Sunday, October 22, 2017

sometimes i wonder: what was that lifetime all about?

the first psychic i visited, gloria saches, said, "Everything speeded up. We're living six lifetimes in one." that certainly seems true for me and not very comfortable. the passions have come and gone. theater possessed me at least three times: when i was a child, dressing up in a toga, and giving speeches to kids on the block. later, at 18, determined to become a famous playwright, directing plays, doing a bit of acting. this went on for the longest time.

early thirties and i pushed it to the limit, working at uc santa cruz. unfortunately, by the end of the decade, disappoints in love undermined my forward drive. i retreated into writing poetry. one more theater period emerged in the 1990's, ten years of production, minor victories, finally satisfied i'd learned to direct and how to write a play. 

again, circumstances changed. the theater changed hands. i switched to photography, taking up the art i'd abandoned at sixteen. fifteen years of digital snaps, theater, dance, community events, stacking up quite a pile. let's google my name and see what's there: hmm, 35,000 pictures. those saved from taking approximately a million a year. 

alas, i ran to the end of that, selling off all the fancy equipment. i turned to the iphone and have been perfectly happy with it, snapping less and less, posting a few like a diary on facebook. francis bacon said his paintings, 'like the slime of a snail crawling across a canvas." there is a point when i ask myself, "so what?" i like having a record, yet does it add up to anything? 

other lives have been: music, taking singing lessons, writing a few songs. this too depended on a social environment, lookout friends driving for hours to eat corn on the cob. and this community dissolved, as each went their separate way. or travelling, forty countries collected, memories choice and sublime, lonely and bereft. all this mixed up with romances flickering out like fireflies. 

and the lifetime above in the photograph, a puppet-show with a partner, not looking particularly unhappy, yet if i include the expressions of the puppets, they do sum up a number of lifetimes. maybe it's true, a man lives by fits and starts, while a woman inhabits more of a flow. for most people i feel it's merely a matter of keeping very busy while life passes unnoticed. don't ask too many questions. as sachel paige said, "Don't look back. Someone may be catching up with you."

i like this picture. that was a joyful life for me.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

a letter on retirement

hi russ, thinking about our conversation yesterday, very relevant to me! one reason i like the lookout job is i told myself i could go on for a very long time and that's the way it's worked out. when young, i told myself never to retire, which meant to keep using my brain and being creative. i wanted this job so i could read and write. without house and family i could travel. and now my travel memories my favorite, they make me feel i've lived. and then there was a twenty year period where i chased women and had lots of love affairs. despite the ups and downs, the aches and pains, the fun and jealousy (terrible emotion), i sometimes wish for those years back again. i thought i should live to accumulate memories. that has worked to a certain degree. lots of flashbacks simply a streetcorner in spain or the smile of a girl on a paris subway. really not great, momentous moments. places to wander and wonder how i ever got there. i've always been very conscious of death and time. being a minister's kid i saw all the phases of life celebrated. at times i do feel a lot of anguish, time slipping away. other times i'm able to live in the moment and to challenge myself. i read recently, "Everything you've ever wanted lies just outside your comfort zone." i feel i have to push myself to travel. a week can feel like a year and complesses time. i also keep going to classes, partly simply to feel connected with the world. i also use facebook a lot. i've connected with a lot of people from the past as well as family. again, it's a way of being part of the world even sitting up here by myself. these days i do try to avoid the news. you know why. and i am listening a lot more to music to keep my spirits up. i suppose i do use the job as an identity, since it's very exotic for a lot of people. that said i've tried to keep other identities so i'm not so dependant on one: student, traveler, writer, photographer, etc. i have always struggled with depression and try to keep the words of the painter Georgia O'Keefe in mind: "I've been frightened my whole life and never let it stop me from doing anything." this morning it occures to me, we do have to keep challenging ourselves. once a job stops and other people aren't making demands, we have to make them on ourselves. i've always thought you very robust and your intellect interesting and fun. this is a pep-talk for myself, as much as for you! WALKING is definitely part of the answer. be sure to visit me before the 28th. i'm off next sun-wed. all the best, wayne  ps. i've always enjoyed our conversations a lot. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

can sanity prevail?

i'm trying very hard not to project my own physical decay - trigger fingers, A-fib, hydro-cele - onto the world. too many old folks feel the world is going to hell because they are. any change becomes a cause for alarm: a favorite tree cut down, a laundromat going out of business, an idiot elected to office. alas, i have old style cassettes with no interpretation  left, a part of my past erased.

and these days i feel like i live in a country losing its grip on reality. true, people still buy houses and fix them up. on the large tv at the orthopedic office young couples describe how they're renovating and improving the premises. the other day on the local university campus groups of high school kids were all over the place being seduced to join up. 

train-loads of new tanks roll through town, and new cars drive out of the dealers, shiny and ominous. every time i drive the canyon ninety miles to town, deadly boulders on one side and the swirling river on the other, i watch the oncoming cars like a hawk. damn, the most dangerous thing i can do is climb into my pickup.

