Saturday, November 07, 2009


Weary, weary, weary. Unable to sleep, with Martha snoring next to me like a bandsaw all night. Around 4:00 she wakes enough to become aware of my wakefulness. Sighs at my inexplicable insomnia. Offers to rub my back to put me back to sleep, which is very sweet: strokes once, twice, and then is asleep and snoring again. I get up. Sister is crying in the downstairs bathroom, where she's been shut up to stop her from peeing everywhere. In the daytime we can at least keep up with her. Martha has an elaborate and well-researched plan to stop her. It involves spraying cat pheromones, and a number of other things, and I don't understand it.

Alan gets up at 6:30 to go to his fire training. I make him some eggs, working despairingly around the huge mess in the kitchen. Not just the mess from his D&D buddies last night: every surface of the kitchen not littered with dirty dishes is covered with sticky-taped trays, so that Sister won't jump up and pee on them. This does indeed make it so that Sister can't use the room as a bathroom. It has as a minor side effect, though, that I can't use it as a kitchen. "I can't sleep in my bed, I can't cook in my kitchen, I can't pee in my bathroom," I pout to myself. Oh, such troubles I have. I can't drive my car, either, because Alan's taking it. Feeling myself immensely ill-used, I laboriously kit myself out in my new rain gear and ride the couple miles to Tosi's. It does not, of course, rain. At Tosi's I take all the stuff off again.

But now I'm happy. My laptop comes through for me: all I have to do this morning is loop the power cord over the top of the screen, and that changes the tilt of the connection enough that it can suck. Sucking -- I think of it that way, now. Like trying to get a fussy baby to nurse.

And the new rain gear makes me deeply happy. From J&G in Eugene: I bartered some massages to have a personal shopper, who found me the coolest rain pants in the world, and excellent booties (nothing will make booties cool, but these are dry and have good traction, which is better than cool), and a rain jacket. I thought I was just bartering for the shopping, but she's giving me the stuff, too. It all makes me much happier than any set of cash transactions could. Carlyle talks of Capitalism making cash "the sole universal nexus between man and man": any subversion of that feels like a triumph. I often think of how much emotional texture the world of objects must have had before cash economies. Every object had a story to go with it: it carried your history with the person who made it or acquired it, their work that went into it, your work or your stuff that you traded for it. Your whole world would be rich with what we now condescendingly call "sentimental value" (as if, when push comes to shove, there is really any other kind.)

So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be.

I got by interlibrary loan Richard Holmes' selection of Coleridge's poetry, with wonderful notes, which I'm reading with increasing excitement and appreciation. Holmes is right that Coleridge is often presented, unfairly, as a flash-in-the-pan poet. He actually had a long and fruitful poetic career. I used to think of him in the same way I think of Keats and Shelley -- meteors, more intriguing often for the might-have-beens than for the achievement. But now I think of him more like Wordsworth, as someone who actually accomplished all he was sent to do: though neither he nor his friends ever recognized it.

Much of his best later verse he did not publish, because he thought it too dark, or too obviously passionately addressed to a woman not his wife. He never lost the sense of pastoral responsibility he took on as a lay preacher in his early days, and he felt he should protect his audience from lines such as these:

O Man! Thou vessel purposeless, unmeant,
Yet drone-hive strange of phantom purposes!
Surplus of Nature's dread activity,
Which, as she gazed on some nigh-finished vase,
Retreating slow, with meditative pause,
She formed with restless hands unconsciously.
Blank accident! Nothing's anomaly!

(Though these in fact he did publish -- "Human Life" -- with a self-refutation carefully attached.) He is somehow the most human, the most endearing of the Romantic poets. The least grandiose. For all his posturing and theatrics, he meets you honestly on the road, as a fellow human being and nothing more.

Stop, Christian passer-by! -- stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seem'd he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for S. T. C.;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise -- to be forgiven for fame
He ask'd, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

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