The influence of gaslight or electric light on the growth of paraheliotropic trees

bonebrushing the edges of the res interna (upper transcend)

The Infinite Sadness

Alone last night, in the den of my home, a converted bank barn from the 18th or 19th century, depending on which story you believe, I returned again to that Old Subject, the Death of the Soul, and thought of how its sting seemed not as deep, a surprise, to say the least, nearly three years after the death of my father and two years after the birth of my first and only child.

So I did the old trick, and thought, not about how I feel right now, but about how I will feel, when its happening, when I’m going, which is a euphemism, try again, when I’m ending, and I identified the emotion I will feel–sadness, a deep sadness at this, at not being with the ones I love anymore, and in it, in that feeling, I felt that this was an infinite sadness, a sadness that could not stop growing, a sadness that grew more sad the more one looked at it, a sadness so deep and profound that it becomes almost necessary to look away, but if you steel yourself, if you don’t—well then it grow and grows and grows and pushes everything else out of your mind and it is so deep and so real and so painful–

It seems like it would be enough to drive you mad, but it did not drive me mad, it just filled with me such deep and mourning grief–it felt like a dark ocean, cold, with me in it, floating on it, not drowning yet, but no land in sight, alone with my entire life, everyone and everything I love, and feeling pain and loss at losing every little thing, but most of all, the people–

I can understand why I would avoid that–

I think I avoided that even while I grappled with it, all those years ago–as if I was alone on some desert island, looking out at the dark ocean, but not in it–

Something on Social Media, posted by some water sign, a snippet of which I remember enough to ask the Digital Shaman–

It goes like this:

remember that you are water. cry. cleanse. flow.

The other elements have theirs as well:

Remember that you are Fire. Burn. Tame. Adapt. Ignite.
Remember that you are Air. Observe. Breath. Focus. Decide.
Remember that you are Earth. Ground. Give. Build, Heal.
Remember that you are Spirit. Connect. Listen. Know. Be still.

Other quotes about water, less trite:

Allons! we must not stop here, However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here, However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here, However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while. – Leaves of Grass, Book VII, 9

‘All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.’- Toni Morrison.

‘Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’- A.A. Milne.

‘The deep waters of time will flow over us: only a few men of genius will lift a head above the surface, and though doomed eventually to pass into the same silence, will fight against oblivion and for a long time hold their own.’- Seneca the Younger.

‘The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book- a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice.’- Mark Twain.

‘When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.’- Leonardo da Vinci.

‘They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.’- Hermann Hesse.

‘Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.’- Wallace Stevens.

‘I find myself at the extremity of a long beach. How gladly does the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep! A greeting and a homage to the Sea! I descend over its margin, and dip my hand into the wave that meets me, and bathe my brow. That far-resounding roar is the Ocean’s voice of welcome. His salt breath brings a blessing along with it.’- Nathaniel Hawthorne.



The story is an old one. Motherless daughter. From riches to rags. The precarity of position, especially on women. Did Cinderella have a daughter? Did her father die too? Was she orphaned?

Covered in cinders, because she was poor, forced to scrub the fires pits, and to sit close on, because of the cold and meanness of her basement quarters.

Hopeless, hopeless, and lonely. A mother, dead, a dead mother, whom she can barely remember. Protected. Meant to be protected. But not. Adrift. Without parents, she is overlooked by parents of others, seeking to advance the position of other children.

Who was the step-mother? With two daughters. Adrift. Alone. Set out in the world. Clinging for hope. Clinging, clinging, clinging for hope. An orphan too? How much similarity was there between Ella and Stepmother? And yet–strained–divided, across the difference in position.

And the cinders, the ashes, the ragged dress Ella wore–was that not the Stepmother’s Charity, the softness in the Stepmother’s heart–that kept Ella close, that did not turn her out, to starvation, or ruination–

The trauma–the trauma of loneliness–of true and terrible loneliness–the mind bends–the mind breaks–everything she didn’t have–splits, forms, resolving into a Spectre from the Unseen–A Fae–Oh, Fae, Oh, Goodmother–hear this wish I wish tonight–

Dreams. Dreams and transformations. The masquerade. The seduction. The Prince. A Truth Universally Acknowledged. In Possession of. In want of. Coming down the stairs. Brushing back her yellow hair.

El. Ella. Ella.

I think of my son, Prince Phillip. I think of being there for him, my wife and I. I think of what might happen if we were to be gone–

I think of the man he will one day be, of the women he will one day meet–will he be ash-covered? Will he fall in love with the ash-covered? Will he love the orphan? See past the rough–

What will the world be, for him?

Same, same, same, same as it ever was, same as it ever will, ever, ever, ever, on and ever, ever, ever after.


I am a child. Our family has driven out to the Brandywine River, to see the museum and the battlefield. It is a warm spring or summer day. Blue skies. We are at the park, having a picnic, my father and mother and my sister, maybe (probably) my baby brother, and my sister and I gambol down a hill, out of eyesight of Watchful Ma. We are playing under the trees. Ten minutes, maybe, pass.

My mother’s voice, screaming for us. Fear. The scream is not a holler or a yell–no, it is a scream–a siren–high-pitched but full in its strength–there is no weakness in the scream, though reflection suggests the scream of course comes from a type of weakness–no, the scream is panic, but determination, will–iron, strong, will–thwarted, frustrated, but not for long–no not for long–

“I thought I lost you,” she says, unreasonably, or something like that. Something like that. My father behind. Our eyes are on Mom. “Don’t wander off,” she says, or “Don’t you wander off,” or “I can’t believe you did that to me–“, or something like that.

“We were right here,” I say, or “We didn’t,” I say, or something like that.

The end of the scream–the relief in her of finding us–of finding us alive, not murdered, in a box, or something like that, some horrible news-story she saw on television or read in a magazine–it is primal, a primal release of energy, all the power and fear and terror and planning exploding, burning, raging, I imagine it subsiding, quickly, back to quiet, back to a stillness–as quickly as the storm came, out it went–

Thirty years later, at my desk, in my house, almost 40, a father, my own father dead now for almost two years, two strange years in which our entire world has been locked up and locked away because of the failure to stop a novel coronavirus from preying on the entire species–I cannot see this memory, not really–I cannot see my sister–I can see the shape of my mother maybe, I can see the blanket we spread out on the grass, under the trees, for the picnic–I can see the hill my sister and I went down, the trees scattered on it, the shadow and light–

It was beautiful, I should say. A beautiful landscape, a beautiful place, a beautiful day. My mother’s scream was not a part of that beauty, and, certainly, for a moment, shoved it aside, but just as it went, the beauty returned, the breeze in the warmth, the sun, the grass, the trees–I remember that–

I remember even then concluding that my mother had overreacted–that perhaps the fear of losing a child was understandable, to a child, even if, of course, I knew where we were, that my mother had bene quick to panic, quick to let the fear not only take hold, but drive out anything else–

I was too young to finish the thought, or even hold the thought–the scream was a sharp and rough primer in empathy for my poor young mother, but I could not hold both the child’s criticism and the son’s understanding together in my head, and could not arrive at the gap, that which was missing—trust. Hope.

Though the power in the scream was a promise of the animal to do anything to find the cub–it was not surrender–quite the opposite–but it was not hope or trust, but anger and battle and fight–

I did know it was love, that the scream, the scream was love. A raging terrified hopeless love. My mother’s love.


