Wednesday, October 18, 2017

South Dakota was my 49th state.














Friday, October 13, 2017

Production Managers vs. Knitters

Dearest Companions,

It's Fall for sure, now, and time to get your woolens out of the cedar chest.  I hope you have a nice scarf, something handmade.  I'm sure I have mentioned it before, but knitting a scarf is a very rewarding and pleasant task.  All the lovely yarn runs through your hands and over the needles into the scarf, and then around someone's shoulders. 

I traded a knitted scarf I'd made for a bag of raw wool at an art performance a short while back, which was a piece of good fortune as I have more scarves than necks.

Consider also, the fine scarf of Dr. Who:

You are going to want to study the scarf and the style of Tom Baker's Doctor- he really does a grand autumn ensemble.  How he came to have such an excessive scarf is a charming tale, excerpted from Wikipedia:

Baker himself suggested many aspects of his Doctor's personality, but the distinctive scarf was created by accident. James Acheson, the costume designer assigned to his first story, had provided far more wool than was necessary to the knitter, Begonia Pope, intending for her to choose a suitable color. However, due to miscommunication Pope knitted all the wool she was given. It was Baker who suggested that he wear the ridiculously long scarf, which he did once it had been shortened a bit to make it more manageable.[14]


Monday, October 9, 2017


Hello Loves,

Would you care to form a limited reading group?  A book club for just one book?  We haven't had a project in ages....

And I am thinking of reading Tortilla Flat.  Steinbeck Country, as they call it, is my side yard, and it is beautiful.  I have taken a long holiday from Steinbeck, because The Red Pony and The Pearl really killed me.  Before that, I was laid up for a decade from reading East of Eden.  I think I daren't ever read The Grapes of Wrath, but I do very much want to read The Log from the Sea of Cortez and Travels With Charley

I figure we can give ourselves until January 1st. to read it, and then let's meet at the Donut Shop in town, around midnight, because they are open all night now, and that is really something to celebrate.

See you there in a few months! 

Friday, October 6, 2017

No Answer.

Dear Choiristers,

We should sing this this one too, together. 

I was going to call you this morning, to tell you about a dream, and to ask you what the thing was without its story.  Was it then ready to receive a new story?  Did I make the page white and receptive again?  Or was I just adding mystery?  Another possibility:  Was losing the story making it less, was it taking away power? 

It just goes away, the story, when the people who tell it are separated by time, space, memory or death from the object.  The story stops, and the object goes on.  I have an object, an orange-red thing we bought from the neighbor when he got a divorce, and held a series of garage sales to help finance his struggle to keep making the payments on his ten acre spread. 

It hulls corn, for seed, once the ear has dried.  I don't even know that it has been used, and if it has been, by whom and when?  How many times and what did they do with the seed?  Did they plant it?  Or grind it up for pone or corn bread?  Perhaps it was a demonstration model that a saleswoman would bring round to show to potential corn cob de-kernalizers?  A further story, beyond where we got it, and how it came to the neighbor, might be what we have done with it for the three or four years of our stewardship.  It could be ended, all this wild surmising, by tossing it into the recycling bin, where it would go into town on a truck, and be sorted by the hands that sift our garbage into piles of possible grist for new materials.  I doubt very much that it would be reborn as another cast iron corn sheller.  I expect it would maybe become a bit of a steel girder for a dreadful new parking structure on a quiet, low 'underutilized' corner of your town.

But, you say to me, it's only because you watched La Dolce Vita that you feel this way- and I say to you "watched" is not even the word.  That movie puts you through it like Moby Dick takes you whaling on a ship captained by a madman and crewed by hopeless and hapless people like us, who see the edge approaching but keep on scurrying towards it.  No, 'watching' is not the word, and yet, I did not feel like the girl waving, or the man receding, or even the brutalized and dead fish, the object of curiosity.  The object.  I watched it all with a terrible knowing;  I have seen this before and often.

Everyone keeps on saying these things, saying 'look out,' and 'take care,' and 'beware.'  These are the stories, but what will the object be?

An object is what, exactly?  Take a manuscript-  what is that, exactly?  It's the first, the original, but what does that mean in the Robot Overlord Digital Age?  Everyone has a copy, right here on the gorgeously flat, story-filled and completely objectless, democratizing Internet.

If you got this far, reading all the way to the bottom of the glass, wondering where we might be going, you'll want to hear this again.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Creeping Animal

Dear Herpetologists,

Have a look at this!  The courtyard has been the site of a hatching!  We have been trying to measure and photograph this little thing for a few months-  it dashes over the stoop and hides under pots and stones.  When I tried to set the ruler next to it a few weeks ago, it was much smaller, and a lot less tolerant of me and my measuring!*  I have never seen such a small lizard- the parent has been around most of the summer.  She is about 8 to 10 inches long and a similar pattern and color.  I have often been startled by her running across the jamb as I open the door. 

*  To be sure, I have no idea if this is the same one I have tried to measure several times- are there a dozen infant lizards out there, or one?  We have not yet seen more than one at a time.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Making lemonade out of coal.

Dear Glad You Asked and Been Meaning to Say,

I am not even remotely over it.  I sometimes don't think about it, but it comes out of nowhere and hits me like a ton of bricks, which I have noticed have little words and phrases stamped into them.  Things like 'well, now what?' and 'futility,' and 'wellerschmertz.'  If I ignore these bricks, more come along, which only proves their wretched little points.  Beware the bricks.

I am going to get a sofa that people can stay in my studio on- overnight.  It's not an easy decision.  Many things will have to be removed, re-located, given away, in order for the space to accommodate a making down of a pallet on the floor.  An artist pines for years to have a dedicated space- a space without a washer and dryer in it, or mice, or a dresser full of clothes, or shovels and hoes.  A place that is only for making.  I set mine up for that, and for reading, but only for reading the 'right' kind of books- theory, and picture books, dictionaries in various languages.  I made shrines to the things I cared for in it- photos of people, birds and animals;  rocks, leaves, dirt, shells, seeds, sticks, and the red powder they use in India.

Still, what use are secret shrines anyway?  Who would be the initiates that might see such sacred spaces?  There is a very nice* bakery in Los Alamos, and the bathroom has a little Joan Didion shrine in it.  And isn't that the right kind of place for a shrine?  A place that people visit?  I think putting people to bed in my shrine-filled studio could be a step in the right direction; although I remain far from certain about the right direction; sharing a space surely cannot be worsening things, can it?

*  Par exemple, they make terrific canel├ęs AND fabulous pretzels.  Imagine mastering both of those, and consider how wonderful the croissants and bread must also be.

Make a few more pallets....  One, two, three, four, & five.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Not-Song.

Dearest Ones,

Oh, golly, what if you have stopped checking these pages?  It's been years since I started to write you here, and now I worry that you have strayed.  Well, not strayed, but moved on, or lost interest.  Which is fine, except, except for this one thing that I want you to read so much!  Oh, I hope you are reading still! 

A not-song for today.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A conversation between songs.

Dear Record Collection,

This song, is a sort of counterpart, perhaps, to that song.  Do songs talk to each other at night, when we aren't listening?  I have noticed my Lou Reed albums seem to be sidling up to Rosalie Sorrels, and I am certain that Debbie Harry likes to be between Jonathon Richman and Nick Lowe.  Bob Dylan keeps filing himself next to Dawn Upshaw. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Dear Watchful,

For those who love to see the rockets go 'boom,' there is this. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The music plays so nonchalant.

Dear All,

A song for today, because my DJ played it for me a few days ago, while I rolled along under the oak canopied byway - it was a beautiful time; magpies flapping up and ground squirrels scampering out of my way, the first loose leaves falling out of the cottonwoods in the creek.

I love this song; I love the operatic shifts and the chanting anthem refrain.  I want to sing it often, and you will too.  Be sure to watch this one, because it's a pretty wonderful little bit of film.  Want another another version?

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Prose Poem for Today.

Dear Rhymin' Simon,

I send you this poem-ish bit of writing today, and I anxiously await your response, if not your approval. 

As I Was Going to St. Ives

I met a man in a coffee shop.  He wrote poetry and wore a leather short brimmed fedora.  He spoke of  his 40 years of rejections; said he didn’t care for abstraction in poetry.   
I did a double take, because I thought abstraction was all there was in poetry.  But, thinking more on it, I suppose I am wrong.
Another man I met was a designer; he said he knew I would like it, because it was conceptual; said he knew how I worked. 
I thought he was out of his mind, but reflecting further, I see that he was right; many of my works are composed by systems.
I met a third man, an ex-high school coach; said he would have loved to have had me as a discus thrower. 
This was an even more shocking notion.  I always duck when the ball comes my way, I told him; I am not what you think at all.

Monday, September 4, 2017

You know who I am.

Dear Ones,
I can't seem to cross the street these days without thinking of the song for today.  Let's hold hands, all in a circle, and sing it together.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Next Stop.

"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

Dear Peers,

If you heard this, oh, I don't know, a few times each month over the course of 5 years, say, it would really become a part of you, wouldn't it?  Sometimes I think that a message like this might be at the bottom of every little thing.  F'r'instance:  Why do I find mist the most beautiful of atmospheric phenomena?  Could just be that I watched a lot of TV. 

Television was the evil mind-rotter of those days, and I rotted enough of mine to choke a horse, but I still can't see trying to watch a show on that tiny little telephone screen!  I mean, there isn't even enough screen there to rot a really poor mind.  If you want to rot your mind properly, you'll need ads, too, and reruns and time-based programing.  Kids today don't even have a chance, actually, at rotting their minds well.

However, if you ever want to throw a little retro mind rot party, here's what you do:  You get a dvd of  I Love Lucy at the library, and get some lesser shows, too, like, The Big Valley and Bonanza, and get a really good show, like The Wild Wild West or The Rockford Files.  Now, carefully break each episode apart into 5 or 6 sections.  I recommend watching Lucy first, and then the two dud shows, because you are waiting, see, for the good one, the Wild Wild West, but you don't want to go do something else in between because that isn't in the spirit of mind rotting at all.  At each of these intervals you have broken the show into put on an old ad from YouTube's vast archive of such things, and then run into the kitchen to get one of these things:  a drink of water, or, a sugary soda, or a cheap beer even, if you are old enough.  You could also get packaged cookies, or maybe that odd popcorn that you make on the stove, with the foil pan attached.  One thing that is a nice and nostalgic snack is to make instant Jell-O pistachio pudding.  You just pour cold milk on the pale celadon powder and voila!  It really is instant, and it goes down easy with mind rotting shows.

