Monday, July 31, 2017

The day Sam Shepherd died

My mind works in peculiar ways on a good day. We were having a yard sale at my cousins' house in Nicasio and I was lamenting that everyone who stopped were strangers. But then it all changed. First the Peter Coyote lookalike dropped by and left empty-handed, then one of the McIsaacs from Tocaloma (Bud) stopped by. I told him I used to go out with Allan McIsaac. Suddenly it was old home week. And then I sold my toy spool Nessie to Phil Waddell for a buck, he was in a red car and the toy matched. He's from 71 Alta in Lagunitas. He said it was the house next to the one where all the musicians came to play....probably Jean Paul Picken's place, which led to a rather convoluted discussion of the good old days, to Big Brother & the Holding Company, to Janis, Herself (we lived near Barbano's summer camp on Arroyo) because meanwhile someone was wailing away on some blues number at the Rancho Nicasio, which led to a story on Ken Kesey, and the Diggers...which made me think of Lynn Deutra and the Forest Knolls Freestore in the basement of Ron and Marsha Thelin's old red house on Resaca. Which made me inexplicably think of Sam Shepherd. Don't ask. Even I can't make out that connection, other than I used to see him in Mill Valley when I worked for Mimi Fariña. Then I just found out that he died. You see how it goes? The old homes of memory. Circular breathing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Camping in Baja

One time we were camping in an old abandoned mission in Baja Norte, in the Sierra San Pedro mountain range, and in the morning, I awoke to find the canyon wall glowing in the early morning sun—filled with petroglyphs, and padres' marks—curly Spanish crosses from the 1760s. We arrived at dusk the night before, set up camp in the dark, and hadn't seen the ancient graffiti. Astounded, I gathered the top of the air bed to my body in a big hug, to revel in the sight, only to discover the small rounded rocks beneath my arms began to move on their own: a family of scorpions, seeking warmth, had moved in beneath the air mattress during the night. I believe some rather primitive an ancient form of screaming and dancing ensued on my part. John, who was still asleep, leapt up in a warrior stance to meet the enemy at his feet.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Climbed up Huayna Picchu above Macchu Picchu on steel cables to see the Temple of the Sun and Moon. What was I thinking?
Climbed Half Dome cables twice. What was I thinking?
Climbed inside el Caracol, the observatory at Chichen Itza to take a photo of the Solstice. Then couldn't get down.
Jumped into a sea cave (alone) at Double Point, Limantour Spit, without thinking how I was going to get back up again.
Rappelled down the inside of the dome of the Church of Religion and Atheism, while helping a friend to restore the fresco, Leningrad, USSR. I won't mention bouncing on the trapeze net stretched across the neck of the dome. What was I thinking?
Got stuck mid sea in a small boat when fishing net jammed the propeller, between islands in the Galapagos. Someone had to dive under to boat to cut it free. Swam through a tunnel at Corona del Diablo, to snorkel alone (a no-no), and was attacked by an irate sea lion. I was thoughtless.
Washed my hair in Laguna Hanson the only freshwater lake while camping in Baja, at the base of San Pedro de Martir. Swam with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez, and with sea turtles in Hawaii during a full eclipse. I couldn't think at all, as the sun turned into a black sunflower in the sky while the birds stopped singing, and all the golden fish slept in my arms.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I'm still trying to figure out
how to pronounce palimpsests
When my dyslexic brain has a field day, 
I never know what ghost story 
will appear behind the print.

Magic Fire

I once found some flint in a glacial toe, or an ancient cobbled riverbed, near Groningen, the Netherlands. It was the summer solstice. The sun took a long time setting. The sky was on fire for hours. I knew the rock was special just by the feel of it. Unctuous, soapy, with a clear ring, like a bell tongue. I had no idea what it was, until I struck it and sparks flew. And it sparked mightily when I struck it together.

I then I spent hours lying on my belly amid the cobbled rocks searching for flintknapped bits. Even though the hunnebeds (cairns) were nearby, I found few worked pieces. I lay down on the stones, discouraged, picked up a random handful of flint (chert), to mindlessly toss away in disgust, and there it was, a hand-worked piece. Like night and day, the difference. 

I held nascent fire in my hands. Flint! Of course, I was insufferable, dragging people into dark closets to show off the sparks.  Magic fire! Loved the odor, like fireworks and petrichor, but stronger.

I once freaked out a bunch of 5th graders by striking chert in a darkened classroom. Nobody wrote great rock poems that day but the boys saw other possibilities... Pyro poets on fire. Charles Simic was teaching at Santa Rosa Junior College at the time so I developed a lesson plan around his poem, Go Inside a Stone...

7/17/17 & 8/1/17

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Herman Berlandt Memorial, Bolinas

Ilka meant July 16.
I am not ready to write about Herman. I spent years working with him and even lived in Bolinas for a while I've included some links below. This is a placeholder.

Herman Berlandt, who founded San Francisco's National Poetry Week, and the Beat Museum, was an integral part of the SF poetry scene, and a dear friend of mine, who was instrumental in my development of poetic voice, will be remembered this Sunday at The Bolinas Community Center. During the 1990s, I was co-editor of Mother Earth News, and primary layout artist, typist, researcher for the regional issues. Our first issue, Soviet Poetry since Glasnost, led to Eastern European Poetry, then African Poetry, until we covered all the continents—a massive undertaking. With Jack Foley, we were also co-producing Poetry: USA as well on the local front. When the African issue reached one of our co-editors in Africa, he said everybody was so excited in the post office, that they had a massive impromptu reading right there in the post office....from a Facebook post...

Note been: I never did write that tribute, I was too overwhelmed, then, the following year, my own life was tossed into catastrophic upheaval with the breakup of a 20-something-year relationship. I was homeless, drifting, for a time, but I did manage to create a blog for him, Herman Berlandt, Poet on the Brink of the Mesa, from a collection of papers I had gathered from his cabin in 2018. I scanned clippings from the memorial binder in his cabin and created a blog for him in January, 2019. I always meant to go back and add to it, finish the job, but I never found the time, and now here we are, July 2020, with nowhere to go. I have the time, but no material to scan.

Meanwhile, check out my blog posts on Soviet poetry since Glasnost, the periodical we made for National Poetry week that launched Mother Earth News.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Worked stone

One of the things I do when I find what looks to be hand-worked flint/chert, jasper, or obsidian, is to look for those telltale flintknapped strike marks, then see if it fits comfortably in my hand. (Most tools I find are not arrowheads, or Clovis points, but harder to identify scrapers, and cutters.) I know it when I see it. 

I liken the worked stone to the wind-stippled surface of a pond, and the larger overlapping ripples as if someone were skipping a stone across it. It is odd to think of worked stone in terms of dropping a rock into a still pond, but the metaphor holds: the rock hitting the water, the scattered splash, followed by concentric waves moving outward. Naturally broken rocks do not have those features. Only those worked by human hands. Basho's mossy pond.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

25 random facts, another Facebook quizzy thing

25 random facts about me that may surprise my friends.

1. Do you make your bed? I take the easy way out now, a down quilt and a duvet cover. Making the bed means flipping the duvet over. But I prefer not to, to let the sheets air out. But I'm a fiendish pillow plumper. Can't stand grit or crumbs in the bed, no matter how small, or imaginary. I've been known to flip the sheets in the middle of the night for a cleaner surface.

2. The first car that was officially yours? A 1958/9 Volvo 544 panel truck with wooden interiors. Three on the floor, you had to get a running start it get up over White's HIll. A fact that affects my driving to this day. It was always falling apart, and you couldn't get parts for it as it was so rare. I used baling wire to fix the gas linkage. Learned to swap needle valves in the twin glass carbs, use a screwdriver to bypass a stuck starter solenoid.

3. Three grocery items you don't [want to] run out of. I never run out of pasta, oatmeal, or condiments. I don't want to run out of milk. Ever. Too traumatic. That, and chocolate, the darker, the better. And wine. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

4. When did you start doing your own laundry? I always helped with the laundry, my granny had an old school wringer washer which meant hauling water, and filling the tub for the rinse water. We used a broomstick to stir the clothes. Then hauled them out to the garden to dry on the clothesline and rosemary and lavender bushes. There were always hitchhikers: mainly earwigs.

5. If you could, would you go to high school again? No FN way! It was bad enough to be bullied and beaten up in grade school, but the indifference and cruelty of those same girls in high school took on a whole 'nother dimension. TG for the Summer of Love, things changed for the better. I was so glad to get to college and leave that scene behind. I blossomed and came into my own, emotionally and intellectually. I was a late bloomer. I wouldn't even have gone to my high school reunions if it wasn't for Ken Bullock.

6. Can you parallel park in under 3 moves? Of course. Unless the tires are low. (No power steering).

7. A job you had which people would be shocked to know about? A horse stall cleaner at Fairfax Stables. Salad girl at the Rancho Nicasio. Canning factory worker in Bishoffzell, Switzerland.

8. Do you think aliens are real? Really? Really real?

9. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes, and column shift too.

10. Guilty TV pleasure? All Saints, an Aussie medical drama.

11. Would you rather be too hot or too cold? Too cold. I don't mind wearing more clothes or blankets. I don't do heat well.

12. If the world ends, do you want to be one of the survivors? Oxymoronic question. If the world ends, there won't be any survivors.

13. Sweet or Salty? Salty, spicy. Sometimes cranky.

14. Do you enjoy soaking in a nice hot bath? Yep for about 10 minutes, then I'm out. Showers are quicker.

15. Do you consider yourself strong? Yes, both physically and mentally.

16. Something people do, physically, that drives you crazy? Rudeness, especially drivers.

17. Something you do, physically, that you are sure drives people insane? Chew my nails, (not now), clear my throat a lot. Blurt. Talk too fast.

18. Do you have any birth marks? No.

19. Favorite childhood game? Riding my horse, hiking, swimming,drawing, reading.

20. Do you talk to yourself? Yes I jabber like a bluejay, and I answer myself too. How I problemsolve.

21. Do you like doing jig-saw puzzles? Nope. Nor do I like Rubick's cubes.

22. Would you go on a reality show? No freaking way.

23. Tea or coffee? Tea, then coffee. Then wine. Repeat the next day.

24. First thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up? A veterinarian.

25. No matter how much money you have or don't have, what are you an absolute snob about? Food & wine. Color. Composition. Good writing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

FOUND POEM from a Facebook word bubble

Apparently this is my Facebook word bubble. Can't say I want to do a freewrite off of it. But let's have at it.

Summer rains
lemon colored mornings
I resist the call and make petitions
send them to the House
Another federal attack on the arts
by my so-called president
reverbrates around the world.
I am surrounded by women,
good, no, great support.
The camera sees
what it wants to see.
Photos in black & white
I gather my thoughts
my final page of poems
a small endowment
care on the page
What is time? A rock?
But we are California strong
and the water is singing


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Every day brings another atrocity from our government, so I created a meme

Every day brings another fresh atrocity from our government, I can barely survive the onslaught, so I created a meme.

This one I did not create. I wish I did. It's brilliant.