The front door of my childhood home — someone has left it standing open. Two cats, the small reclusive calico that lives with us now and a soft-white stranger with brownish face and paws, are inside playing. When they see me, they dash out. I follow them and close the door. To the east beyond the yard, a morning view of the High Sierra. I think of a painter in love with blue, long since buried in the snow. I remember what a lover knows and is so eager to begin — the taste of one bright apple, and footprints where no one else has been.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
While reading early this morning, a small leaf fell from between Pages 222 and 223 of my old book into my lap. It was very dry, but not brittle, without the slightest tear anywhere in its delicate map of veins, or damage to the several dozen points by which its edges were defined. After I’d finished those pages, which were about Charles Darwin, I returned the leaf to its place, not knowing who had put it there, or in what state of mind, and having no idea as to its future. And then, before I continued on, there came upon me a memory of graves I’ve seen of pioneers, their names and dates a lichen stain or mossy smudge, as if the elements in their persistent art had replaced one kind of writing with another. To which I answer now with the miracle that is my hand.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
In the eyes of the law, I own so very little that my will, if it were written, could fit on the blank side of a business card and still leave room for a drawing. In truth, I own nothing, nothing at all. What “belongs” to me is only temporarily in my care. Love, like a fledgling poised for freedom in my hands, is all I have, and all I really have to give.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Being unable to correctly read and pronounce all but a few French words has bothered me only little until now. Now I not only want to learn to read comfortably in that language, I feel it’s an absolute necessity, and an embarrassment that I’ve put it off for so long. Luckily, my copy of Heath’s French and English Dictionary (1903) has a guide to pronunciation. That will be a good place to begin, as well as Chapter 13 of George Moore’s Avowals†, which is a lecture of his presented in French. As I told my son this morning in a brief email exchange, how can I skip that chapter and still say I’ve read the book? Next and simultaneously on my list: Latin.
† a book mentioned here yesterday
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Think of me not as hungry,
or eager to possess,
but as a statue
in your path,
by silent snowfall.
Spring is how I turn the page.
What I know
is the moss that grows
where you stand, and where we meet.
Ulysses (Armenian translation)
† among others
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
While I chimed like a grandfather clock, my grandson† watched the movement of my tongue as if it were a pendulum. To his rapt attention, hour upon hour I tolled, until I became a horse’s hooves on cobblestone, and the mist arose, and Dickens was at the door. “I’m here!” the dear scribe cried, as if he’d joined us many times before. And, as he eyed us with a pleasure I clearly understood, the movers came and carted me away. “He was a good old clock,” their foreman said, “back in his day. I wonder what we’ll get for him?” The truck roared off. My grandson, a grown man in the interim, looked after us and waved. Or so I imagined in the cold and in the dark.
† our second, nine months old
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
If those of us who remain in touch through this medium have learned anything about the friendships that we’ve forged, it’s that they’ve come about through an ongoing exchange of gifts. Whether what we share is of our own making or is the work of someone else, we share it because we find it meaningful and moving in ways we hope will reveal what we’ve learned, how we feel, and who we are. And the very fact that some of us do remain in touch shows that we succeed.
The cumulative nature of our exchange is powerful indeed. It coincides with our need to tell, and to be told, stories the endings of which we understand might never be known, or reached, or resolved. I love you is a song that never grows old. Do you love me is a timeless hope that stirs the soul.
As with our relationships that are conducted face to face, or which began that way, or are steadily moving in that direction, there is no better way to proceed. The distance we travel, and the depths that are revealed, grow in direct proportion to how freely our offerings are made. Our eagerness and generosity give them value.
The other day, when my wife was out walking with our four-year-old grandson, he stopped abruptly when he noticed a withered plant nestled alongside the curb. Plucking from it several dried seed pods, he told her, “These are for Grandpa.” They were given me later, damp from his hand, and all the winters of the world cannot be cold enough or long enough to keep his gift from taking root between us.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
The oaks are thriving. The oaks are dying.
The path is wide through rolling hills.
My father is beside me.
But he doesn’t care or know.
The oaks are sighing. The oaks are crying.
Here. There. It’s impossible to tell.
Both. And all. Smoke. A bell.
Water at the sink. A glass for him.
The past for me. Present.