Katabasis. The voyage to the Underworld. Inanna went, and Odysseus, and Aeneas too. Gilgamesh went the other way, to Dilmun and Utnapishtim, seeking Eden and eternal life. Demeter raged and wracked the world, seeking for her daughter. Orpheus went, trusting song to soften stone, to bend fate the way he bent his strings—Hercules went, of course, another labor, bringing back a three-headed dog—Jonah went, and Jesus too, in the belly of the beast the first, the second, to harrow hell and free the saints. Osiris went, murdered by his brother, avenged by young Horus, weakness, thy name is—not, Horus, not Isis—Hamlet’s Katabasis was shorter, a jaunt to England and then a hop into an open grave, to rummage Yorick and stare at skulls—aye, preamble to the Second Falling, Third, when they strutted stage and exeunt. Avalokitishvara went, and Odin, hanging on a tree—

I went. Like the Trojan Refugee, I went, and walked, carrying my father on his back, we walked together, me, walking, he on his back, me, holding him up, laying him down, laying him down, in his bed, in the gathering darkness, stuck in that house, never leaving, never leaving, days longer, 48 days, marking time. Marking time. Climbing the mountain. Descending the mountain. I said I will walk with you part of the way, my father, I will help you carry this thing, weighing you down, I will walk with you part of the way.

He and my mother and two lovers were the only ones who read my scroll, my journal, my diary. He called it luminous. Before memory, I am told, I searched for stairs, we had none in our house, I would crawl and go to stairs, and he would run behind me, to catch me if I slipped, he was behind me, I would not have seen him while I climbed.

The One, The Intellect, and the Soul

The One, the Unmoved Moved, the Ultimate Cause, the Perfect Simplicity. The Intellect, the Intellection of Intelligibility, by which the forms and structures are known beyond and in the One. And finally, the Soul, the Soul being the Hole in which the One and the Intellect repeatedly finds themselves, instantiations, known by the way the Soul desires the Other.

So says Plotinus.

I got a name for the newborn child

When we brought our son home, he was nameless.

Untimely ripped from my sweet wife’s womb, my wife feeling the pain of them stuffing her back together, screaming to take him away so he would not hear her cries, me calling for relief, the doctors shooting her with a dirty cocktail of narcotics and benzos and disassociates, the three days in the cell of the hospital were dark for her, and we–not having a name when we went in, two weeks early–did not have a name coming out.

Little and precious he rested on my chest, ventral to ventral, joy and love and happiness flooding my brain like no drug I have ever taken–little and precious, having to call him something, I called him Squirrel, and it was enough, enough for a day, enough for another, enough for one more after that–nameless, but loved. My boy. My son. My love.

He was born on a Friday, at 10 or so AM (all Caesareans are born in those golden hours between a doctor’s arrival and a doctor’s lunch), and we came home on a Monday, me trembling, sitting in the back, next to our boy, Margaux driving, still on a mild opiate–a coward I was, failing her, but maybe I’ve held her up in other ways, maybe–

Anyway, Lady Digression, we came home on a Monday, and we planned to circumcise him on Friday, and the Ritual Cutter, he asked us for a name, and then he asked us again, and Wednesday came around, and I said to my sweetheart, I said to my love–

“Margaux, we have to name him.”

And my mother watched him, while we sat upstairs and tried to name our newborn child. And we compared our lists–names like Wyatt and Ezekiel and Jed–but nothing was working, so I said, well, how about meaning? Perhaps we can find a name in some meaning?

And I had been reading the weekly Torah portion since my father died, and the weekly portion for the Sabbath that the boy was born into was Jethro, named for Moses father-in-law, who, after the Exodus, came with Moses’ wife and children and found Moses in the desert with all the Children of Israel. And when Jethro arrives in the camp, Moses leaves his tent, and bows and does homage to his father-in-law, and Moses’ brother, Aaron, bows and does the same, and the entire nation, they come, and they do the same–not knowing who Jethro was, but knowing that if the Redeemer would honor such a man, well, such was a man who must be honored–

And I picture Jethro, seeing the stranger shepherd who had come from foreign lands and married his daughter, gave him grandsons, now at the head of a nation–

And then Moses tells Jethro of all that had happened, of the Plagues, and the Exodus, and the Sea that Split, and Jethro said, Yours, Yours is a Great God, the Greatest God, and Jethro went with them on, onwards to the Mountain.

