I bought a notebook. A Moleskin. I bought the notebook to take on my drive from Boston to Austin, to record in great detail the trip. The town names. The sign posts. The food. The landscape. I am here inspired by both Paul Blackburn (“The Journals“) and Gary Snyder (“Mountains and Rivers Without End“).
And the book “Continual Lessons, The Journals of Glenway Wescott, 1937-1955,” edited by Robert Phelps, a writer/teacher who I studied with at both Manhattanville College and The New School in New York City. From the Introduction by Robert Phelps:
“Well over a century ago, Emerson predicted that “novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies–captivating books, if only a man knew…how to record truth truly.”
“This volume is perhaps bet described as an attempt to take the sort of book Emerson dreamed of, to use the form, the appearance, of the diary to try to tell one man’s “truth truly.” The author is Glenway Wescott, for decades a shinning name in American literature, and the text begins in 1937, in the middle of the author’s life, “nel mezzo del cammin.” Wescott had known precocious prestige as the author of The Grandmothers and Goodbye, Wisconsin, and after nearly a decade abroad, he had returned to his native country to live in New York and on a spacious cattle-breeding ranch in western New Jersey. The result is an intimately personal book, exploring the daily activity of a man who loves the making of literature and the living of life almost equally well and who, like Stendhal, might have given as his profession “Observer of the Human Heart.”
I am starting here, on this page, looking for my voice. Years ago, when we, still wrote letters to friends and family, a friend wrote to me: “Bruce, you letters are like poems.”
And there were letters, Thousands. Written to my friends and my mom and dad. And there were poems. Written daily. The poems eventually giving way to photographs. I am in need of marriage. The marriage of the word and the photograph.
- This history is not, as many people assume,
- a tale of slow progress,
- leading to greater diversity
- of kinds and numbers.
- It is, in important respects, a series of plateaus
- punctuated by rare and seminal events
- that shift systems from one level to another.
- From teenage innocence to loss of youth.
- Issues for older men and women.
- Memories of history. Oral histories
- provoked by images — it is both fact and fiction,
- fiction and fact
a few pages later:
- With scarcely an interruption,
- pharoah succeeded pharoah
- and dynasty followed dynasty
- for nearly 3,000 years before Christ,
- a continuity of government unmatched by any other
- people. To appreciate the grandeur of that achievement
- one needs to imagine the American republic surviving
- until the year 4776.
- Therefore the mystic must rise above conceptual thought.
- Sudden and complete is the experience;
- of this absolute nothing whatever can be postulated
- and the objects become one
- again — it is an intuitive realization
- and what you behold is your real self.
- To affirm or deny is to limit;
- to limit is to shut out the light of truth.
- It is a wonder
- that it is
- all connecter
- I need a starting point.
- Onward Christian Soldiers
- marching on to war
- with the cross of Jesus
- (we sung this in school in sixth grade).
- If I write it all down maybe I’ll find out.
- On the transmission of mind.
- They would toast birthdays and special occasions.
- Being the teaching of Zen Master
- Huang Po as recorded by the scholar
- P’ei Hsiu of the Tang Dynasty.
- Enlightenment is a process which occurs
- in less time than it takes to blink an eye.
- The poems were often lists:
- Seven to Eight iron sixteen shirts
- Eight Forty Five pick up Daryl and
- Bring bike rack and take Daryl
- To soccer practice at Nine Fifty
- Then buy grass seed, dirt and rug cleaner
- And deposit paycheck
- Vacumn house from Ten to Eleven
- Take garbage to dump at Eleven Twenty
- Pick up Daryl at Eleven Thirty
- Make lunch
- Dog-sit from Twelve to Five
- Rake and garden from Twelve to Three
- Clip back rose bushes and butterfly
- Plants, plant grass seed, fill hole with dirt
- Clean bathrooms and do laundry
- From Three to Four
- Periodically check and write e-mail
- Fix stereo antenna when convenient
- And call about lawnmowers
- And check church schedule (am I
- Delegated to do something tomorrow?)
