This Monday morning there’s snow on the ground, the house is not quite warm, and the feral cat family is not showing up except for the big orange and white tom that Caspar (the old bull dyke white cat from across the street) beat hell out of yesterday. Fat lot of good that did! I guess I need to track him down to see where he lives. With this much snow on the ground, it shouldn’t be hard to follow his trail. Also, I can probably find where Patches and the three kits have their home nest. I know it’s on this property below.
The house belongs to a Frenchman who lives in Florida and who specializes in renovating and “flipping” empty properties in small towns. There’s a big pile of brush next to a shed and I suspect the cats have a burrow under that shed which they do not intend to flip.
So I’m having a “board meeting” with me, myself and I, plus whatever fantasy selves I can summon up. The main topic seems to be “incompleteness.” Too many things started but not finished -- a basic character flaw. When it works it’s because I start half a dozen things, wait to see which one is catching hold and working, then abandon the others. But the dark side of that is getting captured by something that works, mostly, but not entirely, with the reasons for non-completion being things that are out of my hands. A good example is blogging, which is not one thing, but several.
I can easily maintain the schedule of at least 1,000 words a day, which has somehow become 1200 words. (It’s notoriously difficult to write short.) But the reason it's easy is that I work so many different threads. Half of readers come by following, though only a double-dozen using the blogspot “follow” feature, and now more than half come through search engines. This means if I put in a trendy tag or use a subject that is “popular,” the number of hits for a post will double or triple. Sometimes posts that are years old will come alive with a hundred hits. If I can trust the indicators, I’m running between 600 and 800 hits a day, 1,000 if the topics are popular. Some posts are slow at first, then mushroom.
But I’m not playing the “hit whore” game, which is just pushing for popularity. I don’t care how many people are looking. NO one except a couple of long-time readers ever comments, but I think that’s in part because of my topics and style -- they aren’t the kind of thing that attracts hipshots. I’m beginning to cluster posts into “books” that I can put on Lulu.com or on a long-form PDF host. They will immediately become pirated “free” material. The channel for making money is to promote, tour, tout, pay for advertising, build a platform -- all the things a publisher used to do and that now publishers will demand that the writer do. I don’t want to be a drummer for a publisher.
I see that I have an almost unmanageable plethora of stuff: a book of cowboy short stories, a book of Indian stories, a couple of essay collections, plus my “Bone Chalice” project. Sometimes people ask whether I have a memoir but I resist even collecting "memories" from the blog. What they want is to vicariously chase buffalo, pour bronze, preach to Unitarians, and catch dogs -- without any interest in what those things mean. They are just excitements, adventures. Momentary but hardly momentous.
I do not think it is possible to be a really meaningful writer now. It’s partly a matter of the culture not valuing “literary” writing as much as sensationalism, but more than that there is STILL no delivery system that works. I’m sure people are out there writing amazing stuff, but no one knows how to find it. A person can spend hours exploring and find only half-assed on-line mags, special interest groups, and a hail of bright pretty vampire-killer mommies just now discovering S/M. There are other sub-groups if you know where to look.
My frustration is probably my fault for being imprinted with formidable men. In Montana David Quammen is the only man of that quality I’m aware of who is about my age. Maybe Richard Manning. The Unitarians, who promised to be exceptional, have turned out entirely trivial. The Montana female writers, as soon as they had a reputation, moved to a better climate. I thought the candidates for a salon de refusée might be interesting, but they’re emotional cripples. So much for a cohort.
What is a singleton, aging, arrogant woman with increasing carpal-tunnel-syndrome and a falling-apart house doing at the keyboard anyway? Pleasing herself. Maybe it IS masturbation -- is there something wrong with that?
Now and then I can put an oar in on the Blackfeet Reservation. That takes the number of hits up quickly -- still no comments. We’re all hunkered down thinking about it -- except the FBI which rushes around interfacing with Homeland Security, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Border Patrol, Customs, etc. and sucking down money for tech stuff -- leaving none for ordinary beat-cop maintenance. Who is responsible for the law that lets them keep what they impound? Pure evil greed. Clever quiet corruption. Trace THAT.
Two successes are the schools and this new idea about Emergency Mental Health Responders, Issksiniip, armed with ears and a heart. So much local practical history is lost. I can make up for a little of it, threading among the anonymous righteous and the ignorant liberal outsiders. It helps to draw on the Blackfoot Nation in Canada.
(L to R) Blackfeet elected Tribal Council members Jay Wells, Bill Old Chief, Jay St. Goddard, Paul McEvers and Cheryl Little Dog were dismissed on accusations of misconduct in violation of Blackfeet tribal ordinances.
But NO ONE is thinking about the true problems: first, that long-game natural resource predators can only benefit from Tribal Council chaos that keeps them weak and looking stupid. I’m sure the predators are covertly provoking and supporting division, which isn’t hard in such a climate of jealousy and resentment.
Second, the closed cultural system that justified the reservation in the first place is now a trap, because there is no access to justice beyond local families and cartels. For Indians to think only in terms of sovereignty (and I am not suggesting they give that up), is to deprive their own people of citizen rights. There has to be access to a larger appellate or "supreme" justice that's not local. This is the same problem as on a national scope: the United States is not participating in the world order of justice. For instance, the US abstains from signing United Nations pledges to protect children. http://treaties.un.org Other nations notice and approach the Native American tribes as though they were true nations. But the land base is gone: no longer owned by Indians. Is it? For sale. Isn't it?
If there are truly dedicated and competent journalists out there, they should begin to follow the money and regulations involved in water rights; oil, gas and coal; alcohol and drugs; timber -- in all categories both legal and illegal money. Indians make a wonderful “front” for funny business because people are so emotional about them. (Young reporters fall in love; old editors strike out everything that doesn't fit their personal world-view.) Many members of the “Cats Paw Clan.” Track those cats. Take a close look at the county and state levels, the bodies that control regulations about land use, and the personal fortunes that have invested in this state and on this rez. Montana is overrun with people wanting to exclaim over the mountains, wring their hands over the wildlife, exult over the energy profits from wind and sun. There are far too many lawyers. Not enough reading of fine print. Not enough actual residence.
Even the bees and beefs are snowbirds. The stock trucks have been going through on their way south all week. Leaves are on the ground except for the ones freeze-dried onto the trees, dammit. (My cottonwood won’t let sun through.) We also hang on as the twirling planet wobbles us into winter, so palpably in a place with this much wind and sky. Humans here are brief and wary. I hang onto my keyboard. If my hands fail entirely, I’ll learn to use the “dictation” feature. Now I suppose I should set my clocks back. I always wait too long. And I’m hungry too soon.