of course, i am becoming a fraidy-cat. as i grow older, i realize how many things can get me and how many times i've fallen asleep on the road and woken up in the other lane, an oncoming truck not that far away. or the falls i've taken on my back off the back deck or the rocks below the lookout. life seems a crap shoot, a matter of pure luck. why wasn't i born in a ditch in india? 

i do comfort myself with thoughts of being chosen, a poet, a traveler, a photographer, kept alive by Sidney, my guardian angel. and then, i forget all about him, sailing along as though my survival were my own doing, or simply good fortune. either i'm a saint doing good work in the world, or a fool too lazy to die. 

and what is sanity? i've decided this morning it's empathy, the ability to have sympathy for other people, to cry for a child or help an old lady across the street. a friend had an uncle who worked at a ultra-security prison for the worse kinds of sex offenders. he said the prisoners all had one thing in common: no empathy. they couldn't feel he pain of another human being. 

has the election of a man with no empathy put the world in danger? sometimes paranoia is reasonable, sane, justified. one push of the button and the northern hemisphere is toast. i'm just about to make a trip to australia, my third, just in case. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

onliy happy when i'm reading

that summer after the third grade i read two books a day, mostly about heroes, blackhawk, daniel boone, kit carson. we'd left montana for california and i suppose i hid out from the separation, the feeling of hamilton dying as we left it, the life leaving the telephone poles and streets. all the way to the coast, through the idaho snow, i fretted and wouldn't help my mother, my father at army boot camp. 

i can't really remember the school in los gatos, how i managed to get through that spring. all i remember is a collie trying to bite me as i trudged home. stories and fantasies, the comfort of libraries, and later years spent browsing in bookstores. there'd come a time in my travels when i became exhausted by greek temples and byzantine churches and i'd look for a book to bury myself in. 

hmm, and for the last 17 years i basically abandoned books for taking photographs and browsing books about them. i read very little, yet i often felt happy with pictures. true, all my children's books illustrated and those never left me, whether it was winnie-the-pooh or wind in the willows. at thirteen i had to decide: would i be a writer or an artist. i couldn't draw anything realistically, so the latter seemed out of the question. 

starting out a journalist on the school paper, i was led up the garden path by the teacher in charge, who said, 'this boy has imagination.' i took it as a great compliment. i wrote writers at life magazine and the new york times. they actually answered back and were rather discouraging, the profession not glamorous! gradually i got bored the with the formulae of the press, the mechanical approach to expression. 

by the end of my college freshman year, i dropped the basketball court for historical fiction, discovered poetry in my sophomore year and didn't realize i was a child falling in love with it. yes, the practical say, write poetry when young, and get over it. i never did outlive it, though i haven't written any in a long time. reading poetry still calms me down, shifts my mind into a different pattern. i have to work to understand, and i escape the repeated coils of my everyday thought. 

now, again, i find making pictures not adequate, though i still take them. they seem so perishable, and they don't express complexity. writing takes me on a journey into someplace i haven't been. and now, with everyone having a camera, the process so simple, a picture has become a bit of sand on the shore, surely to get lost in the vastness. while a poem seems to be made to outlast time, if it hits the human heart. not easily done.

i look at all the poets online, and think, why am i trusting poetry so much? i decided today on my tombstone: "He Kept Watch." is that enough? while i'm looking and reading, i forget the future, which, though it may be more interesting than the past, may not exist. the essence of life is fiction, the tumbling consciousness of a complicated species. even memory is mostly made-up. rearranging the pictures doesn't change a life.    Virginia City, Nevada

Friday, August 25, 2017

i live an hypnotized life

i hate to admit it but i'm often the victim of self-hypnosis. sometimes this is very useful, as when i have to deal with an authoritarian figure, a cop, or a teacher. i don't realize it in the moment. i am imitating his gestures, falling into the rhythm of his speech. this means i don't get a ticket or i do get a good grade. alas, when i walk away, i feel trapped in the body of that person. like an actor, i've adopted a new identity, which can be very annoying and hard to shake off.

or searching for my true 'self', i've spent years infatuated with a young woman. this started in the fourth grade and only ended a few years ago. at fifty i'd still make a fool of myself worshiping and chasing an angel i created. one was an actress. in fact maybe they all were, knowing how to laugh and motion in such a way, i latched onto the fantasy. each time, once i got close enough, the dream would be staunched by the reality, ie. the personality and solid body in the world.

this was great for writing poetry. i do believe the general rule in passion - everything grows in significance, stones, streets, trees. that's the reason love called a drug, and like drug wears off. this, no question, is a form of self-hypnosis: meditating on the face of the beloved until the vision takes over consciousness. various forms of possession, positive and negative the same.

