Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Yet Another Migraine Day

I need to finish my final kid-book of poetry, but that blasted migraine just won't let go of me...just try reading with a migraine...Advil takes forever to kick in, and does as little as possible. Lazy sloth.

Not to malign sloths. I think they're adorable, especially when they snack on hibiscus flowers, or try and cross a road, clinging to the pavement with those long arms, like that time I got right smashed in Dougie McLean's pub, the Taybank in Dunkeld, and had to crawl down the humped bridge over the River Tay...  

Dunkeld, Dùn Chailleann means Fort of the Caledonii. They exacted a strange revenge. Or was it tribute? As we sat in the beer garden overlooking the River Tay, I also didn't factor in how long the gloaming lasted that far north. What seemed like minutes, was probably hours.

Great Birnam Wood, with its dark secrets, was to my right. People still leave flower offerings in the hole in the trunk of a massive oak reputed to be one of the last original big trees, but that would make it a thousand years old! The three witches told Macbeth he'd be safe until Birnam wood reached his castle at Dunsinane, some 13 miles away. He figured he had it covered. Across from Birnam Wood, was Beatrix Potter's beloved Eastwood House, where she was inspired to write her tales of Peter Rabbit. Odd juxtaposition of history.

Old Tree in Birnam Wood c 1880

Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him. —Macbeth, Act 4, scene 1

The Birnam Oak?
Och aye, I was the chicken crossing the road, and high Dunsinane Hill was upstream. Or was that the bridge? Oh puddleducks! I remember a hump in the middle. I admired the stop sign with its cryptic "Look" painted on the road pointing to Birnam Wood (were the trees on the move? Or was it an Ent crossing?), replete with white zebra zigzags that glowed like fangs— on all fours. Scottish beer seemed to be a tad stronger than American beer. I bet the next morning wasn't a pretty sight.

I'm thinking of sacking it. The Advil, that is, not the sloth, the beer, nor the puddleduck. Today I did manage to hand-calligraph 30-something Poetic Licenses for the kidlets. First names will have to do, I'm afraid. I can't focus long enough to decipher their last names.

OK, I've got a book title. Let's get on with it, shall we? Done with the final fiddly-bits, art work plugged in! Now to hobble over to the school in my stolen car that I can't clean up until the adjuster sees it, and the starter's permanently stuck in the ON position, so you can start it with just about anything. a nickel, a pen, your big toe.

When I got to school, I literally couldn't focus, all that bright light, spectacles were useless. So the teacher had to set up the copy machine for me....I banged out 40 kid-books, it looks lovely. I couldn't read my intro either, so here's hoping it'll pass muster, or my name's Grey Poupon.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tomales Bay Photo

Tomales Bay from Inverness Park, New Year's Eve. The last gasps of a dying camera. This was the day my camera went south, the photos came out incredibly dark, and the imager had developed several black reflection spots. I was so discouraged that I didn't edit them. My skills weren't up to the rescue job.

Lightening the image up enough to see the trees turned the hill a ridiculous noisy blue. Cropping the sky close got rid of some of the splotches, and by playing with the levels, I was able to salvage some of the photos. I had to clone the black spots out of the water and sky. 

The worst sunspots eventually healed/faded on the imager, and I did a factory reset on it to partially restore light functions, but it's still shooting way too dark. And depth of field is not what it was. I can't trust it, now it only works on autofocus mode. I got a new camera in Feb. It was a long 2.5 months sans working camera.

Sadly those are also my last photos of the famous beached boat, the Point Reyes, before some asshole photographers burnt it down by wool spinning a strobe light on it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Earless Cat at San Juan Bautista Mission

At the San Juan Bautista mission, after hours, outwaiting traffic, we sneaked in through the back garden gate where I was greeted by a cat who was born without ears, and for our trespass fee, she wanted a belly rub. Pronto! She had a  nice thick coat but was in need of grooming. She doesn't get a lot of pets from what I can gather.

She was a sweetheart. Earless kitty, no scar tissue, the outer fur made a nice fat lip. Perhaps she had cancer of the ears, she is a white cat. But they didn't look malformed. And she twitched her stumps. I never realized how much I depend upon their ears to read their emotions. I didn't want to get chomped for rubbing her belly....but she really wanted a belly rub and a head scratch. So I obliged.

She's not a Scottish fold cat, as their ears are bent over. I don't know if it's a weird mutation or a new breed. She has a little igloo nest with a foam pillow and a blankie, her nest is surrounded by statues of saints... clearly she is loved. Ears, or no ears.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Farewell To Spring Photo

Clarkia, Farewell to spring, One of my favorite flowers. These beauties were blooming on Loma Alta ridge, near Big Rock, Marin. There were also scads of globe gilia, Itherial's spears, and brodiaea nearby, aka blue dicks... If I had included the blue dicks in the photo, added a little rock and roll music, it would've been the Dick Clarkia 5. OK, the Dave Clarkia 5. Ya gotta roll with the punches.

I love "crawling" inside a flower like that with a camera. See that ant?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dawn, Mt. St. Helena, Photo

Dawn, Mt. St. Helena, Soda Rock Lane. Maureen Carden asks: Okay, how did you get the extremely bright sunset and the shadowed but clearly visible landscape in the foreground, together in the same shot?

I aim camera at the sky to set the imager to get the most color saturation for the photo (point lens to sky, hold shutter partially down to lock lighting setting, then drop camera lower to reframe photo, and click. 

I'm a minimalist. I try and do as little as possible to my photos, other than hit the auto contrast button. Then in Picasa, I lightened the mid ranges a bit, and used the sky filter to keep sky value. It's like a windowshade pulled down on the top of the photo, it helps restore the color.

I also use several settings, distance, sunset, night, until I find the one I like. Truth be known, I mostly use distance straight up, no sunset filter, as I don't like the color range. I also ruin all my cameras with sunspots....

