Sunday, November 25, 1990

Getting a Christmas Tree in Sonoma County

SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS


One Christmas we had two trees. At the tender age of five, I was scandalized when my grandmother brought home a madrone tree instead of the usual Christmas tree.

Already on shaky ground with the concept of Santa Claus not fitting down the stovepipe, I was convinced it was an unwritten sin NOT to have an evergreen tree.

I wasn't prepared to let go of the Christmas Tree symbol, so I trudged up the hill and dragged home a spindly Douglas fir that was more seedling than tree.

The two trees stood side by side, my tree too weak to hold ornaments or lights, and the red skinned bare-branched madrone aglow with silver glass balls and birds.

I begrudgingly admit her tree was beautiful but it just didn't feel right--like a dog eating cat food.



If you're wondering why the tradition of Christmas trees arose, it's a remnant of a pre-Christian symbol, like Easter eggs and Hallowe'en.

In the Nordic countries of Europe, when a house was built, a pine tree was tied to the eaves or chimney to ensure good luck. In the Ukraine and many parts of Russia, the fir tree, covered in red bows, was used for wedding processions and festivities.

During the mid-winter holidays, pine and fir boughs were spread on the floors and other evergreen plants wreathed around each window-—perhaps to remind the sun that even in the midst of darkness, life flourished—though the rest of the ground be barren.

My Victorian grandmother said Christmas trees didn't exist in Ireland and England until recently, but evergreens were traditionally brought into the house--especially the holly, the ivy and the mistletoe.

The ballad, "A Wassail Song" claims the wassail cup is made of the rosemary tree.

"Here we go a wassailing among the leaves so green."

Wassail, in Old Scandanavian means to "be well."

And of course, there's the Yule Log, usually a pine log decorated with evergreens and berries that Good King Wenceslas warmed his feet by.

The Oxford English Dictionary claims a recent adoption of the custom of the Christmas tree during the early reign of Queen Victoria. The Christmas custom of the small fir tree decorated with candles, ribbons and presents probably originated in Germany.

I found an early reference in 1789, from a Mrs. Papendick's journal, "Mr. Papendick proposed an illuminated tree according to the German fashion."

According to Hazlett Brand's "Popular Antiquities" published in 1870:

"[T]he Christmas tree...came to us from Germany directly...and is still (1869) a flourishing institution among us."

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaun
Wie treu sind diente Blatter!
Not only green in Summer's heat
But also winter's snow and sleet,
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree
With faithful leaves unchanging
...hope and love and faithfulness
Are precious things I can possess.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Your leaves will teach me also.

And Christmas trees are still a flourishing institution among us.

* * *

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT TREE

If you're like many, chances are you won't get out to the lower south forty acres of your back yard to cut down a Christmas tree but will visit a Christmas tree farm to select your own. Those sad and wizened parking lot Christmas trees from Oregon just won't do.

One likely place to start the search for the perfect tree is the Spirit of Christmas Tree Farm on Gravenstein Highway just north of Sebastopol. There are Monterey and Bishop pines (long-needled varieties), Sequoia, and Douglas Fir to choose from--and all are native species.

The selling season which begins Nov. 18, open seven days a week, and runs through Christmas is "short, sweet and intense" according to Cliff Davis who has been in the tree business since the early 80s. Spirit of Christmas is a family owned operation. Davis and his wife Laurie corner all friends and relatives to help out during the busy season.

Even the business next door, the Green Valley Tree Farm, is run by Davis's cousin, Dell. Davis is an old name in West County. I live off Davis Street in Forestville and Cliff's cousin Ray is a neighbor.

Davis and his clan look forward to the intense selling season. He says, "I enjoy the concept of Christmas. It's a fun thing for families to do, it's a joyous occasion."

Davis stakes out an enormous green and white tent each year, lights a fire in the potbelly stove, where you can warm your mittens, sip hot mulled cider and listen to Christmas music--while the kids squabble over which perfectly shaped tree is more perfect for the living room.

For no extra charge, they'll clean out dead needles and evict the occasional mouse or lizard shacking up in the dense foilage. They'll also fireproof your tree, "though, a live long needle pine tree kept in water is naturally fire- proof," instructs Kathy Douglas, a kindergarten teacher at Bellvue Elementary School in Santa Rosa, who also works in the family business during her spare time.

Kathy advises anyone who needs a fireproofed tree (all trees in public or commercial buildings MUST be fireproofed) to allow a few extra hours for the tree to dry.

There’s no better place to wile away your time at the Davis Tree Farm. I dropped in for a quick half-hour interview and stayed with my new friends sipping hot cocoa and swapping stories one memorable December afternoon. (I even got a skeleton idea on a prose story, which you read at the beginning of this article.)

They also have pre-cut trees for those of you who haven't the time to cut your own. Tree prices run anywhere from $10 to $36 and up, according to Davis, who sells them by the foot.

Most families prefer to saw their own trees, but Davis or another employee are always around to lend a hand or a saw for those would-be loggers who tackle a tree bigger than their house.

Davis estimates that he moves anywhere between 2,000 to 4,000 trees a season. "Our business increases each year," says Davis. But one rainy weekend can drastically dampen sales. Davis figures he has about 1800 trees per acre. With nine acres planted in trees, that's over 15,000 trees that need year-round care.

"It's a labor-intensive operation," says Davis, who also has had to rely on an outside source of income as a commercial fisherman.

Davis claims the survival rate of trees growing to harvest is about 75%. "Some years, it's as low as 50%--especially among the firs," says Davis, surveying a Monterey pine he's just trimmed with a machete.

