Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Turkeys on the rocks


Photographer Jerry Downs posted photos of what he called native wild turkeys, assuming they’d been in California for centuries. I said, Well, if you consider Texas native, so be it. Wild turkeys are so wiley, Ben Franklin wanted to make them the national bird. The bald eagle was an afterthought. But they’re not native at all, they’re transplants, shills, stand-ins for the native California turkey that went belly-up, dead—as in extinct, not sleeping it off—during the Pleistocene—that’s the last Ice Age. And this is why you should always drink your wild turkey on the rocks.

Rambling on about Rambling Jack


Yep, Ramblin Jack is still alive and well and living in West Marin. He may be pushing 88, but he’s not exactly pushing daisies just yet. He may also not have been a real cowboy by birth, but he is a cowboy of the heart. Still cruising the back backroads in his big blue Dodge truck, he takes it slow. I remember when he used to live in Forest Knolls. He wasn’t so much the country boy back then, but he sure liked girls on horseback. If he wasn’t half cocked, he was generally half-lit. Before I was working for Mimi Fariña at Bread & Roses, I ran into him at a concert, at San Francisco State, in 1974, where nobody showed up, so we all hung out in the cafeteria. Hoyt Axton was hunkered down, with his sledgehammer hands performing a strange CPR to the formica tabletop. I remember sitting at that circular coffee table on its singular iron leg, as they swapped yarns, their knees lifting the small table off the ground, as if it was levitating from the sheer exuberance of all the collective tall tales being told as they outdid themselves and each other. I was a fly on the wall mesmerized into muteness. That iron claw foot was scratching the floor, was screening, and wailing like a monster—tidal waves of coffee splashing in our cups. Their hands thrumming hoofbeats into the proverbial sunset. Move along, little dogies, move along.

The Human Be-In



I was at the Human Be In with my mother, barely into my teens. It was a gloriously sunny, if cold day, and the grass was damp. There were flowers and candles and feathers and cymbals and chimes and lots of smoke. Gary Snyder, in a fringed leather vest, was on stage reading poetry, Allen Ginsberg standing behind him with Michael McClure in black.

Court jester Timothy Leary leaps off the stage, tumbles down among the masses, tripping down the main aisle like a pied piper, spots my mom, a tall willowy auburn-haired beauty, and hugs her. They knew each other from before. It’s an Irish thing. She was always bringing the Irish poets home like Lew Welsh and Gene Ruggles.

As they twirled and hugged, she threw back her head an laughed, I’d never seen her so radiant as in that moment. She was like another person, not depressed. She said God bless you Timothy Leary, he laughed and drifted onward toward the back of the crowd, creating hives of excitement whenever he stopped. Me, awkwardly standing there taking it all in, never dreaming I’d one day become a writer.

Big Brother and Janis Joplin lived down the road in Forest Knolls, Sons of Champlain, Jefferson Starship, Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana also lived in the San Geronimo Valley so the musicians were all neighbors of sorts. I later met most of them hitching back and forth to high school. My mom partied with them.

San Francisco, January 1967, was an electrifying year of social deconstruction and reconfiguration. The Gathering of the Tribes where spiritual generation amassed for a Human Be-In at the Polo Fields. Guest speakers Ram Dass and Timothy Leary spoke to some 10,000 very stoned pilgrims who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out en masse.

And yes, there really was a poster. I remember it. Whether this one is real, is moot.

Monday, January 13, 2020

HOUSE MADE OF SHELLS



Rien se perd, tout se récupère?
Chaumière aux coquillages de st. Jacques.
Une halte pour les pèlerins de Compostelle ?
And when it rains,
do the scallops on the roof
endlessly dream of the sea
whispering secrets to those pilgrims
sleeping beneath its eaves.
Won’t it attract seagulls?
Does the rain sing of the waves?
Plenty of time to be afraid of the wind
among the fields of stars
on the road to Compostela.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center New Year’s challenge—all the poetry prompts

I wasn’t quite in the mood to write, too discombobulated, and I had a painting deadline looming over my head. But I faithfully read the prompts, and wrote quite a few out of sequence, making it harder to post the poems under the date written vs. conceived. Sort of like conception followed by birth.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Mis-musing on the name of Kenneth Mac Alpine


Someone in our British Medieval History group, wanted to know why Kenneth MacAlpin, (ca. 800 to 858) the first King of Scots, was also called  "king of the Picts". Was he a Pict who gained the Dal Riata/Gael throne, or the opposite?

Moderator Peter W Graham (whom I adore), said:
Probably of mixed parentage his mother being PICT and father a Dalriada Scotti, it is believed that the pict crown passed through the female line , the Scotti through the male, after the royal families of both were decimated by invading Norse Kinnaed was the most senior of both lines left, ignore the slaughter of the nobles it’s a myth. The Picti and Scotti were forced to unite under him against a common enemy and found the kingdom of Alba.
And of course, I was off and running. I said that Kenneth’s name was not Pictish, but Irish. Cináed mac Ailpin, which means the fire born one, possibly the son of that devotee of Colm, or Columba Aka Malcolm. (No K in either form of Gaelic). Pictish was a Brythonic language, like Welsh, so the very word son, or Mac designates the name as a Goidelic language. Welsh word for son is is mab, or ap. Alpin is likely  Pictish, as p was avoided In early Irish, a loan letter. Some think Alpin was Ailpein, Albin, or possibly alba, or alp.

Peter replied, Well Gaelic Scot and Irish had already started to separate. That got me going and I fell down the rabbit hole (again).

I said Early medieval Scots Gaelic and Northern Irish Gaelic were closely related Goidelic dialects, with Donegal Irish being the closest mutually comparable connection. Despite the fact there were probably about five separate Irish Gaelic (and Scottish) dialects, the grammatical rules don’t change much. (Spelling is another matter entirely.)

I found this on a medieval Scotland site: The nominative, Mael Coluim, Mal Coluim, Mal Colum, Mal Coloum, was spelled Maíl Choluim, or Mal Colaim in the genitive form. So, spelling was variable according to grammatical changes. The references are from Kenneth Jackson’s The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer.
Kenneth's origins are uncertain, as are his ties, if any, to previous kings of the Picts or Dál Riata. Among the genealogies contained in the Rawlinson B 502manuscript, dating from around 1130, is the supposed descent of Malcolm II of Scotland. Medieval genealogies are unreliable sources, but many historians still accept Kenneth's descent from the established Cenél nGabráin, or at the very least from some unknown minor sept of the Dál Riata. The manuscript provides the following ancestry for Kenneth:

...Cináed son of Alpín son of Eochaid son of Áed Find son of Domangart son of Domnall Brecc son of Eochaid Buide son of Áedán son of Gabrán son of Domangart son of Fergus Mór ... —Wiki Kenneth MacAlpin, Rawlinson ms B502
Máel is a devotee, or follower (of Christ), and Colm is a dove, pronounced Colum. So Máel+Colm is Malcolm. Máel (pronounced mal) was sometimes also used as a prefix to a Welsh name, Maelgwyn, and Mael Madog, follower of Madoc. And that Ma- in Madog may be a redundancy, máelmáel. But máel is an Irish prefix suggesting tonsured one, a monk. Which type of tonsure, I’m not sure, there were two warring factions of tonsure styles, the Druidic version was most radical.

Since we were covering goidelic languages, I tossed in some Manx too. Manx, though spelled with phonetic English orthography, was probably similar to Leinster Irish and Galwegian Scots Gaelic. Transcribing Manx into English sounds was a language disaster. Root words were lost as well as case endings, phonetic Gaelic is almost impossible to unpack. When I was looking at Manx tales, I had to say the words out loud in order to make any connection. By contrast I can suss out Scottish Gaelic place names via the Irish without too much trouble.

Also, during  the Medieval era, the term Scottii did not necessarily mean somebody was Scottish, it was a fluid concept—it meant they were Irish, or of Irish derivation—hence the term Dál Riada Scotti. Since Roman times, Ireland has been called Scotia Major, and Scotland was called Scotia Minor until the 16Th c. This simple fact seems to confuse people to no end. For the record, most of Scotland’s saints were Irish born.

Still on an odd language roll, I said: Weirdly, a dialect of Munster Irish was spoken in some of the Hebrides—especially Barra. You’d think with Colm Cille, that copyright thief, hailing from the north of Ireland, the Northern Irish dialect would’ve prevailed throughout the Hebrides. Certainly Iona. Munster Irish is very different than Northern Irish. People got around!

Gilbert Markus  caught me up on my references. I said, yes go raibh maith agat, the first part of the Rawlinson B502 was written down in the 11th c. Sometimes referred to as the Lebar Glinne Dá Locha, just to confuse things. Weren’t the annals of Tigernach later? But those early ms were not the works of sole authors, or authorship as we think of it today—same scribal hand, maybe. Well, two, or three hands. Annalists were responsible for organizing the material, not authors. Historians, maybe. But annalists were not necessary historians. And it was a collective compendium of what was thought to be historically accurate at the time. And yes, whoever was commissioning the ms would’ve had an agenda.

