Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rediscovering My Center

Tuesday, May 30,2012—Long Beach, CA

Lazy days. As soon as I was released from school my desire to do much of anything has dissolved. Actually that’s not quite true. I’ve been doing reading, writing, and I’ve resumed my study of Greek, but all in a low-key kind of way. I’ve also been physically active: I’ve been riding my bike, running on the beach, and lifting weights. The beach running is the most important of these activities. I gave up running years ago, and lately I’ve noticed how creaky and stiff my body has become; while playing baseball with my sister’s kids a few weeks back I realized that I could no longer really run (it was scary feeling so limited and old). I’m trying to see if this can be reversed. So far I think it can, up to a point. Thus far my body is responding well. It’s just a matter of how far I can take it.

Still going around in circles on whether or not to go to Greece again this summer. I’ve been doing some serious number crunching and I’m beginning to realize that I’m not in as good of a financial position as I before thought. I’m also wondering if a long trip is something I should be doing now. Besides my money issues, I’m just plain tired. I ran around Greece all last summer and then had a long, intense year teaching. Maybe this summer should be about recharging. I also would like to reconnect with friends I’ve neglected over the last couple years. Traveling in California a bit this summer also sounds good; I really want to get up to Sacramento and Santa Cruz at least before school starts. On the other hand, the idea of floating thru a few Greek islands for a month sounds so wonderful, peaceful, and in some ways necessary. Though the money’s tight I could pull it off. I’m also worried that if I don’t go this summer and money suddenly becomes tight I might not be able to get back there for years, which is a big consideration.

Another series of issues I need to address revolve around publishing. BSP needs a lot of work. I also need to get serious about getting out both the poetry book and figuring out how to deal with putting the Backwaters books into the right hands. I’ve spent the last few years working very hard as a writer and now it’s time to put the same sort of effort into the publishing side. In other words, I have the books and now it’s time to do something with them. Maybe going to Greece is partially a way for me to avoid dealing with aspects of the literary world I’m not particularly good at and do not enjoy. If nothing else I know that teaching takes so much time and so much out of me I know that’s it’s dangerous for me not to jump on things when I finally have the time—it’s easy for years to vanish that way and for publishing opportunities to be missed, perhaps for good.

On a different front … It’s interesting how different I feel about things as soon as the pressure of teaching is off me. For months I’ve been semi-obsessing about what’s been going on inside of my head and about things that are supposedly missing from my life. But now that I have time to just BE a lot of that has fallen away and I’m back to being the semi-happy materialist I am at heart. I’ve been worrying about my soul when all I really needed to find my center apparently was a little time to run on the beach and write. Overwork and lack of personal freedom weigh heavily on me. I need a lot of time to myself in order to keep my center—it’s just who I am, a necessary ingredient in the functioning of the photon assemblage that is Rob Woodard. Somehow I need to figure out ways to relax more and regain perspective during the school years: I just can’t lose myself for the six or seven months of the year when teaching gets really challenging. Being happy is being yourself. I need to do a better job of keeping track of me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Tuesday, May 22, 2011—Long Beach, CA

I’m finally finished with school. Actually I finished early Saturday afternoon, but it’s only now beginning to sink in to me that I’m free. The last few days I’ve mostly been just trying to unwind, as well as get a few things done that had been piling up on me during the last week of the semester. I’ve got a lot I want to do over the next few weeks before I go to Greece (yeah, I’ve almost one hundred percent decided to go), but most of it is stuff I want to do—work on my website, BSP, etc.—so doing these tasks is almost part of my general coming down from the semester. I’m still feeling very uptight, which from past experience I know it will be another week or so before I really start relaxing. I seem to be walking away from this semester easier than I have other ones, though. I can’t decide whether or not this is a good thing, whether or not I’m just learning how to relax or that I’m so bored and angry with my job that I simply don’t care as much about it a I used to.