Today's Christmas trees are pruned and pampered into the perfect conical shape Mother Nature never mastered.

"There's pruning, planting, weeding, watering-—just like any agricultural business. And there are the usual pests, be it gall rust fungus, spider mites, scale or a jack rabbit sharpening his teeth on a seedling," says Davis.

"Once we caught a skunk instead of a jack rabbit in our Have-a-heart trap," chuckles Davis. "At first we didn’t know how we were going to get him out of the cage but then I remembered that skunks are nocturnal, so I waited until mid-day before letting him out."

His cousin Kathy Douglas said, "I caught a weasel in my 3- inch irrigation pipe. The line wasn't working and the little fellow drowned, poor thing." And I didn't even know that we had real weasels in West County!

Planting new stock begins right after Christmas. The Davises purchase seedlings from wholesale nurseries and the U.S. Department of Forestry. They begin irrigation in May and water each tree every two weeks until the rainy season begins.

Says Ms. Douglas, "I like outside, physical work versus the indoor, mental work. There are lots of blackbirds and quail. In the morning when it's nice and quiet and the trees are covered with dew, it's fragrant and beautiful here."

* * *

Owner of Canfield Tree Farm, Edward Zidek, a retired salmon party boat charter fisherman moved to Sebastopol in 1963. "I'm retired and I love plants. We've been in business five years and it's slowly getting better each year." Zidek sells mostly Monterey pines. Prices range from $10 to $20. Canfield Tree Farm will be open for business the day after Thanksgiving.

NOTE BENE: I think this is now called Fisher Tree Farm.)


* * *
At the monastic Starcross Community in Annapolis, Brother Tobias (Tolbert McCarroll) and Sister Marty sell Christmas trees and wreaths "to help raise funds to support our work with children with AIDS and their families," said Sister Marty. "We started this venture ten years ago and we sold our first crop two years ago."

The Starcross Community was a one of the first charitable organizations in America to begin taking in infants with AIDS in January of 1987 and it supports four HIV positibr Rumanian children. The organization has developed a national network to help children with AIDS. "Locally, we're offering support to families with iHIV positive and AIDS infected children."

(NOTE BENE: 2007 marks the 31st anniversary of the founding of Starcross, located in the peaceful hills of northwest Sonoma County.

I first met Brother Toby, an author and human rights lawyer, one afternoon on the long slopes of Annapolis in the early 1980s where I was teaching a poetry residency at Annapolis School. I've been a long-distance fan of his ever since.

Since 1986, Starcross Community has adopted, fostered, and been advocates for children born HIV positive. Starcross continues to support Houses of Hope for children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic in Romania and Africa. —MH)

When asked how many AIDS infected children lived in West County, Sister Marti said, "Fortunately there are few cases....yet."

Sister Marti estimates they sold about 1,500 trees last year. Both Brother Tobias and Sister Marti affirm, "It's a full-time, year round occupation for one person, and during tree shearing, several of us work full-time." Then there's the sick children to care for as well.

While they were waiting for the Christmas trees to mature-—it was seven long years before they saw their first harvest-—Sister Marti said, "We made dried fruit wreaths and wreaths from the clippings." Wreaths, shipped all across the country sell for about $30 plus tax and shipping. This income helpes to raise critical funds to support their AIDS hospice work.

Starcross Christmas tree prices range from $25 on up. The most popular variety is the Scotch pine which isn't really a pine tree, but a fir tree. Trees can be purchased from Starcross and shipped nationally through UPS, or delivered to Santa Rosa.

You can also visit the 30-acre plantation in Annapolis (above Sea Ranch) and choose your own tree. Starcross Christmas trees will be available Thanksgiving weekend. Says Sister Marti, "I think our trees are exceptionally beautiful...we grow them with love." Indeed they do.

(NOTE BENE: I'm not sure if Starcross still sells Christmas trees. Call them first. Since 1989, when this article first appeared, Starcross has since diversified and planted olive trees. Last year, 2006, they saw their first harvest They do welcome visitors to help harvest olives in mid-November. Call Sister Julie at 707-292-4669.

Sister Julie's premium olive oil will be available at local wineries in February. Olio Nuovo, the "in your face oil" as Chef John Ash calls it, will be available along with Sister Marti's Olive Oil and Lavender Balm at Starcross on Saturday December 15 and Sunday December 16 from 1-5 pm. For more information call 707-886-1919 after December 1st.)


* * *

Another Christmas Tree option is to go renewable: buy a live potted tree from your favorite nursery. Then, if you have the room and a green thumb, you'll have a resident Christmas tree for years to come. It'll become an old friend. Or you can wild release it at one of the Christmas tree farms.



* * *

WHERE TO GO: (updated 11/2007)

Starcross Community, 34500 Annapolis Rd, Annapolis, CA (707) 886-1919 http://www.starcross.org

Davis Christmas Tree Farm, 3800 Vine Hill Road, Sebastopol; (707) 823-8733. Hours: 8 a.m. until dark daily.

Spirit of Christmas Tree Farm, 3660 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol; (707) 823-6751. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Fisher Farm, 2870 Canfield Road, Sebastopol; (707) 823-4817. Take Highway 116 west, two-plus miles west, then follow Fisher Farm signs. Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 9 a.m. to dark.

Buddy's Christmas Tree Farm, 8575 Graton Road, Sebastopol; (707) 823-4547. Hours: 8:30 a.m. to dark daily.

Frosty Mountain Tree Farm, 3600 Mariola Road, Sebastopol; (707) 829-2351. Weekends: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays: noon to 5 p.m.