So I tell my love this story, and she says, Ok, let’s name him Jethro, and I say, No, not Jethro–

And my father died the day before Pentecost, the day that commemorates the Revelation on the Mountain, and Squirrel, Squirrel was conceived on Pentecost, in the house of my father’s spirit, and would not have been conceived except that my days of mourning and withdrawal from my love were shortened because of the joy of the Festival, the commandment to take joy in the Festival, even in our sadness and our grief–

And after my father died, I prayed most days, most mornings, I could not go to the House of Assembly and say the Kaddish with the Ten, but I could pray, and I could say psalms, and there is one psalm, Psalm 30, and it says, You turned my Mourning into Dancing, You Removed my Sackcloth and Clothed Me with Joy–and I would say that Psalm near everyday, and think of how, even while my father slept his dreamless endless sleep in the bosom of the Earth, my son was growing, sleeping his dreamless sleep in the ocean of my true love’s womb–and I thought–Oh, World, Oh, Universe, Oh, Time, You have Turned my Mourning into Dancing, You Have Removed my Sackcloth and Clothed me with Joy–

But back to the story, me, and her, me, telling her again, the story of the Mountain, of how the Sages say that every Jewish soul was present at Sinai, every Jewish soul that ever was and ever will be, those born to the faith and those who come to it, like my father, and if this was true, it would mean that I was there, and she was there, and our son was there, and my father was there, and her mother was there, all of us, all of us together at the Mountain, there, to experience the Revelation–the Undeniable Revelation–

But what were the names of these souls who stood there, at the foot of the mountain–I wanted to name him for them, not Moses, standing apart, at the top, not Joshua, halfway up, not Aaron, watching the people nervously below–not them, but the people, those who witnessed–

And I thought back to a lesson my friend George passed to me that he had learned from a professor at Penn, Will Harris, that the New Testament was simply the Old Testament told again, but whereas the Old Testament was the story of a nation, the New Testament reflected that same story through the story of an individual–and if the Passion and Easter was the Exodus, then the Pentecost, well that was the Pentecost, the Risen Son appearing to the Apostles forty-nine days later–

Who among them, who among them was a witness to revelation–

Thomas the Doubter.

And the lightbox in my pocket told me that Thomas meant twin, and some said that he was Jesus’ Twin, and I smiled to think it, twelve apostles, two who looked the same, who are they, that’s Jesus, and his Twin Brother, and Thomas, when the reports first came that Jesus had risen and was not dead, he denied it, he said, I will not believe, not till I put my hands in his wounds–and if Thomas was his brother, well, then I can understand that–Don’t tell me, Thomas says, Don’t Tell, Me who Loved him more than Anyone, Don’t Tell He’s Not Dead, and then, then, Jesus came, and said, Oh Thomas, Oh Thomas, Touch My Wounds–and Thomas said, No, That’s Ok, I believe.

And Jesus said “Blessed is Thomas, who sees and believes, and blessed are those who have not seen and still believes.”

And my wife and I, we were doubters, skeptics both, skeptics of everything, skeptical of God, skeptical of love, skeptical that this world, this hard hard world, has any comfort in it–but our boy, our boy before us, our love that made him, our love for each other, our love for our dead parents–such love–we cannot doubt it. We cannot doubt it anymore.

I see my father in my dreams. I often remember to hug him. When I wake, I see my son, and hold him as often as I can.

Thomas the Doubter. Who Believes What Cannot Be Denied.

In my dream, I can hold you

In my dream last night, I was in an attic–mine?–with my father, and we were going through things, picking up things, and looking at them, and talking, I think, and then, I looked at him, and went to him, and hugged him, hugged him so tight, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m trying to carry this–”

And then I woke, and remembered he was dead, dead now for fourteen months–and sad again, and grateful, to have seen him, to have held him, one more time–and I think, how lucky I am, that in these dreams, these dreams I have of him, I always remember to go to him, to hold him–

And I’ve been thinking lately about how after he died, my mother moved, my brother moved, I moved–all of us are in different places, but, like him, we are all not where we were–

I think about him, and how, if he were a ghost, would he be able to find us?

I know where he is, where his body lies, in a field, thirty miles to the north and east of where I sit, typing these words.

I love you, old man. I love you.

The Travails of Time

by Judah Abrabanel

Time with his pointed shafts has hit my heart
and split my guts, laid open my entrails,
landed me a blow that will not heal
knocked me down, left me in lasting pain…
He did not stop at whirling me around,
exiling me while yet my days were green
sending me stumbling, drunk, to roam the world…
He scattered everyone I care for northward,
eastward, or to the west, so that
I have no rest from constant thinking, planning—
and never a moment’s peace, for all my plans.

The 44rd Day of the Omer

My father had a grand mal seizure on the 1st day of the Omer last year, and he died on the 48th Day. This year, I have been counting, and I have been growing my beard. At first, I looked like him–he who was nearly always bearded, for as long as I knew him–now, the beard is longer. I look like nobody. A fierce barbarian; a homeless depressive–hiding in plain sight. Hiding in plane site.

I remember being a small child–visually and viscerally–being in the gym of my elementary school, waiting for the bus, when a beardless man in the suit came in and said he was here to pick me up–it was my Dad, but he had shaved his beard, and I didn’t recognize him–he, like, had to really convince me.

And as I type this story, and smile, and smile at it, I realize that I am now the only witness to it. Oh, how desperately I want to share it with him–to ask him, “remember that time,” and laugh at it–

My little son, Tom, three months old, thinks I’m funny. And I stood in the hallway yesterday, looking in the mirror, looking at my bearded face, thinking that I might only live another twenty years (since my father only outlived his father by twenty years, and he was not so much older than me when his father died) and that this would mean I would be leaving Tom when he is only 20–

Oh, I hope not. I’m sorry, Tom. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more of my time. I’m so sorry.

As part of getting the house ready, I have organized my library according to the Library of Congress Classification System, which unfortunately tends to privilege geography over subject–and in so doing, have identified gaps–books I have lost, and books I never had–though some measure of the gaps makes me think there is a missing box of books somewhere in the house, and in it, a copy of Dune and Gravity’s Rainbow.

Regardless. A new box of books, from the World’s Bookstore, is arriving today, to replace and supplement and complete. Piers Plowman, and Dune, and Gravity’s Rainbow, and many others. And one book for Tom, an early 20th century Mother Goose, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Online, in the preview, the third rhyme calls Jane a dirty slut for selling her bed and sleeping on a dirt floor. Oh well. We cannot judge the past by the standards of the present (?)

Tom stirs. He is beautiful. I love him.

This is what the website I am reading says about the Seventh Week of the Omer, which is the Week of Malchut, Sovereignty:

Sovereignty – the last of the seven attributes – is different than the previous six. It is a state of being rather than an activity.

Leadership is a passive expression of human dignity which has nothing of its own except that which it receives from the other six emotions.

On the other hand, malchut manifests and actualizes the character and majesty of the human spirit. It is the very fiber of what makes us human. When love, discipline, compassion, endurance and humility are properly channeled into the psyche through bonding – the result is malchut. Bonding nurtures us and allows our sovereignty to surface and flourish.

Malchut is a sense of belonging. Knowing that you matter and that you make a difference. That you have the ability to be a proficient leader in your own right. It gives you independence and confidence. A feeling of certainty and authority. When a mother lovingly cradles her child in her hands and the child’s eyes meet the mother’s affectionate eyes, the child receives the message that I am wanted and needed in this world. I have a comfortable place where I will always be loved. I have nothing to fear. I feel like a king in my heart. This is malchut, kingship.