Though I’ve only been free of school for a handful of days, I’ve managed to do a lot of thinking, mostly about where I’m at with my writing. I’m positive that I’ve been going down a wrong path with Sunshine Seas. Now that I have the time to think straight, the little doubts I’ve been having about the work (which I’ve been pushing away, to the point where I haven’t discussed them here) have moved front and center. I can now see that there’s a false note in there somewhere; it feels slightly phony, contrived. Also, as soon as I had a little time to work on it I immediately began to get bored; I think I’ve been puffing up the project just because the idea of having time to write was so enticing to me during the semester. What I need to be doing, I think, is continuing with the Backwaters books: I don’t seem to have much to say outside of that context. I’m still a little burned out on that universe, though, so maybe I just need to not be writing (other than here) for a while longer. I do have some new ideas regarding where Backwaters is going that I’m excited about, so who knows—maybe I am on the verge of something there and my continuing break only has a short time left. There’s nothing I can do now except wait the muse out.

Still struggling with myself a bit. As always these kinds of struggles get reflected in my reading. I’ve abandoned the Jung biography. It was to … well, boring: fact after fact with almost no framework. I’m still interested in that world, though. I picked up Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams, and Reflections as a substitute. I’m also starting Philip K. Dick’s VALIS. Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank has also hit my to-read shelf, along with a history of the modern witchcraft movements in England called Triumph of the Moon. A wide range of stuff, but that’s because I’m still a little unsure of where I should be going in the area, in a lot of areas actually.

Ready to see people (at least to a small degree), to get out and do things. Planning trips to Sacramento and Santa Cruz as well as Greece. I’d like to try and get out to Mono Lake this summer too. Lot going on. Lots I want to do. I need to recharge a little first, though, be lazy for a while.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cleaning Things Up, Next Stage Searching

Wednesday, May 13, 2012—Orange, CA

Finishing up finals—within about forty-eight hours I will be completely done with this (unpleasant-ass) semester. I got my schedule for the fall finalized today too. I’m still underemployed, but things aren’t any worse than they are now and in some ways they’re better: I have four classes, and, with the exception of a Thursday night class, they are all in the morning. This is important because the main issue I’ve been having with my work has been slept depravation because of having early morning classes scheduled after late night ones (two years straight of this has really messed me up and I think might be exasperating my nagging health problems). The Thursday night class won’t mess me up much either, because it’s the last class of the week for me. In other words, I don’t have to get up on Fridays. Thursdays will be a long day, though. I have an 8:30 AM class at SCC, then I have to drive to IVC teach a 10:00 o’clocker, and then I have to head back to SCC and hang out until my 8:00 PM class starts. The rest of the week, though, will be a piece of cake. Considering I could have been very underemployed this semester, things have worked out pretty well.

Since I’m not going to be working at all this summer (whether I end up going to Greece or not) I plan on using the time to start laying the ground work for my transition to the full-time literary life. This means nailing down the website and really putting time into BSP. I’ll also be looking for a new author to bring in, someone who will help articulate the new direction I see the press heading in. What I’d like to do is have it turn with the way my writing is going, which is much more socially oriented. I really want to get away from the whole post-Bukowski thing, which I feel is completely played out. I’d like to see it move into a more green-political direction. By this I mean I’d like to put out work by the current equivalent of, say, Gary Snyder or Edward Abbey, along with some more overtly political work, Chomskyesque essayist and the like. I’d also like to bring in some socially relevant sci-fi and maybe even see if we can resurrect a few older titles that have gone out of print that should be available. I’d like to think at some point publishing books falling under all the categories will be an option—if chosen well all of these options link up in important ways.

Feeling pretty pent up still, in regards to my personal life. I feel ready to spread out, be more. I know I’m repeating myself, but I really need to get back to writing. I want to hit that hard this summer and have at least a nearly complete draft of Sunshine Seas (I have several stories that have coalesced in my head and should flow out of me pretty easily once I finally get the time to deal with them). I’m starting to envision a big non-fiction project as well, incorporating ideas I’ve had for a number of essays for quite a while, perhaps interspersed with pieces I originally saw going into a Greece book, which has no coalesced in me at all as a stand-alone project. I’m not sure exactly how to describe this project. A kind of semi-urban Southern California-based Practice of the Wild might be the best description. Big historical explorations set in a bioregionalist framework. A ethno-eco exploration spreading out from a L.A. Basin starting point. Big questions posed. Hopefully some big answers found. (Man, does this sound arrogant? I Hope not; I just have some sizeable ideas floating around in my head at the moment that I think will ulitmately sort themselves into something of some importance.)

