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Page history last edited by paul bonnell 1 year, 9 months ago



Keeping this page and journal alive. Sometime these conversations may resurface. Who knows?


It would be cool to fold these conversations about books into other ones.






Thinking of questions of Fate and Timshel. And will. And Graphic the Valley by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. Greazy and Tenaya. How we choose our lives. And don't. The "world of people." And leaves. And rivers. 




Apparently, enough time has elapsed since I last used this workspace that PBWorks was ready to delete it.  This will keep it alive just a bit longer.


There is, of course, so much about which to talk.  Books, ideas, job changes.




Last night Joel was over for a bit.  When I say "over," first of all, he's over from Vermont for a few days to visit some of his family, which includes me.  And he was also over to our house from Rebecca's parents.  We jammed a bit--guitars, cello, cajon.  Nothing in particular.  We talked about skiing.  The chute on Clifty.  Goat Mountain.  Salmo.  Schweitzer.  We made plans.  Then, our conversation drifted to highlining (slacklining at outrageous heights, with outrageous exposure), Winter, and the movie http://vimeo.com/31241154 "I Believe I Can Fly" or "Flight of the Frenchies."  This is just the trailer here--the full-length, 14 minute trailer, and it's beautiful and terrifying in so many ways.  Terrifying in its implications for these men and their friends.  Beautiful in its poetry.  Beautiful in its execution.  Beautiful in its simplicity.  So, that's how I ended the night--thinking about journeys and risk and freedom and stories and music.  And it's how I wake up this morning too.  Cheers!




I've been writing in my old-school journal (with my calligraphy pen!) the last few months, so nothing's really been posted here, but I recall that it's all linked stuff somehow, and there's something valuable about being able to post some links here.  And, we'll do more with this wiki stuff soon, yes.  We will be incorporating technology, making it part of the body, not just farming it out in some disembodied way to someone else, somewhere else.  Enough.


We just finished reading Annie Dillard's "Living Like Weasels" and Rebecca Brown's "Extreme Reading" in Advanced Junior English.  And this is what I'm thinking about: latching on like a weasel.  Reading to the extreme.  Creativity.  Being a person of "wild despair."


I stumbled across this artist's blog and thought I'd link it.  Katie Hatz: http://www.katiehatz.com/index.php


Creativity.  Aesthetics.  Poetry.  I know, the old saw about how are these going to make you money. . . Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the value of connecting with others creatively.  The monetary value of creativity and design.  Perhaps we need to remember how simple it all can be.  And maybe we need a refresher in global economics so that we aren't taken hostage by all the sorry rubbish of the politico-speak about how stuff is working or isn't working.  Maybe we just need to study how it works and how we "work."  (Meaning: function, grow, be, live.)  Isn't that what Annie said, "I would like to learn, or remember, how to live."  It would be so simple to just be who we are, as weasels are who they are, but "Who am I?" is the oldest and most persistent of all questions, yes?  And, it's a lovely question to explore, really.


Here's a link to some economic analysis: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/edmundconway/100002310/what-the-ipod-tells-us-about-britains-economic-future/






I just came upon this: "The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things."  -Thomas Hardy 19 April 1885, upon the completion of his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, my new read.



I don't really in believe in New Year's Resolutions.  I mean, maybe they don't work for me because I don't believe in them, but whatever.  I think it's that I just want to believe that a day is a day is a day.  Why make January 1st more important?  Anyway, I've been thinking this year about things I want to do more of and less of.  And, I'm realizing that I want to streamline a bit and expand a bit--essentially, practice economy or prioritization.  Let me be concrete.  I went ice climbing over break, which isn't that unusual, although usually I just go once or twice and don't want to do much more, or want to do more but don't.  So, if I really want to do something, why not do it?


I read Deception Point by Dan Brown over break.   I found the character Norah Mangor interesting.  A glaciologist.  It compels me to contemplate life in the mountains--ice axes, aretes, crampon straps, shimmering lakes, lateral moraines, mountain time.


Might I suggest that you revel in the concepts in this article: (Abby, this is the part I was talking about): http://www.mountaineers.org/nwmj/10/101_Bivouacs.html


Why do we go to the heights?  Because "It" is there.  Curious. 


So, I've been writing in my old-school pen, pencil, and ink journal, but in the interest of sharing some of my reflections and ideas on the wiki, I continue with this: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.


I love how we come to books.  Sometimes it's by way of a class--required reading/class novels--and it surprises at first, because it's just something we have to do, an assignment.  I think here of Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native in 12th grade.  Beloved (Toni Morrison!) in modern literature class in college.  Then, there are the subtle connections.  Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd,




The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.


