Well, I should’ve expected that. As much as I’d love to believe that I'm learning to not give a flip about what people think, the fact is, I'm not there yet. Otherwise I wouldn’t have put on my party face, though a wan and bland one, yesterday. It’s tough to walk into a strange room and introduce yourself by your worst aspects, though. AA was pioneering in that regard. “Hello, I’m —- and I’m an alcoholic”—What a lot of courage, unnatural courage, that takes. After all, we’re hardwired to put our best face forward; it’s part of our pack instinct, our fear of being kicked out of the tribe riding hard behind it.
So I couldn’t just walk in and say “How-dee, call me Salt. I’m a master procrastinator; I don’t know why I’m here (not this here, the big here). Everything tastes like cardboard to me. I seem to have a disease that makes me feel tired all the time, and that keeps making me draw a smaller and smaller circle around myself, and that makes me crab about all sorts of things I never used to crab about. If I don’t find some sort of meaning and purpose soon, I’m afraid I’ll walk into the sea and never look back. P.S. I'm fucking terrified.” But that’s how I feel.
No question the wry neck here really has me down. Almost seven days of pain now, the last three spent park-assed in bed, on the floor, or on a lounge chair in the folks’ yard (yes, I need to get back to my spinster skybox, and soon). I love stillness, but only as counterpoint. Too much stasis and my entire body seizes up. Between the stiffness and my halting attempts to help my elderly dad with his new TV (I’ve never owned a TV; the LHC makes more sense to me than a 50-inch plasma), I feel like older sister to the hills. All I need is a bed jacket, a bottle of cream sherry, and the complete Agatha Christie on cassette to complete the effect.
Tomorrow I have to get the blood flowing—there’s no other way.
As for today, which ain’t dead yet, the highlight was reading one of the books my friend N. sent me, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer. Lots of good stuff in this one. In his discussion of early maps and ‘premapping,’ which he defines as the bare desire to locate oneself, the author says some nice things about error: “Without our false starts, we would’ve gotten nowhere at all.”
And a quote from one Jean Baptiste Bourgignon d’Anville: “To destroy false notions, without even going any further, is one of the ways to advance knowledge.”
There were many solid insights, but those are two that made it into the moleskine. You know it’s bad when you start reading everything as self-help. And it’s really bad when the self-help is geared less toward getting you to do things than to feel better about all the things you haven’t done.
Anyway, Peter Turchi (for that is the author’s name) giveth, and Peter Turchi taketh away. Just as a happy thought was starting to congeal in the brainpan that I’m actually learning and doing more than I know right now, he had to quote (as an example of writerly and cartographic elision) the last three lines of James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota,” with their epiphanic turn.
I give the whole poem, because it’s gorgeous:
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
That’s it: I have wasted my life.