"A friend asked yesterday if this blog is addressed to anyone in particular? I said yes– it’s a love letter to someone I haven’t met yet."
"The longest journey we ever make is to our inner world."
"If you don't write your books, nobody else will do it for you. No one else has lived your life."
"Art is one of the consolation prizes we receive for having lived in a difficult and sometimes chaotic world."
I taste what you taste. I know the kind of lyrics your
Soul most likes. I know which sounds will become
Splendid in your mind and bring such pleasure
Your feet will jump and whirl.
I have no use for divine patience -- my lips are always
Burning and everywhere. I am running from every corner
Of this world and sky wanting to kiss you.
I am rioting at your door;
I am spinning in midair like golden falling leaves
Trying to win your glance.
I am sweetly rolling against your walls and shores
All night, even though you are asleep. I am singing from
The mouths of animals and birds. . . to let
you know the Beautiful Truth.
In front of a cellphone store stands an enormous, almost life size model of the latest Nokia phone on display. A chubby woman with a very young child in a carriage and holding the hand of a slightly older one is bent over in front of the phone. The older child is laughing and clapping her hands. As I pass, I hear Mama say loudly into the phone "Hello? Hello?" as if there were really someone on the other end of this giant cartoony thing. She cups an ear, pretending to listen for an answer.This absolutely delights both children who laugh and laugh. Mama looks at me and shyly grins. How wonderful it is to make a young child laugh, really laugh, especially when it's your own.
A friend was hired to do the advertising campaign for a very expensive, very upscale brand of men's underwear. You know, the kind that comes in a drop-dead chic understated box and costs $40 for a pair of boxer shorts. She showed me the previous advertisements of cool looking, slim men lounging around in underpants and asked what I thought. I said it looks stupid. The problem with getting a man to buy a $40 pair of boxer shorts was, unlike women who appreciate fine lingerie for a number of reasons, most men just don't give a damn about underpants. They are usually more than happy to buy a pack of six at the drugstore and leave it at that. So how *do* you get a man to buy something extravagant and unnecessary like this? I said something that overpriced and unnecessary has to possess one of three qualities to be desirable-- magical, mysterious, or essential. That's one of the interesting differences between the sexes-- women will spend big bucks on things like lingerie which men think is a ridiculous indulgence. But men will eagerly buy the latest model cellphone when they already have one (or three),or a very expensive car when they only need it to drive around town. Yet in the end, both sexes have almost the same reaction to the others' indulgences-- we roll our eyes, shake our heads and sigh at their cockeyed way of seeing the world.
Five men stand together in the subway car. They're all carrying the same black messenger bag so I assume they work together. One of the guys is doing all the talking. Now and then his comrades laugh at something he says or interject a quick comment, but for most of the ride this loudmouth holds the floor. Every one of the others watches him with a different expression on their faces. One man is clearly amused, another dismissive, one is constantly embarrassed because the talker is so loud and laughs hardest at his own jokes. The last man looks at his friend (or work mate) with absolutely indifferent eyes. The poet Delmore Schwarz once wrote we can never really know ourselves well until we know what others think of us. I wonder how this talker would react if he knew what his buddies really thought of him. Just looking closely at their faces now would tell him a lot.
The dog is having a terrible nightmare. He's really battling the demons from the sounds of it. All four of his legs are twitching, his teeth are clacking and snapping, he's crying, growling, crying... The poor guy must be facing a whole hoard of horrors. Throughout my life I've heard conflicting theories about what to do when someone has a nightmare. One school says wake them up. The other says no, no it's bad if you do that. Let them sleep their way through it and come out the other side. We know from experience a vivid nightmare is as real when it's happening as our conscious experience. Wouldn't it be nice when you're having a terrible experience one day if suddenly you were shaken "awake" by someone saying wake up, wake up-- it's all a dream, none of this is true. I suppose that's what eastern religions strive to teach us when they say this life is an illusion. Someone is sitting across the room watching us twitch and bark, wondering whether or not to shake us awake.
I had a strange conversation the other day with a writer who said something that has stuck in my mind ever since. He asked if I ever thought about people who died who had read my books while they were alive. I looked to see if he was serious and he plainly was. No, I never thought about that, I answered half-skeptically.
Well then consider this (he said): If there IS an Afterlife then they took your stories with them. In other words, your work is OVER THERE now. Maybe that will have some kind of effect.
Who knows? You? Your life? What will happen to you after you die...
