Thursday, July 20, 2017


Concept by actors who were not at the dinner.

Hiding in plain sight is much easier when people are emotional and desperate for some kind of rational interpretation of what’s happening.  Research psychologists have been emphasizing that we see what we expect to see, our brains actually interpreting reality to support the preconceptions we’ve developed, put our “faith” in.  This has led me to interpret the Trump/Putin “second meeting” in a different way than most people, simply because my framework of interpretation is different.

If you take George Lakoff’s thumbnail summary of the difference between a happy and confident country and a shaken, resentful one as the difference between the belief of the first that it has a patient, understanding dad and the conviction of the second that it has — indeed, MUST have — a controlling power-conscious dad, then the nefarious “pull-aside” tete-a-tete between Trump and Putin during the recent long leader banquet becomes intelligible in a different way than assuming that they were planning the design of the Death Star.

I see Trump’s extravagant and impatient maneuvers, so tone-deaf and heedless of consequences, as an effort to please a father-figure that’s only in his mind and childhood memories.  Putin’s power over Trump is that he fills that Controlling but Disapproving role.  And Putin knows it.  Trump— whose inner dimensions are never plumbed by himself — does not.  So I suspect the conversation went something like this:

T:  Oh, it’s so good to be with you at last and see your beaming eyes.  I so hope you’re pleased with what I’ve delivered to you already.  Together we can control the world.  

P:  You are a good puppet.

T:  Only you can understand what I’ve done in getting American under control so they are obedient and lined up.  But they don’t appreciate it and the Dems keep making me into some kind of demon, but you know about that because your opponents do that to you.

P:  Yes.  I understand.  Too bad you can’t just get rid of them the way I do.

T:  They say I am vulgar when obviously I have more gilt furniture and pink marble than they do.  And more hair.  They say my wife doesn’t like me but she’s better looking than any of their wives and she does what I tell her to do.  My tweets are so clever, “glad”, but they are mocked.  They criticize my children but they’re only trying to help their father.

P:  The critics are far too French.

T:  They just don’t appreciate me.  I’m much too smart to waste my time on all the trivia of the stuff they bring me to sign, but you have to admit I’m better at signing my name with a fibertip than any previous president.

P:  I appreciate you, my son.  Did you happen to notice what they said about reversing sanctions?

What I’m saying is that there were no American translators and the meeting was not reported or interpreted because it was a private confession-session in which Trump could at last stop making faces and be real in his own little boy way.  He did NOT want it revealed that Putin doesn’t really love and admire him, because Putin is his ideal and — he believes — his only equal.  It’s not nefarious, only embarrassing.

We’re told that the Americans “ were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled.”  The paradigm of diplomacy was gone, but think how much worse it is to discover that the Great Oz is revealed to be an act.  If we can elect a clown like this to manage our country, what does it mean about US?  Duped by a dope.  We are scarecrows and tin men — cowardly lions who have not listened to what Toto knew at once.  And Dorothy — well, we still want to know about those 33,000 emails.

Locally we’ve been here before.  Valier’s Sixty-Second Mayor a few years ago couldn’t even recite the Pledge of Allegiance and resigned in a snit after weeks of rearranging the furniture so he could move into the Boy Scout room.  I’m told he wintered in Mazatlan.

Actual screen shot from the vid of Clinton and Bush

I was discouraged and disgusted like many others until I stumbled upon this YouTube record of a double interview.  was billed as “Bill Clinton and George W. Bush BRILLIANTLY Destroys and Makes Fun Of Trump in An Long Interview.”  That’s not what it was.  I mean, it DID do that, but not by attacking.  They never even said “Trump”.  The two “guys” were funny, humble, smart and lively.  Jon Snow moderates a whole “Viral Network” which is a news and comment channel on YouTube.  It’s also the title of a book about viral epidemics, so it’s a metaphor in a living and penetrating way, quite self-aware.  It’s hard to find out much about the YouTube version because it seems evasive but — beyond that — some of the websites on Google are loaded to punish those who are curious.  They claim to infect inquirers with computer-destroying viruses.  (Penetrating!)

Each of the former Presidents of the USA have developed centers of some sort: libraries, repositories, and programs for the benefit of the country that extend their own personal know-how and ideas.  Now they are cooperating to present programs.

