Monday, April 28, 2014


Hello Everyone,

Today, on Radio Dodo, three songs, in order of importance, and chronology;  a triumvirate of attitude and ideology akin to the Hindu trinity of three faces: Brahma, Vishnu, Siva.

Well All Right, Buddy Holly
Dark Horse, Geo. Harrison
Wall of Death, Richard and Linda Thompson.

And, a poem of my own, not because I am convinced of its fitness, but because to live and to love is to risk.

It Is Well

Pulling from the crown of the head.
Slumping in the shoulders.
Dragging at the heels.

Angle of repose indeed! 
Abandon this dream of symmetry:  All is vertiginous lopsidedness.

Once, in a tent, in Wales, very soggily, a bard loudly recited.  
The performance conscripting an audience.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Send You

Dear Traveler,

Like they say in croquet, today I am going to"send you;" to another blog.  Still blog.  Still blog is a beautiful curated daily dose of the personal, intimate, natural world.  It is very fine.  You may return often to it, but I hope also, that you will dedicate a little area, a little space, a little time, to your own ritualized and temporal making.

 Perhaps, there is a place, in your dwelling, where you set your keys when you return each day.  Maybe this is the spot to set a leaf one day, or a folded paper note another, or pine cone:  a little changing shrine to the ephemera you encounter in your wanderings. 

Permit me to send you once again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Son of Slewfoot

Dear Listeners,

     You may recall, I mentioned reading The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  I read it aloud, to the two fine people I live with; but, we did not complete it aloud, we did not end it aloud.  I stopped believing in its characters, and that the book could tell me any more of the beauty of life.  The words began to ring false, and we determined to finish it or not, each on his own, silently.

You may wonder, since everyone knows how it ends, why read it at all?  I read it because it seemed like the time to, and because I love its regional dialog and the love it has for the out-of-doors.  I love books which love the out-of-doors, because they treat my experience of the world in such a tender and poetic way. 

See, there, the very pointed, triangular hill in the small queue of hills on the left?  Just over the very symmetrical pointed one?  This is where I was a yearling.  And all the rest of this image?  All the space, and sky and plain?  It was mine to fill in any way I wished.  I am still filling that space, even here, even now.   I was very lucky.

     So, to The Yearling.  I read a series of books I fancied enormously (known as the Pig Trilogy, by Joseph Caldwell), because the heroine was a writer, and she "corrected" great novels, giving them the endings she felt they ought to have had.  So, if you'll come along with me now, I will give some idea of the correcting* The Yearling could stand.

Son Of Slewfoot, it shall be titled.  It could be the tale of bloody revenge- a bear, sired by Ol' Slewfoot, learns what has befallen his noble Pa at the hands of rustic homesteader Penny Baxter, and he then terrorizes the Baxter family for 300 or so pages, culminating in a spine-tingling three day tracking of the Baxters, who have lit out of the cabin to take it on the lam through the Florida scrub.

Or, perhaps Son Of decides death is too good for 'em, and he and the wolves that have been living underground since the Baxters and their fiddle-playing neighbors destroyed the pack, decide to keep the three Baxters as slaves.  Forcing them on pain of death, to grow corn and shoats to feed their captors.

Or maybe something more holistic and fantastical:  One of the infants that the Baxters buried in their large familial cemetery in the back yard wasn't actually dead; but has been dug up and brought up, like Mogli, by the bears.  This child's ursine rearing makes Jody Baxter a true brother of Son of Slewfoot.

But since this story is mine to tell, to correct, I fancy something even more implausible- something like Randall Jarrell's The Animal Family- s story of love.  Ory, Ma Baxter, (a rather abused stereotype in The Yearling) awakens to her own power of imagination.  She begins her journey, after her only living son Jody returns.  She visits her dead offspring, in the crowded back forty cemetery, and setting there, in a glade filled with the filtered light of a forest, and ringing with birdsong, insect and reptile life- tilandsias and orchids bursting from anything they can get a toe-hold in, branches gowned in lichen and moss, in all this teeming life of Florida woods, she sees clearly her mistake.  She realizes that hardening herself against the tragedies, the losses of life, has only brought her further suffering and pain.  She suddenly knows that her dead babies are every one's dead babies, and that they were creatures, beings, cells, and just as everyone and everything in the world, they were just trying to grow- and you cannot prevent things from growing.  All you can do is to try and comfort a little, make it a little better; try to get out of the way a little bit. 

She knows this now, and so she seeks out the Son of Slewfoot, and they den up together, because she no longer wishes** to live a life of corn pone superficialities with Penny Baxter and his adoring son, and she goes off into the woods, with her passionate and true paramour, to bloom.

They're making a fool of us.

** When my one and only love....

Books and one film, that I owe careful mention to in this post, include, but are not limited to: 

The Yearling, by Majorie Kinnan Rawlings.
The Animal Family:  Randall Jarrell.
The Jungle Book: Rudyard Kipling.
The Pig Did It, The Pig Comes to Dinner, The Pig Goes to Hog Heaven:  all by Joseph Caldwell.
All of the Little House on the Prairie books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Swann's Way:  Marcel Proust.
My Neighbor Totoro:  Hayao Miyazaki.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Just a Closer Walk withThe Principles of Design

Dear Gazing out the Window,

A few days ago, I was giving a lecture on The Principles of Design.  You know them: Balance, Unity, Proportion, Rhythm, & Emphasis.  You cannot go wrong with these five, walk with them and you walk in beauty.  But, I digress;  in reading about Rhythm, I was directed to the fabulous Yoruba Talking Drum, as explained and demonstrated by Ginger Baker.  Yes, the same Ginger Baker, of Blind Faith.  I played this song over and over on my parents' turntable.  The record just appeared, out of the blue, in the family collection- I imagine it must have come into the house when my uncle Mike died- he was an artist, and what they used to call a free thinker.  Well, Ginger led to Blind Faith, and Blind Faith led to Van Morrison, and then it all led to Just A Closer Walk with Thee.  Could you follow that?


In the Presence of the Lord

Be Thou My Vision

Just a Closer Walk with Thee
(one, two, three).

Think just as freely as you possibly can, dear ones!

Friday, April 11, 2014

In Clover.

Dear Spring and its Fevers,

Skip on outdoors and sing out to the open skies and growing greens; sing buzz, buzz, buzz.  Don't wait, do it right now, because, if you don't, that Summer feeling is going to haunt you one day.

Warningly, and lovingly,

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

They Gather.

Dear Ones Who Bird & Watch,

They are gathering!  Materials for the nests.  A pair of starlings has visited from the creek twice; she gathering only hen feathers- 8 or 9 in her beak, so many that one drifted very slowly down from her flight back to their tree.  He selected only small sticks, and again, several- perhaps 6 short lengths.  They arrived together, and gathered within a few feet of each other, and they then flew away, in tandem.  Others, too, are collecting.  The boxes are bluebird-filled, and the crows and jays are at work in the trees.  It sounds a little like this, and a lot like this.


These nest images were photographed from a beautiful collection at the Santa Barbara Natural History museum.  This museum is dear to me for its radiant dioramas, and also because it is less modernized  than many museums.  By that I mean that it is still filled with artifacts; with 'stuff'- there are very few of the plastic-dominated, touch screen "interactive" exhibits that museums seem to be so hell-bent on installing.  It is filled with vitrines and musty treasures of all kinds: ornithological, zoological, piscine, stellar, geological and anthropological.  It is the kind of place that sends an artist to the studio, a great wealth of inspiration is shelved there, both visual and conceptual.

I hesitate to offer you too much to study, to appreciate, at one time, but, if you only have 1.2 minutes in your day, let this be the link you click.  Of course, should you fall in love, on sight, on first whisper, with Messiaen, as I did, well, you can requite some of that sweet longing here. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ask me Anything; Telepathically.

Dear Pilgrims on the Road to Nowhere,  

I know what you are wondering, and I don't know why the plural of 'spouse' isn't 'spice,' but I do know what the side of your car sees when it drives down the street.  It sees this.

Until soon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Many Footed

Dear Seekers,

I went out to the woods a few days ago, in search of the California Polypody fern.  I was looking for it, because it had rained, and I wanted to find it, and to make you a drawing of it, and give it to you.  I think, though, that I have looked in the wrong season;  I should have searched in the Fall.  However, I made you a drawing of the pygmy Coast Live Oak trees, which grow in the El Moro Elfin Forest not too far from here. "Elfin" here refers to the oaks which are small and specialized, growing slow and low, in response to their specific habitat of coastal dune scrublands.  They are shrouded with palest grey-green lichen, which drips the fog down onto their roots, just below the swift-draining coppery colored sand.

The Elfin forest could not be more delightful if it did have elves, though, and many beautiful native plants flourish there:  Buck Brush, California Coffeeberry, Fuschia-flowered Gooseberry, Morro Manzanita, Silver Dune Lupine, Sticky-Monkey Flower, Black Sage, California Peony, and many more.  California Polypody Fern is another of them-  I read about its fascinating reproductive cycle in the newsletter of our local chapter of the California Native Plant Society. 

Have you gotten to know your own natives?  You must introduce yourself to them- you will love them.  They have diverse and wonderful qualities that keep them thriving in your yard with hardly any coaxing or cajoling.  They are convivially adapted to growing in communities, among their friends and relations.  Their very habits bring out the best of your locale-  Local birds and insects and animals love them.  I love to watch them grow and prosper, and I they look well in our light, in our soil. 

To be sure, I have some of these other, non-native plants growing too- many of them struggling with the climate each year, duking it out with the heavy clay soil; others languishing beautifully like  consumptive Camilles.  But the natives are more in tune with the space they inhabit.  They are happy here.  I believe they offer us a moral, these native plants.... The message of their thriving might be this:  go grow in your companion habitat, or plant yourself in the proper region.  Because you may find you are sitting forever in a bar next to someone named Bill, or Billy, or Mac, or Buddy, and this may not be your true and best habitat.  But Billy won't be asking you to leave.  You will have to say goodbye to him on your own, and then, when you have settled yourself among the glorious and thriving native plants, those other flowers, shrubs and trees, the sensitive and exotic Camilles, will just be so many somebodies that you used to know.

Thomas Meehan, from Flowers and Ferns of the U. S., 1879.


This specimen of California Polypody was collected by John Muir.  More on Muir's collection, here.

Looking for further introduction to California's native plants?  Here is the excellent website of the native plant propagator and purveyor, Las Pilitas Nursery:  Another great person, writer, advocate, grower, and resource for California natives is Judith Larner Lowry: