Friday, December 20, 2019


Blue spaces open, luminous, behind the black branches and leaves. Through the skylights, I can see the the trees shrug and shiver in the wind: then they settle again. Behind them the blue-gray increases in brightness, and I consider the paradox, that as the light increases the color fades. It's not really a blue sky, it's  gray one, even dark gray one. Those earliest pools of light are intensely blue when they first appear. Now there are dark gray layers of cloud hurrying across a lighter gray field: it's all still blue-tinged, I suppose, but the color barely registers. Dawn settles into place. Shakes its coat, pats its pockets, smooths its hair. Daytime.

A couple deep breaths, a few business-like coughs. I sputter into life. Dig the sleep out of my eyes. Sketch out the day ahead: much to do, much to do. Finish the week's soup, pack up food for the day, shower and launch.

But I take the time to close my eyes, and slow down. What was it I said? "Close your eyes and turn toward the sun." Listen to the pipers of tinnitus. Let things fall away. There's time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Walking Naked

Nah, you know, rewind, all the way back. All the way back, lad.

What should be in your life?

heart work
Well, this should be Spanish and Writing, yes? Any kind of Spanish, any kind of writing. This has been totally out of wack since I've been sick and stressed over the holiday work surge. I shouldn't need an especially compelling book to make this happen. I need markers, milestones. I need to get my kindle reading going. Perez-Reverte's history of the Civil War, (or the one he refers to?) would be an excellent choice. History in general, if available. Profitable reading that doesn't have to be literary.

In any case: there should be a minimum of two hours' Spanish work daily. Get real about this, Dale. A hour and a half of hard reading with vocabulary building, half an hour of listening to videos. See how that goes: see if the tempo accelerates. I think it will: but record the time. And make yourself really do the listening. Use your earbuds and just do it. The half-assed stuff really doesn't cut it. Do you think you're going to live forever?

money work
I'm  getting ready to retire, in my mind, which means it's probably a damn sight closer than I presently know or understand. Eight years from now is the longest timeline. Think some more about this. Think about the transitions. Think about whether a three- or four-day work week would make sense, after the end of the year. All that. A lot to think about here, actually.

social stuff

Right now this absorbs a lot of "soft" time -- social media "checking in" that I think is pretty low-nourishment for the amount of time spent, and has lots and lots of negative side-effects. A lot of these habits were set when I was low-level prowling for flirtation prospects all the time, honestly; and I don't need that shit any more. Maybe less of open facebook, more of closed-group... something? This bears a lot of serious thinking.


The exercise, really, feels like its stable and handled, or will be anyway when I get over this damn cold. Daily back exercises, three workouts per week, five walks to and from the train per week. Done. Handled.

what's it for?
So really -- it's handled, all handled, except for: what the hell is it all for? What is this life? I mean, you have to fill in the days, one way or another, and this is one way. But might another way be better? And how would I know? I'm beginning to feel that I need a... vision quest? A psilocybin trip? An intense artistic imagination? The pieces must all be here, somewhere in this fluctuating chaos of a mind. How to locate them, to order them, so that in moments of bewilderment or dread I can get my bearings? 

My Buddhism didn't so much collapse, as fade. I didn't really want to be wired in to a group and lodged in an institution. I didn't want this -- this heart center -- to be muddied with wanting to please and impress people. I wanted it to be a different kind of thing than that. No disrespect to people who find that helpful. You use what works. But for me... I think of Prince Andrei, murmuring, "this life... this life is not to my taste."

Of course, one crossway is the Christian, or Deist, one, which frames the question -- disingenuously but sometimes fruitfully -- as, "what does God want me to do?" As if that was something a creature could usefully discern! And as if you could actually do anything else. But we are wired that way, partly: wired to look to the Big Man and fret about whether we're pleasing Him. Another of those things: you use what works, and no disrespect. I don't think that one is going to work for me either, though. I want truth, or as close to the truth as this poor mortal can cut.

