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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ampliative Induction

One of my favorite poets is Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Here is a doodle of him in my current journal:
This poem, translated by San Francisco Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, with guidance from Morita Yasuyo and Kodama Sanhide, was included in the 1976 book, One Hundred More Poems From The Japanese:
A little over 10 years later, we had a big winter and the Sierra snowline dropped to about 1600 feet above sea-level. We built two little sleds and the kids painted them blue.  We packed them into the VW Bus and drove to the lower slopes. After sledding, we hiked into the trees and there it was. I took a photo and wish I could find it, but can't. It was a maple leaf embedded in the snow. I composed a poem in my mind and included it in a group of submissions to a magazine --it was not among those selected. I post it here:
Yes, I felt a jostle over a span of 100 years!
What is this all leading up to? I'm not sure, but along the way --entering the century's closing decade, we had two more cold winters --both of which caused creeks to freeze in this valley. I opened another journal and found this:
For those, like me, who have trouble deciphering my script, I will describe it as an ice-bound rock. The poem, as I recall, was an  effort to use the tremendous operations of nature --the language of the universe-- as a metaphor. William Blake opined, "To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower." You see? Ampliative induction: A glimpse of immensity from a detail. He was a poet. So was Masaoka Shiki.

I am a gardener, but still I try. April is National Poetry Month.

You try too.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

How The Weather Is

Among the most perplexing enigmas is how the weather is. In this valley, gardeners, ranchers, farmers and city departments of public works have been plagued by drought, not 3 or 4 years of drought as California has conservatively complained to the world --in fear of inciting panic-- but 8 or 9 years. I don't know why we did that.

I don't know so many things.

But I do know the drought is over. In evidence, here is a photo Norma took yesterday on our way home from the market --a distance of four miles from our house on a road nobody much knew about 10 years ago. The tall grass was typical of springtime back then, and contained all sorts of little grazing animals one couldn't see until they ate their ways out --mice, bunnies, cattle, giraffes, dinosaurs. It has returned, but the animals have moved on.
Will they return? Perhaps not. Another mile brings us to a new sign.
This is the survival bellow of the California range. Pastures are being sold for housing tracts and industrial parks. Understandable after protracted drought, even if the grass is green again, the damage has been done. Party balloons have, for 9 years, had to be trucked pre-inflated from factories, and sky-divers were flown out-of-state to jump where there was enough air to open a parachute. But I have seen encouraging signs of reconstruction along with  zoning changes. Tomorrow, I shall take Norma to photo a gardeners' supply that sells decoys to lure the prairie animals back to this region. It's only a few miles away and quite promising.

Now it is tomorrow, and we set off our quest:
Our search led through several new housing tracts, then into fields again. We emerged onto a main road and found the place, got out and approached a well-secured fence, heard heavy footfalls running toward us from within. I was not entirely surprised.
"Help me with the gate," said T.Rex. "We can't seem to manage it alone. But jump back into your car or I might eat you. No offense."

"I understand, Instinct and all that...no problem. Here, I think that's got it."
"Yay! Thanks so much! Now, if you'll give me some help with directions, I'll lead the other animals home."

"Of course, follow the realtors' signs and arrows on the fence and look both ways before crossing the road."

I have no idea how my post about weather has run to setting the dinosaurs free, but we have the rest of the day ahead to consider it in the privacy of our thoughts and tomorrow is Easter. Your regular pastor will return after finding a pest control company equal to fortifying the manse against thunderous infestations. Hope everyone had a meaningful Good Friday and, so far, an equally meaningful Not Bad Saturday.  Go in peace.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Miss Dickinson And The Paper Chase

I have written and read poems, analyzed them, parsed them out for meter and meaning long enough to know when I am in one. Emily Dickinson was 16 years old in this tintype --I believe it is the only photo ever taken of her. In 1846, a photoportrait exposure consumed several minutes, yet, some measure of her mischief comes through.
This brings us to the paper chase. During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson wrote thousands of poems, many hundreds of which she sewed into booklets and tucked under her bed. If you wish to see how she really punctuated --mainly with dashes for stops combined with continuities and capitalizations suggesting topical allusions-- you must find a book like this one.
It is 770 pages long. 

That's a lot of paper. When I was 18, a couple years older than Miss Dickinson was in her tintype, I bought a record of two songs written by the admirable Jimmy Webb. Side A was a popular puzzle, sung by the incomparable Richard Harris, but it was side B that got me going on the enigma of Emily Dickinson. A paper chase is a game of hide and seek conducted with paper scraps left as markers  by the "fox" for the "hounds".  I learned that from a lovely friend from New Zealand that same year, 1968. Here is the song, sung and declaimed by a true dramatic artist: Harris,Paper Chase;
It begins and ends with an harpsichord, but the chase continues even now --all these years later. I hope, yes the thing with feathers, that this chase has no foreseeable end.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Backyard Evolution

Geo.: Well, hello. What have we here?
Voice from overhead: A field cat perfecting his skulk.

Geo.: Who said that, and how do you know?

Voice: Look up here in the plum tree. I am a dove and doves know everything.

Geo.:  Everything?

Dove.: Everything.
Geo.: What then, is the object of Fieldcat perfecting its skulk? What is the perfect skulk?

Dove: Invisibility, of course.  Other creatures pursue it by different disciplines. Take our friend, Shed-cat, for instance...

Geo.: Shedcat? Where?

Dove: Precisely:
Dove: Shed-cat renders himself invisible by falling perfectly asleep on top of the shed. He is a great artist and ranks among the least conspicuous things in the universe.

Geo.: But what of you, Dove? How do you compare with other birds?

Dove: Consider Bluejay in the crepe myrtle...
Dove: His colors, stance and voice are are assertive --he is conspicuous. We doves have muted voices, calm colors and very good posture. On those points alone, we cannot be compared --and, of course, unlike other birds, we doves know everything.

Geo.: And humans?

Dove: Oh, good point! You humans know everything else. 




Thursday, March 16, 2017

Enigma of Youth

Let's begin with the premise that youth, while definitely enigmatic, is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be experienced. Norma has taken a photo of the graduating dandelion class of 2017. They are in their youth and have accomplished their curriculum --a few even have their heads still on. This reminds me of my own 12th grade commencement.

Winds blew hard in my youth and many of us, like dandelions, were left without any heads, but we were resilient --as youths should be-- and our heads mostly grew back.

In youth we are clumsy and limber. I wore glasses and once accidentally stepped on them while they were still on my head. Here is a typical youth:

As Norma's camera gets closer, you can see its thoughts. Here are the thoughts of youth:
These thoughts come loose easily and spread by anemochory. This happens because of wind. Wind arrives and all thoughts fly away. Youth's friends point and laugh.

"Wind!", they say. Youth must grow a whole new head.

During this process of routine recapitation, youths are not so much driven to adulthood as confused into it. They might shout things like this:
   "The only substitute for good manners is a large and ruthless military!"
   "How dare you imply my candidate's lies are not true!"
   "I'm going to sea and dive for luffas!"

Then the storm subsides by and by and they remark, "There are many enigmas, many unknowns, and something  really ought to be done about them."

That is when a cooler head prevails and she lists the contents of the coming garden.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Signs and Portents

Here's a quotation I've never used before:
"...what portent can be greater than a pious notary?"

No idea what it means.

It comes from the novel, Romola, by Geo. Eliot --whose real name was Mary, a name I have always been fond of since I knew Mary the horse who never stepped on my head.  Geo. is my name too, so I get to use the quote. Portents weren't strictly considered warnings of calamity when the book was written --as they are now. They could mean a sign of anything wonderous. I will comply with modern usage and look for a wonderful sign.

Here, I will show you wonderful. Norma went out this morning between spring showers and photographed raindrops in her garden. Here is the first, a study of  refraction and reflection on a broccoli  leaf:
It consist of liquid jewels contrived to attract our attention. In fact, you can see a spot of dark in the upper leftmost drop. That is Norma and her lens. It comprised a promise, a portent she pursued to the brussel sprouts, which have rounder, more deeply contoured leaves.  Raindrops ran together there into a sign. A heart.
Nature is the language of the universe. In this instance, it left a sign we associate with love. The heart means the universe wants us to grow, thrive, treat each other --and ourselves-- with compassion.

If you wish to find out what else Eliot wrote on page 16 of  Romola,  her next sentence was "Balaam's ass was nothing to it." This a reference to the Old Testament Book of Numbers (22:21-39), where the ass got to talking coherently but was interrupted by humans who drummed themselves dopey with portentous political paradiddle.

Best to seek subtler signs --even if you don't like brussel sprouts because they look like little heads, and they do, you know.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Modern Problems

My posts have been sparse this past month because of enigmatic modern problems. This essay will address two of them.  I opened up our bathroom medicine cabinet recently and decided it could use some updating.
Ok, this picture isn't of the medicine cabinet  --it's a tool drawer in the barn-- but it's what Norma had and it's close enough. What I wanted was an oxygen concentrator so I could take trips to higher elevations. An oxygen concentrator is a machine that draws ambient air and expels nearly pure oxygen for aging wheezers like me. Ambient air consists generally of 20% oxygen, 70% nitrogen. Remaining 10% is mainly gasses produced by decaying uraninites and, in election years, blatherskites. Problem is, I've been called back into the doctor's office three times because they hadn't given me the full test this device requires for insurance coverage --sheer repetition has made me jumpy. Each time, there is some new part of the test that I haven't studied for, or they haven't. But I digress.

Point is, as we all sometimes must, I bowed to absurdity and, as I shut the mirrored medicine cabinet door, found my reflection had disappeared. 

"Not again!" I moaned.

Identity theft is a horrible thing.Same thing happened to me exactly four years ago and I recognized the symptoms. I returned home from my doctor's 3rd exam on Friday to receive a letter from Verizon thanking me for opening a cell phone account in Modesto --a city 75 miles south of here-- which I had not done.  I called Verizon first, established myself, and they cancelled the account even though they lost a cell phone --yes they do have a fraud dept. because it's that common.  That left my problem.

Oh lordy, I thought, I got Modern Problems!

Somebody made the purchase with my SSN and name AND address. I contacted my credit card co., all three credit monitoring agencies, visited the Sheriff's  Office to start a case file, then added passwords to any accounts that didn't already have them from my previous frolic with this outrage.

My reflection in the mirror is returning, which is promising.  I have so far narrowly escaped the ailment of lost identity known, in medical parlance, as Draculitis -- a brainal dysfunction and absence of mirrored reflection that causes sufferers to roam the night asking, "Is my hair all right?" I'd hate to have to go back to my doctor this week with that.

From what I learned at the Sheriff's Office, Medicare might have to cover it by and by.

This has been a public service announcement.