A Trip Down the Memory Hole – Part Two

It’s Sunday – the proverbial day of rest. Do you really want to work today? – to trouble your mind with all the up-to-the-minute national and world events and developments? Or would you rather take it easy, slow down a little bit, and contemplate a few other issues in your life?

Let it go.

I know I kinda left readers hanging at the end of yesterday’s short diary A Trip Down the Memory Hole which ended with this:

At this point, I have to stop writing. It’s late, I’m tired, and I want to watch the end of the movie and go to sleep. I can continue this tomorrow.

Let it go.

I had intended to continue that thought in today’s diary, but a whole new set of “compulsive” writing has arisen, as you will see below.

Let it go.

Rather than working today, wouldn’t it be much more pleasant to take a waltz with me down Memory Lane?

(As you read this diary, please try to remember that this is all about memory.)

For much of my life, I would wake up in the morning with the implicit question, “so, where am I in my investigation of the World, the Nature of Man, the Universe?” Of course, the answer would be on my nightstand (if I had one) beside my bed (if I had one) or on the floor beside whatever pallet I happened to be sleeping on.

That answer would be in the form of a book, the one I’d been reading just before turning off the light. Maybe it was Heidegger’s “An Introduction to Metaphysics” or “Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy, or Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” – or the sociological classic “Suicide” by Durkheim or whatever.

For many recent years, the implicit question I have awakened to is “so, what’s the latest news?” And the answer would be quickly found on the Internet.

If you read my diary from yesterday it will be obvious that I am entering a new phase of my life.

Today I woke up around 6:30 and was immediately presented with the first question above, as used to be the case. Normally on Sundays, if I woke up this early I would roll over and go back to sleep. Today, I got up intending to start writing this stream-of-consciousness memory.

I went out into the living room to pick up this old notebook which has been in the exact same place for the past twelve years and it wasn’t there! I looked around a bit and went into the kitchen, drank some water, and lit up a smoke. On my way back to the living room to look for the notebook, I passed a dining room chair which faces away from the table – because that is where I sit to put on or take off my shoes.

I saw on the chair the notebook I’d been looking for, the one in which I am now writing. I had forgotten that I put it there last night at bedtime to call attention to the fact that I would no longer be writing short notes to myself on 5×8 pads or the back of empty matchbook covers.

It was cold so I took the notebook, a pen (given to me for my birthday 20 years ago by my girlfriend at the time, an illegal alien from Britain) and went back to bed.

I couldn’t write there. I mean physically it was nearly impossible to be both warm under the covers and manipulate the pen effectively on the paper. The realization that it had never been a practice of mine to write in bed (other than those short notes on a 5×8 pad) quickly came upon me.

I put on some warm clothes and took my paraphernalia along to find an appropriate place to work. The desk with the computer on it (where I used to write back in ’94 before I got a computer) obviously wouldn’t do.

Then I remembered that I used to write at the dining room table. I looked at the table and there was hardly a square inch of space. It was covered with a years-long accumulation of detritus: books, papers, envelope boxes, calendars, tax forms, Christmas cards, etc. At the bottom of the pile of stuff where I used to write was a placemat left over from the last time I had dinner at the table (oh so many years ago.)

I removed the stack  on top of the placemat and placed it on the floor beside the table and two particular items stood out: my Astronomy textbook from two classes I took in college (“The Solar System” and “The Universe”); and Schopenhauer’s “On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.”

I managed to clear out a space just barely big enough to fit in my notebook, glass of water and ashtray, and, finally started to write.

Actually, as I now recall, before I started to write I was curious – what was the last entry in this notebook and when was it? (All of the entries into my various notebooks are dated, a practice I started back in college.)

This is what I found:

2-3-89 – Just as some people hide their insecurity by putting on a big show of hearty joviality, so to do I- with my outward show of quiet, calm rationality – conceal my riotous irrationality.

