All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Winter Faces

A proper post about Winter Faces should begin with a sundial face. This one is in Norma's garden. She went out early and Normaphotoed it cold and covered with frost --so was the sundial.  I can't see it very well with all its ice but calculate it reads about a million o'clock in the morning, which is earlier than anything should be up or about. In fact, on winter nights especially, the whole world, populations, oceans and landmasses, should be brought indoors by sundown. 

And yet, there is some charm in finding a face in rose leaves. Its frosty beard and brow remind me of a favorite childhood relative...
...who never tried to pinch my cheeks or kiss me like other aunts did --who just liked me and played checkers, took walks and said things that made me think. 

On cold days I often think I'll go inside and see what the smell is. Sometimes it is a gingerbread man or, historically, an homunculus --a tiny but fully formed being from which a human is believed to develop. The idea took hold of theology after scriptural editing of the Septuagint (or, for argument's sake, Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα) off which text the following snippet was snipped from Genesis as the archetypal  humans were being created: 

Passing angel to God: "Well, You seem to know what You're doing!"
God: "Whatever gave you that idea?"

Which brings us to the closing enigma of spontaneous generation.  We see this most commonly when rainfall creates earthworms on sidewalks. We step carefully lest we demolish miracles. But in California, after 8 years of drought, we find this enigma elevated to the top shelf of the barn. That is where I keep boxes of old VW engine parts, all dark gray in color, and have noticed life-forms emerging from among them. Observe:
They grow fur and stare back at us with the implied question: "I am some old car parts you'll never miss that have transmogrified into a barncat, problem?"

Norma takes her photo. I grant this miracle hunting rights on our property. It does not say thank you. Miracles are like that. Yes they are!


Thursday, December 8, 2016


Some enigmas defy analysis. They occur repeatedly and settle. We say, "There."  Here is one I discovered many years ago. It consumes seven seconds of video and the only comment I make (if you have the sound on) when it occurs is, "There."  Such is the mind in action. Norma kindly photoed a clip at our kitchen table:
(Link to video clip)

It consists of two coins, both held in the right hand. When turned over, one coin travels under the left hand while the other stays put. This is fundamental mechanical physics involving fictitious forces which, if performed in front of the right government agencies, will attract lucrative research grants. However, we must here ask what precisely we are looking for.

Examination of enigmas is also a search for truth. Thomas Paine offered this rare, sober observation of its character: "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks and all it wants is the liberty of appearing." The conclusion seems inescapable, especially when we seek truth in the mirror. I have reached an age at which I look in the mirror and say, "Well, whatever", then must admit that's what I've always said  --even since childhood.  This week, Norma took a photo of what I look like in the mirror (I wear a hat on windy days):
So, in our examination of enigmatic truth, we must defer to opinion, and the better mind of Herbert Spencer who thought opinions were ultimately determined by feelings, not intellect. Personally, I don't believe those two aspects of mind can be so far apart as to avoid each others influence, but will couch my doubt in a question. Which mental gesture best indicates we are in the presence of truth, one which causes us to say "There" or another causing us to say 'Well whatever"?

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Having examined three years that were historically important to me, 1510, 1892, and 1964 , I considered it only fair to examine 1962.

I don't know why I chose 1962 except fair, yes, maybe because there was  a World's Fair in Seattle that year. Here is a memory-photo of The Space Needle under construction. For some reason, or not, I always imagined they started it at the top and built downward with steel and prestressed concrete legs. This is how it looked in in my brain:

There was a restaurant up there in the saucer that rotated so diners could get a good look at the city. However, when we drove up from California, the line to get a table extended halfway to Oregon. It is now 54 years later and I'm pretty sure some of those people haven't been seated yet.

We stayed on the ground and had sodas and hot dogs that didn't agree with each others company, then got on the monorail which aggravated the argument. But we were kids, and kids are like hearts; they rest between beats and recover. We ignored our stomachs and rode an elevated  train that swung around on one rail. It was very futuristic.  Since then I have participated in many futures and learned to know when I am in one. They still make me queasy sometimes.

We are in a future right now. Best I can suggest is concentrate on some fixed point, like a mountain or big idea, or a pretty little rock and draw a doodle of it:
Settles the jumps right down; welcomes us all into December --a time of renewal and good will. I shall turn 67 this month and part of me remains in 1962. It seeks astonishment in a world's fairest dreams.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blogger Enigma!!!

Dear companion bloggers,
This evening I was prompted to accept some changes in posting procedure by Google Blogger --little boxes with arrows that said things like this:
"Blogger Buzz

A first few tweaks toward a better Blogger

A Googler at Blogger Buzz - 36 minutes ago
From New York to Jakarta, Blogger is one of the most popular ways to publish the things you’re passionate about. Still, we’ve heard that there’s more we can do to make the platform a better place to have your unique voice be heard. So we’ll be making some adjustments over time to bring you a faster, easier to use and more beautiful Blogger. To kick things off, we’ve taken a crack at simplifying Blogger’s dashboard so that it’s easier for you to get right to the tools you need. Now, whenever you open Blogger, you’ll be taken right to your blog with the most recent post, putting you o... more »"   

I clicked a couple to get them clear and things went fine for a while.  Later, I found I had no administrative access to my 2 poetry blogs: Gardening With Geo,and Invalid's Workshop I don't know what Google is trying to do here but I resent it, and urge you not to click on prompts as hastily as I did --that's five hundred pages of my poems that seem to have been written in disappearing ink --like much of this strange century's written record. I still have some control over this blog, Trainride Of The Enigmas, but have no idea how long that will last or if my poetry blogs will be restored.  Yes, I have run a virus/malware etc. scan on my computer and it's clean. This is Google-doings.

If anyone has a suggestion as to what I might do to correct the problem, I'd be most appreciative. Until then, I'll ask your patience.

How Poems Get Their Titles

Below is a Normaphoto of me this past Wednesday writing a poem on a little tablet (at right elbow) furnished free by the Hospital. For reasons perhaps discernible to keen observer, I had tentatively entitled it Not My Finest Hour --but found myself scribbling it around a better title, also furnished free, "Quehaceres", Spanish for Tasks, subtitled "To do..."
Here is a picture of the first draft of "Quehaceres":

Then it occurred to me that it was a to-do list that got me into the fix I was in. It was Tuesday, the 15th, and I decided to attack the most frightening problem in the most frightening room of this crazy old farmhouse. The old w.c. wax flange had spread and failed. Water got into the subfloor. If that could be corrected before the holiday, there would be sincere thanksgiving ahead. I went out and bought a new neoprene gasket to replace the old wax one, some lumber and --in case of protracted inconvenience-- a "Lug-a-loo", much used and roundly hated by campers.

I only neglected some minor details. I am in my late 60s, asthmatic and run on a pacemaker tuned to music to relax by. It was well into evening before everything was braced up and tightened down --functional at least-- and I settled at the kitchen table to read a bit, kick back and gasp for breath.  Many years ago, a therapist taught me a breathing technique she guaranteed would make panic attacks impossible. It always worked too, so I tried it and had a panic attack. About 1 a.m., I was feeling a bit restless and decided an ambulance ride might calm me down --and, what the heck, why not visit ER for a few hours and see how things are going in ICU until Thursday?

Couple days ago, a perceptive and valued commenter at one of my poetry sites recognized neglect there and opined it was suffering from "drought".  This surpassed prior estimates (including Acidosis)  and was adopted as the title for the poem:            


Drought, it hides 
Out underfoot
In tortured roots,
Science, in art,
And doubt, faith
And overhead in
Dry trees where 
We seek the living
Sky from our knees.
So, let's remember, there's nothing wrong with "to-do" lists, but at certain stages of age and caducity their authors will find themselves rewarded by careful editing before leaping into action -- and thus avoid overdoing.  Or one might simply hire a contractor. In neither course can the effect of bathroom repairs on the enigma of poem titles be measured accurately without a survey of the entire universe. Something to keep in mind when tempted to "do-it-yourself". 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nature As A Second Language

Now that the election is over with --or is it?-- it is time to turn our attention to nature --yes, that area between the front door and the car. Norma sent me coverage:
"Hello there, what're you?"
"You're the dominant species. You tell me."
"Off hand, I'd say you're an Agraulis vanillae."
"Typical arrant pedantry, up with which I shall not put. I'm a Fritillary.
"Not the same thing?"
"From Latin, human, it's a long way to Fritillary." 
"You can learn from Latin."
"Publilius Syrus said, 'An angry man is again angry at himself when he returns to reason.'"
"But I'm a butterfly, not a man. Look!"
"Where'd you go?"
"Put your glasses on and look carefully. I only turned sideways."
"Oh, there you are! What are you trying to teach me?"
"Look in your mind. What do you see?"
"Well, butterfly, this surprises me. I see my 1830 edition of Whelpley's dissertation on the importance of historical knowledge, A Compend Of History, open at illustrations of Fabricius and the Elephants and Cornelia's Jewels."

"And what similarities do you notice?"
"Good heavens, the book-spine and your head, thorax and abdomen..."
"My wings?"
"Your wings and the book's pages..."
"Constitute what, human?"
"Information systems of identical construction!"
"Indeed. Each butterfly is a four-page history of butterflies."
"Dear butterfly, I have been reading since Eisenhower took office but realize I have barely begun!"
"Learn the language, human. Learn the language!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

Above is the Great Seal of the USA. I held a dollar up to the webcam to capture it, and show why it looks less like a seal than an eagle to me --no flippers. Talons. Its head is pointed toward an olive branch clutched in its talon, so it must be peacetime. In time of war, its head faces toward the arrows in the other talon. Every now and then, I check my wallet to see what sort of hat or helmet to wear.

There is a ribbon in the creature's mouth inscribed with the motto, "E Pluribus Unum"--from many, one-- in reference to the states constellated  up top. When the continental congress was trying to come up with a good motto for this country, Benjamin Franklin insisted on "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” However, the committee was not completely satisfied and their report to Congress was tabled. This pretty much set the standard for committees ever after --good thing too!

Let's fast forward to today, a lively example of USA's quadrennial enigma. For those unfamiliar with American politics, it is election day, after which votes will be counted up and result in Coronation Day, which is observed by royalty and rabble taking turns beheading each other until we have a president. We have spent the year listening to  the sizzle of promises dissolving in vitriol and are now well-enough informed to vote according to personal prejudice.

Yes, of the two choices,  I confess to simply favoring the candidate more easily identifiable as a mammal, and have voted for her. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spectral Encounter

This being Hallowe'en, and having made my mind up to make good on a decision to expatiate  a mention made weeks ago about spectral encounters (yes, Jon) I began to doodle yesterday. I have had two such experiences, 34 years apart, and will address the first.
I was four years old, standing beside my mother in the back porch as she operated the wringer washer. The inner doorway gave onto the kitchen. I looked in and saw the figure above appear from the south wall, glide through the woodstove and table as if they weren't there.

