I’m back from my week on Santa Barbara Island. It didn’t seem prudent to say this publicly before going, but Judy wasn’t able to come this time, so I spent the entire week completely alone. I was eager to do it, though. I was curious to know how difficult it would be. I didn’t find it difficult at all. While I prefer being there with Judy, I was able to handle the solitude—I enjoyed it—and could have easily stayed a second week. Now I’m back in the big city and having to make the same psychological adjustments I did last time.
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I’ve been offered the chance to return to Santa Barbara Island for a week, and I’m taking it. I’m leaving Tuesday. In case anyone is curious, above is an aerial photograph of the island. It’s about a mile and a half long.
Not much else to say right now. I’ve been working in my head on several ideas for blog posts, but my main focus has been on the book. Every time I sit down, I make progress. There have been days when for one reason or another I haven’t been able to write—life getting in the way and so on. But every time I do work, which is virtually every day now, I make progress. There has never been an instance of feeling stumped or of having writer’s block.
I’ll try to write something from the island.
I recently returned from two weeks away from home—one week on the road and another in the woods. I spent a good deal of my time in the woods just sitting on the bank of a river staring at the water. I got a lot out of it. It never bored me. It sounds strange to hear people talk about the delights and miracles of technology, when they do not even begin to compare with what you can find in a river bed. I’m going to take another month off before starting the last draft of Street Song. In the meantime, I intend to post here a little more often than I usually do.
Obama had made some announcement or proclamation that wasn’t all that extreme or radical, but the Tea Party types (older white people) went ballistic, declaring it the last straw. Fighting broke out all across the land—fist fights, not guns. I remember witnessing a brawl among customers in a fast food place—some chain. While passing through a school cafeteria, I saw a cook, an older white woman, weeping and packing up her pots and pans. She could no longer do her job under this president. A little later I was in a big gymnasium-type building and there were fights happening all across the floor. High up on the walls near the roof was a long row of windows with heavy maroon curtains. A man I recognized as the leader of a national taxpayers association (a dream character, not someone identifiable in reality) was throwing flaming objects up at the curtains, trying to ignite them. I was outraged because he was always trying to pass himself off in the media as a responsible man, an adult among children, a true patriot, and so on. I thought, “What a fraud!” I became so angry that I knocked him to the ground and started pummeling his face, trying to shatter his cheekbones (completely out of character; I’ve never been in a fight in my life). As I beat him I kept shouting “You’re a fraud and a phony!” He laughed and laughed, exulting, “Yes! But I’m having such a fun time!”
For the nearly six years I’ve been working on Street Song it has been, generally, clear sailing. Day after day I’ve been able to get up and go to work. You need that when writing a book. It’s the only way. The last few weeks have been an exception. Obligation and obstruction have been the rule—the last week in particular when I got only one sentence written. Among other issues, the house has reeked of polyurethane. I’m in the clear now, though. One of the things I had to do was help get Judy ready for a two-week excursion to Baja where she’s going to film several pelican nesting colonies. She left yesterday, and seeing her off was my last outside task.
This morning I resumed work on the book. When I sat down at the computer I felt a lot of resistance within myself. It took me at least an hour to get into it and to remember exactly where I left off. I knew the position on the page and what came next and all that; but when you work on a book you’re juggling a lot of different ideas. If you have to drop those ideas for awhile it takes an effort to get them all back.
Long story short: I’m writing again. I intend to put some work into this blog as well.
Judy and I live in a very old house. We’re not sure of its age. All we know is that it came into existence at some point before 1885. Originally built as a flophouse for dockworkers and fisherman, over the years various owners have added and subtracted to the building, usually in a haphazard fashion and without permits. One of the previous owners called the method “bootleg architecture.” People used whatever materials were at hand. Several times over the eleven years we’ve lived here, we’ve had to let construction and repair crews interrupt our lives. (When we moved in the house had no real foundation, the roof leaked, termites had gutted one wall, and so on.) Tomorrow morning they’re coming to rip out the inside walls of the living room. After they’re replaced, we have to paint. Practically speaking, this is probably going to make it difficult for me to get online. (Not such a bad thing, to my mind.) Unless I find a handy solution, there won’t be any posts here for a while—maybe two weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be working on the book.
My best wishes to you all.
I’d been watching all the people around me fall ill from a cold. Judy, too. I was pleased that it hadn’t dug its nails into me—maybe even somewhat proud. “I must be doing something right.” But it’s got me now. All I can do is lie in bed and cough. I’d hoped to post the third part of “The Three Fundamental Views of Existence” by this point, but it’s been impossible to get any work done. So I’ve been lying in bed pondering the details of a third installment, which has been helpful in fleshing out the piece. Then it occurred to me that this is how it got started: two months ago, I was in bed with a stomach problem and thinking about existence. I don’t know how interesting that is, but I felt like saying something here.
One leg of my birthday excursion took me to Morro Bay where I met the star of Judy’s new work-in-progress, Pelican Dreams. I’ve been hearing about this particular bird for months, and it was a real pleasure to make his acquaintance. The weather was California nice. We hung out in the backyard and compared notes.
It tends to surprise people when I tell them that I’m about to turn 60 (in three days). I don’t feel 60. I feel like I’m around 35. When I was young, I thought the fear of aging (as in the song “hope I die before I get old”) was ridiculous. I’ve always assumed it was a good thing to experience all the different stages of life. I still feel that way. I would not want to be 21 again. It was a time of too much anxiety and confusion. Judy and I are going for a short trip to Big Sur to celebrate. When we get back, I’ll start working on part 2 of the Three Views of Existence—a subject near and dear to my heart.