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[MAY 2014.]

Back in Tucson, two opposed philosophers at the desert animal park: one the ocelot in a rock den at the very back of its enclosure, making the pendulum rounds of an animal with nowhere to go, up and down; the other the blue heron that survived an eagle attack as a fledgling and could not be released, but was a naturally solitary creature, had no knowledge of life outside captivity, and was contentedly preening its shattered wing under the aviary netting.

Having this life, one is supposed to be able to choose the heron’s mind. A “precious human life,” say the Tibetans: not, for instance, the 4 non-human states with no chance for Dharma study: 1) life forms experiencing continual pain and fear, 2) life forms experiencing continual frustration and clinging, 3) animals, 4) celestial beings.

That’s more than fine; one just needs an enclosure large enough to stand up and turn around in. To that end, J. and R. are flying back to the Bay tomorrow, but I am taking a rental car, and while this car will ferry home my dad’s 1975 Guild dreadnought and a large plush elephant puppet, it will also take me into the Sierras for three nights to get some thinking done.

It’s very nice of them. I’m already opening up a bit. Remembering what it was like to shut my eyes and not tip straight over the waterfall, but to make out a sheet of black felt onto which conceits are waiting to be pinned. Apply yourself.

It’s blooming season in the desert and many of the symbolic agaves have thrown up their intricate, colossal, life-ending stalks: a last bash for beauty, boys, make it grand, and let the husk turn to paper. I dreamed that I had turned sixty. The cheerful moral was that I hadn’t yet wasted all my time.

Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

But it was summer now. She had been waked by the birds. How they sang! attacking the dawn like so many choir boys attacking an iced cake. Forced to listen, she had stretched for her favourite reading—an Outline of History—and had spent the hours between three and five thinking of rhododendron forests in Piccadilly; when the entire continent, not then, she understood, divided by a channel, was all one; populated, she understood, by elephant-bodied, seal-necked, heaving, surging, and, she supposed, barking monsters; the iguanodon, the mammoth, and the mastodon; from whom presumably, she thought, jerking the window open, we descend.

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