Sunday, May 15, 2016


I once believed the world was flat.
I thought that if I went beyond the barbed-wire fence
where the milk box nested by the side of the road,
that I might fall through an invisible wall,
a well into a parallel world where it was dark,
but similar to this one. A reverse image.
But I also knew there was no way back up
no latter, no rope—nothing. I'd be stranded.
How would my grandmother find me?
The sun rose towards its zenith and azimuth,
until it cooked the milk, I wouldn't fetch it,
I couldn't—not even for my grandmother.
It was a seemingly simple request,
how could she know it fraught with demons?
So the glass quarts sat in the milk box
until they curdled and separated
into parallel floating worlds
of curds and clouds.


Notes on Haiku, Tanka, and Rengu

As I pasted some haiku notes below a poem I wrote in March, it got out of hand, and I realized what I wrote should have its own blog page. After all, this is cyberspace. There's plenty of it.

This morning I was explaining to a Facebook friend, a Facebook memory I had posted from May 14, 2010
Seen on a Richmond overpass: Free Leonard. 
Made me sad. How long has Leonard been in prison?
Which led to a lively discussion on Leonard. I posted a note on how I wrote my Free Leonard Peltier haiku, back in March, and she asked if she could share the poems. Which led to momentary panic. OMG, they're not very good, I need to rewrite them, or at least write something about the process... I must deflect, deflect. The gift of the gob at work.

This was the poem that kicked off my counting jag: a neighbor sat in his car smoking as I pulled out the driveway. I'd finished that thought, realized there were more poems coming and that I needed to write them down. No way I was going to remember that many haiku all at once. It was a traffic jam of haiku stacking up. Then I saw one Leonard sign on an overpass, and another wedged in a tree.

I was stuck in a colossal traffic jam at the Richmond Bridge, so I kept calm and carried on, but I was betrayed by my fingers madly counting syllables on the steering wheel to pass the time. And then I saw the third Leonard Peltier sign.

It got me thinking of Leonard in prison counting the days, 40 years of endless days. That's 14,600 days he's been in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Please, Obama, do the right thing: please pardon Leonard, who was a scapegoat to appease the FBI's wrath. And so the poems tumbled out, written fast and furiously, my fingers thrumming in time.  FREE LEONARD HAIKU 

But I want to explore the form—if only as a reminder to myself to try a new poetic art form. I feel guilty about my writing, and certainly for what passes as haiku. I keep thinking I really should learn to write tanka, instead of my loosely linked 5-stanza linked poems in quasi-haiku format. You know, real writing.

I must admit I do feel a bit like like Rain Man madly counting away when I compose them, but once I start counting syllables, I can't seem to stop. The poemettes come nearly intact, and unbidden, especially when I'm driving. So it's some sort of a rhythmic mind game. Maybe haiku is the poet's sudoku.  As Rainman said: Fart. Definitely, fart.

Monte Rio poet Pat Nolan was always trying to get me to join in on his renga games. Pat was the grand poobah and illustrious founder of The Miner School of Haikai Poets. A renga is a linked pass-around chain poem. I participated a few times, but I always got off kilter, endlessly stuck in that 5-7-5 format. I couldn't seem to play nicely with the other poets. Always missing deadlines.

Also, in those days, you had to type the pass-around poem on a manual typewriter (onion skin paper), then snail mail it onto the next poet. The poem traveled to Oakland, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Pacific Grove, Montreal, Monte Rio. And if you missed the 24-hour deadline, you held up all the other poets. They got pissy. Sadly, it was a a missed opportunity. They carried on without me. I probably have several starving half-finished group poems buried in my old papers.

I lacked confidence, and it stymied me, freezing my words, mid-mind. I became mute. I'm trying to remember who was in the renga group: Keith Abbott, Michael Sowl, Maureen Owen—and maybe also Steve LaVioie, David Gitin, Phil Coturri, come to mind....  It was an avalanche of poems arriving daily in the mail, I got confused. One poem line bled into the next arriving poem, and I was all in a muddle.

Then, there's Renku, a bawdy form of linked verse.....maybe it was a really a renku group... We were a bawdy bunch of poets singing euphonies, and all. But I stubbornly stuck to my linked haiku, counting 5-7-5.

Bawdy poets send
renga verse tersely written—
golden onion skins

Sauteeing their words
sizzling in olive oil—
wilted syllables 

For the next poet
to puzzle over their lines—
waiting for the end

Of the line, last word
pulsing for a rebuttal—
a full glottal stop. 

Lick that final stamp
and put the poem to bed—
incestuous words.


Some standard definitions:
"Traditional haiku consist of 17 on (also known as morae though often loosely translated as "syllables"), in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 on respectively. A kigo (seasonal reference), usually drawn from a saijiki, an extensive but defined list of such words.  The essence of haiku is "cutting" (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji ("cutting word") between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related. A kireji fills a role somewhat analogous to a caesura. In English, since kireji have no direct equivalent, poets sometimes use punctuation such as a dash or ellipsis...." —Wiki
Got it. OK. Three phrases, like brush strokes, one line should contain a seasonal reference, and the Aha! the cutting word—a pivotal juxtaposition where the poem turns on itself.  That's were I often flail. Haiku not about counting syllables. Besides, Japanese packs a lot more information into its ideagrams than we can possibly do with our sound-based Latin alphabet.

But I still can't stop counting. And I rarely remember to add the kireji, or in my case, the use of the long em line—. Besides, it's so easy to cheat at haiku with those pesky articles and particles. We're so attached to making sense in English, it's a leap of faith to leave out those conjunctions.


Old mossy pond
Frog jump!
Water sound.

(I'm trying to remember how this translation came about, was I working with Bob Hass at the time? Anyway, it was group boardwork, distilling something down to its primal essence. It's the translation I prefer.)

What: Invoke a hoku (a stand alone line) 
use one or more of the senses—often a memory from the past,  
Where: a sense of place—use images from nature
When: include a kogu, a seasonal reference (or a signal word)

No "I" should inhabit the poem. Think epigrams, three snapshots or telegrams reduced down to a bare minimum of words. "Little drops of poetic essence," as Sir George Sansom called them. Then there's the hidden dualism: the idea of near and far, foreground/background, then and now, past and present, sound and silence, temporalness and infinity.  

Two Haiku for Poetry Month
—MH 4/21/2009

Counting syllables
is silly; Japanese count
words, not syllables.
Anglo Saxon words
paint a much broader canvas
than Latinate ones.    

words too cumbersome to count
English albatross.

I have more haiku buried in this blog. This haiku link will list the most recent 18-20 entries in a search format (I'm up to 38 linked haiku entries). It's a problem with Blogger's search format, it only displays one page, newest first. You will have to dig month by month for older work. I always use CAPS for poems, and I try to put HAIKU in title as well.

OK, more standard definitions.
"The Tanka poem is very similar to haiku but Tanka poems have more syllables and it uses simile, metaphor and personification. There are five lines in a Tanka poem. Tanks poems are written about nature, seasons, love, sadness and other strong emotions. This form of poetry dates back almost 1200 years ago."  (Check out the chart)  5-7-5-7-7   —How to write a Tanka poem
"Renga (連歌, collaborative poetry) is a genre of Japanese collaborative poetry. A renga consists of at least two ku (句 ) or stanzas. The opening stanza of the renga, called the hokku (発句 ), became the basis for the modern haiku form of poetry." —Wiki
"Renku (連句, "linked verses"), or haikai no renga is a Japanese form of popular collaborative linked verse poetry. It is a development of the older Japanese poetic tradition of ushin renga, or orthodox collaborative linked verse. At renku gatherings participating poets take turns providing alternating verses of 17 and 14 morae. Initially haikai no renga distinguished itself through vulgarity and coarseness of wit, before growing into a legitimate artistic tradition, and eventually giving birth to the haiku form of Japanese poetry."—Wiki
Then there's Haibun, a combination of prose and haiku, often autobiographical or written in the form of a travel journal. Sort of like this journey.

Friday, May 13, 2016

In class writing, Alexander Valley School

Demo acrostic/conceptual noun personification exercise board poem for the kids at Alexander Valley School. What usually happens, is that we write a phrase on the board, then they're off writing their own poems, but I've got a fragment on the board. So I freewrite them, finish them off in class, modeling the process.  We were reading Emily Dickinson's Hope is a Thing with Feathers.

Joy is a daisy
   dancing in the wind
on the horizon of hope
   it sings of
your heart and soul.


Hope is a bluejay
inside your heart
dancing to its own beat
a blue heart blushes,
it burns with love.

4th Grade class

Hope is a white bird
flying through the starry night
Hope is a swan of many colors
as quiet as fireflies in the clouds.

3rd Grade class

Joy is the birds
   singing so hard
   the lemon tree shakes
   like a dancer
on the moon, where
   coyotes serenade the stars
Yonder, in an empty field
   owls drift down like petals.

2nd Grade class

Once I was the flames of the head
I became the ice of fire
I was the river of ice
I dreamed of love in the sea
I will become the sun shining on the earth.

3rd Grade class

Once I believed the world was flat
I thought that if I went past the fence
where the milk box was
that I would fall
through an invisible wall
a well into another world
where it was dark, but similar
and there was no way back up
no latter, no rope.
Even though the sun rose,
and heated the milk
I wouldn't get it and it sat in the box
until it curdled and separated
a floating world
of curds and clouds.

4th Grade class
This is from the I used to believe...early memory exercise.
I started revising it here, so I moved it to a new page

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Be strong, I whisper to my coffee

Be strong, I whisper to my coffee.
Be still, I whisper to my racing heart.
Let's just leave the bowels outta this, OK?

Monday, May 2, 2016

'Possom Wrangler

I'm hiding under the desk. Mouse traps don't bodda me.

Apparently I have a new job title: baby 'possom wrangler.

I was cleaning up outside, and I must've disturbed this little nocturnal fellow, who hiked up the steps and took refuge in the bedroom. (I had wakened him from his nap.)  Of all the places in the house, he chose the bedroom. Smart feller. Neil heard something rustling and freaked out, thinking it was a mouse in the trap, or worse, a huge rat. (He saw it from behind, tail first.) Luckily he didn't do the coup de grease on the little critter.

As designated rescuer of all creatures great and small, I was automatically elected for the job of getting him out from behind the desk. Easier said than done. He squeezed behind the desk and the wall; he had wedged himself in a crevice, with mouth open wide, hissing like a cottonmouth. I knew it was all for show, but he had a lot of sharp teeth. So with ski glove in hand, I managed to roll him with my finger onto his feet. I carefully pulled him out from behind the desk, holding him (the 'possom, not Neil) by the scruff of the neck, like a kitten. He went limp as a biscuit.

I'm playing possom in the dirty laundry. Nice and stinky.

I wrapped him in a pair of Neil's knickers that were on the floor. He went into full death mode and said: "I'm dead, Jim. Really, really dead. See? Well, maybe I'm only a teeny bit dead." He didn't quite have his "I'm really dead" schtick down. He kept peeking at us. Especially after I began to pet his cheek with a gloved finger. He seemed to like it. But he wouldn't eat the foot scraps I offered.

I'm so dead, I'm so dead. I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead.

He feigned death, or fainted, a few times, but when he saw we weren't buying his act, he sat up like the baby he was. All the world may be a stage, but I told him he needed to keep his day job. He looked insulted. Then he waddled off into the undergrowth snuffling for bugs. Fleas poinging off him like a cartoon.

Yes, opossoms really do play dead. They also open their mouths and drool and hiss like snakes when threatened, but they're extremely docile. When I used a towel to try & pick him up, he didn't even attempt to bite it.

If he hadn't been such a dirtbag, I would've tested his prehensile tail. Taken it out for a spin. But his fleas were abandoning ship, so all I could think of was to get him to move along after he recovered from his fainting spells. Their temperature is low for a mammal, 94 to 97°.  My body temperature is 97.8°, so I was a logical host.

