Saturday, September 26, 2020

Green olives

Have you ever been tempted to eat an unripe olive from the tree? I guarantee you will be spitting for hours to get rid of the acrid taste. It was a huge leap of faith for Bronze Age man, somewhere in the Levant, some 7000 years ago, to transform the ripe olive, bitter as gall, to something that was actually edible by curing it with lye and salt brine. I wonder what epiphany happened for someone to figure out that olives were edible, and also a way to cure them. I bet goats were involved. They will eat anything. 

At least beer will make itself on its own, given the right circumstances, ditto that with cheese. But olives? I suspect it was the oil, which literally comes from the word for olive oil, that led to eating the fruit. Fossilized olives from 37,000 years ago were found on Santorini. As early as 3000 BC, commercial olive production probably led to the rise of the Minoan civilization. Spanish missionaries brought the olives to Mission San Diego in 1769.

The word "olive" derives from Latin ŏlīva ("olive fruit", "olive tree"), possibly through Etruscan 𐌀𐌅𐌉𐌄𐌋𐌄 (eleiva) from the archaic Proto-Greek form *ἐλαίϝα (*elaíwa) (Classic Greek ἐλαία elaía, "olive fruit", "olive tree").

The word "oil" originally meant "olive oil", from ŏlĕum,  ἔλαιον (élaion, "olive oil"). Also in multiple other languages the word for "oil" ultimately derives from the name of this tree and its fruit.

The oldest attested forms of the Greek words are the Mycenaean 𐀁𐀨𐀷e-ra-wa, and 𐀁𐀨𐀺e-ra-wo or 𐀁𐁉𐀺e-rai-wo, written in the Linear B syllabic script. —Wiki


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

We’re in the Shire now!

We’re in the Shire now! Open up the windows and air out the house now because it looks like we’ll be back in Rohan (yellow) again this afternoon. Buckle up. We’ve had real fog at night and I think the mist takes down the smoke particles. The smoke ceiling was above the fog, and then it dropped, trapped by the cloud ceiling. The air was deadly for days. It was a bit misleading because we were getting more light. Oregon and Washington are somewhere north of Mordor, outside the Middle Kingdom. Everything is covered in ash. The AQI chart doesn’t even go up that high. For the first time in ages, the chickens are carrying on. We can see our shadows. Is it time for our elevenses yet?

These websites are our mantras. Our lifelines.  AorNow and PurpleAir

m slept with the window open all night since we were in the Shire. But at about 5 AM I began to have massive post nasal drip, so I looked at the AQI chart, but it was still in the green. The only thing I can think of, was that the fog was bringing down Mordor smoke from the sky which became dragonkruft in my nose. I was too tired to wake up and close the window. All I can say is listen to your body. Sleeping with the windows closed tonight. There be dragons on the horizon.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

We’re in Rohan

After countless days of dark skies and a smoke ceiling too thick to comprehend, what I imagine hell to be like, we had blue skies and relatively fresh air. I’ve become an expert at reading the AQI air index. Today we are in Rohan. Glimpses of tantalizing blue after a week of living in a sepiatone world.We definitely had a much higher AQI this morning. But we had a real fog, replete with mist on the ground. The air smelled burnt, but not overwhelming. A few lone high numbers on the AQI index has me a bit worried. Most of the Bay Area is in Mirkwood. We’re closer to the coast.


Yesterday: AQI IS DOWN TO 128. Gondor levels, vs Mordor levels. I can see pale blue skies for the first time in over a week. We’ve been stuck in post-Orc army Isengard/Mirkwood for days. Opening the window for delicious fresh-ish air. Maybe tomorrow we will be in Rohan. Check PurpleAir.com, uncheck indoor sensors and use the LRAPA converter. What is your AQI?


Scanfest, continued, or interrupted...

 It seems that I make a yearly pilgrimage to my negative treasure trove for a scanfest. My latest spate of salvaging, or chronicling the past, has been delving into old negatives of poets from the 1980s, and rendering, or perhaps wrestling them into digital format. 

The problem is that so many of my photos rely heavily upon use of dark and light. I was using TriX film, after all. I am a sucker for light hitting someone’s face, especially when it pierces one of their eyes, and the image comes alive. Like the one of John Oliver Simon at his desk, giving time that guarded look. Then the come-hither look. Then naked desire tinged with his dislike of feeling so vulnerable.

Many of my photos rely heavily upon that severe lighting. But minor details like hands and background tend to get chopped off because the Epson Perfection v. 550 scanner can’t see what’s there, so it makes drastic assumptions. When I attempted to scan Kenneth Rexroth photos last year, Michael McClure‘s hands were chopped off because the camera lens couldn’t see that there was something at the end of all that darkness. Ditto that with Carolyn Forché’s hands. I decided to wait it out.

But the used scanner I want, at the price I want, has not materialized in three years. I can no longer wait. Having to huck three heavy boxes of negatives up and down stairs three times now, from evacuations in progress, has prompted me to seriously consider just getting on with it with what I have, and scanning my entire collection, and then parting them out to library collections. At least they will be preserved.

Sure I will need to redo several collections, but for the most part, I‘ve salvaged an extraordinary amount of photos. However, some of the negatives are so dirty, with embedded dust, and hard water marks, cleanup is a nightmare. I’ve tried to gently clean the images with rubbing alcohol, or that deadly movie film cleaner,  but it didn’t work. I would need to soak the negatives and distilled water and see if I could clean them that way. Seems far too risky to do, so I scan the dirty negatives anyway. Better than nothing. 

My Meridel LeSueur images were hardest hit. And they were in film sleeves. A lot of good that did. I noticed that certain (not so inert) film sleeves (with frosted backs) clung to my negative strips, as if moisture that had gotten to them. Sigh.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Rolling your rrrs

 You’re a girl after me own heart, she said in an Irish accent, rolling those rrrs for all they were worth, as if they were loaded snake eye dice tumped down hard on the bar from the leather cup.

Please don’t breathe the air...



Today, the air was positively lethal. I’ve had a headache all day, and earlier this evening, my eyes were burning—indoors with the air scrubber going full blast. And I’ve developed a cough which I’m trying not to encourage. What about you?

I’m compiling pertinent links, creating a resource base, so check the URLs below for more info. And if you have a good link, please share. Crowdsourced PurpleAir.com stats run higher, but are more up-to-the-minute accurate, they measure micro-regions—with hundreds more laser sensors in the field than other AQI sites. PurpleAir says some monitors run 1.5 times higher than EPA sensors, and woodsmoke has a different density than other pollutants. Checking the LRAPA or AQandU conversion in the menu corrects the readings somewhat. Don’t forget to uncheck the indoor sensors. Air quality is still off the charts either way. 