Monday, January 9, 2012
A soul-painting from a very old book? Perhaps,
or a love that forgets her name; and then a leaf falls —
a page, a line, an age of kind and wordless ways,
soft as wind through sage, to sleep, to dusk,
to fate — to heal the rock of your face.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
A sublime, medicinal, addictive aspect of doing almost nothing but reading for several days is how far away from, and into, oneself one travels; but this awareness pales before the sudden, seemingly accidental realization that, in the process, what formerly was taken for “real life” is now preposterous and even untenable, and must be appreciated and understood as fiction if it is to be plausible and liveable at all.
Yes, I have been reading. And to a very large degree, reading for me is much as it was when I was a boy growing up in California’s San Joaquin Valley: a refuge wide as an old shade tree, a sparkling glass of ice-cold lemonade, a log on the fire when vineyards and orchards are ice-bound and shrouded in fog, each savored and held simultaneously in the mind, all to a whisper offered by the sweet, sensuous lips of an imagined, more-real-than-real Beloved.
The very same, of course, can be said for writing.
My computer is running again, new hard drive and all. On the technical front, it has been an expensive, trying week, and it will be a while yet before my system is in full and comfortable working order. And the same goes for my computer.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
As luck or fate would have it, I’ve been offline since the second day of January, due to some major computer problems. At the moment I’m across town at my son’s house, catching up on (but not really responding to) my email. I’m not sure yet when everything will be resolved. In the meantime, there are three books I’m reading: Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh; Volume 10 of Elbert Hubbard’s Little Journeys (Great Teachers); and Samvel Mkrtchyan’s Armenian translation of Ulysses. I’m also reading around in (and handling, and inhaling the intoxicating scent of) several others....
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Quite often, what strikes me about a piece soon after I’ve written and sent it into the world is how very weak it seems, in terms of completeness and accuracy, compared to life on the street. For instance, not long ago after finishing what I felt was a fairly nice blog entry, I treated myself to part of an afternoon in a used bookstore. Well before I arrived, not five minutes from home, I was struck by the rich variety of attitudes, mannerisms, postures, gaits, and facial expressions in those I passed along the way. Immediately I recognized, for what must have been the ten thousandth time, that my starry-eyed vision of the world has little if any practical meaning† in the lives of most people, while their own activities and affairs have everything to do with, and are in many ways similar to, mine. Granted, our approaches in some cases must be different. But considering the limits of human nature, how different can they be? And, most important, can I honestly say that mine are any more effective? Or are they only part of an ongoing conversation with myself, a gee and haw designed to keep me from going insane? Whichever, it’s clear to me that a great deal of it is habit. I think the way I do, and wrestle with problems the way I do, because my mind is trained along that course. In following that course, I meet with familiar obstacles and frustrations, which in turn reinforce what at best is a fleeting identity. Steal my memory, pluck a loved one from my midst, and watch me fall apart. All that I am, quickly becomes all that I was: an anxious child looking for a way to say how I feel. When I was eight years old, I stepped on a piece of cactus that had somehow made its way from my mother’s flowerbed into our front lawn. What did I do when the long needles penetrated my bare heel? How did I respond? With screams and blood.
I feel I should be writing that way now.
I handled a great many, and even sniffed a few, but I bought no books that day.
The store was busier than usual, considering it was after Christmas. Without trying, I eavesdropped on several conversations.
The eighth volume of Grolier’s sixteen-volume set of William Hazlitt’s Life of Napoleon was missing. At eight dollars each, I couldn’t afford the other fifteen books anyway, even though the edition was numbered and limited to 1,000. Wants and needs? As if anything were ever that black, and that white. Damn fool.
There were two young women upstairs, sitting near the railing. They were so beautifully subject to their sexual imperative that the books on the table between them were charged with fantasy and light. Their words reached my ears not as meaning, but as song.
Further on, not far from where I found the Hazlitt volumes, a young man was praising Project Gutenberg. One of the girls he was with replied, “Yes, but it’s not the same as holding the books in your hands.”
It’s not the same, in other words, as holding life — as holding a newborn baby, a flower, or a wet calf fresh from its sweet mama’s insides.
† I do not say practical application, because I think it does. For better or worse, how we live as individuals has a direct bearing on what goes on in our world.