What, you're still here? Well maybe only a little bit dead. It comes and goes.

It's too bad they're such flea-ridden tick magnets. Luckily they also love to eat ticks, and are probably our best defense against Lyme disease. They do carry fleaborne diseases, so don't handle them if you can help it. But they never carry rabies. They just show their teeth (and they have a lot of them),  they froth at the mouth and drool alarmingly when threatened. They also have stink glands like a skunk, but Junior wasn't big enough to know how to use his. Or maybe he thought Neil's knickers were stinky enough.

Aren't I cute?

They may look ugly (when full-grown), they can't help that, but they're good critters to have in the garden. They eat bugs, slugs and snails, rats and mice, and your compost, too, if you leave it out. The stinkier, the better.

Who loves ya baby? yeah, yeah, yeah.

I never saw 'possoms in growing up in West Marin during the 1950s-70s, but I did have a clumsy guest when I lived in Forestville, Sonoma County, during the 1980s-90s. They're not native to the west coast, introduced to San Jose in 1910. Why, I don't know. Someone homesick for 'possom stew? (Tastes like chicken.)

I'm just glad he was a baby, and not a full-grown football-sized 'possom. I might not have been so opossomably brave.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Poetry month tally

Clearly I've failed poetry month as I've only managed to write 15, maybe 17 poems, most of them, questionable, at that. Or 30 posts if you count all the prose and linked haiku individually. Curiously I didn't use any poetry prompts, though I collected them. These were all spontaneous emissions, kind of like poetic farts.


               —for Mimi Fariña

                April 30, 1945-July 20, 2001

Sweet Mimi. I once brought
her a childish bouquet of wild irises
plucked from beneath the cypress
in our lower garden, not knowing
it was her birthday—she was moved to tears,
saying she thought everyone had forgotten.

I was embarrassed, but also pleased
knowing that sense of diminishment
and loss when a birthday goes unnoted.
A small spur-of the-moment gesture
became something much larger.
Her eyes welled as she set those irises
by the photo of her long-dead husband.

Whenever I see wild irises I think of her.
I like to think she returns to us each spring,
a white dove circling the long-armed ridges
and slopes where Mt. Tamalpais sings.


Happy Birthday, Mimi Fariña.

So how did Getty Images get their hooks on  this photo. It wasn't theirs. That's for sure.

Friday, April 29, 2016


ages and
united alliances
on the mudflats
during king tides.
The Charles
van be damned.
Forget Varda's nudes.
Juanita's was the g-spot
to be for breakfast.
Fishermen never for-
got her boob muff-

in special.
No one
ever went


You'd have to have known Juanita, Gate 5, Alan Watts, Varda, and crew... oblique references, at best. Locke would have to have been part of that Sausalito scene. Alan was living in the pilot house atop the Charles van Damme. Varda was downstairs. He nailed his painting to the wall to defy gravity, much to my delight. My mom worked for Juanita Musson, You didn't mess with her. She was a friend of Sally Stanford's. Her special was a boobjob, a muffin sandwich draped around some unsuspecting man's ears. Few ever fully recovered from Juanita's ministrations.

Monday, April 25, 2016

California water wars: It's not about the fish, Stupid. That's a red herring.

Note bene: This post is a response to Facebook people's knee-jerk comments on an article by Jack Stewart in California Political Review. You may want to scan the article and rabid comments before you read this particular diatribe, as I begin this fishy story in medias res.
A response to Jack Stewart's opinion piece,  Well-being of Fish Valued Over CA’s Economy and Quality of Life

Smelts are a family of small fish, Osmeridae —Wiki

Let me begin this rant by pointing out the faulty logic in Jack Stewart's opening paragraph:"....all the rain falling on California will wash into the ocean, instead of being stored for the dry, hot summer to come." Even the tittle, Well-being of Fish Valued Over CA’s Economy and Quality of Life,  is a real knee-jerker. Talk about hyperbole! It's a lopsided opinion piece parading as naked news.

All the rain? Most of that rain falling in Northern California will wash into the ocean because Shasta Dam is full to capacity, and because the rain did not extend south past San Jose, where most of the reservoirs are located, it will not fill those dams.

Only a handful of reservoirs—only seven out of a total of 55 major reservoirs statewide—are nearly full to capacity. But more than 26 of the state's major reservoirs are under 40% full (and a dozen of those are under 20% full) because all the rain falling on California did not fall within their watersheds. Besides, many of those reservoirs are dependent upon snowmelt, not rain, so Stewart should've addressed global warming's impact on the shrinking Sierra snowpack instead of fish.

Lake Shasta June, 2014. It's now full, but more than 26 of the state's major reservoirs are under 40% full (and ten of those are under 20%). Only a handful of reservoirs, seven out of a total of 55 major reservoirs statewide, are nearly full to capacity.

The (rain) water that Stewart claims is being dumped into the ocean, in detriment of the farmer, in order to save, what he deems as a worthless fish, is being dumped from our northern California dams for flood control. It's overflow, Stupid.

There is literally no place to store all that water when parts of Northern California has received 200% to 300% of normal precipitation for the year. Do you remember the the great Central Valley floods of 1996? That's what happens when the flood control system (and the levees) fails.

But somehow Stewart has managed to construe a tall tale that makes a small fish responsible for all our water woes. He blames a lack of enough dams for our agricultural woes (not a lack of snowpack), he equates the decommissioning of defunct hydro-electric dams, the destruction of orchards, and the upsurge of Central Valley's fallow fields—on a fish. He blames environmentalists and smelt for a much more complex water picture than he can possibly grasp. Talk about a snowjob.

Let's take one idea: save all that water; how? Perhaps Stewart is unaware that there is no pipeline infrastructure to move the excess Shasta water to, say, The (Stanislas) New Melones Dam (which is at at 30% capacity. BTW, in 1944, Congress authorized the construction of 1979 New Melones Dam atop the old Melones damsite, to prevent flooding—from spring snowmelt).