From KQED: Wood-smoke particles have a different density from gravel dust or other pollutants. To convert it into a calibrated reading that more accurately compares to EPA data, PurpleAir users can toggle between two conversions  “LRAPA,” and “AQandU,” which align more closely with EPA readings.

The six pollutants measured are: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone, particle pollution (particulate matter), and sulfur oxides. Woodsmoke is not the same density as other types of smoke.

“The index is based on the concentrations of five pollutants. The index is calculated from the concentrations of the following pollutants: Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, PM2. 5 (particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm) and PM10.”

more on that KQED article.

Wear an N 95 mask outside at all times. Don’t risk it. A friend walking to the post office the other day was felled with a heart attack because of the bad air. it was nowhere near as bad as it is right now. It’s quite serious even if you can’t smell it. Make an air scrubber with a simple box fan and a MERV1900 filter slapped on the back—if you can find one. A MERV1500 filter will do, as most of the 1900 HEPA filters are sold out. I made one for my cousin, I use a Winix air purifier, and I just changed all the filters.


The sky is lighter now, the chickens woke up around 10 am and the rooster announced the last vestiges of dawn. Then they all went back to sleep again.

August Complex largest fire in CA history


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Paywall woes


Lately, I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of both Marin County Free Library, and the Sonoma County Library subscriptions to Newspapers.com, etc. Pulling up old articles and past events has been fascinating, I had no idea that I was actually in the news as often as I was writing news articles. Or that I made Gaye LeBaron’s fabled gossip column. Or that I got an end-of-year shoutout for writing from the Press Democrat. It was a trip to rediscover all those small town newspapers I once took for granted, or thought were too hokey. I was able to lift crude screen copies of articles where I was featured. (And I repasted them here in this blog).

Then, since I share the same name as my mother, I began to notice that her name appeared in searches as well. I didn’t even know Sausalito had a newspaper, or that my late mother directed a children’s play, Rapunzel, for the Gate Playhouse Theatre. She starred as a startlingly scary witch in Hansel and Gretel, an image that forever scarred the psyches of Sausalito children who attended the weekly matinees during 1959-61.

But as I searched, I noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a way of accessing several newspapers for free, specifically the Marin IJ, or rather Marin Daily Journal (when did the name change? 1972.) I was looking for articles on the Gate Playhouse productions, Speck McAuliffe’s Lagunitas Lodge—and other West Marin/SGV stories—including a play I was in at Lagunitas School, as my sole clipping of the play was destroyed when my aunt moved my treasure box to an open window in the basement one wet winter, effectively destroying all my childhood memorabilia. (MDJ, Dec. 9, 1961, page 23, or Dec 11, 1961, page 51.)

Not so long ago, I used to be able to freely search the Marin IJ archives via the internet, and now everything is locked up tighter than a tick. When did all that paywall happen? Another newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, is also locked up as tight. An article about my mom, when she was with the Music Circus, Guys and Dolls, and The Student Prince, with her friend Lloyd Bridges. Yes, Mr. Sea Hunt. (SB, July 26, pp. 9, and 56.) I’m sure there is more on her, but it’s so hard to find anything when the search process is crippled by myriad paywalls these days.

Very sad, and frustrating, it seems Newspaper.com has gobbled up all the archived newspaper sites. It’s as bad as the ancestry sites monetizing everything—then attempting to sell back to me images I scanned and uploaded elsewhere, is infuriating. Or Getty Images snatching up all those formerly free photo archives, even going after, and attempting to charge photographers to use their own images. It’s maddening to see your name in print, from the pre-internet days, and then not be able to access it. A to-do list. Meanwhile, the awesome resource librarian at the Marin County Free Library gave me a free link to California digital newspapers: https://cdnc.ucr.edu/

The color of the sky


 

This is what I awoke to today. The sky at 9AM. I slept in quite late because there was no sunrise, no morning, only an orange darkness, the likes of which, I have never seen before. The chickens never even got up. Nor did the birds rise to the occasion. We are living in Mordor. Two days ago, it was 108° in the afternoon. Today is in the chilly 60s. I kept thinking it was 5 am, and my air scrubber wouldn’t wake up from sleep mode, I had to force it on. Usually the Winix goes on at about 6 am. So glad I’ve a new HEPA filter in it. It makes such a difference. 



9 am 

An apocalyptic sky in the morning
sailors, and all living things  take warning
We’re living in a sepiatone world
where everything is bereft of color
and ash, the secret hearts of trees, 
drifts down like silent snow
Even the birds, they refuse to sing, 
they are in deep mourning.

11 AM The rooster attempted a redo of dawn again. The last time he tried was around 10 AM. He got the chickens up and going. But now they’re back in bed. Though it’s darker than before, he keeps trying to rouse them, no luck. The wild birds have completely given up their morning song and called it quits.

Blood-red dragon’s eye moon, and it’s not even an eclipse. I wasn’t expecting that. I kept thinking it was some electronics reflecting in the window. Then the horror of realization. Living in a sepiatone world.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Please stay home....we know it’s hot. But stay away.

Something I wrote to a friend of a friend who wrote a post based on this post.

We have narrow winding roads to the coastal towns of the North Bay, two massive, active fires, one has already leapt its containment banks, and many of the towns were either under mandatory evacuation orders, or evacuation warning—people racing home to pack up their things, rescue their livestock and pets in order to evacuate, including Bolinas—only to be hampered by tourists who refused to pull over. Sheriff’s Dept and NPS asked people to stay away, as all parks were closed, all parking lots were closed, no services, and still they came.

We also had 500-700 firefighters and equipment trying to use those same narrow winding roads—and again, people from out of town refusing to yield right of way.... By Labor Day Weekend it was gridlock from Muir Woods to north of Jenner, along Hwy 1, and all along River Road, when the fire leapt its banks, and new evacuation orders were in place. So, yes, we’re all more than a little angry at the sheer thoughtlessness that their actions have brought upon these tiny communities.

On the sweet side, locals gathered at the crossroads and wide spots in the road holding Thank You, We Love You, and Heroes signs to greet the firemen at the changing of the guard each evening. Our decommissioned San Geronimo Valley golf course was a pop up tent city for all the firefighters joining us from the Northern Rockies.

We have never experienced heavy traffic such as this, and most of it was before the real smoke descended. It seems as if the entire bay area decided to come to the coast, and to the Russian River. Nobody wearing masks, parking randomly wherever they wanted, because everything is closed, using the side of the road as a bathroom, It goes on. 

No this is not normal. And I think the real key is that people were not fleeing to the coast to escape smoke, but to escape the confines of COVID, and later, the heat, not knowing at the time that the smoke was quite thick along the coast because of the fires. So ironically the air was more toxic, and still they came. It was like lemmings.

Even the local politicians and sheriffs department in Sonoma County were aghast. No one wants to put roadblocks up, but we’ve all been asked not to come to the coast—so here we are in Marin and Sonoma counties following the rules, only to be overrun by people from out of county. 

You might relate to this, but the little town of Point Reyes Station ran out of gas. People from out of town wanted gas, there was none. Then someone drove his car into the side of the Palace Market, knocking everything off the shelves and refrigerator cabinets. Crazy thoughlessness. And because of the fire, we didn’t have the infrastructure to deal with people getting hurt, or in a car accident.

Monday, September 7, 2020

My window has been closed since morning, lots of ash drift. Sky is the color of smoked salmon. The thought of repacking to evacuate—ugh. Luckily, third time’s a charm. I’m much faster at it than before. There’s a curious dithering transition that happens as you begin to gather stuff. All thumbs and nae plan whatsoever. 

Both times I’ve sat in a stupor, in shock, unable to motivate myself, before I was able to shift gears. Yes, leaving things packed and ready to go is probably still the best plan. I went around for two weeks with all my stuff in my car, sans negatives—I was afraid they’d cook. But then it became too stressful as people who had obviously evacuated were being targeted and robbed. Another source of stress.

I figured since I lugged three huge boxes of negatives around with me for a couple of weeks, that I would start scanning them, luckily it won’t take too much to repack them. I did put all my art stuff away. All my jewelry and tchotchkes too. Do I need to repack? 

The fire cam from Mt. Jackson shows that the flames are big. Wind tonight. Sleeping with the windows closed, hope the winds don’t come. I slept with the window open last night, sniffing for smoke all night long as I knew that was my only warning if the power went out.

And here we go again. Multiple fires north of Willits to Covelo Multiple Evacuation Alerts for Mendocino County. Check Nixel. Wildfires are spreading at blazing speed. Pardon the pun. Stay alert, neighbors. Go-bags at the ready. #OakFire has jumped Hwy 101.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Fire journal 6, CalFire village



I travel back and forth to West Marin, from West Sonoma County for work, so I’m constantly monitoring both fires. The defunct San Geronimo Valley golf course was turned into a CalFire village, we’ve had almost 500 firefighters from the Northern Rockies campingout.

Every evening everyone gathers at the road junctions in Olema, and Forest Knolls at the changing of the firefighter shift, to thank the firefighters in person with homemade thank you signs as they drive back to the golf course. It’s quite emotional. We’re not allowed to have contact because of COVID, so people are selling shirts to raise money for CalFire, etc. Every post and electrical pole has a thank you sign on it.

Anyway, because of the CalFire village, we’ve had a fab cellular service. All the cellular companies have satellites up at the golf course. 

Last night, Sinead and I slept o utside in Forest Knolls. The air was acrid with smoke, the evening stayed hot until the wee hours when the birds began their morning songs.  I thought the blue jay was bad enough but the woodpecker’s song leaves something to be desired. The morning was hot as an anvil. Any outside work we had planned was shelved.We went over to Sam’s for showers and bathroom breaks. I spent Sunday in the relative course of his basement apartment with the homemade air scrubbers working overtime.


Fire journal 5, Stay Away!

 9/7 West Marin and West Sonoma County are still off-limits to visitors for good reason. We are so beyond impacted it’s not funny. County officials, sheriff’s department, CHP, and park rangers have begged people to stay away. We are wrapping up huge fires which have also devastated our communities and left us traumatized. 

Containment does not mean the wildfires are out. The Woodward and Walbridge fires are  still burning. Conditions could change without notice. We’re under red flag warning. Today is a critical fire warning day. There’s been a big flare-up at the Cedars. 

UPDATE: new evacuation orders. Check Nixle. The Walbridge fire may burn until the rainy season. Anything can spark a new fire. Your motorcycle muffler. The air quality is horrific. It’s hard to breathe. Ironically, yesterday Bolinas AQI was triple digit, which is extremely dangerous. 

And the idiot spandex clad bicyclists! do they think they’re immune to dangerous particulate smoke lung damage? From southern Marin to northern Sonoma County, the roads were one massive traffic jam this weekend. The beaches are closed. Stinson Beach is closed. The entire Point Reyes National Seashore is closed. The Russian River and Hwy 1 should be closed. Instead, beaches are packed with COVID-seeking sardines. County Officials have repeatedly asked that you stay away. 

All this flagrant disregard by tourists, while 500 firefighters in West Marin alone, are trying to contain the fire and move their equipment out to the next fire. Ditto that in Sonoma County. TOURISTS TURNED THE ENTIRE RUSSIAN RIVER INTO UNPRECEDENTED GRIDLOCK. We do not want a repeat of Paradise. 

Irony is, that all of us locals are staying home so that the roads will remain free, we are following the rules, and then we are bombarded by thousands of visitors, especially callous tourists, with complete disregard as to what’s going on. It’s a nightmare. What don’t you understand about Stay TF home. Go to a cooling center, if you must. 

And to the kyackers in Nicasio Reservoir, what were you thinking—that’s our DRINKING water, FU. West Marin is not your personal playground. You are a guest here, act like one. Better yet, stay home. This is a photo of the coast, either Bodega Bay or Bolinas—despite the misdirected signs. Thanks for the photo Jack Crimmins.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Fire journal 4, During these COVID times



During these COVID times, much of my writing comes from interacting with friends and strangers on facebook. I never know what will lead to a poem, a prose poem or a memoir. I’ve decided not to worry about what it is and just keep posting.

We’ve an added stress in our lives in California—wildfire, evacuation, etc., so we’re all either living on the run, or are on high alert. Stress factor is through the roof.

Lots of visiting firemen from out of state (Montana and Idaho) camped in our San Geronimo Valley golf course, Because of COVID we can’t even offer them food or goodies.

Guy Fiori has set up a massive kitchen, feeding all the firemen in Sonoma County. Pretty amazing.

We’re grateful Fort Ross didn’t burn, Armstrong Woods is burning, but is controllable. Only the forest floor, not the trees.

Inverness/Pt Reyes fire is still going, keeping us on our toes. But it’s slowly being contained.

Meanwhile we look for solace in a glimpse of blue sky and the cooling fog. One foot in front of the other.

And if we get some good writing from it, that’s even better.


Monday, August 24, 2020

The Last Words of the US Postmaster General


The Last Words of the US Postmaster General

There were some dirty mail boxes 
and shattered glass
beside the post office,
dirty disheveled streets—

Graffitied and nearly covered
with stickers and spray paint,
they roused his ire
and they cried out for removal,

he said. Gimme cleanliness—
They're an eyesore —lock them up.
The people don’t need them
for mail, ballots, medication,
or the delivery of baby chicks.