She looked more like a 3-d shadow, walking alone, than figures I was used to seeing. I could discern some features. She was young, younger than my mother but older than my sisters --who were soon to be teenagers. She was upholstered in a longer, translucent, version of the black bombazine dresses my elder relatives wore sometimes, and was veiled, hat to waist.

She then passed through the north kitchen wall into my sisters' room. I told my mother: "There's a pretty lady in the kitchen..." Mama shut off the washer, asked me what I'd seen,  took me into the rooms on the figure's trajectory. Nothing disturbed, nothing there. She then held me close and I got chocolate milk.

I won't go into my second encounter with a ghost. It took place in the summer of 1988 --34 years later-- and involved someone I knew. I'm concerned that the manifestation was meant personally, not intended for repetition. But the point is, despite my inimpeachable adherence to rationalism and concession to ghostly sightings being annectotal, there is an axiom I have long been trying to substantiate: The absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence. 

But, Hallowe'en is also the e'en of an election month, and I can't ignore the terms of Ovid. We have all, all parties, despaired with a grand old --and dignified-- faction and wept with Echo for the absence of Narcissus . Let the lessons of Rome, Nature, Supernature and the promise of chocolate milk guide us into the coming month.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tide, Time and Poetry (Revisited)

I was called to substitute for your regular pastor at an inopportune moment and had no sermon prepared. However, I found this Antijeremiadic McWhirtle on which to improvise.
Like all humans, I contain several tablespoons of salt --a ratio I share with my weight in seawater because both are made on earth. Earth, in turn, was assembled by electric and gravitational attractions various compounds in outer space exerted upon one another. Throughout these compilations there remain attachments to forces among shifting stars. Like sound aimed at a microphone element they stir the oceans and make them speak. We hear it on the shore when currents collide in waves. We hear it when wind scrapes treetops. We hear it in our brains when we are very sleepy. Here is a little poem about that:

The ocean is always
In you and in me,
Where gravity dreams,
Fictitious forces swirl,
Marmoreal seams pitch
Into air.
What is too far
And ancient to see
Can at least be
Heard there.

Let's see what rolls out of the waves, shall we?

Certainly technology-heavy genres have their distances and drawbacks. Heavy Metal and Rap always sounded like rhythmic tantrums to me --a parent shouting its wit's short end, a child stomping off, the heart beating over one's foetal head. When the beat stops I expect to hear: NOW GO TO YOUR ROOM!!, glass breaking or a door slamming. But that too is part of the poetry of our time, the rhythm of waves. We ignore it at our peril. I've never been an avid e.e. cummings fan either, but discovering "i sing of Olaf" at a crucial time impelled me to leave no authority unexamined and saved my life.

Next wave: In 1968, I drove a hop truck in the late summer harvest. When possible, I'd stop for lunch at Flora's place. She had a poster there of a Robert Frost quote, "Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I'll forgive Thy great big one on me." Flora was a retired school teacher who knew poetry and I was a hick who needed to know more. Reciprocity, especially in forgiveness, opens poetry --and working hops without it was just hot and hard. I kept learning and prospered.

I could go on anecdotally  about how poetry redirected me in positive ways, but these two successive waves suffice. Thought is very random enterprise, like the vast universe that sets it up and sends sunlight to fuel it. It generates safeguards of common sense that make us find beaches not with little whiney trumpet exhaust or subwoofing cars but in ancient hop trucks. It also furnishes an ocean in our heads, portable oceans, which cuts metaphorical driving considerably. I am reminded of the old Masefield poem, which I learned over a half-century ago but can still recite inaccurately from memory:

"I must go down to the sea again, to the Coney Island sand,
And all I ask is a traffic jam backed up to Disneyland..."

John Masefield, as you know, was a writer for Mad Magazine who became the British Poet-Laureate.

I am still a hick. Help! Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Predacted Redux

I decided to repost the first (2009) entry in this blog, with pictures this time but there are temporal adjustments on the webcam that escape me. However I'll set the lens to focus back generally --after all, humans aren't designed to be exact, just closely approximate. Yes, I remember this one,  from 1956. Close enough.
The kid was full of hope.  
And then I am in 2016, which is (let's see, borrow from 20, carry  the one into 10's column --5 from 11 is...) 206 years later. Closely approximate. Amazing, the flannel shirt has lasted this long --and I appear no older than my later 60s. My computer is an early model, an upgraded Jacquard Analytical Engine that used to operate looms. Here, my math skills are eclipsed only by theological inaccuracies that initiated this blog.

I see the introduction has run too long, so I'll clickably link to the post under discussion called --I can't remember what it's called but click here-- and see if you can struggle through it --I sure can't. I hear this from others about their first blog posts and wonder if anybody's working on the problem. Still, I rather like its closing paragraph, especially in an election year for some reason, and will reproduce it here:

The feeling common to faith, intuition and logic is that something has opened, moved and caused ripples upon the surface of the waters; something tremendous has happened. Very much like falling in love --itself too intense for analysis-- which is esteemed by church people, intuitives, logicians alike, and misunderstood by all. As a unifying force, love elevates the enigma and will doubtless save us all if we do it more.

Now it's getting late and, I think, time to avoid thinking about stuff --especially any aspiring candidate for anything who just acts creepy-- and raid the kitchen for cookies and milk.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Good Old Grinnin' Gruntin' Other News

What is election anyway, hah? In its closing month, it  is mostly reflection --two surprisingly similar words that probably don't mean each other, but if they do, what then, eh? Then we have Other News.

What is reflection? Here is a thought experiment to help take our minds off the election: If we position two mirrors facing each other, they reflect mutually --toward infinity, limited only by surface imperfections and differences of angle which become more pronounced farther into the experiment. Or is that election?  Maybe I need a photo here.
Above is the rear end of our 1971 VW Bus. The little door, top-hinged to conk one's gonk, covers the engine compartment. The battery, which weighs 35-40 pounds, is situated impossibly inside, just ahead of the right tail light. This is doubtless the cruelest spot EVER to put a battery in a vehicle. I changed it out for a new one yesterday --as I've done many times but I'm old now. Had to bend over double with my head in there and got all banged up. I now feel lousy.


In other, yet other Other News, the Harlem Globetrotters signed up Pope Francis as a team member last year and gave him a jersey  but I doubt they'll play him much. He's older than I am and would get all banged up too. I've got to reach further back...

In the mid-1960s, I wanted to hone my interpretive reading/public speaking skills and signed up with the Sacramento Valley Forensic League. To train ourselves not to break up during competitions, one method was to recite this bit of Rudyard Kipling's poem, Gunga Din, while adding our own adjectives and keeping straight faces as long as we could:
"I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din."

Of course, we learned to recite it through such augmentations as grinnin', gruntin', fartin', belchin', stinkin', droolin', shittin' but when someone wrote in Kiplin' , it generally got a confused pause --and laughter. We were ready. Election months are full of trial, honors, confusions, opportunities to break up, disappointments and triumphs. You be ready too.

Monday, September 26, 2016

1979, Preaching To The Zinnias

It's only 1a.m. here, still time for a  Sunday night sermon, so...
Having revisited 1964 in my previous post, I thought it apposite to travel closer downtime (or perhaps uptime --after all these years of timetravel I still get the terms confused) toward the present (then) and share an experience of theological vertigo In 1979. Here is a Normaphoto recently taken in our garden that got me remembering. Remembering what?
If you look at the sunflower towering over zinnias below, you'll get some idea of what I endured keeping a promise that year ('79). My friends, Kate and Mike (both blond and blue-eyed with heads like lightbulbs with sensible brains in them), had decided to get married and asked me to speak at their wedding. Wedding was set at the First Baptist Church on L street in Sacramento. Church was built in 1929 on the general plan of the Roman Pantheon --beautiful pile of chiseled rock that towers halfway to hereafter. The loggia consists of open corridors formed by columns through which I was led to a high pulpit with the little poem I wrote as a gift to them. That is when vertigo set in. I am a gardener who has trimmed down tall trees but never without climbing-gear, so there was a surplus of emotion in my delivery.

However, composure was saved by concentrating on a youngster's face about 20 pews back:
This enabled me to recite the following poem:

I have climbed the stairs,
An astonished child.
I have left the lull of illusion.
You and I and a tremor of time
Climb brimming green along the shore.
I am not only myself anymore.
We are a wave 
Holding sunlight and life,
A rolling glow, music and more--
More than the sum of ourselves before
We gave our gift to time.
We stepped our separate stairs
To a door upon the earth.
It is open.
We have a simple hold,
A touch, a wash of fanning sea
Over a swath of sand, a boulder,
A lace of foam, a stairway of waves--
A lyric on the land.
When songs mingle, they sing
Among themselves, winding gift
With gift where new-winged dreams
Drift, melodies touch.
We touched,
We joined ways, and to
That touch entrusted all our days.

I'll stop here and mention the poem's line cued an interpretive dance
It is still my policy, after 37 years, not to become crapulent at wedding receptions.
Go thou and do likewise.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Some years ago, I examined three years that were historically important to me, 1510, 1892, and 1964. This being an election year, a time to reflect upon what democracy means to the future, and Sunday, I have selected the lattermost as my sermon.

In keeping with a somewhat irritating recent preoccupation with dates, I am going to examine 1964. Hadn't intended to, but I was in the pumphouse  and found an old uniform patch in a disused humidor --as one does. I picked it up, ran my thumb over its stiff threads and thought of old chums --Tom, Jack, the boys we used to be. The embroidered patch measures about one and a half inches by two and depicts our first president, Geo. Washington, on bended knee proposing to a lily.

The lily is a fleur-de-lis, a heraldic flower that does not occur in nature. It represents royalty, in which case it's unlikely Gen. Geo. was proposing marriage. It also represents north, which makes Washington's pose even more improbable. However, the patch was one I wore on my Boy Scout uniform that year and fleur-de-lis was on everything scouty. Also, north is a favorite direction of mine so I gave it benefit of the doubt.


I just made a long arm and fetched my Handbook For Boys --39th printing-- and found this: "You probably know there is a huge chunk of iron in the earth, up north, that attracts the magnetized needle of your compass -- that this iron deposit is known as the magnetic north pole." --page 162. I have never had reason to challenge this idea. Even now, the symbol attracts my memory like a big magnetic brain-chunk.

I am in my 60s now and highly suspicious of brain-chunks. I do not like to think my hairline is receding so much as my mind is expanding, but one cannot rule out brain-chunks. I was only 14 for most of that year and thought no more of them than I did of dingleberries on livestock.

In the summer of 1964, last half of July, I was one of 50,000 Boy Scouts camped in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. You probably know about Geo. Washington's awful winter there in 1777. It was all snow and blizzards and the Continental Army ruining in ice. If you were in a high school marching band in the 1960s, you probably know that's where your uniform got donated from. Here is a slight exaggeration of what Valley Forge looks like in summer:

It was hot. It was very hot and my chums, Tom and Jack, and I tried to do all the things Boy Scouts are supposed to do. We were, after all, young Americans with vigorous bodies, hearts of lions and the digestion of goats. We hiked and tied knots, worked on merit badges, cooked and puked. But usually we'd give in to the heat, find a little shade, share cigarettes and discuss the future. We liked discussing the future --there was so much of it back then-- and as our stay proceeded we got excited about it. President Johnson was going to visit the Jamboree on its final evening and give a lecture about the future.

