Saturday, April 02, 2016


"Great is the power of memory, excessively great, my God, a vast & infinite interior space: who has plumbed it to the depths? Yet this is a power of my mind & pertains to my nature, so that I myself do grasp all that I am", writes Augustine In Confessions X:VIII

Which better helps people plumb the depths of the their memory, a journal written in the past or photographs? A conversation with someone from their past? Day-dreaming?Reading? The project I am working on now seems to help me.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Augustine called memory "the fields and vast palaces" of our mind. I have been contemplating how my memory works. Yesterday Kimberly said something that triggered a memory I had about her. I told her, and she was surprised because she didn't remember it at all. In the night, I tried to remember the memory but couldn't. I could remember our interchange (we were with two other people) but not the actual memory I had retrieved. My long-term memory is good at making connections from about when I was 7 years old, but I need something to spark the connection. My short term memory is frighteningly terrible. When I am writing if I think of a word, an idea, or an image but fail to put it down immediately, it will disappear and won't re-appear for a while.  Is everything that has ever happened to me still in this vast palace of my memory, only needing a trigger to bring it back? I have a memory of a mystical experience I had when I was 7 of coming upon a spring-fed pool full of tadpoles. I have re-remembered it, recounted the story, wrote about it in a memoir, re-created it in my novel Samara the Wholehearted. What is left of the original experience? Could a trigger someday bring the experience back in its original form?  Augustine thought the our memory is the way we sense God.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Creating a home

"Now my aim is clear: I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, and dreams of mankind...It therefore makes sense from our point of view to say that we 'write a room' or 'read a house.'" Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

For many people the making of a home is the major creation of their lives. It's often a joint enterprise. A most endearing sight is a run-down house with pots of geraniums in the windows and an afghan-covered couch welcoming you on the front porch. Equally as endearing are homemade curtains, a quilt, a braided rug. I made curtains for my bathroom. I don't fool myself into thinking that they are haut couture--one side is noticeably longer than the other. Over the years patient mentors have taught me to knit, sew, embroider. I do all of these clumsily, but the results give me great satisfaction.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


"The whole artistic process is nothing but a mode of seeing that is not only governed by the eyes, but by the whole man." Conrad Fiedler

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What to call it

Believing that the body and the mind are one, I've been exploring how they work together. But something else is involved. Everyone senses this. It is something that connects this one entity--Nancy's body and mind--to the outside. This something feels real, but because it doesn'tseem to be observed by the senses, it has an air of unreality about it. What connects me to the maple tree outside my window? That special maple tree was planted by my father nearly 50 years ago. Although I see the tree, know it to be real, know that soon buds will appear, then leaves, the  shape of it so famiilar, I also know that there is a bond between it and me. To call that bond "love" doesn't actually name the bond, but only approximates it.

On Tuesday night a group of women will gather in my living room, here where I now am observing the tree, and will share our efforts to get at what could be called, grandly, "the meaning of life", but less grandly, "what is important", or just what has come into our heads the last little while. The ambiance might be called "love" but that isn't it exactly. It is "community" perhaps, or "camaraderie." This spirit has been growing over a period of fifteen years, becoming stronger. It is akin to family but not exactly the same.

"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This feeling of being gathered together in the name of something good is palpable.

Friday, March 25, 2016

I began to think that I would like to experiment with non-fiction, maybe with any luck invent a new kind. Then I read David Shields' Reality Hunger and decided to start out. I have always written my novels with no form or genre in mind, no plot, just a scene--a room, a setting--and some characters that have sprung into my head. I then followed them from day to day, not knowing what the next day would bring. I tried to let my imagination be completely free. Could I do this with non-fiction? I have been experimenting with this since July, and strangely, I see themes develop, find myself understanding some things I didn't before. It is not a memoir, but is what my imagination comes up with, the real, the actual.

This blog started out as a non-fiction experiment, a memoir, tracing my way from birth. trying to understand what my life means.  I stopped writing in it when I accepted an offer to write a weekly column, State of the Art, for the Telegraph Journal art insert, Salon. I didn't have the time or energy to write the two novels I've written since 2006, the column, as well as blog entries.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Back in Business

I started this in March 2006, resumed in March 2013, and am going to try again.