Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Tarnished light in a tipping world now. The major wildfires we feared never happened -- at least so far -- but there are small blazes somewhere making smoke. Caspar, the big white cat with gray cap and tail from across the street, stalks through the yard, stopping at the mixing bowl of water I keep outside in summer. Cats like their water with a little algae on the bottom. They don’t mind bugs struggling on the surface. Crackers, the fat woolly part-cocker-spaniel cat, creeps along behind Caspar -- keeping a distance since Caspar has ripped her up in the past, but curious to smell all the little squirts and scrapes this belligerent cat leaves behind.

There are grizzlies in the wheat fields again, cubs who brought their mom this time. (Check for photos in the Great Falls Tribune website.) Ranch wives go out with cameras and capture their images standing up in the wheat fields. Why do bears look so silly when they stand up to look? Maybe it’s their round ears like stuffed toys. Maybe it’s the limp way they hold their paws in front, bent down at the wrist. They look so human I would not be surprised to see them put their paws on their hips like a Gary Larson cartoon. What are they about to say? Maybe “why do these people plant all one thing for miles and miles? Where are the roots and grubs?”

I was waiting for the hot days to dry out my door frames so the doors would close and make it practical to put up the rest of siding, patch the roof holes. Halfway through August, there have been almost no hot days. Instead the thunderstorms keep coming, drenching us all over again. The temp is staying temperate. I cut half the sweetgrass and brought it indoors in my new flat basket from Ramona’s family. It’s slowly perfuming the room. But in truth, the whole house is saturated with the smell of a custom-mixed oil that came in a little blue bottle from a fellow employee in Portland when I left ten years ago. She wore it for perfume and wanted me to have it so I’d remember her and keep in touch. I haven’t kept in touch. Don’t even remember her name but I do remember her, a free spirit with a Japanese lover, both of them thin and smart. I’ve dumped the last of the oil onto cotton in a little green globe with the world continents etched on it.

Squibbie, the velvet lizard, is slow to rouse in the morning after a night of hunting. In the last few days she contributed to the deaths of little brown bats all across America, which has reached pandemic proportions, not because of one tortoiseshell cat but because of a white fungus that seizes bats by the nose. Danger comes in many forms. Last night Squibbie killed a young dove, whose wings I harvested to attach to my little figure of a boy, wings exactly the color of the wings on the Caravaggio boy in the famous painting.

Time is changing everything. Tim has taken a dying boy (AIDS dementia) to a far-off place where he can be cradled in enmeshed love. The followers (many poets now) are baited off in speculation, imagining this beach of pot sherds and frost, this cottage of quilts and whiskey, giving some quiet and privacy to the loft in Paris where boys healing from operations have been removed from hospital because of unknown “visitors” appearing suddenly. Nurses are not used to protection on this level and the cops are too slow to come. The priests who act as chaplains have been afflicters in the past and cannot be trusted now.

Too many deaths this summer. Tomorrow I’ll attend Carl Cree Medicine’s funeral. So many times in the early Sixties it was only Bob, myself and Carl who poured bronze. We hurried in the fall, because Carl was a binge drinker and disappeared over Christmas, usually just after we all went out in the pickup to cut Christmas trees in the snow. But sober he was the best of help: willing, competent, busy, and in the end it was his son David who was Bob’s foreman, taking better care of the old sculptor than his own family did.

The most dangerous danger is caring, getting enmeshed, having to help someone else without any return -- although a writer always gets a return. Just not in money. Tim or I don’t write for others, for each other, for our mothers or any other motherf . . . Okay, calm down. Don’t think I haven’t considered whiskey but I’d want single-malt Glenfiddich Scotch. (Which I’m probably misspelling and couldn’t afford -- there might not be any in Valier anyway. They drink Black Velvet here and offer their women Peppermint Schnapps.) I only reason I know about Scotch is because it’s in the story I’m listening to on earphones from a little beetle-green wafer with a tiny red light. Would it be dangerous for me to drink whiskey alone while I listen? I’m too “scotchy” (as they say around here) to spend the money to find out.

It’s fall and things are winding down, but they never really wound up this summer. Paul has been anxiously awaiting the northern lights we were promised as a byproduct of the sunstorms that are also bringing a bumper berry crop. No curtain of lights. (He’ll say, “I see I made your blog again.” Well, that’s what happens when you know a writer.)

I’m reading about rhetorical grammar. Why didn’t anyone write this book long ago? It’s so practical, so integrative, so common-sense. So many things are all around us and through us all the time (enmeshed?), but unseen until they are named. Some things are better not named.

Three escaped murderers are headed this way. This Sunday one attended church and mowed the lawn for forty bucks and a jacket. One of the parishioners recognized him and turned him in. Was that the Christian thing to do? The other two are supposed to be near here. Is that a knock on my screen door? I keep it hooked.

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