February, 1972 Archive

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (24)

Sunday, February 27th, 1972

The Answer

1. Significator (the questioner): 2 of Pentacles
A man weighing or juggling two alternatives having to do with money

2. Cover and Cross (opposed forces now): 6 of Pentacles and Page of Swords
The just official giving money to the deserving poor [Unemployment insurance]

The young romantic knight of pain and truth [The Mill quest]

3. Crowning(outcome of conflict): King of Swords
The knight matured and sober

4. Beneath (background of present situation): 3 of Wands
Merchant watching ships embark (money-making schemes)

5. Behind (immediate past): Page of Pentacles

Youthful aesthete contemplating artistic beauty

6. Ahead: Emperor
King of Swords aged further, a land owner

7. Yourself: 2 of Swords
Stalemate, staying on the fence

8. House: The Hermit
Introspection, solitude, desiring a new direction

9. Hopes and Fears: The Fool
Letting Go, Abandon, Beginning

10. The Answer: 5 of Pentacles
Winter’s utter desolation, poverty, madness, cripples cut off from warmth, light and beauty
Another Tarot reading, two years earlier.

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (23)

Saturday, February 26th, 1972

Tarot Question

Shall I stay?
Shall I go?
Which will make
The spirit flow?
Do Graveyard’s skull
And bones disguise
God’s holy light
In bleary eyes?
If I remain
By my free will
Will Spring transform
This Wintry Mill?

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (22)

Saturday, February 26th, 1972

No longer feeling trapped here makes me want to stay. I think of the Christmas tree brought by the Grindermen, decorated with industrial lightbulbs and pieces of dried pulp, the newsprint draped from grinder to grinder, the times of whooping and hollering and singing in the grinderroom. I think of Tiny Beacon and his ex-army hockey-ref gung-ho marching spirit, of the old timers and their bitter sense of the company’s change from a local enterprise to a multinational giant, of the discipline I’ve developed to manage shiftwork, of the intimations I’ve felt on graveyard. But then I remember what the job is doing to our marriage: how it forces me to make demands on Janet that crowd and threaten her, how it takes our space and time, how it’s cut me off from Jonah…and I feel undecided and in need of outside counsel.

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (21)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 1972

This is my last graveyard. Sitting in Bob’s car this morning, off shift and waiting to go home, I decided to give notice. Called in this afternoon.

It’s hard to let go of this weight.

My “graveyard” piece–story, essay, film–never materialized. Probably wont. I haven’t finished with “The Mill,” haven’t made much contact with the men who work here, haven’t learned a great deal about the production process, have only begun to understand the shiftwork experience.

As for influencing the place, that too is an aborted project. Right now two grindermen, Wayne and Bob, sit writing verse satires. They’re less depressed than any grindermen I’ve seen. So? My presence has stirred up hopes in them, but we’re all isolated; it wont add up to much. Bob and I were like brothers for a while. Now we have nothing to say to each other. The forcibly repressed background distinctions have surfaced.

I could have tried to make noise, but I never was able to decide what I wanted to change. I came to make money like the rest of the workers. There’s no sense of class oppression since there’s no ruling class in this town. Everyone is in the same boat. The necessity of having the job is a given. The only improvement conceivable is a little more money per hour, a few hours more overtime, a little less work per hour, a few more lightbulbs to steal.


So what do I want? To raise consciousness by creating discontent and at the same time provide my family with enough income to allow for a good life in the country. And to be able to express my own creative energy. I’d have to work here much longer and be less attached and self-involved to take any political role.

Though we still have no money in the bank and the only significant purchase allowed by my five months stint is an automatic washer, working in the Mill has cured me of financial anxiety. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I experienced a way of life motivated solely by that fear for long enough that I feel I dont need any more of it. I know the time I need to put in will come to an end for me, and though it’s been hell, that time hasn’t been lost. I learned that suffering has its rewards, the colder the winter the richer the spring, the longer on the job, the longer you can draw pogey.

Some day I want to write about what it feels like to get off graveyard: the slow deliberate ritual of cleanup with broom, air and water hose at the end of each shift; filling out your punch card and totalling what you’ve earned, always more satisfying than the paycheck with its heartless deductions; meeting your relief man, fresh from sleep and breakfast and tense while you’re stale and tired and loose; waiting for Bob in the roar of the steam plant; lighting the joint as you pull out of the parking lot; following the black-white track of snow on the powerline along the twisting highway; coasting the last four miles down from the summit; seeing the smoke from the stovepipe at the head of the clearing, blue against the tall firs as you walk up the driveway; the clank of the thermos in your empty lunch bucket, Ajax crowing in the chicken coop, frost outlining the jagged ends of roof shakes, the orange glow of the skylight, Janet feeding the baby in her chenille bathrobe next to the barrel stove, splitting the wood for the day in the half dark, eating a bowl of porridge and sinking into oblivion as night turns into day.