Saturday, November 28, 2020

THE APPROACH OF THE OLD YEAR

In the Midst of Winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer.
Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa (1954)

The approach of the old year arrives
in dark gulches where redwoods define the meaning of time, 
darkness and light, where an understory of worlds hides,
grows, an entire life beneath their boughs.
Each year, the huckleberry and wild rose bloom,
leaving small gifts for us, whether bird or bear,
that dark beauty is filled with such sweet flavor
that even the gods would weep.
I live in a rented room that does not see
the sun for six months of the year,
and in the distance I can see
how the outstretched limbs of trees
reach toward the sky, as if bent in supplication
toward the east where the sun rises
faithfully each morning, like something akin to hope.
Not long ago it was the eye of the inferno looking back.
We are reminded the fire is also the darkness in the light
waiting to cleanse the earth and move on
to more clement shores.

Can you read or write while dreaming?

According to an article in Inverse, a blogzine, most people can’t speak, let alone read, or write in their dreams—unless they’re poets. It has something to do with where and how language is processed. — The scientific reason why you can’t read while you dream

I can both read and write in my dreams, and often too. Sometimes I even dream of words that I don’t know in real life, and then I have to look them up. They’re usually obscure foreign, or medieval words. I have often written poems in my sleep, sometimes I even wrote them down in my journals, but usually I can’t read my writing when I’m sleep writing. The strangest word I ever dreamed was heriorot of the woods. The other was obliette. I don’t speak French, so I had to ask a French-speaking friend what the word was. No I wasn’t reading a novel with those words either. I dreamt I was in a medieval dungeon when I dreamt of obliette, and I was in the woods when I dreamt of the word heriot inscribed in gothic lettering above the canopy of the woods. At least that word I was able to find on the OED. Sometimes I wake up in the morning saying the lines of a poem that I inscribed during sleep.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Artichoke fields of West Marin


I remember seeing the artichoke fields of Olema—near the pasture of the donkey, the goose and caboose (which was the Pt. Reyes library car). There were still abandoned artichoke fields from Point Reyes to Petaluma through the 1960s. The shock of deep green amid the pale oat grasses, and the jewel-like purple blossoms in late summer.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

A note on fire and the hair trigger of memory


Sunset, during the August Fire Complex was otherworldly 9/28/20

A friend posted a photo of her sanctuary, a couthy glowing fire pit, and I found myself overreacting to the image of fire. I seem have developed an adverse knee-jerk reaction not only to the odor of burning wood, but also to photos of fire. A knot of fear that begins in the gut, then it encircles the heart, begins to squeeze its fist.

I grew up with wood heating, we had no other source of heat. It was my job to stack the wood for the coming winter. There was a satisfying rhythm to that work. The tump and twist of wood into a puzzle measured by the cord—4 x 4 x 8’ or so. As we laid in the wood, we’d venture to guess if it would be a two, or a three-cord winter. The wood stacking ritual marked the closure of one season, and the entrance to another—and to my birthday. 

I am no stranger to fire, I live in a house with woodstoves, you’d think I wouldn’t react to fire, or to woodsmoke. But I do. I used to love sitting close to the fire on cold winter days, the fire warming my face until my cheeks pulsed and throbbed. I was mesmerized by the strange hypnotic choreography of dancing flames. And seeing the heartwood, the distinct tree rings, their age cut short,  illuminated in the embers. Each tree ring, a birthday in the long count of time.

Yesterday I found a long-forgotten low fired pinch-pot I had fired in our fireplace long ago, it triggered memories of gathering and refining the clay, wedging a mixture of blue and iron rich clay into patterns, pinching it between thumb and finger, then firing it, lifting it from the ash, smothering it in husk and straw to cool slowly so it wouldn’t crack, silica annealed into the hardness stone.

This is the first year that the odor of smoke has affected me. Not the Tubbs Fire, the Paradise Fire, nor the Kincade Fire, but this fire season, beginning with the Walbridge Fire, and ending with the August Complex fires. It’s almost like having my own personal PTSD switch. A hardwired fight/flight syndrome kicks in. 

I first noticed it acutely around Halloween. Those pumpkins. Candle smoke, paraffin, a petroleum byproduct, diesel tinged with the odor of baking pumpkin pie. The mouthwatering thought of Thanksgiving, and things benign. Then begins the mental hell, checklist for evacuation. What to save? I have barely unpacked since my last evacuation. These are my sins. Always at the ready. Samhain, the gate to the Otherworld, open, always by fire.

Ever since the wildfires, I have been scanning and digitizing decades-worth of prints and negatives. Most of my writing and art is already scanned—except for my travel journals on the back burner. Soon. Sometimes I dream I am evacuating again. I sleep with my wallet, MacBook and hard drive within arm’s reach, my keys are already in the car, which doubles as a large go-bag. 

I have to talk myself out of my own tree when the terror begins. I run off a quick mental checklist to convince myself it’s merely woodsmoke from a fireplace. I remind myself it’s a benign, warm, cozy odor. I find that identifying the type of wood helps. Oh, that’s hardwood, that’s crisp black oak, pungent sizzling bay, or fruitwood. Apple or cherry? 

Mmm, applewood fire, the most pungent, the most extraordinary of odors. The secret heart, the perfume of a thousand apples released all at once like flocks of wild birds. The overwhelming odor of orchards in late summer. Mesquite barbecue. Bacon. Clean, pungent, mouthwatering gracenote. 

Someone in the neighborhood burning coal? Sniff sniff. I have the nose of a bloodhound. No, just the rotten bouquet of woodsmoke when the fire dies out. Someone needs to clean their chimney. Wildfire smoke is more complex, nuanced. More creosote laden. Greasy, acrid, but more electrical, with a slight overtone of burning brakes. Like the ember fall and the acrid ash blizzard that descended from the Glass Fire, covering the foliage with a strange blanket of snow.  

My relationship to fire has changed utterly. This year, our extraordinary sunsets came at such a cost. Fire is its own entity, something beyond our attempts at comprehension or control. As a child I was utterly in love with volcanoes, the secret heart of fire within the earth. Later, I watched molten rock plunge into the sea. Sublime beauty, and corrosive air, acrid rain. A terrible beauty.

These days, I see myself as if from the outside looking in. Bearing witness. The fire within burning bright. All I know is that there will be a prime factorization of proverbial candles on my birthday cake this year. I am mesmerized like a moth to flame. Fire-sign to the very end.

CZU Complex fire, Big Basin burning


Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Contagion of Logorrhea


Bouncing off Pamela Robertson-Pearce’s post I saw out of the corner of my eye, while madly scrolling through Facebook which inexplicably conjoined, or congealed in my mind with a quote I had posted way back in 2009, I was off and running. Christopher Morley (1890-1957), an American journalist, novelist, essayist and poet, who, like Charles Dickens, was once paid by the word, said, "Words are a commodity in which there is never any slump." I wondered if he was referring to himself.

That thought had me googling both Morley’s unattributed quote (how and when and why did he say it?), to a relatively new-to-me word I wanted to use in a sentence, logorrhea. It wasn’t so much a new word, but it was close to being unpronounceable and next to impossible to spell. So Google helpfully fixed my spelling to Logokorea, a sports site, I think, but phonetic Korean is not my thing.

So at the risk of becoming labeled as manky littérateur, in order to use the newfangled, if awkward word in a sentence, I constructed a faux review, perhaps with a knockoff of Finnegan’s Wake in mind. “The valiant attempt at avant-garde novel resulted in a long-winded game of logorrheic scrabble.” An old boyfriend once quipped that I was vaccinated with a gramophone needle. Better than a broken record.

I must admit that I was spurred on by this hilarious logorrhea example, an unattributed quote: “To Tom Wolfe, a dandy with an incurable bout of logorrhoea, words are like chips in Las Vegas.” Certainly The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test comes to mind!!! It was a jejune glissand of verisimilitude. I never did find out who said that word gambling line. I’d like to think it was Neil Gaiman.

Sure, the coining of logorrhea could be attributed to the prolific works of Morley, but to my way of thinking, the grand master of logorrhea before the word was coined in 1878, was Charles Dickens (no, not Samuel Pepys) who wrote on foolscap, in longhand, and was published serially, in newspaper format, which means he never revised a damned thing. And he was paid by the word which only egged him on. 

Ok, so The Pickwick Papers was written in monthly installments, followed by Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol—which covered the rent from April 1836 to October of 1839—followed by David Copperfield Bleak House and Great Expectations. After all, verbosity was his friend and rent is rent. 

A highly gregarious man, Morley believed in the 3-hour lunch, which led to his founding The Baker Street Irregulars which included Isaac Asimov, Rex Stout, and Dame Jean Conan Doyle. Holmes, James! And if the Sherlockiana wasn’t enough, he founded the Saturday Review of Literature, and relentlessly revised and enlarged Bartlett's Familiar Quotations—plus a baker’s dozen of other literary accolades.

Morley invented the bibliomystery whodunit genre with his first novels, and much of his writing was humorous enough to tickle your humerous or maybe your ulna. (Bet you had to look that one up.) But his 1939 novel Kitty Foyle was edgy as it discussed abortion which probably cost him some readership audience. He commuted by train from Long Island to New York, I’m sure the metronome song of the train clacking and swaying, contributed to his corpulent opus of writing. It took a series of strokes to curtail Morley’s voluminous output, but he continued to write for five more years until his death in 1957. 

Morley’s last words of advice were to: “Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.” 

Great advice. Besides, my addled mind was already off, and running off the long mouth of the logorrheic cliff well before I uncovered that gem. AKA, this a day in the half-life life of my mind on caffeind.

Logorrhea, noun (early 20th c., coined from Greek logos ‘word’ + rhoia ‘flow’), given to prosy, rambling, or manic or tedious loquacity, garrulousness, excessive verbosity, wordiness, and repetitiveness, verbal diarrhea, AKA press speech. Sounds so much better, if not downright clinical, than calling a manic friend a loquacious loudmouth, or a manic off his meds.

Urban definition: “a condition suffered by an individual who has the inability to shut the f*** up.”

Synonyms: circumlocution, diffuseness, diffusion, garrulity, garrulousness, long-windedness, periphrasis, prolixity, redundancy, verbalism, verbiage, verboseness, verbosity, windiness, wordage, wordiness.

In other words, a schizophrenic’s thesaurus wet dream. Steve Jobs succinctly cut to the chase: Think different. OK, I’ll shut the fuck up now.

With thanks to Pamela Robertson-Pearce who recreated the graphic with the British spelling.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

MORNING LIGHT


MORNING LIGHT 

Mapplethorp’s photo of a pale daisy 

in a ceramic vase, is almost painterly—

the way the windowframe and shadow 

dissect light diagonally, the wall divided

with a Rothcoesque precision, 

done in an austere palette 

of blue and gray. Such stillness. 

Perhaps even a faint stirring of joy.


11/15/20

Lauterbrunnen Valley


I remember when I first arrived in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. We were coming from Bischoffzell (long story) by way of St. Gallen, late at night. I looked up to see the stars and then I realized those stars were the lights of houses—there was an immense cliff above us, Wengen, to be my home for the next four months. I was 19. Ah, but I was homesick, and also stranded as all the charter airlines went bankrupt, As did Lloyds of London, so getting home was problematic, BOAC offered to fly us back for free. A lot of shandys were drunk in order to send us all back home. But there was a two-week wait so I took a mad train jaunt up to Inverness before I returned. Hotel Bishofzell did ask me to stay on through the winter season. But I wanted to go home. In deep summer, I walked those ski slopes to Gstaad and later dreamed of skiing them. If only I had stayed, my life trajectory would’ve been radically different. And then, later, I inexplicably became homesick for Wengen, and nightly dreamed of the Jungfrau. If only to ski again.

Monday, November 9, 2020

An augmented beer story


A bit of an augmented beer drinking story, The last time I heard Black Sabbath was when I was forced to listen to it full blast while hung over, my cousin’s misogynistic boyfriend decided we needed to be punished for going out and drinking the night before without him at the Rancho Nicasio. 

Robbie, who owns S-Car-Go racing cars, decided it was funny to feed us Jagermeister boilermakers. Gawd knows what kind of beer—but with Jagermeister, does it really matter? It could’ve been a Grasshopper Nyquil with bubbles. I slid off the naugahyde barstool and it went south from there. I remember looking up the nostrils of the bison head mounted on the wall, thinking they needed dusting.

I was done and spun after two or three rounds. I cannot drink hard alcohol. My idea of living dangerously is an expensive chardonnay. Like Murphy-Good. My cousin has more fortitude, so I don’t know her final count but she soon joined me. I am terribly plebeian, I prefer unvarnished stout over beer. Preferably Guinness from Ireland. Murphy’s is too sweetish. Guess I’ll have to try a Beamish. Lagunitas is OK. But Guinness is as good as ten mothers. And gawd knows, my mother, a friend of Timothy Leary’s, was intergalactic. Positively orbital. But a Jagermeister boilermaker defies physics and good taste.

Luckily all we had to do was follow the dotted line on the road to get back home as she lived across the town square. Calling Nicasio a town is generous. It’s not even a crossroad, but a bend in the road. The dregs of an old racetrack. Walking across the baseball diamond was out. Mud. 

I do remember some hands and knees were involved with direct road contact because the paint on the double yellow line was smoother than the roadbed in front of her neighbor, painter Tom Woods’s house. I remember we were sniggering like raccoons by then. I guess it was a good thing there was no traffic as I doubt we would’ve been able to rise up off that road in time. Barrel rolls and dos-e-does were out. A good thing Tom didn’t have a shotgun. 

That night we out-competed the legendary town drunks, Sinead’s late dad, Bill Dinsmore (who had a breathalyzer ignition switch in his car), and Rich Gallagher, also grounded by the law, still rode his trusty steed, a dilapidated bike. A good thing the county never figured out how to attach a breathalyzer to the bike. It was a long walk back to the ranch.

And for what it’s worth Captain Kirk, or rather the actor, once stood in her yard pretending to drink from the well. It was a terrible B-grade movie, a Village of the Damnedish variation, I can’t even remember the name, not the Superman version ( that was her house too), but the Drady’s horse was in it. Poor Superman, felled by a horse. Enough to make you take to green drinkiepoos. Anne said it was called The People. More like the Pibble.

TG I was praising the porcelain god that night. It could’ve been worse. The couch was my Murphybeddish friend. The skittish kitties all decided we need some extra TLC that night and curled up around us like fat little mufflers, purring up a storm of chainsaws beneath our chins all night long. 

It was not a Pliny the Elder moment. Or was it? It was an eruptive experience, but no volcanoes were harmed in the process. Thank Guinness. Slaínte agaibh.

Signed, the beamish lass from Lagunitas.

(What is the half-life, or is it the half-lie of a story, anyway? But every word of this yarn is true, I swear to Gawd.) I think I’m channeling Eddie Stack, or is it Eddie Izzard.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Sour apples and sore losers, some Facebook notes

No sooner than the news was announced, a republican friend, whom I’ve known since grade school, quickly wheeled up his barrow of sour apples to my Facebook page to argue his points, which I’m not going to copy here. 

I hate having to defend my political position but I will not back down when men try and browbeat me with their logic and “reason.” I think they expect me to back down. If anything, it’s Game on, hold my beer. As Tad Alford found out when he insisted that the AntiFa were behind all the rioting—on my Facebook page. I took him on, post after post. We unfriended each other. 

But I usually go to great lengths to work with dissenting friends, rather than unfriend them. Too easy. It took all the cool I had not to unfriend these two blokes. My other like-minded liberal friends were puzzled as to why I even gave these guys airtime. I said, because I need to know how the other side thinks. They push and stretch me beyond my comfort zone, and make me take a stand and to define with words, what I’m feeling. The writer’s job.

I’m recording my half of the dialogue here because we are living in such extraordinary, virulent times. It is all part of bearing witness, as Carolyn Forché once said. When I first began this blog, I didn’t think to use it like a journal to recorded my daily thoughts. I thought it too mundane, not worthy. A mistake. Not art. Then I realized we can’t segment and sequester entire factions of our persona for art’s sake. It is all part of the milieu. (added 12/16/20).

Transcript:

Jeff, We are all in such grief one way or another. Please don’t be slinging stones. Now is not the time. We need to all work together, shoulder to shoulder. This finger-pointing has got to stop. Or we will never survive. We need to be better angels than this.  

Then he accused me of gloating. I said, I am hardly gloating. I am relieved because now there’s a chance for doing the good work. And if you perceive that I’m gloating, then perhaps it’s time to part ways because there is never any way to achieve anything at all. I thought you knew me better than that. I am sorely disappointed and greatly saddened.

I also think your timing was unfortunate. Too soon. Right now, for most of America, a huge yoke of oppression and grief has been lifted—this current government has been a living nightmare for far too many people. We may disagree politically, but living under .45 has been an absolute nightmare for me, as I am an independent contractor, no umbrella. No cushy middle class job with benefits. 

So please understand that your working view of .45 does not hold for far too many of us—too many of us are disenfranchised by this regime. A president is supposed to represent the United States, not one segment of the population. A president is supposed to unite the people of the United States, not divide a nation.

And I might add that your perception of .45 is just that, your perception. As is mine. Please don’t make the (unintended) assumption that you know the bigger picture, and that I am somehow, sadly misinformed. That I don’t see the bigger picture. That you shed light.

You’re right, in that if we were talking in person there would be more give and take in this conversation. But I (perhaps mistakenly) perceived a pejorative tone that I now see was directed at a friend, Terra Firma, not me—nonetheless, I cannot abide what I perceive as an attempt to foist one’s own opinion at the cost of another’s dissenting voice.

He doubled down his efforts to either convince me or air out his griefs.

I said, Jeff Sousa Sorry, some of your stories do not add up. I could easily look them up and refute them. I have in the past double-checked some of your facts and have found that with any story, there is a kernel of truth in them but there is also a healthy accretion of secondary interpretation and hyperbole too. You are defending someone who was unfit to be president and did more harm than good, and he must be held accountable for his criminal actions. You were associated the health profession realm. How can you continue to defend someone who did not have the nation’s own health at heart. He didn’t have our backs. Ever.

Then Robert Campbell piped in, and said, You have been fooled by he corrupt media. Biden is the bad guy. President Trump got 80% of the legal votes. Trump is not a racist. He is taking no salary as President. He is doing this for the people.

I completely lost it. After all this was my Hallelujah Facebook post, and they seemed to be determined to undermine it. I said, You may rationalize any way you want, you’re entitled to your opinion, this is still America, but .45 was NOT good for this country, he divided us, made racism ok, made a schism that will be hard, if not impossible  to heal. He was no leader. And you’re making a  huge assumption that I’m paying attention to mainstream media. Actions speak louder than words, and certainly louder than the media...and by his own agencies, he was found wanting.

How do you even begin to rationalize fascism? You claim that he took “no salary” but he took innumerable trips to the golf course at taxpayer expense, racking up a bill higher than his salary, he padded the wallets of his friends, practiced nepotism, cronyism, broke more laws than one can count, not to mention the litany of daily lies, he destroyed critical infrastructure, like the CDC, I won’t even mention the deliberate attempt to destroy the USPO. We are now more in debt than we ever have been since this nation was founded, he was vindictive and abusive, in short, a bad president and he will go down in history as such, the man who nearly foundered America. How could anyone with a conscience or moral compass, possibly support him?

Robert, I love your photography, but not your political world view, and your attempt to “guide” the somehow “misinformed” me.  I don’t mind your playing the court jester, which I perceive is behind many of your political comments. But I am hardly “misinformed.” You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to try and foist yours atop of mine as the correct world view. Your strongest world view is up there in the skies with the clouds and the land, not in the political arena. Pax out.

from Facebook posts—you can read Jeff’s arguments here.

Biden is President Elect! The tidal wave of justice

Look, the first image Joe used to thank the nation in a video Tweet,
our family church Our Lady of Loreto, aka St. Mary’s in Nicasio.

Hallelujah! I am thrilled to the moon and back that Joe Biden is president-elect, but I don’t feel the joy I had when Barrak Obama was elected. How do we get back to that joy? 

We have to figure out how to heal a fractured nation at odds with itself. There’s a frightening amount of work still to be done —just to reverse some of the damage that was inflicted during .45’s disastrous tenure. America is at a crossroads.

Like when Covid came along, when the entire world stopped, offering us a chance to change the things we once thought we could not change, I hope we don’t go back to the same old status quo of the Democratic (and Republican) Party system that contributed to this schism. I hope this time is an interregnum of structural rebuilding as it were.

When Obama was elected president, there was hope, and joy. Oakland was one big street party. Neighbors hugging each other. Strangers hugging each other. Everyone walking around with grins so big that their ears were conjoined. I want to get back to that joy. Instead we are wary.

Thank God nothing rhymes with orange. I never want to see that color again. All kinds of emotions are bubbling up now, tears of relief, the years of capped and stoppered grief, rage. I keep taking deep breaths and sighing. Asking, is it over? Is it true? Or merely an alternative ending to a bad nightmare?

I think perhaps now I have the ability to process the place where grief has been a fugitive in hiding for so long. At least now, there is hope. And perhaps the wings of hope will carry us as we get back to work rebuilding our nation. I am tired of living the Divided States of America. 

Plus now we get to take back our hijacked flag. Yes, the work ahead of us will be arduous, but we’re keeping the faith. Indeed, today is a good day. We can breathe again. Finally we can all learn to breathe together again.

As Heaney said, “the longed for wave of justice can rise up and hope and justice rhyme....Believe that farther shore is reachable from here.”

MSNBC just quoted Biden's favorite poem, "The Cure of Troy" by Seamus Heaney:

But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

Friday, November 6, 2020

FIRST RAIN

Is that rain I hear
with my little ear?
Four drops, I’ll take it.
And 10 more drops.
What’s this, hail
drumming up a storm
on a hot tin roof?
Hail yeah!
We’ll take it.

11/6/20

Sunday, November 1, 2020

San Geronimo Valley community center virtual art show, In Place

 


 I have two drawings in an online art exhibit, IN PLACE hosted by The San Geronimo Valley Community Center. You can also see it on my art page

An online group art show, In Place, presented on the SGVCC website through the Community Center’s Facebook page and Instagram on October 15 through November 15. The exhibit features work created during this time of isolation and stress. The art work in this exhibit is a follow-up of the Where Were Call Home exhibit but also expresses our inner geography, rather than our place on the planet. —Anne Faught