Sunday, October 31, 2004
your voice old as waves on a baroque beach when the tide
begins its ungracious fall -- or in pine barrens when a forest
of needles which has nothing left to offer the sky but flames —
so, you have begun your inward turning too, your interior voices
filling up the world — in the heart of the sun we all burn greatly! —
last night in the yellow moon rising over accabonac, in burntblack
hulk and huddle of trees, i saw winter take a fresh turn through
the world, measuring death by death's hand — i saw your face,
how uncommon you appeared to me glowing in unreal moonlight —
even now, at daybreak, in the rust of november and scrub oaks
shedding their fog of leaves, how uncommonly true you remain
Saturday, October 30, 2004
I think there is a plague in this house.
Perhaps he walks the fissure in the attic
or haunts the bowels of the kitchen.
Is he coiled in the basement,
a serpent biting its tail?
Just a hint of his breath
infects the whole house:
His fiery tongue
His iron talons
His coral eyes
In a comment to the entry below, Ivy acknowledges receipt of a variant of this. I think she may have the only copy of that variant, as I didn't copy it elsewhere.
Another variant exists as an image posted below. In case you can't read my handwriting — and sometimes even I have a problem with it a year or so later — here's that variant:
I think there is a plague in this house.
It walks along a fissure in the attic.
It curls in the basement,
a snake biting its tail.
He haunts the bowels of the kitchen.
He walks with Lady Dawn.
He dances with Sister Midnight
I suppose this typescript could be a sort of rosetta stone to help you make out the writing in the "Card Preview", below.
It seems to me there's more that can be said about this personified plague before I move on to Casandra. But that's how the thing is working out.
Casandra is rolling some bones in the next section, you see. Can hardly wait to see what happens next.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Scroll down a little past the image of the full Harvest Moon, and you'll find the poem. It's powerful. It reminds me a little of Yeats.
As does Doctor Omed's reply:
I shot a hole in the sky hunter's moon, full of fire...My favorite section (though it pains me to pull it apart):
A first line in reply; the question: is there a second? The muse is the mistress of silence.
when I would break the fast"Nine glasses of moon milk"...now, why didn't I think of that.
with nine glasses of moon milk
when I would douse the fire in my skin
with my own two hands
Perhaps I was inspired by that when I wrote ...he receives the signal / it's an arrow from the shadow / across the Bloody Harvest Moon. These lines being part of the final stanza of my latest poetic postcard to Ivy (mailed this a.m., yay for me).
Hey, Sam, would you be interested in a poetry postcard exchange through November? Assuming the roads clear enough to get to the mailbox, that is.
Brother Dave dropped by en route to Chicago last night, so I didn't have a chance to get a shot of the little lady. Happily, I had this yoga pose in reserve from last week.
Dave and I ate at La Baguette, a locally owned restaurant. He had sole, I had pasta. The food was pretty fair — best I've had all week, honestly. Brother Dave will be eating mostly fast food for the remainder of his trip, so this is the best food he'll have until he gets home, sometime next week.
The service was exceedingly slow. We got there a little after 7, and left around 9:30. I remarked the pace was positively European. But, it gave us a chance to visit.
I asked Dave about the current divide in our country. He believes the labels "conservative" and "liberal" have lost their meaning, given how many politicians on one side of the divide have endorsed a candidate from the other. For example, David Eisenhower's support of Kerry, or Zell Miller's <ptui> support of the Chimp.
He sees the divide as being between those who argue from facts (e.g., Wm F. Buckley) and those who argue from faith. And faith here would mean not necessarily religious or denominational faith, but political as well.
Once we got home, DJ got to meet a new stranger. She's not met many — a few at work, the lady who cat-sat while I was at Winfield, and Elsie — so I was interested to see her response to Brother Dave. Dave's a big guy — a few inches taller than me — and she felt threatened. I was taken aback when her tail fluffed out.
But, she's adaptable. Within ten minutes, she was attacking his shoes with gusto. Reportedly, she did not attack him during the night (he slept on the couch), but instead played with her little plastic ball with the bell inside.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
at curb's edge
as sunrise walks
then it's the day
the sun a flickering exit sign
leaning against suburban streets
and the day is flat,
a lizard on afternoon stone
at last we rejoin
soft & tender as mist
at dormer windows
You may recall that final stanza from an entry I posted a little over a week ago.
As I mentioned then, Ivy (in Cardiff, Wales, UK) has agreed to let me join the "Poem Postcard a week" discipline for the remainder of October. Though nothing has been said about sharing these cards with the internet world, I felt it appropriate not to share these poems until Ivy had a chance to read them.
Ivy has posted a comment below to note that she has received my first card. I received my first card from her on Monday or Tuesday of this week. Her card has some neat images — both in the text, and on the card.
I mailed her a card last Thursday (actually a day early); I'm working on a poem to send this Friday. Oh, yeah — tomorrow. Technically, that would be the end of the thing. But I've got one more stamp, and I've actually gotten some Oklahoma tourist postcards to share with her. So she'll receive at least one more card.
Reading this poem with a little over a week's distance, it seems to me it may suffer from some of my typical excesses. For one thing, there's no title; I've become exceedingly lazy about titles. In submitting work to Poetry Bay, I've had to give the poem a title. In this case, I guess I'd use the first line as a title.
I'm also lazy about punctuation. In this example, there's just that lonely comma in the third stanza. My stanzas tend to be "sense units", especially when I'm doing these postcard poems. Each stanza is roughly equivalent to a sentence; each line is roughly equivalent to how I hear the thing in my head. I'm not consistent about this, which surprises me not the least.
Lately, I've been a little more interested in arresting images than I am in rhythm and structure. Here, the third stanza again stands out, though I suspect it's not original.
Now, why don't I fix these perceived shortcomings before sharing the poem with the world? Well, simple laziness is a big factor here. I'm also as interested in the process as I am the final product (one reason I like to peak in on Mike Snider's Draft House on occasion).
