Now I'm trying to imagine the river. It's only a few miles west, but I've never seen this part of it. I've seen it at Sacramento, and at Woodland, at Red Bluff and Anderson and Redding, but never here. It suddenly strikes me a odd that in all the time I've been here I haven't even given the river a thought. It's out there, carrying last winter's melted snow away, the moon's reflection glinting and wobbling on the rippling surface. In the back of my mind thoughts about things borne off by floods, but I can't make them come clear.
The thing is that I have no clear idea how I fetched up in this odd place, when it could have been so different. Doing one thing rather than another, changing a decision, or doing nothing instead of something, and I would be somewhere else, or perhaps nowhere at all. I doubt any changes would have landed me in any of the lives I have ever imagined, as I certainly never imagined this one, but it could so easily been something other than this. I wonder if I'd have been as dissatisfied in any of them as I am here? Maybe dissatisfaction isn't the consequence of any decision, but just what I do. I've never been all that satisfied anywhere I've been, but I don't recall ever having been quite as dissatisfied as I am in this place of displacement.
I just realized that I forgot to eat dinner tonight. That, among other things, is probably making me cranky. I guess I'll go heat up a can beans. I wish I'd remembered to put out some butter to soften. I wish I'd gotten to Safeway this weekend to buy some fresh bread. I wish the night wasn't so full of Chico. I wish my brain wasn't so full of me.
I Remember Galileo
by Gerald Stern
I remember Galileo describing the mind
as a piece of paper blown around by the wind,
and I loved the sight of it sticking to a tree,
or jumping into the backseat of a car,
and for years I watched paper leap through my cities;
but yesterday I saw the mind was a squirrel caught crossing
Route 80 between the wheels of a giant truck,
dancing back and forth like a thin leaf,
or a frightened string, for only two seconds living
on the white concrete before he got away,
his life shortened by all that terror, his head
jerking, his yellow teeth ground down to dust.
It was the speed of the squirrel and his lowness to the ground,
his great purpose and the alertness of his dancing,
that showed me the difference between him and paper.
Paper will do in theory, when there is time
to sit back in a metal chair and study shadows;
but for this life I need a squirrel,
his clawed feet spread, his whole soul quivering,
the loud noise shaking him from head to tail.
O philosophical mind, O mind of paper, I need a squirrel
finishing his wild dash across the highway,
rushing up his green ungoverned hillside.