October 8, 2000
Cold with the first light I read my watch wrong and thought I had only one half hour to get to the meeting. After dressing in a hurry I discovered the rest of the world was one hour behind me. I heard my neighbor returning from breakfast and asked how long the dining hall was open. By scuttling down the rocky, steep creek bed, instead of the longer way around on the roadway, I was able to slide in with the last of the guests.
I felt I really needed a breakfast because I was hung over – as if I had been drinking last night. The music, the music, and the rapport between the men was so beautiful I was still a bit drunk on all that beauty.
It now seems we have formed a little group of regulars, with our very own table – the one in the farthest back corner. Another guy has joined us and when he asked where I lived, I said, "In the middle of nowhere in Mendocino County." "Oh," he said, "the only place I know in Mendocino County is Point Arena." "Oh, how did you come to know that small place?" "I went there to visit my mentor, Richard Moore." (Richard Moore, the documentary film maker, lives in the next house just up the hill from us.)
We talked until the last moment before the morning session began very late. But we still got there before Martin did. Gioia forced the meeting to begin on her time with her decision to leave Martin out until he arrived. Bly looked as bad as I felt, but he obeyed her and began with his lecture which I have already forgotten because after yesterday I was not ready to have my mind jerked around over nothing. Also I was still coming down from the music and it was more pleasurable to stay with those memories.
When Martin finally showed up he said he had been delayed by a bad accident on the highway. People there were dead and dying when he arrived and still he was very distracted. He hung in his chair as if dead himself. Even Bly's ridiculous nonsense statements could not rouse him. Gioia took over reading stories and telling stories which I simply spaced out on.
We stopped early for lunch with the idea of letting Martin make his address in the rest time after lunch with the hope that he would be feeling better by then. Again he brought forth material from his book, but it is so wondrous hearing him tell the stories we could listen to any of them over and over. People were so blown away by him. He is the star and yet everyone bows down to Bly as the famous man.
Now I find out that the afternoon groups were to rotate from presenter to presenter. Today our group was to pass to Gioia. I was glad she had picked to hold her meeting in the conference room, which was warm and cozy and close instead of having to trudge up on the mesa into one of the flimsy-built classrooms there. I was disturbed that she began her lecture with an ugly, jealous rage against all storytellers who have come after her "just to make money". Someone asked her if she took part in other storytellers' conferences and it came out that she had not been invited. Ouch. Then she launched into a whine about how she wanted us to read her books to let her know how we liked her work! This was a book-selling approach I had never heard before; especially when I knew there was nothing we could say about her books that she had either not heard before or was willing to listen to. Then she began to confide in us how it was she who got Bly interested in the story of Iron John. I wondered where Anne Sexton's Transformations got left out of the story. She even admitted that she had a huge ego but she told us she could be kind and supporting. I accidentally ended up next to her as she led the group in a touchy-feely exercise in attempt to warm us up toward her. As I held her hand I felt her pulse was very erratic. She was touched when I whispered to her that I thought she should cut the lecture short to get some rest. She gave us an assignment to write on three suggested themes:
1. The story of our birth (which really bothered me because I only have memories of what others perceived).
2. A memory of when we were eight years old.
3. The love of a teacher.
I sat while others wrote. I had some thoughts but nothing jelled; nothing worked. I refused to even validate the rough notes I had made as I did not consider them to be my writing. We were blown away by one woman's poem about her birth, until I realized that she had surely attended Gioia's workshop before and had worked (perhaps a year?) on her reply.
Tonight Gioia is to lead us in ceremony to begin Yom Kipper. I am not really interested in attending but my unheated room in this cold, cold rain will force me into another religion. Now that I have even more extra time this afternoon after catching up my journal, I have been thinking that I would like to call Werner. The rain seems to be lessening. Maybe I can use one of the phones outside the several buildings here on the mesa.
I went off for a walk in the rain (wearing the bright red plastic rain cape Marilyn had insisted I borrow from her). It felt very wrong to be wearing red, but rain would have been wetter so I gave up with my religion. I also gave up finding a phone. In every phone booth the apparatus had been unplugged and removed. As I went from building to building, hoping to find a phone that the vandals had missed I found a party going on under the protection of the porch roof. I recognized Judith Hill, who had been so glad to see Marilyn on Friday, and on the strength of this slender acquaintance, dared to stand at the edge of the group who had three bottles of wine in six people. Just before the sun set, it shone under the rain clouds and made a perfect, but faint, rainbow before the cliffs' majesty. It was the beginning of Yom Kipper. We decided to change clothes and meet together for dinner to continue the party.
Before the evening program, three Jewish people tried to reproduce a temple experience for us. The piano part was much too long and none of the three could agree on how to pronounce the Hebrew words. I don't think any converts were made.
Afterwards, when Gioia came in the room, she came over to me to talk about her necklace. In the afternoon I had told her that though her story that the hole in the jade disk was made for viewing the moon though was lovely, but that I thought the disk was a reproduction of the part of spindle used for hand-spinning. In several graves, archeologists have found such disks buried with women and these have become popular item for feminists to use as necklaces. I tried to explain to her how the disks were sometimes made of stone, that surely a woman would carry such a valuable item of her tools around her neck even into death. She had no concept of how to spin and could not figure out, with my multiple gestures how a disk could accomplish this. I did not have enough time to go into everything as this was her night to shine and she was eager to get in place. She did her very best by telling us stories as if we were sitting around a campfire rather than on metal chairs over a cement floor.
Peg (a woman from Vermont who just got a cast off her broken ankle) and I got a ride home from Judith's husband, John. I found out I had not locked my door so that it had blown open and it had rained in on my unmade bed. It took me hours to get the damp sheets warm. Finally I slept until 3:00 and then again until 5:00.
and the wet wind
of a snowy day
Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2000.
More from HOLY GHOST October 9.