Still the same personal weirdness and frustrations with my inner life. I’m continuing with Jung’s biography. Still having weird dreams as well (I had a really odd one the other night, but I can only recall flashes of it, not enough to really examine it). I’m beginning to understand a fundamental issue I’m dealing with at the moment and its importance: I’m essentially a materialist in search of meaning that in some sense is beyond that realm. Am I speaking of something that could be called religious? In some sense, I suppose. What I’m really looking for is connections, that to which material is can be reduced—a universal power. I sense these connections all the time, but just barely; I feel alienated from myself and ironically the material aspects of existence on which my vision of existence is based. There is some knowledge I do not have, which has left me in a place where I lack perspective in certain very important ways. There is something that is both within me and outside of me that I don’t understand. I am disconnected, in my understanding … from something …

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Slowly Quieting Down, Stupid Dreams

Sunday, May 13, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Emerging from the semester. Feeling the workload lessoning, that there’s something to me besides that job. I’m also beginning to think about what I think about and feel when I’m not just buried in work (work that only interests me in certain respects). I’m also feeling a little better ohysically: my digestive problems seem to be less severe (though I’m still fighting what has been a pretty unpleasant sinus infection). I’m beginning to wonder if they’re being exasperated by stress. I know, or am at least nearly sure, that they are physically rooted, but I’m no longer sure if that’s all there is to it. It will be interesting to see how I feel a month or so down the road once I’ve had a chance to de-school a bit. I’m also going to be using this time to really experiment with my diet to see if a food allergy issue might be part of it. Next week I will beginning a cleanse, where all I’m going to be eating are fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, and rice. Hopefully a week or so of that will give me some answers.

Still diving into Jung, as well as trying to delve into my dreams. I’m getting frustrated, though. Crazy gobbledygook is all my subconscious seems capable of churning out. (I’m not going to even attempt to write down what I’ve been dreaming lately—it’s all been so thin and scattershot that I couldn’t even find a starting point.) I’m beginning also to understand how little rest I’m getting when I sleep. My mind’s spinning fast at all times, spinning out the shallow dreams of shallow sleep. What am I so stressed out about? It can’t just be work. I’m feeling so alienated, from most everyone, yes, but also certain aspects of myself, which is far more worrying. I’m feeling as if I simply failing to connect with certain very basics aspects of life. My life is missing something, has been missing something for a very long time. But I’ve hit some sort of end point—I have a need to push past this point. I am not unhappy, just blank and floating. I know I’ve said all this before—just going over old ground from different angles. This may not be bad thing, though—I might find the right angle into something I’m looking for.

Finished Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Very interesting at times. Confusing and a little flakey at others. Like I said, though, perhaps a good starting point for further explorations. Currently reading The Portable Jung (edited by Joseph Campbell). And a big biography of Jung by Deidre Bair. Worked a tiny bit on a Sunshine Seas story I’m calling “Fatu Hiva.” It’s frustrating to have to just pick away at it. Writing needs sustained effort. If a writer can’t commit deeper connections aren’t made and it just becomes about words instead of stories.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Endless Work Ending and A Weird Dream

Sunday, May 6, 2012—Long Beach, CA

I can almost see the light. By tomorrow evening I’ll be down to just having to grade one more big stack of papers and then my finals next week—after that it will be freedom. It’s going to be so weird—and so cool!—to finally not have a million things to do, to not work all week and then all weekend as well. I have so many things I want to do; I’ve been feeling like my life’s been on hold for months and months. I want to finally get out Edgewater, get my new website up, turn all the BSP books into e-books, and hopefully do some readings. And I of course still want to get to Greece (if I ever hear about my schedule for IVC and know if I have a decent income in the fall). Hell, I almost forgot—I want to write! I really want to sink my teeth in Sunshine Seas, plus I have other ideas I’d like to explore. Being able to finally see daylight has got me really straining at the leash, to the point where these last two weeks are going hard to get thru without my going a little nuts.