That evening arrived, unfortunately not without incident. One scout, in a dash to catch up with his troop, was hit by a bus. Word spread and we all reflected negatively upon our illusion of immortality. Jack led Tom and me in a prayer over our little supper. Jack was very religious, even though he laughed when I once asked him why the Pope dressed like a hand-puppet. He responded by asking why we dressed in little shorts and tassles like circus chimps. There were no answers.


Doubts were forming even as we made our way to three hills that served as rough seating for 50,000 boys. Three slopes converged upon a dingle and we arranged ourselves like berries around it. There was a little stage and microphone down there. Lyndon Johnson arrived! We clapped and clapped.

The president began by assuring us we were "the hope of Amurricah", then outlined what we might expect of our country. He said: in the next 50 years tremendous progress would be made in medicine, the puzzling out of biological mysteries; space exploration would take us closer to the stars and advance earthly technology, especially in communication. From this remove of a half-century, I must admit he was correct. We clapped and clapped. But still, there was doubt. Jack and I looked over at Tom. He was not clapping.

"Come Tom," I said."Clap for Lyndon!"

He clenched his teeth and said, "Do you have any idea what that s.o.b. is going to demand we do in four years?"

Having learned sufficient wilderness survival skills to decide against a career in homelessness, I left the Boy Scouts shortly thereafter. Jack also quit to pursue an interest in sociology, then psychology and finally theology. Tom stayed in Scouts longest, well into high school and his teeth remained permanently clenched. Years later, I asked him why.

"Brown shirts," He said through teeth. "I like the brown shirtssss."

Tom became a neo-Nazi. Jack became a Catholic priest. As usual, I became a gardener.

We're all in this together.
Go in peace.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hygieia's Legacy

The are vagaries of the spirit, unutterable and eidetic, invoked by meditative doodles in early autumn night:

They call me back through old Portuguese-Semitic-Roman-Greek genetic memories to times and places painfully hard to recall. I do my merely mortal best, and reach back along a line of increasingly ancient deities to Hygieia:

Hygieia, the beautiful Greek goddess of sanitation.  I should have known after my recent encounter with  a backporch snake ; I should have recognized the omen.  Yes, it got in under a door but the signs and portents were obvious. I should not have been surprised when the toilet started rocking and hissing --but I was.

Hygieia (also spelled Hygeia, Hygiea, Ὑγιεία but these things happen) is always depicted with her snake, Wisdom, and her bowl, which contains medicinal potions.  The snake, being wise --therefore knowing good from evil--  climbs up Hygieia and feeds from the bowl.  Yes, religions often get answers by peeking at the mythic structures of religions sitting in desks next to them. 

That being so, and with all the pressures of testing these days, it's not surprising Hygieia's Bowl has become the symbol of pharmacy worldwide. Snake has been run up around the  medical caduceus.  Hygieia herself has retired to sanitation, sending omens (snakes) to those of us whose sanitary bowls she worries about.

I'm a believer!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Rose Revisited and The Cisco Kid

It's been too many years since we looked in on Tex and Rosie  and high time we did so again. To those dear readers unfamiliar with this romantic Old-West couple, I recommend clicking on their blue names in the previous sentence before proceeding.
Two riders approach the one-room school house. We hear an a-c-g chord progression strummed from somewhere inside the dust cloud and Tex singing, "Oh mah sidekick died from a kick in the side!" over and over.

Francis: You will never be a good singing cowboy!

Tex: How would you know?

Francis: Because I am a psychic.

Tex: I know that. Well, we're here, and that's my darlin' Rosie steppin' outta the schoolhouse.

Rosie: Tex! You've been gone for years! Where have you been?

Tex: Still trackin' the Driscoll Gang. You wouldn't believe how many people are named Driscoll in this country.  

Rosie: And who's your friend?

Tex:  Danged if I know.  People call him Pancho; other people call him Cisco...

Francis: My name is Francis, senorita. 

Rosie: Tex, Pancho and Cisco are both nicknames for Francis.

Tex: Well, I just call him Sidekick. He was recommended by a barkeep in Abilene. I asked where I could find a good sidekick t'help me round up all the Driscolls and the barkeep sent me next door. There was a sign, said, "Gifted Francisco, Psychic", and I reckoned it close enough no matter how they spelled it.

Rosie: It can make a difference, Tex. What did your parents name you before you before you got stuck with "Tex"?

Tex (thinks hard for a while): Henry! I believe my name is Henry!

Rosie: Might there also be some confusion between "sidekick" and "psychic"?

Francis: Excuse him, Senorita Rosie. He needs me to foresee his future mistakes --of which there are many.

Rosie: Very well, but...but Tex, Henry, O Henry, couldn't you change your career to something safer? You've had so many adventures. Perhaps I could help you become a writer!

Francis: Yes, I see it growing more and more probable! The knight without armor, "The Caballero's Way"! Tell him!

Rosie: My poor Tex, O Henry, confused all this time by sidekick and Psychic.
Francis (riding off at a gallop down Main Street): ¡Ándale, Loco, let's went!

And in the distance the image divides into two riders who shout, "Oh Pancho!" and "Oh Cisco!" and, if your hearing is very good, "O. Henry!", followed by rapid hoof-beats and laughter.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mind Power!