This photograph relates to my recent self-selected novel: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

It is from pbs.org.  This photo is of Pablo Picasso's Guernica.  His famous painting depicts, through art, the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War by Franco's fascists.  For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of some men and women fighting for the Republic.  The fragmentation of the subjects of the painting openly speak to its political importance.  As Picasso said, "It is not a painting for decorating apartments."  Neither is For Whom the Bell Tolls a pleasant novel for escaping the brutal realities of life.  Rather, it concentrates them in the space of three days and begs the reader to ask himself/herself if the pain and suffering of life could be worth the living of three days.


From the novel:


"At either of those places you felt that you were taking part in a crusade.  That was the only word for it although it was a word that had been so worn and abused that it no longer gave its true meaning.  You felt, in spite of all the bureaucracy and inefficiency and party strife somthing that was like the feeling you expected to have and did not have when you made your first communion.  It was a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all of the oppressed of the world which would be as difficult and embarrassing to speak about as religious experience and yet it was authentic as the feeling you had when you heard Bach, or stood in Chartres Cathedral or the Cathedral at Leon and saw the light coming through the great windows; or when you saw Mantegna and Greco and Brueghel in the Prado.  It gave you a part in something that you could believe in wholly and completely and in which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged in it.  It was something that you had never known before but that you had experienced now and you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance; only a thing to be avoided because it would interfere with the performance of your duty.  But the best thing was that there was something you could do about this feeling and this necessity too.  You could fight."


Page 235


One feels here, the draw of being a part of something greater than oneself, of finding meaning in a cause, something almost, or at least akin, to worship.


I think of the revolutionary spirit, surviving in the maquis, Spanish guerillas who continued to resist the Franco regime after it came to power.  Remember them in that fantasy film El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth in English)?  Pans Labyrinth full length trailer.mp4




Here are some questions that arise from reading The Day I Became an Autodidact: What is point of education anyway?  What's the purpose of it?  What's the definition of learning?  Because you are students, I'd encourage you to consider these questions deeply and carefully.  Is it to get a good job?  For sure, the material ramifications of education have always been there.  Medieval barons studying under the tutelage of their tutors and all those Romantic notions.  Of course, we also think of the Franciscan monks devoting themselves to chastity, charity, and poverty (along with study).  Whatever.  The tension's there: some study to improve their material lot; some study to improve their lot despite their material circumstances; some have the luxury to do both; some don't study at all.


I like the Greek root of "learning"--cultivation.  Farming.  Furrowing soil of the mind.  Planting seeds.  Bringing forth crops.  (Image from techland.com)Tilling the earth.


And this, from Kendall Hailey: "Home.  I've already talked to Matthew.  His life is so real and mine so imaginary.  He is beginning his senior year of high school as president of his class and editor of the newspaper, while I have spent the summer playing leading parts in plays produced forty years ago.  I suppose any life is a combination of the real and the imaginary, and I don't suppose there is any better practice for the real than the imagined.  After all, it was reading those plays that made me want to write my own, and surely all those imagined performances can do nothing but help what might be my first real one.  WHAT I DID: What I had hoped to do."


Dang.  How many of us can say this?  I feel like I can with all honesty. 

Didn't find the painting I wanted to find.  Oh well.  I'm finishing up the student papers as well as my second self-select.  Comments and quotations reside below.

Baroque Paintings?  Peter's Denial.  I wish I could remember the painter from my art class in college.  Google didn't really help me out, either.  Maybe I can find it in the old-school slides tomorrow.


  a portrait of John Milton from commons.wikimedia.org.  Kendall Hailey leaves high school, setting out to pursue the schooling of an autodidact, reading as much as she can, an approach taken by others such as John Milton and Henry David Thoreau, who, although they attended college, found the education that followed formal schooling to be far more challenging and rewarding than the official structures.


This quotation out of The Day I Became an Autodidact and the Advice, Adventures, and Acrimonies that Befell Me Thereafter:


"When I could read the Romantics without emotion in school and be moved to tears by Hemingway reading him all alone, I find it hard to imagine returning to a classroom.  When I can get up in the morning and think about my play as opposed to the tortures of P.E., I know that the life I want is here.


I wish them happiness at all those venerable old institutions they'll be attending, but I know that having tasted freedom, I could never set foot in school again.


Perhaps I will be missing something.  Too many people look back on the college years as the best of their lives for me to be naive enough to think they are without meaning.  But tomorrow I will be spending with Hesiod.  We are separated by twenty-eight centuries tonight, but in twenty-four hours I'll know him well.