Still reading Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. I’m not sure what I’m looking for in it. So far it’s interesting, but not earth shattering. It seems like a decent stating point, though—but for what? This turn in my reading coincides with my growing interest in my dreams (I know there are clues there as to what I’m looking for).

Last night I had an odd one. I should have written it down when I got up this morning (but I literally woke up way behind in my work), because a lot of the details have faded. I remember I was with my childhood friends Eric and Steve. I’m not sure how old we were in the dream, but I think we were more or less our age now (though, my age at least seemed to be changing slightly thru the dream’s course). I remember driving down strange dirt roads near some beach in the beginning of the dream, though I don’t think Steve and Eric were there at that point. I can’t remember much about that part of the dream. At some point after that, though, the three of us are wandering thru surf shops. I’m looking to buy a new board, but all the shops have stopped selling decent boards and mostly just sell clothes. Later we’re all at a hotel room Eric rented (he apparently doesn’t live where Steve and I live in the dream). I remember telling him how cool it was that he got a room so close to the beach. Then Steve put peroxide in my hair, as a joke, I think. I remember looking in a mirror and watching my hair lighten. I also remember it curling into a kind of eighties hairdo where it was short on the back and sides and long in the front and on top. Then the hotel room Eric had rented morphed into a house, maybe my house. I remember looking in the backyard and seeing my Ford Ranger truck, which I got rid of in 2009. Then a bit later I looked back there again and saw that someone had stolen all four of its wheels; it was sitting on wood blocks. (I used to have lots of dreams about the truck getting stolen and or stripped the last few years I owned it). A bit later I looked out the window again and the truck had been stripped until there was nothing left but its frame. I vaguely remember going outside (into the backyard?) and confronting someone about it. I don’t remember what came of that.

Later the house morphed into my grandparents old house on Pine Street in Los Alamitos. In the dream, though, the house was empty, no furniture or anything; somehow I had come into possession of the house after they’d died. I remember at some point going out to the front porch and seeing that kids from the neighborhood—between the ages of maybe eight or nine to about fourteen—were stealing plaques, knickknacks, and various other similar type things of my grandparents that for some reason were on the porch, hanging from the outside of the house, or in the drive. I remember confronting them, trying to get them to stop. I think they may have argued a bit, maybe made fun of me. Later one of the kids, a girl of fourteen, was clinging to my back as I rode a bike near some sort of canal or ditch. I remember thinking we shouldn’t be doing that, that she was too young to be going away with me. Other stuff happened but it’s all just shadows and fragments I can’t make much of. I do remember finding a wet suit somewhere near the end of the dream. I picked it up and it was incredibly heavy, like it was partially made out of lead. I remember thinking how dangerous and tiring it would be to surf in it. When I got up this morning I thought how strange it was that I had the wet suit part of the dream long after the part where Eric, Steve, and I were in the surf shops. I don’t remember where Eric and Steve went after the house had morphed into my grandparent’s house. I think Steve might have been around for part of that.

I have little idea what to make of this dream. I think I’ll just live with it for a while and see how I feel about it later. Maybe a future dream will build on it and give me some more insight (parts of my dreams often reappear in other dreams, sometimes quite often, over many years).