I keep power tools in the pumphouse. They are useful in emergencies. Every occasion that calls for power tools is an emergency. How do I know that?


This Normaphoto shows how serious and full of mindpower I am in an emergency. I have been inside the pumphouse assembling tools and fasteners toward rehanging our back door. 

A snake got in! 
Early in the morning I took coffee into the back porch and noticed something coiled on the concrete floor that did not belong there.  Without glasses, I couldn't distinguish its head shape or markings in dim light. 

"Are those dark spots only blotches or diamond-shaped?" I asked.

"I don't know," replied the snake. "I just came in through that gap in the door-sill corner and don't know what sort of thing I am."

"Well, you're only about 15 inches long and a little thicker than a crayon, but I can't see you well enough to tell if you're a gopher-snake or a young rattler. Do you rattle?"

"I don't think so, but I'm really new and rattles come later --best be careful!"

"Right, then here's the plan: I'm going to grab you very quickly and gently behind your head and lift you off the floor."

"What if I bite?"

"If I grab right you won't be able to, but you may wrap yourself around my forearm for security. I need to have one arm free to open doors and gates."

So I transported porch-snake back into the wild, directed him toward the creek and gave him a little toss.  I was determined not to look too closely at his markings because, well, I knew he wasn't a garter snake (insectivore) and didn't want to be too frightened. Still, the experience rattled me and I immediately repaired to the pumphouse to organize materials and tools for the job ahead.  Norma took a photo from the west pumphouse garden:

It furnishes photographic evidence indicating my morning meditations were not strictly nicotinic. I was planning methods of making the back porch door secure and snug in its frame, and projecting a lively psychic-improvement industry to attract all those who like that sort of thing. Here's a catchy ad-phrase: "Hey Kids! Get Mindpower! Give me all your money!" 

Do  they still print those in the backs of comic books? Maybe this new century has them in magazines about country life in crazy old farm houses like mine.  I believe using Mindpower to work things out with snakes and kids and each other is an important first step in evolution that could take us anywhere, and doubtless will.  To all, happy September!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Prose And Poultry

When I was little my world was full of walnuts and chickens. One of my jobs as a five-year-old was dragging a gunny sack under a tree to collect fallen walnuts. Once I got a couple dozen in the sack I'd swing it round in front of me and kick it with every step, which made a satisfying crunch that attracted chickens. Chickens would follow me around and say, "buck, buck, buck."

I was sure the chickens thought my name was Buck and were trying to get my attention. But, by and by,  because they seemed to call each other Buck and mutter "buck" about everything, I considered other possibilities. Years later I tried stiffening my lips in approximation of a beak and found it impossible to pronounce the letter F. Came out B. Mystery solved. I learned something of the general discontent of chickens.

But this is not intended to become an autobiography. Typical of boys my age I have an aversion to the finality of the form. After one experiences a few blows in life, one feels a bit  impermanent and shies away from writing it up. This is instead a personal essay which, although containing some historical exposition, is another sort of thing.  I  will restrict my comments to barnyard animals.

Childhood observation was recalled to me as I sat in the back porch with one of my grandsons. We heard roosters crowing to the west, to the south, then more distantly to the east. Once those in all directions knew of each other, they crowed back and forth incessantly.

Grandson asked what they were saying. I said, "Traditionally, 'cock-a-doodle-do.'"

He didn't think so. I listened. He was right, cock-a-doodle-do has five syllables and these roosters were crowing only four. The rise in pitch toward the end was right, but was revealed now as interrogative. A question.

"A riddle?" He asked .

A riddle with no answer, or an answer so obvious as to need no articulation besides silence, followed by repetition --an enigma! We listened carefully, trying to fit lyrics to their four notes. Finally we heard it together: Where's-the-bathRRROOOM? Where's the bathRRROOOM?

We got the answer simultaneously too: for a chicken, anywhere.

I post this scholarly personal essay in hopes that others will explore the language of chickens and contribute to a lexicon --an addition to the Rosetta Stone that includes poultry. Remember to consult children in this endeavor, especially if you aren't a child yourself.  Children remind us we are on this planet to learn, to imagine and to have a little fun every day.

Monday, August 15, 2016


She had taken a picture of the moon. I remained, admiring the night,  conducting a nicotinic meditation in the great outdoors, then stowed my pipe in the pumphouse and headed for the back porch door.
As I reached for the doorknob, I felt a familiar feathery touch on my shoulder. I stopped, turned toward the cool white light and remembered my manners.

"Boa noite Lua."

"Geo., you may address me in your current language." Then she appeared upon the planet that is also a portal to her world.
"Excuse me, Selene then?"

"Lovely, but dated. How can I feel anything but old when named by ancient Greeks?"

"Prosperina? Hecate? Diana? Juno?"

"No! I share no responsibilities with pseudonyms now more often used to name racehorses and  fishing boats!"

"Carmen Saeculare?"

"Do I look like I have horns?"

"No, you are as beautiful tonight as you were when you made your covenant  with Gaia to share an orbit around the sun a billion and a half years ago. What is upsetting you?"

"Well, it's just a few things. No one wants to live on moons because other planet-dwellers call them lunatics instead of Lunarians..."

"What about Selenites? That's a pretty name."

"A name your H. G. Wells imprinted upon literature as ill-mannered insectoids!" 

"What do you prefer?"

"I like Lycanthra. Lycanthropes in literature had bubbly personalities."

"Why would you think that?"

"I've monitored your werewolf movies and noticed, under my full moon, they all  froth at the mouth!"