I'm being arrogant, I know.  But I have found that being a minority leads to arrogance.  It's very necessary when faced by twenty people who seem so sure of their life choices.  Those who have convention on their side can be good and kind, but lack of convention sometimes leads to severe personality flaws, a theory I'm afraid I often prove."


Thoughts: it's not really that I agree or disagree, but that, as a teacher (and an English teacher, at that) I find her comment about the Romantics and Hemingway and school (the institution and building) such an affront (necessary, however) to the system of which we are a part.  How do we keep it from being an odious, arid, perfunctory place?  How do we transform it into an idea that contributes and inspires and encourages and allows minds such as Kendall Hailey's to participate and flourish and partake and share?


Shouldn't school be a place that inspires us to keep reading and thinking and questioning and writing and delving beyond its paltry four walls and four (or eight or whatever) years?


This entry in my journal follows these quotations from the autodidact book:

Page 144 "It takes so little to destroy a dream."

and Page 165 "Why am I so different on the outside from what I feel on the inside?  That's something I must remember the next time I really detest someone on the outside."


And this from my journal (reflections on guilt and The Scarlet Letter) "Basically, it's the gap.  It's not the things I don't or didn't know--the mistakes, the accidental omissions.  It's when I know or have known but have said, "Who cares?"  It's not wonderful, spontaneous freedom.  It's blatant disregard.  Change that to deliberate living--to consciousness and conscientiousness."  (This was a response to the question, what disturbs and how do you conteract this and/or deal with it).


This, from The Day I Became an Autodidact, perhaps some timely advice for writers of all sorts:


     "Today Mama Betsy stood up and revealed herself to her short story class.

     The teacher was attacking one of the students (who was actually a high school English teacher) for writing such a boring story based on her own life experience.

     At this point my mother, the writer in shining armor, cleared her throat and rose to her feet.  She said she'd just written a novel which as about to be published, based on her life experience, about her marriage.  And she'd written two other novels, which were also published, A Woman of Independent Means and Life Sentences (audible gasps from classmates).  She said any life, when examined truthfully, could make a novel.  Of course, she'd had to rewrite her story for this class several times to find the total truth.  But she ended by saying, 'Don't let your faith in yourselves be determined by how you fared in this class.'

     The autodidact's perfect mother."

-page 209


Thoughts: Keep writing and re-writing to discover the truth in your experiences and in your writing of them.


     "Home.  I've already talked to Matthew.  His life is so real and mine so imaginary.

     He is beginning his senior year of high school as president of his class and editor of the newspaper, while I have spent the summer playing leading parts in plays produced forty years ago.

     I suppose any life is a combination of the real and the imaginary, and I don't suppose there is any better practice for the real than the imagined.

     After all, it was reading those plays that made me want to write my own, and surely all those imagined performances can do nothing but help what might be my first real one."


-page 220


This makes me think of all sorts of high school applications, of lives that so easily and naturally walk that vague land between dreams and realities, between the future and the present, between possibility and likelihood.  I also think of the "Castles in the Air" piece out of H.D.T.'s Walden and look forward to that unit when it comes.  Here's a photograph that I took last spring.  Makes me think of Ivan Doig's This House of Sky as well as the H.D.T. quotation: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now, put the foundations under them."



So, I'm reading several books at once.  It seems that reading goes more easily that way--something fit for every reading occasion, and it there's time, a complete plummet into the universe of a book.  Right now, it's A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and The Island of the Day Before, a book I started several years ago and which I re-started this summer.  Oh, add brief forays into The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.


Here are some quotations from A Farewell to Arms.  Beware, they are quite extended.


"Beyond the mule train the road was empty and we climbed through the hills and then went down over the shoulder of a long hill into a river-valley.  There were trees along both sides of the road and through the right line of trees I saw the river, the water clear, fast and shallow.  The river was low and there were stretches of sand and pebbles with a narrow channel of water and sometimes the water spread like a sheen over the pebbly bed.  Close to the bank I saw deep pools, the water blue like the sky.  I saw arched stone bridges over the river where tracks turned off from the road and we passed stone farmhouses with pear trees candelabraed against their south walls and low stone walls in the fields.  The road went up the valley a long way and then we turned off and commenced to climb into the hills again.  The road climbed steeply going up and back and forth through chestnut woods to level finally along a ridge.  I could look down through the woods and see, far below, with the sun on it, the line of the river that separated the two armies.  We went along the rough new military road that followed the crest of the ridge and I looked to the north at the two ranges of mountains, green and dark to the snow-line and then white and lovely in the sun.  Then, as the road mounted along the ridge, I saw a third range of mountains, higher snow mountains, that looked chalky white and furrowed, with strange planes, and then there were mountains far off beyond all these that you could hardly tell if you really saw.  Those were all the Austrians' mountains and we had nothing like them.  Ahead there was a rounded turn-off in the road to the right and looking down I could see the road dropping through the trees.  There were troops on this road and motor trucks and mules with mountain guns and as we went down, keeping to the side, I could see the river far down below, the line of ties and rails running along it, the old bridge where the railway crossed to the other side and across, under a hill beyond the river, the broken houses of the little town that was to be taken.


