Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
March 2024
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Saturday, 29. October 2011

California Notes

[1] After months of work, a chance to vacation out West. And you are thinking of what is happiness, the experiencing self, the remembering self, and the difference between memory's sepia-ed motion picture reel and the clarity that is unfolding time. When the fellow traveler next to you shuts off his laptop, and you look up from the New York of wandering Julius, you see through the aloft porthole a landscape of tawny rolling hills hunched over the San Francisco Bay, as if trying to drink away summer.

Once the feet find purchase on terra firma, and you step outside into the Mediterranean weather, away from the broiling heat of the East Coast, you understand why in every visit to date (this will be your third) California confronts you with its surreality. The changeless weather perhaps has something to do with it, even though undoubtedly, the agricultural toilers in the Californian valleys do see seasons change with cycles of sowing and reaping. So to a "knowledge worker" like yourself (who barely has time for real knowledge - your particular “knowledge” is, alas, limited to fooling the equally unknowing American "consumer" in the produce aisle with tricksy promotions) this gift of a burred vision – not very different from what the drifters and the squatters, who came over these hills in wagon caravans, must have had of this "gold" coast. So then from this burred vision these notes (to be seasoned with some Milsoz, Stienbeck, T-Cole, et al) to follow...

[2] Overlooking the Pacific on a day of fog and mist, he watches the gulls play arial tic-tac-toe among the bobbing masts in the harbor. There was a time when his idea of happiness was linked to a mental landscape like this - the air smelling of brine, an evening raga playing in the ear, a knowledge of local rock (McPhee's song of crustal blocks, subduction zones and twisted faults - another kind of California dreaming really) and plant (wisteria, lantana, honeysuckle - some of these names searched for in the poetry of Milosz and Hass), to occupy part of this loneliness - or is this its close cousin - solitude?

He has been drinking sitting alone- gin and tonic laced with the murmuring of Julius - ruminating on memories and thinking about outlines of stories not written (there was once a name he wanted to write about - Varsha) and poems (he did write one California poem that he is not ashamed of). So much of the universe lays open in the palm of one's hand to receive and absorb but then there always lurk the distractions of work, daily busyness, and the drag of psychic hollowness that he feels growing inside with time - very much like Rodin's "Three Shades" with their twisted contours watching over the gates of hell.

Or this is what he tell himself as he closes his notebook, and distractedly walks into the melee that is an Indian wedding, where the shadow of his solitude will lengthen under the disco lights.

August, 2011

My Daily Notes

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California is indeed quite beautiful. I'm not sure if you ever return here to reminisce or write anything; it's looking quite empty these days. Sometimes I come here to read your old poetry. I used to know you, a very long time ago. I hope you are doing well and have achieved your dreams. I also hope you're still writing; you were always a beautiful writer.

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