Give me something to destroy!
He said, Let me take you
to the back room, he said,
and after you’ve come to your senses,
you’ll see it was for the best.

When you’re Postmaster General
you can do as you please.
He smiled, Yes
you can do what you please, first
then, I can do what I please—

Oh, oh, DeJoy of it all, he cried
as the maintenance men
lifted the bar code sorters
and carried them to the hauler —
Is this what you call

progress?
By now his mind was made up—
Oh death to the post office
he said, death to the workers
sorting the mail by hand.

No overtime, he said, but I'll tell you
you don't know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of mail boxes. He looked at them
awhile out of
the window and said,

What are all those
funny looking blue boxes doing out there?
Well, I'm tired of them
and he rolled them away.

Give me something to destroy!
Let me take you
to the back room, he said
and after you are recovered,

you can do as you please.
He smiled, Yes
you do what you please first,
then I can do what I please—
Run it all into the ground.

a parody on WCWs poem

The Thank God Ledge


John Oliver Simon once took me across a granite bridge between two peaks in Desolation Wilderness, Tahoe. We had to shuffle along the spine that had a foot ledge, we were facing inward, and I could feel the precariousness of it. I could peer into two steep valleys at once, one in front of me—the granite wall was about chest height, and another deeper valley behind me. I didn’t want to look there, well, because, balance, and a bilious stomach. As we shuffled along the ledge, rocks stumbled into the freefall of space into the valley below. I froze and teetered on the brink of disaster. John yelled Stop! and scooted up to me, he reached over and shoved my ass and hips into the granite wall, and he said hug that wall like you’re making love to it. First rule of freeclimbing, become one with the wall. Literally.When I got to the other side, I swear it was my own personal Thank God ledge. Nowhere near as hairy as the Yosemite Thank God Ledge. But it instilled a deep fear that I had to overcome. The only way out was through. Or in this case, across. Of course I said, Never again. Years later, we went off into the Andes, hiking precarious trails that defied gravity, climbing Huyana Picchu using a dodgy rope to pull ourselves hand over fist up a peak that surpassed the angle of declination. I was glad I learned to check my hat on that thank god ledge. Because obviously Never Again never listened to me.

One for Billy Joe Bianchi


Thinking of you lots, these days, Billy Joe. Like the song, you’ve been on my mind. I was talking to Dennis de la Montanya the other day. A rarity as I hate talking on the phone. We used Messenger. Even worse, with video. No way to hide how you’ve aged. I remember when we were young, in the late 1960s, Pacific Bell set up mobile labs in the San Geronimo Valley Horseman’s Arena, and we rode down to see what the future might entail. Inside the trailers were telephones with video screens. Cumbersome things. I thought it would never come to pass. But here we are. Do you remember? Phone calls to the future. Dennis had sent a photo of the San Geronimo Valley baseball team. Suddenly I was remembering watching you playing baseball at Lagunitas School, running, the bases were loaded, slide, slide, home run. How you loved baseball. Or the time you took the old truck into the lower field, with Cottie and me trailing along behind, little pests that we were—how, as you spun us circles in the dirt in that old Ford, it was as exciting as any carnival ride. But the passenger door flew open with the centrifugal force, and you grabbed my arm as I hovered in space, my legs flying like little flags, the dirt spinning past me. It was the closest I ever got to solo flying. But you didn’t let go. You didn’t let go. Brave, you are. Blessings upon you, old friend. Blessings. May you walk the bridge in peace.You gave the Big C a heroic fight. Showed it what a home run really meant. Bring the team home, Billy Joe. It’s OK to let go. Walk on. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Home Run



We were talking about baseball the other day. Old Lagunitas School friend Dennis de la Montanya was checking in, because of the evacuation. We reminisced about the past, I wanted to see a photo of his father Dean the Milkman, whom I was crazy about when I was a child. Was he is handsome as Dean Martin, the face I remembered? After Dean was killed, Irene married Joe Bianchi. Dennis sent me some photos, among them, a junior league photo of our San Geronimo Valley classmates. I posted it in our San Geronimo Facebook site. Names crawled out of the past: Marc and Wayne Peacock, Johnny Kaufman, the Fahey brothers, Jeff Sousa, and Dennis. No Billy Joe. I guess he had moved on. But in the intricate basket weave of memory, his presence was winnowed. He was our star player. We thought he’d go onto the big leagues. Someone, perhaps Liz Haas, complained that in those days, girls weren’t allowed to play baseball. And she was a good player. I remember one afternoon, everyone gathered at the baseball diamond at Lagunitas school, there were so few of us, that girls and boys played on the same team. It was late afternoon with long shadows, and Linda Gregg hit a home run, her ponytail was a golden stream of sunlight as she ran the bases. Billy Joe Bianchi slid into home. Slide, slide, slide. The bases are loaded, teammates on both sides cheered. Slide. Safe. And now Dennis says Billy Joe is going down for the final count. Bases are loaded, but Billy Joe gave the odd a run for their money.

Three generations of de la Montanyas, Dean, Sr., Dean, Jr., & Dennis 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Fire journal 3, photos



Coming down from the hill to Nicasio reservoir, I noted that the Inverness has reached the top of the ridge, and in some places, gone over the top. I think it’s Mount Wittenberg. I could almost see the flames. I had to pack everything up and evacuate from my friend’s house this morning, so I spent the morning packing, and the evacuation lines in Sonoma County changed to right where I was. The entire west county has been evacuated. All the way up to Graton. My car was covered in ash by the time I left. I played a mad game of Tetris wedging my things into my car so that I could drive, reverse is still problematic, but at least I can get into third gear.

I took some photos which didn’t come out, very distinct plumes of smoke in different colors, plus a smoke tower. Also one place where a new fire is breaking out on this side of the ridge—the side meaning the side facing Nicasio Reservoir and Elephant Mountain.

I’m in San Geronimo now and the skies are amazingly clear. But to the north, and over Petaluma, West County Sonoma it’s a nightmare. Here the air is sweet in Forest Knolls. It’s hotter than hades, and I’m self-treating for first signs of heat exhaustion, ugh. Delicious chills, first warning sign. Foot cramps, excessive dripping, a lack of thirst, chills. Think I caught it on time. I drenched my head and shirt—wet clothes act like a fridge.

I hate it when heat sensitivity is triggered. When I was younger I had heat exhaustion and didn’t deal with it and so now it’s easily triggered. So if I get overheated I really have to watch it. I often won’t sweat, which is a problem. My grandfather nearly died from the next level after heat exhaustion, which is heat stroke. So, it’s in the gene pool. The first thing is to submerge yourself and cold water. Then take aspirin and Gatorade. I hate Gatorade. Then it dawned on me Alka-Seltzer. Two for one. Both salts, and aspirin. It took a half hour, but it worked.

Some bad air stats coming up today. Staying indoors is the safest thing to do. If you need to go out, right now is better than later on. I know there are better AQI sites than the government site which averages out the readings over several hours. But this is much more violatile. I was so tired I slept on Sam’s landlord’s deck, on the wooden boat trailer. It was lovely watching the Milky Way,  it the stars were red.

 

Thursday evening was absolutely surreal driving home from West Marin. The combo of fog and smoke created strange red green mercurochrome rainbows at sunset. It was like being inside a Maxfield Parrish painting.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Fire Journal 2, photo



Tangerine light, pomegranate light. A stratocumulus cloud rises like a volcanic eruption. In front of me is a smoke bank so thick that it looks like chocolate.

I am fleeing from one fire to the borders of another fire. This morning I played car Tetris, wedging my precious evacuated things inside—the last game, a puzzle where there is no game. This is real life. I never fully unpacked from the Kincade fire so rustling up my stuff was easy but murder packing all that down the stairs.

Evacuation line was moved up to Graton Road. My friend’shouse sits two driveways away from the evacuation line.I know that I will never come back to this place the same person I was before. I am fleeing the ravages of one fire to the north, headed south to the fringes of another fire. Hopefully the place in between will have air clean enough to breathe.

Meanwhile the highways are filled with service trucks going to and fro. In some cases life continues on. It’s a very strange admixture of carry-on and prepare for the worst.

My car is covered in ash. The lost secret vaults of trees. Pages from an old folio written before we arrived on this continent.

At Chileno Valley, I stop at the lake to take in the beauty, the wild swans and their cygnets. As I walk towards the water, an ocean of blue dragon flies eddy at my feet. Pure magic. Above me red dragonflies flit like embers drifting in the air. A series of explosions in the distance, transformers blowing?

I am taking time out of time during these strange times. Fully in the present.



Fire journal 1, photo



I watched a fiery sun inexorably rise through a thick wall of carmine smoke. I am tucked beneath thick blanket of smoke from the northwest, it’s an oppressive stormfront of dark grey tinged with orange and green—like mercurochrome for a wounded sky above me, with a distinct orange fringe. There is a band of clear cyan blue skies to the east over Santa Rosa, but the smoke from the Solano fires will soon fill that void. The smoke thickens, and even as the sun rises, the daylight is getting darker. Crepuscular. The morning pattern of sunlight on the wall is vermillion, making everything look like a darkly varnished canvas. I know that my exit route to the south to San Geronimo, will be filled with even more smoke from the Limantour fire that is climbing Mt. Whittenburg. But for now, the air is sweet and smoke-free right where I am. I drink deep. For how much longer, I don’t know. Enjoying the serenity while I can. But the birds are silent. Never a good sign. I saw my first falling ashes, like gentle snowflakes drifting down. Last night I fell asleep while poring over a wildfire report, cricket arias, I slept fitfully, not knowing what the morning may bring. The evacuation line was moved up to right before my friend’s driveway. Not mandatory yet but soon. Spent two hours packing my car with all my stuff, and then played car Tetris to be able to drive, not enough room for the stick shift—and see out the window. I don’t think I ever really unpacked all my stuff from the Kincade fire. I can see the smoke on the horizon at Napa, a big plume—like an erupting volcano. As I crossed the llano, the Santa Rosa Valley looks like it’s in the center of a tornado. Smoke from the Stewart’s Point, Skaggs Springs/Sweetwater fire is spreading exponentially. It’s moved into The Cedars too. All those ancient rare trees and plants. Mt. Jackson. Meyer’s Grade right below Fort Ross. Soon the fires will converge into a megafire complex. The fire has been named Walbridge. Hopefully the fire won’t move south, or we’ll lose Armstrong Grove as well. Wildfires all over the state from the lightning. Someone said 500 fires, 5000 strikes. Big Basin is burning. Big Sur is burning. The Sierra foothills. And we don’t have the manpower to fight all these fires simultaneously.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Anne Kent Library roundtable on SF Drake history, 6/26 Rodoni roundtable notes

Marin County Library Drake Boulevard Learning Resources

A video of the recent public online learning session about Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is now available in both English and Spanish on the Library’s Drake History Resources webpage. Our Anne T. Kent California Room librarians were essential in gathering information to support the ongoing public dialogue and opportunity for community learning. Check out the Anne T. Kent California Room Community Newsletter for additional features and highlights about local history and available archival resources.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Massive lightning strikes, three fires on Mt. Barnabe

After a spectacular morning of dry lightning, the likes of which Is ve never seen, reports of fires everywhere. Massive lightning strikes, and ignites three fires on Mt. Barnabe.The first one struck the fire cam and cell tower, another strike exploded a tree on the Portola fire road near Nuneses, and a downed line near Devil’s Gulch in the park ignited a third larger fire which was the most worrisome. A portent of things to come. That dry lightning storm that keeps on giving and giving.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Personification poems with Blake More Tomatoes, Carrots & a collage




WHAT THE TOMATOES SAID

We arrived in black bags filled with loam
and waited for them to come.
We had no idea of our destiny,
or what was to become of us.
We waited along the fence
in haphazard formation.
The sun rose to its zenith, and we wilted,
uprooted from the coolness of the garden,
we were awaiting adoption,
not knowing who would claim us,
or where we were going.

She found deep pots for us and gave us water.
After we recovered from the shock,
we began to grow, reaching for the sun.
She gave us gilded cages
where we could rest our heavy arms.
And we leaned in conversationally,
we blossomed, and then we fruited with gravitas.
At first, we were shy green orbs that swelled,
and then we doubled in size
with each new watering
until we were constellations,
or perhaps even planets.

And then we reached for the sun
and we became the fire of sunset.
We waiting for the cool green depths 
of salad bowls rubbed with garlic 
and dressed with olive oil. We glowed 
like the glistening blood of rubies.
Summer's gift to those huddled 
around their meager tables
waiting out the siege.

8/5/20

THE CARROT SPEAKS

The carrot speaks of the night,
it speaks of the stars
glistening in the gloaming.
Once it was the color of darkness
but then it saw the sun for the first time
and the shape of its dreams
began to change to include the light.
And then it glowed with the tendrils
of the summer sun.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Covid journal, freeway wreck


I’m stuck in a rare traffic jam on 101 outside of Santa Rosa, so I contemplate the mundane roadside attractions, debris, new homesteads in the bushes, in the no-man’s-land between freeway and fence. The traffic jam eventually unveils its ugly secret. A big truck hauling a trailer, someone else’s home, did a 180° turn right off the freeway—facing back the way he came. The trailer crumpled like tinfoil, or a Coke can. The truck, still upright, with a starburst pattern in the windshield from someone’s head. 

Myriad cops circle the scene. I wonder if the couple survived. And I realize that though the driver did 180° turn going back from where he came, he can never go back there again. Was he yet another victim of COVID homelessness? As this pandemic continues on its inexorable path, more and more people are becoming homeless. It too is a pandemic. Seeking shelter wherever they can. During these dark days of summer, it’s not so much of a problem. Pitch a tent, or pitch a tarp. But come winter, then what?

And a jerk in the SUV, seeing a long line of cars, tries to pass me on the freeway shoulder, right in front of the wreck. He is part of the problem. Let’s just say hand gestures were involved all round. 

Some Sunday morning. Our new normal horizon keeps shifting its parameters. What was unthinkable a year ago is now the new normal. But hope is ever present, the Halloween maze corn is growing in the Petaluma field. Waiting for the maze to grow. A bleacher overlooks the green sea of corn. Come October, The Day of the Dead. How many, countless deaths by then?

Indeed, the gates of the Otherworld are open wide, waiting to receive us all.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Driving backroads


As I drive the West County backroads to work, the actions of the person in front of me at a junction or a stop sign, often determines which backroute I will take. I will do anything to avoid complacency and erratic driving. I abhor those who drive seemingly without a care in the world, unaware that someone behind him may have a time frame and a destination in mind. I have no trouble with joyriding, or touristing, it’s just that some of us use the backroads to get from point A to point B in a timely manner. The courtesy of pulling over for someone who is driving faster than you has gone by the wayside. People seem to think they own the road in front of them no matter what, expecting those of us stuck behind their overinflated ego-driven SUVs, to follow suit. What if there was an emergency? Honking or flicking your headlights does little good. But they won’t yield the road even when five or more cars are piled up behind them. It’s against the law. If I’m driving slow, I either speed up, or pull over and let them pass. I don’t refuse to yield the road. It comes with the territory.

A lone Canada goose on Llano road


A wild Canada goose was standing by the roadside on Llano Road near the Laguna treatment plant. It stood amidst Queen Anne’s lace and blue chickory. I thought, what a strange place for a water bird to rest. Then I saw the fallen. It was morning its mate. Then I saw more fallen. One dead goose could have been an accident. But two, then three by the side of the road. Surely the work of man, and not the sewage pond. The one surviving goose stood sentinel among the fallen, a lone survivor to a tragedy that no one will ever know. I feel its grief, as it keens for its mate.The white feathers of the gooses breast luff in the breeze like small clouds on the horizon between life and death.

7/24/2020

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Dear AutoDuctape

Dear AutoDuctape, lose the apostrophes already and the random capitalization act really has to go. You're batting 99% wrong 99% of the time. Most common nouns are not TM products. They're simple-minded nouns. You know, person, place or thing? We're talking about things here. Objects.

Ditto that for simple plurals. Sometimes an S is just an S. For reals. (Im surprised you didn't try and apostrosize that last word. You must be slipping. I mean, migawd, reals is not even a real word. Neither is apostrosize but that's above your paygrade.) But I digress.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Naked Athena vs the Feds


I never thought I’d ever be saying this, but hooray for the soccer moms, and for helicopter moms, and for the naked yoga moms. The great Shiva has been unleashed. We are revolution. We are both noun and verb. We are Lysistrata. We are the original AntiFa. And we are pissed. We have taken a stand against the staggering incompetence of the affairs and machinations of the federal government. We will rise. We will rise. ‘A masked Naked Athena’ has turned the tide. She is Godiva, unhorsed. She is Sheila-na-gig. Nudity as protest, nudity as free speech. She is the malasana in garland pose. She is Gaia giving birth to the new world. She is the primal scream. This is the official dance of these covid times. Portland is keeping it weird for us all. If you’re not pissed off by now, you should be. When George called out for his mama on his dying breath, he called out all the mamas. Yea, verrily, we will rise.  “Feds stay clear. The Moms are here.” Game on.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

ARMED CHICKENS



What if you were to arm your chicken
would you need a permit for it to bear arms?
Would it need a a bulletproof vest? Or an alibi?
Perhaps some barbecue sauce for the extra wings?
What if it crossed the road while bare armed?
Would it be a wingman? Would it get a leg up?
Would the now rather cross road roll up and leave town?
What if it was a leghorn? Then what? Would it have an arm up?
Would it be a Rambochicken or a T-rex throwback?
Would it wear wingtips? Would you shoot the little clucker
if the cockerel percheth too long in thy ladie’s chamber?
(Medieval reference explained in the comments)
Would you read your chicken Miranda rights?
No chickens were armed in this process. Really.
But they sure were insulted. What about the bears?
Do they want to bear arms too?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Rest in power John Lewis


Chickens are very good listeners. My friend’s chickens tend to clock me because I feed them. My car is my afternoon office, and apparently I keep office hours with a flock of chickens. They tilt their heads as if to comprehend what I’m saying, before I resort to their clucky language. The idea of John preaching to the chickens is an endearing and enduring image. Chickens are far smarter than we tend to think.

“John loved to tell the chicks the Good News. When he fed and watered them, he spoke about the value of hard work and patience. He would tell them, ‘Enjoy this day that God has given us.’” A leitmotif for us all.

"Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
He spilled his blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, served in Parchman Prison, rode with the Freedom Riders in the summer of 1961, and served in Congress for more than 30 years, so each and every single American can exercise their civic duty. —Rusty Hicks, California Democratic Party
‪“You must find a way to get in the way. ‬You must find a way to get into good trouble. Necessary trouble.‬ You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate to go out and seek justice for all. ‬You can do it. You must do it.”‬ ‪- John Lewis ‬
As John Lewis*, the great civil rights hero who passed away on Friday, said last month near where Trump and Attorney General William Barr had set federal police in riot gear and wielding tear gas on peaceful protesters, “Mr President, the American people … have a right to protest. You cannot stop the people with all of the forces that you may have at your command.” —Robert Reich
I’ll never forget the day he staged a sit-in on the Senate floor. This man who walked with King. Who led us all in the good fight. A man who fought for equality with his last breath. I am proud to have been a chicken in his flock. Rest in power John Lewis and thank you for all your service. Walk with the Wind.

See Brainpickings’ endearing tribute to Preaching to the Chickens, a story about a young John Lewis.


more

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

I never did finish Herman Berlandt’s memorial blog


Another year steamrollers by and I am reminded, with the help of Facebook Memories, that I never did write that blog tribute to Herman Berlandt who died May 15, 2017. I didn’t hear about his death until July, by chance, but I managed to get myself to his memorial service. So this month becomes an annual tribute month in my mind’s eye.

I was far too overwhelmed at the time to fully process Herman’s passing, but I did manage to create a blog for him, called Herman Berlandt, Poet on the Brink of the Mesa  from a collection of papers I had gathered from his cabin in the winter of 2018. I also always meant to scan all the photos from our time together for National Poetry Association as well (I was staff photographer)—still on the back burner of the to-do list.

I always meant to go back and add to the blog, finish the big scan job of his papers that I had begun in January, 2019, but I never found the time, my own life was in such upheaval, first, my ex, John Oliver Simon had died, then I was suddenly homeless, living on the run—a 20+ year relationship had ended badly, and now here we are, July 2020. We are all firmly entrenched at one home or another, with nowhere to go. Now I have the time to finish my task, but no material to scan. I assume Bolinas is still closed to outsiders. I hope that Patrick Flynn is OK, and still holding down the home front, and that the cabin still stands. Otherwise, now would be a perfect time to finish the job.

This is a time of closure, completing the undone tasks of one’s lifetime. Facing extinction is a hell of a motivator.

The 2019 blog (which I’m sure no one has even seen)
Herman Berlandt, Poet on the Brink of the Mesa
and my placeholder un-tribute to Herman form 2017

Thursday, July 9, 2020

True Chanterelles finally published


A shoutout to Art Goodtimes who shepherded this poem into print, he who encouraged me to go deeper into the realm of fungi, and load it up with scientific terms. Ok, so it was an exceptionally long midwifery, two years, but look who else is in this mycology issue, W. S. Merwin! I am honored indeed. And I am exceptionally glad a version of this poem found its way to the printed page. At last.





Monday, July 6, 2020

COVID Brain is a thing

It’s curious to witness how our brains overcompensate for what we cannot possibly fathom, let alone, process, during these COVID times. Need I mention the danger of an inexplicable need for sudden-onset naps—like while driving. Or forgetting where you are while driving—is like a sneak preview onto the window of dementia. Three pairs of glasses on my head has become the new norm. And yes, I’ve added a second pair of glasses atop the ones I’m using. Just call me six-eyes.

Misplaced things resurfacing in the oddest of places—car keys in the fridge, cellphone in the cabinet. I don’t even want to discuss the places I’ve stashed outgoing mail. Or another favorite, completely forgetting to do simple hard-wired tasks—like pushing the start button on the washer, and then coming back an hour later, completely baffled. Half-completed tasks while multi-tasking stack up like a madhouse litany. I’m grounding my auto-pilot’s plane and canceling his license.

Have you noticed how certain simple coping skills are dropped, or rearranged according to vicarious whims, while other tasks take on an unusual precedence to the point of stark-raving OCD mania? Keeping your eye on the prize often discombobulates into an at-home version of a low-rent Monty Python skit. That THC-free spaciness is a real thing.

My cousin and I seem to be at a loss for certain common, and rather ordinary nouns verging on plainness, on any given day which makes for hilarious, if demented, conversations—each of us supplying the MIA noun for the other in tandem, without either of us missing a beat.

When a friend marveled over how the French don’t pronounce the final continent of a word, I laughed so hard, I very nearly became incontinent, my eyes peed their pants. Becca’s friend substituted the word celibate for being content—which added a surreal twist to the conversation.

Meanwhile, our higher power is distracted while trying to fathom the concept of, or plumb the depths of mass extinction, we’ve come up with some rather amazing work-arounds and patches when the working nouns in any given sentence refuse to tow the line, or worse, flee the scene of any given conversation. I’ve been known to yell at my cousin, Hey, I need a working noun (rarely a verb) here! Our sentences are beginning to resemble autocorrect at its finest. Lately I’ve taken to handcuffing working nouns to the proverbial greased pole.

Things versus actions are becoming an endangered species. And no, we are not experiencing gaslighting, mad cow disease or Alzheimer’s, atrophy, or dementia wholesale. Grief, anxiety, depression, stress all distract our brains as we try to make sense of these trying times we live in.

The ordinary and the mundane fall by the wayside as our processors whirr night and day. Day and night. Every waking dream is post COVID-19. We are all suffering from COVID fatigue syndrome. Call it PTSD if you must name it. COVID brain is a thing. The fogbank of the fugue months is very real and taking names. As my friend said, Every day is Blurrsday. We have lost our point of reference. And every month is Blurruary.

Feel free to leave your current whack-jobs, workarounds, and cures, or at least how you keep the beast at bay, below.

Irish-American women rabble-rousers


Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2555561
Someone commented about how American women affected social change. Her examples didn’t include any Irish American women—not even Mother Jones. And when I attempted to add Irish American women to her list—who were not actresses—I drew a blank after the first handful of women. I searched online in vain for a list of Irish-American women rabble-rousers who were real rebel rousers, not just pretty faces on the celluloid screen.

Those foolhardy moments in time


Someone asked me what was the most foolhardy thing I’d ever done. Where to even begin? How about rappelling down inside the inner dome of a decommissioned church of atheism and religion in Leningrad, mid-winter, never having rappelled down anything before? Or working on a fresco, while dangling from a rope 40 feet above the floor on dodgy equipment while helping a Soviet artist to restore it, using razor blades to scrape away debris. 

The singlemost scariest part was climbing an ancient pre-Revolution rickety iron ladder to the roof on the outside of the building, to get to the window that led to the inner dome. Of course the artist gave us a 360* tour of the copper-clad outer dome during a snow flurry. I grabbed the handrail only to have it come up from the lip of the dome in my hand, and the lip was slick, my boot slid to the edge...

It reminds me of the time I came down Half Dome and accidentally pulled the rope rail pipe out of the granite, only to have the 2x4“ plank skittle to the side, with me holding up the loose pipe in my right hand like a cane, while admiring the steep curvature of the dome, wondering how the hell John Muir managed to come back down the dome sans any guardrail at all.

And then there was. the time John Oliver Simon and I decided we needed to climb Huyana Picchu to get to the temple of the sun and moon using a dodgy rope to pull ourselves up a slope that far surpassed the angle of declination. Made the world’s steepest stairs seem like a piece of cake. No fn way was I going to take that rope back down that peak—all this while in the middle of a forest fire, having hiked 42km in, the only way out was through.

There are more stories... it’s a wonder I ever made it out alive. and now, here we are playing hide and seek with an invisible enemy. To be felled by a virus....

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Throwing myself a lifeline (photography)



For the first time in ages, I posted several albums of wildflower photos in two Facebook groups that I belong to, California Native Plant Society, and California Invasive Plants. I was feeling extraordinarily downcast the other day, to the point I was barely functional; I was so weighted with cumulative grief from my April to June fugue, I could feel the numbness in my cheekbones.

So I threw myself a lifeline, and took the long way home. The very, very long way home on the most obscure backroads I could find. It took me 4 1/2 hours. By the end of that journey, I was no longer despondent, nor was I crippled with grief. No matter that my camera no longer properly focuses, or that I desperately need a new one, I still managed to fight my way out of the descent of darkness with it in hand.

This photo says it all, between a rock and a .... a photo I very nearly missed seeing, I had my eye on other prizes—Lupinus microcarpus, var. densiflorus, AKA Chick lupine going to seed. They make me giddy with their breakout lavender hues.

This quote below is what I wrote at the end of one of the photo albums I posted. I wanted to share it with you all, as the same premise applies to all of you, and to all of our posts. This silly little habit of people liking or not liking posts means much more than we realize, in this isolated land of no more hugs. For that, I am grateful.

“Wow, instant gratification, I love the fact that you are all loving this post. Sounds silly, I know. Sometimes it feels like we’re all in the dark. Sometimes the only thing that makes me feel a little bit better is the beauty that surrounds us. On this particular day, I despaired, and could not get out of my blue funk, the grief was palpable, so I took photos, and went the long way home. Sometimes the only thing I can do is to seek out that beauty and post it here. My microcosmic world. Thank you all. ❤ We are all walking each other home.

COVID Fluff


So, my pants are punking me. Tired of my old jeans w/ shallow pockets, I bought new ones, only to discover the plus-size was no longer quite so plus due to stray surplus COVID-19 calories.

Ironic in that the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans that I swear by, except for that last pair with a shallow pockets, but they always run way too big. But I am between sizes. Story of my life. I am neither a 10 nor a 12. My pants tend to fall off my ass. Belts don’t really help. So I either buy a size 12 and take them in. Or buy a size 10 and hope it runs large enough to not give me cameltoes. Some choice, ass rack or hoo-ha crack.

I assume all Gloria Vanderbilt pants are made in China, but these are clearly post COVID-19 pants. Different style, I like the smaller waistline, and with the roomier crotch bits below. This time the size 12 fits like a 10, sans crack. No more delicate ruptured bits.

I don’t have very much by way of a butt to hold my pants up. Putting my wallet in my pocket sometimes means my pants go south like a gangstah when I least expect it. I am unused to having pants fit—to say the least. Ah, but the craic’s good when it comes to a pair of comfortable tailored pedal pushers in summer. Having two boobs at the same time precludes finding tailored shirts that will fit.

Friday, June 26, 2020

CPITS workshops, Jane Hirshfield, Dan Levinson, Jessica Wilson


“It is important that awake people be awake.” Stafford
Poem Is Small Kindnesses by Danusha Lameris
Writing Prompt:  On left side in a vertical column:  5 -10 concrete nouns.  Make them different from each other.

On the right side of the page, do the same vertical columns - 5-10 abstract nouns.  Any school subject, any emotion, ideas…Things you can’t touch.
In between each two words in both set of columns, write the word “OF”  Should give you a set  “coffee cup of science”  or switch order “science of coffee cups”
Pick one of these sets or constellations of words that excites you and begin a piece of writing.
On left side in a vertical column:  5 -10 concrete nouns.  Make them different from each other.
On the right side of the page, do the same vertical columns - 5-10 abstract nouns.  Any school subject, any emotion, ideas…Things you can’t touch.
In between each two words in both set of columns, write the word “OF”  Should give you a set  “coffee cup of science”  or switch order “science of coffee cups”
Pick one of these sets or constellations of words that excites you and begin a piece of writing.
You have roughly 10 minutes.

Freewrite 1

In the mirror, grief waited
patiently for light to surrender,
and for the darkness to follow.
Its silvered tongue spoke of the past
when women plumbed its depths,
scrying the future from the dross.
I was once one of those women,
living in the USSR, one winter, waiting
for a glimpse of the future.
And now here we are.
The old beveled mirror, someone’s discard,
silver scratched off the back,
faithfully reflects the light, sharpens its teeth,
while I measure shadows crawling across the room
where containment is equal to life.
The banshee wailing at the door, is hunting again.
So many fallen, I do not know where to begin,
or how to comprehend such grief.
My pen is mute, filled with darkness,
my hand speaks of loss, trying on other dreams
in the mirror when I am not looking.
The clock is writing down the calendar of days.
We grow used to the genteel confinement.
It becomes our familiar. We become inured to it.
Yet the world rages on, a lethal stew of protesters,
AntiFa and AltRigh boiling in the streets
as if naming it could quell the civil unrest.
Tearing down statues of oppression
and tearing down what was once good—
there is no filter. It is all fodder for the rage that burns.
And we sit in our towers watching the wind
bending the tall grass to its will
as the ashes of the dead ride on the breeze.


Next Prompt:  Write down some things that people might actually say.
Next, write down 1-3 factual statements. Simple sentences that are true. For example: “The earth is round.”
Last thing to write down:   one question.

Cheating is allowed.  Change any elements. Write a poem which is someway relevant to your reality (and unreality.) Write a poem that has actual spoken words or dialogue in some way in it. Be aware of the typographical possibilities as well as the possibilities of how many ways there are to work dialogue into a poem: in passing, as the main way the poem moves, or something in between, or a momentary breaking of the fourth wall. Optional: include a fact, a question, or both.

Model poems:
The Act by William Carlos Willams
In the Desert by Stephen Crane
A Note on ‘Iowa City:  Early April’ by Robert Hass
[from Citizen] by Claudia Rankine
Table by Edip Canceler, translated by Richard Tillinghast from the Turkish

10 minutes… Write a poem which is someway relevant to this moment in your reality (and unreality.)  Write a poem that has actual spoken words or dialogue in some way in it. Be aware of the typographical possibilities as well as the possibilities of how many ways there are to work dialogue into a poem: in passing, as the main way the poem moves, or something in between, or a momentary breaking of the fourth wall. Optional: include a fact, a question, or both.

Freewrite 2

Where to even begin? The mind wants answers,
and some are satisfied with any answers
that will do, no matter how impossible.
People are grasping at straws as if they were liferafts
in the deep end of the COVID pool.
Lemmings flock to the beaches, as if to find the answer,
the first terrestrial “I am” ever uttered.
I want to tell the gobies and the mudskippers
there’s been a mistake, but I’ve said it all before
in another poem, long ago, when I was someone else.
As we look down the hind site
of that long barreled gun of time,
we can’t even imagine anything else but this moment,
frozen, in the perpetual now.
Each act takes us farther from ourselves,
and what we once held to be true,
makes us re-define our lives with a new timeframe,
so that we can barely remember
anything other than now.
What is happening to time?
As we speed headlong
towards our own extinction.