Again, other than my weird dream it’s mostly been work. I’m fighting a sinus infection too, which is slowing me down and making my teeth and jaw hurt and sometimes my head too. Went to the Angels game last night. They beat Toronto 6-2, I think. I took my nephew and Vic for my nephew’s birthday. It was fun. I needed to break; I haven’t done anything of note on a weekend in months. Listening to an album called Music of the Crusades at the moment. I picked it up a month or so ago. I’m not sure I like it. I was looking for instrumental stuff from that era and it’s turned out to have a lot of vocal pieces.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dreaming Jung

Thursday, May 3, 2012—Orange, CA

Sitting here in the library on campus. I should be working, finishing off the last bit of a lecture I have to give early next week. I can’t do it, though. I’m going on about four hours sleep and I just can’t force myself to focus on something right now I don’t really want to do. This means my already busy upcoming weekend will be even busier. That’s OK, though: I’d rather work harder when my mind is functioning properly than try to push something out when I’m so off my game.

Lately things have been a blur of work; there really isn’t much else going on in my life—physically. However, I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking in the moments when my brain isn’t pounding out some school-related crap. My mind has been going in all sorts of directions, but in the end I keep coming back to certain aspects about myself that seem ... offtrack. I’ve been really interested in my dreams lately, mainly because they appear to be revealing a certainly shallowness in my existence. I seem to have hit a place in my life where I keep doubling back on myself, keep ending up in places I’ve already explored and more or less understand. I’m sensing that I’m blocked, that there are parts of me where my answers lie that for some reason I have not been able to reach. As I’ve mentioned, for a long time now—since late 2009—I haven’t been able to write any poetry. I’ve been doing my best to ignore this issue; I’ve been explaining it to myself as some sort of natural fallow period. That of course answers nothing: why I have gone fallow is the question. I mentioned a while back that I’m finding that old saying that one has to be in love to write poetry to be true. Right now I simply cannot love. What I mean by this, I’m now beginning to see, is that I’m disconnected from certain basic parts of myself, which keep me disconnected from important aspects of the world outside myself. Not writing poetry is great flashing red light, an obvious symbol of my fundamental disconnection. Now back to the dreams …

It a cliché, but dreams are really the window into one’s deeper self—and lately my dreams feel very constricted. Basically, I generally can’t move past certain swirling recombinations of the least important aspects of my life; I’m mostly spinning around on the very top of my subconscious. Again, this is just a different manifestation of my general disconnection from certain important, and I would argue, very basics aspects of myself. What it often feels like is that my conscious is in a sense invading my subconscious and directing my dreams away from manifestations that might actually reveal something about where I’m at at the moment; it’s like I’m subverting myself, hiding from certain things. My dreams seem like there might be something going in them worth looking at, but when I do look at them they dissolve into lots almost meaningless movement and color. What I’m hiding from is something that must scare me (otherwise why else would I go to so much trouble to keep it hidden?). What is it that’s so freaking me out?

I want to break thru all this (finally!—like I said, in one sense or another this has been going on for a long time). I’m not sure how, though. I’ve started reading some Carl Jung, which is a very unusual place for me to be. I’ve always been deeply distrustful of psychiatrists/psychologists: I’ve had a hard time trusting their science. So much of it seems impossible to test empirically. This means that I keep getting the whiff of religion off of it, which to me is a place where one goes to hide from reality not to seek it. But I don’t know where else to go. I’m hoping that by just providing a framework for me to kick against, if nothing else, Jung might help me tap into what I’m hiding from; maybe it will expose the tricks I’m using to hide from myself and therefore make them untenable. I want to slip deep into my subconscious and see what’s there. I want to move deeply thru the world and see what’s there. These are essentially different aspects of the same thing, mutually arising phenomena. To do this I sense I have to make a leap beyond empiricism (while steering clear of religion at all costs). Jung’s a good enough starting point for this, I’d say. Even if I dismiss him I’ll have to be closer to understanding what I truly do need from myself. I guess it’s not surprising that I’d eventually come to Jung. This interest in folktales I’ve developed in recent years must go beyond ecology—there must be some longing to tap into a deeper cultural consciousness (Jung’s collective unconscious?—Oh man, that’s a dark misty road …).I mean, like everyone else I come out of a cultural matrix and going thru that matrix is essential, unavoidable if I want to get to these places in me where I sense the meaning I’m looking for must reside.