"I shall not call you Lycanthra."

"But how do you account for all the unpleasant things Earth People insist upon  doing when there are so many pleasant things to do?"

I confess I can't, and hope you can help correct the problem...and wish you good night Lua. I love you."

"I love you too, Geo."

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Enigma of Creation

There are as many creation stories as there are indigenous cultures, and as many interpretations as there are --have been and will be-- minds to interpret them. They do, however, have certain points in common.
Creation myths begin with a creator, a being of pure potential, perfected in darkness, who decides to bring light --much like the figure in the geodoodle above. In the doodle, light is represented as stars spreading away from each other. A reference to the Doppler Effect tells us the red stars are moving away and the blue ones are coming toward us. I included yellow stars because I think they are pretty. We orbit a yellow star. All of them emit light.

Light is energy propagated at a visible wavelength.  Its definition is inseparable  from its velocity. That is, nothing can equal the speed of light without being light --so it also serves as a universal constant, particularly in this equation: E= mc2When we are young algebra students, it is almost irresistible, we divide both sides of the equation by c2 and discover ourselves to be E, kinetic energy, and m, relativistic mass. In short, we are the square root of light.

Creation myths generally describe building archetypal humans out of water and earth --after adjustments are made by the creator to the velocity of light resulting in seas and minerals. Scientific evidence suggests we crawled from the water in search of new evolutionary opportunities. Whether scientific, scriptural or metaphorical, creation stories abound. I rather like to include a bit of supernature, which is why this is my favorite creation myth: 

"Frosty the Snowman, was a jolly happy soul,
With a corn cob pipe and a button nose, and two eyes made of coal.

Frosty the Snowman, is a fairytale, they say.
He was made of snow, but the children know he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found,
For when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around!" 

My appreciation to Doppler, Einstein and the songwriting team of Nelson and Rollins. And to all from this hot California summer: Remember the winter sometimes and try to dance around a little. I do!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Recapitating A Goose

Our education system is lacking in some key areas. This essay will address only one such shortcoming --mainly because another educational shortcoming is we don't know what the rest of them are-- but I trust it will suffice to illustrate the problem.  I trust also it will demonstrate something positive about the enigma of ignorance by drawing upon my own vast reserve of it.

Among the most important questions an American can ask is, "What should I do when my goose's head falls off?" 

The first step toward resolution is, don't panic. Think back on lessons in basic ornithology. Unlike most birds, geese are not hatched from eggs, nor do they have articulated skeletons. They begin life as wads of rebar (short for reinforcing bar, used in masonry structures), around which concrete is cast.  One end of the rebar is drawn up and forward to support a neck and, for maybe 20 years, a head.

What with rain, drought, irrigation, worry, etc., heads tend to crack and crumble, then fall off.  Look in the mirror;  watch for the signs.  We're not so different from other animals --like geese.  However, much can be done. First step is to find up any pieces in the dirt that can still suggest a cranial contour --it's what brain surgeons do, I think. 

Second step, again like brain surgery, involves mixing stucco patch with Elmer's Glue. I do this on a palette with a knife because there's more chopping than stirring. Get everything good and stuck together, have a beer, then go back with the palette of gritty putty and build a beak.
Let the beak dry, smooth it with sandpaper, then remember when to stop --some folks sand things down to a fraction of their original size, a strange and regrettable enthusiasm. Then wait, go live happily and thoughtlessly a few days until everything dries.  Afterwards, decide whether you want to seal the patch with goose details --and no, you won't capture the mischief in their beautiful eyes, as I had to admit to myself-- or reintegrate the repairs with color of concrete. I got into the pumphouse and found a 30-year-old can of gray primer.
Did the trick. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What IS History Anyway?

Alas, I get political:

Two years ago, I asked,

Is this the face of someone who'd paint things bleu for no particular reason?

In 1906, Walther Raster founded the Justrite Manufacturing Company with Frederick Becker. They sold this can:

It was rusty and cruddy. It belonged to my grandfather. Strangely, Norma didn't set it out in the garden and paint it bleu (blue).  She painted it green:
The can is about 100 years old and full of history. It has an ingenious spring-loaded, lever-operated lid, so history can't escape unless you pull the handle back real hard. It is a safety feature. History can be quite flammable.

What is history anyway?

As I answered my history-class teacher 50 years ago, "History is social movements and explosions sometimes, but mostly it's barbwire fences and people just standing around."  He kindly accepted my imbecility and asked some other kid. I forget what the other kid said but it was also true. A discussion ensued. This was a time when Timothy Leary said, "Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition." (Yes, he was a feminist by then.) and Joan Baez, her mother and sister, Mimi, posed for a poster captioned, "Women say yes to men who say no." I could go on,  but I don't want to and you can't make me, but history was clearly defined. Still is.

OK, it was a strange decade. There were other names I remember: Martin Luther King Jr.; Medgar Evers --whose murderer went free for 30 years-- and, of course it was open season on the Kennedys.

But basically,  history is people. People are measured by experience, yes, and importantly and most certainly, by their capacity for experience. That is character and conscience. I learned a lot from some amazing and courageous people in my formative years, and from those heroes who followed them --young people too-- and I fear only two things: age making me rusty and cruddy, and Norma coming at me with green paint.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dear Aunt Acid

Because my Uncle Eyeball developed Rocket Butt  and jetted up on a protracted intergalactic survey, I have lately been compelled to ask another relative for advice, my dear Acerbic Aunt Acid.
Dear Aunt Acid,
I clicked onto my blog today and noticed something alarming...

