Wednesday, January 10, 2018




"From my present point of view, the sky is the most important landscape, the sky reigns over all things, forever changing their aspect and making new spectacles of the most familiar sights.
--Auguste Rodin, Cathedrals of France

I found the quote in a wonderful book of photographs, by Jennifer Gough-Cooper of Rodin's work, called Apropos Rodin

Which in turn Geoff Dyer turned me onto (he also contributed an essay), I think in The Ongoing Moment.

I also learned from Geoff of photographer Miroslav Tichy, who is also well worth a look.

In fact, I wish I had time to write of all Geoff Dyer has given me, and to the world His But Beautiful is a book about jazz that you can read and be changed by even if you know next to nothing about jazz.

Then there is Zona, which is about his obsessive love for Tarkovsky's Stalker...but don't get me going.

I am headed out soon for my afternoon walk.

All I'm saying is that reading--a practice of steady, eclectic reading--has opened up universes for me, my whole life. And continues open up more. 

A few other books on my list right now are a biography of the late, great rock critic Lester Bangs called Let It Blurt, by Jim DeRogatis, Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," and a book about Indian untouchables (there may be a more p.c. word now) called Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla, who actually grew up as one of this despised caste. Things are changing, apparently, and about time.

I have had approximately one hour of "free" time in my time at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, where I arrived last Tuesday. Every time I hear from someone from home, they say, "I hope you're enjoying your retreat."

I have to refrain from shrieking, "It is not a freaking RETREAT. It's a "residency." Where I have been working my ASS off since the moment I arrived."

My God! Do people know nothing of "the writing life?"  There's not just the writing. There's the collecting of pebbles, rocks, twigs, and seed pods. There's the incessant observation of the sky. There's the prayer, the stoking of the wood-fire, the sitting with one's head in one's hands, the inability to sleep because you so don't want to miss the stars, the coffee-drinking, the pacing, the talking to oneself, the practicing of the Haydn sonatas. The reading of the book on Rembrandt, the book on Illuminated Manuscripts, and the book on North Korea by Suki Kim, all for future columns.

Oh, okay, the NYT and the New Yorker blog.

The stretching exercises.

The looking through the binoculars at the acorn woodpecker.

The snatched watching of the Brisbane and now Sydney WTA tournaments. 

The realization, all over again, of how truly petty and touchy and impossible I am, and no wonder I'm  not married, and God, please don't hold my MYRIAD character defects against me.

No but seriously, I have only had to get into my car and drive, anywhere, once, the whole time I've been here, which was to Sunday Mass. So no driving, no social obligations, no dentist or doctor appointments, no "having" to talk to people (the bane of my introvert's existence), no food shopping even, as I stocked up before I came. Just enough phone calls to keep me involved and interested in the stream of life. But basically none of the stuff that makes life so unbelievably stressful.

This morning, walking down the hill, I realized that for the first time in probably years, my entire body did not ache. My back didn't hurt. More notably my neck, which lately has seemed more or less permanently crippled, did not hurt, or at least very much. So that was a treat.

Just then I spotted a whole cache of weird spiny sponge-like-looking objects that had clearly fallen from or been blown by a nearby tree, cactus, or shrub. Of course I had to nab a few.

I feel so bad for the people in Montecito who were killed in this week's mudslide. I've been on retreat there, and attended Mass at their beautiful mission church, and hiked in the hills above, many times over the years.

Here's what the sky looked like this morning in Temecula, after the rains here.


  1. Those skies over Temecula are enchanting, dear H. I need to look up more. Fr P

  2. Sometimes when my pore aged head is drooping, I think: "Lift up your heads, your redemption is at hand!" Love to you, Fr. Pat--


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