Monday, September 9, 2019

Kiger mustangs carry rare Iberian Sorraia mtDNA

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

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Scanning old negatives of the Napa Poetry Conferences 1981-1986 (photos)

I've added more photos under the Comments section on Facebook. Check it out.
While scanning old negatives of the Napa Poetry Conferences (1981-1986), I didn't realize how profound a sense of community there was with the Napa Poetry Conferences (NPC), a tribe of poets, similar to California Poets in the Schools, that met once a year, and included poets from the Americas, and beyond.

Founder Dave Evans began the NPC with a group of Berkeley poets in 1981, the original series, where no one was ever turned away for lack of money, and the series ran until his death, in 1987, The late John Leggett, who retired from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, developed the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (NVWC) fiction portion of the workshops in 1986, and the NPC took on its present form. Not the same. That's my uncredited photo on their web page (albeit a terrible copy). I hope to rectify that soon.

I'm still friends with many of the original NPC poets, among them, I treasure my long-term friendships with Donna Hilbert, Florence Weinberger, Kathleen Lynch, Sharon Doubiago, Sandra McPherson, Carolyn Forché, Bob Hass, Robert Pinsky, and others. I just found Joan Maiers on Facebook and I'm thrilled to connect with her after all these years.

I found in my Napa Poetry Conference negatives from 1983, a photo of Susan Herron Sibbet! I didn't realize that I knew her way back then. So many poets are gone, founder Dave Evans, Susan Sibbit, Maggie Meyers, Mary Rudge, Carolyn Kizer, Galway Kinnell. So many writers whose names I've forgotten. Let this scanfest be the beginning of an homage to our extended writing community, to both the living and the dead. In some small way, what I can give back to those who have nurtured me, are these old memories, photos chronicling the past. 

So many people I wish I had kept in touch with: Tess Gallagher, Diane Glancy, Laurie Deusing, Jess River, Cindy Frank, and more.

This is a sneak preview. I’ve scanned all of the 1983 negatives, and am about 2/3 through 1984. Need to clean them up before I post (mostly artifacts, or dust embedded in the negatives). Still to do, 1985....and I’ve only found a few 1982 negatives. Hope they turn up.

If you can figure out a way for me to get funded for doing this work, a grant, a scholarship, a residency, please let me know. Also, I am daunted by how I can present these photos, so many of them. I made a Facebook prototype where I used one photo as a main subject and the comments section to post related photos.

Here is a link to the NPC Bahamas poetry conference on Facebook, it's open to the public. A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, The Bahamas, 1985. There are many more photos posted as comments below each main photo, which you may not see on a smartphone or tablet unless you click on the comments. You might notice the photo has three comments, that’s three more hidden photos.

— with Dave Evans, Robert Hass, Marcella Taylor, Glenna Luschei, Nathaniel Mackey, Carolyn Forché, Gary Sange, Kris Lauritsen, Sharon Doubiago

See A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island

More poet scans from National Poetry Week: Poetry Flash marathon reading, 1983, Fort Mason. With Gene Ruggles, Herman Berlandt, Mary Rudge. QR Hand, AD Winans, Max Schwartz, Darrell Gauff, Diana Sainz.

Mystery poets, 1980s, early 90s? National Poetry Week. Fort Mason. Herman Berlandt is the only poet I could identify.

A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, The Bahamas, 1985. )photos)

The Bahamas, 1985 more photos posted as comments below each Facebook photo

A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, The Bahamas, 1985. There are many more photos posted as comments below each main photo on Facebook (the link is public), which you may not see on a smartphone or tablet unless you actually click on comments. You might notice that a photo has three comments, that’s three more photos embedded in the comments.
I arrived in the archipelago of some 700 atolls and islands spread across 550 miles, a week early to help set up the conference. Dave Evans, founder of the Napa Valley Poetry Conference, was the brainchild and midwife of an exotic adventure into poetry. The cast of poets is pretty extraordinary too. With the underwriting of a famous novelist's wife, we managed to relocate the entire conference from the Napa wine country to the Bahamas. We drove to the tiny airport to welcome the poets. Nearly all the poets were from California, and a few from New York, to attend this first international Bahamas writers' conference.... —from Monster from the Deep

Sharon Doubiago, ? Kristine Lauritsen, ? Nathaniel Mackey, ? Robert Hass, Carolyn Forché, ? Marcella Taylor; Dave Evans,??? me.

I’m so tickled I was able to finally get a clean copy of the group shot. This is where going digital really pays off. I scan the negatives in color @ 3200ppi, to get wider range of greyscale, then reduce the saturation level so that there is only the greyscale band left, no RGB. That's what gives them depth. (The richness and depth of the background makes me all drooley. Also the crosslight on faces. Or the way the presence of light can create the framework for the photo. It's a Vermeer thing.)

The original photo was Tri-X 400 ASA, probably pushed to 800 ASA. I never could get a decent print of it. By digitalizing it, I was able to bring out the details. Something I never managed to do in the darkroom. Ilford glossy paper (vs. matt paper, which had a wider range of greyscale) gave the best overall results but much was lost in the stark contrast between black and white. Paper choice was always a juggling act.

Scanners don't do well with B&W negatives, part of the problem is that the silver bromide left on the film reflects back light to the lens. I'm using an Epson Perfection v550, which has a single lens. I really should use the Epson Perfection v850 scanner with its dual lens system. It handles the reflected light much better. I realize this is all Blah blah blah Ginger to most of you (WTF is she nattering on about?)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

For the Bahamas (scans from 1985) (photos)

For the Bahamas. That fragile strand of atolls, jeweled necklace of the sea. We were in the Bahamas in 1985 for a writers' conference, and became friends with many local writers. I hope they are safe, especially Gareth on Cat Island, near Freeport, and Eleuthera, or Cigateo, the birthplace of the Bahamas, home of the Arawak/Taino. To see the related photos posted as comment son Facebook visit my page. I found and scanned the b&w negatives of the poetry conference. I will post them later after I’ve cleaned them up. I'll be posting some of the B&W photos of us soon.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

About those pesky typos

Head's up, since I've been somewhat itinerant, writing bloggy-bits on my iPad has some serious limitations—especially when it comes to editing. I can only see a few lines of what I write at a time and I literally can't access the the bottom halves of my blogposts. But I can read the typos on the finished page  just fine! Please excuse my typos. I literally can't get to them in order to fix them unless I'm on my laptop. In other words, I can’t fix the typos. So, stand down.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Climbing Mt. San Jacinto (photos)

Swimming in the headwaters of San Andreas Creek, on the upper slopes of Mt. San Jacinto, where the San Jacinto and San Andreas faults meet. We wallowed in a pool sheltered by house-sized boulders that created a cave. The water was icy cold, while the ambient air outside about 119°. The gap of sky between the massive boulders created a visual tension that made bathing worrisome.

I once climbed Mt. San Jacinto in the late 1980s. It took us all day to climb the 2nd highest peak in SoCal on what is now called the Cactus to Clouds Trail that begins on the desert floor in Palm Springs, and rises up through granite scree to the summit at 10,834 feet. That's one mother-tough 10,700 ft. climb through five climate zones. The only climb more arduous than Mt. San Jacinto was Mt. Whitney, and that hike took us three days. (Not counting Machu Picchu, that was the mother of all climbs.)

