2020




Monday April 13


Finished reading Antony Alpers' Biography of Katherine Mansfield, a book I must have read a dozen times in my teens and twenties.  She was the first adult author I ever read that I developed a real passion for.  All having to do with, for me as with probably most anybody who's ever fallen in love with her writing, its childlike quality, the record of direct experience registering on an individual psyche.  Other passions followed of course, V. Woolf, and Kafka, never Joyce or Lawrence, but E. Dickinson and e.e. cummings, Jean Rhys and many others.  And later the Japanese poets . . .  But when I first started, it was Mansfield who fascinated me; I've probably read everything she ever wrote.  I wanted to reread the Biography to see what I thought of her now.  My more or less final assessment is that she never had the chance to completely grow up as a writer, her life being so truncated by illness and early death.  Even so, she left a solid book's worth of first-rate stories.  And her life was a brave one.  Still, one thing that stuck out at me this time around was how many people identified her as being a liar, and sometimes a hurtful one.


Tell me!  Tell me!  Why is it so difficult to write simply – and not only simply but sotto voce, if you know what I mean?  That is how I long to write.  No fine effects – no bravura.  But just the plain truth, as only a liar can tell it.

–– K. Mansfield,  A Married Man's Story




Tuesday April 14


A difference in what lies inside:  Now I can see it, can enter into it, that pulsation of darkness blooming behind my eyes.  I can move around in it – and it need not be as mysterious as all that.  The experience is precisely analogous to that of turning your attention to the outside world again after having been turned inward for awhile, working out a problem, daydreaming . . . The world you see when you come out of your fugue is separate from you, has a reality apart from you.  That's what it's like.




Friday April 17


If you turn off the chattering of the mind, if you achieve silence within, what is left?  The senses only (inner or outer, or both I suppose, to some degree – anyway) so that I become, at 8:45 on a Friday evening, the sound of something wet outside, a light rain falling perhaps, and now and again the the more plodding sound of heavy drip-drops falling from the roof somewhere, and the sound of cars passing by . . .  And farther in the background, when I listen close, there are other strands of sound I can hear – music, notes, the chirping of birds, staticky noises, hummings, and so forth.  Planes of sound, strands of sound, reverberating within.  That's what emptiness can give you.

Stillness, on the other hand, is something else altogether.  Stillness is about discipline, control, grace, power.




Friday April 24


So a provisional back-to-work date has been set; I have I figure nine days left (assuming some of us go back a week early to get the store ready for reopening).  Time to make a plan.

Here's a typical day, and how my time, all this free time, gets spent:  Wake surprisingly early:  I used to be a night person; now, apparently, I'm something else.  At this moment in my life it's the early hours of the day I like the best, from just before sunup till about 8.  I like the light.  I read, off and on, all day:  Currently, Dr Jekyll (Stevenson) and A Judgement in Stone (Rendell).  Watch old tv shows, off and on, all day:  Currently, Agatha Christie's Poirot.  I check on news feeds frequently, or watch political shows on the internet.  Mid-afternoon I often go for a walk – to the local cemetery (about fifteen minutes away).  Sometimes I'll see other people there, singly or in pairs (the cemetery serving as a sort of ersatz park).  We smile shyly, maybe give a little wave:  It's nice to see somebody else who's made it through.  Then back home, fix something to eat . . . smoke a bowl . . . watch more tv, read . . .

I've also been spending some time lately getting to know an orange tabby my next door neighbors appear to have left behind when they got evicted.  The woman who lives on the other side of me – Alice – has been putting out food for him, as have I.  He's a very decent cat, it's a shame to think he was deserted.  He still looks for his old owners to return to their house.  Because of this neither Alice nor I are sure we should take him in.

Plan?  What plan?  I feel completely passive these days.  I wait for things to happen to me.



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