Friday, September 30, 2005


I'm wearing black today. Black shirt, black pants. I may even wear my famous black hat. If it were a tad cooler, I would wear my black leather vest.

I often wear black on Friday because the day is a reminder of Good Friday, when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Why do I chose to bring this to your notice? And what does it have to do with Michaelmas (the feast of St Michael and All Angels)? By the way, Michaelmas was Thursday, Sept. 29.

Because I am also wearing my bow-tie. As you see, it is based on a design by M.C. Escher. It's white fish on a black background. The fish seem to be in groups of three (at least in the section I scanned for this entry).

I'm also wearing my seer-sucker coat, which is a pattern of thin black stripes on a white background.

This is my way to acknowledge The Light in the Darkness. The yin in the yang, and visa versa.

In the original illustrated version of Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung reproduced a piece of art of the Archangel Michael with that ancient dragon (Satan). The circularity of the two principles looked eerily like yin/yang.

In Talmudic tradition, Michael's name is held to mean "he who is like God." Satan is also known as Lucifer, a name that means "Light Bringer". Milton holds that Lucifer's folly was seeking to be like God. So, we see the figures mirror each other.

It's a good time, in other words, to acknowledge the light in my own darkness. Since I get a case of the blues around this time of year, seasonal affect disorder would seem likely. What I must guard against is despair.

Despair led me to write that I was bored with my self and with my life. I knew it seemed melodramatic when I wrote that a little over a week ago. I also knew the only chance I had to overcome the darkness was by naming it, describing it, confronting it.

Depression is one thing. The next rung down is despair. Despair is an affliction of those who have a poor sense of history. That is to say, it seizes one who has come to believe his or her present darkness will never end.

Allowed to continue unchecked, despair will pull the trigger, pop the pills, or secure the rope.

It's important for me to name it. It's important for me to remind myself that I've been here before, and I've always come out the other side.

It's important to honor the light in the darkness. That's why I wore black AND white today.

Cat Friday

Cat Yoga
Here we see the lady in the midst of her yoga exercises. She wisely looks away from the flash.

Since we missed a Friday a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd post a make-up shot. This is really more of your correspondent than the lady. It's not the best angle, but I did smile (just for you, Sam).

DJ + Jac

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Quote of the Week

More and more, the Bush Era is beginning to resemble the Harding Era, without the humanizing features of sex and liquor.
This is a quote from an extended comment by Ed Kilgore on Tom DeLay's recent indictment.

Here's my thought on the indictment: couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow. He was first in line to bring impeachment charges against President Clinton. With the Texas indictment, the chickens have come home to roost.

DeLay has skated ethical guidelines, and has tried to convince his fellow representatives to broaden those guidelines practically from the time he came to office.

If I were in a cheerier mood, I might be inclined to believe this is one more domino that will lead to the de facto end of the B*sh regime. One can pray that from this point forward his imperial handsomeness will be a toothless lame duck.

The only thing that might make that hope a reality is if the Satanic Majesty (KR) at his right hand is indicted in the Plame matter. Then perhaps we can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Winfield, Part Two: Wednesday Evening & Thursday

After dinner Wednesday evening, I decided to catch the end of the Taylor Concert. This is a concert sponsored by Taylor Guitars, and features professional finger-style guitarists. I got there toward the end of Stephen King’s set. Not to be confused with the novelist, this guitarist played primarily popular tunes – especially from the Beatles’ catalogue.

While he was playing, volunteers were handing out tickets for a drawing that would be held at the end of the concert. I’m not sure that the next performer, Chris Proctor, received the audience’s full attention. People were anxious for the drawing, each person hoping he or she would win that Taylor Guitar. Incidentally, the Taylor brand is the "Cadillac" of guitars.

Chris played primarily original material, which I didn’t think was very melodic. He also tried to be humorous, and failed. He seemed to hold the crowd’s attention best with his arrangement of “Nights in White Satin”, on which he used some electronic gadget which altered the sound of his guitar. It sounded like a melatron.

Since storms were still threatening, the concert was being held in a barn. By the time I got there, the crowd was standing room only, and people were packed in the doorway to listen. I had borrowed a small lawn chair from camp, which set only a few inches from the ground. This was less than ideal for a guy close to 6 ft tall, but it was better than standing in place on hard concrete for more than an hour.

I didn’t win the Taylor.

I returned to the camp after wards, and got ready for bed. It was only 11 o’clock or so, which was early by Winfield time, but I was tired. Unfortunately, I had forgotten where I had packed my earplugs, so I slept fitfully as people in neighboring camps jammed. Then the torrent hit around 3 a.m.

I later heard that Winfield received two to three inches of rain that night.

Walked to the showers at 7 Thursday morning. The showers are an interesting set-up. They cost $3 each. There’s 20 showers; two long roofless mobile trailers with 10 showers each. You turn the shower on by pulling a chain; there is no way to keep the shower on constantly, as you would at home. It’s an obviously necessary measure to save water.

One of the trailers has a mirror on the side, so folk can fix their hair. The mirror is relatively sheltered, as it is not visible from the street. There is about a yard and a half of space between the trailers, where this mirror hangs. I went to this space to comb my hair, and who should be blow-drying her long tresses but Sarah!

We had a nice long conversation, of the catching up how’s your job variety. By unspoken agreement, we have not discussed our former romance since it ended two years ago. I believe this unspoken agreement has helped us rebuild our friendship. We probably won’t be able to perform together again. But at least we can be friends.

John was already on the festival grounds, waiting for Sarah to join him for breakfast. I walked her back to her camp, then most of the way to the festival grounds. It’s the longest conversation we’ve had in a year, and I felt very much at ease.

I hope Sarah did, as well.

Went back to camp, had some granola and yogurt for breakfast. Drank camp coffee, and hung out.

Decided it was time to hear some music, so I went to the Grand Stand on the festival grounds. This is one of two places one can go that have guaranteed shade. I knew I had to be extra cautious about dehydration because of the antibiotic. An additional caution, for the same reason, was to stay out of direct sunlight.

I heard Stephen Bennett and Friends, The Waybacks, The Greencards, and No Strings Attached. All in one location, in succession.

Stephen Bennett is a very good finger-style guitarist. His “friends” were a fiddle player, and Stephen’s son. The son is a song writer, and he’s not bad for a 19 year-old (or so).

The Waybacks are a blue grass band. Their lead guitarist can often get overly enthusiastic about his lead playing, but otherwise they’re a very tight group.

The Greencards were one of the few new groups playing at Winfield this year. The four members are quite international: fiddler from Great Britain, bassist from Ireland, rhythm guitarist from Chicago, Illinois. There was also a drummer – maybe from New Zealand or Australia. Very tight blue grass style group.

No Strings Attached plays a wide variety of acoustic music. They never fail to entertain.

After all this, I went to Bill’s camp and joined their jam circle. We played music until 11:00.

Happily, I had found my earplugs earlier. I slept relatively well. At least as well as one can hope for at Winfield.

RIP: M. Scott Peck

M. Scott Peck died yesterday at the age of 69, from complications due to pancreatic cancer. He is best known for the self-help book The Road Less Traveled. This book spoke to a certain generation at a certain time — the tail-end of the "Me Generation" and the beginning of "Greed is Good."

A number of things are unique about this book. Most self-help books are written in the second person; the tone is kind but imperious: you must change. This book is written primarily in the first person plural. The opening paragraph is a good example:
Life is difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths [nb: One of Buddha's Four Noble Truths is "Life is Suffering"]. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact
that life is difficult no longer matters.
[© 1978, Simon & Schuster, New York]
This is no imperious author telling you what you must do. This is a fellow human being, also in the trenches, working with you and me.

"Road" is also unique because it is a synthesis of a number of psychological theories, and intergrates spirituality. The etymological root of the word "psychology", after all, is "psyche" – which may be translated as "soul."

I believe the reason the book was so popular in its time was because people hungered for a spiritual dimension in their lives, as opposed to the narcissism of the "Me Generation" or the self-serving opportunism of the "Greed Era".

