All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

No-Name Creek

My childhood was idylic. I began along a big river, fished, hiked, swam, rode rowboats and dodged the game warden with fish caught with a bent pin on a bamboo pole. When I was 9, my family moved to the Vineyard.  Vineyard is a census-designated place in Sacramento County, California, United States. It is part of the Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville Metropolitan Statistical Area.

It is made of hills and bottomland. It is prairie. I made new friends.  It has a creek, which all my friends named after themselves --but we collectively called it "The Creek" and possessed ourselves in humor and patience.We left. Over the next 40-50 years, several of my friends and I moved back --retired from jobs in the big world. Dave, Floyd --yes Floyd, we never pretended to be anything but hicks--and me. This is what we see:
Big machines carving drainage for upland developments. The Grand Cat's ass is pointed  spang in the middle of our woody end.  Wildlife is fleeing: it is Exodus. Exhibit A:
Wild turkey, tall--
--to keep tabs on her kids:
Norma has piled thickets for wildlife to feel safe in. She is preserving some respite for creatures to conduct their lives in least fear. She knows where the huge machines will tear the earth and wild things trust her. Every day we get new émigrés.

Yes, we have a  yard so rustic it was turned down by editors of the Sierra Club Calendar, but it lets wild things live out their lives. I have interviewed wild things and asked what what they like least about getting older. They answer, "Well, it's time-consuming!" We all laugh, and go on living.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mister Bottomley Gets Quarrelsome

I bought this view of 1890s humor from Patty Warren's shop off First and J Streets. In the 1990s, I'd go there after work about once a week, translate Russian --Cyrillic script-- and buy stereoviews.  I now have hundreds of them. This particular view has always intrigued me. What were Bottomley and Longshanks quarrelling about? Let's guess.

Longshanks: You, sir, have no right to court my sister!"

Bottomley: Nor have you, sir, any right to object. You know  what I mean. Shall I say it, dog?

Longshanks: True, yesterday I chased my wife up a tree  --but that's no business of yours.

Bottomley: And was it not your editorial in the Holland Evening Sentinel that read " took many rabbits many years to write the Talmud"?

Longshanks: That was a printer's error. It happens!

Bottomley: Is that why, next day, your newspaper assigned you an article on "How to Stretch Your Shoes At Home" ? 

Lonsghanks: It would appear I'm arguing with one who's looking for a tizzy to be thrown into.

Bottomley: I must agree insofar as cacoethes.

Longshanks: Which is?

Bottomley: A sudden urge to do something inadvisable.

(enter Carl Jung) Jung: As far as we can discern, the purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.

Bottomley and Longshanks: Profound and true! Bring in the stereographer!

Stereographer: Fists up! Brows knit! Flash! Well done all!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Day In The Life Of A Woody Place

Yes, it's finally happening. After a year and a half of negotiating with the county,  selling them 70 by 90 feet of our woody end and waiting, it's happening. It began this week:
  A webby red partition appeared across the middle of the woods. This differs from webby red petitions in that you don't have to sign them. We did sign, however to allow our neighbors to the south to keep their home on 1/2 acre instead of  getting the enlarged creek through their front room.

That's when this happened:
Big cyclone fence replaced the big red webby one.

One of our neighbor's chickens, Buck, was visiting at the time. Actually, all chickens are named Buck, and they think all humans are named Buck --if not everything else as well. They'll mutter, "Buck, Buck, Buck", and whatever shows up in response is fine with them.
"What the Buck?" exclaimed Buck. 

I replied, "Just follow it until you can get around it, then go home."

Over the fence, our view of the creek had assumed a strangely automated immensity. 
And on the other side:

Giant yellow prairie-spankers stand in wait, asking " 'ere now, who's been naughty?"

The new creek will be 40-50 feet wide and 40 feet deep. After next year, our Dept. of Parks and Recreation will assume maintenance of the riparian, freeing us oldies from the agony of sharpening chainsaws and buying extra beer.  Nobody for miles is renewing flood insurance. 

What we do have, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, is a second lavatory on our property.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


I seldom have cause to measure my sleeve print but some sense of impending encounter caused me to do it yesterday.