Thought I was gonna die by the time John Oliver Simon and I reached the lodgepole pine timberline. I hardly even remember being on the summit. I remember seeing some sort of bog orchids and corn lilies, but not the summit. John was a stickler for things like that, so I know we reached the summit. I probably tried to die right there. Or take a nap on the geodetic marker.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway sure saves a lot of time. But that wasn't an option. We descended down the mountain in near darkness and camped on San Andreas Creek, beneath the native CA fan palms (Washingtonia filfera palms) whose fronds clacked and gurgled like creek waters. And we slept and slept and slept in the oasis. I have no photos to commemorate the event. Only a memory triggered by another memory.

But on this day captured in the photo, the 4th of July, 2007, we merely hiked up the San Andreas Creek until we could go no further. I was hiking in flipflops, and I blasted my knee...but the water was so cold, I never even knew it was injured until we came back down the canyon. Then it swelled up to the size of a basketball. But my wrist, which I had strained from an excessive pruning bout, was fine (note the wrist brace.)

Eons of snowmelt carved a deep gorge in Andreas Canyon. The canyon wall looks like the trunk of the native California Washingtonia fifera fan palm. I felt like a child caught between giant elephant legs. Native California palms are like redwoods, they need to keep their feet cool. Both have an extraordinarily small range and specific micro-climate needs. They favor the fissures caused by the San Andreas fault.
To the Cahuilla Indians, the peak was known as I a kitch (or Aya Kaich), meaning "smooth cliffs." It was the home of Dakush, the meteor and legendary founder of the Cahuilla. Naturalist John Muir wrote of San Jacinto Peak, "The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!" —Wiki

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


While scanning old negatives
I accidentally reversed one, 
& then when I posted them, 
I was startled by a mirror image
heart made of granite and snow. 
So that's why his smile looked all wrong 
in the photo, because it was reversed.
A stranger was grimacing at me.
Maybe if I had seen the flip side, then,
I might have saved myself some grief.
I literally scaled mountain peaks—
even the heights of Machu Picchu with that man—
it was a short, fierce relationship, 
lasting only a few years, 
but it came with a lifetime sentence. 
Sometimes the sentence is all there is: 
all verb & noun. The temporalness of snow 
and the endurance of granite.

8/13/19 & 9/11/19

Granite heart (photos)

An accident while scanning negatives last night, I reversed one, and when I loaded them onto FB, I was surprised to see the images made a heart of granite and snow. I also realized the reason why John's smile looked all wrong, because it was reversed! It was as if a stranger was grimacing at me.Maybe if I had seen the mirror image, then, I might have saved myself some grief. I literally scaled mountain peaks—even the heights of Machu Picchu—with this man. It was a short, fierce relationship, it lasted only a few years, but came with a lifetime sentence. But sometimes the sentence is all there is: verb and noun. The temporalness of snow and the endurance of granite. We had decided to forego following the trail (we don't need no stinkin' trails) and traversed a narrow bridge from one summit to the next, a "Thank God" ledge no wider than our feet, we inched along the crest of a sheer wall, I was terrified. Even Edwin Drummond had never taken me out on a ledge like this. I nearly fell off that mountain because I forgot to hug the wall with my hips. John reached over and shoved my ass back to the wall. I hugged that wall with my hips for all I was worth. I damned near made love to that blasted rock face and lived to tell the tale. I'm not too sure what happened to my pants. I seem to be wearing only longjohns. Awkward family photo mpment. Desolation Wilderness, near Echo Summit, 1986. Pyramid Peak stands at 9,984′, but soon it will be 10,000'. The Sierra Nevadas are young mountains still growing.

RIP John Oliver Simon. Gone little over a year. I still miss him. (John was Ansel Adams's cousin—scaling mountains was in the bloodline).

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Two goats—a wide nanny and a kid—
wandered up the country road at dusk. 
The lost goats, looking for home,
were bleating at the front door, 
and the roosting chickens, 
never having seen goats before,
were losing their minds in an uproar,
leaving me to wonder which team won.
The bobcat or the goats?


WAR'S END (3 days after Hiroshima)

What happened to pilot Major Charles Sweeney
after he dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki?
Did he think he could turn the B-29 Silverplate bomber,
Bockscar, around in the wild blue yonder, then fly back
on empty to Tinian, largest airbase in the world,
as if nothing had happened? After all, he'd practiced
13 trial runs, and 3 dress rehearsals. Shame to waste all that....
The Great Artiste wasn't ready, so he swapped planes.
Ground crew warned him the reserve fuel pump was bad.
The mission was moved up two days because of a typhoon.
Nearing the 11th hour, mad Sweeney circled three times
looking for a gap in the clouds, but he was low on fuel,
so his original target, Kokura, with its venerable castles
obscured by clouds, was spared to live another day.
A fuel pump sealed the fate of Japan's window to the world.
Nagasaki, home of M. Butterfly, became the hired wife, Plan B.
Tapping the fuel gauge, Sweeney ignored orders. Flying blind,
he could've aborted, but he bombed Nagasaki anyway,
when it appeared through a curtain of clouds like a mirage.
Looking over his shoulder, the pilot who leveled Nagasaki,
saw an iridescent lightning-infused cloud rising 
faster than Hiroshima, more intense, more angry, 
at once breathtaking and ominous.
Unable to reach Iwo Jima, he crash-landed
on Yontan Field, in Okinawa, both engines, dead. 
The plane hovered on the edge of the cliff like a tired gull.
An officer shouted, You fucked up, didn't you, Chuck?
Another said We had the wrong guy flying the plane.
Even Enola Gay's pilot Paul Tibbets went a little mad.
But Sweeney, who commanded the last atomic mission, 
maintained to his dying day that he'd made the right decision.
I took no pride or pleasure in the brutality of war, 
whether suffered by my people or those of another nation. 
Every life is precious. But I felt no remorse or guilt 
that I had bombed the city where I stood.
Did we also drop evacuation leaflets, like paper doves,
or was that another story of a story told after the fact?
After Tokyo, Hiroshima, then Nagasaki. Emperor Hirohito said:
We must now bear the unbearable and endure the unendurable.
A hundred thousand gone. According to the Manhattan Project,
it was a smashing success. But Shiva was unleashed,
and a hundred thousand more burned from within.
The voices of the hibakusha sang a silent aria of grief.
Oppenheimer invoked Vishnu:
I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
No matter that the Japanese, already defeated, 
had surrendered, de facto. But we taught them
a lesson, not once, not twice, but three times
for Pearl Harbor. And we taught them again.
Again and again.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Cock o the Walk (photos)

Pele rarely stays still long enough for a portrait. He takes his job guarding the hens very seriously. He has several vocalizations: Juicy Food Here! Let's get laid, and Danger danger danger. The mangy bobcat nabbed some chickens. But not this year. The cock o the walk struts his stuff. Maybe we should call him Harry, or Hotspur. He has to carefully lift each leg over his own spur. Otherwise, he'd trip. The chickens have only each other to fear. Pecking order is the status quo.

Since the photo assignment was to focus "within walking distance." I took a rather laid-back approach and never left the hammock. As I lolled, I never before noticed that each chicken has a distinctive comb. Kind of like a fingerprint. Even their wattles are varied. Some are like dahlia petals. Others, like roses. 

My cousin once had a hen named Rosie who preferred to roost on the BBQ grill. She didn't get the joke. But her owner became a vegetarian. One hen has a deformed beak, don't let that fool you. She is savage when it comes to bugs and mice. But she is also the most personable. She listens intently when I croon to her. I speak imperfect cluck-cluck so she can't always make out the words. She always politely answers back.

The last bird is the same size and shape as a chicken but he is not a chicken. He is an impostor in death's clothing. I don't speak his language either. I am also not yet quite ripe enough. But he is extremely patient. Perhaps some day I will master his language. Hopefully, not too soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


My granny decided to grow a plant 
from a pineapple top.
We said it would never root.
Well, it rooted.
Then we said it would never flower.
It flowered, not once, but twice.
We said it would never fruit.
Well, it fruited. Twice. For spite.
No idea what pollinated it.
We said the mini pineapplet would never mature.
It didn't. It withered on the vine.
Turned into a mummified pineapple.
But by then it was a standing family joke.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Seeking Robert Bruce Hamilton (again)

In the process of trying to track down my first true love, Robert Bruce Hamilton, wondering if he's even on this earth, I can't find a thing on the internet. It's strange in this day and age, not to have some sort of an internet presence. We've been hunting for Sweet Old Bob for seven long years now. Dulcie, was his first girlfriend, both before, during, and after—me (yes, you read that right—I met him after they broke up, then he left me, for her). At least we think he was a serial monogamist. What can I say, it was Marin, during the 1970s. We have been shaking down any leads we can find. No luck. Trying to track Robert Bruce Hamilton or Bob Hamilton is impossible, as it's such a common name.

I never expected to become friends with Dulcie, but she found me via the internet, in August, 2012, from a blog post I wrote on SoB, and she felt compelled to tell me her side of the story. Kindred soul. Our correspondence fell away after a few months, but we finally met at the end of 2016. Since then, our friendship has evolved in other directions—other than Bob, that is. Then the question inevitably arises: is he still alive?

So we've joined forces. At this stage, it takes the two of us just to gather the basic information—like when Bob was born. She remembered his birth date, I remembered his parents' names and address. Talk about cooperative brain power.

In my formative years, as I was transitioning into adulthood, I lived with the man for nearly seven years. I never expected Bob to vanish off the face of the earth. Never to see him again. You don't tend to forget your first orgasm. He left a big footprint on both our hearts. More like crampons. And in our wombs too. Then he dropped us. I'd give my eye teeth for the personalized autographed Ken Kesey books, and letters he stole from me, along with my grandmother's Victorian postcards, and frames He was a thief of hearts, and of literary memorabilia.

Perhaps developing the seven-year jock itch, Bob just broke up with me out of the blue—no apparent reason, no preamble, no discussion. I came home from school one day and all my stuff was moved into the spare room, then into storage. That was his idea of "talking about feelings." He left me homeless—I was knocked up, and literally living in my VW Bug. For that atrocity, I will never forgive him.

But we traveled well together. We hiked the Sierra Nevadas, we ferried to the San Juan Islands, and to Vancouver Island every summer—we hitchhiked up to Prince Rupert, the Columbia Ice fields, and Banff—we slept in fields, county parks, and hotel doorways. We were looking for land to homestead in Grass Valley and Mendocino, but then Bob got a draft board notice, a recall, though he was a CO, so he was looking for an escape route. I loved Saltspring Island, Nanimo, Tofino, Uclulet—the west coast of Vancouver Island was like my home, Pt. Reyes. Places that almost became home.

Did I abandon art because I didn't have a voice to sustain me? Bob certainly didn't encourage me. When the chasm grew between us, I turned to something more portable—poetry—ironically, Bob dragged me to poetry readings. Gary Snyder, Alan Ginsberg, etc. But when I showed him my work, he said, "I don't know WTF you're talking about." I think in his world, men were the real artists—not women.

Bob starved me for love, so, in turn, I starved myself, I became anorexic. Towards the end of the relationship, I was living on soda crackers, wine and coffee. Not once did he ever reach out to me, contact me, or even try to make amends. My heart was sawn in two. I never knew what I did to deserve this, except for turning to poetry. Poetry was my mistress. He was a crippled man with a crippled heart. If he's dead, we could certainly blame his heart. But somehow in my bones, I feel he's still alive, somewhere.

I started obsessing about Bob about the time Dulcie contacted me in 2012, and it seems that both of us were wondering if he still walked this planet. Thanks to some super-sleuthing, we've found that Bob was still alive in 2014—via his father's obituary. We're so good, we're thinking of calling ourselves The Odd Bodices & Powerful Petticoats Detective Agency. We will get oor man, dead or alive.

We found: Robert Bruce Hamilton, June 7, 1949, that makes him 70. Lives in San Jose, married to Kerri. Nothing else on the internet that I can find.

Sister: Nancy Hamilton Mayo, b. ca. 1953 She's 66, Locations: Palo Alto, Fremont, CA. Relatives: Michael, Stuart Mayo. I took several searches to find her married name. No wonder I couldn't find her, her last name is misspelled: Hanmilton. Interesting, there's no reference to her own family, just  her married name. Nancy was so lovely, and quite shy. Always kind, very much like her mother. I hope that she's had a happy life. I was so very fond of her.

Brother: Marc Douglas Hamilton, b. ca. 1956, that means he's about 63. When he lived with us in Cotati, I remember thinking the age gulf between us was enormous. But we were great friends. I drove him all over Sonoma County as he was interested in Zen Buddhism. Odyian, Green Gulch, Sonoma Mt. One morning we were in the kitchen, and out of the blue, he said something odd—that when Bob and I broke up, that we'd never see each other again. Prescience? Not if, but, when. My first inkling. I was the last to know. I hope that he found what he was looking for.

An internet search revealed that Marc lived in Moss Beach, CA, San Jose, CA, Half Moon Bay, CA, Fremont, CA, Sunnyvale, CA. We found an address: Moss Beach, Ca, courtesy of FastPeopleSearch. RELATIVES William Douglas Hamilton, Leeta E Hamilton, Emily L Hamilton, Joanne W Hamilton, Deborah Aimee Alotta. AKA D Aimee Alotta, Deborah A Valdez, Aimee Hamilton. Sounds like the right Marc. More names to track down.

When I supplied Bob's mother's name, Dulcie found a two-sentence obit: Leeta E Hamilton was born on October 27 1922. Leeta lived in Fremont, California 94536, USA. Leeta passed away on September 7 1995, at age 72. Nothing more. Aww, no! Then out of the blue, I remembered the address: 38531 Acacia, Fremont. I can't believe I actually remembered the address. What cobwebs shifted? So sad to hear of her passing. I would've loved to have seen her one more time.

Bob's mother was lovely. She never knew what to make of me, and was painfully lacking in any self-confidence. So was I. Leeta grew up in Petaluma with Lloyd Bridges. So we had Lloyd, and the North Bay in common. She told us stories of picking prunes during the summers. I wonder what her maiden name was. Every search has turned up a dead end. Bob despised his father and disliked his mother for letting Douglas walk all over her.

Douglas's mother, who lived in Oxnard, was another lovely lady. I wish I could remember her name. A closet Bohemian, she was a friend of Diego Rivera's, and once showed us a maquette of his. She met Krishnamurti who lived in Ojai. Bob took me there, but we didn't find Krishnamurti. I still have a small etched glass gold Victorian toiletry box she gave me. There was a mystery hidden within the folds of the blue silk shawl she kept in her cedar chest. Hidden Judaism in the most WASPish of families, there was a menorah in the closet. Somewhere i found that her husband was Dalmatian, and what else? Scottish—hence the last name. Or maybe she was Dalmatian. The story is lost forever. Bob's father blamed us for her heart attack. He was that kind of man. Hard to believe his mother was so loving. Otherwise it was Duke of Argyle, and Selkirk all the way.

When I looked up Bob's father Douglas Hamilton. It suddenly popped into my head that his full name was William Douglas Hamilton. Sure enough, we found:

William Douglas Hamilton, April 8, 1923 – July 26, 2014. Resident of Fremont. Obituary published in East Bay Times on Aug. 1, 2014.
Doug Hamilton passed peacefully at home on Sat., July 26, at the age of 91. He was born in Oakland, raised in Southern California, but called Grass Valley and Fremont home. He will be greatly missed by family and friends who experienced his passion for sailing and hiking, his excitement over continually learning, and his love of gardening and staying active. He was a horticulturalist with the UC Extension Service for 31 years and worked with 4-H programs, vineyards in the Livermore and Santa Clara valleys, and issues relating to trees in the many parks of the Bay Area. He loved his family dearly and is survived by his sons Robert and Marc, and his daughter Nancy, their spouses and three grandchildren. A Memorial Service will be held at Saint James' Episcopal Church, 37051 Cabrillo Terrace (at Thornton), Fremont, on Sat., Aug. 9 at 3:00pm.

I'm not so sure that he loved his children dearly, certainly not Bob. The animosity between them was palpable. Who writes these obituaries? We also found wife #2. I did NOT see that one coming. But Leeta died in 1998, and Doug wasn't exactly the domestic type. Doug did like to camp, and sailing was his passion. We used to camp at Fallen Leaf Lake, and Crystal Cove, Tahoe, every summer. I guess he kept the bear boat in Alameda. I hope he was kinder, and more loving to his second wife.

Joanne Hamilton Sept 8, 1926 - March 22, 2011 Resident of Fremont Joanne passed away peacefully at the age of 84 from Alzheimers disease. Loving wife of Doug Hamilton. Always cheerful, thoughtful of others, very generous to the needy. Loved hiking, traveling and sailing with Doug. Survived by 3 sisters and felt close to Michael, Mary and David, her children. She lived and was loved by her grandchildren, Marisa, Tessa, Graham and Kate. Funeral services will be on Sunday, April 17 at 2:00pm at St. James Episcopal Church, 37051 Cabrillo Terrace in Fremont. Published in East Bay Times on Mar. 31, 2011

I found a listing for the house. Photos sparking memory. I was only there a few dozen times. Obligatory birthdays and holidays. We never stayed long. Bob was always champing to leave. You could see it broke Leeta's heart, the shattered bonds. And truth be known, after three days, I was climbing the walls. I was so inexperienced, I could see no way to ease thier burden.

I don't think his parents approved of me. I was so painfully shy. So was Leeta. But I hated Fremont. Such a sleepy, dullminded place. Douglas was always in his mute, rote mode, and shy, retiring Leeta was trying to fill the social void. Dinner conversations were always forced. Sweet Old Bob learned the silent treatment from his father, an excellent student, he doled it out accordingly. 

There's a painting in the living room, of thistles done in brown tones, Leeta painted them to go with the other painting of the thistles, done in blues and greens in the dining room. A nod to Douglas's Scottish roots. Wife number two, Joanna, made few changes. I used to sleep in that living room so I knew it well. Remembering when the mockingbird fell down the chimney. Or trying to be so quiet while making love on the couch. Did we ever fool anyone? We lived together for years, and yet they made us sleep apart because we weren't planning on getting married in the near future.

I have few photos from those days. Bob kept my photos. Leeta Hamilton photo

I didn't realize the Hamiltons were Episcopalian. Makes sense now. We never went to church for Christmas, there were no outward signs of Christianity. Holidays were mandatory. And awkward. They never met my granny. Sadly. She would've eased their angst. Even if she was Catholic.

I remember the family dog, a schnauzer named Star. He was a very busy bad dog, and something of an embarrassment to the family—like Bob. He loved to steal knickers, and eat nylons, as if trying to swallow the essence of the women of the house. Then, on our prandial walks around the block after dinner, the poor dog attempted to shit them out. Douglas would surreptitiously step on the toe of the nylon as it exited, and then Star would run off, the nylon unwinding from his butt like a bungie cord on a zip line. It was as if that incorrigible dog channeled residual familial aggression and bottled up emotions that manifested itself into the odd guilty pleasure. A good thing he wasn't a thief of hearts.

Taking stock, old inventories of the past, blog list

It took a couple of years to get my poems posted online, a lengthy process I began in 2015 (Updating Old Poems) when I thought I had lost almost all my work due to a computer glitch—outdated software turned my files into UNIX bricks. I was able to salvage most of my work but it was a process done in fits and spurts.

Then in 2017, I found several handwritten journal entries, and revised first drafts. I scanned and posted those below the poems, so it's been a poetic archaeology hunt. The early poems were not in electronic format, so transmuting them to text from a jpg became another huge project I took on last year when I got some OCR software.

Salvaging the past seems to be an annual summer project. Taking old inventories as it were. I still hold out a dim hope that I'll find more work for the weak years: 2006 (19) 2005 (18) 1999 (21) 1978 (22). Only way to salvage those years is to find long lost notebooks. But we've come a long way, indeed.

Lately I'm collecting what little artwork I have left, and I've created a separate blog for that. The blog has a long way to go and is riddled with gaping holes. Sadly, my early drawing portfolios were turned into pulp during the winter of 2015. And no photos of my ceramics have emerged, I think that chapter of my life is forever gone—except for a few stray pieces that survived the odds. Makes me sad as I had taken slides for a portfolio. I've already scanned all my old slides, so unless I misplaced the ceramics slides in Forestville, it's a lost cause.

Maureen Hurley Art

Then there's my photography. Most of my people photos are posted on Google Photos, and I've sent links out to the pertinent people. But I'm woefully behind on uploading my landscapes. I probably should make another blog of a few of my best photos, but I want to find a different format for them (and my art) than Blogger. Right now they're just placeholders. I did this then—sort of thing. Google Photos is merely a storage locker, as no one can see them, sans link. So that's not particularly useful for simple sharing. I miss Picasa. So much easier to share things.

Right now, I'm beginning to scan my B&W negatives from the 1980s and 1990s. No idea where I'll post them as I haven't found the right venue, other than Google Photos. Suggestions?

The photos from the Russian River Writers' Guild, I'll eventually post photos on the blog I made last year. Lots of famous poets! We are missing most Open Hug flyers for 1985, and we are missing flyers from 1987 onward to the last reading. It still needs the final years of Obligatory Hug when we moved to Johnny Otis's cafe. I don't have copies. Wonder who does?

Russian River Writers' Guild

I can't even get into the blog I made for Marianne Ware in 2010, which is maddening, as I now have new photos to share on that blog.

Marianne Ware Memorial Page

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

St. Vincent’s School for Boys

Don Timeteo Murphy, from Wexford, Ireland, while on his deathbed with appendicitis, bequeathed 317 acres to the first archbishop of San Francisco—on a dare, to build an orphanage for boys who lost their family from cholera (it was called an orphan asylum), and the stipulation was to have it up and running within two years—or forfeit the land. So Alemeny called the nuns in— Sister Frances McEnnis. Fellow Wexfordian, James Miller helped to build it. He was also a benefactor of St. Vincent's School, lending the school his financial support in its earliest years.