I read the book twice. The second time was as part of a book study led by Fr. Spaine at St. James' church; I think that was the early to mid '80s. Many passages in my copy of the book are underlined; a few notes are written in the margins as well. Exactly when I made these "annotations" isn't important; the fact that I did reflects the impact the book made on me.

I read only one other book by Scott Peck, which I believe was his second book: People of the Lie. I was so disappointed with this book, that I was not motivated to read his later books.

The thesis of the book was that some people lie to themselves to the point that they become pure evil. On the face of it, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this thesis. The risk comes in the temptation to label any number of one's adversaries or enemies as "people of the lie". It can be a way to dismiss and dehumanize another person.

I was aware of this temptation within myself as I read the book. My immediate impulse was to study the text for "proof" that my mother was a "person of the lie". Scott Peck makes clear that there are some people are so evil that we should avoid them for our own mental health. Therefore, this "proof" would have been the justification for avoiding my mother.

I was sufficiently self-aware to recognize that this conclusion was awfully self-serving. However, I don't recall a consistent caution within the text that warned the reader against such temptations.

Full disclosure: I did eventually distance myself from my mother, for reasons similar to the ones I detail above. Basically, her memory of her mothering skills was different from my brother's and mine. There is some written and photographic evidence that our memories were more accurate than hers. I have come to believe that mother needed her "lie" as a survival tool. Even with this charitable view, I could no longer tolerate the dissonance between our different narratives. As I have noted before, it's awfully hard to forgive someone when they deny the action ever took place.

Back to Peck's book: he acknowledges that he was motivated to write this book due to an interaction with a female patient. The patient was being very flirtatious, and would not cease. As a layperson, it seems to me the appropriate way to deal with this is to end the therapeutic relationship and send the woman to another (preferably female) therapist.

I don't remember the details of the transaction, and Peck may have in fact done this after a time. Yet, the fact that he maintained the relationship even after he asked the woman to cease being flirtatious is suggestive. It suggests that he was at least subconsciously involved in the flirtation. My memory is that Peck did not confront this possibilty in the book.

Since the theme of the book was being honest with oneself, this oversight called the whole book into question.

The last chapter dealt with demonic possession and exorcism, and drew heavily on the work of Malachi Martin. I skimmed one of Martin's titles listed in the references, and came to the conclusion that Martin had a considerable ultra-fundamental ax to grind.

Peck maintained an interest in exorcism til the end of his life, and actually performed at least two, as related in this Beliefnet interview.

People who have read his subsequent books (e.g., Different Drum and In Search of Stones) assure me they are worth the time. My disappointment with his second book, and my skepticism about exorcism and demonic possesion, do not lessen the value of The Road Less Traveled. I would still recommend it to anyone seeking a path to holistic maturity.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pictures from Winfield, 2005

I'm slowly creating a prose narrative of my visit to Winfield. While you are patiently waiting (tapping your foot, arms akimbo), you may want to see some actual pictures taken on the camp grounds this year. They're now available at my Flickr account!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What's the Matter, Hatter?

Winfield Mad Hatter

I am tired of the sound of my own voice. That can be a problem. That can be a problem when you are maintaining an on-line journal such as this one. That can be a problem when you intend to tell the story, but every sentence lacks life. Every word lies flat, and stares at me with dead eyes.

I can't even work up much energy about talking about why I'm tired of my own voice. It's word after word after word. They just sound too much like me. And I bore myself.

Once upon a time, I sought out life experiences as some sort of writing school. I smoked pot. I snorted coke, and speed. I drank to excess.

I quickly realized that these experiences were not leading to great writing, but to certain self-destruction.

I muddle through my days. I watch the sun chase the moon, morning after morning. I put one foot in front of the other, and sometimes wish for some alternative.

But this is why I'm finding it so hard to tell you about the details of my time at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS this year. My life bores me. My words about my life bore me.

I'm so tempted to sum it up quickly. "It was ok." Or, "It was the same old same old." Then I'd be done with it.

In the end, what does it matter?

It's only life. It's only words.

I've been here before. We know it passes. If only I can persist in putting one foot in front of t'other.

And I am dedicated to finishing. It may take a little longer, even longer than it did last year. But I believe I'll get there.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cat Friday

DJ at the mirror
It was a challenge getting the lady to pose, but we eventually agreed on this shot at 6:40 this morning.