     It was nearly dark when we came down and turned onto the main road that ran beside the river."


--pages 44-45


     "'We won't talk about losing.  There is enough talk about losing.  What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain.'

     I did not say anything.  I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain.  We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards in Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.  There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.  Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything.  Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates."


-page 185


From my Journal: a sketch I did of Brissago, Swizterland, the place to which Henry and Catherine escape.




I think of this quotation from the book:


"If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.  The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."  --page 249


I don't totally agree with Ernest here, but how true that people whose greatness comes from the virtues of goodness and gentleness and bravery get trampled and destroyed, even as they are remembered.  Who is remembered out of the seven-plus 1,000,000,000 of us on this "swiftly tilting planet"?  What do you think?


(Perhaps it's not that the world actively seeks to destroy that which is good and gentle and brave, but that we remember the people who live these virtues so powerfully after they have passed on precisely because we cherish them and the way they lived and shone to us.) 


Reads or Re-Reads for the Summer of '09.


Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson --challenges me to live in a meaningful and lasting way

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman --encourages me to appreciate cultural differences

The Snow Leopard by Peter Mathiessen --"the journey," both outward and inward

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut --humorous and scathing look at cultish religiosity

The Shack by Wm. Young --a revolutionary, if controversial and somehow still conservative, way of looking at Christianity

Organic Church by Neil Cole --a challenge to "organized religion"

The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander --raises all sorts of questions about the "thought police" and the tensions between children and their parents.  What does it mean to be a free thinker?



Okay.  So, I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy.


The man works genius in this poem/novel.  The first poetic pages enthrall, then disgust (almost to the point of putting the book down, burning it, turning into the piles of ash and slag that permeate this novel, burying it in the mud of priomordial existence or the end of all things, never wanting to touch it again, it so rips at the core).  Then, as the story unfolds (and it's Everyman's story; the central characters have no names.  In the end, aren't we all parents and children, at least metaphorically?), I find myself wanting to believe that they'll make it.  I see them coming to the gap that overlooks the Piedmont (I've been there, looking down like the German settlers who came down the Shenandoah Valley and spilled into the Carolinas  Of course, I was driving a Volkswagen Rabbit, not pushing a grocery cart full (almost empty!) of my only belongings, not pulling my son along.  I feel their hope at approaching the sea, at arriving at that oldest and broadest and deepest and coldest of rhythms.  That irony of the ocean--living and mordant, limitless and bound, thunderous and silent to the affairs of men.


Is it just these sorts of dichotomies that McCarthy leads us into?  The Good Guys or the Bad Guys?  Starvation or Satiation?  Faithfulness or Abandonment?  Fire or Ice?  Death or Life?


Enough.  Let's go to the text.  Here, McCarthy gives no quarter, spinning poetic fragments and lists and verbs into soul food.


"In dreams his pale bride came to him out of a green and leafy canopy . . . . In the morning it was snowing again.  Beads of small gray ice strung along the lightwires overhead.


He mistrusted all of that.  He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of languor and of death.  He slept little and he slept poorly.  He dreamt of walking in a flowering wood where birds flew before them he and the child and the sky was aching blue but he was learning how to wake himself from just such siren worlds.  Lying there in the dark with the uncanny taste of a peach from some phantom orchard fading away in his mouth.  He though if he lived long enough the world at last would all be lost.  Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowly fading from memory."


I cannot hold the past.  I cannot conjure it into reality, only into some dim hologram in my mind.  Other worlds, other places, other people.  Memories unattainable.  Somewhere so real yet so ethereal.


Coins everywhere in the ash.  He sat and ran his hand around in the works of the gutted machines and in the second one it closed over a cold metal cylinder.  He withdrew his hand slowly and sat looking at a Coca Cola.

    What is it, Papa?

    It’s a treat.  For you.

    What is it?

    Here.  Sit down.

    He slipped the boy’s knapsack straps loose and set the pack on the floor behind him and he put his thumbnail under the aluminum clip on the top of the can and opened it.  He leaned his nose to the slight fizz coming from the can and then handed it to the boy.  Go ahead, he said.

    The boy took the can.  It’s bubbly, he said.

    Go ahead.

    He looked at his father and then tilted the can and drank.  He sat there thinking about it.  It’s really good, he said.

    Yes.  It is.

    You have some, Papa.

    I want you to drink it.

    You have some.

    He took the can and sipped it and handed it back.  You drink it, he said.  Let’s just sit here.

    It’s because I wont ever get to drink another one, isn’t it?

    Ever’s a long time.

    Okay, the boy said.


Celebrating the simplicity of life: a can of Coca-Cola.


He held the boy close to him.  So thin.  My heart, he said.  My heart.  But he knew that if he were a good father still it might well be as she had said.  That the boy was all that stood between him and death.


Our children, the future, do keep us living and moving and growing.


He woke toward the morning with the fire down to coals and walked out to the road.  Everything was alight.  As if the lost sun were returning at last.  The snow orange and quivering.  A forest fire was making its way along the tinderbox ridges above them, flaring and shimmering against the overcast like the northern lights.  Cold as it was he stood there a long time.  The color of it moved something in him long forgotten.  Make a list.  Recite a litany.  Remember.


Listing and remembering.  Makes me think of the Sherman Alexie quotation near the bottom of this page.


On this road there are no godspoke men.  They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.  Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?


An interesting angle on the present.


When he rose and turned to go back the tarp was lit from within where the boy had wakened.  Sited there in the darkness the frail blue shape of it looked like the pitch of some last venture at the edge of the world.  Something all but unaccountable.  And so it was.


How potent simple shelter can be.  So basic, yet so core to our habitation on this planet.


Once in those early years he’d wakened in a barren wood and lay listening to flocks of migratory birds overhead in the bitter dark.  Their half muted crankings miles above where they circled the earth as senselessly as insects trooping the rim of a bowl.  He wished them godspeed till they were gone.  He never heard them again.


"The Passing Wisdom of Birds," "My Bird Problem," more?


She was gone and the coldness of it was her final gift.  She would do it with a flake of obsidian.  He’d taught her himself.  Sharper than steel.  The edge an atom thick.  And she was right.  There was no argument.  The hundred nights they’d sat up debating the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall.


Prince Hamlet.


He’d carved the boy a flute from a piece of roadside cane and he took it from his coat and gave it to him.  The boy took it wordlessly.  After a while he fell back and after a while the man could hear him playing.  A formless music for the age to come.  Or perhaps the last music on earth called up from out of the ashes of its ruin.


Ahhh.  Music.


The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities.  The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion.  Colors.  The names of birds.  Things to eat.  Finally the names of things one believed to be true.  More fragile than he would have thought.  How much was gone already?  The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality.  Drawing down like something trying to preserve heat.  In time to wink out forever.


"The soul of the universe is tied up in names."  Aunt Sonia in Hugh Brody's "Family Trees"


Is there such a being within you of which you know nothing?  Can there be?  Hold him in your arms.  Just so.  The soul is quick.  Pull him toward you.  Kiss him.  Quickly.


Love.  Father to son.


    I said we weren’t dying.  I didn’t say we weren’t starving.

    But we wouldn’t.

    No.  We wouldn’t.

    No matter what.

    No matter what.

    Because we’re the good guys.


    And we’re carrying the fire.

    And we’re carrying the fire.  Yes.


Carrying the fire.  What are you carrying?


Crate upon crate of canned goods.  Tomatoes, peaches, beans, apricots.  Canned hams.  Corned beef.  Hundreds of gallons of water in ten gallon plastic jerry jugs.  Paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates.  Plastic trashbags stuffed with blankets.  He held his forehead in his hand.  Oh my God, he said.  He looked back at the boy.  It’s all right, he said.  Come down.


Gratitude at blessing and plenty.


In the long gray dusk they crossed a river and stopped and looked down from the concrete balustrade at the slow dead water passing underneath.  Sketched upon the pall of soot downstream the outline of a burnt city like a black paper scrim.



Passing them in silence down that silent corridor through the drifting ash where they struggled forever in the road’s cold coagulate.


Imagery.  Tone.


An hour later they were sitting on the beach and staring out at the wall of smog across the horizon.  They sat with their heels dug into the sand and watched the bleak sea wash up at their feet.  Cold.  Desolate.  Birdless.


I think of John Knowles' description of the Atlantic Ocean just before sunrise in A Separate Peace.  Finny looking dead like Lazarus.


They trekked out along the crescent sweep of beach, keeping to the firmer sand below the tide wreck.  They stood, their clothes flapping softly.  Glass floats covered with gray crust.  The bones of seabirds.  At the tide line a woven mat of weeds and ribs of fishes in their millions stretching along the shore as far as eye could see like an isocline of death.  One vast salt sepulchre.  Senseless.  Senseless.


The Atlantic Ocean, the edge of the world.  Bereft of life.


Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made.  Oceans, mountains.  The ponderous counter spectacle of things ceasing to be.  The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular.  The silence.


The Spirit of God hovering above the waters.  The earth formless and dark.


But who will find him if he’s lost?  Who will find the little boy?

Goodness will find the little boy.  It always has.  It will again.




She would talk to him sometimes about God.  He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didn’t forget.  The woman said that was all right.  She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.



Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains.  You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow.  They smelled of moss in your hand.  Polished and muscular and torsional.  On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world at its becoming.  Maps and mazes.  Of a thing which could not be put back.  Not be made right again.  In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.




I just read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.



"I had washed up there on the riptide of my husband's confidence and the undertow of my children's needs."


"My daughters would say: You see, Mother, you had no life of your own.  They have no idea.  One has only a life of one's own.  I've seen things they'll never know about.  I saw a family of weaver birds work together for months on a nest that became such a monstrous lump of sticks and progeny and nonsense that finally it brought their whole tree thundering down."


More comments, quotations, and reflections to come.


From Rick Bass' Why I Came West: "For me, wilderness areas are a place to walk into, while I am still able, and to rest--a place where the ever-dramatic and ever-increasing problems of the world are always, gently and miraculously, placed back in their divine and proper scale--and upon my reemergence, I always feel better equipped to deal with them.


They are a place that absorbs and tempers my own fear and anger, a place for restabilization.  If I go into them joyous, I return joyous.  If I go into them fretful or angry, I return becalmed.  What magnificent alchemy, magnificent grace, is this?  Given that each of us is here for only a very short time, what huge value is this?  Surely it is immeasurable."  Page 87


Is this topophilia or what?  Other writing springs to mind.  Henry David Thoreau in Walden: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I wished to live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life."


Here's a photograph of the Yaak Community Hall

Yaak Community Building







This photo provides a classic example of the "Idealization" or Romanticization of a place and person.  On the WashingtonPost site, this photo caption reads: "Rick Bass surveys the Yaak Valley, home to grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, mountain goats and bull trout."  Well, the Yaak is home to grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, mountain goats and bull trout, (and Rick Bass), but this is not a picture of the Yaak Valley, unless it's a corner of the Yaak that we've never seen.  As Bass writes in the book, the Yaak weathered the Columbian Ice Sheet underneath the ice.  It was sculpted into rounded hills, not sharp aretes.  It does not have remnant blue ice, as this photo shows.  The photograph is ummistakably of Bass and some valley in the Rocky Mountain West (Canada, maybe)--larch in fall color, etc., but it is not of the Yaak.


Why does this matter?  Obviously, whoever lobbied hard for this photograph to grace the cover of Bass' book is more keen on perpetuating the myths of the West and the rugged attractiveness of a particular idea than the reality of Bass' text.  Ironically, he says that the Yaak is not a spectacular place.  It is not a National Park type of place.  It is simply a home--to animals, people, trees, mushrooms, a river, and a philosophy that wilderness can preserve all of these.  Bass argues that hunting and small-scale logging and environmental activism and community can go hand in hand and that in some way they help to define wildness and vigor.


When I read Bass' work, I find again and again that he argues for the Yaak despite its lack of spectacle, not because of it.  Places matter, not because we think they matter or they fit some idea of what matters to us.  They matter because they matter.  Maybe in ways that we can only begin to perceive.  Maybe because if we fail to recognize our collective impact on the earth and each other and fail to live responsibly, we'll have only a legacy of regret.


So, you can find the comments about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian below.  I'm so glad I read it; I'm so glad I shared part of it with you in class.


Right now, here's something from Saira Shah's The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland.  Shah quotes Sheikh Sa'adi of Shiraz's Gulitsan "The Rose Garden" in opening "Book Two" of her book: "The Map of Tales."  Think of that image.  The map of tales.  A map of stories.  Finding your way by story.  Anyway, the lines from "The Rose Garden":


Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare.

But, if you seek safety, it is on the shore.


I'll leave you to ponder the imagery and metaphors and draw the link to A Walk Across America or The Scarlet Letter.


The Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac


Here's a photograph of Hozomeen Mtn., which plays prominently in the novel.  It is in the North Cascades, Washington.  Jack Kerouac spent several weeks in the Desolation Peak fire lookout.



The photo was taken by "seawallrunner" and is found at the following site. 



(Note the quotation from The Desolation Angels in the photograph's caption.)



engaging words: raveled, constellative, azurite, disheveled, imbroglio, Eurydice, Persephone, unguents, petrain, ferment


striking quotations: page 358 " . . . all an enormous drag after all and at the time (1957) not even started yet officially with the name of 'Beat Generation.'  To think that I had so much to do with it, too, in fact at that very moment the manuscript of Road was being linotyped for imminent publication and I was already sick of the whole subject.  Nothing can be more dreary than 'coolness' (not Irwin's cool, or Bull's or Simon's, which is natural quietness0 but postured, actually secretly rigid coolness that covers up the fact that the character is unable to convey anything of force or interest, a kind of sociological coolness soon to become a fad up into the mass of middleclass youth for awhile.  There's even a kind of insultingness, probably unintentional, like when I said to the Paris girl just fresh she said from visiting a Persian Shah for Tiger hunt 'Did you actually shoot a tiger yourself?' she gave me a cold look as tho I'd just tried to kiss her at the window of a Drama School.  Or tried to trip the Huntress.  Or something.  But all I could do was sit at the edge of the bed in despair like Lazarus listening to their awful 'likes' and 'like you know' and 'wow crazy' and 'a wig, man' 'a real gas'--All this was about to sprout all over America even down to High School level and be attributed in part to my doing!  But Irwin paid no attention to all that and just wanted to know what they were thinking anyway."


reflections, reflections:  Structurally, stylistically, The Desolation Angels differs from almost every book I've read in recent years.  Kerouac utilizes a semi-stream-of-consciousness voice for the first-person narrator Jack Duluoz.  What this achieved, once I was used to it, was a depth of personal introspection.  The thoughts felt raw.  The observations honest.  The self-critique genuine.  The questions probing.  Take the above quotation.  Kerouac, through the character of Jack Duluoz, feels the bleak emptiness of superficial "Beatness."  When a profound truth of existence becomes trendy and cool, one has to wonder if all the followers have any clue.  It makes me think of that line from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "In the rooms the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo."


Here's another book I finished reading recently:


Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle.  Here's a photo of the the cover of the book.  I don't need to reference it because I took the photo myself.


reflections, reflections: This book too is set in the Cascade Range of Washington.  While The Desolatioin Angels is a novel, and explores Kerouac's (Duluoz's) experiences across the country, Mexico, Europe, etc., Where Bigfoot Walks follows Robert Michael Pyle's attempts to learn more about Bigfoot and the country that he supposedly inhabits.  Sasquatch devotees: beware!  This book will not confirm your beliefs.  Hardened skeptics: be warned!  This book approaches the topic with an open mind.  I appreciated Pyle's scientific background and his meticulous attention to detail and research.  I identify with his approach; he suspends judgment on the issue of bigfoot and prefers to look at the human stories that interlace its existence/non-existence and the natural world that supports/does not support its life.  The result?  I emerged from the book with a new appreciation for subcultures and their idiosyncracies.  I am preeminently more curious about exploring the Cascade Range, either for the mountains or the flora or the fauna or, if nothing else, the stories that I'll be able to tell after my visit.


invigorating vocabulary: (Robert Michael Pyle is a Yale-educated scientist, a lepidopterist, so his vocabulary exhibits a range not found in much of my reading.)  Some examples:


I'm skipping the vocabulary from the Bigfoot book, because I want to post about one of the two books I just read.  I just finished Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Forgotten Art of Sentence Diagramming by Kitty Burns Florey and Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  The first is quirky history indeed.  But it does what I hope every class and every writing assignment and every book does for you--helps you appreciate our language.  I don't mean appreciate it because it's the best, or appreciate it because what if you didn't have it, etc.  I mean appreciate how it flows, how it moves, how changing this word or that phrase or that comma can make so much difference.  Appreciate that when writers were writing they were creating.  Appreciate that when you are sweating over a sentence or phrase or exact--exact!--word, you are creating.  More on Sister Bernadette's later.


Right now, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  How can one book make me cry and laugh all at once?  Feel the pain of splitting in two and laugh at the funny way we get put back together again.  Did Sherman Alexie eavesdrop on class?  Or where did he get this idea?  Or have I been eavesdropping on Sherman Alexie?  Or where did I get this idea?  Or maybe we got this idea in the same place.


"'Okay, so it's like each of these books is a mystery.  Every book is a mystery.  And if you read all the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery.  And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is so much more you need to learn.'"  (page 97)


This one makes me laugh and think about To Kill a Mockingbird.

"'I used to think the world was broken down by tribes,' I said.  'By black and white.  By Indian and white.  But I know that isn't true.  The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are *&^%*%$# and the people who are not.'" (page 176)  (The "censorship" is mine.)


There's only one kind of folks, Scout, folks.


"And I kept trying to find the little pieces of joy in my life.  That's the only way I managed to make it through all of that death and change.  I made a list of the people who had given me the most joy in my life . . . . I made a list of the musicians who had played the most joyous music . . . . I made a list of my favorite foods . . . . I made a list of my favorite books . . . . I made a list of my favorite basketball players . . . . I kept making list after list of the things that made me feel joy.  And I kept drawing cartoons of the things that made me angry.  I keep writing and rewriting, drawing and redrawing, and rethinking and revising and reediting.  It became my grieving ceremony."  (Pages 176-178)


I told you it made me sad.


The best compliment I received at Parent/Teacher/Student conferences was from a student: "Thanks for keeping it real."  Thank you for helping me do so.




Comments (15)

Evan D said

at 11:09 am on Oct 8, 2008

Do you have prep this period? Because you keep adding stuff.

Tiffany W said

at 6:29 pm on Oct 8, 2008

that is a beautiful photo i love it... looks like an amazing place to visit

Claire B said

at 2:50 pm on Oct 29, 2008

Hey Bon you sure do have a thing for out-doorsie stuff.

Tana S said

at 8:37 pm on Oct 29, 2008

That picture looks fake.

Jaylee L said

at 12:07 pm on Nov 3, 2008

ok now that you found my page... am i doing my second book right? by adding it to the bottom of that page?

Raquel R said

at 12:04 pm on Dec 5, 2008

Hey Bonn, sorry but I just finished my page because I didn't have the computer yesturday. So you can check it again, maybe.

Veronica P said

at 3:04 pm on Dec 5, 2008

Bonnell umm sorry I didn't finish editing my page but I just did so go check it out. Please=D

Carey R said

at 9:40 am on Mar 3, 2009

Hey i am very interested in reading the road and want to read it soon.

Chloe C said

at 9:43 am on Mar 3, 2009

i plan to read the road too, does it ever give a reason for why the world ended up like that? It kind of makes me think of I AM LEGEND (which is a book too) when you were describing it.

Dustin S said

at 3:48 pm on Mar 4, 2009

This book intrests me too. it seems like it would be kind"ve like the day before yesterday??? i think its called or something like that. books like this have always gotten my attention.

Keri said

at 8:12 am on Mar 15, 2009

If you haven't already I think you'd enjoy THE ISLAND OF THE DAY BEFORE by Umberto Eco. Exquisite language, superlative metaphors, humour, and Eco's characteristically thorough knowledge (of, seemingly, EVERYTHING). One of my favorite passages: "...Roberto on his plank slides into an abyss above which he glimpses, as he sinks, the ocean freely rising to imitate cliffs; in the delirium of his eyelids he sees fallen Pyramids rise, he finds himself an aquatic comet fleeing along the orbit of that turmoil of liquid skies. As every wave flashes with lucid inconstancy, here foam bends, there a vortex gurgles and a found opens. Bundles of crazed meteors offer the counter-subject to the seditious aria shattered by thundering; the sky is an alternation of remote lights and downpours of darkness; and Roberto writes that he saw foaming Alps within wanton troughs whose spume was transformed into harvests; and Ceres blossomed amid sapphire glints, and at intervals in a cascade of roaring opals, as if her telluric daughter Persephone had taken command, exiling her plenteous mother."

Erin said

at 8:18 am on Oct 6, 2009

Nice page :)

Bella said

at 10:12 am on Oct 10, 2009

Hey Bonnell... If were writing the critical analysis paper we have to have a rough draft meeting with you before we can turn it in?

Chase said

at 9:22 pm on Oct 14, 2009

Hey Bonn. Sorry it took me so long to get anything on my wiki. my internet has been down for a bit. I meant what i said about a lack of dialogue though. There is practically nothing to use for quotes in here. It's nuts. (see i used an apostrophe that time=] hee hee)

Bella said

at 11:33 am on Nov 26, 2009

Hey Bonnell. Did you know that they are making a movie of "The Road"? It's coming out or is already out. =)

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