With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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December 5, 1981
I feel like a child this morning, not a care in the world, except for these little anxieties, like tiny flies hovering around my sweetness: is it safe to be happy? is it responsible?
Responsible to whom? The Great Issues of the Age? Capital-letter talk bores me, unless it has to do with people or something I can touch, even if it’s crap on the street — anything but the neon of the mind, the parental voices warning of catastrophe. I think the earth is more forgiving, and resourceful, than its most impassioned defenders.
Better the laughter of children, and the child’s heart that opens in a man who’s taken a giant step without asking “May I?” No hand to hold as I walk toward a future that isn’t there, and yet the world keeps being born — what a miracle! And I don’t need to worry about it, or live in a paint-by-number world with a woman next to me, handing me the paints.
I want to dress in the colors I was meant to know, unmediated by romantic love and romantic loneliness, and see the color in the old man’s eyes, and in his shaky hand reaching for the cup — his life as colorful as the young woman in the next booth, with just as much to teach me.
January 23, 1982
The world sings to me. Am I hearing only my own voice, singing to myself in the tub, the steam of my concerns fogging the window? I want someone to hand me a towel; there’s no one. My disappointment is larger than the world. I run around naked, dialing numbers on the phone as if they were combinations to a safe that held something for me. My phone bill is a poem. I can write a better poem than that, though.
I can send down some root into the silence, draw something up, trust what’s unseen, wait for the flowering: winter isn’t spring, why fool myself, but spring comes, and goes.
I can dial the forgotten number of my ancient Self — yes, I remember it, it’s not listed, no one knows it but me — and talk to my Self. This morning, I cried out, “Don’t leave me,” and my Self answered, “I never have.” Who is that talking, anyway? What’s the difference if I call it Self, God, or Imagination?
I can dry myself with a towel, or in the sun, or by the fire I build myself — watch the glowing coals of my heart, feel at peace. No, I don’t have to work for it. It’s always there, here, elusive amidst the whirl of days, playfully ready, teasing me to let go of the chase, come as I am, singing I AM. “God respects me when I work, but he loves me when I sing.” I read that somewhere — I’ve read so much. I tie myself around with golden sentences, ask someone to untie me, then rope myself to him or her, usually her, usually HER. Better to learn the secret of the knots, my knotty mind, tangled yearnings; better to undo what I’ve done.
January 24, 1982
This morning I recall the old Buddhist saying, “Ah, the joy, to discover that there’s no happiness to be found in this world.” And the line from David Budbill’s poem, “Raymond and Ann”: “And he wept again, this never-ending, accumulated grief for the inevitable.” And Bruce Cockburn: “You carry the weight of inherited sorrow from your first day till you die.”
The pain in living, the joy in that peculiar desolation of letting it all go, dancing across the dark prairies of the mind without a backward glance, leaping from the mountain: if I don’t, I suffer. That’s different from pain. That’s a dull hammer to pain’s cut, background music to pain’s cry. Dying to living.
What’s the pain in being alone, no one to talk to; why do I dull that pain with food and TV? “Of course I am alone in the dream,” Hugh Prather writes. “It’s a dream of separation.” Am I afraid to touch my own life — is it strange meat to me? Is a woman to touch less strange? Are the fabrications and myths and romances and lies — the mind’s swaying, seductive dance — more real to me than love? Who can I love if I don’t start loving what’s closest to me — my sweat, my sours, my sometimes limp imagination. I don’t want a hand-job, a fantasy of myself to love, a pin-up of Sy with air-brushed features that leaves out the greed and the stutter or, for that matter, the generosity, the song.
February 9, 1982
Again this morning, I prayed for others, people rarely in my thoughts, yet I know my thoughts affect them, and as I sent love to each of them, my caring was the light, dancing body I wanted when I woke up feeling thick and heavy, a big bird burdened with responsibility. Bird of my heart, see yourself! This life is your sky, these thoughts are your wings.
February 11, 1982
Writing this on my knee, as I drive to the mountains to get the children — the same knee I bounce them on, though Mara, at 6, is getting too big for that. One day I’ll see her curled up on another man’s lap, all smiles and hair and eyes, and maybe if I’m a loving enough father she won’t need to beg of him what so many women need of men — a Daddy. Or maybe she will anyway. There’s a mystery curled in all our hopes, a perpetual infant of surprise, waking us at odd hours to possibilities we never thought of. This ride is like that. I don’t like being in the car eight hours at a stretch, four times a month, but each journey has turned into an excursion into myself — I think, I cry, I pray. And my mind wanders, like the human tribe, finding its way down every road the mind can imagine, all the roads leading to God, even those that seem to end in failure or some weird disease of the age. My father thought we were watched by beings larger and wiser than us; we’re those beings, ancient souls rooted in eternity.