Friday, December 27, 2019

End of year writing stats

Year-end writing stats. It’s been a rather rough year, some 30 poems, and a baker's dozen of prose poems, that makes 43 poems, so far, out of 101 posts. At first, it was only 89 posts, I despaired, but with the help of Facebook Memories, I was able to glean and a couple dozen more posts—including a few poems that I never posted here. My poetry minimum is 52 solid poems, so I fell behind. Maybe I should count all those haiku separately. However, with the prose poems, I do have about 52 poems total. Maybe not such a bad year, after all. Considering.

It’s been a stressful, if busy, year. Still living rough, still living on the run. But determined to stay In the game, firmly anchored in my art. My last refuge, my cousins’ Nicasio house was destroyed on the 4th of July, leaving us homeless (again), and then there was a Sonoma County Kincade Fire evacuation in October. What a nightmare. Both places where I’ve been living, were either destroyed, or under attack. Since the fire, I’ve been living under siege, sheltering in place in an empty house with most of the electricity knocked out, babysitting two desperate cats, making sure the place didn't get looted.

My cousin Dave’s stroke, followed by his marriage to a woman who seemingly reinvents veritas to suit her scenarios, has left me bereft, with no plan B. My car’s on its last legs, and I’m living here, there, and everywhere. So, my car is my lifeline. I carry clothing, art supplies, my electronics, etc.

To make matters worse, my iPad was stolen in April, with myriad photos, and bits of writing that never made it to the cloud. Some April Fool’s joke. I will never see some of that work again.

My cousin Sinead and I took a jaunt to Hawaii to see my friends Dulcie in Kauai, and also Kathie on Oahu. It’s been ten years since I’ve been to Hawaii, long overdue. Lots of photos. And lots of extraordinary outdoor time, circumnavigating the Na Pali coast from the other side, snorkeling, revisiting Waimea Canyon, in Kauai, and circumnavigating Oahu, revisiting my old haunts discovering some new ones on North Shore. Snorkeling again, Hanamua Bay. Not enough beach time, though. then Hawaiian Airlines and American Express double-charged me for the tickets, when I upgraded, and I cannot seem to straighten it out., no matter how loudly I scream. It’s all a vast metaphor for being ripped off in general.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

PERHAPS A GARDEN MoSt poetry Challenge 12

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

PERHAPS A GARDEN

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

1/18/20

Boxing Day, or how the wren was killed


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook memory, new iPad, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Vineyard gulags


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

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Marin during the Depression


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

Monday, December 16, 2019

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


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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2019

UNDER THE MADRONE, OLD OBSTACLES, MoSt poetry challenge #1 4 haiku


Many challenges
A year of indecision
Obstacles melted.

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

Settling into
A new life without rancor
Myriad choices.

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

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


Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center New Year’s challenge.

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

Many challenges
A year of indecision
Obstacles melted.

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

Settling into
A new life without rancor
Myriad choices.

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










NYPC 11 Prompts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting the Grass With Scissors


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Judy Punturo
Cutting the Grass with Scissors: Monhegan Poems

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

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

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



A note on Medieval turnspit dogs


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

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

The first ever book on the history of native canines in the British isles, was published in 1565, well out of the medieval timeframe, and was translated from the Latin in 1570. How long it took to research and write the book was not recorded, but one could surmise it was the work of a lifetime, or decades in the making. If so, then it was compiled close to the end of the Medieval era. 

The publication date of said dog book doesn’t mean that turnspit dogs were only used from 1570 onward. The book’s subject, native dogs of Britain, would’ve been quite specialized. Printed books were still a novelty item of the wealthy classes, who could afford them. And a book on native dogs of Britain, even more specialized. Question is, WHY was the book compiled?

Just like the Middle English manuscripts, Forme of Cury, and To the King's Taste, books were published long after the original recipes had been invented—because the information was in danger of being forever lost. I suspect an influx of foreign (French) dogs were flooding the market, to the point where British breeds were in danger of being lost. Imported spaniels (Spanish dogs) were mentioned as well.

The book mentions turnspit dogs among other types of dogs. But I’d bet a roast beef dinner that turnspit dogs were used much earlier. People weren’t dumb. If someone could design a grist mill (ca. 800 BC), using a stream, a windmill, or horse/ox/donkey/goat-drawn wheel or thresher, or build a spinning wheel, a standard household item ubiquitous across Europe in the 1300s (earliest drawing of one 1035 AD), they could easily envision a dog in a turnspit cage. The model was at hand. In fact, when I saw engravings of mechanical turnspits, I thought they were spinning wheels stored on the walls.


Linnaeus dubbed the turnspit dog its own breed, Canis vertigus. But by the 18th c., “The breed was lost, since it was considered to be such a lowly and common dog that no record was effectively kept of it. Some sources consider the turnspit dog a kind of Glen of Imaal Terrier, while others make it a relative of the Welsh Corgi.” —Wiki


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

Dog were owned by all classes, not just the wealthy. Anyone who had a farm had dogs to work hogs, sheep, cattle. And ratters were very important to the miller! Also, dogs were employed as draft/draught animals, how we get the term dogcart. The ornate grill structure used to lay and corral the burning logs were called firedogs. And the iron turnspit architecture was referred to as dogs.

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Warbling ravens


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

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday the 13th


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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hot flash

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Mining joy


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