Once the show you were waiting for has 'aired' you would do well to drag yourself through a really pretty bad show, like, Father Knows Best, or even Gilligan's Island, because what you want of course, is more of the good stuff, but now all that is on is these shows you never would have turned on the TV for in the first place.

And that, my friends, is the way it was, and I'd love to stay and talk about it further, but my show is coming on in a few minutes!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Every Thing?

Dear Curious,

The internet doesn't have everything- I know because I checked.  I looked for something on how to get brave- physically, I mean.  To be courageous in your body- to be fearless about falling, say, on skates.... 

There is a thing called a 'three-turn' on roller skates that I have spent many hours reading about and watching, and imagining myself executing, but I continue to freeze or put my opposite foot down when the moment comes.  Nothing I found helped, but there is a lot on the internet,and here are some of the topics that are well covered:

Getting out stains,

skin conditions,

how to leave your lover,

learning to play guitar, 

and how to live with yourself just as you are, even if you cannot do a three-turn.

The internet also has this great trick tutorial, and you can try it.  And maybe this is why one looks at a tutorial in the first place?  To get some advice on how to walk a mile in the other fellow's shoes?  To try to be something a bit more than you are at present?  To gain a bit more insight?  To be inspired to try?  Alas, I am not sure that I will, because I still cannot find any information on how to be more courageous, fearless, and brave.  You will be wondering, though, about what I did find on bravery, and what I found wasn't practical really at all- none of what I read would have helped a person to ask for a raise, or start a conversation with a stranger at a party; most of what I read defined courage as a willingness to sacrifice, to risk injury, for another; as a firefighter or an EMT would do.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A new town....

Dear On the Move,

Would you choose a new town by the contents of its library?  You betcha!  Ah, but, perhaps you like your town, but your library is lame- easily fixed!  Get all your best books, pile them up into a wheelbarrow, and roll them to your library.  If you cannot bear to part with your best books, then buy the library new copies.  Presto!  Your library is now great!

I frequent three libraries, and these three have access to systems of ever more libraries, so there are books aplenty.  It's a curious thing, but my requested titles from the library often come from a specific branch: The Blanchard Library in Santa Paula.  Blanchard is often the only library in the system that has the book I am looking to read. 

It makes a kind of venerable paradise of Santa Paula for me:  I think of its orange blossom laden breezes and mild weather when I see the Blanchard bookplate in the various volumes.  I think of the wonderful group of librarians who tend this rare and special collection in the small town.  I think of them shelving these lovely volumes, and making little decisions: "Hmm, not enough shelf space for a nice copy of Summer Lightning,  guess we will take out a few more John Grisham novels, or this biography of an ex-president;  oh, here's a lot of space, if we just get rid of these books on stock market strategies for personal retirement accounts!  Also, there are some picture books on football that we don't really need, either...."

They meet after hours, the four or five of them, to make these decisions about our future as readers, and they bring tea and coffee, which they spike with whiskey and grappa.  They speak quietly, and laugh loudly, even a touch vindictively, as they weed out the books that might make our inner world a less beautiful place.  The rejoice in the books that open doors and point to expansive horizons, and they shun those that regurgitate stereotypes and give us only what we do not hate, instead of offering what we have never even imagined. 

A book can say anything- consider that for a moment, as it fills you with awe.  Stare with me at the vast firmament of words and possibilities and notice how tiny we are.  That dome above is the place that books are born- writers choose out of all of that, out of the whole of everything, a line which defines a story in a world, and they do not need anyone's permission or anyone's cultural conventions; they can write, they can build their world, completely free of our expectations, desires, or morals.  It's an absolute freedom and it commands our respect.

Likewise, if a writer abuses that power, they should be shunned, especially by wise and powerful small groups of tea-swilling librarians in small towns.  To the librarians, the keepers of our literary treasure and our collective imagination, I say ''shine on you crazy diamonds!'


Now that your appetite for a book of unconventional narrative and power has been whetted, consider reading my latest request from the Blanchard Library:  The Hearing Trumpet, by Leonora Carrington. On page 21 she gives us this: 

At times I had thought of writing poetry myself but getting words to rhyme with each other is difficult, like trying to drive a herd of turkeys and kangaroos down a crowded thoroughfare and keep them neatly together without looking in shop windows.  There are so many words, and they all mean something.

A little about Leonora Carrington, and a little more about her from her cousin.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bathed in the shadow of the moon.



Dear Watchful,

What a treat!  We just took an eclipse tripse to see the totality, as they say.  I loved the camaraderie of my fellow moonie loonies, scurrying out to places with widenings in the road to camp and sit and wait for the moon to arrive.  If you haven't ever, I hope you will next time! 


All images courtesy of Cole E. Harvey.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

what I saw there