Idée d’jour

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he must forget all the roses that were ever painted.
— Henri Matisse

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Winfield Day One: Arrival

I left Oklahoma City at 7:00 Wednesday morning. Storms were forecast for both north-eastern Oklahoma and south-eastern Kansas, and I had some hope of getting to Winfield before it got especially bad.

Most of the drive to Winfield is on I-35. The drawback to this is the fact that I-35 becomes a toll road shortly after one crosses the Kansas border. The toll is a little over $1 to drive just a few miles. The past couple of years, I’ve taken an alternate route in order to avoid the toll. This year, I took Highway 60, near Perry, to Highway 77, and drove all the way north on 77.

The road zig-zags much more than I-35 does, and one has to slow down in the small towns. But the drive is scenic, and has much more character than the I-35 route. The trip normally takes a little over two hours. This time, it took almost three — primarily because of the zig-zagging, and the slower speed limits in the small towns.

Additionally, I had to make frequent stops to use the restroom.

This may count as "TMI", but my bladder seemed to be working overtime. I assume this was caused by the antibiotics I was taking.

You may wonder why I was taking antibiotics. If you’ll recall, my left index finger was infected. I saw the doc on Tuesday before leaving, and she gave me enough samples for a full course of antibiotics.

If you’ve ever taken antibiotics, you know that they can cause dehydration. So, I was intentionally drinking a little more than usual. Ergo, the frequent bladder breaks.

I got to Winfield at 10:00. Before I left, I had made arrangements to meet Paulapalooza, who happens to be on the staff of one of the town’s churches. Coincidentally, this same church was a location for workshops, similar to the one I attended last year.

Unfortunately, Paulapalooza wasn’t in yet. I was told she expected to be in by 11. I left my name, and drove on into the festival grounds.

I had driven through some rain after I got on Hwy 77. Some of it quite heavy. But nothing severe. The sky dome, as I often call it, was grey in every direction. Had been since I left the house. But it was not raining when I got to the grounds.

When you get to the gate, you’re supposed to either give them your ticket, or pay $85. My ticket had been (apparently) lost in the mail, so I had to tell the volunteer my hard-luck story. You may recall I called ahead regarding this; I told the story early last week. It required a wait, but I got in after about 15-20 minutes.

I got to the Granola Camp, where I’ve stayed for the past three years, and had stayed the first year I went to Winfield. It took me about 30 minutes to set up my tent. After which, I went to the camp’s kitchen, which was protected by a large awning, and I took a break. Then the rain hit.

It lasted about 45 minutes or so. Once it seemed clear, I grabbed my umbrella and walked back to Paulapalooza’s church. I had clocked it earlier, and it was only a little over a mile. I knew I could walk that, easy.

Ms. P still wasn’t there. Turned out her son was sick. However, her husband was there and we exchanged pleasantries (he was in the middle of a job – not much chat time to chat). The workshops were breaking for lunch, and a van was waiting to take people back to the campgrounds. I visited with the driver, and when it was clear there were no other passengers, he offered to drive me back. That was a no-brainer. I was prepared to walk back, of course. But why not ride?

I got back to camp and hung out. Before long, it was dinner time. As we were eating, I told my story about the lost tickets, and the arrangements we had made.

Mary said the same thing had happened to her several years ago. Like me, she brought an extra check. They cashed it not long after the festival was over. They never provided proof the check was delivered. They just verbally told her that it had been delivered.

"Well, I’ll just put a stop-payment on my check."

"Oh Jonah, they’ve already cashed it."

"So, they lie to me thinking that I lied to them?"


Well, I felt pretty foolish. After all, I should have known (as a former shipping and receiving person) that there isn’t a way to trace first class mail. And once they have my check, they can cash it and claim they have proof without necessarily being required to show that proof to me.

My trusting nature, or naiveté, had betrayed me.

My feelings of foolishness and betrayal filled me with anger. That anger made the whole weekend as grey as the sky had been en route.

That anger almost spoiled the weekend.

Abstract 05Sept22

Abstract 05Sept22

Another experiment in Photoshop, using the shape tool.