“The Presidential Leadership Scholars program is a partnership among the Presidential Centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson and is designed for mid-career leaders from diverse backgrounds who share a commitment to helping solve society’s greatest challenges. Participants connect with some of the best minds in the study of leadership and benefit from the assets of the Presidential Centers and the insights of former Presidents and the people who served with them.”

One of the great side benefits of my ground-level job history is that it has taught me that no matter what the media in Manhattan or Washington DC thinks is happening in terms of dire and dramatic terms, the real background is always quietly and effectively going on.  Clerks at counters, pastors at coffee, a multitude of nonprofits and NGO’s, networks of conferences about flood plains or grizzly bears or mystery infections, lab workers at benches wielding pipettes and petri dishes.  They pass around news, share ideas, reach out to each other.  Rarely do they have names until they die and are obits, searchable nationally.  They are us.

One rarely gets to see the “real” side of presidents, not that they were so different from what one would expect.  Though I will say that George W. Bush improves with age.  Both have wry and dry senses of humor and are not afraid to make fun of themselves.  Bush is only 44 days older than Clinton and they get the same jokes.  Clinton is the same flatterer he always was.  Bush is the same underwhelmer as he always was.  Clinton has developed a tremor and in his dieted-down form is even more the teenager who gets revved up.  Bush still plays the guy who wants to get this over with so he can get back to cutting brush or riding his trail bike or (surprise!) painting.  Both guys have daughters who love them and try to keep them on the straight and narrow (more success with Bush, but he has two daughters) and each guy has only been married once.  MARRIED, that is.  Fathers of daughters are discouraged from being dictators.

There was no bitterness, only what seemed like genuine friendship and trust.  I hope Obama will join them.  They are the real depth of democracy, and a sinewy webwork it is.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017



The reconfiguration of nations will soon be as radically changed as the original platting out of the North American states into the familiar borders we know.  Remember they began only a few hundred years ago as barely persisting little colonies on the East Coast.  Then in a gradual tide came “territories” which gradually hardened into states by excluding reservations into little internal nations, or so they were called in those days.  

The implications of that hardening and drawing of lines for the indigenous peoples meant that the notion of them as tribes with boundaries being nations was withdrawn and the idea of treaties were redefined into “agreements.”  Then most recently the “agreements” with “tribes” became incorporation documents, except that the corporations were all supervised and funded federally.  Not by the states, who resented the incursion.  Thus was the march of colonies who gradually erase the indigenous by manipulating words and their legal implications.

I want to continue thinking about the remapping of the continent in terms of implications for indigenous people, who are now diluted by the idea of blood quantum (which is a perversion of provenance by inheritance, nothing to do with actual blood) and scattered into a diaspora, some of whom have broken their connection with place and some of whom hang onto their tribal enrollment because so many advantages are defined by it, including their pride.

By now the “nation” which is an agreed upon coalition of “states” — the United States of America — is morphing into something new: megacenters.  This is global.  Instead of boundaries — to be marked by surveys, wars, patrolled edges —the seed pattern is a “center” around which develops a web of connectivity.   It is magnetic, defined by attraction and careless of boundaries.  Economics are the politics, and there will be changes in who has advantages.  We’re going back to pre-European and Chinese patterns where boundaries and barriers are not the limits.  

Passports will be replaced by plastic cyberchip cards indicating connection, maybe by degrees of status or categories of skill.  Function will count more than inheritance.  “Money” in the physical manifestation -- green bills -- will be replaced by credit cards and imports/exports will be handled by delivery channels.  These things are already happening.  When bitcoin and other internet strategies of money handling are perfected, when objects are created by “3D printers,” there will be less need for people to move around, as things will come to them: ordered on ebay and delivered by UPS.  This is happening now.  We will be as microchipped under the skin as our pets and order-keepers will carry bar-code readers.

What will count in the future is GPS, satellite surveillance of the planet itself, and the sources and protection of power, which will be increasingly “produced” by wind, sun, magnetism, surf, but with mechanisms that need maintenance.  We are neglecting the maintenance aspects of all our systems, including homes.  I cannot find a competent plumber.  I cannot keep up with three-foot tall grass in the yard.
coastal erosion in the north

So I’m taking an indigenous point of view on all this.  Which means that the next force for change will be climate change, particularly in the north and the coastal areas.  The Inuit are already having to move villages inland to keep from being drowned.  I don’t know how the tundra people are coping, but wooden frame buildings are twisted into debris and roads built on permafrost are impassable. 

Another major impact will be on the caribou, their numbers and patterns of migration, their calving grounds and sources of food.  On the other hand, waterways will open up, including the Arctic Sea, and maybe it will help the salmon and species like the narwhal — though it’s not helping polar bears.  The fear is that though it’s interesting for frozen mammoths be thawed out of the ground, the tiny insects and viruses also entombed may be released, as well as methane and carbon monoxide.

The real onslaught of insects and diseases are more likely to come from the South.  In the past these have prevented development and eventually shaped nations.  When something like plague or Spanish Flu is released to sweep continents, the harrowing goes deep and when the area is repopulated, it can be quite different.

Homeostasis is the basis of responsive complexity as in human habitation.  We are good at adapting but not inexhaustible.  We have been in a long period that has stayed the same though tested by economic bulges caused by war, by industrial invention, by cyber-development, by new energy sources, and even by drugs for disease and recreation.  Homeostasis is never permanent.  Rarely does it last as long as a human lifetime.  Human adaptability and simple available space to expand can restore homeostasis, but human character flaws can destroy it.

Against this background, tribes and the nation see arcs of creativity and then disaster rise and fall.  Sometimes the disasters open new venues.  I’ve been impressed by the history of Heart Butte, a long-time summer-settling camp that became a little mission outpost for old-timers, then was nearly swept away by flood, which was the impetus for paved roads across the gumbo soil that had nearly guaranteed isolation.  The addition of housing projects made a place for lightly supervised population density but also a clinic, school and church growth, and commerce in recreational drugs.  Now it is stranded in overlapping jurisdictions between county and rez, which persists because of the irrigation project that begins with Swift Dam on the rez and is the basis of wheat crops off the rez.

Browning has similarly evolved.  At first it was simply the headquarters of the BIA and a settlement of traders, both groups largely white.  The incorporated town, white, thought of itself as an outpost of the state and observed state laws.  When the BIA began "Indian preference," it was about the same time the WWII veteran tradesmen were ready to retire.  Many simply sold out their inventory and left.  The town police were taken over by the BIA and then the tribe.  The identity of the town began to erode and then dissolve -- by now bankrupt and nonfunctioning. 

While we think about these “concrete” issues, the theoretical federal government is struggling with the three-part checks and balances that the tribe recently rejected, fearing change.  The same kind of fear has shattered our three-pronged federal constitution.  Because we elected to the executive office — the section that is supposed to manage the daily administration of a huge and complex coalition of states — a man who refuses to govern as is his defined job, not much is  getting done.  Yet we are in a time of planetary change.

Because our binary political system — based on the Greek idea of logical thesis/antithesis/synthesis — is so internally and emotionally divided on both sides, neither can reach a consensus.  No strong third option has developed yet.  In the past it has been the idea of progress, “progressivism”, that has been a source of renewal, but no one has the confidence to propose a new future with any clarity.

In the meantime not only our voting system but also our courts, the third prong of homeostasis maintenance, has been gerrymandered.  Not just our voting districts and boundaries, but the very nature of the human beings in their roles has been labeled, forced into loyalties, and compromised.  The cultural ideals of fairness, justice, and statesmanship have been blown away by the Trumpian notion that this country is as bad as any other and therefore excused from being better.

So the morphing forces are coming from economics, government, transformative technology, and the exhaustion of ideals.  What are the sources of restoration of homeostasis?  If they are last-ditch efforts they are likely to be authoritarian.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Hearing so many hints about “this is an iceberg,” “you’ll be stunned when it all comes out”, “no one has suspected”, and “we’ve been working on this for literally years”,  even "I'm not at liberty to disclose," I began to look at the Senate hearings and the prospects for impeachment, if not arrests, through the lens of what I know from dealing with all institutions and governments.  What I kept seeing was the Devil’s laughing face, and I don’t think it was just because of seminary, which always pushed hard to get rid of personalization, whether for good or for bad.  Or for keeping us from imposing it as a mask on our professors.  (Not that it would always be a mask.)