Additionally, a great deal of the time I seem to be writing for an audience of one — myself. Once I've communicated whatever I need to hear, the thing seems done. Would it be better if I honed it, so it would speak to you as well?
Of course, I have no idea of knowing whether this poem — if we may call it that — speaks to you. If it does, that's marvelous. If it doesn't, perhaps the next poem will.
Again, a preview of the poem I'll be mailing to Ivy tomorrow. I think this fits in with the "plagued house" I was writing about last week. Seems like two parts of a longer poem.
One draft is brewing in my Moleskine Journal®, this is a variant draft. I'll bring them together somehow, along with the variants for part one, and cook up a whole in the near future.
Who knows? Maybe next week's card will be part three.
— William Tecumseh Sherman, Union General in the American Civil War (1820-1891)
The last three words may be the most famous ever spoken regarding the nature of war. This morning (courtesy of Word-a-Day), I finally saw the statement in context. Naturally, I would apply it to the current administration, most of whom worked mightily to avoid military service.
Sherman certainly created his share of desolation. As anyone who has watched Gone With the Wind knows, his name is a stronger curse word than Satan in Atlanta.
The bottom line is the notion of a civilized war is a contradiction in terms. That is, if we have any sort of ideals about what the word "civilization" means. I know expecting the human animal to live in peace, or at least non-aggresive accord, may be a fantasy or naive, but that's one of my criteria for civilization.
Again, at the least one would hope a civilized society would attack only as the very last resort. This is not a "global test", to be graded by the U.N., this is a notion of simple decency and fairness.
Once you do choose to attack, Sherman would suggest, you fight to win. Don't tie one hand behind your back in order to appear "civilized"; like football in some parts of England, war is not a civilized sport.
I'm no military strategist, but it seems to me that it's important to secure all potential weapon supplies as soon as possible. Doesn't matter if they're WMD or not. Anything from a pistol to explosive powder is a weapon which could be used against our troops.
I would think that thoroughly inspecting potential weapons' stockpiles was at least as important as protecting oil wells. Seizing goverment offices, and insuring rapid delivery of simple necessities (e.g. food, potable water) would also seem important.
The current administration, for reasons it has not explained to my satisfaction, decided the oil wells were top priority. When your VP is the former CEO of a major oil producer, and a subsidiary of that producer just happens to win construction contracts in the same country, it looks at least mildly suspicious.
Yes, I am referring to the ~350 tons of material that IAEA has reported went missing sometime after the fall of Saddam. And, yes, I know administration apologists want to pretend there is some question about when, precisely, this material has gone missing.
Josh Marshall, who has focused almost exclusively on this topic at Talking Points Memo, makes a pretty persuasive case against those arguments. Bottom line: between Hans Blix's inspection team and constant American fly-overs, it's unlikely something like 350 tons of anything could be shuffled off without notice.
Oh God, please vote next Tuesday. Oklahoma is a winner take-all state, so my little vote for John Kerry will be buried in an avalanche of conservative lemmings voting for the Chimp. But you could be in one of those battle-ground states. Your single vote could tip the scale in that state so it goes for the Democrat.
War is hell, but it doesn't have to be an unmitigated disaster run by the Hardy Boys. It's time to put grown-ups back on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Originally uploaded by jacsongs.
The title of the image certainly gives the game away. But could you guess what this is without that title?
I post this because I became fascinated by the patterns as I was trimming my beard this past Sunday.
Also, if you'll note the time this was posted, you'll realize that I did not float into the emperyum. Post below notwithstanding.
It's ok, Sam, I'm only human.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Something like this phrase was waiting for me on the edge of dreams. At the intersection of REM and the kitten's meow. It was 4:40 a.m., CDT.
The first association that came to mind was "Think in new categories." I think William Blake said that. Well, you know what they say — if it's witty, Mark Twain probably said it; if it's mysterious and mystical, Blake probably said it.
At any rate.
I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. My heart rate seemed to be up. I don't know that I was worried. Maybe I was excited because I had gotten some good news earlier that evening. On the other hand, maybe I was worried, for I had gotten some bad news in the mail.
I read a whole chapter in the book I've been very slowly reading for the past couple of months. I allowed my feet to be attacked by a certain purr factory. I laid down, tossed and turned for about 30 minutes. Decided it might help if I read some more. It was 11:00, late by my standards. I read another chapter. 11:30.
I played solitaire on a hand-held. I felt tired, but restless. 11:45.
That's when I decided to pray. I practice what Ron del Bane (et al) call a Breath Prayer: "Lord Jesus, make me whole". I have prayed this prayer for so many years now, at so many different levels of belief, that it does seem always at the edge of consciousness. I was still feeling mildly restless, so I used a technique my Aunt Ki taught me when I was about 12 or 13.
Callie Fay, who we called Ki, was into new age type stuff even before it was called new age. She was learning meditation techniques early on. The technique I'm thinking of originally worked like this: look at a light bulb for a minute or so. An after image of the light will remain after you close your eyes. Try to move that image around; try to make it change color. As you move it, the goal is to position it at the point between your eyebrows — the classic third eye.
After some time of playing with this technique, I discovered one did not need to stare at a light bulb (which is bad for your eyes anyway). Just as one could "move" the after-image, and make it change color, one could imagine the image.
That's what I did last night. Oddly, the white spot first seemed to appear about 60° to the right. After some concentration, I moved it to the third eye. All this time, I'm also still praying "Lord Jesus, make me whole."
The white spot finally settled at the third eye. Then, it seemed to grow; it seemed as if I was diving into its brightness. Or, perhaps it was the tunnel of light seen in Near Death Experience. I had a physical sensation of warmth, being bathed in the light.
Soon, I was asleep. Perhaps this was prayer. Perhaps it was self-hypnosis. Doesn't matter. The bottom line is, I slept deep.
And, although I did not get to sleep until shortly before midnight, I woke between 4:30 and 5. And there, in my mind's eye, was a poster with this phrase. The phrase that begins this long ramble. The poster was a style popular in the late sixties/early seventies: large times roman lettering, in multiple colors, in squares of contrasting colors, all primaries and pastels. I can't seem to describe it now, but it was there.
One word per line. Each phrase defined by a different background color.
And what does it mean, as I proceed into a new day?
It seems both a challenge and a promise.
Spaying your female cat eliminates her risk of uterine and ovarian cancer, birth complications (including Cesarean sections), pyometra (a serious uterine infection) and ovarian cysts. It also spares her the stress of repeated heat cycles.It's good to know those benefits. It's not just about me, about my comfort level or convenience. And let's face it: pregnancy itself is traumatic for the female of any species. So, for what it's worth, I've spared her that particular trauma as well.
What makes this even more interesting is the fact that the pictured cat on this page is a brindle with emerald eyes, much like Dame Julian.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
gathers our children in her apron
Compassion sees the crack in the earth
the broken buildings, the broken bodies
The weary moon is fading
her smile askew
her arrows are withered
Words writ on the heart
are like mist
but are not burned by the sun
Monday, October 25, 2004
Actually, that's why I'm here now. To talk some more about Dame Julian. To display more of my neurosis by sharing how I agonized over the decision to have her spayed.
Or, as a coworker put it, the decision to take her in for a hysterectomy.
I mean, what gives me the right? Because I'm bigger? Because I can think (perhaps too much)?
I all politically correct, you know. I talk about DJ being my animal companion rather than a pet. I don't say that I own her; nor do I indulge in the notion that she owns me. I treat her with respect. I don't expect her to understand my words. I don't try to reason with her or bargain with her, for I know that would be a waste of time. I do my best not to project human feelings and thoughts on her, though that's a challenge.
I don't suppose she tears up the house during the day for revenge. I suppose she does it because she's bored.
Who can say what an animal would want? Animals don't get spayed and neutered in the wild. They survive or die.
As much as we can say an animal might "want" something, in the same way a human does, it seems reasonable that an animal would "want" to perpetuate its species. It is, at the very least - so much as we can understand it - a biological imperative.
Now, Julian cannot fullfill that imperative. I have had the option removed.
The thing is done. The option was the best for my life. My tidy little existence has been dramatically shifted by the adjustments I've made to accomodate this little furry creature. I can't imagine how a house full of helpless kittens would rock my world. And the expense. Manoman.
The city is full of unwanted felines. If DJ had kittens, they would likely end up in the shelter. And I'd feel even worse about sending those little fur balls to their almost certain doom.
I made the decision for her. I only know a few phrases in cat &mash; most of which having to do with food — so I had no way to communicate with her. I had no way to ask her opinion, or of explaining the procedure in any way that would be meaningful to her.
Hah! I am projecting! I keep thinking she's giving me dirty looks. I often think she's avoiding me because she's angry. Seems unlikely.
I made the choice. The organ has been removed, and there is no way to replace it. I note a dip in her belly as she passes, and I hurt. But I still believe I made the right choice. I made a choice best for both of us.
She's recovering. Right now, she's playing with a small plastic ball which has a tiny bell inside. She's still not leaping onto things with great speed or alarcity, but that's a good thing. She needs to keep that sort of thing to a minimum for a few more days.
On Friday, I kept asking people to reassure me that I made the right choice. And everyone assured me that the choice DJ would have selected, had we the means to communicate. But, honestly, what else would people say?
What would you say?
Friday, October 22, 2004
The lady went in to be spayed this morning. I just got a call from the vet, and she's doing fine. I get very anxious about my own surgical procedures, so you can imagine how I felt about DJ getting one.
This slightly alterred picture was taken shortly before I put her in her carrier to go to the vet. If you can't tell, she's ready to play.
I get to pick her up this evening, on the way home from work. Since she will still be recovering from the pain medication, I expect she'll be a little quieter than normal. My primary instruction for the next few days, as a kitten nurse? Try to keep her calm.
A calm six-month old kitten. Right. Good luck.
As a trivial aside, I'll note that this entry makes my 801st. Think I can reach 1,000 before my two-year anniversary in March '05?
— Barry Holstun Lopez, "Upriver", pg 71 of River Notes, 1979, Avon Books, New York
I dedicate this quote to Ms. Candide as well.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Here is the first draft of a poem I just mailed (a day early) to Ivy. If you can read my writing, you'll get to read a variant text before Ivy sees the final product. Well, at the moment, the poem still feels unfinished. I almost think I mailed her a fragment. Might send the next part next week.
Assuming I write more.
The notebook was a gift from Elsie, sometime this past summer. The coloring is a product of my testing some ink brushes, to confirm whether the colors were still good. I also had it in mind to illustrate the idea in my head, which was moving toward this poem.
I spent some time yesterday afternoon viewing the Guild of Ghostwriters, which is an illustrated blog. Currently, the space is being filled with the work of guest bloggers, some of whom are not necessarily "plastic" artists. One of the guest works is an illustrated version of Bob Dylan's song, "Three Angels". Maybe that was my inspiration for trying to illustrate this poem.
Oh, yeah. The first line of the poem comes from the Book of Leviticus, and is referenced in this recent review of Leonard Cohen's new album Dear Heather. The snake image is something else again, which may be revealed as I climb deeper into the poem.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
What's that you say? It's not Friday? Well, the card I'm mailing today is belated from last Friday. I'll still owe her a card this Friday.
Ivy lives in Wales, which I had not known prior to receiving her address this past Saturday. So, she will receive interesting Okie cards with American stamps, and I will receive interesting Welsh cards with British stamps. One presumes. I've read Ivy's on-going prose work at her blog, and I anticipate her poetry being equally interesting.
We haven't discussed whether to share these poems with the world, or when to do so. Seems fair to me to let Ivy be the first to read the card. Once she confirms receipt, I'll share the poem with you.
The poem I'm mailing today (which I wrote yesterday) uses a curious word. Well, actually, it's a phrase. It's a phrase that got stuck in my head last Friday, and I've been wanting to shoe-horn it into a poem ever since.
The phrase is "dormer window"; according to my dictionary, that's "a projecting upright window in a sloping roof". Here's the applicable stanza
at last we rejoinI wonder what Ivy will make of the poem once she receives it. I wonder what the various civil servants who carry it from hither to thither will make of it?
soft & tender as mist
at dormer windows
What do you make of the stanza?
Monday, October 18, 2004
Friday, October 15, 2004
Here, we see the mighty huntress about to spring into action. It's likely she's about to attack one of my shoe strings, or the camera cord.
She may be a little lonely this evening, as I won't be home until much later than normal. I'll be off playing rock'n'roll with "The Basement Saints" (formerly "Da Band"). This is another benefit concert for St. George's Guild, a ministry to the indigent. Last year, we raised close to $2K. Hope we do as well this year.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Originally uploaded by jacsongs.
I know what everybody is thinking. Tomorrow is cat friday. Guess Jonah is going to post yet one more picture of his kitten, Dame Julian.
Guess you're thinking that if you've been reading this space for more than one week.
Otherwise, you're wondering where the love is. Where the war is.
If you've clicked through from my most popular referrer, you're possibly wishing there were pictures of salacious nuns rather than a kitty's butt.
But there it is, as pretty as abastract expressionism, Dame Julian running from the camera.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
The point of a debate is to win. You find the facts that support your case, or you state the facts in a way that they support your case. I realize even this formulation is a bit idealistic, but you get the point. Anyone who gets upset because one candidate or the other is not stating the facts clearly just doesn't understand the point.
John Kerry slightly inflates the cost of the war from $120 billion to $200; when I go shopping, I call this "rounding up", believing the extra will help cover sales tax. I suspect Sen. Kerry is rounding up in anticipation of what the war will cost the U.S. by the end of this year.
The Resident twists language by calling something the "Clean Air Act" when it actually makes the air dirtier.
As Sen. Kerry would say, "Which is worse?"
So: tonight the Resident will use the word "liberal" several times per minute. Those who enjoy drinking games are likely to have a hangover tomorrow if they use this word as a cue. In Sen. Kerry's case, the cue would be the number of times he says "I have a plan" without giving at least one concrete step in that plan.
I'll watch and listen, just to see how far the Rovian puppet will go. I'll no doubt yell at the little man who claims to be from Crawford, TX.
I'll vote for Kerry. I'm not as enthusiastic about him as I was Carter or Clinton, but I'll vote for him.
The choice, dear friends, is not between the lesser of two evils. The choice is between pure evil and your average run-of-the-mill politician.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Originally uploaded by jacsongs.
Leonard Cohen sang, "Won't you be naked for me?"
Mdm Augustine asked the same question recently, and I initially demured.
But, here I am in an un-altered picture taken before my infamous shower curtain.
I've got the body of a young Andy Warhol, don't you think?
Well, I've carefully cropped this picture so you don't see my middle-aged spread.
The thing hanging in the middle of my chest is a celtic cross. I bought this in college, back in the 80's, before it was cool.
I seem uncertain, tenuous, suspicious.
I'm actually looking out the corner of my eye to judge the image in the camera's screen.
Originally uploaded by jacsongs.
Here's the face. The face I have learned to live with, despite my protestations to the contrary. I held the camera about a foot away from my face, pressed the button with my thumb, and here you are. Right as houses.
I'm not as sad as I appear here — I'm just trying to focus away from the flash. The flash makes my face look a bit more skeletal than it really is.
I suspect the redness is due to a sinus infection — no doubt the root cause of my on-going sinus headache.
I can see the imperfections. If you click on the image for the full-size version, you might as well. Well, there's the receding hairline. There's my nose. There's other stuff too.
Do I look anything like Michael Gross? I've had a number of people tell me I resemble him. You know, he played the father on "Family Ties". Personally, I don't see it.
I dedicate this picture to Madame Fi and Ms. Candide, who asked.
This is scary in a R. Crumb-ish kinda way. Can you take one without hats or glasses, so that we may have a chance to see the naked face that you are so ambivalent about? Do a real tear-away-the-mask shot. Peel down to the bone for us.Ms Candide adds:
Glasses for safety. What's up with that?The second comment is easiest to respond to: Padre sometimes had call to go out on the shop floor, where there was heavy machinery. The glasses you've seen have heavy-duty lenses to protect against flying debris; they originally had plastic on the side as well. I've "modeled" with them partly because of the connection with my father; partly because I have a sort of geeky William S. Burroughs look when I wear them.
As for the naked face, I don't have a current picture handy. In the meantime, here's a portrait done by my friend Drew Curtis. I was in my early twenties when this was done. The media is felt pen.
And here's a variation on a theme. On the right is the same protrait; on the left is a hand-colored photocopy (I had layed my face on a photocopier, then colored it in with felt marker).
I promise: an unaltered image of your correspondent will be posted by this time tomorrow.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Originally uploaded by jacsongs.
Here I am in Padre's safety glasses again. Clearly, his prescription was different than mine, because I get a little eye strain when I wear them.
The fedora came from a second-hand shop that used to be next door to the Sex Cinema where Dr. Omed worked. This is among my favorite hats. Next to the poor boy's cap, of course.
You know, for a guy who claims to be uncomfortable with his face, I sure take a lot of pictures of myself. May have to re-assess that whole "I have not learned to live with my face" thing.
Today's picture is dedicated to Pam, who is amused by pictures taken in my bathroom — shower curtain and towel displayed proudly in the background.
