells aren’t waiting. They’re sacrificing – in hope or in ignorance – a bit of themselves. Small, pretty partial-suicide. I suppose they can’t help themselves, tiny clowns. It’s all show and desperation.

Along the trail someone has carved a  heart into one of the pines.  It’s weeping in the glare of my headlamp.

That’s an overwrought metaphor before I even begin typing.

 

 

 

My youngest son’s favorite book was, and maybe still is The Lorax. I suppose the worn copy is still in his childhood room, in his father’s home. I wish I had it here now to pull off the shelf and reread.

I remember it as a painfully dark book.
And I have no explanation for that fact, considering.


I have written before about how I grew up on concrete and asphalt. The nature of the desert is far too hard on the knees for baseball or cartwheels. It wasn’t until I began running mornings, here,  that I really connected with nature as an integral fact of life – more than snapshot memories of weekend excursions, like trips to Knott’s Berry Farm:

I remember a dungeon-like, castle-like grey, stone arch with sharp iron grates that looked poised to drop. I held my breath every time we walked through.

I wonder how many times “every time” is. Isn’t that the odd thing with memories?

Still, stepping into the bowl of any small boat conjures the stench of sea salt and fish blood from a singular fishing trip in the Atlantic. I feel my shoulders rise, just rubbing against the edges of this memory.

I have sensual, but inaccurate memories: The green and brown shadows of Robbers Roost and the smell of wet pine… a google image search for Robbers Roost shows me how convoluted my memories must be. Craters and dams and gorges and caves. All the dramatic names. All the body’s stored sensations. All the rationalizations.

At the San Diego zoo, my mother took me out of the stroller and held me up to see a prairie dog hole, but an iguana darted out instead. A bolt of adrenaline that stings still.

That memory came back a few years ago, when E. and I were hiking on Gran Canaria, and we could hear the lizards in the bushes – the bushes covered with spiderwebs thick as gauze. We figured they must have been the size of rabbits, but we never saw one.

They were like the black dogs of the British Isles: you learn to accept they are there, but you never look them directly in their eyes.

Like memories.


The first year I ran, beginning the fall I turned 44, I had this idea to take a picture every morning of a particular tree along the route. I’d document the seasons. I had been living in this part of the country for 17 years already, and the reality of seasons hadn’t really sunk in: by October it was impossible to photograph the tree in the 6 am darkness.

Sometimes I think the earth and I are still barely acquaintances.

At what point did I become responsible for cultivating the relationship?

Is there a word for the fear of nature? A kind of xenophobia, perhaps? Oh, the dramatic irony in that. 


From my dining room table I can see the huge crown of the neighbor’s oak tree. In the evening the crows gather there. In the winter they fill out the naked branches like a dark bloom. They chatter and bicker, then fly on to the flat farmland just south of here, where they spend the night.

In the mornings they head north again and pause in the grove along the trail. We run under them – Leonard, E. and I – and their 5:30 am alarm moves with us, like a wave through the grove.

But tonight from my dining room table I see a stretch of blue sky now, and the crescent moon. 

Yesterday I woke to the sound of a motor saw.

I am surprised by sadness.

I keep wondering how many years she grew there, how deep her roots went, and whether they reached all the way to the train tracks. Under the train tracks, maybe. Where did she send her stores yesterday? Scientists say trees send their energy out into the network once they know they are dying.

I wonder where the crows with congregate in the evenings.


Every year I vow to plant a garden: to get my hands dirty.

Today it feels like it’s no longer none-of-my-business, this nature thing.
This biophilia.

 

About this time every year I get to Beckett in the curriculum. And about this time every year, after pulling up all the questions, I trudge home and allow myself to be 19 again. I allow myself to pull back and enter into it all from another perspective, with the same kind of vulnerability I had the first time I gave up what I thought I knew.

It broke me then.

Then, Grandpa said there’s no God in the university’s philosophy. But there are so many gods.

Sometimes skimming the surface provides new leaps of thought. It’s what the amateur brings to the table: I tell students to be mindful that they are entering a discussion that has been taking place for a long time, but there is that private space where it’s fine not to enter the discussion at all – it is fine to sit with the present moment and the question present without without seeking a verification – or a corrective. Without seeking an answer.

That’s the hard part.

Someone – so many someones – have had thought these thoughts before,
written eloquently – or impressively – about them.
That fact makes them no less significant.
For me now.

I have a hard time sitting in front of a puzzle without trying to solve it. Don’t we all mindlessly reach down to fit the shapes together? At the doctor’s office, I’ve seen 60 year-old men slide the wooden pieces of a children’s puzzle into place.

If I can solve the puzzle, I can pin down a truth. I can have expectations. I can expect other people to behave accordingly. Puzzle-solving as an act of prayer.

There’s nothing new here. I know that.

In school we line up after recess. We sit in assigned seats. We face each other in a pleasing circle, and sometimes we hold hands. We make adjustments. Palms facing forward or backward out of habit, are silently negotiated. We are laser-cut pieces that can flip and turn: even in our rigidness we can fit so neatly into one another’s hands.

But sometimes there is a painful beauty in risking it all, trusting ourselves to improvise: upright and unbalanced, throwing our arms around one another in praise of Chaos.

They expected the quayside to flood last night, though the wind has been still for a day now. I guess the sea has lifted itself to move out of the way of the weather somewhere else.

On yesterday’s run the path was strewn with branches, but the ground was dry. There’s been no snow so far this year. E. says that it’s not unusual, but it feels off: this raw cold – a rip in the familiar.

A guy jogged by in shorts. If I’d have taken a picture, it would have been impossible to know the time of year. The honeysuckle in the neighbor’s driveway has small knots of new growth.

There are people who can read the world. But too often I can find myself unexpectedly knee-deep it, and still having lost the through-line of the story. Indications of something I know well, so out of place. Car keys in the refrigerator, and a sharp – but shapeless – fear.

Every sign is a false prophet.

I lay the calendar over the days like a transparency: a slick guide with straight lines. Another anachronism.

 

 

 

The days are getting longer. I’m doing all I can to conjure spring – but dreading the fragmented feeling that this time of year can bring. There is a scattering of holidays to abort any sense of flow.

After a day of blue skies and quiet, the night blew the lantern off the deck table. This morning, putting things right, I remembered the Santa Ana winds with a touch of melancholy. Remembered the notion I had as a child that the wind had the power to hold me – the wind was a hand cupping my body, pushing me forward.

There are no seasons in my childhood memories. A blur of days shoving me through the world. Towards a retreat.

Do birds really push fledglings from the nest? I’ve seen mother ducks lead the way without looking back. I wonder what the nature of leaving really is.

Winter has barely begun, but the darkness is lifting. There is a lightness in giving in.