Dear "Alarming...",
That's what you get when your ancestors immigrate to The New World instead of a nice settled country like Acerbia, as I did. Yes, I know, we've argued about it before but they wanted a fortune to cross the Atlantic --even more if I was furnished a boat-- so I came to this lovely, vitriolic country and acculturated myself and made a good living with an advice column. Now, "Alarming", who should have a proctologist examine his brain, what is your problem?

Dear Aunt Acid,
You know it is I, Geo.  I have a question...

Dear Geo.,
I knew it was you, which is why I'm being nice. Shoot.

Dear Aunt Acid,
The GFC Followers list, at the head of my blog, suddenly shows only one line of 20 subscriber icons (and requires key-prompts to show the rest) where it used to show 4 lines and things were simpler. The count is still at 88, but it takes longer to get through them and the dashboard is rearranged in that area too.  It did this by itself. I have visited Google forum to find similar problems and solutions to them but it yields nothing. What's going on? 

Dear addled Geo.,
Send a plea out to your subscribers to find out if they see the same thing at your GFC gallery.  The rest is up to you. Now, excuse me, I must go sweep teeth off the dance-hall floor.

Dear Readers,

Saturday, July 16, 2016

How It Works

I live in a crazy old farmhouse full of books but, when I was a kid, I lived in a crazy old farmhouse full of books.  This book belonged to my dad. He had ridden in cars like the one on the cover when he was a kid. He was 40 when I was born. Mom was 5 years younger than he and I was the youngest child.  Like many women, she stopped having kids at 35. 

 35 kids is more than enough for any family.

The book contains everything mechanical that a kid of any century ought to know.  Here is a diagram of how music is made in a piano.  It is a complex coordinated activity of whippen flanges, cantilevers, dampeners and felted hammers. From it I learned that rubber bands could be stretched from one's front teeth and played pizzicato.  However, the astute autodidact soon found higher notes wanted more stretching than rubber bands could manage.  

They would snap and whack me in the chops. This, rather like picking up a cat by the wrong end, taught generations of kids something they could learn in no other way. We learned to make music within the limits of our materials, and grant upon ourselves the kindly wish that old misfortunes be reversed.  We were curious, happy children.

We were customarily sent outside after breakfast and called in to supper several years later.  As a result,  most of our activities would necessarily fall in the category of  outdoor pursuits. The book helped there too.  It diagrammed the dynamics of kite ascension.

We learned, in the words of another kid (Benjamin Franklin), "a kite flies highest against the wind", and aimed tens of thousands of them eastward.  String being unreliable in those days and kites being constructed of available materials --bamboo, newspaper and snot-- caused a century of the things to snap free and drift aloft to raise the elevation of the high Sierras.

This forced auto makers to add a lower gear to transmissions so people could safely traverse the grades and all us kids were ordered indoors to watch television, which by then was mostly bad horror films --you know, the ones with blood dripping from their titles-- then get up at like a million o'clock in the morning to go to church. There, we sat and debulliated --relieved only by the dream that we might grow up to own cool cars.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Möbius And Finding One's Self Oneself

Norma's blackboard invited me to reflect and decide if, after a day of medical tests, I was having fun yet. A simple question if you ignore the virgule --a left-hanging slash mark that is actually a chive. In all languages, including French, grammarians and gardeners can distinguish between virgules and chives because chives cast a shadow and virgules do not . This is elementary punctuation to my generation but is no longer taught and bears repeating. By such details one finds one's self.

The phrase "one’s self" is used in spiritual, philosophical and psychological description. Otherwise, "one’s self" can be replaced with the pronoun "oneself" except in possessive reference to a small mythical being --in which case, it's probably better not to mention "one's elf", especially loudly on a cell phone in public. Why? Because it doesn't really compete with public cell-phone broadcasts like, "Where you at? No, where YOU at? I'm at the checkout line, buying  stuff FOR MY CONTAGIOUS BRAIN-EATING DISEASE!"

Where this leaves one's self in relation to oneself is debatable.

People who shout publicly on cell-phones are the biological equivalent of a geometrical enigma, the Möbius strip.

The Möbius strip is a 3-d surface with only one side. It was discovered independently by German mathematicians August Ferdinand Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing in the same year, 1858. This was a great coincidence, diverging only in subsequent disagreement between the two mathematicians over which side had been isolated. Möbius claimed the outside and Listing argued for the inside. They finally agreed it was neither but the model was named after the mathematician with the best left hook (however, Mobius's umlaut was stolen that night and the grammatical case was never solved!).

Cell-phone shouters seem only to have an outside, but their effectiveness in driving the rest of us inside suggests both planes coexist in emotional opposition.

Two-sided people can use cell-phones too. Norma uses hers to converse very quietly with our children, who have grown up and scattered over the world, in the same gentle voice she used to hush them to sleep with when they were little. She does this in the evening while painting things blue.

While Norma was murmuring soporific phrases to our offspring, lots of friends were questing off to India to find themselves. They would come back after a year or two, full of strange enthusiasms --meditation, ego-abolition, gravity bathing (ok, I just made up gravity bathing)-- back to find their little ones had found other parents and their spouses reassigned. But they had found themselves in search of themselves --and, to their credit, they found a lot of Indians.

My personal search for myself is as it has always been. The sun sets. I set out. On the way, I notice the elf is not an elf but a purple caret-capped gnome at the foot of Norma's slate. A caret, I should mention, is a pointy grammatic symbol suggesting insertion (caret ^) and should not be sat on by accident. As for myself (this one's self) or whatever I was looking for, I probably forgot and left it in the van. I'll go look.