Friday, October 08, 2004
I present here, for your edification and Dr. Omed's amusement, a picture of the young man who would be pope. I can't quite make out the date on that coffin, but I think it's 1982.
she walks the plank
she hosts midnight tea parties
his mental spider web
his grinning skull
his tea-spoon eyes
she sleeps on cat's fur
she dances with Morning Star
she sings weary
his silent step beside her
his plumed headdress
his sheet-music beard
Just last week, I mentioned the fact that Michael Wells ("defender of poetry in today's world") was among the poets exchanging postcards with Ivy. They are, apparantly, exchanging actual physical postcards. In a recent entry, Mike noted how odd it felt to send a "dash-off" out with postal workers, et al being able to read it.
Ivy had solicited folk to write her each day of the week. As memory recalls, she had Friday open. I know I'm a "johnny come lately," but I'd like to join the fun. I'll mail them, if Ivy asks. I'll certainly post them here.
So, here it is, my first Friday postcard-style poem.
For me, the idea is to write something as if on a postcard. I've found that the normal optimum is three stanzas of four lines each or four stanzas of three lines each. Beyond that, I don't worry about structure. I also strive to write in a "dash-off" style; in other words, a Ginsbergian "first thought, best thought" mode. Folk don't normally write multiple drafts of their postcards, and I apply the same standard to these postcard poems. I might change a word here or there between the page and the screen; I might rearrange the order of the lines. Otherwise, I make my inner editor go to another room.
Clearly, I need a little discipline to get the pump primed. So, along with Friday's cat, we're likely to have Friday's poem.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Julian at the Fountain
Originally uploaded by jacsongs.
Remember I told you about the fountain that Julian likes to drink from? Remember that I've blessed the water?
Well, here the lady is, bathed in the light. Studying the water.
She already knew she was blessed.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
I woke around 7, as usual. I considered taking a shower, then thought — I'm going to get sweaty breaking camp; I'll get to shower for free at home; surely, it can wait. So, I deflated the airbeds Phil had loaned me. I rolled up my sleeping back. I packed things in the car. I folded and rolled the tent that Kent had loaned me. I ate my yogurt and grenola repast.
Everything was in the car except for my cooler and guitar. I was determined to sing in camp at least once, whether anyone listened to me or not.
I sat down under the camp kitchen's covering, and started playing. First, I sang a song my grandfather Collins wrote, "The Little Old Brush Arbor". Then, I sang "Create in me a clean heart, O God," which Nicky had taught me when we did music for Bible school in Watonga. Then — "How Can I Keep From Singing."
This was a song Sarah & I sang together, back in the day. Well, the day was just a couple of years ago. When we were performing for the Arts Festival and the Storytellers Workshop and the Peace House. When we were semi-professional, and good enough to teeter into being fully professional. Sarah's that good; and I sang better with her than I ever have before. Our voices, twined together, created a new being that was greater than the sum of the parts.
Yes, what I lost when I fell in love with Sarah. When she chose John, and not me. What we lost.
We had a very special arrangement for that Quaker hymn. On the last verse, Sarah would sing an intricate descant:
In prison cell, in dungeon vile, Our thoughts to them are wingingThat Sunday morning in Winfield, I could swear I could hear Sarah's voice twining with mine once more. But, it could not be. She was on the other side of the fairgrounds, far to the west.
I sang one more song, I thing it was the Youngblood's "Get Together". Well, no one was there. The few people who noted my singing walked on. I just figured that folk weren't in the mood for religious songs, even though it was Sunday morning. Maybe it was just too early on a Winfield Sunday morning (about 9 by this point). So, I packed up my guitar and put it in the car. I pulled the ice chest out, and put it in the car.
I went back to the camp to say my final farewell. Rhonda came over for a cup of coffee (which was made by now), sat down, and said she could hear my singing. "It was lovely," she said, "Was Sarah over here singing with you for a while?" "No." "That's funny. I could have sworn I heard her."
Mary T joined us. She said she had enjoyed my singing earlier, but had a pressing engagement at the porta potties.
Then and there, I taught Rhonda "Day for Peace," a song I had picked up from Sing Out magazine this summer. She picked up on it pretty quick, as did others around the campfire.
This is a day for peace.A blessing for the road.
This is a day for peace.
This is a day the Lord has made.
This is a day for peace.
I hugged Mary & Rhonda goodbye. I got in the car. Drove home on south 81 to Perry. Jogged west, connected with south I-35 and got home about 1:30. Took a shower. Rested.
It's taken me so long to describe these pictures for you. But now I'm done. Thanks for the company, as I've made my way home.
Here's the full series:
Funny thing is, I wasn't all that attracted to her. For one thing, if talk was money, she'd be dirt poor.
But there it is. The important modifier, of course, is "almost." I did not kiss her. I suspect we parted without her even imagining that I had been tempted to kiss her.
Where were we? Oh, yes: it was Saturday night. The marvelous John McCutcheon concert had finished. I decided I wanted to play music for a while, rather than just listen to it. So, I went back to the Grenola Camp in the Pecan Grove and got my harmonica belt (being a bit more portable than my guitar).
From there, I went back to the Walnut Grove side. Some old timers call this area "electric city" because it's filled with campers (Airstreams, etc). I was pretty sure Bill E would be gone by now — Saturday nights can get pretty wild, and he prefers to avoid it. Sure enough, his camper was gone. I tried to find the corner where I had jammed on Wednesday night, but had no luck there. Also tried to find Anita and Richard's trailer; they are an Oklahoma City couple who generally have a bunch of friends picking and singing in the evening.
No luck there, either.
Finally found the Carp Camp. Now, remember this is a camp that plays Celtic music with a wide variety of instruments — though most are of the traditional Celt variety (penny flutes, fiddle, and so). Harmonica is not much of Celtic instrument. But I thought - what the hey? If I play very softly, maybe they won't mind.