The mushrooms, if they worked, could be a shortcut. But they could only work, really, if the stuff is all here in my mind already. Whatever can be imagin'd, said Mr Blake: and he should know. As Martha said, what's available by way of mushroom should be available by way of meditation. It's just that you'd have to walk rather than drive. And what has my life of the past three years been, but a continual demonstration that driving is actually slower, more expensive, and more roundabout? You end up serving the car, not the trip. There's more enterprise / In walking naked.

Walking naked: the dream of the Puritan. No priest; no middleman; just you and God, face to face on the blasted heath. (Heh. As if anyone could keep their feet in the gale.)

But enough: the grandiosity doesn't serve, either. All it has to be is the discipline of turning. Even with your eyes closed, you know where the sun is, and you can turn towards it.

But, but, but -- and here is where the Buddhists can really help me -- it ain't worth a damn if it ain't a practice. Turning toward the sun once a year, because you're stressed out by work or by Christmastime, just means you turn toward the sun thirty times -- or more accurately, you imagine turning toward the sun thirty times -- before you pop into your pine box for your nice refreshing nap. Is that the program? If so, then gluttony might be a more rewarding one.

This -- this, what I'm doing right now, tippety-tappety, hunched over a keyboard at dawn; a skinny-fat virus-ridden old man with his head thrust forward at an unattractive angle, his face lit ghastly blue from beneath -- this is maybe the half of it. Bring myself back, reel myself in, tease myself into remembrance with bucking and prancing words. Because eventually the sun comes up. And eventually, you -- even you, Favier, even you -- can be brought to remember: Oh yeah. I need to turn toward the sun. I need to close my eyes and do this thing. Like, now: not next year, not next month, not tomorrow. Now.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Arteries of the Spirit Harden

Arthur Rackham: illustration for Ruskin's King of the Golden River

6:30, and the dark is still complete: windows and skylights are dull black, except where they reflect an old, shrunken fellow huddled over his laptop. Not a hint that dawn is anywhere near.

I get on with the work of clearing phlegm from my lungs. My cold is ceding a little bit of territory, so there's some hope of getting ahead on that, at last. I've taken the last couple days off work, but that means, this being the giving season, that work is piling up for me, gifts that need to be entered into the database. I've tended this database for over a decade now, and I don't really like anyone but me entering the crucial gift data. Which means that, at this time of year, data entry tasks accumulate relentlessly.

On the other hand, there is an end to the task. Every year the spigot shuts off, abruptly and completely, on midnight of December 31st. The mail straggles in for a couple more days, and there's a couple big end-of-year tasks, but that's it. If I can stay on top of things till then, then I will have shot the rapids for another year, and be out into still water.

I began reading Isabel Allende's memoir, La Suma de los Días, but lost interest after sixty or seventy pages. My tolerance for vague and self-indulgent mysticism has dropped sharply.  A wealthy Marin County lady believes herself to be witch who makes things happen with the aid of her prayer circle: well, sure. Why not? What's the cost? And the fact that the centerpiece of the narrative is a marriage which I know busted up a short while after she finished writing adds, unfairly maybe, to my skepticism. The woman who wrote Eva Luna had things to say to me: I'm not sure this woman does.

And that, of course, stirs my deepest fears of mortality. The body dies, sure, that's right and proper, but it strikes a chill into me that the imagination dies. The arteries of the spirit harden. You look into the windows for a hint of dawn, and see nothing, and pretty soon you start making things up just to relieve the blankness, to fill in the darkness. But there's nothing there but your own reflection.

Well. You have to be willing to travel. And you have to be willing to wait for the darkness to resolve, on its own schedule, and to see whatever finally does appear. Whatever it is, welcome or not, and whatever it demands of you.

But beyond that, the point is, there are stories that belong to you and stories that don't, and there are stories that should be told, and stories that shouldn't. (These are separate distinctions, mind you, not the same thing said two ways.) That's what troubles me.

And if the dawn doesn't come, then it doesn't come. You leave the page blank. You go for a walk, or you take up the next duty that presents itself.