Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Maybe it’s it’s a sign of old age or maybe it’s just the times we’re in or maybe it’s just too much coffee, but whenever there’s a disruption in my regular routine, I find myself -- not entrapped -- maybe becalmed for a day or so. Though I’m about as calm as a duck -- looking peaceful up top, but paddling away down below. Dave Lull, librarian extraordinaire, sent me a link this morning to a Wall Street Journal review by David Myers, addressing a book by Winifred Gallagher called “Rapt” in which she wraps up some concepts about how minds work. She evidently talks about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of “flow,” that state in which your mind is truly engaged, neither overtaxed nor bored. Finding the occupation and context that will keep you in that state is one of the secrets of happiness. There’s a lot of other good stuff about how the part of one’s mind that one can’t really access except indirectly does a lot of shaping and guiding.

That part of my mind really likes routine and quiet, which is why I thrive in Valier. A trip like yesterday’s trip to Great Falls will disrupt my pill intake, my sleep patterns, the level of household cat contentment, where I put my keys, and blogging. Just the seasonal changes, which happen on the hour this time of year, keep me a little too preoccupied. This morning’s dawn sky was a heap of red embers, which is supposed to signal wind. The only trouble with that theory is that the wind had already come, raked the town, and left again an hour earlier. Now we’ve moved along to low dark clouds. It’s warm.

Since I must’ve woken up with the wind, partly because I got back from Great Falls stunned enough by driving to need a long nap, I brought in the paper. Something has changed to cause it to come much earlier than it used to -- maybe it’s just so much smaller that it’s printed faster. Bits of the news are distressing: my friends Kip and Odette Mortenson are suing to protect their organic beef ranch from weed eradication efforts that the state is determined to fulfill by spraying along road right-of-ways through their ranch. That in itself is enough to make me grumble, but the community has been so resistant and the weather so severe that it looks as though Mortenson’s may decide this is not a good place to age out. When they go, they will take their excellent bookstore with them. Oasis Books, Choteau, Montana, focused carefully on quality first edition used hardbacks about the West. The locals would rather have a big jumble of paperback ephemera.

Another is that in spite of the best efforts of the GF Ad Club, attendance is down so much at the CM Russell Museum that three staff people have been laid off. The complaint I hear is not so much that the staff is shrinking but that the wrong people have been let go: the dedicated and long-term people who make things work. Historical and art museums have some major vulnerabilities, one of which is an exaggerated respect for academia, probably in an effort to prove that the local vernacular is just as valid as the elite city stuff. So they hire people with fancy credentials but not much real love or enthusiasm for the subject. Also, their boards tend to sun themselves in the honor of it all instead of understanding that their duty is to raise money, even if that means writing a nice fat check.

That said, the “Bison” exhibit is quite beguiling. The most impressive part, I thought, was walking through the midst of a virtual buffalo stampede. One goes through a dark, narrow and short passage with a video of rampaging animals on one side and a mirror showing the same rampage on the other. The sound effects and the shaking underfoot are pretty convincing and I’ve BEEN in a buffalo stampede! The life-sized “diorama” of an Indian on a horse taking down a buffalo didn’t impress me much. The rest of the information and materials are familiar, but won’t be for tourists.

The “Big R” ranch supply store is now so big it’s easier to get lost in than the buffalo exhibit maze. There are still chicks for sale, so tiny and busy they hardly seem real. One longs to cuddle them in spite of the signs begging people not to. If you think all chicks are yellow, there are surprises here. No ducks, geese or turkeys are left. Over in the ranch tools section with huge levers and wheels, enameled bright red except for cutting edges and teeth which glittered steely, there was a big old rancher in his cowboy hat, puttering around amongst things, singing “salakadoola, michigaboola, bibbety-bobbity boo! Put ‘em together and what’ve you got . . .?” I haven’t heard that one for a long time. They did NOT have what I went there for: a fly trap that’s a little plastic bag with a baffle on top. I bought a fancier one -- it’s important to start early before they lay eggs. I gather the simple ones didn’t sell because they stink so bad -- but that’s what made them work!

Nor were there any magazines I really wanted at Barnes & Noble, which has always been one of my motivators for driving so far. The books weren’t interesting either. I’m way out of step with corporate American publishing on all levels and have a hunch I’m not the only one. It’s the same problem I work on when managing my own consciousness: to keep moving. The book and magazine (AND newspaper) industries are so locked into what they’ve always done -- no, that’s wrong. They haven’t always done what they’ve done in the last decade or so, which is to become dominated by corporations that demand unreasonable returns and who depend upon market research instead of thought and observation. Since the market research is also based on unexamined assumptions, they are winding in on themselves ever more tightly until they will probably (hopefully) disappear in a little black dot of cynicism. The good part of it is that they have left so much territory untouched that the rest of us have lots to lift up via the New Media.

My cousin asked me about my interview with George Cole. She is sometimes concerned about revealing things that are too intimate and wondered whether I had. Oh, my. There is so much more under the surface that remains to be said that my becalmed little boat will soon be propelled on its way, rapt with possibility, going with the flow.

No comments: