February 22, 2019
Nevada City, California
When we remodeled this falling-down house, me and my carpenters Rodger and Leon, I put a window over the bathroom sink instead of a mirror, so I could enjoy a view of the outdoors rather than my own cute but ever-aging face. To see my face, I have to lean slightly over the sink and turn left. The medicine cabinet’s mirror is on a side wall, and in the spring, my whole head is framed by purple wisteria blossoms. Right now it’s crossbars of the trellis and some interestingly-shaped vines. The bare and necessary scaffolding of the world is often just as beautiful as what it later supports.
I thought about Netflix while I stood there at six in the morning. I seem to be categorically unable to watch there or anywhere else. Hulu. Britbox. The local theaters. What can you say about a person who goes to bed at 9 p.m. because she’s bored? I have watched all the shows with depressed Northern Latitude police detectives — Wallander, Shetland, Broadchurch — not a sunny day among them. Those were fine, even though I’d read the books and half-remembered some of the plots.
I spent half the morning editing the manuscript of my third book of poems: fussing with commas and dashes, sorting out whether to say “the blue heron” or “this blue heron.” Maybe my work life interferes with my ability to watch TV. If I were a novelist or screenwriter, I could evaluate plot development and possibly steal good ideas. As a poet, I’m just irritated by all the verbal and visual clichés. And the dreadful dialogue.
I had a home-cooked lunch of tunafish on rye with chopped-up scallions and celery and a teensy bit of parmesan cheese (my secret ingredient), and then drove down to my office to see some coaching clients. I love my office, which is the only part of my life free of clutter and elderly cats. Sometimes there’s a Daddy Long-Legs and I dust his or her web from the ceiling, but otherwise it’s as tidy as I left it. The only real issue is that I have two indoor plants, for color and life and because everyone told me to get some, and during weeks that I have fewer clients, or (ha!) go on vacation, they don’t get enough water, and get too much heat from the floor vent and try to expire. I have never been good with indoor plants.
As a coach, what I do is tell everyone that they’re good, valuable, meaningful people and whatever they’ve just done makes perfect sense under the circumstances. Then we discuss how they could accomplish whatever it is they’re aiming for, and I give a brief lecture on the rotten influence of our culture, which oversimplifies and dumbs everything down, plus tries to sell us things. One must fight the culture in order to be oneself, I say.
I saw three clients in a row, two middle-aged and one in his twenties, and fell more in love with every one during each passing quarter-hour, which is kind of par for the course.
Then I turned off the lights, straightened the couch cushions, emptied the water filter and washed the glasses. I took the “In Session” sign off its little suction hook and locked the door. I met my friend Susanna for dinner at Asian Garden, where we ate the usual things we like and marveled again at the low prices, talked about Karl Lagerfield and Lawrence Ferlinghetti but not Russian Doll, and got home by around 8. My house was dark, but the cats were waiting happily for me on all the kitchen counters. They know the sound of my car in the driveway. I broke out some Gerber baby food Turkey, which divided by five on little plastic IKEA plates is really not very much food, but they lapped it up. Cats like routine almost as much as they like food, so be careful what you start.
I’d mentioned this Netflix issue on Facebook earlier in the day. When I opened it in my browser, one of the poets in town had replied: Maybe there’s nothing on Netflix your soul wants to see.
Poets. What would we do without them? I mean us. I mean, right?