By the way, for those of you waiting on this year's edition of "the Winfield series", it is slowly in progress. Your patience is appreciated.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Winfield — Music & Memories

Every year, the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas has a theme. This year, the theme was "Music and Memories". The festival organizers publish a one-page daily paper (on a legal-size sheet) which prints the performance schedule for that day, winners of the previous day's contests, and human interest articles. This year, the reporter visited a variety of people - primarily in the campsites - and asked them to share their favorite memories of Winfield. He never got to me, so I'll share my story here.

You may recall I was worried about the impending storms. The night before I left, Brother Dave called and suggested that since I missed Woodstock, I should go to Winfield to have a similar experience. What he didn't know was that I had already experienced a deluge in Winfield. That was 1999, the second festival I attended.

The first time I went to Winfield was in 1998. I went with Shannon. We spent a lot of time together at the festival, and were romantically involved within three months. In 1999, I filed for divorce then moved from Norman to Oklahoma City, both at Shannon's urging. Both were the right choice, but the kicker is that after I accomplished both things, Shannon broke up with me. So, I did not want to be near Shannon when I went to Winfield in '99.

Keeping that distance required that I find a different area to camp.

I had already begun singing with Sarah by this point. She is a big fan of the Walnut Valley Festival, and invited me to join her camp – which consisted mostly of members of her church.

Sarah and I are both early risers. We started every morning singing. Playing with harmonies, choosing new songs. We had been asked to sing for an up-coming Peace Fest, and were wood shedding our play list. Some people in a near-by camp enjoyed this unique alarm clock so much, they invited us to join them for dinner.

When I find someone whose company I enjoy, I tend to stick with them as much as possible. So, Sarah and I attended just about every concert together. We visited as we waited for each concert to begin. We shared favorite moments during the concerts. We grew very close.

In fact, we fell in love over that long weekend.

The rain started sometime after dark Saturday evening. A cool front was close behind. Sarah and I huddled under the awning of her tent and visited even more - there wasn't room to hold and play instruments. We were camped several yards from the river, and were well above water level, but were on a down-hill slope. The tent I had borrowed wasn't well sealed, and there was some question about my remaining sufficiently warm and dry.

Sarah suggested that I sleep in her tent. She made it clear that she had more than sleep in mind; in fact, she had a very enjoyable way of keeping warm in mind.

Problem was, she was pledged to John. And I felt honor-bound to respect that commitment.

So, I stayed in my tent and slept in about a half-inch of cold water.

Rain reverberates on a tent’s sides, and a small storm can sound like a major torrent. A really hard rain can sound like Noah’s Flood.

Sometime during the day Friday or Saturday, a person in the camp to the south of us had bought a beat-up up-right piano at a near-by yard sale. He said his intent was to see how much damage he could do to the thing through the weekend. It hadn't cost much, was beyond repair so far as he knew, and so he saw it as potential firewood. When the rain began, he started playing that old piano. Pounding chords when the rain was heavy. Soft arpeggios when the rain slacked off.

My memory is that he played that he played that piano until some time after dawn. So, I didn’t sleep very well.

Sunday morning was still cold and wet. Sarah and I went to the fairgrounds for John McCutcheon’s last set of the weekend. It had been scheduled for an outdoor stage, but rain still seemed probable, so they moved it into a barn. Sarah and I sat just a couple of yards away from John, huddled together under a blanket.

Holding hands under the blanket.

We caravanned back to Oklahoma City late Sunday afternoon. Sometimes Sarah drove, sometimes I did. We were still linked.

I was nostalgic about those magic four days by the following year. Each succeeding Winfield has been measured against that time, and few have come close.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Haiku: 19.Sept.05

The cat in the moon
falls through the blue corn window.
Summer folds into fall.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Out the Door...

Loading the car, hitting the road, praying to beat the storm system to Winfield, KS. I'll be back sometime late Sunday afternoon, so no "Friday Cat" this week.

Be assured I'll share a full report of the experience when I get back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Question d’jour

Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- Flannery O'Connor, writer (1925-1964)

Which brings us, in a round about way, to the fundamental question that has plagued American society since January 2001:

Is President B*sh stupid, evil, or so stupid his actions merely make him look evil?

