The last day of the month. There is no sense in trying to go back to August 8th and update this journal. Lesson; update every night. But some topics I will address in September: the enduring nature of childhood friendships, the internet and planetary healing, the positive aspects of prayer, the Japanese word "amae," my trip to Six Flags New England with 10 children, my new job.
From The New Yorker, John Updike, "An Ode To Golf:" I fell in love with golf when I was twenty-five. It would have been a healthier relationship had it been an adolescent romance or, better yet, a childhood crush. Though I'l like to think we've had a lot of laughs together, and even some lyrical moments, I have never felt quite adequate to her demands, and she has secrets she keeps from me. More secrets than I can keep track of; when I've found out one, another one comes out, and then three more, and by this time I've forgotten what the first one was. They are sexy little secrets that flitter around my body--a twitch of the left hip, a pronation of the right wrist, a cock of the head one way, a turn of the shoulders the other--and they torment me like fire ants in my togs; I can't quite get them out of my mind, or quite wrap my mind around them......So, why do I still love her?......Well, she's awfully pretty. All those green curves, and dewy swales, and snug little sand traps; and the way she grassily stretches here and there and then some. She makes you think big, and lifts your head up to the sky. When you connect, it's the whistle of a quail, it's the soar of a hawk, it's the sighting of a planet hitherto unseeen; it's mathematical perfection wrestled from a half-buried lie; it's absolute. And golf never lets you go a round without connecting once or twice. You think she's turned her back, but, with a little smile over her nicely mowed shoulder, she lets a long putt rattle in, or a chip shot settle up close, or a seven-iron take a lucky kick off a greenside mound. Another foot to the right, and...oh, she is quite the tease...And quite the accountant, too. How can you not love a game where a three-hundred-yard drive and a two-inch putt count the same?......"
"Imagine a system that allows huge groups of people to share vast amounts of information over long distances simultaneously. Imagine its aim is educate and inform its users. And imagine that its goal is to grow in leaps and bounds, spreading democratically around the globe in ever-greater numbers."
So began a story in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal (July 31, B1). A story about a small 19th-century religious and learning community in upstate New York where a few people with a vision created a medium close in spirit to the Web without the help of technical wonders.
John H. Vincent, a 46-year-old clergyman, and his Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, hoped to educate as many people as possible across the globe with a highly organized reading program that was the same everywhere and staggered over four-year periods.
It eventually had 180,000 members from around the world. The enrollees began to form local "circles" to discuss and help each other with their learning. Soon, there were about 10,000 of these circles.
Materials were sent out from Chautauqua, for a fee, in a system run by a young woman named Kate Kimball (who might be compared with a modern-day router). She spent her entire adult life working for the organization.
I'm a bit nervous about seeing another old friend this Friday. Two weeks ago it was Kathy; this week, Lynn--and maybe Margie and Rita and Andy. But I'm on a quest. Don't worry I tell myself; we're older--that's all. And a teeny bit older looking I suppose. First thing I did today was drive to Smith College to lift weights. I was one of two people there; the other an albino woman I see every time I'm there (maybe she's following me--but for what purpose I have no idea). She lifts the very lighest weight she can, say 10 pounds, as many times as she can. I feel like saying something to her; like, honey, if you add maybe even 20 more pounds to that it might actually do some good. But I don't. She might punch me. Then I brought the garbarge to the dump. The weekly trip I can always count on. And then I spent an exciting three and one half hours mowing the lawn. Without wearing headphones; I couldn't decide what to listen to: Oldies, to stay in the classmates where did the time go theme; or Red Hot Chilli peppers to feel pumped up. So I mow and think to myself this is a very zen-like time; the roar of the engine, the sun shining on pumped up body (I got a long long way to go to fit into the pants from 30 years ago!), and my thoughts. By the time I'm done I'm not sure if I'm more exhausted from the mowing or the thinking. Maybe I should have listened to music. But I get to hear some new classics at night; my son is having a sleepover and they play for me such goodies as Adam Sandler's "Piece of Shit Car" and Monty Python talking about the importance of the word "fuck." And how we all ought to use it more often, everday. This all thanks to Napster. Thank You Napster. I heard there's a lot of Greatful Dead available via Sara Astruc at her site. Will look for this later. More e-mails today, too. From Kathy. From Carol. From Michael.
Virginia Woolf wrote "will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap (memories)......instead of remembering here a scene and there a sound, I shall fit a plug into the wall; and listen in to the past."
And so my old friends have become this device; e-mailing me my past. Kathy. Rita. Lynn. Elliot. Debby. Margie. Joanne. Michael. Stephen. Doug. Marcia. Hinda. Carol.
William Wordsworth wrote:
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore--
Turn whereso'er I may, By night or day,
The things which I have seen I can see no more.
......Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
......The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest;
Delight and liberty, the simple creed,
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
......But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing:
Uphold us, cherish, and power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
......What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be......
