Common Objects, Hidden Dreams

A Daily Journal
October 28, 2005 � My head is full of strange images: an orange sun hung upon a jagged peak, the yolk of its essence running down. I�ve been thinking about this off and on for weeks now. It seems like something I could use in a poem. Or maybe it is a poem:

An orange sun
hung upon
a jagged peak,
the yolk
of its essence
running down.

It�s a nice picture, anyway. Another phrase that�s been tormenting me for the last couple of months is essays in the dark. I love that phrase.

I came upon a man
writing essays in the dark.

Doesn�t it make you want to know more about the man? Is he blind, perhaps? Or does he simply know the words by heart?

Upon his table
an earthless globe,
its continents erased,
the hum of wires
across frozen miles.

Then again, maybe the man is me. Haven�t I been writing in the dark all these years, in the shadow cast by my own limitations? I don�t know. Maybe. Maybe not. I think I�ll eat an apple.

October 29, 2005 � There are several dish towels on my mother�s counter. My two favorites have colored stripes on the ends and are old and worn. The towels were given to my mother by her mother shortly after my parents were married in 1943. In other words, my mother is using sixty-two-year-old towels. She also has a set of measuring cups from that era, worn and dented to perfection. Bread pans, clocks, canning implements, tea sets, tables, pictures � I really shouldn�t get started, because her entire house is a museum. Every once in awhile, she asks me if I think she has too many pictures. Her walls are covered with them, but there isn�t a single one that seems extra or out of place. I tell her no, then ask which ones she would take down. She smiles. None of them, of course. None of them, forever and ever, as long as the two of us shall live. Generations watch and listen from their places on the wall. Armenians, Swedes, lunatics. Farmers, poets, revolutionaries. Angry, happy, surprised, proud. In the dark of night, their remembered spirits leave the frames and drift about the rooms.

October 30, 2005 � Early this morning, at about one-thirty, I heard our youngest son playing his guitar and singing in the main sitting room at the other end of the house. He lives a life all his own, that boy � a life clearly driven by wonder, talent, and determination. When he plays during the day, he also accompanies himself on one of his several harmonicas, which is held in place by a metal rack worn around his neck. It�s like living with a young Donovan or Bob Dylan. In his tiny room, there are stacks of music, guitars on stands, in cases, and leaning against the walls, harmonicas, song books, and notebooks, as well as regular books that contain the work of Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac, and other poets. Life is long, life is hard, life is beautiful, and it�s safe to say he will never be an accountant. He is already content in being what and who he is � the perfect recipe for a rich life, full of fun and peril.

October 31, 2005 � I confess, I tend to think of a great many so-called common objects as being imbued with spirit, personality, and even dreams. My uncle�s pipe, my father�s watch, my mother�s dish towels, her father�s old wooden axe handle � these are ready examples. The words pipe, watch, dish towel, and axe handle themselves are rich in meaning, as are words like lamp, book, and album. Is it the words, then, that give objects spirit and personality? Or is it the other way around? Or is it a matter of perception? More to the point, am I crazy? Does a pocket calculator possess spirit? What about a car tire? A deck of cards? Bicycle spokes? A sagging wooden porch? Is the spirit in objects tied to the story told by the words that represent the objects, or does it operate independently? Calculator: boring. Sagging wooden porch: history, sadness, lives lived. Is it possible to see an object directly, and not through the filter of words? Is there any reason we should? Isn�t it in our nature to name things, and to describe them according to our perceptions? Doesn�t this indicate that we understand, at some deep level, that all matter is charged with life and interrelated, and that all objects retain a spark of that from which they were made?

November 1, 2005 � Maybe, maybe not. Because words can also be a prison. We know from simple observation that people with large vocabularies don�t necessarily lead a richer life than people with small vocabularies. Often, the more words we know, the less we are able to see things as they really are, with our own eyes, as if for the first time. The world is full of dull, educated people. It is also full of dull, uneducated people. The world is full of people, period � or comma, if you prefer � who have trouble with their colons. And yet an object is what it is, regardless of the name we give it, regardless of how we interpret that name. We interpret the world with our senses, and according to our natural inclinations and past experience. Language is driven by our need to explain and share our impressions. It is driven by our need to get along, and to get what we need to survive. Language � written, spoken, sung � is an amazing, beautiful thing. Words, melodies, poems, lamentations � aren�t they our best means of expressing and understanding what we already know deep inside? Don�t they remind us that nothing in the world is really ordinary?

November 2, 2005The Confessions of a Demented Monk would be a good title for a story, poem, book, or treatise.

Tortoise. Thrombosis.
Pterodactylosis. Fragilosis.

Afflicted with twittledumdeosis, the monk sallied forth. �Today,� he said, �I will cultivate my garden with a spoon. That is sure to please the bishop.� But, alas, the bishop was not pleased. The bishop was preoccupied with pastry. While in Vienna to attend the Great Council of Religious Magazines, one tart in particular had caught his eye. She was coquettish-brunettish, and worked in the ad department. But she didn�t care for bishops � indeed she found them bland, unless they had been thoroughly dusted with powdered sugar. Moreover, the bishop suffered from a severe case of fragilosis. Everything he touched went to pieces in his hands. While reciting psalms and combing his beard, the clumsy oaf had ruined many a gilded mirror and tea set. The monk knew none of this. He was demented. In other words, he lived inside his imagination. He cultivated his garden with a spoon (as I have said) and listened to the learned mice discussing theology in the monastery�s barn. Because of this, he knew more about theology than all the other monks combined. Theology was very simple: so much like other ologies.

Polydoctrinology. Flopodopolology.
Biscuitology. Tormentology.
Persimmonology. Ribbitology (the study of frogs).

When a child lives inside his imagination, he is not considered demented. But an adult: watch out: stay away: unsafe he is, in the grip of evil spirits. We find it in the Book of Boredomology, and hear it quoted by the sane.

November 3, 2005 � What is real, and what is an imitation? How do we tell them apart? Do we derive the same amount of pleasure and understanding from the two? What happens when we discover that something we have admired is only a copy of what we thought it was? And yet, isn�t an imitation real, in and of itself? It might not be what it pretends to be, but it is still what it is. Do objects become more real over time, the more we look at them and handle them? Are they capable of that sort of change, or is it we who change? And what about people? Are we real, or are we imitations? If we are imitations, how can we recognize the difference elsewhere? Or are we real underneath, and copies only on the surface? Are our beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral patterns like clothes that must be stripped away in order to see the skin?

November 4, 2005 � Animate, inanimate � these are convenient but possibly misleading terms. For instance, we feel certain rocks don�t move, unless acted upon by some force. But is this really true? Isn�t it possible that they do move, that they even speak and communicate, and that our senses aren�t acute enough to notice? Eagles see better than we do, owls hear better, countless animals have a highly superior sense of smell. Why do we assume, based on the information furnished by our limited senses, that rocks don�t move and park benches don�t sing or weep? Isn�t that an arrogant way to look at the world? A rock or a park bench might stay put year after year, but that doesn�t mean they are not alive, that they are not in some sort of sympathetic, harmonic vibration, that they are not living witnesses of history. It makes me wonder � is there a way for us to perceive the world other than through our senses? Or are we bound by them? Information received and transmitted to the brain: what happens in there, anyway? Gods, myths, science, and the arts; anger, fear, hope. Do we have other senses � some active, some dormant � of which we are presently unaware?

November 5, 2005 � �He�s nuts,� you might say. �I have enough troubles as it is. What do I care about sympathetic rocks and singing park benches?� Very well. From this moment forward, I will stick with the cold hard facts. I will hold my tiny mirror up to the universe and worship the first thing reflected there. I will not try to penetrate the mist. I will not call out to the strange figures emerging from the dark green forest. I will not listen to their joyful song. It�s simple: no one can see them; they can�t be accounted for by science or explained by religion; so therefore they don�t exist. The world is full of dumb objects, and I am a dumb object moving through the world, a sackful of inherited guesses and lies. It�s a beautiful day not because I have discovered so myself: it�s beautiful because I have been told it�s beautiful � and how beautiful, and why beautiful, and beautiful when where what and who beautiful according to the latest best most accurate digitized corporatized hypocritized information available. Hurray for progress! Where do I sign?

November 6, 2005 � Here. Here. And here. Really, friend, it�s all the same.

Like a coin that passes
through many hands,
so travel our thoughts
and dreams, free to roam,
well used, familiar,

How else would we know
what the other means?
How else our secret pain?

Soft lips you place
upon my care-worn cup,
warm in passing;
we have been this way
before, and will be
once again.

November 7, 2005 � The moment is infinitely rich, but we�re usually dissatisfied with it or afraid of what it might contain. And yet the moment is all we have and all we will ever need. The moment has no beginning or end: it is fleeting and eternal: there has ever been but one, and it will ever be without end. The oldest mountains and this morning�s newly sprouted grain were born in the same moment.

They live, change,
and die therein;
the dawn of man,
our neighbor�s pain,
the planets as they
drift and spin.

The universe, and all that is beyond, is the moment in which we live.
When we ask for more, we demand much less, and less is what we receive.

November 8, 2005 � When we declare an arbitrary beginning and an arbitrary end, we lock ourselves within. When did the past end? Where do the present and future begin? Are we such great believers in time because we live and die? Even planets live and die � galaxies, moons, and suns. And since that�s the case, it�s likely the universe itself is dying, and possible it was born of another universe countless billions of our earth-years ago, and yet still within this same moment. Now, this begs another question: Is the moment above the laws of nature? For all that is in nature must live and die. Or is that also a mirage? I will certainly die as myself, but that from which I am made will live on, like any leaf that falls and which is later returned to the soil. So does nothing die? And if nothing dies, is nothing ever really born? Is the moment all that actually exists? And is the moment itself contained by an even larger moment?

November 9, 2005 � The nearer we are to this painting, the more abstract it becomes. Step back a few light-years and all is plain. Step back and see a blade of grass; a child�s bright and eager eye; a field of stubble on an old man�s face. Step back and watch quietly from the far side of the universe. I will wait here, next to you. I will marvel at your sigh, rejoice in all you see:

The long roads and narrow valleys,
Mountains, lakes, and trees,
Busy diners full of rattling spoons,
Neighbors working underneath their cars,
A litter of sleeping kittens,
Roosters calling out the lazy dawn,
Old fingers fumbling with needle and thread,
Prisoners who have forgotten how to smile,
Graveyards and playgrounds where bright poppies grow,
Alfalfa fields and rustling rows of corn,
Boys and girls keeping each other warm at football games,
A bay of ships, their crying horns, all�s well on land and sea.

November 10, 2005 � And so it goes, at least for this derelict humming in the dark. The street is empty and the shops are closed. Abandoned stairways lead to the stars. In the gutter, a mountain stream, pure and cold. Upon his faithful bed, a baker dreaming sweets and loaves. Flowers blooming on a window sill, magic-scented night. Fingers pull the soft silk down, that skin may know the dew. Enlightened objects, drifting by. Dreams in soft white linen, deep their gleaming eyes. Death, a choir of joyful bones. Timeless voices, filled with light.

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