As I look over them now, I think most of the old Notebook entries from my first website, I’m Telling You All I Know, are better off left unread. But a few, like “Ghost and Cathedral,” and the piece I added earlier this year in August, are worth preserving. Already more than nine years old, I might have written it yesterday, so accurate it remains, and so dear the memory.
Ghost and Cathedral
I do marvel at the twists and turns my writing has taken over the years, and how in some ways it has come to resemble one of my favorite San Joaquin Valley landmarks, widely unknown and long since gone: a wild grapevine, out of place and thriving in a muscat vineyard about a century old.
The vineyard, owned by a remarkable, not entirely sane widow with piercing blue eyes, was across narrow Huntsman Avenue, which ran along the south side of my in-laws’ farm five miles west of the town of Fowler. The wild vine was several rows in. It was much taller than a man, and loomed above its more docile muscat neighbors. Its hairy bark-covered arms twisted and reached in all directions. Lizards scurried in and out of holes in its trunk. Squirrels burrowed at its base. Bird tracks and empty nutshells were further evidence of its importance. At dusk, the vine became both ghost and cathedral, almost as if its mission were to haunt itself.
That I see my writing in this light makes sense. To a large extent, I’m haunted by what I do: around the clock, I write writing, I think writing, I hear writing, I dream writing. At the same time, writing is where I dwell and where I pray — where I celebrate, learn, fail, and mourn; where I lift myself up and shut myself in; where I die and where I’m born.
I’m a nutshell under that old vine.
One arm is memory. One is prose, one is poetry, one is observation, one is study, one is frivolity — and from each of these arms grow other arms: the arms of books and paper and ink and electricity; the arms of ego, pride, foolishness, experiment, and stubborn illogic. The arms overlap. They are similar in that they are nourished by the same sun and the same root, but they respond differently: some are stunted; some are unruly; some bear strange fruit. If they were children, they would drive their mother crazy.
I’m Telling You All I Know, Notebook Entry #96, 2009
Also appeared in Recently Banned Literature, May 1, 2009