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Even an inch beneath the sunny grasses, it may be dark as pitch. We can only guess about the truth of that which is hidden from us, knowing only that some truth resides therein. Everything has a history, a life, and bears witness to what occurs before it. Our hearts are caves, the passages mostly unexplored and forever enigmatic to those who remain outside. We ourselves cannot ever fully walk the depths of the caves within us. The passage we walked once we may never find again. One day the entrance will be sealed forever, eternally unlit. Isn't this fun?
I heard the door rattle. I went out and met two ladies who asked if they could look inside the church. The younger of the two said, "I was married here thirty eight years ago, and I haven't been back since." I told her we liked it when people came back sooner. We went around back and entered the sanctuary through the door by the pulpit. Is Felmeth still alive? No, and newer names mean little to her. She took some pictures, reminisced about the sleepy country town this once was, shook my hand, and went to browse the graveyard.
Take a tip from me: there's only enough time in any one day to do sixty percent of the things you want to do in it. And at that none of the good stuff gets to trickle in. God is in the surprises. The devil's there too, granted, but the moments of pure delight are all God. Who can say what's around the bend; will there be treasures untold, or will the balcony give way beneath us? The future is still unregulated, try as we may to legislate and dictate what it is permitted to contain. The freedom of emptiness.
I went to the bookstore yesterday, and came away without spending a dime. Rummage has ruined me for retail. I wear rummage shoes, rummage shirts, rummage hats, rummage trousers; I cook in rummage cookware and eat off rummage dishes; I decorate with rummage Knick-knacks and I read rummage books. Why buy a book for full price when I might get it from the library, a book sale, or the recycling at rummage? It's a habit that may be out of control, but it does conserve resources, not just financial ones, but lets things work that aren't ready to be retired.
She sits there, not speaking, looking off into the distance, and there's no telling what she sees or what she thinks about it. She keeps some doors shut, and all the knocking in the world doesn't persuade her to open them. Another way to put it: I stand on shifting sands, the ground I think I've gained drops away without warning, and I slide away. I could have gotten her ice cream, maybe that would have helped; that ice cream business certainly lost me some equity with her. The unspoken words spill over me like rain. I am defenseless beneath them.
Consider her ways and be wise: there are so many ants and their ways so various that I can barely begin. I caught a big black one crossing the floor last night; now she is dust and ashes. The wee ones came into my kitchen and found the sugar, here and there I saw them but they followed no well-defined trail. They come up from the foundations of our stone paths and walkways, piling up pyramids of sand, little Egyptian slaves marching from an underground Nile to the Valley of the Kings. Are there hexapod Israelites down there, awaiting release?
Ready for a joke? I can never come up with one when I need it, and they're never very funny when you try to make them up. I'd just as soon avoid the dirty and the impious, not that I've got anything against that kind of thing, I like the earthier mentality, within reason, but I'm not sure this is the appropriate forum . Maybe there's a rule against that kind of thing. And it would have to be a simple story. Can't fit much detail into one hundred words. That excludes the kind of story built on repetition or variey.
I realized as I wrote yesterday's preparatory remarks that it may be necessary, before proceeding, to offer a note in advance with a view to clarifying the proposed text. In other words, some people may not get the joke if I don't explain it. After all, it's an old joke, and who remembers George Arliss these days? He was a bit of a fossil in my mother's childhood, and that was more than a few years ago now. So how did a peculiar looking old coot like him get to be in the movies, anyway, let alone become a star?
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; this being so, what does look with the eyes? A cold heart might see what is before it, we are told that too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart, so perhaps the heart that does not feel sees through the eyes alone.... But heartless hearts are dangerous precisely becuase they can see with the unclouded mind. Love looks in a dream, sees what it would see, where the empty loveless heart sees what is there, all the weaknesses, the secret doors, the unloved loves, the open heart.
Jokes are funny things. Sure, you say, Ha ha. But what I mean to suggest is that as short narratives, they come pretty close to being the ideal story. A joke has to retain the interest of the listener throughout, while deferring gratification until the end. There are colorful details to engage the imagination, but they remain relevant to the purpose of the story: the point of the joke. Every successful joke, too, is essentially authorless; it passes through many hands, which reshape it, streamline it, sing variations on its tune, and perfect it. Jokes strive for their own pleroma.
When I came into the building I saw him talking to Lynn at the reception desk. He needed a ride to the train station; it wasn't long before I saw how weird he was. But it was important for me to get him out of the building. I drove him over and he wouldn't get out of the car; he was down on his luck, homeless, a drunk, a vet; he'd call his friend, he was so sick of hospitals; he'd been in a lot of trouble in his life. I told him I had to get back to work.
Make no allowances for the demands of the flesh; this sometimes seems like a simple commandment to obey. I don't mind hunger pangs, or I can ignore them for a while. The simple aches and pains of day to day are soon ironed out with activity. But take a toothache: there is no way to do anything but give way to the agony. Today my weakness was told when I went for a walk in the swamp. I'd barely started when mosquitoes turned me from my path, and I rushed back to the car. The summer itch overcame my will.
Bill called me last night and told me his Dad had died the night before, in his sleep. I don't think I ever saw him after high school, and that's a long time ago now; even in those days I think Bill was over here more than I was at his house, so I probably only met his father a time or two. I see a faceless suit and tie in the kitchen. In a way this means all I really know of the man is in the legacy he left, and I saw that legacy grow in his lifetime.
Under a flawless summer sky, we take our leisure seriously. The days come too rare, full of beauty and peace. The very bugs rejoice, in a dance about our heads. They will not see the winter come to chill them. Do the dead also see the rare and flawless sky? At serious peace, in joyous beauty, under a summer sky. The rare chill of a summer dance, full of death. We will all rest soon enough, it will be winter. These days are too rare, they are full of them -- Those who are gone to death, to a rare peace.
I took some flowers to the cemetery today. There is some bird poop on the headstone, and the grass is a little long just now, but starting to lose its lush green color. Kindred spirit. It is very peaceful there, on a weekday afternoon. The groundsman was there and I suppose he's finished cutting the grass in that section. I don't go back much these days, it's so close that I ought to, but she's not there much either; maybe she visits on soft summer days like this, her birthday, a fine day in this world. Happy birthday, kindred spirit.
I don't have anything to say today, and I don't feel like writing. In the midst of this kind of project, one is apt to have days like this, when no subject presents itself, when one meets an obligation, not joyously, but indifferently. Happily I am already halfway to my freedom. I have no idea why this has been a day merely to be trudged through, it's a little humid but otherwise not very uncomfortable. I have sneezed my sneezes. Is that a mood killer? Some days are fit only for passivity, for the next day to come -- until tomorrow.
Little birds can make the big birds flee. The waters can grind the hardest stone to dust. Kingdoms have fallen, and nothing can be seen of them but broken arches, crooked pavements, fallen pillars; they were brought down by the least of these, for want of a nail, by the invisible miasma which tore the wretched bowels of their noblest warriors. Under heaven, above earth, between these two stand man. His shoes touch the earth, his hat touches the sky, and his days are numbered. The birds are his friends. It will all be overturned, if you wait and watch.
After the hard work is over, let's have a party. Everyone gathers in the barn, the gravel is raked, the hangers put back on the rods, the tables are brought in and cloths spread on them, and the food arrives. Jack burns a few holes in his sweater, tipping the soup tureen. She is standing silent in the quiet corner. The speeches begin, no amplification this time, and the people lend half an ear. The number is read off, those who have gone before are remembered, the hard work is appreciated. Close the door, watch them leave, snuff the candle.
I saw Denis at the annex today. He was buying a card and a teddy bear for the birthday boy. I can only imagine how big he is by now, remembering how huge he was in May. I don't know what he heard about the relay, whether the ice cream business came to his attention, but we had a very pleasant conversation. I can't imagine any conversation with him being anything but pleasant. If she wanted some ice cream she should have said so, I can't read her mind. How like a woman she is, and that's a fine thing.
The mission trip to Equador has ended, and the sojourners have returned to their homes. Those of us who didn't go may get only the least glimmer of what they experienced. But we all have known things, seen things, of which we cannot tell -- Odysseus came home to Ithaka and Penelope found that a part of him was forever lost to her. But those who have had special experiences are also our substitutes, and we must seek to share in what they have witnessed. They were chosen to act on our behalf; it was an honor to be the scapegoat.