There's a lot of theories out there: Dick Cheney's puppet. Karl Rove's puppet. Trying to show up daddy. The worst dry drunk in recorded history. Related to the last is my favorite theory, in my more charitable moods: the man is emotionally stunted. The latest proof, to my mind, came on Thursday, Sept. 1, when he did his fly-over of the affected region, and he was unable to express his feelings. He hemmed and hawed and kept saying "devastation". He might have felt devastated, and I would have given him credit if he had said so. But nobody feels "devastation".

Now, anyone who has read my entries over the past two years knows by now that I have a blind spot when it comes to our fearless leader. The mere sound of his voice raises my blood pressure. It's as hard for me to be reasonable about El Presidente as it is for Andrew Donaldson to be reasonable about Lance Armstrong or anonymous sources.

Things like the inept response to Katrina fill me with rage. Sure, state officials made their share of mistakes. More mistakes were made on the federal side. Whether Georgie himself personally made the decisions to dither about exact protocol (even after he had been asked to declare Louisiana a disaster area) or not is immaterial. He hired the twits who dithered.

To paraphrase Harry Truman, the buck stops at the president's desk. You hired your friends and cronies, your campaign flunkies, the loyalists you believed you could trust - so long as they never disagreed with you - you have the ultimate responsibility.

In the spirit of Flannery O'Connor, let's face some truth:

Just because you think tax cuts for the wealthiest top 10% will benefit the entire country doesn't make it so. It didn't work in the Reagan era, and it's not working now.

Just because you think invading Iraq will magically create democracy, or whatever reason you're pedalling this week, doesn't make it so. Oh yeah, I forgot: we're sending more people to die to honor the people who have already died. A high school student could discern the logical falacy in that statement.

Unlike Mr. B*sh, I can express my feelings:

I'm filled with rage because we're stuck with this guy for another three years. I'm angry because the Republican Congress has gone along with 90% of what he has requested. I feel powerless because that same Congress, and Republican state legislatures, have effectively gerrymandered key states like Texas in a way to insure Republicans will stay in power for years to come. I feel powerless because the Democrats seem, with a few notable exceptions, to be toothless yappy little dogs more interested in casting blame than producing effective alternatives.

Is there any hope?

The President's polling numbers remain low. Last I noticed, around 38%. Many people agree the federal government botched the response to the Katrina disaster, and most appropriately place the blame on the president. "Brownie" has resigned, and one can only hope that Chertoff and Rumsfeld will be the next to fall on their swords.

I suspect, however, we're stuck with both El Presidente and Rummy for the duration. One can only hope that the public will have such a sour taste in its mouth two years from now that they will vote for the other party.

One can only hope and pray that the entire nation has not become a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, or its affiliates, by then. If that happens, Dick Cheney will be named CEO of the United States, Inc, and God have mercy on us all.

Goin’ to Winfield

Sometime tomorrow morning, I'll be making my annual journey to Winfield, KS, to experience the Walnut Valley Festival. This will be my eighth trip. I've had mixed feelings about the trip. For one thing, there's only 2-3 performers I'm really looking forward to seeing again. For another, it will be another time I'll be hearing all this good music alone.

Winfield can be a lonely place, especially if you're already feeling low. I don't know how well I'll handle it. Don't suppose I will know, until I get there.

A series of disheartening coincidences have led to even more ambiguous feelings.

First, there's the matter of the ticket. I waited until the week of the deadline (8/24) to mail my check. I mailed it on the 20th, it cleared the bank on the 24th. According to the folk in the ticket office, the ticket was mailed on the 22nd. I still haven't received it.

So, here's the arrangement: when I get to the gate, I tell the folk that my ticket was lost in the mail. I tell them that I've spoken to the ticket office, and someone in there will know what to do (I'll be taking folks' names with me). I give them a check for $75 (pre-deadline cost for the show), which they have assured me they will not cash. After the concert, they'll trace the original ticket; I assume that if there's proof I received the ticket mailed on the 22nd, they'll cash the second check. If they can't proof I received the first ticket, they'll return the second check. If the original ticket is waiting for me when I get home, I mail it to them and they return the second check.

