And now for something completely different, but not really and not funny.

27 02 2009


Lots of folks are feeling it, I suppose. It seems that way, or that is what they say—that inertia. I feel like a big lead apron has been dropped over my entire body—perhaps I am about to be x-rayed. My toe?

I’ll admit it, I have dirt under my toenail—I’ve been digging the dirt a lot for I am landscaping our currently-being-remodeled-house and I am terrible at staying clean. I just get right into the dirt and then it gets all over and I have trouble scrubbing it away. Not that it really matters. But that’s not what I meant…I’ve lost my facility to write coherently, if I ever had it. I am currently editing every second word in my head because I believe you will see all of this as stupid and banal. As it really is—stupid and banal.

Would you like some honesty? (hah! What does that mean…) Well, here goes….

The robins are back, and the breast of one I saw on the grass yesterday as I went for a run at dusk, glowed. It was beautiful and I was worried they would get hit by a car or eaten by a cat. This one yelled at me as I ran by.

And on that same run, the ducks were sleeping—those spiritual ducks, remember? But I didn’t feel it this time. Perhaps because it was still light and it was cold but they seemed more irritable than anything else probably because I was approaching the beach to get a better look and sense of everything and they thought perhaps they ought to move away, back into the cold water, but maybe not because that creature has now stopped approaching thank [fill in duck deity here].

And now, the cars driving down the road flash by the window like a birds flapping wings.

The wings of the wind of

I am a spiritual experience addict. And I cannot quite get back there. I’ve lost the practice that was taking me into a particular place…consistently. What I’ve got to figure out is how much of that was smoke and mirrors and how much was my own focus. And how much it matters, and how much it is like that little hit of something one just really really wants, knowing it is not the way to go but goddamn it feels good…and just one more time.


I am trying to crawl out from under the weight of things that are not really in my own house, my own heart, but are close enough to create that tug and pull.

That person, over there, looks like someone…ach.

Where do you linger?

And why.

I was upset to learn that someone from my high school class, a person I was not friends with but who I knew, shot him/her self. This person had two very young children and was my age.

Tragedy begins with a radical given.

There’s a bit of a radical given for those kids.

I had some trouble processing this news, as I suspected, the day after I received the news it was no longer such a huge and disturbing thing inside of me. So perhaps I am a cold and hard person.

But not really. This was not a person with whom I was a friend, ever, and so I am sad for the family and friends, but the death does not penetrate in that sort of grieving way.

Each of us knows that there is a black hole within us. No place you hole up is
Adequately inland.

And I’ve been in a different place, but in the mad way that seems sane at the time. Because, when the acceptance of life and death (which really is quite a big thing but you know we go day to day not inside of it) disappears—this is when I would turn on a light and it would light up everything except me. Because I was in a pit. And now I have little guard rails so that if that pit comes a calling I can find a place away.

This is because of the kids. My angels, my little babies. I want them safe, even if that means safe from me…if ever, if ever.

It is because when you are inside it, it feels like TRUTH has come down on you. It is a spiritual transformation into the darkest reaches, into the fullest form of disconnection from all other living creatures, all that is love and is joy. It is a purity of a horrible sort of TRUTH and when you are in it you believe it and believe that you are now a seer of things that no one else can see.

It is because of Andrea Yates and her five dead children.

Do you know what? I have kept the deepest reaches of that pit, the actual teeth of that black dog, away.

Warring priests of transformation, each
Animated by an ecstatic secret, insist

They will teach me how to smash the glass

But in learning of this person’s suicide, I could see the gun, feel it in my hand and feel it against my head. I did not like that.

I looked up a picture of this person with his/her children and it made me ill inside of my stomach.

Anyway…there is a certain idea I have that I have experienced some element of what brought on the suicide and, though that may be presumptuous, it is a hateful sort of presumption, for it terrifies me.

Anyway. You don’t care about all that because it is boring. Really. I apologize. Things are good—we are lucky with jobs and our families and our children. Lucky with our bodies and the critters we’ve seen.

I’ve been lucky with quail and I must knock on wood now because I am really asking for it aren’t I…

The Queen of Heaven, I miss her


Quotes are from Charles Baudelaire, mainly Frank Bidart and Robert Lowell.



20 02 2009

I take it back.

I am an agnostic.

It is just that I’ve never heard, nor read, nor come close to conceiving of, a god that approaches the complexity and mystery of this material world ( this wren. This frog ).

But to suggest I’ve proven a lack of god to myself was arrogance on my part. I do not believe any I’ve found so far.

Day after Darwin and Lincoln’s birthdays

13 02 2009

Although Darwin was by no means an atheist, I believe that I am. (Belief and atheism twinned).

I keep coming back to it, my complete lack of belief in a God despite the fact that I also have what may be called spiritual experiences (as with the duck). How does that work?

To me it is far more wondrous to keep the hand of any sort of deity out of it–somehow adding a God makes everything less real, less beautiful and less horrifying. It takes away mystery and simplifies when complexity is awe inspiring.

Ducks, Evolution and Spiritual Revelation

10 02 2009


Something occurred to me.

I do not suppose that it is anything that would surprise you. But it felt like a revelation to me, so I suppose that is nice.

This classification is evidently not arbitrary like the grouping of the stars in constellations.

I have been bothered by concerns about my own spiritual affinities. And I will admit at the outset at being quite embarrassed by this admission and by the admission at all that I have spiritual affinities at all.

This itch I have to explore that something (for want of a better word) is not satisfied by any “top-down” approach to religious observance. I cannot enter a church, synagogue, temple or read a sacred text or hear a speaker or religious representative without seriously questioning and doubting.

And it was, the other night, the image of a lone duck on dark water that brought me some sort of clarity. I had an emotional reaction to that duck–first to the beauty and the silence of the ducks on the water. Then to the solitude of the single duck as its neighbors floated apart from it. I had a snap experience of ecstasy–that sort of sense of light and unity. (You’ve had it I’m sure).

Descent being on my view the hidden bond of connexion

And I though about the idea of the unity of being called forth in various approaches to spirituality–and certain interpretations suggesting that each living entity is actually part to a whole.

But this, I realized, as I looked at the duck, is not it. And I finally came up with the danger of this view, if taken lightly–the way much New Age spirituality takes religious ideas. This view of unity can come to mean to a person that “All Is Me” and just as an infant looks at its mother, the adopter of such a view would see in the duck a reflection of itself. (And, I might add, for an adult human, this “all is me” has the potential for damaging all in it’s bearers path and burning itself out–but enough on that).

The duck is itself a separate entity.

I, in seeing only the silhouette of the duck, saw it as beautiful and quiet and lonely. But the duck itself was bedding down for the night and its experience, undoubtedly, was very different–and in some way is an experience beyond my potential for complete comprehension.

This to me is beautiful.

But I also felt a beauty in alliance. What is this. And I finally realized, and I am sure you think me slow and ungainly in my thinking for taking so long, that my spirituality really is evolution. The beautiful and precise connection I have with that duck and everything living on this planet. The common ancestor that likely came to be more than 3 billion years ago is what is that connectivity I sense with the duck.


That alone, for me, is a powerful and beautiful enough connectivity to provide a spiritual foundation. I do not need anything else–we have ridden out that evolutionary journey together and here we are, on dark cold winter night, waiting out our lives.

{Of course, it is not entirely true I need nothing else–I need art and music and most of all literature, and I need my loves–my attachments you might say, that bind me rigorously to earth].

I wonder whether my realization of this, which to me feels so important, is to you on the same level as a pot-induced revelation about the meaning of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. At the time it seems really deep but actually its boring and meaningless. Probably. But to me it feels important. Understanding why I’ve always bridled somewhat at the idea of Unity of All Being that gets tossed about–in the same way I’ve bridled at the arrogance of spiritual leaders and the clear relationship between organized religious practices and power–clarifies for me my own relationship to the earth. And what sort of worship I need–one of commonality of descent. That is all. But isn’t it lovely?


There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

It is to me also intriguing that this little revelation comes to me just ahead of Darwin’s 200th birthday, this Thursday. I do not worship Darwin, but in a way, the clarity of his vision enables my understanding of my own spiritual life. His approach to studying life was vast and synthetic and he provided biologists with such a robust framework that it still provides an aid to thought and interpretation. We do not need to live inside his hypotheses as scientists but he was remarkably prescient in a pre-genetic era and we can still look at his work as a foundation.


Happy Happy Happy Birthday.

Quotes are, of course, from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.


6 02 2009

So. No one has complained yet.
I opened the box from the field yesterday. I had packed some of the clothes slightly damp for I did not have time to dry them before shipping them home. I have avoided the box because of my fear of poison oak but also because I have some weird visceral sense of it containing a miasma.


I wore gloves and pulled out the wet clothing, resting it on a shelf in our rental basement. It is sitting there right now.

When I opened it…when I looked at it

there was no visible miasma, but you know…something hovers on it. Something is inside of it and around it. These objects left, abandoned and decaying.

Not ghostly, but just so–


As a skeptic I find it hard to blend my gut feeling with my rational thoughts. But then, don’t most of us? The clothing has nothing on it but what I give to it.

By the way, I expected a moldy, rotten scent on the wet clothing. But no–as I pulled them out I only sensed a strange freshness, the earth they had laid in had permeated them completely. They were not soaked in the smell of death I expected of their skeletal remains but rather in the life of the earth.

But…a part of me felt that opening the box and leaving the objects out in our house was asking for something (what…what is this something?!) to enter the house and I worried a bit for my children.

On permeation.

by the way…the person who was crazy is still crazy, just perhaps not so drug addled. There is a planned event–a coming together to say farewell to a space recently desecrated.

we are to ignore the fact of desecration. we are to ignore immense pain.

we are to ignore and come together in love, because isn’t that the best thing and those who are angry have succumbed to negativity…come on folks…be positive!


the sovereign violence of a return
the experience of unreason
desire turns aside
haunted by it literally beside
perversity and beauty
the lining and cloth of one economy
Everyone must take responsibility for his own mental health, even those among us
who are touched by darkness.

Screw the party, the call for only love. I believe only in the honesty of the complexity, the morass, the mare’s nest, the quicksand, the quagmire, the clusterfuck

that is what this is, no matter what love we bring to it–the flip side comes along too.

–quotes are by Foucault, Kristeva, and Vanessa Grigoriadis (NY Times book review).

Parrot Addendum

5 02 2009

He will cover
you with his plumage
under his wing then
you will rest

W.G. Sebald wrote those lines with Samuel Beckett in mind. But I am also thinking of the sound of the swans–and those wild boys turned back to men by their suffering, and burning, sister in Anderson’s The Wild Swans.

And then there is Yeats and his Wild Swans at Coole:

And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,

Which brings me to Nick Cave’s To Be By Your Side which to some seemed an inappropriate bookend to Winged Migration. To me it was appropriate–yes anthropomorphic, perhaps, if you cannot unstick yourself from the literality. But what about the thing that happened to me when I saw a wild bird–


When I read Bidart’s line:
The voice of the bird you could not help
I am inclined to drop the next bit:
but respond to
although it is integral to the poem:

I stop at that line because that is the voice I keep hearing. The bird I could not help–the bird’s I cannot help. The beings I cannot help. Ah…

I stopped at a reputable bird store today–to pick up enrichment items for my birds (and our pet rats as well). This was on the way home from the vet where I stopped with two of our kitties. A strange brew we live with.

I thought about my post while I was in the parrot store. There are many birds in there, captive hatched and reared. They are beautiful, funny and healthy. The people that work and shop there adore their birds and I wondered as I accumulated items for my birds, who am I to deny the bond between these creatures, human and nonhuman. And, if my birds are a bit naughty, if they feather pick and bite–this is entirely my fault. Which, perhaps it is although I am doing my best for them.

I did, by the way, take them out in the sun in the new birdie backpack. Whether or not they liked it was hard to tell but I enjoyed their company.

I also, by the way, bought them a new DVD–they have been watching Life of Birds and My Neighbor Totoro–this is a parrot movie.

I suspect the inclination to buy these products to enrich our birds’ lives is an indication of a problem.

The parrots were delightful in the store. But they are winged creatures and in the store and our lives they are tethered to the earth. They are tethered to relationships.

Why don’t the cats bother me so much. Domestic felines chose our company–parrots did not.

Why don’t the rats bother me so much. They do not fly.

And on.