Garlock Tree Farm, 2275 Bloomfield Road, Sebastopol; (707) 824-0361; www.garlocktreefarm.com. Hours: noon - 5 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends to Dec. 17.

Reindeer Ridge Farm, 3500 Mariola Road, Sebastopol; (707) 829-1569 or 707-823-4845. Hours: 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.weekends.

Santa's Trees, 11389 Barnett Valley Road, Sebastopol; (707) 823-6635. Hours: 9 a.m.- dusk Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Victorian Christmas Tree Ranch, 1220 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol; (707) 823-0831; www.victrees.com. Hours: noon - 7 p.m. Tuesdays - Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends.




© Maureen Hurley 1990?, 2007 The Western Sonoma County Paper

NOTE: This is an article I wrote for The Paper,( Sonoma County) ca. 1990. I updated it where I could—except the quotes and prices—and the contact list at the bottom is up to date. Over the course of a week, I visited a half dozen tree farms in West County. These were among my favorites. The personal opening lead later becomes a story...one of the perks of working for a newspaper is that you uncover stories in the most unlikely places.

The Paper, a student project founded by Elizabeth Poole in 1979, was where I cut my teeth writing arts features and photography. I did everything from darkroom PMTS to layout and paper delivery. The first issues were mimeographed. The Paper was always struggling, paychecks were sometimes sporadic. During one particularly lean time, we were even paid in script. My script dentist turned out to be a quack.

Then The Paper was bought by a couple of guys from SF, and the name changed to The Sonoma County Independent under PBS executive, John Boland and Jim (James) Carroll. It transmorphed again in 2000 and became The Bohemian when it was bought by an independent newspapers media group.

Saturday, November 10, 1990

Andrei Vosnesensky, National Poetry Week


Andrei Vosnsensky reading my CPITS/CAC poetry book, Poem for a Russian Child.

I spent an afternoon with Andrei Vosnesensky, who was the headline poet for National Poetry Week, ar Fort Mason, San Francisco. I was attempting to give Andrei a tabloid anthology I had edited with Oleg Atbashian, Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost. Herman Berlandt published the tabloid, via National Poetry Association.

Andrei Vosnesensky commenting on our publication, Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost, National Poetry Week, SF, 1990. Oleg Atbashian was my co-translator from Cherkassy.
Little did Oleg know that within a year (1990), he'd be in San Francisco, frantically working with me round the clock in an old military complex-cum-art center, Fort Mason, pasting up a newspaper-style tamizdat journal, "Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost," (Mother Earth), in time for Herman Berlandt's annual National Poetry Week. From 1989 to 1991, we published many new Soviet poets including Yan Martsinkevitch, and Viktor Kulle. (See also.)

Poetry Unites the World by Dr. Andrei Bantaş 

Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost 

Letter from Oleg Atbashian
The New Zamizdat


Oleg Atbashian—my jacket, my guitar.
National Poetry Week, SF, 1990.

Maureen Hurley I think Celia Woloch took this photo

Alastair Ingram Is that Oleg Atabashian? The guy I recorded with when he was here?
Maureen Hurley Yep! He went back to the USSR, then it fell and he came back to NYC, he's a political commentator for the Russian Community. Google him.

Alastair Ingram Wow. That was quick! I will google him. I really like the recording we did together. Have you heard it?

Maureen Hurley Yeah, I'm having a bit of a nostalgia moment here. Pulled out my negatives to find a guy who was imprisoned at Manzanar—for a blog I'm writing and I got VERY distracted. Scanned my Galapagos prints too, Don't think I'll get them up tonight.

Oleg went back to the USSR, & to his wife, had another kid and she began stalking me in the internet...too creepy. Haven't talked with him since 9/11. He was next door in the AMEX building but he overslept and missed his train.
Now he's become the loose leaf darling of the ultra right teabaggers.


compiled from Facebook notes 4/24/2016

Thursday, October 4, 1990

Putting Descartes Before the Horse —James Burke, The Paper, Oct, 1990

PUTTING DESCARTES BEFORE THE HORSE

By Maureen Hurley (The PAPER, Oct. 1990)

Popular television commentator and author James Burke will make a rare northern California appearance at Sonoma State University, Friday, Oct. 5. Burke, who lives in London, is one of Great Britian’s formost commentators on science and technology. He is presently circumnavigating the globe shooting footage for an upcoming BBC television documentary series. But he will briefly touch down in Rohnert Park for a dinner/reception fundraiser for a PBS KRCB/Channel 22; this lecture promises to give us a lively glimpse of his newest creation entitled, Goodbye Descartes: Information and Change, which focuses on ecological issues including the rainforest and the ozone layer.

Affectionately dubbed as one of the most lively and ereudite “talking heads” in television history, the 54-year-old Burke is better known to PBS viewers as the host of the internationally acclaimed award-winning BBC documentary series (and companion books), The Day the Universe Changed, and Connections. “His shows are aired in over thirty countries, and continue to be some of the most popular programs on television world-wide,” says KRCB Special Events Coordinator and Auction Manager, Terry Hochmuth.

During Burke’s tenure as BBC’s chief reporter for the Apollo missions to the moon, he developed the some of the ideas that led to the popular television series, for which he received the Royal Television Society Gold Medal in 1974; the previous year he received the Silver Medal.

In his book, The Day the Universe Changed, Burke writes: “Thought, in the form of critical doubt, was the only tool that the scientist could trust.” In 1637, the philosopher Descartes stated the only thing certain was thought itself. His famous dictum: “I think, therefore I am” (cogito, ergo, sum) marked the beginnings of the scientific revolution and of modern thought. God and the church was no longer central to man’s existence. According to Burke, when Descartes applied his “Cartesian doubt” to the behavior of the universe, it became “a cold, empty, mechanical place.”

When Burke, the Oxford educated scholar visited SSU last year, the event sold-out; over 2,000 spellbound listeners crowded onto the sagging gym bleachers to listen to the witty author, educator, and master storyteller untangle and weave unlikely ideas and connections: how the popularity of underwear in the twelvth century led to the invention of the printing press, and how the mill waterwheel evolved into the computer (with an unlikely immigrant stop at Ellis Island, New York).

Burke launched into a delightful diatribe which included the role of Irish grandmothers for the development of divergent thinking skills; to how science and technology have changed the deep structure of our lives by “altering society’s perceptions.” Our brains forge associative pathways which explore new and complex relationships between data and ideas. “Take these words: oil, Arab, sand, castle, night, day, sun, daughter—this is why we write poetry,” said Burke. “It’s a trick of putting things together in new combinations that leads to new ideas.”

Burke stated the mechanism for change is not always smooth: models shift when unexpected change occurs. Burke asked: “Why does change happen at all? Today, we live according to the latest version of how the universe functions. Should we move to a more flexible model? Suppose we could recognize there is no pattern to the universe? How should we prepare for change?” Accidents of time, circumstance, and place gave birth to ideas, inventions, and coincidences that led to technological achievements (or disasters) of the modern world. Said Burke, the gathering of knowledge should include the study of structure itself.

“A generalist straddles disciplines,” said Burke. “The key task for the future is not more new things. The problem is second-guessing the social effects of change. In the ‘50s, who’d have thought deodorant would make holes in the ozone layer?” Burke envisions a more contextual model: we need to make sure tomorrow’s world is better than today’s. He said, “We ordinary human beings have the power. Science and technology should enrich our intellectual lives, not just our material lives.”

Tickets available at SSU Box Office (664-2382), Bass outlets, and at the door. KRCB/Channel 22 fundraiser will feature gourmet Italian cuisine; proceeds to support local public television. Call 585-8522 for reservations.


(This is one of the few articles where I have the electronic draft. Most went missing, or were grossly corrupted, the finished article is always different. I liked to keep two copies, the draft I turned in, and the finished piece, which I corrected, so that I learned what the copy editor, Leisel, wanted. She was absolutely brilliant—and would explain why she made the changes. I learned so much from her. Nick also brilliantly edited my pieces. When the Paper was sold, Jim Carroll became editor, I learned a lot about the bones of writing from these folks. I knew nothing about writing when I began this process. I am forever endebted to them. —MH 10/9/2016)


Food for Though, Joan Marler, KPFA, Marija Gimbutas, The Paper, Oct 4, 1990

JOAN MARLER/FOOD FOR THOUGHT  10/4/90


Hunger is a primary motivator, whether it’s corporeal or intellectual, and if you listen hard enough, you can hear corn grow. Radio personality Joan Marler stumbled into the art of the interview because as a dancer and an artist, she felt isolated. “I was frustrated I couldn’t see what I had accomplished. As I worked on stained glass in my studio and listened to KPFA, I found I was mute.” Eight years ago, she asked herself what the most challenging position she could put herself into “to see if I could think straight.” Food for thought. The answer came in loud and clear on the airwaves. Marler volunteered at KPFA fm in Berkeley, and eventually became a producer of interviews, lectures and documentaries for public radio.

Joan Marler lives with her husband Dan Smith, and daughter Sorrel, in an octagonal handmade house, and several studios tucked under the oaks in the Sebastopol hills. A fifth generation Californian, she grew up in Fort Bragg, Mendocino. “As a child, I was literally starving, until the first artists moved to Mendocino in the ‘60s. I remember the beginning of my life, the invitation into my creative life. There was a storefront window with musical instruments. All I did was see the outside of the door and it was as if I was hit with a thunderbolt.” She was 13. “It’s important for me to work in a variety of fields simultaneously,” said Marler--and she does--in dance, the visual arts, interviewing, writing, and editing.

Her latest food-for-thought weekly edition, program which began in June, “Brainstorm,” a which airs Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m., covers a broad spectrum of the universe. Marler, who was KPFA’s former poetry editor, described it as a series of lectures, interviews and live pieces that focus on ideas, philosophy, mythology, women’s spirituality, humanities, the arts and sciences.”

Asking: “What are the sources of our hidden impulses,” she delves into repressed material, “uncovering the hidden assumptions that create the blueprint for our individual, and collective lives and attitudes, bringing them into consciousness.” 

She explained, “I drive down to Berkeley to broadcast a show, and my voice comes back to the community via the radio.” Programming on KPFA affects whole communities of listeners, it’s a circulation of ideas. She likens ideas to food. “As a child I was starving for information. I’ve gained tremendous experience through this work. I’m concentrating nutrients and transmitting them to others.” 

Marler has interviewed and produced lectures by many notable luminaries including the late Joseph Campbell, Phil Cousineau, Alan Watts, psychologist Carl Rogers, Riane Eisler, who wrote “The Chalice and the Blade,” and Marija Gimbutas, whose book, “The Language of the Goddess” has challenged the concept of patriarchal belief systems.