St. Vincent's RC, 1855 - 1924, Orphan Asylum

"The lumber and supplies were hauled by ox team and Mr. Miller and a Mr. Kirk built the building. The school was completed and named St. Vincent’s Seminary, the name of the patron saint of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul." —Dixie Schoolhouse

On January 7, 1855, St. Vincent's School for boys opened its doors—“to aid in the establishment of a seminary or institution of learning.”

"On his deathbed, San Rafael land grantee Timothy Murphy promised 317 acres of land to Joseph Alemany, the first Archbishop of San Francisco. But as with any good Irishman, there was a catch to Murphy’s offer: the acreage would revert back to Murphy’s heirs unless a school was operating on the premises within two years. And as often happens, the best man for the job was . . . a woman. At the time, however, Sister Frances McEnnis was living with the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

According to A Mission That Endures: A History of St. Vincent’s School for Boys by Peter Rudy, when notified by Archbishop Alemany that the Sisters of Charity were needed to care for children orphaned by a recent cholera plague, Sister McEnnis and a small band of nuns agreed to make the hazardous trip and immediately headed west. After a grueling cross-country journey, they raised the necessary funds and made sure the school was open for students on January 1, 1855—beating Murphy’s deadline by ten days. As for naming the school, Sister McEnnis reached back to her roots: it would be called St. Vincent’s.

By 1868, the orphanage was housing 150 boys. By 1884—after initiation of farming operations, building expansion and outreach, and bringing in the Dominican Sisters to help with teaching—St. Vincent’s was home to nearly 500 orphaned as well as neglected or abused kids. —Marin Magazine

In 1855, Timothy Murphy, Irish-born pioneer of Marin County, gave 317 acres of land to Archbishop Alemany for educational purposes Here, the Sisters of Charity, in 1855, founded a school now called St. Vincent's School for Boys. It has been maintained and enlarged by successive archbishops of San Francisco. California registered historical landmark no. 830. Plaque placed by the California State Park Commission in cooperation with the Marin Committee on History, and landmarks of the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West, October 19, 1953.

St. Vincent’s was located in the Dixie School District where the small one-room Dixie school had only ten pupils. By 1921, both schools were in danger of closing. St. Vincent’s had no teachers. Dixie had no students, so they proposed to add nearly 400 pupils to the Dixie school district.

"With the help of the State Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Will C. Wood, the County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. James B. Davidson, with the cooperation of the Dixie District Board of Trustees, and with the financial backing, for five months, of Archbishop Hanna of San Francisco, St. Vincent’s School was able to continue. The domestic help was secured from lay people, and the institution continued to do its job. It is noteworthy that teachers from Marin County public schools left their regular jobs for a year to assist at St. Vincent’s."  —Dixie Schoolhouse

The orphanage is at present 770 acres, so I wonder if James Miller donated even more land? His spring was the school's water source. Our old paned windows came from the old St Vincent's Orphanage ca. 1957. It was a trip to see their brethren in situ.

Friday, July 12, 2019


My childhood heroes were full of horses,
Tonka Toy horses, not Barbie dolls or action figures.
I was crazy about horses,
especially Secretariat and Seabiscuit.
I grew up with a lithograph
of the Irish horse, Arkle, on the wall.
When my grandmother wasn’t looking, 
I’d trace around the edges of his nostrils
with a red pencil, as if to breathe life into his portrait.
He glowed like the fairy horses of the Otherworld.
My grandmother noticed, but never said a thing.
I could recite a litany of pedigrees,
bloodlines, jockeys, and stables. Willie Shoemaker.
Whose lineage traced back to Native Dancer,
War Admiral, Three Bars, Man O War—
right on back to the founding sires, 
those hot-blooded desert horses with English names, 
the Godolphin, the Darley, the Byerley Turk.
But I couldn’t keep up in school, always the last to finish,
with heart pounding as if it were about to burst.
That moveable feast, the finish line, was ever out of reach.
I was unbelievably fast, a sprinter, no one could catch me,
I was Of the Cloak, that foundation mare of the desert winds,
running from fear, running from life, until there was nowhere left to go.
But I was given a plug mare who taught me perseverance, 
when she died, I was given a red Three Bars mare, a sprinter,
the fastest horse in the valley. It was like riding a barrel
on a stormy sea when she leapt into the void.
Those horses were my teachers. When the gates opened,
I found I could stay the distance, eight furlongs,
head to head, then twelve, neck to neck.
The invisible crowd cheering as I crossed the finish line.
And then there were roses bleeding on the ground.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Do not paint down historic WPA mural. This is not 1930s Germany or 1917 Russia.

Do not paint down historic WPA mural at George Washington High School. This is not 1930s Germany or 1917 Russia. This is censorship. Golda Meir once said, “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” In a toxic move to be politically correct, it seems we’re doing just that. Erasing inconvenient truths in order to feel good.

In an alarming trend to be "politically correct", school boards are whitewashing the past. Last month a Marin Co. school board expunged the name of historic Dixie School, though its founders did not support the Confederacy during the Civil War. 

The latest attempt to change California's past is to remove an historic WPA mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco—for depicting an historic truth. What's next? Grace Cathedral and Coit Tower WPA murals?

And the censorship continues an alarming trend. Why destroy the historic mural? Why not put panels over it? 600k to paint it over? really?

SFUSD thinks it will cost more than that—and they don't care. I guess house painters are very expensive these days. More expensive than hiring a fantastic muralista, say, Juana Alicia, to paint an alternative mural that would create a dialogue with Dewey Crumpler's rebuttal mural, on whiteboard, to protect Victor Arnautoff's original WPA-era mural.

The problem is that we are artistically illiterate, unable to understand allegory, or symbolism. The role of art is to instruct, to teach, not lull us into complacency. We take everything at face value. We don't want to actually think, or have to decode the message embedded within the art. That's why the inane decorative plastic arts that plague us everywhere, is mistaken for art. Students can't see that the mural is highly critical of our sappy rendition of our history, and of George Washington, who, apparently owned slaves. I didn't know that, did you?

Zana Darrow brilliantly noted that the monochromatically painted frontiersmen were depicted as soulless. And they were ruthless—especially the Mountain Men, Kit Carson and John C. Frémont—who mercilessly killed natives as they journeyed to California. That depiction is correct. So we want to hide this ugly chapter of history?

"The artwork on the walls of George Washington High School in San Francisco painted by a WPA artist Victor Arnautoff, exposed the hypocrisy of American History and that is not being seen or understood by those trying to remove and paint over the past.

“The murals represent social history. They provide an inclusive and truthful history… Removing them represents censorship as well as a reactionary moment in time,” an unidentified commenter said. “What I do recommend is that the school board establishes a multimedia display... that indicates the complexity and contradictions of George Washington [and] the extraordinary history of Victor Arnautoff.”

The mural depicts a historic, if harsh truth, Anglos treated the natives and Latinos badly. we should whitewash that out of history? —

Of course art is political. And people no longer know how to read art or understand the juxtaposition of symbolism. They’re artistically illiterate and don’t want to take the time to actually see what’s going on. They don’t want to actually have to think. They say, oh, it’s pretty, it’s decorative, I like it. Oh, it’s negative, I hate it. A fallout of our consumerist society where we call the decorative arts art, and I don’t mean art for art’s sake.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

4th of July party crasher

Eating actual meals has been an iffy concept. Its been mostly shove something in the piehole, on the run. First meal since the 4th, French toast. Almost pie. But my digestive skydives give system is on lockdown.

I haven’t talked about the elephant in the living room. Namely, how a Petaluma man named James Reisenhoover, who, apparently was having a little private party of his own while driving back from the Graton Casino, then missed the Petaluma turn-off, and managed to drive  all the way to Nicasio, to ram a brand new Titan truck through my cousins’ living room at 4:56 AM on the 4th of July. We’re still in fight-flight syndrome. Unfortunately, writing this is like reconstructive surgery. So I’ll lift comments from my Facebook posts and see what happens.

Nothing quite like waking up to an explosion beneath the bed and. an  engine revving in the living room.  That was some AM wake up call. Replete with a bed ejector button. Dude should've just knocked at the door, instead of almost knocking the fucking house down. I guess he didn’t like all my cousin’s potted flowers and tchotchkes on the front steps. WTF, why is he on his phone? Who you gonna call at 5 AM? Perhaps a 911 call would’ve been more appropriate? at least the Marin County fire department was on it.

The little cat is still so freaked out. We think he was on the couch that the truck hit, that launched across the crowded room, which also  launched small items about 6 to 8 feet Sinead’s wine glass! Monster is still so skittish. Definitely has PTSD. will hardly even eat, and he’s a chow hound. Gives me tiny wrist kisses. Sinead’s scitzy cat  Ceilidh, on the other hand, who normally can’t tolerate humans, and this thing they do called petting, wants pets and reassurance from the firemen. Go figure.

It was a four fire department event, Nicasio, Woodacre, Hick’s Valley, and Novato all turned up, plus lots of first responders, three CHPS, two sheriffs. A real block party. Shout out to the Marin County Fire Department and First Responders who went well above and beyond the call of duty, and came back and shored up my cousins’ house. Jeremy from Nicasio FD, Matt from Hick's Valley FD, and John from Woodacre FD. And to all the handsome young firefighters who are the next generation of firefighters. And to the CHP, and the Marin County Sheriffs... you all rock. And to Stephen Sproul ❤

I keep thinking What if. The live electrical wires had touched the truck—as the water was geysering. So glad I put my rubber-soul shoes on. Angels in the outfield.

More cleanup is ahead. Soothing the cats, telling them it’s OK, is also on the list My fingertips are raw and sliced from picking up so much splintered wood and glass. Picked up more glass and exploded wood fragments yesterday, cleaned and culled three woodpiles on the 4th and 5th. Filled five trash cans with tightly packed beams and fragments, so much more glass to go.... pruned and propped up the remaining 75 year old heritage rose. Tried to salvage the other one ripped out of the ground.. You really can’t pick up glass fragments in garden gloves.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Earthquakes in the Mojave desert flush out the Facebook Bible belters

CNN posted a story about the Searles Lake/Ridgecrest earthquakes. Ok, so 7.1 is definitely big, but not unheard of. What gets me is the collective hatred in biblical proportions unleashed towards California that manifests in the Facebook comments.

Yeah, makes me wonder why don’t all these so-called Christians actually do something useful, like donate to a disaster charity?

#science fergawdsakes. The sheer collective ignorance unveiled on that thread is astounding. Didn’t they learn anything about geography or geology or plate tectonics in school? How do they think mountain ranges are created? By plate tectonics. Ostriches are smarter, they don’t actually bury their heads in the sand.

Christ didn’t sit back in an easy chair with his beer and remote control in hand, and pray for those sinners during the 6 O’clock news. He was all about action. Boots on the ground. Action. He didn’t go around posting passive aggressive snide comments about repentance, sin and prayer on Facebook. Prayer should be a private contemplation. Not something broadcast like a commodity. It’s not a celestial stock market.

What’s with all these so-called Christians claiming an odd petty moral superiority via prayer, saying California deserves earthquakes and natural disasters because we Californians are somehow less deserving of life than they are? So many tiny minds at work, it’s frightening. That’s the real antichrist in action. Right there. No matter that California has been experiencing earthquakes for millions of years. Gawd forbid, don’t let logic in.

Long before the so-called Christians invaded these shores, the Ohlone Indians had a saying, that California was dancing on the brink of the world. They were referring to earthquakes. Earthquakes are how the extraordinary landscapes are formed. Tectonic plates subducting and shoving up mountain ranges, creating magma zones are all part of the process.

#science matters.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July like no other

Well, now, the 4th had some seriously heavy duty plans for us, kicking us out of bed at 5 AM, when a  brand new Nissan Titan truck drove through the front door of my cousin’s historic house and took out the 150 year old picture window.

Firemen from Nicasio, Novato, Hick's Valley, and Woodacre Fire Departments responded blocking of the road on both sides, then, after the truck was pulled from the door frame, they came back and shored up the porch and support beams, and foundation. Foundation and the main corner support beams holding up the house are compromised.

The house is 150 years old so everything is hand-milled, non standard sized wood. Hand-made nails. Redwood older than the concept of Christ. But the firemen are adapting, going over to the firehouse by the Rancho Nicasio and raiding their woodpiles to find big enough struts to make this so.

Meanwhile, Ceilidh, the crazy cat, who normally won't let anyone near her on a good day, is asking for pets from the firemen. We found little Monster, a rescue cat, holed in Sinead's closet, scared out of his mind, he's still a baby kitty in an almost grown-up cat's body. Every little movement or noises sends him back into the linen closet. I think he was on the couch sleeping when the truck launched it across the room. How do you even begin to explain PTSD to a cat?

Front of the house is wide open (talk about open house!) and cats are not interested in escaping....LOL. Usually they're making a beeline for the front door. But all the tourists, seeing the fence down, and all the activity, think it’s a store and want to know what it is we’re selling. I’m rather cross with all the looky-loos and tell them to contact the county to at least put a caution sign and rumble strips up. Fix the road. What will it take, one of us getting killed?

Marin County Fire Department totally rocks! ❤ May the 4th be with you.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Historic Dixie School District to lose its name

In a reference to Nazi Germany, novelist George Orwell wrote, in his science fiction novel, 1984: Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. In an alarming trend to be "politically correct" replete with an Orwellian twist, school boards are intent on whitewashing the past. In June, a Marin County school board voted to expunge the name of a school, the school district, which includes the historic one-room Dixie School building, now a museum, though its founder, pioneer James Miller, did not support the Confederacy during the Civil War. It's an odd case of guilt by association.

The man who founded the school ca. 1862, rancho owner, Irishman, James Miller had a right-hand foreman who was a Coast Miwok named Dixie, whose wife was Mary Dixie. Miller, who had also adopted two Coast Miwok children, XXXX named the school after her, Hence the name Dixie School, or so one story goes.

SIDEBAR: Below is an article on Dixie School's name change initiated by newcomers to Marin, what the Irish would call blow-ins, who want to homogenize it, make it spotlessly lily-whiter-than-thou-yet. Newcomers intent on rearranging the past with alternative facts to suit their egos. The school was not named after the Confederacy, nor was it named in support of the Confederacy. The Confederate naming of the school story is pure 1970s apocrypha invented more than a hundred years after the fact.—probably just to save the historic building.