But being institutions, the universities and their div schools or law schools or economics schools, have their dark side, their cover-ups, their evil.  Among the little circle of PNWD UU ministers of the Seventies, it was generally agreed that one of the biggest evils is ignoring and denying that there is such a thing.  Those men are gone now, replaced by consoling and optimistic women.  The larger denomination/institution half-consciously did that.  When their own evil side was challenged (by those women daring to be evil and confrontive), the old white bureaucrats ran.  But now I’m getting hooked by my own prejudice, which is wicked.

Why do we love crime so much?  

1.  It’s sexy.  That’s how that personification gets into it.  People understand sex as personal, hopefully a happy relationship and among monotheists one-at-a-time, but even gang bangs are personal.  We’re edging into sex bots, but they still look like people.

2.  Crime is seen as powerful, uncontrollable, creeping in everywhere.  This is not unrealistic because crime is the seeking of control, power, the ability to beat the odds, predict the future, stay safe.  But these motives are kept alive by the constant teasing thrill that things might get out of hand.  It would be so interesting -- we might learn some tricks.

3.  The roots are at birth when the helpless infant must control the adults to get what keeps a baby alive — shelter, food, cleaning, reassurance through bonding (love).  These needs and the ways we learn to handle them — including defiance, doing without, theft, and the positive ways, including charm, timing, asking, guilt (oops) consciousness of obligation, gratitude and generosity — become a personal blueprint for identity with various strategies and emphasis according to opportunity to learn.  Some people become “game-focused,” in love with their conscious expansion of means of satisfaction.  Of course, only in the movies does it work so well to hold a gun on someone.

4.  Crime, evil, sin, are all relative.  A very wicked but liberating (maybe wicked BECAUSE it was liberating) phenomenon of the 19th century and the ability of educated people to travel was awareness of how relative all sin, evil and crime are, with the laws and customs of different places staking out  different lines of violation and stigma.  We often talk about the schism between laws and justice, how often they become a tragic mismatch, usually justified by stigmas from efforts to control through labeling and stereotyping.  

And yet we go on creating laws against this and that, completely or partially out of unjustified conviction.  When we do that, we are evil, committing sins even as we create them.  Or we move the markers again and suddenly what was formerly a major offence is now taken for granted.  Usually because of profit.  Marijuana and abortion are currently legal in some places, still demonized in others.

5.  Ironically, making laws generous, forgiving the wicked by softening enforcement and punishment, letting destructive behavior be excused — all those nice liberal tendencies also can lead to evil or allow evil to expand.

6.  Somehow, “white collar” crimes about money and contracts about the essential gambling we call business, get a pass from most thinkers, though laws about resources, crossing borders, risks from products, deception, usury, land use and ownership, employment practices, probably kill or maim or punish many more people than overtly criminal semi-war by terrorists, tin pot jungle kings, or armies of oppression.  The devil in a tuxedo is more dangerous than a devil in a blue dress.

7.  What devil?  What sin?  The most creepy evil is the denied evil because it works by penetration.  It can’t be seen by looking over your shoulder because it is INSIDE you.  Most people are terrified of looking within because — who knows? — you might see the laughing face of the Devil.  Meaning that you might accept the idea that you are very bad, which you were told as a child, and must be punished — even by yourself.  

8.  A mafia don who is in psychoanalysis— what a concept!  Almost as interesting as analyzing a madman.  Which is to sympathize, a kind of participation in the crimes but without ever having to suffer consequences.  On the other hand, consider the anguish of a person trying to help someone they care about when that someone can’t be helped.  Once they are really attuned to that wicked person, they must seek and address their own wickedness or be compromised.

9.  From the point of view of evil, the analysis or even plain knowledge of facts is itself an evil — destructive of stigma, control, games, and illusions.  Society will label this evil and try to punish it.  But in prosecuting the wicked, the prosecutor must shape to their ways.

This is from  “It will take an agency independent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to expose Donald Trump’s true relationship with Moscow and the role Russia may have played in getting him elected.”  That agency can only be journalism, partly because of its multiplicity and independence.   The above is the quote that gave rise to this blog post.

10.  Institutions created in order to investigate, curb and punish criminal institutions are very likely to absorb evil by interpenetration in the interest of spying and bribing.  See above.  Did J. Edgar Hoover know he was evil?  Using evil means?  Gaming the Mafia by gaming the United States of America?  Even after justice is measured and imposed, the evil of the enforcer can linger.

11.  “Religion” as represented by institutions has so deeply compromised -- consciously and unconsciously -- with the sinful, the stigmatizers, the controllers — that there is so much gaming penetrated into all of them that Pope Francis, the most hierarchical of leaders with the most compassionate goals, failed to detect destruction of children (a root of the necessity of virtue to protect them) among his own close associates.  

12.  “Government” as represented to be democratic in the USA has been undermined to the point of ineffectiveness by human nature.  Democracy can only work with an informed, active demos.  Otherwise, it is as evil as any other system.

So what shall we watch tonight?  “Orange Is the New Black”, “Criminal Minds”, “American Crimes”,  one of the CSI’s, “Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer” — or do you aim higher “House of Cards”, something BBC Mystery?  Or should we just watch the news?   7-18-17 for a fascinating quote from Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth.

Monday, July 17, 2017


"Wild Bird"  The Owens A-frame at Big Sur
I save a tear out of it from House Beautiful 2-61

Long before there was Pinterest, when I was in college, I began to collect tear-outs from high end decorating mags: House Beautiful, House and Garden, Country Living, et al.  At first I put them in “redrope” expandable file folders with closed ends.  Then I got fancier and used plastic sleeves with 3-ring binders.  

The idea was that some day I would be adult and prosperous (aren’t those the same thing?) and maybe build or at least buy and decorate a house.  In the meantime, I had fun experimenting with decrepit rentals or just skylarking around in my head.  Some of the early ones were architecturally amazing, like that little a-frame out on a volcanic cliff over the Pacific near Big Sur.  ("Wild Bird.")  I found it again and again.  The northern California hippie improvisations and semi-Japanese personal spaces were wonderful to read about.  I’m not sure they’d be so great to live in, between the rain and the smoke, but then — I’m from Oregon.  

When I was near a high-end magazine provider, I bought French mags.  They often worked primitive stone walls or sinks in among super-modern elements or used bare branches ingeniously, which caused me to save a lot of branches here in case the ideas would work.

By now I have shelves and shelves of three-ring binders, some of which are specifically ideas for this house.  But this house is crowded and anyway, it’s getting late in the game.  Time to discard.  It’s a good thing to do on a day that’s too hot to move around much.  At first I was saving the sleeves, but now I’m just pitching them.  I AM looking at every one and saving a few.

But such a review is also useful in terms of analyzing why I saved them, what made them so attractive.  How they got into a magazine layout in the first place.

First of all is color.  I lean to warm colors but spiked with purple or turquoise or emerald.  In the Seventies there was a preference for “citrus” with primary spots of saturates.  I never “got” the beige craze, but all-white kitchens and bathrooms grab me.  (My bathroom is supposed to be all-white.  My kitchen is a kind of tarnished pale yellow, but with wild daylily wallpaper as accent.)

Second is light.  Having very many windows is not practical in Montana wind country, even with modern insulated glass.  Anyway, lots of glass means lots of cleaning.  But I want light and lots of it.  I think about the “kind” of daylight: east light for me in the kitchen making coffee so that's the biggest window I have.  I really want French doors, but not sliders, which a lot of people here do have.

West light is for what one does at the end of the day: reading, sorting, "sitting-down" things, watching the news or the bright but darkening sky.  It would be good to have a windowed porch up high, but this is a one-story house.  In summer south light should be interrupted by a big tree like my cottonwood and it is, but in the winter the bare branches let through south light to warm the house.

North light is mostly excluded here because the minus-temp Alberta clippers come with it, but in summer, my very few north windows let in the sun from an angle that only lasts a few days around midsummer and I’m always startled because it looks so eerily different.

In the tearouts and in BBC dramas, lamps and their shades have huge importance.  Because two of my front room walls are slapped-up board shelves for books, floor to ceiling, I felt free to screw on pin-up lamps with plain shades so I could put chairs for reading and hand work almost anywhere and still have nighttime working light.  (I also put a basket and jar by each chair for scissors, stapler, an array of pens and high-lighters, bottles of antacid, bookmarks, tape, DVD clicker, and so on.)  If I take my glasses off to look closely at something, the baskets hold my glasses.

I was a little slow realizing that photography of rooms in mags means placement of out-of-frame one-time lights, maybe a reflective glow and maybe a dramatic spotlight, that can transform dark corners.  I also had to consciously consider the plants and bouquets which are so artfully placed, some in places they couldn’t be realistically because there is no light.  Lately movies have gone all out with glamourous candles — the cost and heat must be incredible — but I don’t use many because of fire danger, esp with cats in the house whose tails wave around carelessly.

A Mary Emmerling set-up

In terms of specific decorators, I prefer Mary Emmerling to Martha Stewart.  My bedroom is papered with Mary Emmerling blue and white shirting stripes.  Both women have staffs of energetic young people — there must be dozens of them — who carry things around.  Emmerling’s specialty is little houses in wonderful places, but she takes with her several collections of crosses, turquoise jewelry, and family photos loose in baskets.  When you look at her books, they are in every house whether it’s nautical at Cape Cod or adobe in the SW.  Martha is better at glamourizing household work: fabulous laundries and clever storage.  

There were five 2-inch 3 ring binders about yards and gardens.  I had such plans!  It was hard to understand that in a small town like this one’s yard is not one’s own.  The neighbors and town ordinances will force their taste onto you, whether it is a matter of grass like astroturf or trees constantly whittled.  I’m keeping one binder of ideas as I try to skirt around theirs, which are mostly industrial: meant to be riding-mower friendly and to eliminate all fallen leaves.  All flowers confined to beds.  Fancy ideas like compost, bird feeders, bird baths, and so on are partly bear hazards, cat feeders, and attention-attractors.  I’ve learned that attracting attention is not a good idea, though most people are not very close observers.  There have been joke faces attached to the trees in my front yard for twenty years without anyone noticing them unless I point them out.

I wish for a deck and a fence.  If I had money, I’d be tempted to give them priority over the roof, which is insane.  A deck is likely pretty impractical given the neighbors I have now, but a fence would be a comfort.  Maybe I'll get a pad of graph paper and record some ideas.  Just in case.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


When I was working on a three-part “book” about worship (which is on hold at the moment), I was still reacting to the Unitarian Universalist idea of the flame in the chalice.  You’ll remember that the central rite of the Christians, the New Testament people, was commemoration of Jesus, who was believed to be the Christ Savior everyone was hoping for.  Whether or not he planned it or just spontaneously thought of it in the moment, he held up the bread he was holding in one hand and the wine in his other hand and said, “This bread is my flesh; this wine is my blood.  Take them and eat them in memory of me.”  

There have been periods in the history of the church when people felt that the transubstantiation of bread and wine (the basic foods of Jesus’ time) was magic and the common substances actually became real flesh and blood.  Once in a while in the past I served as pulpit supply in more Christian-influenced congregations and was asked to serve Communion.  In fact, I was asked to say, “This is my body and this is my blood.”  I have a vivid imagination and sometimes it was easy to imagine magic.  But I didn’t object.  Nor did I take the bread and wine myself.  I can handle magic — I don’t have to accept it.

The “book” — currently three incomplete books — was premised on the idea of the container and the contained, and the relationship between the two.  The chalice and the wine volatile within it.  This is so basic a Lakoff-type metaphor that it can refer to a toast with champagne or a nation with borders or a skull for drinking melted snow as the desperate cannibal soccer team did in the Andes.  Since I spent years in a foundry pouring bronze, the container most vivid to me is the crucible holding molten bronze.  

The UU’s developed the “flaming chalice”, they say, to echo John Huss and others with stubborn minds (Michael Servetus) who were burned at the stake.  It’s a little unclear what the chalice was at that point.  Uncontained fire.  But in UU congregations the flaming chalice is the community holding living souls.  Or so I say.

So I called my worship theory books, “The Bone Chalice,” meaning the skull with the fire of thought within it.  My first cover was a photo of a skull, cut out and laid over a photo of the Andromeda galaxy because even though I took a formal class in Photoshop, it’s too much trouble for me to figure out.  I have limits.  Like any container.

Then I googled around (I can handle Google) and found a photo of a skull made into a chalice.  This one:

Somehow the communion chalice has become a stemmed vessel, often ornate.  Some say what Jesus drank “blood” from was probably a plain earthenware cup -- no stem, no handle.  Two tendencies in the sacred, like everything human, are the holiness of the ascetic minimum and the equally celebratory qualities of the extravagant, the precious, the ornate.

So here’s the seque I’ve been sneaking up on.  And here’s a link to a sneak-up dance as done on the prairie where it’s an art form.  A basic skill for hunters and warriors.  Among these people there was no vessel of wine, plain or fancy.  No ceramics, no fermentation.  But there was the stone pipe bowl.  Their drug was nicotine.  The stone pipe bowl was their chalice that held the fire and, true to form, some are plain and some are fancy.  They may or may not come with a long stem.  The longest is called a calumet about a yard long.

The red stone is called "Catlinite"

What counted was the ceremony, which was a ceremony of community, usually while sitting in a circle.  The idea was to sit quietly, like a Quaker meeting, getting centered and — literally since they were sitting on bison robes — grounded.  An orderly had a wooden board and a little fire inside the circle.  He chopped the tobacco, which was usually in the form of twisted dried leaves of the plant, filled the pipe bowl and lit it.  Then the individuals each took a few hits.  

Marijuana would work or any other vegetable substance that when burned releases volatiles with psychic action.  In fact, this is the same men’s ritual as the “Three Cups of Tea” that somehow is portrayed as three little girls having an Anglo-type teaparty.  In the high mountain country, hot water is restorative.  No fire.  The drug is caffeine.

But back to the calumet, the pipe bowl, and the ceremonies that developed around them.  This is a photo of the Long Time Thunder Pipe that was transferred to Bob Scriver and I in the Sixties.  Some will try to say this should be secret, but the equivalent objects are on display in museums and the ceremony is well described in books.  I recommend “The Hako: Song, Pipe, and Unity in a Pawnee Calumet Ceremony,” which is a Pawnee version complete with the songs recorded by Alice C. Fletcher.

When you look at the pipe, which is the central element of the Pipe Bundle, you realize that it is post-contact: metal falconry bells, silk ribbons, glass beads, machine-bored stem or shaft; but mixed with the elegance of the land: ermine skins, golden eagle tail feathers, quills.  Bob was also a mixed person: born and raised in Browning, educated to be a concert band master, psychologically mixed-identity regardless of genetics.  As a taxidermist and hunter, he knew the animals.  He dreamt his entitlement, literally, while I slept beside him.

These are the actual people of the Pipe Bundle ceremony.

At that time the circle who persisted in the ceremony was small and ancient.  Bob (b. 1914) was the age of the youngest, George Kicking Woman.  I was so much younger that I counted as a child though one can’t have a Bundle without a wife.  When Bob died, this Pipe Bundle disappeared.  The old people say that such objects have lives of their own and it might come back if it pleases to.  

One element of the transfer ceremony was an exchange of clothing and I still have the dress and moccasins Margaret Many Guns made for me as the wife of Tom Many Guns, the technical Keeper of the Bundle.  She was not pleased with the whole situation and did the minimum: a plain peach-colored Mother Hubbard and sparely beaded high top moccs.  

Now that I’m old and dispersing my things, what do I do with this plain but technically ceremonial garb?  I do not participate in the Neo-Ceremonialist circles of Blackfeet Pipe Bundle Keepers but I know the people and wish them well.  Should I send the dress and moccs back to the land by burying them or burning them or putting them up in a tree?  Or as Darnell Doore, a transitional person who interprets these things, suggests, make an offering of them at a Sun Lodge by tying them up in the top convergence to weather apart in sun and hail?

In the meantime, I decided to add embellishment so that the costume would be respected, even worn to ceremonies if the Bundle resurfaced.  So I made this cape to be worn over the dress.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

BALTHAZAR (fiction)

Balthazar was a unique guy.  But he was also, paradoxically, double — almost multiple -- but capable of major arguments with himself from both extremes of the possible positions at once.  He had this exotic name though he was from a small midwestern town where his father was a prosperous and respected banker but his mother had a lot of pretensions about Arabia, which she didn’t seem to realize was not a real place — just a concept.  I saw her photo and she DID look Arabian.  I mean, like someone out of those paintings of harems with sumptuous marble and fountains.  But he said she dyed her hair black.

Actually, she read the books of Laurence Durrell over and over.  Also, his friends -- who were even more louche, if that were possible.  She said they had imagination and daring.  She had the imagination, but wasn’t very daring.  Her husband was able to keep her out of trouble.  Chemically, if necessary.

Not Balthazar.  I met him at the Louvre in Paris.  I won’t tell you which painting we were confronting, but we began to talk and were soon so emphatic and hilarious that we were asked to leave.  We continued outside while dodging the bicycles and skateboards, hardly noticing them even as we avoided colliisions.

After that we often met.  Balthazar took me in hand.  He insisted that my jeans and plaid shirts were boring and predictable.  We went shopping and he chose leather trousers and a scarlet velveteen shirt — things I NEVER would have bought for myself.  When it was time to pay, he had already gone on to a little shop across the street so I used my credit card.  He promised to reimburse me, but I didn’t let him, since I was the one wearing the clothes and I started getting compliments right away.

One afternoon he decided to give me a haircut that was almost shocking but sort of went with the clothes.  It was very short except that he left a forelock flopped over my forehead.  In a while I learned to manage it.  Then later he decided I should have a pierced ear and installed a little gold hoop that I was supposed to twirl every day so the hole would heal open.  It was healed soon and he brought me an ear rim cuff to go with a proper pend d’orielle, rather elaborate and dangling.

A new daring restaurant opened that had curtained alcoves that were meant to look like tents.  The food was Moroccan, very expensive.  The point wasn’t the food anyway — one was really paying for the seclusion and the status of what was implied.  We arranged to meet there and Balthazar even ordered the menu in advance, but it wasn’t very secluded because I kept one of the "tent flaps" swept back in order to spot him when he came, which he didn’t.  There was some kind of emergency, but I’m unclear about what it was.  The explanation was kind of complicated.  Again, he offered to reimburse me for the meal, but I had eaten some of it, so I said no.

I really wasn’t old enough to raise much of a beard, but Balthazar gave me a proper barber’s treatment with the hot towel and lather with a brush and even used a straight razor, which was a bit of a thrill.  He did manage to define a mustache and sideburns and used a little coloring on them.  Then he wanted to line my eyes, but I thought that was going too far.  Already I was attracting flirtations on the street.  But then, it WAS Paris.

One day he suggested we meet at a bench on the end of a pier looking out over the sea in a deserted part of the shore where no one would mind if we slung an arm over one another’s shoulders.  He said I should take a hired car out there and wait for him so we could watch the sun go down together.  It did go down, but he wasn’t there.  

I sat for a while in the failing light, thinking about why Balthazar was like that.  Some people say it’s organic, that some people are born with two minds in one brain.  Others say it’s the result of terrible trauma, a kind of dissociation that happens under extreme duress and can actually cause personality to split into new constructs.  And there are always the people who claim narcissism is at the root of everything and say he just never considered that other people might have needs and desires.

Of course, I examined myself as well.  Why would I continue to admire Balthazar, who by now was dressing all in black like a gunslinger and was arguing with me unfairly, about things I never claimed?  Why did I continue to attend his rendezvous ideas, even though they left me holding the “bag”— meaning the bill.  It felt to me like love, as though I would do anything to be with him.  Our other friends had wandered off, feeling superfluous and ignored, so I was almost with him by default.  Was I playing the SM game?  Of course, I was.  Everyone does.  Put any two people together and one will be dominant, simply because of being stronger or smarter.

A seagull came to visit me on that bench but didn’t stay long.  Pretty soon it got dark out there.  I decided to walk back to the city.  I don’t carry a cell phone so it wasn’t much of a decision, more of a choice not to spend the night there.

On the way back, walking along the highway, I accepted a ride from three guys.  It was a mistake.  They treated me very badly indeed, left me blooding from all orifices, including the hole in my earlobe when they tore away my pend d’orielle.  They took my fine clothes but left my hank of hair hanging over my blackened eyes.  I was unconscious by then.  I don’t know who brought me to the hospital or why no police have come to interview me.  I woke with a sense of deja vu.

The doctor prescribed me some pills.  He talked gently about being bipolar and all that sort of thing.  He must have found out who I was because a friend brought some of my old jeans and shirts.  It wasn’t Balthazar.  I never saw Balthazar again.  At least not in the way I had.  When I finally had access to a big mirror, I realized the truth.

Balthazar, c’est moi.