Now, speaking of hidden agendas, and constitutional fictions, the late 16th c. Holinshed's Chronicles was recreated history to shore up certain family trees and political agendas. Take Shakespeare’s MacBeth, for example. Poor MacBeth got seriously slammed. Yes, you’re right, there is not a radical divide between Scottish Gaelic, Irish, and Manx other than wildly different spellings, and pronunciation. My Irish teacher was always saying the difference between a language and a dialect is an army.

Well, hello, I just fell down the damned rabbit hole again, lock, stock and bunny tail, chasing the wrong name.

Comparison of Scottish Gaelic and Irish

COUP DE GRÂCE, AFTER BIERSTADT



Looking Down Yosemite Valley (1865) by Albert Bierstadt

COUP DE GRÂCE, AFTER BIERSTADT

When Bierstadt traversed the narrow ledge
up the granite wall, gaining momentum and altitude
with each labored step, in those golden morning hours,
with his sketch pad and pens in his rucksack,
or perhaps a small canvas strapped to a steady mule,
did he hesitate and bow to the sublime beauty
of The Sentinel, the grace of Cathedral Rock
or the sheer grandeur of El Capitán,
did his breath become an ablution
joining the collective prayers of dew and mist
rising from the meadow and river,
was he lulled by the cacophony of snowmelt,
and the silent song of samblind stars
before he rendered it all into artifice?
He was a long way from the Hudson River Valley
and those eastern sensibilities hellbent
on dividing and conquering the land in the name of God.
Did he ponder where to begin
with something so holy and profound,
or how to render that luminous landscape
wrought on such a massive scale, that it defied logic,
into something more civilized and tame,
all that Romanticism distilled
within the stifled confines of the painter’s studio?
Did he know the art salons would become billboards
of despair for the wild untrammeled vistas
when the thundering hordes headed west
to trample and love the sublime places to death?

1/11/2020
Ekphrastic poetry

Protest Songs, a nod to Behan’s Patriot Game vs Dylan’s With God on Our Side


KQED’s editor, Gabe Meline, a former poetry student of mine, not that he would admit it, asked where are all the new protest songs, he was bemoaning the fact that modern musicians are not writing protest songs in the manner of Dylan.
Last week, after escalating attacks on Iran and the president declaring the United States has "God on our side," I couldn't help but think of the lines by Bob Dylan:
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side
That song, "With God on Our Side," was written over 50 years ago. So where are the new protest songs? It's a question that's surfaced repeatedly in the past four years. And I keep hearing, especially from our younger readers, that it's the wrong question to be asking — that the aesthetics and process of art are political, too, and more effective than earnest sloganeering.
I had to laugh, as the very word slogan, is from the Irish, a war cry. Irish sluagh-ghairm (sluagh "army host" + gairm "cry"). The word slogan from the Old Irish, slúag, and garim, is hardly new, as it appeared in early medieval Irish texts, where Irish folk hero Cuchulain talked about being on the war road.

Whether or not the term slogan entered the English lexicon in the 16th century via Scottish Gaelic, or Irish, is open for conjecture, as most Irish words in the Oxford English dictionary were subsumed and attributed to Scottish Gaelic as the English made a blood sport of negating or discrediting Irish cultural contributions whenever possible.

The great rip off game, as my grandmother might have called it. In the early 1960s my grandmother waited for her beloved radio program where she’d wrap her arms around the radio to give it better reception. I remember her muttering how Bob Dylan stole the Irish song and didn’t give credit where credit was due.

It’s interesting to read the Washington Post article that laments how our current lame protest music is stuck in the past, because the past is exactly where that Dylan song came from. But on some level all art is political. And as to the aesthetics and artifice of art, there is always a moral debt to the past, whether overt, or implied, as to who or what came before us. Art cannot exist in a vacuum. It is always in direct response to modern politics and pop culture. But maybe the newest generation of protest writers are operating out of a vacuum. So looking back to the past is also the way forward. What came before.

Speaking of moral debt, Dylan’s song With God on Our Side was cribbed and adapted from an Irish protest song, The Patriot Game, on the the Irish nationalist struggle after the death of 16-year-old Fergan O'Hanlon during an IRA attack in 1957. The words were written by Dominic Behan, brother of Brendan Behan, and set to a traditional tune "The Merry Month of May" with nary a nod to Behan or the Irish, for that matter.
Behan, who was unequivocal in the defence of his copyright, publicly accused Bob Dylan of plagiarizing "The Patriot Game" in writing his own "With God on Our Side". —Wiki 
To answer Gabe's question why aren’t the young musicians writing decent protest songs about what’s going on right now in Iran, I’d suggest that they take Dylan‘s song and update the words to fit the present tense. After all, it is all part of the oral tradition to borrow and adapt what came before. Dylan would understand. He’d totally get it, right? Payback would be such a sweet bitch.

Friday, January 10, 2020

WRITING ON WATER

WRITING ON WATER

Once I dreamed a poem
so profound
I had to write it down.
I could not wait until morning
but I had no paper, no pen, 
there was no twig, nor sand, 
so I scryed it on the water 
with my fingertip.
The words sank like stones 
to the bottom of the sea 
leaving me speechless in the dark.
When I awoke at dawn
I found an undecipherable scrawl 
stenciled on my nightstand,
a small flowered Richter scale of runes.

1/11/2020

10th annual San Geronimo Valley Community Center senior lunch art show



Thursday, January 9, 2020

HOW TO GET BEHIND THE 8-BALL


HOW TO GET BEHIND THE 8-BALL

When life throws you too many fast curves,
and the road to nowhere is treacherous,
you must put your shoulder to the burden
and shove it off the cliff into the sea.
That’s the advice part. Seems simple enough.
But when you’re crippled by grief,
because the pool shark of an ex wants something,
you’re not sure what, it leaves you snookered,
your thoughts are scattered like a bad break-shot,
and that sandstorm of despair comes riding in
like a sweaty apocalypse hellbent on revenge,
so you can barely get out of bed, then what?
Do you abdicate? Rack it up to experience?
Or sink the 8-ball into the wrong pocket
when the money ball is no longer on the table?

1/11/2020


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

BETRAYALS OF THE MIND MoSt 25

BETRAYALS OF THE MIND

Betrayals of the mind begin innocuously enough,
small warning signs, you pay no heed to,
they’re merely trifles, but they steadily accumulate
until one day you’re on the wrong side of a locked gate,
you misplaced the key long ago, and there’s no spare
to be found anywhere. Not for love, nor money,
nor wishes made of horsehair and remembrance.
Just an attic filled with dying stars,
and an insurmountable debt, that cannot be repaid,
the ritual of hope long since misplaced.

1/18/20

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Gallagher Ranch, Black Mountain, Point Reyes, acrylic, 11 x 14”



Gallagher Ranch, Black Mountain, Point Reyes, acrylic, 11 x 14. Two down, four more to go... art show deadline Jan 9.

Revised foreground.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Last painting of 2019, Barboni Ranch, Hick’s Valley, West Marin. 8x10” acrylic.



Last painting of the year. Barboni Ranch, Hick’s Valley, West Marin. 8x10” acrylic. The iconic tree and rock formation is just past the one-room Lincoln schoolhouse with the vernal pool nestled in the lower foothills of Hick’s Mountain. Eponymous Tennessee land baron “Uncle Billy” Hicks never lived in the valley, once part of the Rancho Corte Madera de Novato land grant, that was named after him. Arroyo Sausal fireroad is to the right. It might be on one of the Barberoni ranches, preserved by MALT. Maybe Circle B Ranch? The Barbonis were Italian-Swiss, like most of the West Marin ranchers who settled there in the 1880s. Barboni founded Marin Dell Milk. I remember seeing the sign as a kid. Biggest ranches in Marin, 2600 acres, total, now preserved. Lots of rare and endangered species on that ranch including white buttercups in the lone remaining vernal pool, and home to red-legged frogs, badgers, otter.
Hicks Valley, Mountain: An absentee landlord in Marin's early days, William Hicks, left his name with this valley in the ranching area of Marin. (The Marin French Cheese Factory is located here.) Hicks was a native of Tennessee who arrived in California in 1843 and amassed a land empire. In the words of a newspaper reporter in 1884, "His acres, horses and cattle covered a thousand hills." The land stretched over Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Sonoma Counties, plus Marin, where in 1855 he bought 4,000 plus acres of Rancho Corte de Madera del Novato for $5,000. "Uncle Billy" Hicks died in 1884 at the age of 67 at his home in Hicksville, Sacramento County, a town no longer in existence. There was a post office named Hicksville, 1860-1889. —Place Names of Marin, by Louise Teather, 1986page 29
Neighboring Thompson Ranch, aka Marin French Cheese factory. Illinois 49er, well 65er, he came late—Jefferson  Thompson built an empire on cheese, supplying buttermilk cheese to the saloons of San Francisco. He wasn’t  French, his children changed the name to  “Rouge et Noir” to make it sound classy. After three generations, the Cheese Factory was sold to Jim Boyce, of Bishop, Ca. When Boyce died in 2010, it was sold to a French family business, Rians. It’s the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in the United States—and bona fide French after 150 years.