"Ode, Intimations Of Immortality From Recollections Of Early Childhood"
More on memory. "I'm amazed by the distance that time builds. And the lack of distance, the simple shriveling of time, when memory steps on it." (www.nqpaofu.com) In Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse" two passages of time separated by an interval of ten years and seemingly selected at random are ultimately locked in a pattern of significant moments in the minds of several of the characters. Implicit in this approach to the past is the role of memory; the meaning unfolding after the experience. The decisive role memory plays in her "moments of being" brings out her affinity with William Wordsworth, specifically his emphasis on "emotion recollected in tranquillity." Often, for Virginia Woolf, an experience would only begin to seem real once she had written about it; only then was its importance recognized. Apparently she attached great importance to the element of reflection involved from an early age; "I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves; and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was a part of the earth; that a ring (i.e. the pattern or hidden order) enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth; part flower. It was a thought I put away as being likely to be very useful to me later." Thus memory, itself the test of the enduring quality of the moment of being, is invaluable in extending the dimensions of the moment; memory is the means by which the individual builds up patterns of personal significance to which to anchor his or her life against the "lash of the random unheeding flail."
Virginia Woolf writes: "That is, I suppose, that my memory supplies what I had forgotten, so it seems as if it were happening independently, though I am really making it happen. In certain favourable moods, memories--what one has forgotten--come to the top. Now if this is so, is it not possible--I often wonder--that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence?......I see it--the past---as an avenue lying behind; a long ribbon of scenes, emotions. There at the end of the avenue still, are the garden and the nursery......and it is only a question of discovering how we can get ourselves again attached to it, so that we shall be able to live our lives through from the start. But the peculiarity of these...strong memories is that each was very simple. I am hardly aware of myself, but only of the sensation. I am only the container of the feeling of ecstasy, of the feeling of rapture. Perhaps this is characteristic of all childhood memories; perhaps its accounts for their strength."
I wrote Kathy yesterday to say that I was thinking how we have so completely and possibly exhaustively documented our childrens' lives; memorializing all major events--baptisms, birthdays, ballgames, parties, sometimes just the kids hanging out. There are dozens of photo albums and just as many videotapes. Don't remember what all those kids looked like who came to your sixth grade party? Watch the video. I tell my kids that they are very lucky to have these documents. They also have the series of poems that I've written for them documenting the past three years. So there's a wealth of material to help them later in life remember what life was really like for them here at 8 Birch Lane.
I suggested to Kathy that we, her and I, don't really have that. And unless my sister Michelle has a box of old photos stored away somewhere, I don't think we have any old albums. I guess my parents weren't the photographers we are today. I went on to say that all we really have is each other. She is my camera. My notebook. My poem. Recapturing and recalling for me the stories of my childhood. We are, if you will, each others mirror. So I think this re-kindling of an old friendship has little to do with recapturing our youth (I don't think we're being nostalgic); rather, it is more of looking at the beginning of a poignant story, to understand that search for the holy grail.
She wrote back: "How right you are. I hope the wealth of techonology; videos, cameras, etc. and their accompanying snapshot moments will ultimately serve our kids and their memories well. I worry (as our parents did of our generation) that kids lack the depth of experience we thrived on, like our experiences at the public parks in the summer. Some of my fondest memories are of playing hide-and-seek with neighborhood kids on summer nights. I remember all the parents sitting on the house steps and chatting--it was a community in the truest sense of the word. While we knew about violence and hate, we also knew not to embrace it. I always tell my kids to find joy in simple things--a sunny day, helping others out, etc. Your children are lucky to have your poems--those words will be part of their lives and their children's lives forever. I have some pictures from my childhood, but as the last child born in the family, there are the fewest of me. Seeing you again has given me the chance to reflect on those years and enabled me to recall more of my youth. I am glad that you have reentered my life."
"I like very much people telling me about thier chilhood, but they'll have to be quick or else I'll be telling them about mine......
"Occassionally now I dream that I am tuning out of school into the lane of confidences when I say to the boys of my class, 'At last, I have a real secret.'
"'What is it--what is it?'
"'I can fly.'
"And when they do not believe me, I flp my arms and slowly leave the ground only a few inches at first, then gaining air until I fly waving my cap level with the upper windows of the school, peering in until the mistress at the piano screams and the metronome falls to the ground and stops, and there is no more time.
"And I fly over the trees and chimneys of my town, over the dockyards skimming the masts and funnels, over Inkerman Street, Sebastopol Street, and the street where all the women wear men's caps, over the trees of the everlasting park, where a brass band shakes the leaves and sends them showering down on the nurses and the children, the cripples and the idlers, and the gardeners, and the shouting boys: over the yellow seashore, and the stone-chasing dogs, and the old men, and the singing sea.
"The memories of childhood have no order, and no end."
"Quite Early One Morning"
Reminiscences of Childhood