My father dreamed of climbing a mountain. He was born in Tokyo, in the land of the Rising Sun, and he died in Philadelphia, in the fullness of May, with the sunset. He died on the day of Bonding in Sovereignty. The way that Bonding contributes to Belonging. He wandered all his young life, a nomad with his family, servants of the nation, and then rested for a time in his teenage years on the cusp of manhood in the City of St. Peter on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, until lonesome and restless, he traveled north, to a cold and mean industrial city which bitterly and ironically proclaimed itself the City of Brotherly Love, even as it besieged and dropped bombs on its brothers, even as it was a cold and hard place to emigrate too, even as it took part in the same Rust Belt decline and retrenchment that was the dark-side of the Reagan Revolution–

And he spent his life here, with a young girl who became a young woman, and they became the parents of three, raised in a little twin house with a little yard and just enough space to grow corn, unusual, unreal, and he became friends with his brother-in-law, who lived around the block, in a similar small house, and he went to work, riding the bus to the El, and taking the El into the center of the city, the bright lights, and sitting in offices, and coming home, to regal his oldest son with tales of business and office politics and bad bosses and daily frustrations–and he became an author, and his full bookshelves had a few books with his name along their spine–a good name–and his children grew up, and great success never came, and he struggled, and they struggled, and they succeeded, and while his sons were somewhat trackless, his daughter was strong and amazing, and after nine long years in love with the same man, who bore a spiritual resemblance to him, she married, his daughter, this man, in a carousel house by the sea in Connecticut, and he was there, and when his first granddaughter was born, a few years later, he was there, and when his second was born, a few years after that, he was there, and being a grandfather was the joy of his life, the great great joy of his life, and he had everything he had ever wanted, and then, one day, while out picking pumpkins in anticipation of the Hallows, he went blank, and his daughter, his wonderful, observant, brilliant daughter, saw, and got him to the hospital, where they found the little pumpkin in his head, the bullet-flower that was going to kill him–and I got the news the way a trackless son gets such news, after three missed calls from my mother, his wife–and I saw him that evening, in a hospital bed, scared but strong, but most of all, worried, so worried, for me, and he asked me how I was doing–

Oh Dad. Oh Father. I cried warnings to you, I cried pain to you, of the Great Fear of the Future Day, the Day in which I would sit next to you in a room and watch you die. And when the day came–after 47 days of struggle, and confusion, and tumult, as we watched your body fail, as we watched you age, and get weaker, lose your legs, and lose your continence, and then consciousness, but as you stayed strong with us to the end–oh, I thought we had more time–I thought we had more time–and you, having to make decisions, while failing–to go into hospice and discontinue treatment–

I didn’t know how little time you had. Until closer to the end. And then I wondered if you would go with the Omer–

Through it all, I chose not to fight it, I chose not to deny it, I chose to accept this bad and terrible reality, and deal with it, put my shoulder to the grindstone and push, do what needed to be done, as best I could–

But in so accepting, I was denying something else–denying my shock, denying my rage, denying the injustice, denying everything I had ever written in this long scroll, this long screed, the what, the what, the Rage Against the Dying of the Light–

We were told by the hospice nurse you were actively dying. I did not care, other than to know how we could help you be comfortable–we were told prior to that we were nearing the end; I did not care, I knew it, and I wanted to know what we needed to do. I watched you die, and I did not care, other than to be with you, and hold your hand, and let Sarah speak, and say kind words to help ease your passing away—your dying.

I guess the hardest moment for me was not the final vigil, but the day before, when following the advice of hospice, we increased your Ativan, knowing that would mean that you would never really wake up again, and we each had a moment, alone, in the Sun Room, with you, and I don’t remember it perfectly clearly, but I remember weeping, and looking at you, and I’m weeping now, as I type this, trying to remember, remembering the room, remembering the light of the setting sun, remembering your face, puffed somewhat with steroids, but still strong, your beard, your strong beard, finally, finally white.

Yesterday, Tom, two months old, discovered physical agency (at a distance, no less), kicking at the floor and wall of his bassinet and then delighting in how it made the mobile objects shake.