1/1/2020

I made a pastel too, 9 x 12” but I don’t like it very much. I need six solid pieces of art by Jan 9, for two upcoming art shows. The pressure’s on.


Friday, December 27, 2019

End of year writing stats

Year-end writing stats. It’s been a rough year, I only have about 30 poems, and smattering of prose poems, so far, out of not quite 90 posts. my poetry minimum is 52 solid poems, so I fell behind. Maybe I should count all those haiku separately. However, with the prose poems, I do have about 52 poems total. Maybe not so bad, after all.

It’s been a stressful, busy year. Still living rough, still living on the run. But determined to stay In the game, anchored in my art. My last refuge, my cousins’ Nicasio house was destroyed on the 4th of July, then there was a Sonoma County Kincade Fire evacuation in October. what a nightmare. Both places where I’ve been living, were either destroyed, or under attack. My cousin Dave’s stroke, followed by his marriage to someone who seemingly reinvents veritas to suit her scenarios, left me bereft, with no plan B. My car’s on its last legs, and I’m living here, there, and everywhere. So my car is my lifeline. I carry clothing, art supplies, my electronics, etc. oh, and someone stole my iPad in April.

My cousin Sinead and I took a jaunt to Hawaii to see Dulcie in Kauai, and also Kathie on Oahu. It’s been ten years since I’ve been to Hawaii, long overdue. Lots of photos. And lots of extraordinary outdoor time, circumnavigating the Na Pali coast from the other side, snorkeling, revisiting Waimea Canyon, in Kauai, and circumnavigating Oahu, revisiting my old haunts discovering some new ones on North Shore. Snorkeling again, Hanamua Bay. Not enough beach time, though.

I feel so overwhelmed these days. I can only take baby steps. One foot in front of the other. I’m learning to feel secure within myself during these insurmountable times, living only within the present tense. I’ve had a couple of housesitting gigs, I’m now housesitting in Berkeley through the new year.

Poems published in the Julia Vinograd memorial anthology.
POEM ON THE PASSING OF JULIA VINOGRAD, STREET POET (2018)
And I have a poem forthcoming in Molly Fisk’s upcoming Fire and Water anthology

I was a featured poet for the Petaluma Poetry Walk, and I also read at Watershed for The Open Mike Slot. I wrote a massive California Arts Council grant for Poetry Flash. all this while living itinerantly.

Ive been a few art shows at the San Geronimo Community Cultural Center, sold a photograph.
Senior art show
Spring art show (poster)

I made a new art blog to keep track of my art. I need to make one, maybe two for my photos

My Brownie Mary photo is in a traveling exhibit: Weedmaps Weed Museum where it will tour for three years. Someone lifted it from my blog, cut off my name and copyright, and reposted it on a Facebook site where it was massively redistributed, I lost track after 30,000 shares.

Taking stock, old inventories of the past, blog list I’ve been scanning old negatives from the 1980s and 1990s, giving back, as it were. Mostly of poets. I need to find a digital home for my scans, I don’t think Blogger will do. Here are some posts.
Scanning old negatives of the Napa Poetry Conferen...
A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, ...
For the Bahamas (scans from 1985) (photos)
Giving back old photos
Brownie Mary photo scan

Still on the back-back burner: documenting and photographing my old pottery and ceramics pieces from the 1970s.
Taking stock, old inventories of the past, blog 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

PERHAPS A GARDEN MoSt poetry Challenge 12

Vincent van Gogh, Winter (Vicarage Garden under Snow), ca. January 1885, Nuenen

PERHAPS A GARDEN

Vincent leaned into the sound and the sweat 
of shoveling snow, mid-winter 
and despair took on the song of ice.
The sun hung like an ornament in the sky 
but offered little warmth, no surety of its return. 
His breath froze, small crystals formed 
and merrily rang to the ground like a fairy orchestra.
But he couldn’t see that, his mind was always raging 
against the darkness that followed him.
Despite everything, it seemed he was always fighting 
with god or the devil, he would come to find 
there was little to distinguish between the two, 
always and eternally at odds with themselves.
Is he merely shoveling snow, or digging a grave? 
The bare trees and bauchy snow sounded their distress to the sky, 
even the distant town perched on the meniscus of winter 
offered little solace from the grim landscape.
Perhaps a garden dwells beneath that snow 
but the promise of spring is capricious as faith.

1/18/20

Boxing Day, or how the wren was killed


Ireland: its scenery, character etc.(Volume I, S.C. Hall. London:
Virtue & Co., 1843. D. Maclise, engraved by Landells.

Today is Boxing Day, or St. Stephen’s Day, as my grandmother called it. When I was a child, I wondered what pugilists, saints, and tiny wrens had in common. I may have gotten the boxer part wrong. There were no boxers in the arena, or cardboard boxes, for that matter—but there were bad boys involved. She said, the day after Christmas, you boxed up all your food and old clothing and gave it to the poor. A sort of second Christmas.

She then told me the story of how, when she was young, the boys of Bantry would dress in straw and tattered rags, put on masks and parade a dead wren about the town. The wren boys would put the poor bird on a tall pole adorned with ribbons, and evergreens, mistletoe and pine, holly and ivy. Then they’d parade the wee beastie about the village, beating their drums, waving their bullroarers, creating musical mayhem on everybody’s front steps. I was horrified. No, no, not the wren!

As if killing the wren wasn’t enough, gangs of boys demanded a ransom in exchange for a wren’s feather, and collected small coins from everybody in the village to bury the poor bugger. What they did with the money, she never said. Give us a penny to bury the wren. If you haven't a penny a halfpenny will do/ If you haven't a halfpenny/ Well then, God bless you. Apparently the coinage was collected to fund a Wren’s ball sometimes in January. Perhaps for the Epiphany. Boxing Day was the British renaming of the Feast of St. Stephen. Then there’s the Druidic winter feast. So, Wren Day is a triad compromise of faiths and liminal boundaries.

Perhaps to appease me, she said sometimes they caged the wren and then let him go after the festivities were done. I thought maybe she had gotten her stories crossed because what she described sounded suspiciously like Halloween trick-or-treat—with a Christian flair—except for the addition of  the effigy of the wily wren, a rat fink bird (who betrayed St. Stephen, the first martyr stoned to death for believing in Jesus. I had forgotten that part of the story, too grisly and too convoluted to follow.)

She then followed up with another story of how The birds argued who was the king of the birds. The wren and eagle dickered over who could fly the highest. The eagle flew up as high as he could, but the wren, hidden on his back, leapt off the back of the eagle to fly the highest, thus proclaiming himself to be the king of birds. I knew there was a moral imperative embedded in the story, I wasn’t sure exactly what. So I imagined the wren wearing a tiny crown of thorns, of course.

One dreary day, not too long ago, a small wren slipped into the house by the back door. I had a devil of a time catching it, and when I did, it had a lot to say, clearly I was being roundly cursed by a wren, I opened my palm, and let it go, it wasn’t letting bygones be bygones. It fiercely scolded me from the safety of the garden gate as if I were responsible for all that mayhem.

‘Dreoilín, Dreoilín, Rí na nÉan,
Dreoilín a fuaireas-sa thíos ar an inse,
Istigh fé charraig agus carbhat síoda air,
Thugas-sa chugaibhse é, lánúin an tí seo,
Agus má thugann sibh onóir na Féile dom’ Dhreoilín
Le bhur lámha do shíneadh,
Go mbeire an bhliain fé mhaise agus fé áthas arís oraibh.’

The wren the wren the king of all birds,
Saint Stephen's day he got caught in the furze,
Although he is little his family is great,
Cheer up landlady an give us a treat,
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Give us some money to bury the wren!

Dreoilín, dreoilín, where's your nest?
'Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree, the holly tree
Where all the boys do follow me.

Facebook memory, new iPad, 2014


Standing on second base in Nicasio trying to find a cell signal. Nope. New iPad Air 2, 128GB, cellular model. Nicasio baseball diamond, testing out the panorama mode! © Maureen Hurley 2014.

The backstory: for my 60th birthday, friends chipped in to buy me an iPad, but Neil said he was a bit short—could we wait on it? He’d make it up at Christmas. Sure, I said. I wanted all the bells and whistles—the 128GB model with cellular, I was willing to wait. And waited I did—another year. And another. The promise of the new very expensive iPad meant there were no gifts from Neil for my birthday or Christmas for the next two years. None. Just an accumulation of iPad IOUs stacking up. I think he conveniently forgot about it, hoping I wouldn’t press it. Or that I’d buy one myself.

But my friends kept nagging me, asking if I finally bought that iPad yet. I said, but I only received about $45. Nowhere near enough to buy an iPad. Finally, Jane Bark told me how much they each had donated. I was floored. It was a full house. I did the math. Then it dawned on me, rather than give it to me, he had pocketed the money. Scottish, my ass. By then he had conveniently forgotten how much money people had given him, I’m sure.

And I had kept him in Macs and MacBooks that I had bought and refurbished, for nearly two decades. And here he was denying me my iPad. It wasn’t just about being strapped for cash. Something much darker. Finally, I had to resort to a screamfest to shame him into getting that iPad. He handed me his credit card, wanting me to buy the cheapest model. I ordered the most expensive iPad, the one that I wanted. The one that I had been waiting three years for—no compromise.

I loved the all possibilities within that iPad. Lots of storage, great camera, and the cellular aspect was brilliant, I was no longer tethered to WiFi. But it was a long and painful road to get that iPad. I had it inscribed on the back, In Dreams Begins Possibilitywith a nod to WB Yeats.

A few years later, when the battery failed, I was devastated, but Apple replaced the iPad for $100. I was back in business. But by then, the iPad had become such an integral part of my work, I couldn’t imagine life without it. I was able to document and scan all my papers and memorabilia, including many of my poetry journals—which meant that I was finally able to flush out this blog, all those lean years began to fill in with blog entries. The iPad was an excellent archival tool, and helped me to create a literary timeline of my life’s work, such as it is. A retrospective. For that, I was grateful. I still used my headless MacBook Pro for OCR and formatting. But the transportability of the iPad was positively liberating.

I should’ve seen the writing on the wall. It wasn’t just Neil’s stinginess over money, it was a deep abiding stinginess of the soul. After Neil and I broke up in August, 2018, fittingly, that iPad was stolen, the following April 2019, while I was helping a friend who just had surgery, to the car. Some April Fool’s joke. We had a good run, that iPad and I. But karma fuck & damn the San Rafael Peet’s customer who took my iPad. I finally replaced it at the end of August with a 256 GB iPad Air 3—an expensive ouch that cost half what the first iPad cost. But friends chipped in to ease the burden. For that I am grateful. I am forging myself a new life because, well, In Dreams Begins Possibility.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Vineyard gulags


Vineyards are unsightly as compared to the natural Northern California landscape, and they’re a very thirsty monoculture, they tend to destroy all native species and habitats. Unfortunately vineyards are not without their destructive nature. Too many vineyard owners up and down the coast have bulldozed and razed ancient heritage oak forests into kindling in order to plant grapes—and only pay a small fine for their transgressions.

How many people know the opening screensaver,  that iconic green hill rising like a sun in Cotati that countless Windows users have gazed upon for decades is now a gulag of grapes? You can’t undo the damage that vineyards cause, and you can’t unsee it either.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Marin during the Depression


It’s a myth to assume that all of Marin was made of old European money, therefore immune to the effects of the Great Depression. My Irish grandmother, who was European but had no old or new money, acquired habits of extreme thrift, and was a master at fixing and repurposing things. She saved tinfoil, rubber bands, string, had rich junk drawers and junk piles. She made sheets and clothing from flour sacks and gunneysacks for her 8 children, she grew food in the garden. Canned food for the winter. Traded food with neighbors for milk, and eggs. Saved fat. All those industrious habits were forged during the depression and were passed onto the next two generations. The model is at hand.

Monday, December 16, 2019

PCH is Highway 1. It’s all a matter of perspective.


PCH is Highway 1—in SoCal it’s called Pacific Coast Highway. When they try and call Highway 1 PCH in NorCal, we tend to lose our minds.... it’s not Highway 101 but to confuse things, 101 joins forces with Highway 1 at Oxnard and Ventura to Santa Barbara, heads inland at Gaviota, while HIghway 1 veers toward Lompoc and goes inland towards Santa Maria—but doesn’t follow the coast until Arroyo Grands and Pismo Beach.

Highway 101 and Highway 1 share a stretch roadbed at Leggett where it becomes 101 all the way to Port Angeles, where it circles the Olympic Peninsula—the coastal side of the loop is sometimes referred to as Highway 1 too. And when you cross the Straits, it resurfaces as a stretch of Highway 1 from Victoria to Naniamo to Vancouver but just to be ridiculous, then Highway 1 goes inland to Calgary to the East Coast. I blame it on the Canadian beer.

Besides, once you get to Northern California Highway 1 is no longer called Pacific Coast Highway. Then there’s Baja to consider too. That too is Highway 1...I think I’ve traveled every stretch of it from Calgary west and south to Cabo. One all the way. It’s all a matter of perspective depending upon where you live, alliances to the northern or southern part of the state.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center New Year’s challenge 1 haiku


Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center New Year’s challenge.

Write a haiku for some goodness that has happened to you this year. If you find it difficult to choose just one, feel free to create a haiku series of goodnesses. Ready…steady… go…

Many challenges
A year of indecision
Obstacles melted.

Under the madrone
Old car settles in, dreaming
Of the open road.

Settling into
A new life without rancor
Myriad choices.

New digs deepen roots
When the past becomes a dream
Old tree bears new fruit.










NYPC 11 Prompts

Prompt #1: Greetings, Poets! Okay, here we go…For your first poem—and continuing Gillian’s first-poem tradition to ease us all into this—
Write a haiku for some goodnessthat has happened to you this year. Feel free to create a haiku series of goodnesses if it’s difficult to choose just one. Ready…steady… go…

Prompt #2: Consider times in our lives when we are at the table, or someone has said, Come to the table. Write a poem for these times, or about the many sorts of tables (dining, negotiating, or even Periodic) we come to —or leave. For inspiration, consider this poem by our current U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo: https://poets.org/poem/perhaps-world-ends-here

Prompt #3: Write a poem in response to this idea: The Graceful Stumble. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. For more information, go to our website:
https://www.mostpoetry.org/event/8th-annual-modesto-poetry-festival/

Prompt #4: Write a poem in response to one or some (or all!) of these quotations, and/or use them as an epigram in your poem, or form the title of your poem from part of the quotation:

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” (Douglas Adams)

“Out of every wandering in which people and places come and go in long successions, there is always one place remembered above the rest because the external or internal conditions were such that they produced happiness…One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame.” (Willa Cather)

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.” (Natalie Goldberg)

“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” (Hazel Henderson)

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” (Albert Einstein)

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” (E. B. White)

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” (Groucho Marx)

Prompt #5: Write a poem in response to this idea: Handling Earth With Care. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. For more information, go to our website:
https://www.mostpoetry.org/event/8th-annual-modesto-poetry-festival/

Prompt #6: Try your hand at writing an ode (a poem of praise) or an elegy (a poem of loss) to a mentor. (See more detailed descriptions by the Academy of American Poets below.)
In The Odyssey, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus whom Odysseus placed in charge of his son Telemachus and of his palace when he went off to the Trojan War. The personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague. (Yes, this previous sentence has been paraphrased from Wikipedia.)
Consider who your mentors have been; write an ode or elegy to them and their commitment, energy, enthusiasm, and other characteristics. Or, to whom have you been a mentor? Who needsmentoring, and how, and why? See if you can write your poem embracing some of these elements.
https://poets.org/glossary/ode
https://poets.org/glossary/elegy
Prompt #7: Write a poem in response to this idea: Notre Dame. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8thAnnual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. For more information, go to our website:
https://www.mostpoetry.org/event/8th-annual-modesto-poetry-festival/

Prompt #8 (for December 22nd): Happy Winter Solstice! I guess you could call today’s prompt The Long and the Short of It, or Slow and Steady…
Write about a time when you had to do something slower than you’re used to because something “modern and efficient” broke down. OR write about doing something “the old-fashioned way” because you enjoy it. OR write about doing something carefully and meticulously because something important is at stake. OR combine all three elements…
For an example, read this poem by Maine poet Judy Punturo:

Cutting the Grass With Scissors


You do it
when there seems to be no other way,
when things have gone too far;

when the lawn mower balks
and even the weed whacker shies.
It’s slow, yes,

but surprisingly effective,
Grasp a handful, pull aside,
and shear, down near the roots,

and then you hold a sheaf like wheat
to harvest in a pile, or lay
like cushioned carpet on the path.

Sometimes spit bugs,
shaken from their frothy homes,
rest on your hand,

and then crawl on,
while copper beetles
scuttle for shade.

I like the intimacy
With a patch of ground,
The closeness and drawing in,

the sibilance,
the swish the grass makes
with the scissored snap of stems,

the way time changes,
stalls and disappears
with each slow slice.


Judy Punturo
Cutting the Grass with Scissors: Monhegan Poems

Prompt #9 (for December 23rd): Write a poem in response to this idea: Following a Thread. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. If you’ve not yet registered for the Festival, please check out the information on our website:
https://www.mostpoetry.org/event/8th-annual-modesto-poetry-festival/
This will be a wonderful day of poetry!
Ready…Steady…Go!

