Up, and to the office, where sat all the morning, and after noon to the office again till night, mighty busy getting Mr. Fist to come and help me, my own clerks all busy, and so in the evening to ease my eyes, and with my wife and Deb. and Betty Turner, by coach to Unthanke’s and back again, and then to supper and to bed.
Called up by a letter from W. Coventry telling me that the Commissioners of Accounts intend to summons me about Sir W. Warren’s Hamburg contract, and so I up and to W. Coventry’s (he and G. Carteret being the party concerned in it), and after conference with him about it to satisfaction I home again to the office. At noon home to dinner, and then all the afternoon busy to prepare an answer to this demand of the Commissioners of Accounts, and did discourse with Sir W. Warren about it, and so in the evening with my wife and Deb. by coach to take ayre to Mile-end, and so home and I to bed, vexed to be put to this frequent trouble in things we deserve best in.
Up, and Creed and Colonell Atkins come to me about sending coals to Tangier: and upon that most of the morning. Thence Creed and I to Alderman Backewell’s about Tangier business of money, and thence I by water (calling and drinking, but not baisado, at Michell’s) to Westminster, but it being holyday did no business, only to Martin’s, and there yo did hazer la cosa con her; and so home again by water, and busy till dinner, and then with wife, Mercer, Deb., and W. Hewer to the Duke of York’s playhouse, and there saw “The Impertinents,” a pretty good play; and so by water to Spring Garden, and there supped, and so home, not very merry, only when we come home, Mercer and I sat and sung in the garden a good while, and so to bed.
(Lord’s day). I up, at between two and three in the morning, and, calling up my boy, and father’s boy, we set out by three o’clock, it being high day; and so through the water with very good success, though very deep almost all the way, and got to Brampton, where most of them in bed, and so I weary up to my wife’s chamber, whom I find in bed, and pretended a little not well, and indeed she hath those upon her, but fell to talk and mightily pleased both of us, and upgot the rest, Betty Turner and Willet and Jane, all whom I was glad to see, and very merry, and got me ready in my new stuff clothes that I send down before me, and so my wife and they got ready too, while I to my father, poor man, and walked with him up and down the house — it raining a little, and the waters all over Portholme and the meadows, so as no pleasure abroad. Here I saw my brothers and sister Jackson, she growing fat, and, since being married, I think looks comelier than before: but a mighty pert woman she is, and I think proud, he keeping her mighty handsome, and they say mighty fond, and are going shortly to live at Ellington of themselves, and will keep malting, and grazing of cattle. At noon comes Mr. Phillips and dines with us, and a pretty odd-humoured man he seems to be; but good withal, but of mighty great methods in his eating and drinking, and will not kiss a woman since his wife’s death. After dinner my Lady Sandwich sending to see whether I was come, I presently took horse, and find her and her family at chapel; and thither I went in to them, and sat out the sermon, where I heard Jervas Fullwood, now their chaplain, preach a very good and seraphic kind of sermon, too good for an ordinary congregation. After sermon, I with my Lady, and my Lady Hinchingbroke, and Paulina, and Lord Hinchingbroke, to the dining-room, saluting none of them, and there sat and talked an hour or two, with great pleasure and satisfaction, to my Lady, about my Lord’s matters; but I think not with that satisfaction to her, or me, that otherwise would, she knowing that she did design tomorrow, and I remaining all the while in fear, of being asked to lend her some money, as I was afterward, when I had taken leave of her, by Mr. Shepley, 100l., which I will not deny my Lady, and am willing to be found when my Lord comes home to have done something of that kind for them, and so he riding to Brampton and supping there with me he did desire it of me from my Lady, and I promised it, though much against my will, for I fear it is as good as lost. After supper, where very merry, we to bed, myself very weary and to sleep all night.
Up, and all the morning at the office busy. At noon home with my people to dinner, where good discourse and merry. After dinner comes Mr. Martin, the purser, and brings me his wife’s starling, which was formerly the King’s bird, that do speak and whistle finely, which I am mighty proud of and shall take pleasure in it. Thence to the Duke of York’s house to a play, and saw Sir Martin Marr-all, where the house is full; and though I have seen it, I think, ten times, yet the pleasure I have is yet as great as ever, and is undoubtedly the best comedy ever was wrote. Thence to my tailor’s and a mercer’s for patterns to carry my wife of cloth and silk for a bed, which I think will please her and me, and so home, and fitted myself for my journey to-morrow, which I fear will not be pleasant, because of the wet weather, it raining very hard all this day; but the less it troubles me because the King and Duke of York and Court are at this day at Newmarket, at a great horse-race, and proposed great pleasure for two or three days, but are in the same wet. So from the office home to supper, and betimes to bed.
Up, and to the office, where all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and thither I sent for Mercer to dine with me, and after dinner she and I called Mrs. Turner, and I carried them to the Duke of York’s house, and there saw “The Man’s the Master,” which proves, upon my seeing it again, a very good play. Thence called Knepp from the King’s house, where going in for her, the play being done, I did see Beck Marshall come dressed, off of the stage, and looks mighty fine, and pretty, and noble: and also Nell, in her boy’s clothes, mighty pretty. But, Lord! their confidence! and how many men do hover about them as soon as they come off the stage, and how confident they are in their talk! Here I did kissthe pretty woman newly come, called Pegg, that was Sir Charles Sidly’s mistress, a mighty pretty woman, and seems, but is not, modest. Here took up Knepp into our coach, and all of us with her to her lodgings, and thither comes Bannister with a song of hers, that he hath set in Sir Charles Sidly’s play for her, which is, I think, but very meanly set; but this he did, before us, teach her, and it being but a slight, silly, short ayre, she learnt it presently. But I did get him to prick me down the notes of the Echo in “The Tempest,” which pleases me mightily. Here was also Haynes, the incomparable dancer of the King’s house, and a seeming civil man, and sings pretty well, and they gone, we abroad to Marrowbone, and there walked in the garden, the first time I ever was there; and a pretty place it is, and here we eat and drank and stayed till 9 at night, and so home by moonshine, I all the way having mi mano abaxo la jupe de Knepp com much placer and freedom; but endeavoring afterward to tocar her con mi cosa, ella did strive against that, but yet I do not think that she did find much fault with it, but I was a little moved at my offering it and not having it. And so set Mrs. Knepp at her lodging, and so the rest, and I home talking with a great deal of pleasure, and so home to bed.
seeing her off
over the kiss the light
of the bone moon
It’s not that you’re chasing a white moth through the forest; it’s just that she happens to be flying ahead of you, right? It’s just that things come to you when you’re walking. And you to them.
An ephemeral forest pool, fed by spring rains. Here at the top of the watershed the rain doesn’t quite know where to go, so it sits for a while. Ripples on the surface show how any point can be the center of an expanding universe. I love watching them intersect and cancel each other out.
Living here for 50 years in a bend of the railroad’s main line through Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but become an aficionado of train horns. As they age they grow in dissonance, till they’re making chords straight out of Schoenberg.
of a distant ball game
the unadorned darkness
of Amish farms
What I thought at first were stars reflected in the forest pool’s nearly still surface turn out, when I look up, to be satellites — a long line of them, easily visible through the half-grown leaves as they file soundlessly overhead. This has the name, I recall, of an almost bird: Starlink. Creepy and unnerving as hell. I guess we should be grateful they don’t spell out DRINK COKE or something, but the long-term plan is even worse: to outnumber the visible stars in the night sky. All so one multinational corporation, SpaceX, can have a monopoly on rural broadband service. I’m reminded of Robinson Jeffers’ misanthropic quote: “Man would shit on the morning star if he could reach it.”
I love the startled barks of raccoons. Even when my presence is the occasion for it.
A small outbreak of fireworks down the valley: a local clusterfuck.
Out in the woods at night, it’s hard to shake the impression that I’m surrounded by tribespeople — I mean the trees. They act as if they own the place. You can see it in their posture, their habit of rarely bowing, their standoffishness. However often we cut them down they keep coming back, as best they can, to this same backward place, clannish, profligate. Prone to annual revivals that quickly devolve into orgies, pollen flying everywhere. Full of exotic music from all the nomads they take in.
My brother Mark’s nocturnal audio recordings show that field sparrows, a supposedly diurnal species, are the most regular nighttime songsters. I wonder if being a light sleeper confers evolutionary advantage to a dweller in open spaces? Mark wrote,
A field sparrow or field sparrows called 42 times on the night of May 14-15, after dusk and dawn choruses were over, over the course of 7hr45min. So that works out to about once every 11 min. I believe it was more than one bird, given the differing volumes–assuming they weren’t flying around.
Other diurnal birds singing at night I’ve encountered so far are the [yellow-billed and black-billed] cuckoos, an apparent chipping sparrow, catbird, and a common yellowthroat.
I’m sitting in the ridgetop forest listening to a dog or coyote in the valley, yipping and howling to the accompaniment of the high school marching band.
The howls are getting closer, the band more distant.
It is almost fully dark, I’m a mile from home, and I’ve just had my second Covid shot.
OK, no, I must be listening to an outdoor rock or country concert. The howls aren’t canine but human, sounding multi vocal when the audience joins in. I can almost make out the melody line.
It’s like I’m in the world’s darkest, deadest bar with a dying jukebox just out of sight around the corner.
But doubtless this is something the town leaders have dreamed up to get people outside and lift their spirits. I’m glad.
And I’m glad that it’s now over, climaxing in a frenzy of colored spotlights. Silence and darkness descend like benedictions from the great velvet Elvis above the bar.
without my glasses
A genuinely blood-curdling cry from the other side of the spruce grove. It spooked a couple of deer, who just ran past me.
s t r e t c h i n g
into the woods
The crescent moon is the best moon: more stylish than the full moon, and available for moongazers and performers of dark rites twice a month rather than just once. Plus it doesn’t nearly eradicate the darkness as the full moon does.
In one dream I am hunted — or haunted? — by the Polaroid of a fish.
the sudden crack and roar
of a falling tree
the mouse keeps on
Fifteen minutes later, another tree crashes down, twice as close. I take the hint and get out.
first field cricket
through the open window
half a moon
Fifteen minutes past sunset, coyotes strike up a chorus not far from where I sit, on the appropriately named Coyote Bench. They start out sounding plausibly dog-like, but the yipping and wolf-like howling quickly give them away. Like all music that resonates down deep, this is part moan, part jubilation. Closing in on prey, and close to prayer:
First firefly blinking through the half-grown black walnut leaves, all alone going here… here… here…
Rainbow colors in the clouds around the moon — a reminder that even on a sultry evening, ice is less than ten miles away.
To go for a walk in the woods during the day is to participate in a fantasy of knowing through seeing. The mysterious unknown is pushed back, engendering the desire to keep walking just to see what’s around the next bend. At night, all such illusions fall away. The forest we’ve just walked through retains its essential unknowability. Without darkness, the very possibility of the wild becomes endangered.
From off in the darkness, the sound of a porcupine clacking its teeth. Against what threat, I wonder?
It goes on and on. Somebody doesn’t have much sense.
I sit on a bench in the moonlight, put down my hand, and find the pen I didn’t know I’d lost. A small moment of grace, like so many over the years that have allowed me to see myself as deeply fortunate, despite the fact that I’m broke.
The absolute silence of an owl’s flight. If I hadn’t been gazing in the right direction, I wouldn’t have known it was there. Even the moonlight makes more noise.
In a moonlit forest there are far more beasts. I have had to get out my flashlight three times in the course of a mile to verify that dark shapes were merely logs or root balls. But of course in reality, too, more animals are able to forage or to hunt when the moon is bright.
Trees don’t need heads because they have the sun. At night, all that remains are their gestures of ardent worship silhouetted against the sky.
Angels with the jaws of lions, these clouds trying to swallow the full moon. A bat less seen than felt — a ripple through the still air currently bearing the monotonous hectoring of a whip-poor-will.
Full moon through the trees: the last I’ll see it like that, with so few leaves, until November. I watch it inching along through the branches.
Sitting in the middle of a mowed path through the meadow, I feel something bump into the back of my canvas chair, followed by the sound of running feet. Didn’t turn around in time to see what it was. Too small for a deer, too fast for a porcupine. A near-sighted fox? A not-so-wily coyote?
taking off my glasses
to make sure it’s real
sprouting a cloudy tail
time to plant
the old anthill’s
that elusive piece
Sólo la luna sospecha la verdad.
Y es que el hombre no existe.
(Only the moon suspects the truth.
And that is that Man doesn’t exist.) Vicente Aleixandre
The night’s doors opening all at once. Flickers of lightning on the horizon. The false thunder of a jet.
The sounds of my digestion startle me — and perhaps others off in the darkness. Wouldn’t this have given our hunter-gatherer ancestors an adaptive advantage? I like the idea of the wild within — our gut microflora — helping to safeguard us against the wild without.
Moonlight in the kitchen is a sign of God.
Does the moon ever shine in my kitchen with its northeast window? Maybe only in January, on the full moon known as Wolf, or Popping Trees, or Absence of Bears.
and the rattling wind
in one bed
2:00 a.m. road
without cars the tarmac’s
into mere roadkill
so many stars
all these travels written
in my teeth
One set of keys for the day and one for the night. But if the locks fill with rain they will drown and our souls will devolve like cetaceans, returning to the deep and its sunless music, now with microplastic.
Nautical twilight. A distant, non-human wail from one of the farms in the valley. Microdrops of rain on my face.
The pleasure of watching headlights move through a forest ten miles away.
Through the bottom of my mug, my other hand shrinks into an insect: seat of my soul, dung beetle. Scarab sacred only to a little world of shit.
When you sit or lie1 on the forest floor, in a strong wind you may feel slight movements beneath you: tree roots working the night shift.
It’s too cold for the bat. Now the moon is recalling all shadows.
Do trees feel the moonlight? If so, it must be the lightest caress.
Gazing directly at the moon for too long feels disrespectful, especially when it’s just beginning the monthly molt.
A voice off in the forest calls You and after several seconds the response: Yah.
That lone window still lit at 4:00 in the morning. The patch of dim light it inflicts on the edge of the forest.
every hidden hammer
hitting its string
the pianist’s fingers
not her own
I can’t stop fantasizing
With their frog mouths and weird nocturnal calls, the nightjars wouldn’t seem out of place in one of Hieronymous Bosch’s teeming tableaux.2 One North American species, the common poorwill, is the only bird known to go into a prolonged state of torpor very like hibernation.
I go out to take a leak
landscapes of my childhood
aglow with bleakness
knocking at my house
must be sleepless too
The first hint of dawn in the sky and in the forest the first hint of gray. It begins its daily dwindling into mere woods.
1 Due to the threat of Lyme disease, this is of course best done in a tent.
2 I do a web search and sure enough, Bosch gave Lucifer the head of a nightjar: