Saturday, April 22, 2017


Zechariah 10:1 Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rain.

Montana early spring rains bring grass, which is wealth and pleasure.  I must remind myself of that every little while.  Unlike a bear, this is the season I prefer to sleep through, preferably with an electrically heated bed so that I’m warm enough to open a window when it’s just above freezing out there.  The wind is a problem, carrying temperature changes up and down, but also sweeping along smells of great complexity and promise.

It’s easy to be poor and old in the early summer, before it gets hot enough to defeat shade, when it’s not impossible to nap in the pickiup or in the back shed I used for a guest bedroom though it turned out to have too many deficits for my suburban friends and relatives to accept it.  Then I slept out there myself and let them have my bed, though the same problem arose.  At least they were closer to the bathroom, which is important when we’re all past retirement age, but they aren’t used to sleeping with cats and they found my shower alarming.  (It was my fault — I explained too much.)

My life is full of little protocols because that’s the way one manages in a old house where doors stick and a lot of papers are stacked on every tabletop.  I keep cat kosher, which means separate dishes and utensils, and I’ve learned to step over their eating plate on the floor where it's next to the cat food storage cupboard in winter.  

In summer I can stack cat food in the garage, but in winter wet cat food is like a rock within fifteen minutes.  This is when the satellite ferals figured out the cat flap, not so much to keep themselves warm (They form a “cat stack” by doing what the vets call “pillowing.”) as to find food that won’t break their teeth.  Kibble is beneath them.  There is another floating wild population that will eat it.  One year when I was feeding outside a family of blackbirds carried off kibble by the bowlful.  Then a dog stole the bowl.

I need a half-heated space where it would stay warm enough for a laundry set.  There’s a place where the former dryer sat in the garage and it was usable in winter if the drum were preheated before putting in the wet clothes.  The washer in the kitchen also died and the space was used for a new refrigerator.  The old one was moldy.  This house was furnished with the illusion of appliances, partly because the idea was to sell it to someone who would rent to poor people who would trash it anyway.  The hot water heater is the only survivor, though it’s moody, varying between lukewarm and scalding according to it’s own schedule.

This time of year I’m moody as well.  (In the old days this was time to renew or cancel teaching contracts.)  But this year is different as the incredible chaos of politics acts like Scylla and Charybdis, smashing together and then flopping apart.  I’m keeping a cast of characters because there are so many people and jobs I never heard of before.  The situation is not helped since both the NYTimes and the Washington Post are imposing pay walls to exploit the worry.  

Suddenly the idea that I and others have played with for years seems realistic— notions about splitting the United States into ecological zones because they’ve already done it spontaneously, organically, and politically.  Apart from deliberate gerrymandering to dilute the impact of minorities, there seems to be something about climate: long Southern afternoons when powerful old men can play pattycake with their pretty assistants; hard, spare states where moms must work and get tempted into cooking the books; cities so major that they have become sheet-cities with no spaces between except abandoned and rotting remnants of bygone industry.  The sweet spots have been off-shored to islands.

In physical terms I’m not suffering from any major chronic disease, but my whole body is a couple of clicks off normal — nothing drastic, but a degree or so off plumb, and bodies need gravity, assume alignment with it.  When my eye doc told me I had dry-eye syndrome, I asked him about how the body, especially the human head, manages fluids, which I thought about in terms of water because dry eye syndrome is a phenomenon of tears.  I suggested that there was a source of water high in the skull that internally poured the fluid down like a shower, bathing the brain, the sense organs (nose, ears, eyes), through all the sinuses, through the pharynx, the mouth and throat, and down the esophagus through the GI tract.  It lubricates, carries information, makes functions — slippery all the way down and out.

He said I had it about right except that the fluid was mucus.  Then he left the clinic — I don’t know why — and joined another eye doc I once attended who had left the clinic earlier.  This happened twenty years ago as well.  Andrew Jordan saved my eyesight after the Saskatchewan eye docs refused me access to care on grounds that I was American.  Politics.  What is the mucus of politics?  Money is too easy an answer.  I think it is more like the fantasy that high status means control.  It’s actually vulnerability.

I’m about to try to break my video habit.  The discs on-hand right now are the last seasons of “Homeland” so I can finish the story line, but I watch in the evening when I’m sagging after a day’s activity and I don’t like what it does to my dreamlife.  I identified with Claire Danes as soon as she showed up in “Little Women” (1994).  Since then we have drifted apart, partly because without Brody she doesn’t fit the intriguing crazy-to-crazy paradigm and I find the Mandy Patinkin character unconvincing, rather like Professor Baehr in “Little Women”.  Eastern Eurasia “New Cold War” is becoming hackneyed.  Or maybe it’s a little too timely.

Since I live alone, rather isolated, my dreams are much more clear than they would be if I were around others.  There is a set of places, almost like theatre sets for plays.  One is a city with a center of skyscrapers that I associate with the Portland Lloyd Center (which has no skyscrapers) and an edge of backstreets suggestive of Helena, MT.  There’s one street on a slope, lined with little shops and movie houses.  Somehow it’s connected to the old ballet film, “The Red Shoes.”  

One is the NE neighborhood where I grew up in Portland, though it sometimes seems like Missoula or Oregon City.  (It’s the green lawns and picket fences, pre-suburbia.)  Another is a 19th century farm or ranch house with a porch across the front.  In contrast there are university buildings, never classrooms but the hallways and stairs.  I know they come from movies, mixed with scenes from various places I’ve lived.  If I wrote fiction, they would show up, even control the plot.

I never dream about ministry, but often dream about Scriver Studio in Browning.  Kenner’s Question applies:  “What does it mean?”  The cold rain might be an explanation: penetrating reality.

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