All this is a hassle, and it seems counterintuitive to begin your vacation with this much of a hassle. Add to that the distinct possibility that I may very well be out $150 for the excursion. That's not counting gas (currently ~$2.60/gal in Okla.), camping ($7/day), showers ($3/day), and food (estimated at $10/day). My inner miser is seriously stressed out.

But wait, there's more.

I had a blowout when I went to Watonga this July. I got the tire patched and have been running on it since. I decided I better have all the tires checked before I drove all the way to Winfield, KS. It was recommended that I have all four replaced, and it seemed a wise thing to do. While they had it on the rack, they discovered the right front CV joint was broken, and was strongly recommended that I have it replaced as soon as possible.

This also seemed a wise thing to take care of before my trip.

While they were taking care of this, the repair folk noticed that the front brakes were just about worn down to the metal.

That's the point at which the miser said "Enough!"

Oh, yeah: I almost forgot the PCV valve and airhose. The hose was completely burned through. I replaced it for a little less than $25.

You can understand why a part of me is wondering whether the universe is trying to warn me away from this trip. When I'm anxious, and doubting, is when I'm most susceptible to this sort of magical thinking.

Then, there's my left index finger. About two months ago, I got a thorn or some other foreign object stuck right at the first joint. It was too small to nab with fingernails, or even tweezers, so I figured it would either work itself out or the white blood cells would do their duty and destroy the thing. They're doing their job alright: the finger is probably infected - it's certainly swollen, especially in the area where the object entered. It hurts to bend that joint - which makes playing the guitar a challenge. Sometimes it hurts to put any kind of pressure on the finger - even typing, sometimes.

Pam thinks it's traditional for me to wound one of my fretting fingers shortly before Winfield. Last year, I "pruned" either my ring finger or middle finger.

I'm seeing the doctor this morning - in about an hour and a half, in fact. I'm praying the cure is no worse than the ailment.

Again, I wonder whether the universe is jumping up and down, waving its hands, and screaming at me not to drive to Winfield this year.

There's the more reasonable side saying this fear is magical thinking. Sure, I could stay home the rest of the week, but I'm more likely to have a real vacation if I leave town. Sure, I might feel lonely; but I have some choices about that. I can seek out friends, and be open to making new friends. Most often, the person sitting next to you at a Winfield concert is inclined to be friendly.

The stuff with my car and my finger could be seen as consequences of certain choices I've made, rather than any sort of universal messenger service. I've done real well keeping the car oil & lubed, but little else (i.e., tire rotation, and regular brake check-up). I could have made an appointment to see the doc a long time ago about my finger, I put it off as long as possible hoping my body would take care of it.

OK, that last hope may have been reasonable for a month. But I maybe should have called the doc after a month and a half.

Maybe I prefer the magical thinking option because it helps me avoid any personal responsibilty for my choices.

LATE ADDITION: Just checked the weather forecast for the Winfield area, and there's an 80% chance of showers for tomorrow. Severe weather possible. Do I really want to pitch a tent in this?

Could be part of the fun.

On the other hand, it could be another example of the "Powers That Be" jumping up & down, waving hands, etc., to get my attention.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Idée d’jour

The mind creates the chasm which only the heart can cross.
— Stephen Levine

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Idée d’jour

The important point of spiritual practice is not to try to escape your life, but to face it – exactly and completely.
— Dainin Katagiri

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cat Friday

DJ this morning

Idée d’jour

He who can take no great interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great.
— John Ruskin

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Idée d’jour

An old Hasidic rabbi asked his pupils how to tell when night ended and
the morning began, which is the time for certain holy prayers.

"Is it when you see an animal in the distance and know whether it's a
sheep or a dog?"

"No," the rabbi answered.

"Is it when you can look at a tree and tell whether it's a fig tree or a pear tree?"

"No," the rabbi answered again.

After a few more tries, the pupils said, "Then tell us, what is it?"

"It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and know that they are your sister or brother. Until then, it is still night."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

We'll Find Out

The mulberry bush in the backyard had grown to epic proportions. According to my neighbor, Ed, it had volunteered itself some years before I moved in. I'm not sure it's ever been pruned. I know my own pruning has been spotty, at best.