A motivating factor in Marler’s work is the exploration of women’s spirituality, and how it relates to the modern world. On Oct. 6th, she will host a special 12 hour women’s spirituality marathon, focusing on the inseparability of politics and spirituality, on KPFA fm. Marler wrote an essay entitled, “Women’s Spirituality” for the KPFA “Folio,” “This listening to the deepest interior voice, past all rigid systems and laws, is at the heart of women’s spirituality. Beyond this, there is no organized theology, no dogma, no centralized system of worship or practice, no governing spiritual body or leader. Instead, there is a multiplicity of traditional and evolving forms of ritual, celebration, and sacred inquiry, practiced alone and in community with others, found in every culture in the world.”

“As the Chinese saying goes, ‘If we do not change the direction in which we are going, we are bound to head up where we are headed.’ The necessity of examining the myths by which we are operating, which gives rise to our attitudes and actions, has never been greater. Women’s spirituality, therefore, is not a form of escapism, but is a practice of clarity and inner alignment by which individual integrity and responsibility for ourselves, our communities, and the planet are being fostered. In this view, the spiritual and the political are profoundly intertwined,” wrote Marler.

She dragged a large box across the floor of her studio, and showed me the results of two year’s worth of hard work, a 500 page book she’d edited: “The Civilization of the Goddess: Neolithic Europe before the Patriarchy.” This manuscript is a companion volume to the groundbreaking book, “The Language of the Goddess” by Lithuanian anthro-mythologist, Dr. Marija Gimbutas. The professor of European archaeology at UCLA is author of 20 books and over 200 articles concerning European prehistory, mythology and the origins of the Indo-Europeans.

In “Women of Power,” Marler wrote: “The significance of Marija’s work on the Goddess cultures of Europe... (and) pioneering scholarship has influenced an entire generation of artists, mythologists, archaeologists, and feminist writers.... Marija contends that old Europe, which was peaceful, art-loving, matrilineal, and egalitarian in social structure, was overrun by patriarchal horsemen from the Eurasian steppes who brought the technologies of war. This was a collision of two entirely different world-views, one which celebrated life in the form of the Goddess, and the other which worshipped power through domination.”

“Doing interviews for KPFA brought me to Maria’s work from that of Campbell’s,” said Marler, who has written for many national magazines including “Yoga Journal,” and “New Age Journal.” Her interview of Joseph Campbell was one of three indepth magazine articles on the great mythologist to be published in his lifetime.

Marler’s most consistent interest is that of mythology, and of “matristic” cultures. “Matristic” is a word coined by Marija Gimbutas. Marler explains that the word matriarchal implies the opposite of patriarchal, which is another division. Marler noted that Gimbutas’s work profoundly influenced mythologist Joseph Campbell’s later work. She said “Marija’s work updated his work and brought it into focus. 

In an interview, Marler asked Gimbutas; I know that Joseph Campbell drew a great deal from your work; in fact he spoke of you often in your public lectures. Gimbutas replied: I heard indirectly that he was mentioning my name, and this was such a pleasant surprise. When he received the manuscript of my last work, called the “Language of the Goddess,” he responded with such warmth and enthusiasm... He wrote a foreword to my book which I appreciate very much. Joseph Campbell made mythology alive.” 

Marler recounted the manuscript for Gimbutas’s latest book was carried to Lithuania, chapter by chapter, and translated into Lithuanian, though it’s not yet published in the states. Gimbutas’s family is considered to be the keeper of information on Lithuanian culture supressed under Soviet rule. Marler’s next project is to write a biography of Marija Gimbutas.

(And now for some missing text—damned ASCII code. I guess I should be grateful I've salvaged this much, but what a mess!!!)

...and editing.


The multi-talented Marler has been teaching folk and ethnic dance for 15 years through SRJC, using the aesthetics gleaned from Marija’s work. She described the ancient dances as formulas for the evocation of certain states of communal and individual experiences. I first met Marler as she led a spiral dance at the memorial ceremony for her father-in-law, and poet-activist, the late Ralph Smith. As the spiral wove in and out of the garden, we were transported beyond the framework of late afternoon, fall verging on winter, to something more ancient and primal. We dropped the isolated barriers of our 20th century trappings, and, for a few moments, we came together as a tribe.

“I love dancing with my students, making the ancient formulas together so a field of vitality is set up, we’re connected with the earth and communicating. Dance is primary, transcendent; it’s the physical embodiment. The ancient formulaes are exacting; dance cuts across time and space.” Marler commented that when her daughter Sorrel was learning to walk, she fell down and got up again. “It’s not one but two movements.” How we are living inside our bodies is important as well. She added, communal experience is so alien to our culture. “Through music and dance we have to learn how to move together to a rhythm beyond the cerebral. To get students to blend with each other, it’s important to learn to move in communal manner. In my dance classes it all converges: the study of myth, sociology and literature--all these things are combined in the process of teaching and performance.” Her dance teacher Don Frye focused on how to receive the impulse from the earth and transform it--spiritual food manifested physically. Marler also studied with a Balkan dance teacher, Dick Crum, and with Jana Nierenberger.

Marler received her degree in modern dance at Mills College in Oakland, and traveled to Japan. In New York, she read “Hero with a Thousand Faces,” gave everything away, bought a tent, and taught dance in Mendocino. A self-professed student of Campbells for 20 years, Marler explained, “I use Campbell’s text as a basis for my classes. What I’m about is finding the sacred ground. What is the path to the sacred, the ground of your own being?” She said students must find it within themselves. Again, Marler left Mendocino to study ballet, and ended up marrying her former sweetheart, Dan, in Sonoma County, and began teaching folk dance and modern dance instead.