- Clean rug in bedroom
- Again, where Daisy pooped in her
- Loneliness, remember Betsy and Danielle
- Arriving home around Nine or Ten
- Call radio station in effort to win
- Lucinda Williams tickets
- Drive Daryl to Shawn’s at Five
- Workout at Smith from Five Ten to Six
- Six to Six Twenty shower
- Six Thirty pour a glass of red wine
- And relax, read yesterday’s New York Times
- And Wall Street Journal and today’s
- Times and Daily Hampshire Gazette
- Update website and……
- Sometimes stories:
- For weeks I have been looking at the curb outside our house that the snowplow ripped from the street wondering how and when to fix it some curbs are so daunting I lean on my shovel and stare past the sticks and limbs I spent hours picking up today some where near me where the roses yet to flower and the butterfly bush clipped to the earth How will I put the curb back I wondered and there walking across the tired wet grass my neighbor Hey Stick Man let’s put that curb back together Maybe we should call the DPW I think but it is Good Friday Bruce I am not sure they would be working or getting ready to work you know what I mean Well neighbor let’s pretend we work for the DPW and take a break, coffee or beer I know you don’t smoke I want to know what I am and who it is that made me that way Oh stop and just move the curb will you please Here hand me that crow bar and he told me how he spent the day walking with Becca his nine-year-old daughter and I knew he was telling me this because it would soon be one of the last times he and she would go walking for so long for so many hours together and I said I am jealous neighbor for the things I see now I wish for history and not these days sometimes as in Spring as today when all is love for these days come then go and I think sometimes they are different years or they are the same as there always is love but not innocence and sometimes sweetness and here let’s move the curb back and forth and dig and a little more dirt and rock out and neighbor says if we stand and look all day at the Birch trees we would see the buds open and I wouldlike that to stand here looking up at the blue sky at the buds exploding on the Birch trees here on Birch Lane We are blessed Bruce he says with good children again the curb calls us to move it more to the right and I think we have a fit so we stand and we stare at the curb and neighbor says My brother was a soccer player in college he was built like you (all of a sudden I am feeling very good about moving the curb and this my neighbor who calls me Stick Man) who knew we would become this he says I never saw myself a stock broker and we laughed when I said I had wanted to teach little children or art history to bigger children there was an Italian girl who came to college and I gave her a tour of all the art galleries on 57th street in new york city Juliana was her name I close my eyes and look at us walking and running from gallery to gallery laughing she is a princess a goddess in the city alive innocent adventurous and he tells me the city was good for him Boston and maybe it would be for our daughters and are you looking at city schools it is too much to think today in the sun near the curb we are unrestrained in college he tells me he wonders what to say to his child his daughter of growing older I say we are blessed with good children and we turn to talk now of Birch Lane who could have said we would end up here in beautiful homes with beautiful wives and beautiful children it is a dead end street lined with sugar maples pine and birch so much now in need of pruning, clipping, raking before the woods fill in we can still see our neighbor but not our neighbor’s house was the rock moved so he could get out or so we could get in ah neighbor all that is that matters is beauty love is this life short and unpredictable we live as dust, molecules but what matters today is your story our story so let’s go have a beer and tell each other a stories
- And sometimes, I simply listened:
I am sitting next to a woman with long blonde hair at the bar at The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City. I am sitting next to her because it was the last unoccupied bar-stool. I come here because I do not have to talk–except to James, the bartender, who will greet me by name and “Bruce, we haven’t seen you in a long time. How are you?” Her phone rings and I can hear her say “fuck” and “fucking” repeatedly during the course of her ten minute conversation. Now, I am still silent, but curious, and I say, turning to face her, “What’s the problem?”“It’s my fucking boyfriend,” she says. “He won’t divorce his wife. I mean, tell me, how much time do you need? How much time should I give him? Six months? It’s already been six months. I told him one year. If he doesn’t get a divorce in one year I’m out. I love him. I like all the gifts. But fuck. There’s a lot of available men in New York City. Shit. I shouldn’t be telling you all this. But I’m so fucking mad. He calls me ten, fifteen times a day. ‘Where are you?’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Who are you with?’ He’s driving me fucking crazy. And how fucking stupid can his wife be? I mean doesn’t she smell my perfume on him and his clothes? See my hair all over his clothes? I’m so fukcing mad.”I read a book of poems in the backyard. It was Sunday. I read every poem in the book. I put the book down on our pink table. I went into the garage looking for a vase. A small yellow vase. I wanted to make a garden still life in my garden. I set the small yellow vase on a table in the garden. I cut three zinnias and filled the small yellow vase with the cut flowers. I sat down. I got up and cut two more zinnias and added them to the small yellow vase. I sat down. I was reminded that God created the world in seven days so I cut two more zinnias and added them to the small yellow vase. I sat down and was overcome happiness. I could have cried.
Photo by Bruce Barone.And yesterday I painted a second coat of Victorian Purple on our outside doors. I painted the two doors to match our Victorian Purple Fence, Pot, and Wheelbarrow (So much depends upon a “pink” wheelbarrow…). Photo by Bruce Barone.And then, as in the Bible, I rested: Self Portrait. August 3, 2011.And I watched the squirrel eating on the top of our garden ladder: Photo by Bruce Barone.I delighted in watching the Yellow Finch in the garden: Photo by Bruce Barone.I saw that the Cosmos bloomed: Photo by Bruce Barone.My 30 minutes are upon me. There is a knock at the door. It is Susan.~~~
If you want distinctive nature, documentary or portrait photography–photography with soul that inspires you to live a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.