I finally noticed, at the beginning of the summer, that the mulberry bush was beginning to brush the roof of the house. This was enough to make me nervous, and spur me into action.

So, I've been slowly pruning it back. Sawing away at the bigger branches, doing my best to direct their descent away from the house. Having a fair complexion, and being sensitive to the heat, I mostly do this work early Saturday morning or in the weekday evening twilight. A little bit at a time. The main constraints are my energy level, and the space available in the lawn trash bin.

I had two three-day weekends in a row, and decided this would be a good time to put a push on to get that mulberry bush below roof line. Last Saturday morning, I climbed the ladder and sawed down limbs. I pruned as close to the main trunk as I dared. I ended up with a pile of limbs about four foot deep. By the time I had created this pile, I was tired and hungry.

The following week, I worked at pruning those limbs and filling the lawn trash bin. It soon became clear that the bin was getting full. As he has done in the past, Ed offered to let me use his bin. So, I borrowed it.

Skip to last Friday. I've filled my bin, and am working on the one I borrowed from Ed. I've made a serious dent in the piled limbs, and have high hopes of clearing all of them by nightfall. Ed leaned over the fence: "Think it'll all fit in there?" "We'll find out!"

Ed went on to do his own yard work – primarily watering his garden. After a bit, he went to water the garden in his front yard.

About thirty minutes later, Ed returned to the backyard. I was pushing the twigs and leaves down. "Boy," he said, "You're really packing it down!"

"I don't see why not." By now, the bin was about ¾ full, and there were four or five limbs left on the ground.

"Think it'll all fit in there?" he asked again. I gave the same reply: "We'll find out!" I felt like I had entered a Zen story. Ed seemed amused by my response.

I kept plugging away with pruning shears and saw. Perhaps twenty more minutes passed, and now there were just two limbs left. "Think it'll all fit?"

"We'll find out!"

Idée d’jour

When you find your place, practice begins.
— Dogen

Friday, September 02, 2005


a poem by George Wallace (Suffolk County, NY)

a convention of mad wounds on the rooftops.
a convention of snake children crawling through the rafters.
mr president there is a hole in the superdome.
everyone chopped up in a collard wind.
mr president the chemical plants go boom.
orphans go boom. the sick and the poor.
the tourists and the crazy. and especially the lame.
all go boom. this was my collar bone, boom.
this was my wife, boom. my fertile crescent.
my rest in peace. my party on. my big easy.
big blue boom. big yellow boom.
where is the governor? boom!
where is the levee? boom!
new orleans wrapped in darkness.
gunboats in pontchartrain.
where is the president? boom!
the head of a boy who floats in oil.
here comes a telephone pole.
there goes an anchor man.
here comes a drug addict.
there goes a refinery.
where are the corporations?
living in jets in the sky.
where is the president?
bathed in american crude.
the gulf of electricity is our living room.
the dividend of greed is our bed.
we have been eating cheap energy.
we have been drinking mississippi mud.
give us this day our daily drudge.
give us back our cellphones.
give us this day our greyhound bus.
airlift our eyes.
take our stomachs away.

I recommend the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. Other worthy and reputable charities are listed by the fine folk at Truth Laid Bear

Cat Friday

DJ at the window
This charming face greets me near this spot almost every evening when I get home. When she hears the door unlock, she lies down in front of it; I have to push her across the floor. Not sure what game she's playing.

Almost every morning, somewhere between 5 and 5:30, she tries to dig me out of bed. She doesn't use her claws, but she briskly rakes her paws over the cotton sheet. She won't do this if I have the blanket on, but she often gets under the blanket so she can paw the sheet.

Who needs an alarm clock?

Problem is, she doesn't know the difference between a work day and a day off. She'll be doing this all through this three day weekend, when I will think I deserve to sleep in. Well, obviously I have forgotten that one of my primary duties is to feed her at the appointed time.

Idée d’jour

I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound — if I can remember any of the damn things.
— Dorothy Parker

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Idée d’jour

The greatest sin is to be unconscious.
— C. G. Jung