Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Putting away books

I've spent an hour and a half this evening moving books out of large stacks in the living room and my office and moving them to shelves or at least piles where I can see what I have. I threw away some magazines, and discovered books I have doubles of, and books that I thought had gone missing. The main problem now is that the actually books shelves don't come near holding all the books. The extras lie on their sides on top of other books. The real main problem is that my reading is so erratic that I don't use libraries much, but rather buy books, apparently huge numbers of them, and many I don't quite finish either because I don't like them much or because I get distracted. I used to read books straight through in great gulps, and I start out the same way, but don't quite have enough time/eneergy/breath to finish, so there is this enormous stack of not-finished books.

Friday, November 26, 2004


November 26, 2004
Well, it's still sunny, and we're back from Connecticut where Andy and I stayed at the Clinton motel, Joel at Ellen's along with her family, andthe other Weinbergers in another room at the Clinton motel. It was a bellyaching good time, too much food and wine-- Ellen's usual delicious turkey, carrot souffle with walnut crisp top, turnips. taters red and white, beans, stuffings, etc. etc., and for dessert, pumpkin pie, cheesecake, brownies. Pound cake and whipped cream and berries. And more. Joel shaggy haired and distinctly not wanting suggestions from his parents. Lots of laughing, the traditional viewing of Jurassic Park, a late evening walk with the sky suddenly clear and windy with the temperature dropped thirty degrees. In the morning, we got up at six thirty a.m. to go shopping at Clinton Corners: Kenneth Cole, Geoffrey Beene, all the guys. Joel has moved his taste in clothing to DKNY. Everyone did okay, although I was less in the mood to consume material goods than I sometimes am. An orgy of consumption, but relaxing to be all belly and eye and fingertips on fabric.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

November Evening Poem

Red magenta pink
Black trunk, crimson gold edged leaves–
Trees, you create light!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

November Haiku

Overcast flat sky,
Pink and gray November day
Hesitate--then wait.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Darker and darker

Sometimes I think how we are about a month before the winter solstice, which means the light is about the same as a month after the winter solstice, which would be at about mid January, but it just doesn't feel the same. There are still scattered leaves on the ground, and even some clumps up in the treses. By January, the clumps will only be squirrel nests.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Daily Insight

Two views of the past: One, the books I hadn't looked at in a long time, all covered with dust, especially a little square block of a baby book of Joel's– a coat of dust, so sad and dry. And then, Two, within ten minutes, I was looking at publications from the old 1976 Phillip Lopate comic book project at P.S. 75, and Bob Sievert's comic of the comic book project, and my fotonovela "The 4 Winds," with the girls from the bilingual class--black and white photos with little white balloon tags, and suddenly the past was very alive, the past is with us, enriching, today.
It was very striking– in a context of getting together some word/picture stuff for the Newark Museum project where I'll be doing some comix and graphic novels again with kids, in some form– starting later this morning. But the main thing was how within one swath of time (I was tired of course, always a factor as I get older) I went from feeling so sad and overwhelmed by books it has been so long since I've read, most poignantly the ones from Joel's babyhood, to that flash of revivifying memory from the seventies and our work at P.S. 75.
Thus: my Daily Insight: That the future and the past are analogous for the young and the old. I am just on the cusp, future getting short fast. But the more important point is that both of these things live in the imagination– the elder's long past, edited and embellished perhaps, and the young person's wildly powerful hoped-for future. Both playing fields of the imagination. For me, I hope, the past will be rich and enriching to others

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


I am getting more and more sure that there's this place people have that can be reached through meditation, what some call prayer, that I tend to call "creativity" or some such. It is the quick, the vital core, from which insights and ideas spring up, full-fledged, with feathers and the ability to fly. It is the finest thing I know, to work at my writing or sometimes to leave my writing and go sit in the back yard or to take a run– and it happens: a vision, an idea, a solution, a whole scene springs up.
My belief is that this is the human doing its thing, integrating whatever is floating around in me, my experiences, voices I've heard, the movement of my muscles. But if someone could prove to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that this came from some god, or from Oneness with the Universe, or from a Jungian archetype of past human experience– I wouldn't be particularly surprised.
In other words, I think my creative insights are probably made of the same stuff as my mother's prayers and someone else's meditation and someone else's mystical experience. It is the most wonderful sensation, and I think it must be fairly common, more common to some that to others– it is totally wonderful, but has no more ethical content than sex or biting into a big sweet ripe peach. Albert Speer no doubt felt it, the rush, as he envisioned some imperial monstrosity to express the ambitions of the Third Reich.
What is needed along with this thing is reason and experience and ethics. Omigod, I'm getting a philosophy: this place where creative stuff arises is totally amoral and non-ethical. Ethics, it seems to me rises from reason and experience, although probably the greatest leaders (speaking broadly here– poets and the first people who figured out you could sow the seed you'd been gathering--as well as political leaders) probably had both things, the ethical outlook and that great upsurge from the place I don't have a name for. It's the brain/heart, feeling/thinking thing.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The morning after the morning after

Update on the weather: outside gray with rain coming later (but gray sky means the orange and yellow look especially fine), and I've have an early morning Coalition meeting that reminds me we have other work to do. Also a long conversation with Joel at college last night--I had asked him for some of his Libertarian friends' arguments for why it isn't the end of the world. The Libertarians say, well, \ if those middle class Americans can't see their own interests are being screwed by this administration, well, screw them, us more affluent folks will be just fine. For the real deal, see The Brown Daily Squeal, especally scroll down to Rob Montz. So that's where the smart young money is? Of course, I believe they're idealists at heart, but heart-wounded by this world.
That's pretty sentimental of me.
And even if the missing anti-altruism is a serious problem, I suppose I still should be thankful that I'm breathing, had breakfast, have beautiful turning trees outside my window. No bubonic plague, legal slavery outlawed. No shooting civil war yet. Have most of my teeth still...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Day After Gloom

Well, it's Wednesday morning and it looks a lot like Bush is going to get what he interprets as a mandate, shades of Orwellian Newspeak. They are still counting votes, but you have to put your money on Bush, and we will be looking at four more years of degrading the environment and robbing the poor of education and health care to feed the investment portfolios of the rich. Of bullying abroad, of giving Israel free rein to impoverish and fence off the Palestinians, of more recruitment for Al Queda because of our heavy handed international bullying, of decreasing civil rights at home. It's a grim prospect, and I'm old enough that the cushion of biological hope is gone: I not longer believe that it just has to turn out okay!
During a short night of bad sleep, I half dreamed about a sort of two dimensional map in which we in the Northeast were boxed in and surrounded by by rigid triumphant evangelical Christians at home and rigid triumphant evangelical Islam abroad. And us secular Jews and ethical culturists and gaia goddess people and pointy headed intelectuals not to mention African-Americans and self-identified anti-racists-- that we were finally separated out by the zealots and put in concentration camps.
And us all saying, "How could it happen? We didn't hate anybody! We paid our taxes! We were good Germans--I mean Americans. This isn't rational!"
Which is, of course, the point. It isn't rational for blue collar Ameridcans to vote against their economic self-interest for an ideologue and bully like Bush. But maybe this huge rush of irrationality is the underside of democracy? That religious fantatics and Hindu nationalists are able to energize people to feel their own righteousness until there is a critical mass that begins to push public policy down a slippery slope away from reason and toward stepping on those who don't really count as people becaue they aren't part of the majority.
This vision makes old fashioned venal ward heelers and patrician do-gooders and maybe even Wall street tycoons look good. I wonder if the masses will ever get smart, or are masses indeed by definition stupid? THis is disheartening to me, as I've alwys really been a sort of Carl Sandburg populist (The People Yes!) But something has degeneratedbadly, or maybe, to be honest, I've stopped trusting them.
It's a gorgeous golden day outside, very windy, and I'm feeling enormous loss.
Wouldn't it be nice to believe it didn't matter how sad and suffering now, everything will be just fine On the Other Side. No wonder Al Queda and Hamas and Pat Robertson and the rest have no trouble finding followers.