Thursday, June 23, 2005

Father Time hangs the children

So it has already been established that the last thing I do before going to sleep at night (no matter how late) is to read Thomas Hardy under the covers by flashlight. Never has it taken me so long to get through a book-- 'Jude' is only a few hundred pages long, and I haven't finished it yet--but that 's an aside--and a frustrating one--I am reading like a sexually unsatisfied middle aged woman... perhaps that is an evil thing to say, but fuck it. I feel evil this morning. Perhaps because I read Thomas Hardy right before going to sleep, and the scene I hit was perhaps (Can it get worse?) the most horrifying moment in the book--when the parents discover that their oldest charge has hanged their children and himself in the closet in their mean old lodgings in Christminster.

This is Hardy's cruelest moment, his baldest moment, and the moment when he hits his point perhaps a little to hard--even though, in life, such things do happen (need I mention the recent horrors on the internet of the monk crucifying the nun? sounds like a bad joke. To Hardy life is a bad joke, and he seems to believe that most of us, if not all, are born with desires that we will only live to see thwarted, stunted, or compromised. That the conflict between our natural yearnings and the shape of existence is so deep that it brings frustration, madness, shame, and ultimately, death, in myriad unfair and hopelessly depressing forms. Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly down, I almost agree with him. However, he was really a social revolutionary in a way I could never be. But I am babbling.

I guess my only point is,
never mind.
I don't have one. This post was interrupted by a difficult phone call.
Now I feel exactly as Hardy did.
Thwarted. Stunted. Compromised.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

the grave of my 20s

I keep a photo diary, but can't find words.
The joy in language, and hence in witnessing my own existence, hasn't been there for years. Since I started feeling real pain, real loss, real confusion, the words went. Or is it the other way around? I don't know.
I haven't written anything real in over four years.
I am beginning to doubt I ever will.
I suppose it doesn't "matter".
As my thirtieth birthday gets closer, I think of the quotation

"I piss on the grave of my 20s"

Talk about wasted years. A decade of false starts, bad decisions, giveaways, and loss.

Should I mourn?
Should I piss on the grave of my 20s?
I like who I was--she was fucked up (is) but had a vitality, and a kept a kind of faith.

Now I have better taste and I am wiser, but the juiciness is gone. A friend of mine told me that "mellow", as a cooking term means a step away from rotten.
There's ripe, and then there's mellow.

sometimes I look at my life one way and it seems really meager. Then I look at it another way and it's sort of ok.
But my work--what is it, where is it, how do I find it? My spiritual life, ditto. And let's not even talk about love, family, stability, structure. I keep getting wiped out and starting over. Sometimes I knock the shit down myself. Sometimes it just gets snatched away. Sometimes it mellows, rots, and turns to dust before I even realize it's gone.

So what now?
I find that i am haunted by my own past words--phrases I came up with in writing now are lodged in my head; nothing new comes. Other peoples' words, fragments of songs, or my own ghost voice, but nothing new-- and this is incredibly scary.

Writing, identity, work, love, an inner life.
All these new beginnings, all these losses, and a new decade coming on.
I haven't accomplished anything. At all.
Not forged a real partnership, not done significant work, not had a child or created anything, and this feels, at times, unbearable.

I don't know what I've gathered from the last decade. I can only see the erosion, chunks dropping away into the sea.

I guess I am not as stupid about men. And I am more willing to be a bitch. (Is that even a good thing?) And I am a better reader.
I miss my sister.
I miss my dog.
I miss Tassajara.
I miss all the boys and some of the men.
I miss jangling all over because language is electrifying me and coming through me in torrents.
I miss that sense of being in love with myself.
I miss feeling like something good was up ahead. Something immense.
I miss my younger body. I thought I was ugly,but you're never as ugly as you think, and you just keep getting uglier.
I miss walking all night through Bloomington following the track of the moon.
I can't piss on the grave of my 20s. I was going to make a cake with a gravestone on it, bearing that slogan, but I can't. Unless I made a demon cake, with all the bones and photographs and hanks of hair and old wounds buried in the sponge, and then devoured it, bearded with blood and howling---

I don't know what I'm saying.
Yorick's skull. Cap and bells. The vanishing of a foolish girl. A second decade eaten. Mellowing.

Time is different as my twenties close. It dilates rarely now. Things don't penetrate me as they used to. I was up with the moon on solstice night and I felt coated like the bottom of a nonstick pan--nothing touched me to the quick. Is this a function of ageing? Probably, and god I hope not. I feel like I've been broken, and had my innards scooped out, and now, often, while I can feel affection and minor tenderness, the heart is a rubber ball and the nerve endings are capped off. The last four years have brought such loss and disappointment and unless I regrow my emotional body somehow, I worry that I may be dead for good. In spite of the beauty of Big Sur, in spite of everyone. Fuck, I don't know.

So I am turning 30 soon. Big deal.
I wish I could write something like Dylan Thomas's "It was my 30th year to heaven".
I remember when my boyfriend read that to me on my 21st birthday, I cried. I couldn't imagine turning 30.
I felt like I had all the time in the world. Bathed in time, like asses milk--thick suds of it, turning my skin smooth and white.
Perhaps I did, then.
But not now.
Time is going along at a pony clip. And I am not as green.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

view from my tent

view from my tent
Originally uploaded by AEP.
All that blue stuff is the Pacific ocean. If you squint you can see whales, sea monsters, and the distant coast of Japan.

cultivating language/reading Thomas Hardy by flashlight

What really amazes me about working in the garden is how it makes real certain tropes in the english language.
I live the reality of what were just metaphors to me before I engaged in the actions that created them.
In working with the roots of plants, I encounter the roots of english thought and english language. It is immense.

For example, the adjective "harrowing", one of my favorites in describing emotional states, experiences, etc.

Yesterday I harried/harrowed/harassed the soil using a harrow, which is a kind of rake. We had to break up the soil in order to plant tomatoes. So I harrowed it. As I did so, chunking the heavy rake through dirt clods, roughing up the dirt, shaking it, clawing at it, and disturbing it until it became soft and crumby loam, the word "harrowing" kept going through my mind. I'm harrowing, I'm harrowing, I thought, and my back, my eyes, my body, my fingers, made the connection between the doing and the metaphor.

This happens all the time when I am gardening. The language of cultivation, of growing food, is so basic to the fabric of english thought that we speak of actions without thinking, and many of us, without ever having engaged in the activities that inspired the metaphors. In fact, some words are so intrinsic to the language that I at least, didn't consciously realize that they came from concrete things and activities.

So gardening is awakening the poet in me--if to realize the possibilities in the connection between life and language is to be a poet.

Plants talk. The dirt talks. Ideas come from cultivating the soil. This is one of the most pleasurable shocks I've had in a long time.

I am looking at cliches, at sayings, at basic words in a new light, the light of living them, directly.

I am also reading Thomas Hardy (Jude the Obscure) and noticing how his relationship to the natural world infects his language and his storytelling.

Hardy cracks me up! I haven't read him since high school.
He's so deadly earnest, such a revolutionary, dour and sexy and almost modern-- and with the plodding narrative pace of an ox, a pessimist to the bone, and yet his characters are round and real, and some of his descriptions--his still lifes, if you will, are so beautiful and perfect that I can't help it kissing my hand to him. Plus it is great to read Thomas Hardy under the damp bedclothes in the tent, by flashlight, knowing that I have milked an animal, or pulled a weed, or walked a field, like his characters. I feel close to Hardy's pastorals, and i also feel close to his characters' sexual and personal struggles.

Great fun.

Friday, June 17, 2005

goats milk and cobwebs

Living out in the country makes some processes more obvious. The constant forces at work are visible, and many of one's tasks stem from either curtailing or encouraging the natural outpouring of creation. I milked the goat today, or helped to milk her, and each time I squeeze a thin stream from the living animal, I am amazed at the process. I also fed the goats alfalfa flakes, and the sweet alfalfa scent is in the milk--alfalfa to goat to milk to me--I ate goats milk yogurt just a couple minutes ago. The connections are so obvious out here. The black teat in my hands one minute, sweet kefir mixed with maple in my mouth the next. And there is something profoundly moving, to me, about carrying an aluminum pailful of milk up a garden path, and feeling the live heat from the milk on the bottom of the pan.

The cobwebs are another thing. The spiders here are always spinning, big and small, young ones, baby ones, they inhabit every free inch of space, between the bones, in the rock wall, the green house, on cabinet doors, decorations, candlesticks, corners, and their webs drift across--or connect--all the objects in the house. It's an endless task to wipe them down; and how tenacious they are--they don't unmoor easily, and even when they do, they ball up in sticky clots that won't come free. They snag, they hang, they snarl up, and as you knock each down there are hundreds of spiders, visible and invisible, spinning more. This feels profound to me, the act of taking down cobwebs and the constant energy of the spiders. The spiders, of course, have the advantage.

We plant tomatoes next.
There is always more work to do. But the work--the cleaning, the planting, the maintaining, makes sense to me. Even when I have spiderwebs in my hair, hayseeds under my fingernails, and goat shit on my shoes, or perhaps especially then. It didn't rain today--another blessing, when you're living in a tent.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

cellophane wrapped immortals

cellophane wrapped immortals
Originally uploaded by AEP.
Venerable immortals, holding the peach of eternity, or whatever it is called. Peaches from the tree of heaven. You'd think, if they were so Immortal, they wouldn't need to be wrapped in cellophane.

They'd be preserved by their own sanctity.
But oh well. It's pretty festive.

Speaking of cellophane, I was under the illusion that Big Sur summers were hot and dry, and this one is damp and even, shudder, rainy. A crow perched on my tent this morning eating snails off the rain fly. The tent already leaks, and in spite of the 6 inch metal stakes that hold it down, it doesn't do too well in the wind. My bedding already smells like mildew, and I worry about what a serious storm will do.

The crow babies are out and they have a special food call, high and hoarse, when they want to be fed. The crow sentry's post is in one of the fig trees next to my tent, and when I come out, it sounds the alarm and all the crows take off.

I feel lonely here a lot, though I am rarely alone.


Originally uploaded by AEP.
Here's what Botticelli's Primavera looks like as a Brazilian Carnival goddess.

Savage springtime in the land of samba, Sugarloaf, bikini waxes and the mannequin from Ipanema.


Originally uploaded by AEP.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, ok I know posting pictures of oneself is narcissitic exhibitionism, but I don't have time to read or write, and the digital camera is so easy, and so, here we go. Me in a cowboy hat, wow.

I will wear it when I am mucking out goat pens.
I already have a Big Sur sense of style.
It's amazing what living in a tent and not having am mirror will do to your fashion sense.

But what the hell, everyone gets to be Debra Winger for a day.

I think of J sitting there and quoting to me from Urban Cowboy, and I feel sad.
The earrings come from the store.
They are huge and gold and isn't it amazing how one's fashion sense changes almost immediately according to environment, but still maintains a certain consistency, too?
I never could have worn huge gold tribal shit in SF, but now I am wearing hats and belts and turquoise and acting like a total hippie.
another picture
of me
until I find time to think
and to write
I'll just say

Friday, June 10, 2005

no concessions

I wake at the same time here—quarter to seven in the morning. This morning and yesterday I was struck by the profundity of snails the morning brings out—glassine creatures making their way across the earth and straw with curling horns and brown speckled shells. I used to have a phobia of snails, when they lived in our letterbox and ate our mail,but maybe Australian snails are more violent, or else I am less so now,but now I am struck by how tender and vulnerable in spite of their shells are snails. I used to feel sick when I crunched a shell underfoot—but the sickness that comes of both pleasure and repulsion—now, stumbling half asleep down the path to the bathroom, I dodge them as best I can. I have no desire to kill them. I feel rather benevolent toward them.

The steps to my tent are barely there—they were cut into the dirt with a backhoe and have already worn away—the perpendiculars and flats are shallower and trickier each time I use them. But I take pleasure in navigating these few sod steps—each time I climb them I have to be careful of my footing, and I realize that my feet are erasing them every day.

The ocean is blue under a table of clouds. I went there yesterday after work, snuck in really, because you have to pay $5 just to park there and go in. I was talking about this with the owner of the property where I am staying, Brock, last night… Having to pay for access to a public beach. He says that until recently this wasn’t the case, but someone bought the concessions for all the state beaches and runs them for a profit. I don’t know how true this is, but I do know that California has started charging people for everything—and it feels damned perverse that a person who doesn’t have five bucks will either be barred from going to the beach at all, or ticketed if they go without paying. When will we be charged to breathe? Not to sound like Rousseau or any of those guys, but isn’t it a universal human right to exist on this earth and walk it? The beach is (or used to be) free entertainment, gratis solace, better than Prozac, Hollywood cinema, the carnival, etc. Hell,before that it was larder and mother and field of toil… Now it’s been stickered and cordoned and you gotta pay, baby, you gotta pay…

Thursday, June 09, 2005

rambling various big sur at 7 a.m.

This morning I heard (or thought I heard) the Pacific bowling in two strong surges outside the lip of my tent. The rain glued the tent fly to the tent in strange patterns, pressed drops and rivulets. My bed is soaked—somehow, somehow the rain got in, I don’t know how ---through the vents? Underground? And this has something to do with surrender, soaked foam, damp wools, and always, the fat drops rolling down nylon. What was I going to say? Oh, the crows--- over and over, my bells, calling to one another and calling me awake at 630. I wake earlier than I need to, of my own accord (or the crows’) a delicious feeling.

Big Sur jade—this is one of the few places in the world where the ocean makes new jade. This gives me the same mysterious reverberations as the idea of fresh water seals.

Two hills fold like the wings of a heart down to a view of the sea. Driving the gravel road in the dark—the road seems endless, as only small patches come into sight, and I am never sure where the next turn is, and the stars don’t give enough light in the high wooly black sky, and the smell of sycamore and eucalyptus filters sweet through the damp gravel, and the weeds.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

the secret lives of goats

Originally uploaded by AEP.
Meet Billy, the he-goat.
Billy is an utter bastard.
He knocked up Morgan, the anorexic underage nanny and now he won't let her eat. Morgan is nursing the bastard kid, Barbecue, and she is so skinny that she should be admitted for treatment at one of those clinics for undernourished teen stars. Morgan, or Skinny Girl, is the runt and anytime she tries to get to any fodder, Billy, the rapist, headbutts her out of the way! When I try to feed her on the sly, he intervenes. He ignores little Barbecue, and he is always trying to be a player to the other females! Goats are dogs!!!

It's very sad.
I slip Morgan handfuls of extra grain, but she doesn't like me, because she knows that I know that the other humans are planning to slaughter her kid, the one she had too young and at such cost, and eat him, because he's a male, and the males you don't let live long enough to to let them fuck, you eat.

So Billy's got a big head and no heart, and his son Barbecue is just waiting for the spit.

High drama in the goat pen.
The End.

Monday, June 06, 2005

big sur amy on rock

big sur amy on rock
Originally uploaded by AEP.
I haven't had any time to write yet; it is easier to post photos. The beach below the ridge where I live has purple granite sand and huge sandstone rocks. Not many seashells, but smooth stones that you can use to build walls, hold down flyaway tents, or set up little terra cotta shisa dogs from okinawa (I've done both).

This is one of the tamer pics from a photo series I did on the beach during my first week here. The hyperactive owner was away, so the newly arrived mice could play. I love this beach. The wind is fierce, it feels volcanic, there's a huge archway of stone that stands in the waves; very Andromeda meets the Kraken.

Friday, June 03, 2005

driftwood is automatically artistic

driftwood is automatically artistic
Originally uploaded by AEP.
This is the beach that is down the hill from the property.

goat girl

goat girl
Originally uploaded by AEP.
This is me feeding the friendliest goat in the pen.
Her name is something Hawaiin but I call her "The Friendly Spotted Goat Who Actually Likes Me".

Thursday, June 02, 2005


What day is it?

I have two spider bites on my left leg, and one on my forehead.
My body has black kerosene streaks on it from hitting myself with unlit poi while practicing firedancing (without fire).
I danced with fire, too, and didn't burn myself. I am not very good at it.

Other things I am not good at yet:
milking a goat
weeding a garden
sleeping in a tent
doing manual labor in the full sun for more than three hours without wanting to collapse, clap my hands for the servants to bring me some lemonade, and then lying in hammock and reading victorian novels. (I have not gotten to do this, and I managed five hours in the sun yesterday. now that it is my day off, of course, the fog is weaving around the ankles of the house like an annoying cat).

Espresso with steamed goat's milk is the nectar of the gods.
I caught a lizard when I was raking straw. It was growing a new tail. It was the first lizard I ever caught with my bare hands. The totem-aniimals book they keep next to the toilet explained that lizards symbolize intuition and the ability to detach from circumstances. I thought it was a pretty good omen.

They decorate with bones. I like it. Bones have a real warmth to them that I didn't expect. It's very organic here. There are dried chicken's feet in a basket in the bathroom. There is world music on the stereo and a shotgun leaning on a velvet covered cane chair. Redneck bohemian, voodoo yuppies--there has to be a good coinage.

I hurt all over.
Did I already say that?
There's more to tell, but my camera batteries just finished recharging, so I think I'll take pictures and let them speak for me.
love and itches