Thursday, August 17, 2017

Last night I had a beautiful little dinner party with two women writers--people I've known casually for years but am now getting to know better as both writers and friends. I am relieved to feel my homesickness lifting, to be relaxing into some semblance of a social life, to be looking forward rather than backward.

During the evening, my son sent me a note from California, telling me that the first thing he did after arriving in Los Angeles was to accompany his girlfriend's family to a plant nursery to buy a mandarin orange tree for their backyard. This struck my northwoods boy as hilarious.

Here in Portland, outside my bedroom window, a tow-truck driver is chaining up a wounded red minivan. A chilly breeze sifts through the doll-house, though the temperature is forecast to reach 80 later. I have a day of editing and errands before me. But I am doing none of those things yet, only staring dreamily out at the boats moored on the placid bay, only listening to the tow-truck driver crank the minivan onto his flatbed, only smelling the remnants of toast and coffee, only thinking of disconnected words.

Tomorrow we will close on our new house and life will take a turn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

At 3:30 a.m. I got up to drive the boy to the airport; and though I tried to go back to sleep afterward, I was not very successful. I expect nap time will be arriving early today, yet for the moment I feel fine. I wonder why. I suppose it's because I haven't started to think about Trump yet.

Somewhere, in the distance, fire engines are blaring. The island freight barge is beeping down at the landing. Three big mutts are rolling around in the dry grass. A corgi, who imagines she is running, is huffing slowly up a steep hill.

I'd like to say something encouraging here: like, "Maybe it's a good thing our so-called president has finally come out into the open and admitted that he's a white supremacist. Now everyone knows for sure." Or "Maybe the Republicans will finally board that impeachment train now." But who the hell knows what's going to happen next? What's clear is that we are in the jaws of evil.

So I'll give you this small prayer, from Maurice Manning's Bucolics. If you don't know this collection of poems addressed to God (whom Manning calls "Boss"), you should. They feel a bit like reading a modern George Herbert. Whatever you think about organized religion, something to hold is more comfort than nothing.
Boss every morning is a morning
do you ever think about that
everything that stays the same
like rain like grass like you
you're always Boss boss
of the morning boss of my whistle
O boss of my little song

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The fog is lifting and I am feeling mournful. Perhaps it's the effect of the boat horns, those lonely calls through the mist, or perhaps it's merely August: the burnt grass, the weary foliage. I have not been writing much lately. Perhaps the distractions of the nation have undone me, and I should fight harder against them. Or perhaps I am in an August state of mind.

In any case, I am still reading--constantly, perpetually, obsessively, as I always have and likely always will. Presently I am finishing Muriel Spark's The Takeover, and copying out Coriolanus, and dipping into poetry collections by Nikky Finney and Maurice Manning. Something, at some point, will trigger me to write. I try to be patient.

Tomorrow the boy heads off for two weeks on the west coast. On Friday we buy a house. This morning I compose a note to you and wonder what I can say that will make you feel that reading it is worthwhile. I imagine spreading trivialities like margarine, as if they are facsimiles of a richer life. There are days when all art gives me the sensation of falsehood. There are days when I write simply by habit, because it's what my hands tell me to do.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sorry for the late post this morning. It's been one of those days when everything seems to connive at slowness and distraction . . . sticky floors, no bread, no coffee, laundry piling up. It's amazing what happens when I vanish for less than 24 hours and leave two guys to rule the roost. It's also amazing how many groceries a 19-year-old can consume, after having just spent the summer canoeing 900 miles in the Canadian wilderness. Every day we are out of everything.

But do not think I am complaining. It is a joy to be in Boy Land again.

Our gig in Monson went well--though, thanks to the gale-force winds off the lake, I came very close to having more than one Marilyn Monroe/white dress moment. It's hard to hold down a skirt when both hands are busy with a violin.

Today I'm back to editing, and back to driving the boy around, and back to living with existential dread. The dread did lift a bit yesterday, when I looked out into that crowd of central Mainers, with their hats and their beers and their work boots, as they sang along to "The Weight." I had a flicker of hope.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Later this morning I'll be heading two and a half hours north for an afternoon band gig at the Lakeshore House in Monson. After the show I'll drive back to Portland. It will be a long hot day, and I'm tired just thinking about it.

Already, the air is heavy, and the day's heat is flexing behind the morning's mist. I am sick at heart from yesterday's news, but trying, as I imagine you are, to trudge along. I suppose spending an afternoon playing music is not the worst thing I could be doing.

The man who drove the car into the crowd at Charlottesville was born in the same year as my own younger son. For some reason this distresses me, though it is nothing but coincidence. Yet I can't stop imaging that man as a child. And someone fed that child the poisons that spurred him to hatred.
And who’s this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That’s tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers’ little boy! 
--from Wislawa Szymborska, "Hitler's First Photograph"

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Last night a small rain fell in Portland, Maine.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Nazis marched by torchlight. At a golf club in New Jersey, an idiot played at destroying the world.

America, America. You break our hearts.

Friday, August 11, 2017

This morning, our Canadian traveler-boy returns home after an overnight bus ride from Toronto. I daresay he will look like Grizzly Adams when he gets off that bus--giant beard, big hair, tanned like a boot, and wild-eyed after a sleepless night.

Given his three months in the wilderness, he may not know that we're on the verge of nuclear war. And here all I thought I would have to do is to catch him up on baseball trades.

Well, anyway. Here we are. Every single thing we dreaded about a Trump presidency seems liable to come true. Will we saved by his stupidity or destroyed by his narcissism?