That’s it, verbatim. (That date, coincidentally, is about 2 weeks before my birthday, when my British girlfriend gave me this pen that I am writing with now.)

At some point, earlier in this writing session, I decided to include that old quote here and thought it would be a good idea to check out the first entry in my notebook. Here is what I found:

2-7-77 – Why does Kant term freedom as “transcendental”?

Trying to have no thoughts, no feelings – is commonly termed the abyss – is also that which we fear most and thus we are least likely to tend in that direction.

It may seem strange to have two such seemingly unrelated notes back-to-back like that, but, please observe, I only entered the date of my notations, not the time of day – I’m not that crazy!

Seeing that date (2-7-77) made me wonder where I was living at that time. Looking back across time, I knew that I had moved to Seattle in June of ’78, and that I had lived in Montana for almost exactly one year. That means I was living in that big old farm house in Ohio with my girlfriend Mary and our dog, Tasha; all this brought back a fond series of memories.

The nearest house to us in Ohio was about a half mile south, where a really nice and neighborly farming family lived. If I walked fifty yards down the dirt driveway to the road I could see their house. The nearest house to the north was a mile or more away, and there were no nearby east/west roads anywhere in that part of Ohio. We were about 5 miles from Delaware, a small, remote town north of Columbus.

I simply loved walking through the fields and woods with Tasha, and sitting on the bank of one pond or another, reading, watching the birds and the clouds, or writing poetry.

Was it Henry Miller who advised writers to “stop writing when you know what’s next, not when you have run the thread of ideas to the end”? That way, when you sit down the next time to write, you’re not staring at a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen with that little blinking line), but instead, you can dive right into the work.

I need to take a break now, but I know what’s next.



Ok. I’m back. By now, I’ve cleared out more space on my dining room table. In my earlier writing session it was rather cramped, but I wanted to get to the writing as quickly as possible. (As noted in yesterday’s diary, I have become compulsive about writing once again.)

I won’t bore you with the mundane minutiae of the last two hours (and besides, I am eager to get back to the original set of ideas that launched this diary in the first place when I woke up this morning – see the first three paragraphs of the body of this diary, if your memory has somehow drifted away from that beginning) but here’s one memory from the interlude that I want to share with you:

While I was brushing my teeth, I noticed a squirrel out on the deck and went closer to watch it for a bit. The rodent soon left, climbing down the one-inch diameter painted steel pole. When I saw that action, my mind instantly flashed back some ten years or so to when I was awakened in the middle of the night by the raucous sound of scuffling, squawking, and squealing. I got up, went into the living room and pulled open the curtain. There, on my deck, were two possums sparring with each other, raising quite a ruckus.

Now, my deck is about ten feet off the ground with nothing connecting it to the ground except for two steel poles. I can understand that it would be easy for the squirrel to jump to the deck from one of the fir trees out back, but possums are not known as great jumpers, so I wondered – How in the heck did they get up there?

When I saw the squirrel climb down the pole, I had my answer.

Note-all of the previous material was hand written and is now transcribed onto my computer. Now that I’ve typed it all up, the writing from here on out will be generated directly on the computer.

The three key ideas from the top of this diary that dragged me out of bed this morning are:

For much of my life, I would wake up in the morning with the implicit question, “so, where am I in my investigation of the World, the Nature of Man, the Universe?”

For many recent years, the implicit question I wake to is “so, what’s the  latest news?”

As you read this diary, please try to remember that this is all about memory.

These were the thoughts I awoke with and I knew that a series of memories would begin – or, rather, had already begun – when I got out of bed to get my notebook.

Starting with the second blockquote above: Throughout most of my life I have always thought that the news is like a soap opera – if you know the general story line, you can miss a few episodes or even a week and still pick up the thread of the story when you return to the show.

When I lived in Montana, I went an entire year with hardly a shred of national or world news (local “news” was all about the snow and the sub-zero temperatures or the upcoming/latest heat wave) – and this was immediately following a whole year in the countryside of Ohio where my only source of news was the Christian Science Monitor.

For some reason, the owners of the house – devout Christians –  maintained their subscription even though they didn’t live there anymore –  for a long time I just used it to start fires in the fireplace. But one day, a headline caught my eye and I read the article. It was pretty much straight news, well written and without the expected Christian bias. Thereafter, I would scan the headlines and read a few items whenever the paper came.

After spending the previous two years in the hinterlands, when I did return to civilization by moving to Seattle – somehow – I managed to pick up on the trends and the news of the day. The soap-like news of the day wore on as usual.

Jimmy Carter was still President, The Soviet Union remained as our Cold War foe and posed a “grave danger” to the US. Etc. Oh – and something called “disco” was now all the rage, apparently having swept all across the country while I wasn’t looking.

I had two other extended periods of my life when I got little or no news. In 1974 I lived for about four months in a house about thirty miles from Nashville. The area was covered with thick woods for miles around and I couldn’t tell you how many miles away the nearest house was. I do remember this one woman from a few miles down the road who made the most fabulous Mulberry cobbler using the fruit from the tree in her front yard.

And then, from early fall in ’81 thru the summer of  ’82, I lived in an ancient house on the top of a hill overlooking a valley half-way between the two small towns of Snohomish and Monroe about an hour north-northeast of Seattle.. There was nothing but cornfields and beets for miles around. Our only source of heat was the wood-burning stove and news out there was as scarce as a sunny day in December here in the Pacific Northwest.

I remember one crystal clear night when I was standing in the driveway having my last smoke before going to sleep. There was a thin line of trees on the west side of the dirt driveway and then a sharp drop-off to the cornfield down below. The moon was straight overhead and nearly full.

It must have been around May because the corn stood three feet tall. I stood there immobile, drinking in the scene, when I was suddenly startled by a very loud swooshing sound. This huge owl had just swept by, the wingtip passing within mere inches of my right ear.

Now, with all this frantic day-to-day or even hour-by-hour obsession with “the news” in a 24/7 world, I think it’s gone entirely too far. I admit that I’ve spent a fair amount of time over these last few years reading my various on-line news sources and even watching national news broadcasts.

November 5th, 2008 – yes, I awoke with the knowledge that Obama had won, but I was interested in seeing how it was being played out in the TM. I went online and scoped it out.

But I never felt obsessed about it. I kept track during the primaries, after the conventions, in the midst of the transition, the first week, the first forty days, and I would read diaries here and there, and see comments; I would read and hear the pundits, the announcers, the specialists, the experts; I would follow stories as they were BREAKING, as they developed and evolved.

People would go virtually crazy with excitement or outrage, whether it was flame wars here or there; whether it was Drudge, Limbaugh, Brooks, or whoever; whether it was someone in the new administration or Congress – all I could see was a whole lot of people driven crazy by the intensity of their personal involvement.

I never felt any personal investment in any of it – I felt more like an observer of some curious phenomenon in the development of Human culture.

And then suddenly, unexpectedly, these memory episodes of mine began – I know not where from nor why for. Now, these past few weeks, I’ve stopped watching TV entirely; online, I read the headline and, at most, the first paragraph; and yet, I feel totally up to date on current events. (Yeah, I know about Red River.)

I don’t need to know what some know-nothing republican said, or what some idiot DINO “thinks”, although I’ve seen plenty of that these last few years – I’m done with it for now.

Despite all of the so-called “ups” and “downs” in the past – what? 70 days? – of the Obama Administration, I have complete and utter confidence in him and his Administration to: #1 – do what is right in the long run for America and the American people, and #2 – do what is right for the World.

I feel like I am experiencing a reawakening from a long slumber, and sensing a joyous rejuvenation of my spirit. These past eight years must have been just some hellish nightmare.

Now I am beset and besotted with all these memories – and it feels alright.

Crossposted at the big orange

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