The sky is a mixture of dim golds and blues....
Last week, we had four beautiful days of summer. Early May; those four days were strictly delimited – the weather was forecast to change on the fifth day to an ongoing 58-62 for the indefinite future, and it did exactly that.
But those summer days were, oh, say, 70-75 – not all that warm, but for these northerners it was a heat wave. Anyone with red hair, of course... a lot of rather dramatic discussion of factor 20, or 50, and the like.
But as for those of us exiled from summer lands – the Pakistani taxi driver last night, bringing me home from the concert by my performance art students, agreed with me: the British have no idea what hot weather is, and these days have been perfection.
We, the native foreigners, laughed in complicity at them: silly as they are....
One of those afternoons, a picnic table, outside, at a pub near the Ouseburn. M. and A., and two women friends, and I.
Brits arrayed around us in various stages of relaxation, no particularly loud music... in fact one of the pleasures of that long, dazed afternoon was: no raucous or crazed responses to the heat. Just a sense of pleasure, for hours.
The house on the corner of my street: some students live in it, or next to it –
today there are two young guys sunbathing without shirts, ridiculously pale, but muscled – muscles are so much more the norm now, basic health and exercise expectations have changed so much. There was something so confused and young (19-20?) but beautiful about them: not at all like Southern California guys, these obviously have no idea how they are supposed to look without shirts, even with their sharply developed muscles; their tan lines are wrong, accidental and sloppy and like trucker's arms around the shoulders –
but they have the careless, easy grace of unstudied reality....
Over the warm days, a number of young men pass in the streets; they seem unexpectedly and intensely healthy, energetic. An integrated, complete kind of beauty: they take up space, and they enjoy doing it – they seem happy to be in the world.
Twelve years of this blog, today!... I'd still like to move to a different webhost... and the old entries seem to have lost their formatting and look like a Beckett novel. Ah well. Can't really complain about passing time.
Or you can, if you like, but it won't have much...
My students were so passionately invested in the performance art concert – because I didn't have creative performers from the other university come talk to them (they didn't seem interested earlier in the year – I should have insisted), their work had more rough edges than might have been; but! talk about deep emotional/psychological authenticity. This was all about the women rather than the men – the men just wrote papers this time, I told them they were being chicken. But the women – no playing around here: fantastic commitment, deep excavation, multiple levels of symbols and ideas – creations that did us all good.
All a bit humbling, really: if you had looked squarely at your worst shames and fears in symbolic form, in public, when you were young, 20 or so – who would you have managed to become by now?....
When N. and I go walking in the park, we talk about her problems, and I (of course) hold forth too long. I am a garrulous old sod (but that's not news).
If we are worried about health, about life – about how we are feeling and what to do about it – I always tend to move, rather dangerously, into the endgame, to bring mortality into the space: we're older, the body changes – we cannot turn back time; and we can't magically make ourselves young, or healthy. But doesn't that give us a more defined space to understand our decisions, to know what to do next? Even if it may not succeed.
N. is alternately telling me what she is thinking, or is far away: but there's a sense that something opens up, for both of us.
Oh, wait: redheads, sun – this was from a few weeks ago, but let's make sure it is preserved here, for the ages (because this blog will be carved into the walls of my pyramid – this particular passage in the secret inner chamber, of course):
'Today, by local standards, was a sort of heat wave (74º and sunny). I saw a patient, typed, worked, sun at the window, all the windows open....
and now there's loud music, from nearby. After a bit it's clear that it won't stop on its own, so I go out the downstairs back door to locate the source... next door, the scruffy rental house with tenants who are often there for just a semester, where the loud straight lads have lived for the past three months, in the doorway squeezed between the garage and our fence where there's practically no room but there is direct sun, is a tall muscly bearded redhead in an exceptionally skimpy bathing suit, pretty much a thong – clearly he thinks no one will see him – sitting sideways in the doorway, his brawny legs halfway up the doorframe, radio blasting.
I call out loud enough over the music – he leaps, startled – I smile, say, the music? – he twists longitudinally, his legs still up the doorframe, and turns the music way down...
I walk around back to my door, thinking:
Another morning, an early class – after that late concert: but since the days get so long here (dawn was at 4:25 am), we were all alert, ready, open to whatever comes.
The last class of the first-year music history series, a rapid revision of comparisons of modern and postmodern, new musics they might know and like....
Bur first, my obvious question: how are your final papers coming? And an intelligent guy, one of a number that I've started to recognise as real people, people I'll remember, says: it's so boring, it's so awful. 300 words and he's completely stalled.
So, I derail my lesson plan: why is it awful? What is awful about it? Why do you hate it? What are you trying to do?
He's game to answer, we push through, I look around and check with others: how is your paper? What about yours?
I tell them: don't write a pile of boring crap for us, it's all right, I promise, we don't want to read it any more than you want to write it. If you've picked a question you don't like any more, change questions, or –
okay, you, the woman in the second row: exactly what is it that you hate about Wagner? Because, let's face it, there are a lot of things to hate.
As for you in the back, if you're doing popular music in the late 19th century, and you don't care about it... what do you care about?
We have a nonlinear but charged discussion with the whole room: pointing at students and saying: do you like your paper or hate it? What do you need to do next? Are you bored? What are you going to do about that?...
Half an hour spent on all of this, rather than my musical examples: but the air felt clearer, their eyes brighter: there was a sense that we all woke up, fell back into things....
After class, lunch, and a sense of somnolence... the sun is out but it is cooler; home, and sleep.
Later, awake, a casual Skype conversation with M. I have told him I can't finish my thesis in time for July graduation, but that I'm calm about it – he checks closely to see if that is true, but no, I can honestly say: I spent an hour being sad about it before the decision came back by email.
Which it did while we were celebrating Eric passing his PhD viva, by the way... sitting in the staff room with champagne, two supervisors, two examiners, and the new soon-to-be-doctor.
I read the email about my own thesis on my phone, watch my annoyingly extensive cloud of painful memories around delaying or screwing up other degrees and projects float around me and evaporate, and a wing of time passes – I ask for another glass of champagne and return to the discussion.
Our students are performing a baroque opera: they are so young, working so hard – how do we do things that are so difficult? Maybe that's what's exciting about it. The stage looks beautiful, the costumes professional; they are getting a taste of something.
A young woman in one of the smaller roles is especially graceful, especially funny: she is willing to go for the humor in the role – I tell her how successful she was afterwards, in the bar, surrounded by wired students and parents and staff....
I am in the central room of my flat, with one of my analysands; I pull him up short: why all the arguing and analyzing about your partner – what's driving all this?
We both feel the immense sadness that comes into the room, one that is absolutely unmistakable. We sit with it, quietly, for a while: even if it's the kind of thing we would normally strenuously avoid, at the moment it feels like a gift.
After my last analysand, I have finished the pot of tea, and it is late afternoon. Floating through everything, a sense of awareness, of power, of continuity: I can write the thesis, I can do what I want. Time floats, sunny days or rainy ones.
As evening comes on it is cooler, I close the windows....
while washing the dishes, I think: time, thesis. What I did today, what they did last night onstage.
Normally I would regret the move to cooler weather.
One of those 80s guitar albums that I associate with my California-in-memory is playing... this would normally bring me back to nostalgia, loss.
But today it feels as though everything is within reach: summer, spring; fall. Failure and success, youth and aging. Desire and loss and giving up and keeping going... it all floats, it is all available to me.
The other day D., whom I last lived with in 1982, and who, like me, has survived so much and so many places and people, was flirting by message from the northern Pacific coast: "if we get married, you and I will have to balance one another in tasteful tux." He includes a picture of himself reclining on a sofa – he is ten years older, but has kept himself in excellent shape. I tell him frankly, I'm not in excellent shape: and he says well, we'll just have to do something about that. And I think – really?... are you saying that this is possible?
I remember a dream-vision of myself, old, happy, relaxing in the sun, on the porch outside a San Francisco house in upper Market – but it is a half-drowned San Francisco in the parts of the city that have survived global warming, people in boats going from one hill or another, some time in one future or another: and in the vision someone is making dinner inside, someone I love – is that person going to be D.?...
But here in my own kitchen, where I am standing in 2018, I put the dishes away, I smile through the window, watching the beauty of the dimming summer day:
because I know I'm going to live forever.