And then he changed the topic.
In the apartment directly across the street, I can see men painting the room. Dressed all in white and wearing identical ridiculous looking caps, there are two of them. They do most of their work standing on top of ladders. The best part of watching is to see them "walk" around the room on these ladders, doing that special trick house painters do on a ladder so it looks like they're walking on stilts. Often when I look up and focus on that window, I see only spooky long wooden legs moving slowly and awkwardly around the room.
"Be generous and grateful (and honest when you are not), humanity lives at the busiest crossroads in the seven thousand universes..."
Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?
No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming --
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of the vast silence.
Perhaps the truest sign of a successful life is when you are genuinely loved by the people you most respect and admire.
Another letter just in:
"I am home from the most fantastic day I have had in a month or more.
T agreed to take me to the river today.
First we went to "The Produce Place" and picked up all kinds of lettuces; there were five crates in all.
Then we set off to my very secret place along the river. Except for one friend, I have never shared this place with anyone. When I was trying to explain the magic of the spot to T, it was very obvious he was not getting it, so we just drove in silence for the rest of the ride. When we got there, I took him out to the edge of the pier but there were no manatees nearby. I splashed a little but still none came. I threw some lettuce leaves in. Nothing. Oh well, I grabbed my book and asked T to read to me from it. He got through about three paragraphs before a huge whiskery manatee face popped up about 12 feet out in the water. It was quickly followed by four more equally whiskery faces. I lay down on my stomach and dangled my hand in the water, cupping the water and splashing. They came closer and closer. Soon there were seven. We started throwing lettuce leaves in and they were loving it. I could not stand it anymore and told T that I was going in the water.
I walked back off the pier to the edge of the water so I could walk in as far as I could but that was not going to get me close enough to the manatees. I told T he had to come in so that he could help me get me out there. It took a lot of coaxing, but he did it. He came in and carried me out to where we had been feeding them. It took no time before all of the manatees were right there, letting us rub them and bob around the water with them.
You should have seen T's face the first time he got up the courage to reach out and touch one of them. I cannot even come up with an appropriate simile to compare it to because I have never seen anything as magical as the look on his face when he realized that he was swimming with and petting wild manatees. For me, it is always great, but I do it often and am used to the feeling it brings me. But to see someone else experience the wonder of it was just incredibly amazing. We stayed in the water for something like 45 minutes. Then we went back on the pier and fed them the rest of their lettuce. I do not think that we spoke to each other the whole time they were eating. When they were finished and had left us, we stayed for a little while longer and T read me some more of the book and we just sat on the pier and watched the river.
Once we got back in the truck, he asked me how long I have known about that place. I told him I found it many, many years ago after I got sick the first time. He asked why he has never heard me talk about it and I explained that it is a place I rarely talk about and have only ever taken one other person. She is too young to ever find it again on her own or tell anyone where it is. I tried to make him understand what that place means to me and how when I go there I feel whole and healthy again. I tried to get across that when everything else is scary and sad and painful and hopeless, the river is the antidote for all of it. And then it was quiet again for a long time. When we got close to home, I was going to ask T not to tell anyone about the pier and the manatees. But before I could say it, he said not to worry about him keeping my secret, that he will not say anything to anyone about what happened today. And I know he will not. I can feel it. It is like we formed some sort of new bond today, out there on the river.
When we got home he helped me get cleaned up, helped me with a bath, and helped me into dry clothes. We talked about how everything that we did today was pretty much illegal. Feeding them, touching them, and certainly swimming with them can all get one in pretty serious trouble. We laughed about that. My cast is probably going to have to be replaced; we are going to deal with that tomorrow and blame it, somehow, on the bath. We lay down in bed to take a much needed nap and just before we fell asleep he said, Thank you. And I said, No. Thank you.
Every year around this time, crows from Russia migrate to Vienna to spend the winter. Apparently most of them take up residence in the gigantic central cemetery (Zentralfriedhof) for some reason. The story goes that these birds like to eat candle wax, especially the small red and white candles people leave on graves as remembrances of their visits to loved ones. Yesterday, November 1, is traditionally the day Austrian families go to the graveyard to pay their respects. Groundskeepers say for days afterwards they find hundreds of these red candles tipped on their sides all over cemeteries. Obviously crows can't eat hot burning wax, so they've learned to knock the candles over wherever they are, wait for the wax to cool, and then swoop in for dinner.