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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sunday, October 25, 1981 - the travels of others

Dear Donna: I thought it was about time for me to respond to your June, 1981 notes on A X-Country Journal. First, I would have to say it flatters me to get them and to be asked for an opinion. I was further impressed by your calling them notes. So, I have read them twice and am doing so for a third time as I write this. Your trip reminded me very much of when I traveled cross-country with my father and sister as a boy of 8 or 9. I also went across much of the same land right after graduating from high school. Leaving the next day, on my motor scooter, as sort of a mini-easyrider. The scenes come into my head as you describe your own impression of the land, animals and people. I see you imagine the openness of the land to be an invitation to emotional openness. Its not so. Having lived in one of these all-american, flatland towns, I can tell you that the plots, conspiracies, machinations, secrets, and mysteries, are as plentiful as the corn and wheat. In fact, I would wager that gossip there is greater per capita than in the crowded, but anonymous cities. There is less entertainment, and more work. So, what is one left to do? Gossip. I found it very plain, dull, and boring, and left. I have no real desire to go back. Sometimes nostalgia overwhelms me and for a few moments there are fantasies of visiting the old farmhouse, walking in the woods, along the river, over the fields. But soil, air, and water are not the things I want to work with. I have heard that Boulder is the new age capitol of middle America. Do you know that the Rockies are much younger than the East coast mountains? This accounts for their larger size, jaggedness, bareness, and teetering rocks. One day they will all be smooth and tree-covered. In Wyoming there is a place called Hell's Half-Acre. It looks very much like Garden of the Gods. I wonder what that says about the mind of the person who discovered each of those places. Often you say how young everyone seems to be in the Southwest. My trip of over 20 years ago left me with no such impression. Perhaps it was because I was still younger. But it makes clear how this really is the growing part of this country. The Northeast really is dying, but only relatively speaking. Its just not growing as fast. It just doesn't have as much youth energy. Unless you count all the people going to school here. But most of them will leave on day. They will be attracted by the sun, the open sky, and other things that attract you to that area. I'm sure you have heard by now, but Jack is not moving to Atlanta. He may in fact, be living with us. It hasn't been decided yet. Its a bit crowded for the three of us, plus the temporary situation with Jack. He was on the phone about 2pm. Its 3:30pm now. Maybe it was you, or perhaps Jean Varda. Simone got a letter from her yesterday. She has been away for four days. Returning about 7 this evening. She, and two friends, went to Grossingers for a 4 day American Art Therapy Association conference. She calls me each day to relate all the latest gossip. I was surprised to read about your impressions of atom bomb land. Did you know that right here, in Cambridge, just down the street from us, is where America designs and builds the prototype for all its nuclear missiles, and their guidance and navigation systems? Its true. We are most likely directly targeted by the Soviets. Ground zero is probably somewhere on Broadway, so as to get MIT and Harvard. I read an interesting book about the builders of the pueblos. It had an explanation for the comings and goings of the various people. It seems that in their culture, a fire, constantly burning, is an absolute necessity. This means a lot of firewood. The area has never supported the kind of forests we have in New England. But over the centuries it has been a different situation. Some hundreds of years ago it was possible to grow regular crops of grain in that area. The weather patterns have changed to make that impossible without irrigation. So this theory has it that they left when it was no longer possible to easily get firewood. The people, or another group, came back when things changed. The movement of people does correspond to the changing weather patterns over the centuries. Have you seen the movie, The Petrified Forest? It was Humphrey Bogart's first big picture. I enjoy watching it. I always seem to see something new each time. I went swimming in Lake Mead on the trip with my father and sister. The pain of walking on the shore rocks is still in my mind. A float made from barrels is not too far from the shore. No memory of actually being in the water. I was still afraid of the water then. I couldn't swim. It still makes me fearful now, even with the ability to swim. Its like being on the edge of anything more than ten fee above the ground. The lake will not die by being drained dry. Lakes die by filling up with silt. The lake slows the water enough for the silt to settle. This fills up man-made lakes in 50-150 years. I have heard that Lake Mead has about another 50+ years. So, at last, you are in San Francisco. And for me, now, what to say about your writing? Lots of beautiful pictures about the real world that exists for everyone. The sky, the land, the water, the air. Pictures about how you want your life to be. But I like best the more brutal and ugly things you describe. Not that I like brutality and ugliness, but I think it is only from a real knowledge of these things inside us that a better internal world can be built. I see only glimpses of this in your writing. The arguments with Brad, the loneliness of having left friends and familiar places, the longings for a new clean places to start life again. I know this feeling of being frustrated with where you are. I am having a lot of it myself, at the moment. Fantasies about the end of my life. Not really the end of life, but rather my consciousness ending. This has been on my mind a lot lately. Why, I wonder? It seems to be related with all my life frustrations. Feeling trapped, that things will never get better for me. I am getting older and sometimes get preoccupied with the idea of what life will be like for me when I really am old. What can I do now to make it better? What can I do now to make now better? I wonder what it is like to not exist. A funny thing to think about, don't you think? I try to create the feeling of this idea in me.

A man is parking his car on Hampshire Street. What will the world be like if he suddenly ceases to exist? Will it cease to exist if I die? Sometimes I imagine it must be this way. Even though I know people have died, and, of course, it did not stop. A lot of funny thoughts about consciousness being imbedded in the body. I can't really express them. But some of them make my consciousness laugh at itself, even be fearful of itself, for a moment. I have to push these ideas aside. They are capable of overwhelming, I fee. It must be things like this that push people to suicide. Enough of this heavy existential stuff! I have forgotten what in your notes prompted this. Yes, the writing about the external, non-people world. Like I say, it seems that you only strike this internal world a glancing blow. I can say the same when placing side by side, what I write, and all the things that really go on inside me. But from experience I know it to be a good way to see myself better. It relieves a lot of internal tension. My strongest impression of you is one where you are sitting, legs against your chest, and wrapped tightly with your arms. Almost as though you are afraid of flying apart, or of something being revealed. I have heard that you are not feeling well and things aren't going well with Brad. That you are not making friends easily. There are millions of people around you. Most of them feel the same. They have trouble with themselves, with other people. I would advise you to just say hello to anyone of them, to begin with. Then another and another. It won't take long to get all the friends you need. Your friend Simone is a good example of how well this simple approach works. She never lacks for friends or company wherever she goes. Try it. It works for her because she says hello. It will work for you. I have discovered that it even works for me! I recommend it to all my friends. It works for everyone who has tried it. And write some more. And send me a copy of it. I will send you more of my writing if you want. Bye for now.

My Dearest Darling Daughter Laura: What a pleasant surprise it was to get that lovely card from you the other day. Especially so that you remembered my birthday. I have thought of you often these last few days. I remember a lot lately about when you were born and the first year of your life. What a time that was. Here was, apparently out of almost nothing, a completely new person. It makes me a bit nostalgic. Your choice of cards shows so much how a lot of that little girl is still in you. Its something I miss very much. Perhaps we can arrange to spend a little more time together? What do you think? Dana tells me of having seen you in Harvard Square on Sunday for the last three weeks. What do you say to meeting me there for breakfast next Sunday? How does 11, Sunday morning, sound to you? At the Mug & Muffin restaurant. My piano sits in the office every day. Lonely. Wondering where your fingers are. It misses you. Do you miss it? What is going on in your romantic life. I've heard rumors about you and that rascal rogue Dana. Are they true? And what about your art classes. How are those going for you? I am doing lots of writing. Taken a vacation from it for a few days. It is so hard to be creative consistently. I am always making a Monday morning resolution to get an early start and accomplish a lot. But its something I've been doing for many years. Perhaps I should try another approach. Or maybe I should go ahead and do it. In any case, your little card has gotten me to do some writing. For that I must thank you. Thank you, Laura. And what else? I am still struggling with my old fears of success. Thinking about my stepfather made me realize how much I'm like him. He had something with success also. He worked and slaved all his life to get ahead. Somehow real success seemed to elude him. Others around him often managed it. He worked very hard and seemed very capable. But somehow he did not seem to follow the right things. Its this way for me. I have lots of opportunities. There are two bigs ones sitting right here in front of me. But I find myself procrastinating. Anything but those things need to get done. Its not even that much to do. But I can't seem to put my hands on them. This kind of success would most likely mean some kind of changes. Certainly one would be that my life would become a little more regimented and influenced by the schedules of others. Before I forget, you are invited to a Halloween party here. Its next Saturday night. Come as your dream. Well, what else to say? Why don't you write me again. I do like to get letters, especially from you. Bye for now. your Dad

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