Saturday, March 2, 2024

Journey of Old Journals: 1986

Early in the year and after the crazy client stalking incident, I was ready to leave the job. I started getting therapy; the therapist thought writing was a great idea. I focused on character studies, bubble maps of thoughts that led to short essays, and writing more of what I saw on the streets. I was withdrawing from friends because I felt "I needed silence to hear the important things."  In hindsight, I laugh as I read that I was "breathing in rainbows", a habit I still use today when I am particularly distressed. I wrote of the emergence of AIDS on the streets, the whole scene at Jacques, and the teens in Harvard Square. 

My life alternated between the continued violence on the streets and the respite of the backcountry. I started volunteering with the Appalachian Mountain Club, which at the time operated a couple of canoe campgrounds on the Saco River, one at Swans Falls (a busy put-in and dam portage site) and Walkers' Falls. Walkers was where I went alone to spend time. It's simple cabin, where I slept in exchange for answering a few questions and selling firewood, was down a long dirt road. I invoked Marian UnderhillGrandma Gatewood, and Helen Bromwell (whose name I wrote then, but I couldn't find on the internet.) It was there that I explored the neighborhood. I encountered moose tracks, purple mushrooms, herons, immense dragonflies, and Pleasant Pond.   

I paddled upstream to access the marshy pond. It was easy to get to the leeward side of the lake, but when I turned the big canoe, with only me in the middle, to head to the other side, I floundered. Trying and trying again, I thought more about survival. So I pinned the key to the cabin on the strap of my bathing suit, tried one more time, and found the right angle to the wind to start moving.   I wrote odes to the Goddess, asking to listen to the voices of her children through me. I wanted to attune to the woods, the rocks, the tracks of deer and the rushing of water babies. I wanted to bear witness to her complexity, picking up a rotting birch log and inhaling the clean, unique scent of decay. I circled treasures of pine boughs to the north, acorn at the east, bark at the west, and moss at the south, bringing myself to the stars. I wrote of infinity and protection, and of the richness of uninterrupted time. "I am frenzied with the purpose of being."

As the weather turned to the early winter, I found a girlfriend. I had an easier time processing the pain and violence on the streets. I wrote their stories down so I wouldn't have to carry them. 

Nov 12

Met Patty on the streets tonight. I hadn't seen her for about six months at least- mentioned that she was burnt out of a hotel room at (illegible.) Eye makeup smeared all around like a misguided raccoon. Jeff G tells me that his parents and all his family were killed in a car accident and he is the only one left. How callous of me not to believe it, in my own unrealistic mind frame.  Steve talks about how his army jacket was ripped off, Anita tells me about court (and the fact that Jizz went on a binge and no one hears from him. Diane discusses how 'no one hangs out anymore.' I talk with Lee for a long time about life.  

These stories sit like a knot in my stomach. Turning in on itself until I purge here, in the journal, berating myself for not catching the moment: the passion of being. Sometimes, I don't feel sorry for them, caught up int heir swirling denial that may lead to their death. I wonder- what dealt me this hand of cards, to be here and alive."  

Dec 12

"High.  (This was a common coping mechanism for the second shift work, sometimes combined with alcohol.) My head spinning with all sorts of thoughts, my eyes glued barely open. The image of Jimmy by the state house. His eye so bruised that it was bulging out of his head like frogs' but red, blue, and purple swollen skin. Face flecked with small, deep cuts, the eyelashes barely visible, oozing blood. I am firm, trying to control my sense of fear and horror of pain with a professional demeanor. His chest is bare with bandages. A person should not be walking around homeless on the streets in that condition. It tears my heart out to remember. Wish I could wash it all out with the good things I feel when I'm with the younger kids. I told Jimmy he had to go to the hospital, but he staggered off downtown instead. I wonder if he will live through this year, or tonight, or how he will feel when he does. Somehow, this thought doesn't become real until I imagine myself articulating it. "

I didn't write about why, but instead of quitting I decided to go for a management position, replacing my mentor and friend.  On January 1, 1987 I wrote of the syzgy, the rare alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. 

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