for example, politics. i'm always amazed by crowd psychology. how circumstances and the skill of an orator can create a movement of nazis. all of this must be an outcome of tribalism. we like the power of identifying with the mob, and i like being protected by anonymity, looking and acting like everyone else, a result of a rigid and dangerous to my safety organizational state. to be kicked out of the group meant dying in the desert. 

trance and hypnosis easy to demonstrate. i fall into a trance on a long automobile drive. i go on automatic pilot, not aware of my surroundings. i may be listening to a book on tape, or whirling around and around in my thoughts, standing up to giants or seducing an amazon. luckily, if need be, i can shift into reality on the turn of a wheel. actual physical fear always wakes me.

i'm convinced most of us live in this hypnotized state, not waking up till one foot steps into the grave and we hear the monotonous sermon of the preacher, saying how great we were, and everybody loved us. and unable to remember what actually happened, we like to believe it true. i don't mind even being called an oddball, as i once was lying naked in a grave, dug in a field for a theatrical exercise. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

memories absolutely insignificant to anybody but me

yes, i regret losing all those childhood memories. around 25 they seemed to drop below consciousness, all the details. and why do i miss them? i guess it's the feeling of vitality, impulsiveness, emotion, everything on the surface, no defense against joy and tears. and yet, i hated the vulnerability of being a child. the slightest slight, an offensive gesture, any failure in the classroom or on the sportsfield, tore me apart. 

for example, being a bad boy in the fifth grade i got kicked into the sixth. one time, without knowing it, sucking on my ballpoint, i got ink all over my mouth. the teacher sent me out, again as a 'bad' boy, literally the youngest in class at the time. or, to placate me, he made me team captain for a softball game. stupidly, i told a friend i wouldn't let him play if he wasn't nice to me. of course, he ratted on me and i got kicked off the team. i remember watching the game from afar, bawling my heart out.

i've read high school particularly intense, so many negative events imprinting themselves. and supposedly, i can  relive those, they being specifically painful. the good times, like kissing a girl on a bridge as a train passed under, or making out on a hayride, those harder to call up. or the time i worked in a dime store, cleaning up, and growing more and more tired of the job until i got fired. why would i want to remember such things?

i'd rather recall making out with a german girl in italy under a sky filled with stars. or riding along the coast of turkey on a white ship and watching the sun drop into the sea. yet, i welcome all memories, even those filled with shame, like being paddled by the principal in front of the whole fifth grade class. or the night of the prom where i dated the queen and when we got back to her place, i was so tongue-tied i could hardly talk.

i presume the desire for all this flotsam and jetsam either has to do with my sense of identity, or the feeling of having lived. probably both. a 83 year old friend going into Alzheimer's said, "I don't want to lose myself." and at the same time the famous druggie Timothy Leary said, "Senility is underrated." and i've heard in china you're blessed if you have a bad memory. 

does this all have to do with the rage for mindfulness, living in the present? truly, that is tough to do. i have to be frightened out of my wits, on edge, thrown into the survival mode. at these times every rock gains a clear outline, i leave the trance of thought, of memory, in  order to preserve myself. otherwise, as einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." fortunately he didn't live in brain of our present leader, as we all do.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

impossible to write poetry when i can't fall in love

ah, there you are, dream girl, the tomboys i've always loved. of course, i'm not sure what you mean. when i first encountered real poetry in college (ee cummings, wallace stevens, ts. elliot) i didn't understand what it was all about. for six months i read every book on poetry i could find. the puzzle pulled me in. and it wasn't till i read a book by elizabeth drew (now a washington political writer) did things fall into place:

                                  ALL POETRY IS ABOUT LOVE AND DEATH. 

wow, could it be that simple?

my brother would never read my poetry. he said he couldn't understand it. ah, what is there to understand? of course, i too was fooled, thinking i had to know some secret language. what could be simpler than this

that's what all poetry is ultimately about. certainly, it disguises itself as sex and war. in fact i just read a bit of "The Poetry of Sex". a poem by auden about picking up a guy and an extended description of giving and getting a blow-job, specific beyond anything i'd ever read! .after reading more poems in the book i felt free to look at everyone in the coffee shop as a desirinjg, tormented sexual being (i've always agreed with freud, alas) i had a liberated few moments. 

that's what poetry can do for me: change my relation to the world. it can make me playful, sad, aroused, amused. somehow reading life in shorthand i re-arrange my way of seeing, feeling, being. i feel sorry for poetry's reputation as un-masculine. too difficult to understand. a short poem can carry the key to events in the world. 


                                                    Elect a clown, 
                                                    Expect a circus

my friend Will summed up our time very neatly and i added a thought of my own:

                                             MEMO TO A BORED NATION

                                              Peace, prosperity, 
                                              "Life in wartime 
                                              is more interesting,"
                                              said the old woman.
                                               And now everyone 
                                               agrees with her. 

sometimes all i need is an image and i can calm down, escaping from my own vision of the world. like all art poetry gives form to the void. it's worth a little effort.