"Well, hello! Who are you?
"I am a mighty tree frog and I have just attacked the sleeve of your flannel shirt."
"With what intent?"
"I intend to eat you up!"

"So how do you intend to go about that?"
"Admittedly, it will take a while."
"I am still an inexperienced tree frog. Only in the past month or so have I hatched under a Sycamore leaf, fallen into water and lived as a little fish."

"You are not a fish." 

"I had gills."

"You also had instinctual instructions. " 

"Yes, I am to launch myself toward protein, go Plop, then eat what I have overpowered and caught."

"I'm impressed by your determination, but although honored to be overpowered by you I must yield to an ant-trail I just passed at the garden edge. I'll be glad to walk you over there..."

"Don't trouble, I'll just launch myself. Bye!"

Five feet away, I heard a very faint Plop. We are all stewards of our planet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


I can't remember exactly where it began but there appeared on my followers list an excellent uplifter entitled "Encourage One another". Then years happened and it resolved into anonymity:
It got very anonymous. Things do. On the 17th, I went in for surgery. Sparing, beyond opioid pain medications, further gruesome details, here is what crossed my mind: 

Mind: each dream, in agony and dissequence, has the moment and forever in it. We wake, and when we wake it is between never and always, where mind combines our days.

I think of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice."  Is it? I wonder in delirium --are they disconnected or just toppled on each other?

In the 1960s I made a project of touring the contiguous 48 states of my country. I had visions of children chained to their anvils pounding recycled plastic into cellophane. But then the opiates kick in.

I think of Julia Roberts, and that other actor who is also Julia Roberts --uh-----Sandra Bullock. Yes, convalescence is strange. I remember Nikita Khrushchev, "Whether you like it or  not, history is on our side. We will bury you!!!" Remember the shoe? I remember the shoe. Nice shoe.

I wake a little. Stopped taking hydrocodone last night. Don't know why Dr. thought clogging up my digestive tract would be helpful.  If I'd told him I was having contractions he doubtless would have prescribed a bottle of apostrophes.

My pain is definable only by those who suffer it, not by those who don't, so there's no point defining it. My solution? Never suffer.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


I have known this woman over half a century. Half of that, I thought she was fearless. She just about is. You've seen her Normaphotos of wild creatures who allow her to take extreme close-up portraits without sensing  any harm in her. 

There is no harm in her. 

There is however a fear in her.  So, when she went out to film a clip of glowering clouds, I stood at the back door and waited, waited to fling it open in a hurry. Please crank up the audio and view this 27-second clip. It's long been one of my favorites.

Thunderation, Normastampede

Thunderation! It is, so far as I've determined, her only fear.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Bringing In The Mail

Bringing in the mail. Sounds almost like a hymn, doesn't it?

Of course the real hymn, written by Knowles Shaw, referred to the staff of life, grain (and protestant converts), which were described as "sheaves".  Sheaves are bound after reaping and of course must be brought in. Closest I come to bringing in the sheaves is fetching the mail. Other creatures, like bees, really do bring digestible sustenance back to the colony. Observe:
Norma says this is how I look when I am working underneath our cars.  I don't quite know how to respond to that. Only that I am doing some good, that I am still useful, causes me to identify with the corporate beeing pictured --bringing in the sheaves-- but bee is brainless, or nearly so. Is that the future? 

I despair to think this brain, which has served so well, might desert me in later years, if not already. So, as always, I shall resort to sentiment. Love, shall we factor that into our design? We have a love of knowledge and a grief when it is lost.

But love, when you try all your life to make loved ones happy, and have someone say, "you've done well",  there is a deep and abiding happiness --you've brought in the sheaves. The mail is quite something else.

I get frequent letters from Dr. Ami Bera, congressional representative for the 7th district in this state, my state.  I charge into the house spastic with news. I am met with the customary reproach:"Has no one ever taught you to enter a room calmly?" -- to which I reply, "Oh, you would not BELIEVE the gaps in my education!"

I am by love and kindness calmed, and agree the world has got better. The madness that descended a year ago has cooled slowly, somewhat, and a president whose only skill is coldly firing good people has warmed. Given another year or two, he might improve to being almost tepid.  If I can do it, anybody can.