Prompt #10 (for December 24th): Write a poem about the photograph below—which I snagged from some random Facebook post a year or so ago and don’t know how to give credit. Since this is a pretty famous Eve, try incorporating some of what you see into a “Just before this…”/”Right now…”/”And then…” narrative. Consider having your title serve as your first or last line—or merely number it as if this poem were one in a series. Ready? Steady… Go~~~

Prompt #11 (for December 25th): There are a lot of holidays to celebrate in December! According to nationalday.com, there are several designated holidays between the 21st(Winter Solstice) and the 27th (National Fruitcake Day), including Chanukah, National Cookie Exchange Day, National Short Person Day, Festivus (!), Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, National Candy Cane Day, and National Thank You Note Day. Whether you celebrate one, some, or all of these days, or have a favorite day of your own set aside for celebration or commemoration, how do you choose to acknowledge it? What sensations (sights, sounds, smells, etc.), objects, traditions, memories, and people come to mind? Write a poem no longer than 25 lines that explores these possibilities. For an extra challenge, write a poem about a holiday that doesn’t yet exist, but should. Ready…Steady…Go~~~
Prompt #11 (for December 25th): There are a lot of holidays to celebrate in December! According to nationalday.com, there are several designated holidays between the 21st(Winter Solstice) and the 27th (National Fruitcake Day), including Chanukah, National Cookie Exchange Day, National Short Person Day, Festivus (!), Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, National Candy Cane Day, and National Thank You Note Day. Whether you celebrate one, some, or all of these days, or have a favorite day of your own set aside for celebration or commemoration, how do you choose to acknowledge it? What sensations (sights, sounds, smells, etc.), objects, traditions, memories, and people come to mind? Write a poem no longer than 25 lines that explores these possibilities. For an extra challenge, write a poem about a holiday that doesn’t yet exist, but should. Ready…Steady…Go~~~



A note on Medieval turnspit dogs


A dog at work inside a wheel near the ceiling;
Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales (1800). —Wiki

An administrator of Facebook’s British Medieval History group—got a little heavy-handed and blocked me, then threw me in Facebook jail, after deleting all my posts,  because I posted a comment on Vera Moraes’ query about medieval pets. The reason cited was because my mentioning of turnspit dogs, was out of the BMH timeframe, cutoff date is 1485— but here’s the thing, they probably were used during the Middle Ages.

The first ever book on the history of native canines in the British isles, was written in 1565, and translated from the Latin in 1570, mentions turnspit dogs among other types of dogs. But I bet turnspit dogs were used much earlier. People weren’t dumb. Linnaeus dubbed them Canis vertigus. Publication date of said book doesn’t mean that turnspit dogs were only used from 1570 onward.

Just like the Middle English manuscripts, Forme of Cury, and To the King's Taste were published long after the original recipes had been invented—because the information was in danger of being lost.

My Berkeley Medieval Studies professor, Dr. Dan Melia, astutely pointed out that early books were written to preserve what was in danger of being lost. This was in reference to a segue to the Irish epics—they weren’t invented in the Middle Ages, they were transcribed during that time because the stories were in danger of being lost due to societal upheaval—namely the arrival of the Vikings. Different concept. They weren’t written in a void but they certainly codified what came before.

Both the Irish youth-hero Fionn, and his Arthurian Welsh counterpart, Gwion/Taliesin, were left in charge of turning the salmon of wisdom on a spit.
The fisherman took a salmon of great size and beauty, which they placed at the fire to broil, leaving it in charge of Fionn, who was to take care that it did not burn, on pain of losing his head. ...Sparks flew from the fire, which raised a blister on the fish. —Taliesin, Or, The Bards and Druids of Britain: A Translation D.H Nash, 1858
Fionn applied his thumb to the scorched part of the fish, then stuck his thumb in his mouth, and was “gifted with prophecy and foreknowledge.” A similar tale follows in the story of Gwion/Taliesin. The name Gwion is a Welsh cognate of Fionn. In the Norse Saga of Sigurd, Sigurd was in charge of roasting the dragon’s heart. The boy heroes all disingenuously gain arcane knowledge and the gift of forethought. Sigurd gained knowledge of the language of the birds.

These medieval fragments merely serve to illustrate that turnspit were used and young boys were employed for the task. Knowing how young boys were ingeniously quick to shirk their chores, it’s a short leap of faith from turnspit boy to turnspete dog.

I found this:
John Caius (sometimes known as John Kays or Keys) wrote what became the first book devoted entirely to dogs. Caius was the second founder of the Caius (later Gonville and Caius} College, Cambridge, and was also physician to Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, successively. This portrait is taken from the book Dogs in Britain, published by Macmillan and Co. Ltd.... represented a revision of a letter written to Gesner in 1565 on the same subject. Considerable information on British and foreign dogs had been worried out and put into this treatise by Caius, and accordingly it was accepted as a standard work on dogs and a substantial improvement on the Boke of St. Albans. 
—LITERATURE OF BRITISH DOGS
The dog book in question, Book of St. Albans, where non native “spanyells are mentioned...the first real dog book in the language....originally written in Latin, having been prepared by Dr. John Kays, founder of Camus College Cambridge, for the use of the naturalist, Conrad Genser who had asked him about information about “such dogges were ingendred within the borders of England”

I realize that the genesis of the said manuscript of 1565 is outside the British Medieval History time frame, but the book itself was designed as a historical and scientific reference to the “intended dogges” of England. Turnspit dogs among them. I found it somewhat amusing that thr dogs were given Sundays off, and their owners hauled them to church—not to save their souls, but to use as foot and lap warmers. Imagine terriers and plump corgies here. Don’t tell me they weren’t attached to their faithful kitchen doggies.

I also noted that many people on the BMH site were posting outside the proscribed timeframe as well, but their comments weren’t removed, nor were they sanctioned. Anyway, I was quite miffed by the entire process. I looked for a way to leave the group, to no avail. The block is off now, but I’m still annoyed. Finding a medieval reference would be the best revenge. Turnspit dogs were also called the Kitchen Dog, Cooking Dog, Underdog, Vernepator, and Turnespete. Maybe I’ll have more luck there.

Here’s a more modern, rather dubious follow-up article on turnspit dogs, ca 1500 (still out of BMHs timeframe of 1485. I hope to find something a little less PETA and little more scholarly. Or perhaps another reader might find a reference for me. But meanwhile....
For centuries, impoverished people relied on dog labor to cook their food. Small, short-legged dogs were forced to run in a wheel for hours on end to cook meat on a spit. On occasion, owners would even toss a hot coal in the wheel to make the dogs run faster.
Dogs bred for this purpose were called turnspit dogs, and unlike their fellow working dog breeds, they didn’t run outside in the fresh air. These dogs and their descendants were forced to cook meat from the Middle Ages until they were replaced by modern machines in the 1900s.
The turnspit dog breed was designed to fit in a wheel and run for hours, all to save a person the trouble of turning a roasting spit. People have been breeding and abusing dogs for centuries – as the history of the bulldog demonstrates – and turnspit dogs were no exception.”

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Warbling ravens


Few people know that ravens warble serenades to their mates and loved ones. A proper raven never caws, he croaks, and clicks, and if you croak back to him, you might have a conversation. There’s a place on Inverness Ridge with its resident ravens, where we’ve been huckleberrying for decades. Ravens are very territorial, and are long-lived, up to 15 years, not like crows who live only 7 years. We figure we’ve met at least that many generations of ravens on the ridge. They seem to pass that knowledge onto their offspring. When we first arrive, they raise the alarm. The same cry they make whenever the redtail hawk circles overhead. We croak reassuringly to them to announce our presence, they settle down, and quit making their danger-danger-danger alarm call, and carry on with their sweet warbling in the fog-enshrouded pine trees.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday the 13th


On Friday the 13th, I nearly ran over a beer-cooler-sized robot sporting an antenna and a triangular orange diving flag, in a crosswalk near UC Berkeley. Not expecting an unaccompanied robot crossing the street, I very nearly flattened it—I’m sure some people would like to do just that.  I guess Cal’s robots are not like chickens randomly crossing the street—otherwise they’d be techno roadkill. I thought of the story of the eagle Repeatedly taking down that drone trespassing in his sky. Apparently one man was so enraged, he kidnapped a kiwibot, threw it in the back of his trunk, where it thrashed and beeped and called home—until the police located it via GPS. And now the man is up on charges of grand larceny, they’re pricy little bastards. I thought, if I had flattened that bot in the crosswalk, how would the insurance work? Do robots have the same rights as humans if they’re in a crosswalk?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hot flash

Once I fondled a festive potted ornamental Thai pepper-plant hidden amid the pointsettias. Not only did I touch both eyelids, but I rubbed my upper lip, then stuck a finger up my nose—all this before I’d left the checkout line at the grocery store.

A true sob story. I looked like a red raccoon. A gift that kept right on giving, I might add, as I didn’t know how to neutralize the volatile oils. Duly filed under Stupid things I’ve done in public....

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Mining joy


When I’m feeling down, I mine joy, find gratitude, fund laughter & raucously cackle like no one is listening—to snort until I nearly wet myself, is an added bonus. That’s how I roll. You got a problem wit dat?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Hello, bed.


It seems my back has other plans for me today. Friday’s small shoulderblade spasm decided to blossom on both sides. Yesterday, I could barely take a breath, driving was pure hell. Sleep helped, but it’s back with a vengeance. Hello, bed.
Ellin Barret between grant writing bits, I  taught two days of poetry classes in Oakland, for another grant, including reading and typing up kid poems.

I also helped my cousin move stuff out of the Nicasio house over the weekend—many, many stairs, many, many boxes.

Living feral, I slept in two strange beds. Met a new pussycat named Seamus Heaney. I also care-provided for a friend for two days, shopping, cooking, cleaned house, did massive loads of laundry, etc. I even managed to write a poem.

To make matters worse, I’m trying to avoid Advil as I took so much of it when my knee was injured. I worry about my kidneys. Can’t take Tylenol. Wine, not so much, but it’s a bit early, isn’t it? I’m sure it’s wine o’clock somewhere, but I haven’t had brekkie yet. At least this time I remembered to tape my knees, so they don’t hurt.

It was a very stressful and most busy week. Every single poet did not get heir work to me in a timely manner, causing all kinds of grant traffic jams. Not to mention headaches and eye strain. At one point I was wearing two glasses so I could read the fine print. But I got that blasted grant in on time.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

AT YURIEN’S GARAGE

We dutifully lined up for latte & sticky buns
at Yurien’s old Forest Knolls Garage.
Memories collided with time at warp speed.
Don would’ve snorted and scoffed—
a fucking boutique in his garage?
Axelgrease-laced beer was more his swill.
Where gas-pumps once stood,
islands of organic produce bloom
in ecstatic gentrification.

At the trailer court, someone lights up.
Some things never change.
The skunk odor takes me back.
Everyone’s looking rough around the edges,
Both young and old—there’s no escaping it.
The lattes obviously aren’t working.

Once, in front of Yurien’s Garage,
I got caught up in a swarm of bees,
my long hair became a net.
As I swept past the gas station sideways,
my red mare developed wings.
Don, with his Lucky Strikes
rolled up in a teeshirt cuff, ciggie in hand,
scratched his head as she danced sideways
right into the gas bay and out the other side
while the swarm, in an uproar,
fiercely protected their queen.
Like many, they were looking for new digs.
Such sweet dreams were on the move,
but Don’s greener pastures had turned to ash.

11/17/19

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

WILDFIRE JOURNAL 3

WILDFIRE JOURNAL 3

I’m sitting by the half empty reservoir
Watching the fire trucks and horse trailers go by.
Wildfire smoke stacks up to the west,
seeking the coolness of the Pacific Ocean.
The wind is picking up,
the dry summer grasses gyrate, a frenzied dance, old as the hills,
the air carries the odor of summer picnics and more—
the souls of trees released to the sky.
A pale ash veil coats the car, muting its red paint to salmon.
The sun has barely reached its zenith,
long shadows claw toward the blue shadows of the night.
Without lights, the entire Bay Area was rimed—
studded with an extraordinary tapestry of stars.
And the coyotes sang arias to the waning moon in chorus.

WILDFIRE JOURNAL 2

WILDFIRE JOURNAL: We're all gathered in the parking lot outside the community center basking on the sun. It's a street party of sorts. I'm reading poetry while waiting for my iPad to charge on the generator, my car is taking too long to recharge it and I worry about the car battery. I have contingencies, I park on a grade in case I have to pop-start it. Having a working car right now is tantamount to survival. My gauge has dipped below the half-way mark.

Still no power in most of the North Bay, and PG&E is planning yet another power shutdown. We never got any power restored during the golden window of opportunity. So it’s all moot.

There are evacuees sleeping in their vans all along the roads of West Marin. While waiting for my iPad to charge, I read an unintelligible poem called Irish Poetry by Billy Collins, I'm thinking of calling Sam to come down the hill as there is free lunch and iced coffee. Coffee!

But I don't know where my cellphone is, and besides, it doesn't get good reception. Time to kill, I flip to another random poem: what was the likelihood I would turn to a poem by Molly and Sam’s uncle, called Colonoscopy, the title says it all, and I realized, No shit!

We're all being reamed out and annealed one way or the other by this wildfire. Even Paul Muldoon has a few rhymey bits in this issue of PEOTRY, and yes, it's really spelled that way on the cover, I kid you knot.

Reminds me of some of the kids I teach poetry to, who can't spell poetry on their poetry journals, but they're been burned out of their homes. I'm supposed to be teaching them poetry about fire, floods and other disasters, and here I am smack dab in the middle of it all, an involuntary evacuee, staying in an abandoned house with no water or power, worrying about whether or not

I have enough gas to get to the nearest gas station with electricity—over the bridge to RIchmond, the twisted intestine of the Bay Area. Truth be known, I need my tablet charged because when the sun sets, its only yourself that needs looking to in an empty house in the dark. Downloaded bits from Netflix, and Solitaire helps me make it through the night. That, and a poncho to cover my head, it’s that cold. Dressing requires strategy.

The stars outdo themselves dazzling us with their brilliance, despite the smoke, because there is no artificial light whatsoever in most of the Bay Area. All the Pleiades sisters have their dancing shoes on, and the Milky Way is a river of light. The sliver of a fingernail moon is a promise of the light that will return. We've set our clocks back to the early 1900s, and I think we are the better for it.

Monday, October 28, 2019

WILDFIRE JOURNAL 1


Kincade Fire, 8AM, Thursday morning, from Occidental Road. That’s not fog. —MH photo

Much more smoke has blown south this morning, Tues. The winds have shifted. Hopefully they don’t have the velocity of Saturday night’s howling winds.

The Kincade FIre on the Mayacamas Range is now  estimated to be at 74,324 acres and 15% contained, but Saturday night’s 103 mph winds  really fed the flames, which reached the historic 2017 Tubbs Fire boundaries. The lack of fuel, acting as a firebreak, may help to contain the fire along those old boundaries.

Last report I heard, firemen from across the Western United States have joined our exhausted firefighters, and they were concentrating on saving Windsor.  Meanwhile, the kincade fire is frogmarching its way northeast towards the direction of the wind, Cobb Muntain and Middletown in Lake County. Here’s hoping the Tubbs, the Atlas, and the 2015? Camp Fire left little fuel for the Kincade Fire to take purchase.

Most of northern and western Sonoma County, some 190,000 people, were evacuated Thursday through Sunday, the single largest evacuation in California history, which created colossal traffic jams on both the bay bridges, and to make matters worse, the Carquinez Bridge was out of commission due to another grass fire in Vallejo in Solano County. Not sure how it started, someone said wind-blown embers from the Kincade Fire.

Mandatory evacuation notices have been lifted for most of West Sonoma County, but more winds are expected tonight,and the wind has shifted the smoke south. So we’re all holding tight.

Sonoma County supervisor Lynda Hopkins reported: “The next 24 hours will give our amazing firefighters — now more than 4,000 strong, with 10 helicopters, 444 fire engines, 53 dozers and 30 water tenders — a fighting chance to increase containment....our firefighters fought like hell, and saved entire neighborhoods overnight in the Shiloh Ridge and Lockwood area. I want to be very clear that without the mass deployment of firefighters — we are now a mutual aid event, which means that we have firefighters from across California as well as other western states — we would NOT have been able to make this stand. I am filled with gratitude every time I see a fire truck... and there are hundreds here both out on the lines and awaiting orders at the Fairgrounds incident command post, with insignia from communities across the state.”

Though mandatory evacuation notices have been lifted in western Sonoma County, but there is no electricity, or water which makes it easier for us to stay in place. People are sleeping in vans along many West Marin roads. Most of the evacuation centers, both human and animal evacuation centers—are filled to capacity. In general, neighbors, near neighbors, and strangers are all pitching in to help each other out. A steady parade of trucks laden with alfalfa for the horses, headed south.

There have been other fires in Contra Costa County, a small fire in Lafayette, and in Southern California, the Getty Fire, closing I 405, and 618 acres have burned, with 10,000 people evacuated. So many fires, I can’t keep up, nor do I have the bandwidth. I have to hunt for cellular reception sweet spots. The sweetest hotspot, if I can still use that term, is by the Nicasio Reservoir, with a view of Black, or Elephant Mountain, it’s hazy, due to smoke.

Freezing cold this AM, no heat, my hands take turns freezing as I type. But cold is good. I could kill for a shower, dump my hair in a bucket. Otherwise, all is well.

https://www.kqed.org/news/11782314/what-you-need-to-know-sonoma-countys-kincade-fire

Friday, October 25, 2019

WHILE TRANSLATING LORCA DURING THE FIRE


Translating Lorca, from one of John Oliver Simon’s poetry recipes, my mind went way south. Rather than uselessly cry in a parking lot, I bought eye drops, & wrote a poem to the Mayacamas range, still burning. My throat is raw. I am careful to take small sips of air, as my N95 mask was packed away, I foolishly thought I wouldn’t need it again.

Madre, llévame a los campos
con la luz de la mañana,
a ver abrirse las flores
cuando se mecen las ramas.

Mother, take me to the countryside
with the light of morning
to see the flowers open
when the branches sway.
—Translation of Frederico García Lorca

WHILE TRANSLATING LORCA DURING THE FIRE

My imagination wants to take me to the mountains
to witness the incandescent light of morning
to see the late blossoms opening their small hands
to the Diablo winds trembling the harp strings of reeds
in the marshes where the egrets and herons
patrol its dark depths for fatted frogs and curled snails.
My mind wants to fly to where the branches sway
to the rhythm of dark sap coursing
to the song of distant rivers and birdsong.
But the sodden sky is the color of putty,
all the trees have been reduced
to their lowest common denominator,
carbon and smoke and ash
as the wildfire devours the ridges,
barns, and vineyards with an insatiable hunger
and a prodigious thirst that cannot be quenched.
No birdsong, only the dark wind whispering
secrets into the pale ear of the sky.
A lone raven caws his one warning note
over and over again.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Napali Coast



After traveling nearly 80 miles in a Zodiac, this is the half-way point. The sea is calm so I’m still smiling. The next leg home will be brutal with afternoon waves whipped by an oncoming storm stacking up on the diagonal. Trough and crest. Rise and fall. Slide into the trough at an angle, but hit the next crest head-on. We nearly ran over a startled sea turtle basking in the waves. Dip and sway. Like riding an unsteady horse side-saddle, over very rough terrain. At least no petticoats were involved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

California time, island time


Sitting in the dark, in a stranger’s house, on California time, not island time. Drinking tea and trying to convince my body that it’s OK to be up at 4 AM. The tropical air is balmy and the stars on this end of the island are much brighter than at home, where frost rimes my windshield. But then, I have no home, other than what I carry inside me. That was taken from me. What is home, other than a collection of memories, of things both ordinary and plain, that fill our waking thoughts. The stars, my constant guide.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Mammatus clouds


Mammatus clouds over Hawaii, 
the conception and cradle of life.
We descend towards the sea.

Flying to Hawaii



Outside my window, an untrammeled wilderness of clouds rear their heads over a sterling sea, and one can almost hear the rustling taffeta gown of the Pacific, laced with positive imprints of the air currents. Clouds commute toward the land, and out to sea again in Peregrinó colors—capturing fleeting glimpses of the spectrum, and the burnished gold of the morning sun is a deep ache of copper, or perhaps it’s Homer’s wine dark sea, beneath us. An odyssey of thought escapes its earthly confines, as we wing west to the land of the ever-young. Or at least a hunkering back to the beginning of time. Perhaps we are all pilgrims here. Some are arriving for the first time, others returning home. One way or another, it is all a journey. A cluster of fishing boats, huddle like whitecaps on the outer banks. The wind singing arias. Strong headwinds leave us in suspended animation. Cirrus and stratocumulus clouds, odd lone whips of fog, perhaps a squall, I think of how useless the rain is on the ocean. Then a scurry of mare’s tails, scud clouds surfing on the surface of the sea, all following the currents, seemingly alive, a sentient slipstream or a dance cotillion. Clouds give way to the illusion of continental shapes, or ice sheets. Then, for a moment, I forget my worries, and think I am among the Gods. I am mesmerized by the separation of sea and sky, the horizon is both obscured and melded by the clouds. And that dark beyond, the great unknown, is both the nursery of stars and the crèche of death. The curvature of the earth is a subtle plain. Below us, the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on earth, and beneath us, the Farallón Islands, slip by unannounced, they are the last landfall and handholds of the Pacific Plate migrating north to return home to Pangeac depths, but the poles are shifting, north is changing its mind once again and the ice is melting, all that archaic sweet water, slipping into the bosom of the sea from whence we came.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Spirit Rock (pastel and paintings), White’s Hill for a show, Where We Call Home



Today’s experiment for a show, Where We Call Home, chalkboard paint on canvas board, stabilo pencils, and Nupastel, wet pastel drawing. I quit working on it when I got too cold to work. My nose was running like a sieve. I wanted another piece for the upcoming art show. Maybe this one will work. I used chalkboard paint for gesso.

Because everything is so compromised, I’m amazed I can function at all. A tooth whitener applicator brush was my paintbrush. Working on canvas board was more successful than working on canvas. But I still can’t rework areas very much. So, it’s all or nothing. And detachment. A lot of detachment.

Just past White’s Hill, Flanders’ Ranch, Loma Alta Ridge. Wet pastel. It took me three days of angst, to get started, and 45 minutes to draw....nothing like a looming deadline. I used wet prismacolor pastel, mostly conte crayons, some carb-othello pastel pencils and wet construction paper. Looks painterly, huh. The secret is water, the pastel becomes buttery. You get the best of both worlds: painterly, and a drawing.



They took all three pieces, the two versions of White’s Hill (acrylic, wet pastel), and this one (wet pastel & stabile pencil). They may hang all three, if there’s room, tho two pieces are the limit. SGV art center, Where we call Home. Benefit for the Center. Opening Oct 5.

So if two pieces sell, then I can buy either the big bolshoi Nupastel set (96 colors), or the Carb-Othello stabile pencils in the wooden box. Decisions, decisions. I’ve made a deal with myself, to enter every show I am offered, and to try to sell enough art to cover my basic materials. So far, I have been in 4 art shows at the San Geronimo Valley Community Art Center. This is after decades of not showing any art at all.

A couple of failed pieces



Sunday, September 15, 2019

Asbestos angel, assemblage


I made many pieces for the upcoming Where We Call Home, this assemblage exists only in a photo as the particleboard I used turned out to be asbestos. It was the living room wall that was destroyed when the meth head crashed into it on the 4th of July.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Kiger mustangs carry rare Iberian Sorraia mtDNA


A chalk drawing on a broken school desk I made for an art show.

Someone posted a photo of dun-colored Kiger mustangs, a horse that carries a rare mtDNA recessive dun-color gene from Iberia, and I fell down the Google rabbithole. I noted the phenotype was similar to the endangered Iberian horses related to the Gallego, and Sorraia breeds. The Southeastern Oregon Kiger mustangs were originally flagged as being unusual because of their dun coloring. Instead of shooting the mustangs for dogfood, someone thought to sequence their DNA. So, being a horse of a different color literally saved a rare genetic pool from extinction.

BLM photo of dun Kiger mustangs in southeastern Oregon

The BLM photos of the Kiger mustangs made me think of the autochthonous, or Neolithic CeltIberian Sorraia (closely related to the Marismeño) horse, also with rare mtDNA markers. Coat coloration was the clue. Horses that are dun colored (a bay, or chestnut dilution gene), or grey-dun grullo (an even rarer black dilution gene—neither roan, nor grey) not only carry a primitive recessive coloration gene, they often have dark faces and points with pangaré markings, body mottling, zebra-striped leg, and dorsal stripes—a primitive dun horse trait similar to those tarpan-like horses represented in paleolithic cave paintings. Their manes and tails are often bi-colored white and black like that of the feral Polish Konik horse, and the wild Przewalski's horse.
Many equines appearing in prehistoric cave paintings such as in Chauvet cave are dun, and several closely related species in the genus Equus show dun characteristics. These include the Przewalski's horse...and an extinct subspecies of horse, the tarpan. —Wiki

Chauvet, Ardèche, France, 31 000 BP —Wiki

Contrary to popular belief, Spanish didn't send their prize Baroque Andalusian horses to the New World. They sent primitive native horses on long ocean voyages that lasted two months or more. Hardy and resistant, unlike the valuable blooded horses preferred by the nobility, those diminutive horses captured from the fens and marshes of Portugal, could survive the harshest of conditions, and subsist on little food or water.

Paleolithic artwork in Lascaux II, note the horse is pacing, not trotting—Wiki
Because the native ponies weren't valued as blood animals, they also nearly became extinct in both the New and Old Worlds via neglect and distain. The Sorraia was once hunted for food, and the Exmoor pony was used for target practice during WWII, they were a source of illegal meat in the cities. During the 1970s, the BLM was infamous for slaughtering entire herds of mustangs for dogfood. And their nearest ancestor, the native American wild horse was probably hunted to extinction during the Ice Age.

Cave painting of a dun horse at Lascaux; note the horse is pacing, not trotting —Wiki
(A pony is not a miniature horse, or an immature horse, it is distinct from a horse in conformation and temperament, what generally distinguishes them apart is height: a horse stands at least 14.2 hands (4', 10") at the withers, while a pony clocks in under 14.2 hands. The average span of a hand is 4 inches. But those are just the obvious differences, Not only do ponies have thicker necks, raised manes and heavy tails to brave the elements, they have heavier bones, shorter legs, stronger pasterns, bigger hooves, and wider chests, smaller organs, and they have short heads. But don't let that apparent lack of headspace fool you. They're way smarter than horses too. My wily Shetlands were consummate escape artists.)

But the beauty of these rare pony breeds (breed is a relatively new concept, they term phenotype is more accurate) is more than skin deep, their conformation is distinctive as well. Most are amblers, or two-beat pacers, another rare genetic predisposition, sort of like having four on the floor, plus overdrive in car terms. Think jennet, or palfrey in the Middle Ages, or modern Standardbreds, Walking horses, Icelandic ponies, and Paso Finos—smooth rides, all at the walk or pace. Getting Brandy, the massive Standardbred chestnut gelding I used to ride, to gallop, was nearly impossible. Ditto that with Helgar, an Icelandic pony I also rode, he was a house afire, and when he tólted, your chin needed a sportsbra to stay on.
Although ambling gaits are seen in some Mustangs, and other Colonial Spanish Horses, DMRT3 mutations [that are responsible for ambling] are rarely seen in feral or wild horses. —Wiki
Epona, 3rd c. AD, Freyming, France. Note the horse is tölting. Wiki

So, Oregon's Kiger mustang (some Kigers are gaited), along with the gaited Seminole, or Florida Cracker, and the isolated Sulphur mustang of Utah, represent archaic horse lineages that links back to the marshes and isolated regions of Iberia. The Garrano, another Celtic pony from northern Portugal, is also a laterally gaited breed. The Galician mountain pony is closely related to both the Garrano, and the dun-colored Sorraia.
The Garrano horse is believed to be an ancient breed, with Northern Iberian Paleolithic cave paintings depicting horses with similar profiles. The similarities between the breed and the depicted animals lead to the conclusion that the breed's appearance has remained stable. There is genetic evidence that the horse originates in Celtic regions... —Wiki
The Gallego, like other small breeds of the northern part of the Iberian peninsula, descends from small dark-coloured horses introduced by Celtic immigrants in the sixth century BC. —Wiki
Paleolithic art in the region depict equines with a likeness to the Sorraia, with similar zebra-like markings. Analysis of mtDNA on Mustangs... show similar mtDNA patterns between some mustangs and Sorraias. Spanish conquistadors took Iberian horses... to the Americas, as pack animals. Similarities between the Sorraia and several North and South American breeds are shown in the dun and grullo coloring and other characteristics. The Sorraia, their ancestors, with similar features, may have had a long history in the Iberian region and a role in the creation of American breeds. —Wiki
At one point, during my travels to Latin America, it dawned on me that those ragged village horses (especially island, or mountain horses), like the one I rode in the Andes, who would rather pace or trot than break into a gallop—might also be related to the archaic Iberian horses. Treated little better than donkeys, they were not considered valuable, but were able to survive the harshest of conditions, and were largely ignored as unimportant beasts of burden. But they also carried traces of the ancestral gene pool related to the extinct New World horse. Now DNA sequencing is proof-positive that my hunches hold some validity.

Then I found this genetic study:
Iberia was the source of much of the original stock that was used to populate the New World with horses.... The second haplogroup ... includes Marismeño horses (stripped horses from the Guadalquivir salt marshes) that, like the Sorraia, are considered a primitive Iberian equine type.... The high frequency of New World horses in this haplogroup may be explained by historical records... mares taken to the American continent by Christopher Columbus and during the subsequent Spanish colonization, were bought from the stock bred in the islands and salt marshes of the Guadalquivir River. 
Of the three geographic regions studied, South America is the only one having sequences that belong to haplogroup C617C, and ... haplogroup C601C. Indeed, the only non–South American samples that belong to this latter haplogroup are two individuals from the Caballo de Corro breed, a Celtic origin pony from Asturias.... who consider this as distinctive for northern European ponies, known to have Celtic origin (that)... may indicate common matrilineal ancestors between Celtic ponies and South American breeds... in 1508 the Spanish crown authorized the transport of 40 Celtic type horses (small and resistant) in the expedition organized by Alonso Ojeda and Diego Nicuesa to Panama.
New World breeds have a high frequency of haplotypes of Iberian origin and represent a subset of the diversity found in Iberia. Therefore, this study supports the historically documented Iberian origins of New World horses.—Iberian Origins of New World Horse Breeds
I think the Caballo de Corro mentioned in the study above refers to is the Asturcón, another gaited Celtic pony. There is nospecific reference on the Internet to caballo de corro.
The Asturcón has been documented since Roman times: it has an unusual ambling gait, described in the epigram of Martial, and by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, where he describes its characteristic ambling gait. (The Latin word asturco was later used for other similar small horses with ambling gait.) It is of Celtic type, and shows similarity to the Pottok and Losino of Spain, the Garrano of Portugal, and the Dartmoor, Exmoor, FellHighland, Shetland and Welsh breeds of the British Isles.—Wiki
if you really want to torture yourself, there's a great mitochondrial horse family tree, sort of an equid who's-who map in a PNAS paper,  Mitochondrial DNA and the origins of the domestic horse. "Relatively recent bottlenecks are also reflected in the mitochondria, namely in the Senner, Sorraia...locally regarded as indigenous."

Epona and her horses, Köngen, Germany, ca. 200 AD.Wiki

In the 1990s, as I was studying medieval Celtic literature, I realized that the sculptures of the Celtic Matronae were represented on small gaited horses, or ponies. The Celtic ponies paced (or tólted—where front and back legs don't move diagonally, but laterally), which is a recessive trait. The Gaulish horse goddess Epona ("the Great Mare", from whence we get the word, pony), and Welsh Otherworld Celtic diety, Rhiannon rode gaited ponies. Smooth rides. And the medieval descriptions of the ponies' coloring sounded like it was grullo, another rare, recessive trait that the marginalized wild horses of Portugal also carry.

Epona, 2nd-3rd C. AD, Contern, Luxembourg —Wiki

Exmoor ponies of southwest England also carry similar primitive, native genes. "Exmoors are believed to be the most primitive of the northern European horse breeds, and the breed’s antiquity and genetic distance from other breeds has been demonstrated." (Livestock Conservancy). There are accounts of Bronze Age Britons racing their ponies with two-wheeled chariots as early as 400 BC, and until recent times, Exmoors were used as pit ponies, there was significant mining on Exmoor during the Roman occupation. "Roman carvings, showing British and Roman chariots pulled by ponies phenotypically similar to the Exmoor, have been found in Somerset" (Wiki). A carving dating from the Roman era depicts a pony with a characteristic “toad” eye, an extra eyefold, and the Bayeux Tapestry of 1066, depicts a pony resembling an Exmoor, carrying a warrior. (The Horse Guide).

9th c. Bullian stone, Pictish horse is ambling, not walking —Wiki

Britain's oldest aboriginal pony, the Exmoor, is probably as close as one can get to the original wild horse native to North America. The mummified remains of late Pleistocene native Yukon ponies preserved in the Alaskan permafrost (Bereigia), shared the same unique jaw type as the Exmoors, and other genetic traits. (In 2013, scientists analyzed the oldest DNA ever recovered in the world, of a 700,000 year old Ice Age horse, found in a gold mine on Thistle Creek, in the Yukon.) Equus caballus originated ca. 1.7 million years ago in North America and traveled to Asia. The Yukon wild horse, E. lambei, died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the same time that the Exmoor ponies roamed the forests and fens of the British Isles.

The Exmoors came so very close to extinction, like the Sorraia, and other native European horses. Because they weren't valued as bloodstock, all was nearly lost forever. (The idea of breed is a new term). Ironically, the hardy Exmoors contributed foundation blood to several modern breeds including trotting horses and the Thoroughbred hunter.

But now, with mtDNA testing, the rare genetic sequences in several horse breeds have been isolated, and measures have been taken to preserve these ancient horse phenotypes including the gene pool of the Kiger mustang. Dr. Jay F. Kirkpatrick, in The Surprising History of America's Wild Horses, makes a compelling argument:
[T]he Mongolian wild horse (E. przewalskii, or E. caballus przewalskii) disappeared from its habitat in Mongolia and northern China a hundred years ago. It survived only in zoos and reserves....Then surplus animals were released during the 1990s and now repopulate a portion of their native range in Mongolia and China. Are they a reintroduced native species or not? And how does their claim to endemism differ from that of E. caballus in North America, except for the length and degree of captivity? —LiveScience
Though the wild horses of North America are considered non-native invasive species by federal and state agencies—they're not. They were merely reintroduced to their native homelands, after a 12,000-year absence, with a little help from the Spanish conquistadors. After all, humans might have been responsible for driving the North American horse to extinction, to begin with. The Kiger mustang is an integral part of that enduring legacy that is the story of the horse in the Americas.

A relief of Epona, flanked by two pairs of horses, Roman Macedonia.—Wiki