So, I'm standing there at the corner of the great tent, when who should come to my side but Nancy from Bartlesville? She remembered me from Wednesday night, when we'd both been at that corner, and I played "The Water is Wide" as a way to include her. I guess she decided I was an ok guy because she chose to let me in on a special event. Someone in the group was celebrating an anniversary, and she had arranged for the group Cherish the Ladies (CTL) to come down to help celebrate. She made sure to invite me to return later to catch the fun.
I thought that was the end of the transaction. I'm not a huge fan of CTL, though I enjoy their performances. But, I thought I'd probably come back in an hour or so if I didn't find a place to jam. I told Bartlesville Nancy that I had no agenda, other than finding a place to listen and/or play.
I was floating with the Winfield wind.
Bsville Nancy was going to make all these arrangements. Cherish the Lady's set was about to wrap up on Stage I, and she invited me to walk back with her. I was walking with the wind. It was nice to have the company. So I walked with her.
We heard the last couple of numbers in their set, and visited. People were beginning to line up to buy CDs at a table near where Bsville Nancy and I were standing. She told me some about CTL - all the original members were second generation Irish. Now, two of the members are native Irish. Joanie Madden is one of the few original members left, and she was the one Bsville Nancy was making arrangements with.
While we stood there, near the artists' gate, Bsville Nancy told me she was promoting a house concert. I forget who the artist was. After we talked a bit, it became clear she was doing this just to introduce folk in her community to a musician she enjoyed. She had no thought of it being a career or moneymaking proposition. Yet, when I saw Rhonda come down with her CDs, I was tempted to call her over so she could share her experience with this young woman.
A few minutes after they wrapped their set, the members started coming out to the autograph line. Bsville Nancy named each one as she came out. Soon enough, Joanie came out. And, like lightening, Tommy Emmanuel came out after her. He was the next act up, and it was almost certain that he was asking her to sit in on his set. His set isn't likely to wrap until around 11, so it's going to be a long time before Joanie and her group make it to the Carp Camp. This complicated even more by the fact that none of them know how to get there.
Bsville Nancy is not deterred. She's assertive, and is going to ask for what she believes in. So, she goes to Joanie and reminds her of the commitment. Arrangements seem to be made. Bsville Nancy and I walk back to the Carp Camp.
Once back there, she talks about the camp's traditions. Seems they have an initiation ceremony for newbies — especially famous folk and special friends. So, Joanie et al are likely to be put on the spot, but in a nice way. She also told me how one of the boudran players loaned her his drum the previous year, so she could get the feel of the instrument. Now, she has her own.
By this point, though, she was feeling anxious about the status of Cherish the Ladies. She wanted to go back to the fairgrounds, and invited me to join her.
Am I totally innocent in all this? Was I secretly attracted to her? Or was I just so lonely for any form of companionship that I was willing to frequently walk back and forth just to maintain it?
We went back, and Tommy was in the middle of noisy number he calls "Initiation." I'm decidedly not a fan of Tommy Emmanuel's, and this has to rank as my least favorite of his tunes. It's a sort of rock/new age concoction which uses distortion, reverb, and multiple echoes. One time I counted, and figured he had a three second delay set on it. So, on a performance level, it's pretty impressive; but it's just not all that musical.
Bsville Nancy went to the artist's gate and asked for any member of Cherish the Ladies. Mary came up, and said she'd come back in just a few minutes.
So, Bsville Nancy and I went and sat down just below the box seats. In order to hear her, I had to lean very close. I was watching her lips, which seemed to help me understand what she was saying. That's when I almost kissed her. I knew she was married; she had told the group on Wednesday evening that she was married.
I was startled by myself. I pulled myself back. I listened some more. I asked her how she came on the idea of promoting a house concert. Turned out she has Lou Gehrig disease, and thus has an uncertain life span at best. The diagnosis has given her the freedom to seize her life and do what she wants to do, rather than what is expected.
Again, I was leaning close. Straining to hear her words as Tommy practiced his scales on stage. Watching her lips move. Watching her lips. Wanting to kiss her.
And again, I pull back. I'm relieved to say that I did not kiss Bsville Nancy, the kindhearted married lady.
Mary Coogan, from Cherish the Ladies, joined us. We walked her to Carp Camp, and Bsville Nancy described landmarks to her, in hopes she'd remember and lead the rest of the group back later. Bsville Nancy chatters all the way from the fairgrounds to the camp, but doesn't introduce me. She introduces Mary to the camp stakeholder, and his wife the camp mom. We were joined by a man whom I later learned was Nancy's husband. Sometimes she introduced me; sometimes not. When she introduced her husband, she failed to mention their relationship.
The three of us circled the camp. Talked about the easiest landmark — a large fish-shaped kite hanging from the trees — and listened to the music. Mary had already claimed a migraine, and after a bit said she needed to go back to her trailer, which was near the artists' gate at Stage I.
Bsville Nancy and I walked her back, reinforcing landmarks all the way. About halfway, there was a silence, and I introduced myself. And Nancy told the story of how we met, how I played a song just so she could be part of the group. How this chance connection was typical of Winfield.
I walked them back to the artists' gate. By this time, I was about faded out. I told Nancy I had to catch some zzz's. I walked her as far as a gate close to the Carp Camp, then walked back to the Grenola Camp.
It was noisy back in camp. Music playing on all sides. Three different kinds of music. Normally, this would drive me batty, but I was exhausted (maybe from all that walking to & fro). I put in my earplugs (a Winfield requirement), and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
Next: haunted by Sarah's ghost
— from "The Bend," Barry Holstun Lopez, River Notes, p. 23; ©1979, Avon Books (NY, NY)
Today's quote is dedicated to Sam, aka Ms. Candide
a two-pound package
fold the meat into quarters,
pop it into the microwave,
stick the meat between
two slices of bread,
and eat that as a sandwich.
Overheard at lunch today. I gathered that the subject had recently died of a heart attack.
Just to prove I'm not slacking on the next installment of the Winfield serial, here's a picture of my Moleskine Journal™. On the recto, you see notes for the next installment. The verso has notes for the first installment.