The new name of the historic Dixie School (and district) will be Lucas Valley School, Miller Creek Elementary School District. Here's the rub, it's not even in Lucas Valley, it's in Las Gallinas Valley. But I guess naming the building after a flock of chickens is oddly inappropriate. Hopefully, the historic Victorian one-room school house will retain its name, as it's a museum.

When we look into a window of the past, we often forget to shed our modern-day notion. For example, when looking into the life of an immigrant to the United States during the19th century, we may need to be reminded that life was not equal if one was, say, Catholic, or Irish, or Italian, or Greek, etc. The social milieu of the United States during the 1840s, reached its zenith towards the end of the 19th c., is best summed up by this:
Political cartoonist Thomas Nast regularly lambasted Irish Catholic immigrants as drunkards and barbarians unfit for citizenship; signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply,” ...statesmen warned about the dangers of admitting Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe onto American shores, for fear that they were something less than civilized (and less than white)....native-born Americans regarded Catholic immigrants as an ideological and racial threat.  —When America Hated Catholics
Due to overt racism in the United States, Irish Catholics had few opportunities—other than low-paying dangerous jobs at the bottom of the occupational ladder: working in the coal mines, building railroads and canals. More importantly, they had no legal representation, no opportunity for citizenship, thus no vote. Many Irish Catholic immigrants found Mexico's Alta California's laid back lifestyle more agreeable than the United States.

So the modern-day reasoning behind removing the name Dixie form James Miller's legacy, including his name, claiming he was a racist, is ironic. We have some modern-day Thomas Nasts among us, wolves in sheep's clothing dressed in the "politically correct" raiments of social justice warriors. And it seems no one has noticed the predators among us.

According to one WeAreDixie, (LP) spokesperson intent on keeping the historic Dixie School District name intact, noted that the players include a rogue school trustee, Green Party activist Marnie Glickman, and her tribe of social justice warriors, Mill Valley activist, Oakland native, Kerry Perison, and PR spokesman Noah Griffin of Tiburon, who have for the past year, disrupted every school board meeting with their agenda. According to an article in The Guardian:
“People wanted a nice story,” said Marnie Glickman, a Dixie School Board trustee who was a driving force behind the latest effort to change the name. “They wanted to believe that racism and the Confederacy couldn’t exist in Marin.” —Dixie school district: why it took 22 years to change a name in liberal California
The irony is that the naming of Dixie School is an alleged association with with racist antebellum southern states as claimed by outsiders. It boils down to a matter of interpretation. Marin County, thousands of miles from the South, never supported the Confederacy. Yet these players, convinced of their own moral certitude, were not above dividing a community by twisting the truth and revising history to suit their own political agenda. I have to ask, to what endgame?

Some historical background: In 1846, James Miller, an Irish Catholic immigrant from County Wexford, immigrated to Marin County, California, which was then part of Mexico. Miller received as a gift, 680 acres of Rancho Las Gallinas from Don Timoteo (Timothy) Murphy, a fellow Wexford man. He was in good company from the Emerald Isle. Another Wexfordian, surveyor Jasper O'Farrell, who designed Market Street in San Francisco, bought Rancho Estero Americano in 1843, and Tiburon's famous Dubliner, John Reed, who sang Irish airs to his cows, owned Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio, and constructed the first sawmill in Marin County in 1834.

James Miller was not an American, but he was a farmer. If anything he would've been quite anti-slavery, given the anti-Catholic racist sentiments at the time. Imagine traveling from Ireland to Quebec, Canada, in 1828, then 13 years later, at the age of 27, emigrating to Missouri to farm for two years and three months, from 1841 to 1844. According to the US Census records of 1840-1844, when the Millers lived in the pro-Union Holt County, Missouri, there were no slaves. Also, Missouri is located in the Midwest, not the South.

When Miller had saved enough money, he journeyed to California with the 13-wagon Stephens-Townsend-Murphy party. from Iowa, with his wife, Mary Murphy, and their four children, to the Yuba River in the Sierra Foothills. They then went onto Sutter's Fort, landing in Marin, in 1845, where Miller was gifted 680 acres from fellow Wexfordian, Don Timeteo Murphy. Was Miller part of the Bear Flag Revolt, aka, the 1946 Mexican American war? Did Miller stand with Mexico, the country that recognized him, or the United States? That, we'll never know.
But James Miller had a history of paying homage to indigenous people. It is a historical fact that he and his party named the Truckee River and Lake based on the name of the chief of the Paiute Nation.

During the Gold Rush, Miller and his foreman, John (James or Bill) Dixie, a Coast Miwok rounded up 150 head of the Mexican longhorn cattle and drove them to the placer camps in the Sierra Foothills. Hungry miners purchased the cattle for a dollar a pound. Foreman Dixie stayed in Murphy's Camp and Miller returned to Marin. it seems that John Dixie met his wife, Mary, there, and stayed in the Sierra Foothills.
In 1849, James Miller, who had a long-abiding interest in fostering education, built the first schoolhouse in San Rafael. In 1855, with Timiteo Murphy who donated 315 acres, Miller helped build St. Vincent’s School, a Catholic orphanage near his his hacienda, Miller Hall. (The windows in our own house were from St. VIncent's)

By 1862, Miller really needed a larger school, he had ten kids by then, not counting the two Coast Miwok kids he had adopted. Miller donated 3/4 an acre near the las Gallinas home ranch, and helped haul redwood from the Nicasio Mills for construction of both school buildings. The school was ready by 1863-4.
Two of the Miller girls had stood up as godmothers to two Indian babies. When their mother died, the father brought the Indian children in baskets to Miller Hall and presented them to their godmothers. The Millers raised the Indian youngsters as part of their household. —The History of James Miller/Founder of Dixie School
Marin did not have a pro-Confederacy contingency during the Civil War. It was demographically similar to Petaluma which was a solid Yankee town. Marin and Sonoma—the entire North Bay (except parts of Sebastopol and Santa Rosa) voted for Abraham Lincoln, a Republican (AKA the National Union Party)— against George B. McClellan, a Southern Democrat. It should also be noted also that not all listed Democrats in the larger Bay Area were pro-Confederacy. In San Francisco, there were 15,000 pro-Union Democrats at a rally in 1861,  which was “a figure equal to the number of voters in the city.”

The total population of Marin was 323 Anglos. Two of Miller's sons were listed on Union military registers as were various Reed, Murphy and Miller relatives. Miller's daughter married a Union soldier. During the Civil War, Irish Catholics were overwhelmingly Republican, or northern Federalists in direct support to Federalist naturalization laws that gave immigrant Catholics the right to vote.

"The Vatican never recognized the Confederacy... (and) priests around the country called upon the faithful to don blue uniforms because, “The Union must and shall be preserved.” ... By the end of the war, Catholics and non-Catholics living, marching, and fighting together overcame many old prejudices."  —Catholics and the Civil War

The ONLY Democrats in the North Bay Area were in parts of Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, total population was well under 600, and not all were supportive of the South. There were no Democrat workmen commuting to Marin, there was no railroad. And central Sonoma County where those pesky Democrats lived, was waterlogged much of the year by the vast Laguna de Santa Rosa—"where mud was king" there was little opportunity to travel south.

The Petalumans couldn't even get to Santa Rosa until the dry season. So a bunch of Confederate workers from Santa Rosa (or Scotland) working for James Miller in Marin is a huge improbability. especially since he had a vast labor pool to draw from in Petaluma alone, the biggest town on the North Coast, with a population approaching 1000 Anglos who were vociferously anti-Confederate.

Another unsubstantiated story mentions that Miller hired Scottish workers to build the school. But if they were Scottish, and living in Marin, they would hardly be Democrats or Confederates. They would be Scottish. Another stretchy spandex post facto "fact." And even of they were laborers who may or may not have supported the Confederacy, what difference would it make?  The school wasn't named after them. It was named after Mary Dixie.

Maybe Miller named it Dixie as in dix/dex—for his ten kids.

The flaw in the origin of how Dixie School was named, is that it was coined long after founder James Miller had died. In folklore terms, we don't have terminus post quem. No proof of when it began. And Miller's granddaughter, who supposedly made up the story, was born 5 years after Miller's death, she couldn't have heard it from her grandfather's lips post mortem. So, it's a story of a story repeated by a friend of a friend, not the granddaughter—and the earliest terminus post quem is dated 1972, in other words, it's all hearsay.
In 1972, the Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation submitted an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service to get the old Dixie Schoolhouse added to the National Registry of Historical Places. The document submitted by Old Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation states that the name “Dixie” was a direct reference to the nickname given to the Confederate States of America. —History — Change The Name
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Dixie name dates back to the days of the Civil War itself but that nobody can quite agree on whether it was originally meant to refer to the Confederacy or not....The site also notes that the campaign to get the original Dixie schoolhouse added to the National Register of Historic Places played up Civil War association, alleging that early Marin County settler James Miller picked the name on a dare....Mill Valley resident Kerry Peirson, who organizes much of the anti-Dixie initiative, told the San Jose Mercury News that he first challenged the name back in the 1990s. —Marin neighbors demand Dixie School District change its name
Let me get this straight: instigators, call them "social justice warriors," Kerry Perison, 51, of Mill Valley, and Noah Griffin of Tiburon don't even live in Terra Linda! Nor did their kids attend school there. Yet they get to dictate what place names are appropriate? Peirson was a former Marin Community Foundation trustee, and Noah Griffin is a trustee for the Buck Fund portion of the MCF, he is also a public affairs consultant, speaker and former public member of the IJ’s editorial board.

Sounds like this is some form of a psycho Orwellian publicity stunt to me. In fact, Griffin actually draped himself in a confederate flag and posed for the cameras in front of the historic Dixie Schoolhouse. What is their connection with school board member Marnie Glickman, one of the instigators of this brouhaha? They're hellbent on obliterating an entire school district because of a name? There's something far more devious at work here.
The Green Party activist was a leading force behind successful efforts to jettison the “Dixie” moniker. The change was based on the alleged association of the word “Dixie” with racist antebellum southern states. Glickman was the sparkplug stretching what was a local effort into a regional media circus. Her strategy worked, but at the cost of a sadly divided school community. —Glickman could avoid recall effort by running again
The beleagured district is searching for a new superintendent to replace former Dixie School District Superintendent Jason Yamashiro, who suddenly quit at the end of June.

In a 2013 OpEd piece, Marin Voice: Is it true what they say about Dixie? Noah Griffin couldn't even get the basic facts right. He claimed Miller was a Missourian. True, Miller worked in pro-Union county in Missouri for a little over two years, during 1841 to 1844, but he came from Ireland by way of Canada in 1828. That hardly makes him a Southerner. Last time I checked, Missouri was in the Midwest. And during that time, according to the US Census, Missouri had no slaves. Miller lived in Quebec for 13 years before emigrating to the US. Miller didn't purchase 300 acres in Marin, but he was deeded 680 acres by a fellow Wexfordian, Timothy Murphy. Land was everything to the Irish, who weren't allowed to own large parcels of land in Ireland.

Noah Griffin thoroughly maligned James Miller as a Southerner, because he farmed for two and a quarter years in the Midwest. I repeat, Missouri is not part of the South. It has never been part of the South. Missouri was and is, according to the US Census Bureau, part of the Midwest. If Miller were a Scotsman, or a Scots-Irish Protestant, then there might have been some grounds that Miller could have been a Southern sympathizer. But Miller was a good Catholic, the Vatican admonished Catholics to support the Union—or else.

In a hostile takeover, to rebrand the school, the doubtful duo of Peirson and Griffin further claimed that Miller enslaved Chinese and Native Americans, selling them to ranchos. By 1849, there were few Natives left, the missions were closed in 1823, due to decimated Native populations. The Chinese really didn't arrive en masse until the 1860s with the coming of the railroad. Griffin cites no sources. So I seriously doubt the veracity of his statement. Methinks this is a case rampant ego at work. Or corporate raiding. Perhaps it's a set-up to go after the deep coffers of the MCF Buck Fund? Griffin even went so far to buy a Confederate flag, and stood in front of Dixie School for a sick photo op. How yellow is your journalism, Sor?


The Dixie School house, now a museum, was saved from demolition, thanks to an attempt to designate it as an historic Civil War building in 1972. It was then moved to the Miller Creek Middle School site in the late 70’s, or early 80’s. Originally it was situated off Highway 101, near the old Roger Wilco, which is now a school bus yard. The modern Dixie School will henceforth be called Lucas Valley School, at Miller Creek School District.

No matter that the former Dixie  School is not even in Lucas Valley. Don't let pesky little facts stand in your way. Lucas Valley itself begins on the other side of Big Rock. It's not part of the Miller Creek watershed. It's part of the Tomales Bay watershed. Just because the road that comes from Lucas Valley is called Lucas Valley Road, and people erroneously think that all those Eichler homes are in Lucas Valley, doesn't mean that it is Lucas Valley, it's not. It's Las Gallinas Valley. Look at a topo map.

I guess they didn't want to name the school district after some chickens.

Whether or not the school was named after James Miller's foreman also named Dixie, or Dixie's wife, Mary, is moot. Or after Miller's ten children, or on a dare to some Scotsmen (why he would even do such a thing is unclear). Dixie is a diminutive form of the Anglo-Saxon surname Benedict that existed long before the advent of the Civil War. Where does this "political correctness" stop? Do we erase Mr. Dixie from the historic records because of his name, and his wife Mary Dixie at the whim of three strangers? And like modern day Orwellian Thomas Nasts, Glickman, Griffin, and Pierson, not content with destroying Dixie School, also want to completely expunge Miller's name from the district—based on hearsay.

Will we need to rename Dixieland jazz next? Or the Dixie Chicks? We've effectively stripped and expunged Fray Junipero Serra from several California place names for cruelty to Indians. Let me tell you, our famed Mountain Men, Kit Carson and John C. Fremont were much worse, they mass murdered the Indians at will. Should we rename the city of Fremont next? Next up on on the list to expunge and hide the past, and rearranging history is George Washington High School's historic WPA mural.
..."who controls the past controls the future" is a warning about the mutability of information. In today's world, the quote reminds us that we need to continually question the authority of oligarchs, that we need to be able to recognize when we are being manipulated, and that the dangers of being manipulated, whether to take action or not, can be devastating. —ThoughtCo, Kris Hirst
Restructuring the historic past to fit current political trends is the basis of totalitarianism. This is a slippery slope. When will this malignant political correctness stop?