Wednesday, June 7, 2017

TheYellow Path

   I’m digging through an old email account I haven’t looked at for a long time.  The Yellow Path is not a story, but a series of notebooks.  My ADD addled brain has never been very good at remembering details, and most thoughts occur to me as  mayflies floating on the surface of a stream that have to be snatched immediately from below as though I were a fish and recorded on anything handy or they’re lost to the ages.  J Alfred Prufrock said he’s measured out his life in coffee spoons.  I measured out mine in notebooks.
There is something specific I’m looking for I had called, years ago, “The Yellow Path”.

I’m digging through the email folder marked simply “Back Up”.  I can’t imagine what my living environment would be without the advent of digital folders.  I’d be a pack rat buried in towers of papers and composition books.  Ghosts of ideas that had their moment but won’t leave the room.  Instead I quickly caught on to emailing myself documents, long before cloud computing came along, and from these documents, a snapshot of lost times.

My consciousness has been measured out and spread like peanut butter over a dozen sites and emails and cloud accounts and places, and yes, even the old paper notebooks that litter my bookcases at home going back to 1973.  I had tried seriously to study shorthand thinking it would make my journals unreadable to others, before I finally realized the obvious, which is that no one wanted to read them.  Then the next obvious thing, that my handwriting is so densely encrypted that even the nosiest person would give up.  Sometimes even I can’t read what I’ve written over the years.  I may as well be an archaeologist pouring over Egyptian hieroglyphs.

There they are, I’ve found the Yellow Path leading through the jungle of attachments of all kinds spanning some two dozen emails.   How to exercise.  How to clean a room.  How to clean my car.  Checklists and after-action notes, time capsule relics from my past self to me hoping to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.  But the same mistakes will always be made over and over, like ghosts reenacting a scene in a haunted house, refusing to rest no matter what you do.  

The Yellow Path simply refers to a physical notebook, a fancy little yellow one I bought at an art museum, decades ago, that fits into my jacket pocket, therefore portable for an on the spot reference wherever I go, in case I need to clean my car or give a story critique in the middle of a desert.  This is an another aspect of my life.  Though my road years ended decades ago, I’m still living on the road, evident of the things I can carry in my pocket.  For someone with an unreliable memory, that grows more melting with age, notebooks become a form of high art.  One of many vagabond things I can carry in my pocket becauseI’ve never really left the road, I’ve only stopped being a nomad.  Only the technology changes.  Before I carried very small books in my jacket pocket, like a monk with his precious codices. Now I have a cell phone that carries entire libraries.

These notebooks are so well intentioned that I want to weep for the person who wrote them, myself in a previous incarnation though in this life.  I meant so well, documented everything so sincerely and in such detail.  How many dumbbell lifts to do followed by how many chest flies.  When you clean a room, remember to check the walls for paint nicks, not to mention dead bodies and the furniture for dust. Empty the dust cup on the vacuum cleaner before you begin.  Mop the kitchen floor after you wash the dishes, not before.  As though speaking to a moron, and who says I wasn’t?

A civilization has its many incarnations.  In China, or the middle east, digs find lost and forgotten tombs of Kings whose stare once made men tremble rightly for their lives, now erased from human memory.  Words and images are carved into stones in the worlds deserts and jungles for people long extinct.  Any child walking along any lake or forest trail might reach down and dust off an arrowhead, carefully shaped from quartz or flint by some forgotten soul who, at the time, spent an afternoon meditatively chipping it out, maybe teaching his son the craft while filled with worries and hopes that any modern man would recognize as timeless.  

These sincere and obtuse little checklists.  Who was that person?  When did he change and become me?  Where do I vanish to, in the gentle oblivion of sleep?  Or finally death?  

Here is a checklist, how to pack up for a fishing trip. When did I go fishing last?  Why did I forget to take time to fish?  When was the last time I went on a picnic or a hike?  I had forgotten these things could be done.  I didn’t realize I was growing old until this moment when I ask myself – when was the last time I went hiking with my kid in the park?  Well, he’s gotten older too.  The world is moving on.

Here is a journal entry I typed about a friend I haven’t talked to in years.  Where is she now?  Should I contact her or let her float away downstream, and keep our lives that less complicated?  We go on collecting people like shards of love.  And then list their names.


  1. "Though my road years ended decades ago, I’m still living on the road, evident of the things I can carry in my pocket."

    Are we not all still on the road?

    Lovely meditation, and still on topic.

    1. Hi Lisabet!

      Thanks for reading it. Here's to the road!

  2. "A civilization has its many incarnations."

    I still get chills when I read Shelley's "Ozymandias" that ends:

    "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

    My one stint as a teacher was the summer after my junior year in college, when I was a teaching assistant at a summer school for (rich) advanced high school students. The part I remember best (apart from late-night partying with the other TAs at the Outing Club cabin) was giving my students "Ozymandias" to analyze and discuss.

  3. I like that poem too, and it resonates more today than ever. I like his wife's book "Frankenstein" too. They would have been an interesting couple to spend a weekend with.