She discussed the importance of the natural beauty of the physical world and the balance between intense work and environment. “I feel bonded to northern California. This is my garden of choice. The primary connections with nature are my first teachers. Our human expression is to give voice to our connection with nature, to celebrate being alive is a part of nature,” this, in contrast to the concept of exile in the West.

A self-proscribed member of the global community, Marler has traveled to most of the continents, and after a visit to China in January, she noted, “It’s a privilege the access we have to the media. We need to have continued access to knowledge. As a radio programmer, I’m in charge to do this. I don’t think I can take anything for granted, especially after waht happened in China,” said Marler, referring to the role of the media--especially the crucial role of the fax machine during the Tiannenmen Square massacre. Marler said she honors the privileges afforded by this culture, and of living on the western edge of the continent “where Oriental cultures and the pioneer spirit merge. There is always a new, internal frontier before us,” she explained. “The job of the artist is to continually rediscover the moment. We’re all part of the interconnected mystery. That’s what the dance, visual arts and intellectual arts are all about. You can only find balance by letting go of the paradox.”

We sat in the garden under a great oak tree, where the cat patiently waited on the path for someone to pet him. “Creativity is the essence of it all, and that means being courageous, discovering uncharted territories. Creative, not imitative,” she mused. “It means seeing through your own eyes, being as fully present in the moment as possible, and challenging old assumptions.” She pointed to her abundent garden by way of example: “This process of turning over the ground, what we know to be true; what is alive, worth keeping, is a vital composting. There’s noting we can hold onto anyway.” And with that, she handed me a yellow squash, as gleaming as the sun. The scent of apples perfumed the air with promise. I recalled some lines from one of her poems, “Women’s Spirituality”: “Breathing/ Taking the slow inward trek/ past the inevitable shattering/ where the listening can begin// Listening/ inside the incessant howl/ (so quiet and still)// What is Born and what is Dying/ circles in this place.”




Thursday, September 27, 1990

Jim Dodge, Stone Junction, The Paper, Sept 27, 1990


































I couldn't find my finished story or tear sheet, so I made an alternative post, which has gone on to have a life of its own, including being shanghaied by other blogs, so I'll post this separately for now.

Jim Dodge: Stone Junction: An Alchemical Potboiler...

Saturday, September 22, 1990

HOTEL LA FONDA, TAOS


HOTEL LA FONDA, TAOS


At the Hotel La Fonda where rest pieces of the famous—
Rudolph Valentino's cape, Emilio Zapata's shoes—
we palmed worn dollars to the night clerk behind the counter.
His oxygen mask hose was long enough
to reach the inner sanctum of the owner, Saki Karavas,
where the banned paintings of D.H. Lawrence
are carefully locked away from the public eye.
He hissed, Take your time.

Inside the ornate gilded cage of the walk-in safe 
we confronted biting and sucking fleshy apparitions.
I said to Celia: D.H. could've used some anatomy classes.
but that's not what held us spellbound;
it was the photos: Pope Paul, Kennedy, Picasso, O'Keeffe.
And of those more obscene than Lawrence:
Roosevelt, Truman, Oppenheimer, Nixon before the camera.
And of the ones shaken of faith: April 2, 1943.

Stunned by what he now knows is possible,
Einstein writes to his host, Saki
thanking him for his translations of Greek poetry:
I am grateful and ashamed at the same time
by your extraordinary kindness…
I cannot imagine how I would feel…
it is enough to see what kind of human
ideal you have in your mind.


The walls hissed: July 16, August 6, August 9, 1945.
Shiva will dance on the corneas of Einstein and Oppenheimer.
Shiva will dance for the millions dead on both sides of the world.
Shiva will dance for the Age of Light spawned in this desert.

No one thought to censor the scientists of Los Alamos
nor the Anasazi petroglyphs at T'sanque:
Kokopelli, the humpback Watersprinkler
with a phallus longer than his bent flute.

Saki enters, his hooded eyes watch our guilty reaction.
We say we are poets. Smiling heavily, he says:
These two ladies don't pay, give back their money . 
We help Saki move musty stacks of books.
Feeding us sweets, he asks why I've never married.
I tell him: Because I have learned the names of bombs.
Saki wants to trade his D.H. Lawrence paintings
for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece
but the British aren't interested in returning stolen property.
Against the wall, in proper patron tradition,
the husks of his shoes neatly lined up with nowhere to go.
The Watersprinkler plays his flute—
a slow dirge hissing to the pornographers and thieves of time.
Who will trade all that light loosened in the sky
for the darkness that inevitably follows.


9/22/90
Hotel La Fonda, Taos, New Mexico
Fall Equinox



With some minor line break changes and edits 7/17/2014 when I rescued this from an old Mac file that would no longer open.... ASCII code gone rogue.




















Friday, September 21, 1990

Jim Dodge: Stone Junction: An Alchemical Potboiler, Book Review, The Paper, 9/21/90

Stone JunctionAn Alchemical Potboiler
Book Review The Paper, 9/21/90

Poet & novelist Jim Dodge reading at Copperfield's in Petaluma. © 1990 Maureen Hurley Photo


First time’s a charm, they always say. But for former West County poet-novelist Jim Dodge, it was more like the second and third time that brought the good luck to launch his newest novel, what he dubbed “my first, and my last.” 

Stone JunctionAn Alchemical Potboiler

Dodge said his latest novel, Stone JunctionAn Alchemical Potboiler came out of fifteen years of living in a commune on The (Cazadero) Ridge—which was also the spawning ground, or should one say, the nest, that hatched his two nationally acclaimed novels, catapulting Dodge into the literary limelight. 


Translated into eleven languages, Dodge’s first published novella, Fup (City Miner, 1983), a slim story (59 pages) about a 20-pound duck, with a penchance for paddling in post-hole ponds, a wild boar, and an old codger who believes he's immortal due to the home brew whiskey, Ol' Death Whisperer, he religiously imbibes—was hotter property than the Creighton Ridge fire. It landed him a spot on the Today Show. There was talk of movie rights, and according to Dodge, it’s still under option. 


Jim said Fup was translated into eleven languages. He showed me copies of Fup in Hebrew, Swedish and Japanese, and said that the bilingual Japanese edition was being used as an American English primer for teaching American idioms and colloquialisms. The thought of poor Japanese students carefully using some of Jim's rather colorful phrases had me in stitches.   
                               

Dodge's second novel, Not Fade Away (1987), a smashing story about a white mint '59 Cadillac intended as a gift to the Big Bopper, took off equally well, burning rubber from Meyer’s Grade, across the country, and back again at break-neck speed. The protagonist "Floorboard" George, was supposed to wreck the car for an insurance scam but instead, George runs off with the caddie in an epic journey where On the Road meets Ken Keseyian states of mind liberally laced with rock and roll.

After the fairytale success of Fup, Dodge's agent asked him if he had something else in the works. Dodge replied, “Nothing other than a first novel that is bad, really bad.” She was interested. So Stone Junction was duly dusted off and trimmed down from a hefty 800-page manuscript to a more manageable 355 pages. Dodge found that rewriting the monster manuscript was harder than starting from scratch.

Signing copies of Stone Junction at Copperfield’s Bookstore in Petaluma last spring, Dodge joked with admirers, saying, “Real men write prose.” He unpretentiously shot the bull: from playing cards, to the state of the environment, and to the proper nurturing and development of middle-aged stomach muscle.

Dodge sold Japanese printing rights, the first translation offer to come in for Stone Junction, released February 1990. Dodge explained his latest novel nearly sold out at 12,000 copies but “if a book doesn’t make it to the best seller’s list a couple of months after publication, it’s dead.” According to Dodge, the book will probably go into paperback edition very soon. 

Compared to Jack Kerouac’s Beat classic, On the Road, Dodge's Stone Junction: An Alchemical Potboiler is a story of coming of age with a New Age twist. Stone Junction is a story about Daniel Pearse, “who never had a father, who sees his mother die before his eyes, and who learns a great deal about the impossible task of growing up marked by such a history.” 

The book—spanning ten years of Haight street’s pharmaocopias, to New York’s gridlock (with bouts of homing instincts nurtured in the Cazadero hills), is also a story of an alliance of magicians and outlaws (AMO). Daniel’s real teachers were safecrackers, drug connoisseur, card sharks and magicians. The idea for the AMO “comes out of the storytelling tradition” quipped Dodge, “or from playing too much ‘fort’ when I was a kid.” 

The writer’s slapstick humor and homespun philosophy abounds as the protagonist Daniel attempts to steal the six-pound Faith Diamond, the world’s 4th largest. No one knows exactly what the diamond represents, but Daniel is addicted. He cannot leave the ultimate crystal ball behind, just like he can’t shake his mother’s murder. The CIA wants the diamond to stay buried deep in an underground in a vault that rivals Fort Knox. Only Daniel finds out if diamonds really are forever...

I like the way the book is divided into four sections: air, earth, fire and water. Dodge’s writing style is distinctive; but I was afraid it would intrude, but it didn’t. The only place where I was ricocheted out of the story line was when Moss’s mule, Old Pissgums was introduced. 

Maybe it’s because I had a donkey as ornery as Old Pissgums, maybe it’s because the story was a refreshing vingette from the main story that I was temporarily launched out of the book—or because it reminded me of Dodge’s witty poems. 

But don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade the scene with Old Pissgums for anything in the world. I liked Old Pissgums. Dodge laughed and said that the hardest challenge a novelist faces is to keep the reader’s interest directed. 

Stone JunctionAn Alchemical Potboiler is a story about male bonding and paternal rejection, though Annabel, Daniel’s mother opens the novel, and his crazy girlfriend Jennifer, closes it. Dodge commented, though it’s difficult—and dangerous—for a male writer to write about women from a woman's perspective, Jennifer is one character he’s satisfied with. 

When I queried Jim about the character of the disc jockey who breaks up the flow of the narrative, he admitted that was the weakest part of the novel. The card game is almost as tediously long as real life itself. (If anyone wants to take up Lo-ball, this is the definitive book). Dodge relies upon his own extensive experience during his salad days as a professional gambler and card shark to give this scene verve and authenticity. 

We sipped tea in the afternoon sun and discussed writerly things such as the mutual quest for the perfect sentence, punctuation and endings. I commented: “I wondered how you were going to get out of Stone Junction. So many writers flounder around the end of a novel looking for an ending in all the wrong places.” 

But Dodge was able to gracefully slip out of the story in the last few pages of the novel without leaving the reader hanging with a formulaec ending. Which I'm not going to divulge. You'll have to read it yourself to find out what happens.

One writer Dodge greatly admires is Larry McMurtry, (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment ). "Larry is pure storyteller. I’d be happy if I had a couple of novels like his.” Don't be fooled by Dodge's "aw shucks" modesty. 


Dodge is a spirited storyteller both on and off the page. I've listened to his stories for years. One of my favorites was the story of the chicken who escaped the Fulton chicken processing plant with Jim rooting for the chicken, "make a run for it!" Then there's the one about the, er, amorous bullfrog and the rock....

Dodge cranks out his novels old school but he recently upgraded to an old electric typewriter. A newfangled Smith Corona word processor made a six-hour trial debut into the writer’s life—until it made a serious faux-pause, telling him, “not a valid entry,” and it was goodbye computer, hello pen. 

Dodge gave the cheeky computer to his companion of many years, Victoria Stuckley, who in turn, transcribes his novels into disk format—thus completing the computer age circuit.

Balking like Old Pissgums himself before the camera, Dodge tried to, er, dodge the camera. Jim, who is 44, instructed: “Describe me with words; a middle-aged Gary Cooper...” Right. My editor's gonna love this one.
Jim Dodge © Maureen Hurley 1984                                 
Jim showed me a photo of his, saying, that as an undergraduate, he had to make a choice between writing and photography. Dodge said he once went through a box of 100 sheets of photo paper in one day to print one negative, “and it still didn’t come out right.” That was that.

Jim said he also spent a whole day trying to perfect a single sentence and it didn’t come out right either. He recounted, “I went to bed and next morning, I got it right. Try that with photography sometime," he said.

Dodge described the New York publishing business as a “jungle.” He said that negotiating contracts is akin to detecting lost land mines with a pogo stick. His agent, whom he’s never met, takes care of the business end of things. The basic rule of thumb he’s learned is to retain as many “rights” as possible, including reprint, foreign language and movie rights.

Dodge recently moved from Sonoma County—following the money. He shares a converted garage overlooking Humboldt Bay in Arcata with a blind kitten he perversely named Lassie. 

Dodge said as if by way of apology, “I’m not a cat man,” but our conversation was littered with kitty box potty commands and coochie-coos as we sat in a haphazard garden of a driveway warming our backs in the late afternoon sun. Lassie worked hard weaving figure eights or shackling infinity signs around our ankles.

The successful novelist also teaches creative writing at his alma mater, Humboldt State University, filling in for other teachers on leave, etc. In the process, Jim discovered that he liked teaching English courses more than creative writing. Less outside interference. Dodge said he likes teaching better when he’s working on something of his own. 


Dodge received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative writing and poetry from the University of Iowa Writers workshop in 1969.

Arcata, the alter-ego of straight-laced Eureka, is one of those lively towns where hippies, college students and rednecks collide like crude oil tankers and sea stacks during rush hour. 

There are many similarities between Humboldt County, which boasts of the highest per-capita of artists (and dope growers) in northern California, and Sonoma County, which runs a close second on all counts. (Mendocino is also a contender for the heady title). Dodge, born in 1945 in Santa Rosa, CA, has done time in both necks of the redwoods. 


Dodge, also a published poet with two out-of-print chapbooks under his belt, stated that more and more poets are turning to fiction. “Poetry is on its deathbed in America,” said Dodge, blaming its demise on writers like Pound and Eliot, who raised poetry to a “mandarin art form, so that only 25 readers in the world could understand it” without a dictionary or an encyclopedia.  

However, Dodge's next book will be a poetry chapbook, Bait & Ice  by Tangram Press. It will be an extremely limited edition (150 copies). Dodge mused, poetry should be printed on good quality paper, “the letters pressed into the paper, so tangible, you can feel them.” 

When asked why he left the Cazadero hills, and did he miss Sonoma County, Dodge said, “I don’t look back very much.” Dodge’s backwoods philosophy is honed by “17 years of being an air force brat” and tenure in “about as many schools,” including the toughest matriculator of all—life.

Dodge's parting colloquialisms to me ran the gamut from “Don’t look back; it might be gaining on you,” to “Life, if nothing else, is an adventure in consciousness.” With that, he gave me a hug goodbye. 

The shadows of redwoods were growing long. The road home was longer yet. I climbed into Lazarus, my old blue pickup and pointed its nose south and I never looked back. 


I crawled into the darkroom and spent the night trying to get the surreptitiously shot negatives of Jim to come out right. I gave up and dusted off some rather chiaroscuro photos I'd taken of him at Copperfield's last spring. Polished the sheen of my sentences with a fine cloth instead.




NOTE BENE: A version of this story was written for the Western Sonoma County Paper in the Fall of 1990. I'm not sure when it ran and I'm sure it had a catchy title knowing Nick Valentine—and I'm sure it was probably rearranged as is the wont of copy editors. I suspect sidebars were also involved to rearrange and picket fence it in.


But just getting my old work into cyber print—without the back up of my tear sheets— has been a challenge as all my pieces were written in Microsoft Works 2 or Appleworks 1 and there are no longer any conversion files for 20+ year old files. Programs are now more polite than Jim's Smith Corona (not valid entry.) Point being, I recently found a Microsoft Works 4 converter and under OS 9, I can for the first time—access these ancient files with a minimum of strange gobbelygook interspersed in every line. 


It's too hard to pick up the strings and resurrect old writing—I'm not who I was then. I can't get into that headset. I'm not willing to invest vast tracts of time in revision. So, with the addition of a few transitions and punctuation changes, the story stands—warts and all. If it's too fup'd up, well then, Mea Culpea. 
West Sonoma County Paper


A little more au current info by Jim Dodge, Some Principles for a Writing Community, in North Coast Journal March 25, 2004. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.


Here's a link to the introduction to Jim Dodge's Stone Junction by Thomas Pynchon (1997).


For some reason this blog has lifted my entire blog post and posted it on his own blog zoran rosko vacuum player with no link or mention. Grrr. I guess vacuum explains it all.

Here'e the tear sheet and published story, different than this post. So I'm leaving it up.

Jim Dodge, Stone Junction, The paper, Sept 27, 1992