To whet your appetite, here's a transcription of the first few lines of chickenscratch:
Sat eveWith any luck, I hope to have those notes transcribed into a more prosaic form by this evening.
Rtd to camp to get Harmonica belt
Went to Walnut Grove side
sought Anita & Richard's motor home
sought the corner where I had played Wed night
found the Carp Camp
... If anyone is interested, I still have the sinus headache from Sunday. With the proper combination of drugs (Claritin, pseudoephrin, ibuprofen), I am able to keep it under the dibilitating level. I'm ambulatory, and I'm going to work. Brother Dave tells me Padre suffered from these as well. There's another story there, but I'll save it for later.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Odds and ends, odds and ends,I had hoped to finish the Winfield serial this past weekend. Unfortunately, Saturday got a little busy, and I was sick most of Sunday.
Lost time is not found again.
— Bob Dylan
I let myself sleep in on Saturday. All the way to 7:00 am! Did my regular b'fast and internet surfing thing until it was almost 9, then mowed the lawn. It was still nippy enough to require a long-sleeved shirt. Then, I had some shopping to do. Then, lunch with Pam.
It was a very pleasant lunch. I talked some about where I thought things went wrong with Elsie; Pam talked about minor frustrations with her beau. George is a fellow well-met, but he's got his problems like anybody else. Nobody gets a divorce after an extended marriage (with two kids) without some scars.
Went to the library from there. I had plans of writing a draft of the lastest serial installment there, but I needed to use the rest room. And the library's restroom was out of order. So, I picked up a couple of Twain books, and ran home.
Had a little home-improvement project to take care of — reattaching the toilet-paper holder. Then — well, gosh, I needed a break, and there was this Twain book and .... To sum up, no writing was accomplished.
I had a mild sinus headache when I left for church on Sunday. By Sunday School time, it was getting pretty bad. And by the time I drove home, it was unbearable. It's a miracle I got home ok. I took some drugs, got a cold compress, and crawled into bed. Stayed in bed (sleeping off & on) until 3.
Still in moderate pain. Couldn't even think about writing.
You may wonder what happened to the plan to take Dame Julian to the annual blessing of the animals. Friday evening, I learned the Cathedral would also have a crowd of Junior High school kids running around. This, on top of the concerns I expressed in a previous post, convinced me that it was best to spare DJ the stress.
Saturday night, Melia told me what the priest at her church does. "Rev Bev" blesses water in bowls, and lets the animals drink from them. Im sure the cats prefer this method to the spritzing method. In that spirit, I will bless the fountain that DJ likes to drink from. My blessing won’t be official, but we'll let that be our little secret.
It's been a while since I've written or posted a poem. When I released myself from the discipline of writing a poem a day, I meant to write at least a poem a week. Right now, the standard seems to be "A poem whenever the heck I happen to feel like it."
I’ve had this niggling idea of writing a poem on how disappointed I am in America right now. How the reality is so distant from the ideal. I’ve thought about writing it from the POV of a disappointed lover. I know Alan Ginsberg has already done something along these lines, but I think I could bring my own unique voice to the task.
Last night, I dreamed this poem. Phrases and rhythm were still dancing before me in the morning twilight. But once the alarm sounded, and the kitten was digging at the sheets, all the words were gone.
— Earl Warren, jurist (1891-1974)
Mr. Warren was a Supreme Court Justice, best known as the chair of the infamous "Warren Commission" that investigated the Kennedy Assasination, and concluded it was the act of a lone man. Good quote, regardless of the source.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Dame Julian has discovered, like so many ladies before her, that one way to my heart is to read stuff I've written. Extra points are awarded for sincere-sounding praise. Here, we see she is going above and beyond, by reading my chickenscratch upside down. By the way, the bit she's reading here are the notes which would become Part IV of my Winfield serial (below).
DJ has found some interesting ways to wake me up. My least favorite is when she gets under the covers and starts nipping at my feet. Equally risky is when she paws at my closed eyelid (happily, her claws are retracted). But the latest is almost ... perverse.
She grooms my beard. That is to say, she starts licking my beard, fairly close to my lips. I have two suspicions about the source of this: 1)since it is close to my lips, she smells food, or is licking food residue from my beard; 2) she really does see me as a huge cat — mutual bathing is one of the few social activities cats have.
I am reminded of an early scene in the sweet romantic movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Janeane Garafalo plays a radio call-in animal expert (similar to "Calling All Pets"). A man calls up, complaining that he's got a rash from his cat licking his face so much. "She seems to like it, and it don't seem to hurt her none, " he says. Janeane's character responds that cats lick themselves in places we just don't want to think about. She reminds him to preserve the distinction between human and animal companion: "Repeat after me: Us. Them. Us. Them."
I'm working on it.
Tomorrow could be a little stressful for la belle Julian. Tomorrow is the annual blessing of the animals at St. Paul's, in commemoration of St. Francis' Day (which is actually Oct 4). DJ has not yet acclimated to riding in the car, it will be the first time she will be around a wide variety of species, and it will be the first time she will be on a lease (I got a harness for her). This is so obviously a thing for the human side of our relationship, I've got to carefully consider whether it's worth the stress for the little lady.
Oh, yeah. Us. Them. Us. Them.
I do have a favorite St. Francis story. He had come to a town, and started preaching in the town square. The people jeered, and refused to listen. So, he went to the field and preached to the birds. According to The Little Flowers of St Francis, the birds came and sat through the whole sermon.
In his book on Francis, Chesterton makes much of the scene in the ruined chapel. Francis was kneeling before the cross, seeking direction. He heard a voice say "Rebuild my church." Thinking the voice meant the specific dilapated church he was in, Francis went through the countryside begging for bricks. The man was starving to death, and should have been begging for bread. Instead, he begged for bricks.
This is a "foolishness" which utterly charms Chesterton. He believes the intention was for Francis to reinvigorate the church catholic. Which he did. He also did rebuild that little chapel, with the help of like-minded "Fools for Christ" (a term Francis coined).