Who is the Gutter King? I saw his reign proclaimed on the side of a truck that went past the office today, but he is an unknown king to me. Is he like Francois Villon, proclaimed in gutter that is his realm, elevated from the guttersnipes who were his peers? Does he sit on the Pigeon Throne, is his scepter a broomstick, his crown a broken fruit jar? His heirs will reign forever; of his kingdom there will be no end. The gutter is surely a kingdom which will stretch from sunrise to sunset. There will always be a gutter.
Here is my story. I was born in Los Angeles, California, in the late fifties. When I was three, my family moved to the Boston area, where I had a splendid childhood; when I was a young teenager we moved to New Jersey. I attended Connecticut College where I majored in Greek and Philosophy, and studied art more than either of those disciplines. I made an effort to become an artist, by which I mean to say that I developed some adequate skills and a maturer vision but never earned any money. Then my journey began, much to my surprise.
She had a stroke; before my eyes she underwent this frightening transformation. I helped her lie down on the floor and put a blanket around her. She spoke to me, not suffering much, slurring her words, asking me funny questions. I was very alarmed and called the doctor. I described her symptoms and the doctor called the first aid squad. The police and the volunteers took care of her, put her in the ambulance, and went off. I followed. My life was changed forever by what those few moments held. I followed willingly, I had no choice, I loved her.
She spent eight weeks in rehabilitation; it was an ordeal for her but she regained some of her lost powers. Then she came home, her left hand curling to the sky as if to cup a splash of water, her head atilt and adorned with a wonderful smile. She could manage a few steps but otherwise kept to her bed or a wheelchair. I learned to dress her and help her eat; I woke her in the morning and sent her to sleep at night. Her life filled my life.
I didn't really notice, at first, that she was gently slipping away. She slept more, ate less, and enjoyed her simple pleasures less than before. But she was as cheerful as she could be, through pain and uncertainty: she trusted me and I did my best to deserve that trust. She fell off the commode in the middle of a night; I picked her up off the floor and put her back on her bed, she had become that tiny. That was the incident that made me see that things were becoming desperate. Her glass had run. I was powerless.
The distant shores of memory: eventually even the peaks are lost in the mist. We try to climb to the crow's nest, peering in every direction for any sign of the shore, but we are too far out. But there is no telling when the mind's eye will be opened, and every detail of the landscape will appear. Watchman, tell me of the night; show me the strand on which, so long ago, this shipwrecked soul was cast. I walked on that shore for a season, then walked with one foot in the past, one in the turbulent present day.
Let there be light; it falls on a trail of grass and dirt. Weeds in clumps, by the road, or in it, show the path well worn, the path not trod. Short steps, take just short steps, lest you fall from what you do not see. Where there is light, there is shade too, where bad things might lurk. The sun goes down, the dark is born, the way is hard. An eye peers through the murk, but sees nought. It is all strange, in the dark; it is not kind, as it was. Care, fear, and inch on in.
She died. We had a funeral. We buried her. This happens every day. The world went on, same as before, or almost the same, without her in it. It was the cusp of winter, cold but not frozen, and after it was over I went north, along the coast, on abandoned beaches and country roads, and had a thankless Thanksgiving. But there was too much to give thanks for, and in the fullness of time I gave thanks, my heart of stone became a heart of flesh, the heart of darkness gave forth a seed of light. She rose again.
Here's a day: the eyes open, the body moves out of bed and down the steps. Coffee black. Television until I've processed the weather report. Reading on the oval chair. Computer time if I can log on, a walk to the grocery store. Then it's off to work for me. After work a nap, write some, practice the guitar and mandolin, read, and more television. Sometimes there is something we call rummage which takes over my life. There are other people in my days, a whole host of them, and most of them are wonderful. And there is an other.
I mustn't forget that I promised to tell a joke. Some how I got sidetracked, but you know how that is. For instance, today I started out to water some grass seed, then saw Pam come back from lunch, and realized that if I was going to find out what I was supposed to take to Paige Whitney I'd better talk to her then and there. So that took me off track from what I was supposed to be going back to, spreading the mulch. By the time I got back to that, I turned around to get tables out.
There was this autograph collector. Or should I start with the actor? Okay; there's this young actor. He has just started his career, and has gotten a big break, a featured role in a major motion picture. And he's feeling pretty full of himself. So he is puffed up with pride when he is approached by an avid autograph collector. He is very surprised, however, when he is asked to sign his name five times. "You must think a lot of me," he jokes, "To want so many!" "No, but I can trade five of you for one George Arliss!"
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