Jack Stewart goes on to say "As for the water now filling the state’s reservoirs, billions of gallons will be flushed down rivers and out to sea in efforts to protect fish, rather than being used to irrigate food crops..."

Is he aware that most of California's dams are dependent upon Sierra snowmelt, and that 70% of northern California's water is already shipped to southern California dams? Does he know that Castaic Lake is funded by Northern California water? Or that San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara water also comes from the north? Clearly we're bogarting Northern California rainfall in favor of fish vs farmers.

Stewart is all over the place; he shifts his argument from Colusa County to San Joaquin County, and then illustrates his point with a photo of a very full Shasta Dam, when he should depict a photo of a Southern California Sierra foothill dam. Stewart opines, and conflates ideas but does not back up any of his statements with facts.

Of course, Stewart's shallow-minded wading pool readers have massive knee-jerk reactions. OMG, the sky is falling! And they curse the bad environmentalists and Governor Moonbeam. Instead, they should get off their high horses and get down on their knees and pray for more snow.

2016 rain map as of 3/30. The green band represents normal rainfall.
All that purple rain (sorry, Prince) in the north represents a deluge.
The brown, red & ochre spots are parts of the state still in drought,

Do you know where your water comes from?
Most of the Bay Area's water is from the San Joaquin delta.

Stewart writes that in recent years "trillions of gallons of water have been flushed through California rivers in recent years to protect fish." How about posting some supporting facts.

His statement is meant to inflame and enrage... Oh such waste. It's a crime. But think: is a dead riparian ecosystem better than a live one? The San Joaquin Delta is such a mess, thanks to over-allocation of water resources for upstream agriculture, that at times, it actually runs BACKWARDS, there's so little water in it. Now that's a crime against nature.

What's with the myopic thinking about diverting excess floodwater from the ocean, that's where the water is supposed to go, back into the ocean. We've already disrupted California's riverine and oceanic water systems to the point of massive fish population collapse, which in turn have triggered other massive species collapse. Not to mention the ramifications of the acidification of the oceans. Dead Sea ring a bell?

Smelt, salmon are not optional, nor are estuaries, which need fresh water to keep a massive ecosystem alive. Which, in turn, keeps us alive. 

I won't mention the problem of soil salt intrusion. Most of the Central Valley is at sea level. Flushing the rivers removes pooled agricultural run-off and halts salt intrusion. What's good for the smelt is good for the river. And that in turn, is good for the farmer. It keeps the soil and the water table sweet.

Has Stewart forgotten about what happens when the runoff from agriculture pools and stagnates? If the rivers aren't flushed, then the land becomes poisoned. Think toilet. Can I say Kesterson? Let me help you spell selenium poisoning.

Then, there's the downstream water table effect. A
Contra Costa County friend, Robert Lee Haycock, stated that actively pursuing the death of of our great estuaries is not the answer. Smelt, or no smelt, fresh water still needs to flow out the Golden Gate. Saltwater intrusion is already a problem for East Contra Costa County's water table—Antioch's drinking water that comes from the San Joaquin Delta system, has been compromised. 

We've pretty much killed the San Joaquin River, not to mention, the demise of the King River, the Tulare Basin, and Colorado River, which no longer even flows to the Sea of Cortez, which has led to the near extinction of myriad species. (A
nd has severely impacted the fishing industries.)

There is no longer a Mojave River, thanks to LA's Silverlake Dam (it siphons water from Northern California too). From there,
Northern California's water is shipped to Lake Perris and onto San Diego as well. 

And this unregulated water usage at the detriment of California's vast ecosystems is not just a Central Valley issue. On the back side of the Sierras, Owens Lake is no more, thanks to LA/San Fernando Valley, also responsible for Mono Lake's shrinking water surface. The Owens River is no more, LA/San Fernando Valley waterworks killed off the agriculture. Mulholland, et al, turned  the lush Owens Valley INTO a desert. Now that's ironic.

About the Damn Dams
CA has a thousand major reservoirs, many are flood control dams —Wiki

As to those few dams from the 1900s, that are being decommissioned, most are not even water storage dams, but outdated, inefficient hydroelectric dams no longer in use, and the water is not used for irrigation, etc. The dams are also silted up. Not to mention, old. As in cracked. To repair those Klamath hydro-electric dams, and add fish ladders would cost more than to tear them down. Of course, Stewart froths on about how it's a crime against humanity.

The Klamath is a mighty river, and those four hydroelectric dams should never have been constructed in the first place. The dams destroyed the massive chinook and coho salmon, steelhead (and rainbow trout) runs. Just like Klamath Falls, Oregon. Vast waterways were destroyed for "hydroelectricity." (But it was also the era of wilful destruction of native cultures. Destroy their food source. Destroy them. Don't call it genocide.)

Also, a minor detail, is Stewart even aware that all the good dam sites are taken up. Where does he suggest we put these new proposed dams? Or the crackpot suggestion to raise the height of Shasta Dam? There seem to be people living out there. Oh well...

Stewart never addresses the real problem, that we've outgrown and stripped our resources. (And the era of free federal funds for large dam projects is gone.) It's not about the evil Endangered Species Act, it's not about stupid smelt vs. the farmer.

I won't mention that we need those smaller fish to survive in order to feed the bigger fish, and that includes oceangoing fish...like salmon. And we've pretty much destroyed most of the salmon runs in California with a plethora of inefficient dams—especially those defunct hydro-electric dams slated for demolition.

Stewart states: "As a result [of the smelt?], nearly a million acres of the most fertile farmland in the world have been taken out of production, orchards are being bulldozed."

Most of those fallen orchards Stewart laments the loss of, are of recent vintage, and should never have been planted in the first place. Has he driven down I-5 lately and seen where speculative agri-farmers planting these orchards? On dry hillsides with thin soil. Are we talking of small farmers here, or agribusiness?

Pistachio and almond orchards are being planted in unprecedented numbers because they yield a much higher monetary return than, say, growing local food. (California nuts (the edible kind) are not primarily sold in California, but to the rest of the world, including Turkey, and the UAE).

Let's look at those pricey pistachios (one of California's top-ten crops): In 2012, a drought year, a record pistachio crop of over 550 million pounds (249,930 metric tons) was harvested, as compared to 1976 where 1.5 million pounds (680 tons) was gleaned. The average pistachio yield in 1982 was "1,468 pounds per acre," which ballooned to over "3,806 pounds per acre in 2010.... California comprises 99% of the total [US pistachio harvest] with over 294,000 acres planted in  22 counties."

The "annual “farm gate value” of pistachios represents more than $1.6 billion to the California economy..." That's after costs have been deducted. (American Pistachios) We grow enough pistachios to feed the entire world. And we do. And pistachios take water. Let's see, at $12 a pound,  250,000 metric tons is 551,155,655 pounds x 12 =  $6,613,867,860. It's not easy being green.

Now let's look at almonds (California's second largest agricultural commodity). "California produces 82% of the globe's almonds, harvesting 800,000 acres of the tree nut across a 400-mile stretch from northern Tehama County to southern Kern County" [read: dry desert land]. And "About 70% of California's almonds are sold overseas" [mostly to China], and "...the state will harvest its third-largest crop this year [2015] at 1.85 billion pounds" [down from 1.88 billion in 2014].

"That's more than three times what the state was producing in the late 1990s." Or  to put it into another perspective, that's "... twice as much almond acreage in California as there was two decades ago..."  (LA Times, 2015). Oh, and almonds are an extremely thirsty crop, more so than cotton. When I computed raw almonds @ $10 per pound x 1.85 billion pounds = ? Google answered with a smartass answer: what does a trillion dollars look like? No wonder almonds and pistachios are so green. And I don't mean that in a good way.
“The governor’s executive order said to the agricultural sector that it must only submit ‘plans’ for future drought,” he explains. But while the industry makes up only two percent of the state's economy, " agriculture is responsible for 80 percent … of all the water that’s used here in California." Hertsgaard has found that some of the biggest farmers of pistachios, almonds and walnuts, known as “thirsty crops,” are actually expanding operations and reaping record profits. At the core of the problem is the water pricing system in California, Hertsgaard says. Experts say water is still relatively inexpensive, so more of it is being used more than necessary.   —Agriculture is thriving in bone-dry California, and that's not a good thing (PRI 2015)

Most of the bulldozed nut orchards Stewart is referring to, were planted in the dry southern portion of the state within the past 20 years—where sagebrush, artemesia, and opuntia normally thrive. (Then there's the water-hungry alfalfa equation, hay being sold, not to our dairy industry, but to China and the UAE because of, well, for enormous profits...just like those greeny pistachios and almonds.)

According to California Agricultural Production Statistics, our number one agricultural commodity is milk? And we're selling all our hay ($1.3 billion's worth) down the Yangtzee River? What about the happy California cows? (See Saudi Arabia buying up [drought-stricken] farmland in US Southwest.. to grow alfalfa hay). (Jan, 2016).

It's a good thing that grapes are our third largest agricultural commodity. It's enough to drive you to drink. The cows, too.

I have not derailed. Yet. We were talking about smelt vs. water earlier, and something in Stewart's loose leaf argument sure is beginning to smell fishy. The center does not hold.

Much of the southern Central Valley is desert because we've already dammed and removed the major water sources. We've destroyed massive riparian ecosystems. Saving more water for crops in marginal farmlands won't reverse the desertification process once its begun.

The entire Central Valley was one vast marshy ecosystem/wetland: 16,000 square miles, one of the largest wetland ecosystem on the west coast of North America. All gone now. Twelve of the 29 native fish species are gone, smelt are endangered. Smelt are a major food source for other fish and marine animals.

What the hell is a smelt?
The Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, found in the Sacramento Delta, is a major food source for salmon, striped bass and lake trout. Like salmon, many species are anadromous, living most of their lives in the sea, but traveling into fresh water to breed. —Wiki
"The tiny delta smelt is a bigger deal than you think....
In the case of the delta, we're talking about a once-magnificent place that is in serious trouble. It is 16,000 square miles of wetland and open water -- the West Coast's largest estuary -- and the end point of about 40% of California's precipitation. When the Spanish arrived centuries ago, it was teeming with fish, crawling with bears and beavers, its skies periodically darkened with migrating birds."  (It's small, but it's a keeper - latimes, 2007

"The tiny delta smelt is one of the best indicators of environmental conditions in the San Francisco Bay-Delta, an ecologically important estuary that is a major hub for California's water system — and an ecosystem that is now rapidly unraveling." (Delta smelt - Center for Biological Diversity).

A smelt is an indicator species.

I agree that water needs to go back into the water table, and I don't mean by fracking. Agribusiness has already siphoned significant amounts of artesian water from the ground. Much of the Central Valley has sunken from 12 to 28 feet within the past five years.

"A spot near Corcoran, in the Tulare basin, sank 13 inches in an eight-month period" and "...UC Davis said farmers are pumping an additional 6 million acre-feet of groundwater this year, compared to 2011, the year before the drought started...." (SacBee, 2015, Central Valley sinking fast in drought, NASA study shows).

Garry Hayes, a professor of geology at Modesto Junior College, said, "The sucking of the water in the underground aquifers may be the worst part of all. Hard to replace, if ever, and yet running short too. There aren't a lot of good choices into the future."

Does Stewart think that we can ever undo that kind of colossal damage? Pump the compacted soil back up so it can again store water? Those collapsed aquifers will never, ever be replenished, as the ground has sunk. So the repercussions of the latest drought, in this case, are forever.

Ditto that process of over-taxing our water resources and destroyying ecosystems on the back side of the Sierras. Owens Lake, drained dry to supply LA, is an alkali sump. Ditto Mono Lake—we've diverted its fresh water supply too. When the wind blows, the air is toxic with alkali dust. Silicosis has become a chronic health issue for folks living there. (The Eternal Dustbowl, L.A. Weekly, 2006)

The amount of alkali dust billowing over Mono Lake the other day was like a vast white curtain, a death shroud that stings the eyes and irritated the nose and lungs. But I digress.

Owens Lake (10 x 17.5 miles long) held a significant amount of water until 1913, when most of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Now it's the largest single source of dust pollution in the U.S. Image from the International Space StationWiki

And that rampant disregard for, and destruction of our water resources continues, with Nestlé pumping vast amounts of water out of Southern California which it sells right back to you, courtesy of the BLM. Crystal Geyser and Nestlé are siphoning off trillions gallons of Southern California water on public lands (pretty much for free), and then selling it back to us at a dollar a pint. So, do you buy bottled water? It too, is part of the problem.

"Nestlé is draining California aquifers, from Sacramento alone taking 80 million gallons annually. Nestlé then sells the people's water back to them at great profit under many dozen brand names." (Nestle Continues Stealing World's Water During Drought 2015). And in the San Bernardino National Forest (read; Mojave Desert), a similar scenario is unfolding: that's 24,820,000 gallons a year that Nestlé bottles—for free. 

Nestlé should not be allowed to remove our public water with little to no oversight from the BLM, its siphoning off 705 million gallons of water per year from California’s groundwater water supply. "If the Forest Service renews Nestlé’s San Bernardino permit, it would not just be a catastrophe for California, but for the whole country -- because it creates a precedent that even in times of scarcity, corporations have a right to profit from our most precious shared resources." Sign the petition here: (SumofUs)

And Nestlé isn't the only water czar.

Calistoga based Crystal Geyser is mining whatever little water that would otherwise replenish Owens Lake, and bottling it as well. "According to the Inyo County Planning Department, Crystal Geyser would extract water from three existing on-site wells in the shallow aquifer up to 360 acre feet per year." That's something like 117,306,515 gallons a year. (Crystal Geyser plans bottling plant expansion, 2012).

And like Nestlé, Crystal Geyser is mining more Northern California water as well, in Shasta County. "Residents whose homes and wells border the Mount Shasta plant worry that Crystal Geyser’s facility could leave them dry, and contend that some wells ran low when Coca-Cola was pumping there." It also raised an ethical question: "Should bottlers be able to pump unlimited amounts of water for sale during a drought?" (Resident group files suit over Mount Shasta water bottling plant, La TImes, 2015).

Mono Lake, alkali duststorm (due to the low lake level), Earth Day, 4/22/2016

Water conservation begins at home. It's not about farmers, or our drinking water vs. the little fish. That's a red herring. There's money to be had. And a lot of it. It ain't easy being green.

As H. L. Menken said, "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong." Now he was one smart feller.

More links:

The Race to Buy Up the World's Water - Newsweek
Draining California - The New American
List of dams and reservoirs in California
California drought: Why doesn't California build big dams any more?
California built many of the world's most ambitious dam projects during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but a large state- or federally-funded reservoir hasn't been built in 35 years. Experts say there are a confluence of factors, from environmental laws to funding to a lack of suitable sites. ...nearly all of the best sites are already taken. California has more than 1,400 dams. Most of its major rivers, like the Sacramento and San Joaquin, already have dams on them. and...easy money to build large projects dried up.aid Ron Stork, with Friends of the River.
"All the good dam sites are taken and the water is already diverted," he said. "Voters are being misled if they think they are going to get a meaningful amount of water out of new dams."
Indeed, California has given out legal rights to five times as much water as rain and snow produce in average years, according to a new study by UC Merced. Since 1914, the state has given out rights to 370 million acre-feet, when a typical year of precipitation only provides about 70 million acre-feet to lakes, streams and rivers.
"We're kind of in big trouble," said Joshua Viers, a UC Merced scientist.

Largest reservoirs in California by year built, with reservoir size, dam height and location:
Shasta: (1945) 4.5 million acre feet - 521 feet - Shasta County
Oroville: (1968) 3.5 million acre feet - 742 feet - Butte County
Trinity: (1962) 2.4 million acre feet - 458 feet - Trinity County
New Melones: (1979) - 2.4 million acre feet - 578 feet - Calaveras County
San Luis: (1967) 2 million acre feet - 305 feet - Merced County
Don Pedro: (1971) 2 million acre feet - 568 feet - Tuolumne County
Berryessa: (1957) 1.6 million acre feet - 255 feet - Napa County
Almanor: (1927) 1.3 million acre feet - 130 feet - Plumas County
New Exchequer: (1967) 1 million acre feet - 479 feet - Mariposa County
Folsom: (1956) 1 million acre feet - 275 feet - Sacramento County

A must-read on water wars: The New “Water Barons”: Wall Street Mega-Banks are Buying up the World’s Water (2012)

Robert Lee Haycock reminded me about Sausalito's Bay Model (we used to go there for field trips): In the late 1940s, John Reber proposed to build two large dams in the San Francisco Bay as a way to provide a more reliable water supply to residents and farms and to connect local communities. In 1953, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a detailed study of the so-called Reber Plan. The Bay Model was constructed in 1957 to study the plan. The tests proved that the plan was not viable, and the Reber Plan was scuttled. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta portion was added to the model in 1966-1969 to provide information for studies concerning impacts of the deepening of navigation channels, realignment of Delta channels (via a Peripheral Canal), and various flow arrangements on water quality.  —Wiki

see also my  Droughtful Musings (9/15)
Almonds or apricots are not the main water guzzlers. Alfalfa, used to feed the cows, is. So, dairy/beef is our biggest agricultural water user.

What percentage of California’s water is used by agriculture?
  • 80% based on the developed water supply 
  • 52%: based on the total water supply of a dry year 
  • 29% based on the total water supply of a wet year   
—Blaine Hanson Department of Land, Air and Water Resources University of California, Davis
  It's not an Us vs Them (agribusiness, fracking) vs (consumers) equation.

We all eat food, we drive cars, All of us here, in California, almost 40,000,000 of us—we ARE the problem. Deferring blame to the farmer (or the smelt) is not the answer. Yes, we need to kick Nestle's buttnuts, and ban fracking, and quit driving cars, but I'm rather fond of eating. Not willing to give it up. The farmer is the man.

So, I'll save every drop of water I can. Because I can.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Posting old Photos & Facebook Memories

Facebook got me on a roll with those Memory posts, I've been going back and filling in some blanks in my blog, with old Facebook posts. Most are photos, some are poems in the rough, but it is interesting to add them to the chronology.

I'm focusing on photos (and comments) that are relevant to the blog and to writing, and performances, vs random photos. Trouble is, I don't know the dates on some of those old photos. Then there's the tracking down of supporting memorabilia (posters and programs), alas, not all in one place. Some of the extra material is scattered across several hard drives, some of it still isn't scanned.

Yeah, yeah, I'm supposed to be writing poems for Poetry Month. I petered out at 15 new poems, I really need to get back on the horse. I was seeking inspiration from the Memory posts. So instead, I'm fleshing out the past. Some of the past includes poems, but they were written in the past and in the past they shall remain. Not part of this year's poetry count.

I'm still feeling weird from the virus. But I managed to clean the house. Maybe this is sort of a house-cleaning attempt as well. You know, post taxes. More interesting than collecting receipts.

And yeah, yeah, yeah, I was supposed to be mining old journals and papers for more of my old MIA work and post it as well, but I fell off the wagon. I grew weary. I grew bored. Got burnt out after documenting several years' worth of journals....then my iPad crashed (where I had those pdfs of my old journals stored—there was no way to get them OFF my iPad). I'm still hoping to resurrect it as I'm not entirely convinced that I've backups of all that archival work I did a few months ago. Rather depressing.

I need to revisit most of these new posts and add details when I find my notes, and supporting material. I got the first entries from Facebook memories on Earth Day. They still need editing (as to most of the others....but that takes time, and multiple visits,  so I don't catch all the typos the first few times around. A few of these posts were added in 2015, but I didn't think to copy links, and now I can't find them. Hard to revisit them if I can't find them. Duh. It comes down to logistics: poems need to be filed by year, offline, as well. I don't have hard copies of most of my work—especially the prose. Sometimes that makes me shudder.)

New work that needs tending to:
(I've made 2nd reading, fixed a few typos, added tags.)
Earth Day in Navajolands 
Earth Day & Squirrel
The Last Rope Bridge
Knee Woes 
Lá Fhéile Bealtaine shona daoibh
Osama Killed 
Maureen Hurley teaching silkpainting at Pleasanton... 
"Day of the Flowers," 34th Mill Valley Film Fest
Fundraiser for Lagunitas Montessori, Point Reyes 
Irish President Mary Robinson
Mary McAleece, Irish President in SF
SF Caledonian Club at Pleasanton
Musician's Special
Me and Dana Teen Lomax CPITS
Elemental Portraits Reading, Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Kirk Whipple, Marilyn Morales, with special guests... 
Elemental Portraits Performance, Cape Cod   
Elemental Portraits with Kirk Whipple and Marilyn Morales, Florida  
3 Hams at a Bread & Roses Party at the Nagy's   wrong year?
Brian Thorstenson's MFA class at San Francisco State
Thespians on the Town
In Wim Hofman's garden, Vlissingen
Andrei Vosnesensky, National Poetry Week
Falling to Sea Level, Aldebaran Review
Maureen Hurley & Jessamyn West, Napa Poetry Conference 
Fashion photo shoot ca . 1981 with Richard Salzman
3 FRAGMENTS, CPITS freewrites
Sonnet Form Michael Dow Workshop
Ghost trees, Michael Dow Workshop

(Titles in CAPS are poems, but not prose poems. I still haven't decided how to handle them, I probably should do the same. But I do have them indexed  prose poem (64)

I still have some woefully inadequate years to account for. WTF ever happened in:
►  2006 (12) pathetic! it was 7
►  2005 (9) better, it was 3
I have almost no work to account for. Maybe browsing my photo archives (or my art) will trigger memory.  But for these years, I'll have to seriously excavate....
►  1999 (18) better, it was 4
►  1998 (10) better, it was  4
►  1988 (10) pathetic! it was 9
►  1982 (10) pathetic (to be fair, I haven't scanned any of these journals yet. Also, I had a large file with short poems I posted in 1980, and many of those poems could be from 1981, and 1982).

(Counting the above six rather deplorable years of little work, I have something like 25 years where I don't have at least 52 poem entries per year. That's my arbitrary, random goal. That equals out to a poem, or a bit of writing a week. Is it doable? Back to mining those journals. Ugh.)  

I also need to revisit:
Trolling Old Journals  (10/12/2015)
also  Salvaging old files (again) (11/21/2015)
to see if I've made any progress. That's when the last spate of salvaging old poems and writing began.  Not listing the newly added work separately makes it almost impossible to find again.

Some progress has been made.
►  1979 ‪(5)‬ now 37!
►  1984 ‪(15)‬ now 27
►  1995 ‪(6)‬  now 37
►  1996 ‪(10)‬ now 24
►  2000 ‪(3)‬ 37 mostly schoolwork, ditto 2001

Partial list

ODE TO MY TRUCK (2 versions)
Memory: Robin Williams  
1997  newly added to blog  10/15
VIENNA, 1939
1998  newly added to blog  10/15
2001 newly added to blog  10/15
Independence Day, Fatima, Portugal
2013 newly added to blog  10/15
 Lost Car Keys

Since I began this blog in 2007, I guess I should view anything posted pre-2007, as gravy. My goal, in 2007, was to really learn to write prose, and a blog seemed like a good idea. Adding poems came later. Once I started, I couldn't stop. So much for the idea of keeping separate art forms. Still, this electronic system is far better than the piles of old horizontal paper files that threatened to overtake me in an avalanche of paper.

Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah, as the song goes. These are future notes to myself for when, or if I get dementia, at least part of me will have remembered something.

Soon I will have 1700 blog entries. I never envisioned such a number. A ton of writing