Finally, a picture of your humble correspondent. Sometime back, Augustine challenged her fellow bloggers to post pictures of themselves in the buff, at their work stations. Never fear, ain't going to happen here. As a cartoon, Augustine can afford to appear naked without being considered pornographic (see her entry for Sept 20). Me, not so much.
But there's other ways of being naked. I think I've been pretty self-revealing in the Winfield serial; perhaps too much so, considering the relatively small world I move in. And here below, a rare unaltered picture of the man of many names starting with the letter "J". The only gimmick here, aside from the clashing tie (soon to become a toy for DJ), are the horn-rimmed glasses.
Those glasses are safety glasses, which originally belonged to Padre.
Even though I went to bed (or sleeping bag) at 2 a.m., I still woke up at 7. I was not exactly frisky, but I was wide awake, and going back to sleep just wasn't happening. So, I got dressed, and stumbled to the camp's common kitchen. I pulled out my cooler, and got a vanilla yogurt. A plastic bowl and spoon from the common stash, a little granola, and I had breakfast. A handy repast, which Elsie taught me during Winfield last year.
After my bowl of granola and a cup of Joe's strong camp coffee, I went up to the showers. The line was already fairly long; my wait was between 20-30 minutes. Sarah was 10 or 15 people ahead of me. Don't know if she saw me right away. Eventually, we waved. That was enough for a sleep-deprived morning.
Went back to camp. Hung out for a bit, then went down to the fairgrounds to hear Nick Charles, a fingerstyle guitarist from Australia (and friend of Tommy Emmanuel). He was pretty good, but the heat was already getting to me (92°). I became aware I wasn't feeling very good, and went back to camp.
Sat around and stared into space for some time. Mary T had a spare air mattress, which she brought out for anyone to use — it was her opinion it would be too hot in the tents, and folk should just lay out in the open, in the shade. It took awhile, maybe an hour or so, but I finally decided her idea was pretty good. It was stubbornness, or machismo; my brain just wasn't cogitating all that fast.
So, I pulled the air mattress near my tent, which was in the shade of two pecan trees. I must have laid there for 45 minutes to an hour.
When I awoke, I was still feeling kinda punk — like borderline dehydration. I went back to the camp kitchen, which is a covered and shady area, and started drinking water like it was going out of style. People came and went. I visited with folk. When alone, I read sections of Whitman's Song of Myself (a yearly tradition).
Cheryl came by. Cheryl is a friend of Mary T's. She and her husband live somewhere in west Texas. She got dehydrated a couple of years ago at Winfield, so she's especially sympathetic to anyone who seems to be on the edge of it. She loaned me a neck cooler (ah, heaven!) and some wet cloths; she also shared some V-8 juice. We chatted about this and that. Cheryl is pretty good at maintaining a conversation all by herself. Which was fine by me.
Then Joe joined us. And, this is one of the pictures I treasure from this year's Winfield.
Joe told Cheryl and I the story of reconnecting with a daughter who had been given up for adoption. He and the girl's mother had been married for a time, then divorced, had a brief reconciliation, then split up for good. The daughter was conceived during the reconciliation. Neither parent was able to raise a child at the time, and they agreed to put her up for adoption. Joe signed the appropriate paperwork relinquishing his parental rights.
Now, the daughter is in her early 30's, and has a daughter of her own. She's always known she was adopted, and recently took the initiative to seek out her birth parents. After some time, she discovered Joe's address, and wrote him a letter. Basically, she introduced herself, and said that if he wanted to visit with her, he should call a certain number within a certain window of time.
He rode his motorcycle to the town, went to a local bar, and a waitress helped him dial the number (it was rather dark in the bar). The daughter met him at the bar, they got acquainted. She saw that he was decent folk, and invited him back to her house in the desert. That's when he met the 5 year-old granddaughter he had not known existed until that moment.
Now, Joe is more or less of my father's generation. Joe is a biker, and we have a certain stereotype of bikers. But, as he told this story of reconciliation and redemption, he started to weep. Well, his voice broke, and he often paused to wipe away a shadow of a tear.
He was mostly telling his story to Cheryl, but I was there as well. He shared this intimate story with me. A true honor.
By now it was around 4:30 or 5, and I felt like I was up to hearing some more music. So, I went to Stage I, sat in the shady area of the bleachers, and listened to the three men who had won the flatpicking contest earlier that day. They were followed by John McCutcheon.
Here's another picture I cherish: I already knew this concert would be special. As has been traditional, John was going to share a new song, one he had written especially for the festival, at this concert. I knew Rhonda S and her sister Tamara ("Freefall") would be singing backup for one of his songs. I knew the crowd would often be singing along.
The song Freefall sang backup on was "Not in My Name"; they were joined by The Chapin Sisters, Tom Chapin, and Small Potatoes. The song is written, as if by a Biblical prophet, in God's voice:
Through the ages I have watched all your holy wars
Your jihads, your Crusades
I have been used as inspiration, I have used as an excuse
For the murder and misery you've made
I thought I made it clear in the Bible
In the Torah and in the Koran
What is it in my teaching about loving your neighbor
That you people just don't understand?
©2000 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs
I was sitting just a few rows back from a walkway that ran between the bleachers and the box seats. A girl of maybe 9 or 10 was walking there in front of, singing this verse from memory. Is this not a hopeful sign?
Most of the crowd, which I would guess to have well over a thousand, were singing along with the chorus: "Not in my name, Not in my name...." Are these not hopeful voices? When the crowd stood to sing, and then applaud, it would have been easier to count the people sitting down than the ones standing.
Yes, my friends, these are pictures worth cherishing and pondering in the scary days ahead, as the beast of Crawford, Texas goes slouching towards November 2.
This installment is getting rather long. So, we'll continue with the remainder of Saturday evening and Sunday in the next installment.