Wednesday, May 31, 2017



Just at dawn, which is when I clear off email for the first time in the day, one post was a woman taking a selfie of herself in a car while in the middle of having a stroke.  It was mild, one of a series she said, and seemed mostly to be affecting her face but not her voice.  I couldn’t tell who was driving or even if the car was moving and when I went back just now to find her, I couldn’t, as though I myself had had that stroke.  I was going to look harder, but then I thought maybe it was better not to, partly so I wouldn’t see it again and partly so you wouldn’t have to.  She was brave, but it wasn’t pretty.

Instead I’ll post this video of music called “the beginning of modernism and minimalism.” Somehow it’s relevant, a kind of meditation.  Erik SatieGymnopĂ©die No. 1 

When I gave up living in Browning (there were too many Mrs. Scrivers) and went “home” to Portland, there was a fellow named Dick Klinger who did an interview show in the evening.  This music was his prelude along with idyllic views of summer snow, cottonwood fluff, drifting through serene landscapes in and around Portland.  In spite of my childhood neighborhood turning rough and full of gunshots in the night, the evenings were summer snow and Satie.  They were a kind of Vespers blessing.

In Valier the summer snowfall is just ending.  My driveway is drifting with the stuff which means we’ll soon have more showers to plaster it down and make some of it sprout, because it’s really parachutes for seeds.  The birds are clearing as much as they can and the cats are clearing birds. In particular the “Spotted Dicks”, the two nearly grown tomcats who aren’t allowed in the house anymore: “Momo" with gold spots and “Shorty” whose spots are gray tweed.  They are too feral to touch or catch.  Local men would like to shoot them, but that’s against the law and they are law-abiding men.

The selfie woman whose face was flinching and curling and jerking was calm.  She said she was taking a video so that the docs could see that it was happening and might believe her better than they had in the few days earlier when she was in the hospital.  There was no accompanying story or explanation.  This morning in his insuppressible tweets Trump threw in a “strokey” word that might have been a typo but wasn’t.  He will punish us all  for mocking his imaginary world.  He had thought being President would give him secrecy and cloaking, but instead he’s everted for all to see and guts are never pretty.

Valier is unusually quiet these days.  Neither gunshots nor GymnopĂ©dia.  Just now and then the usual dog barking storms on two sides of my yard, the shrieks and shouts of the pre-schooler next door, and somehow (at the moment) no pounding music from red-neck pickups.  The water hydrant at the top of the street, adapted for use by farm trucks and preferred to the regular purpose-built rural water feed at the edge of town, is no longer available so the tank trucks that are a reality of dry-country farming no longer rumble up and down the streets at first light to prepare for the day’s spraying of fields.  The crop duster, who used to live next to the airport and who originally paid for the hydrant as well as a bulk rate for water, has moved to the country.  Ag water doesn’t have to be potable.

Valier Homesteader Days will be June 23-25.  Usually that’s about the time I cut my grass the second time, but this year for a cluster of reasons I just let it grow until yesterday when even I was embarrassed and cut the front, getting bitten by big ferocious ants who have enjoyed the loose dirt from digging up my sewer.  I left the back to “naturalize”.  I used to joke that it wanted to be a grove instead of a lawn.  That is proving to be true.  (See above.)  The honeysuckle is blooming at the moment and some kind of blue self-sown flower is beginning to bloom next to the house.

Smudge, the small gray cat who came here as a wobbly kitten years ago, has four babies, now bouncing around but so tiny they could be lost in the cottonwood snow.  One blundered into the garage and since its eyes were gummed shut, I could easily pick it up.  Once I’d cleared its eyes with a drugstore cotton ball and some warm water, it stared at me in astonishment.  Scientists do a lot of experiments in brain development by sewing kittens’ eyes shut so that the brain never learns the world properly.  

Last night “House of Cards” began a fifth series and I started to watch but then realized I’d forgotten the earlier years.  Maybe I didn’t follow.  I started the new series but then tried to go back to the earliest I remembered, which the computer program didn’t want to do.  It took a bit of persuasion but I finally got back to when Underwood threw his little playmate (one of those liberals with no proper understanding of danger) under the subway train instead of a bus.  It’s a little too much like the evening news.  Rachel Maddow even has a cameo.

Portland in my childhood was deeply involved in WWII.  It’s a port city, in those days full of immigrants, esp. if you count the rural Blacks whom Kaiser brought up to do the hardest work in the shipyards.  Alberta Street was named for one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, the same as the Province of Alberta just 69 miles north of Valier.  Today Alberta street is full of bodegas and galleries.  They tell me the Blacks have returned to the South.  I haven’t been back since 1999 so I go by reports.

The recent tragic stabbing happened on the commuter train between the Lloyd Center, an elegant open-air mall when it opened, and Hollywood, an earlier development of a fancy shopping nexus around a movie theatre.  At one point in my animal control career, after I had become the education coordinator, I lived close to the Lloyd Center.  When I got home late from speaking somewhere, I walked my little dog among the luxury shops on the empty mall, which was well-lit but not patrolled.  It seemed safe despite the lack of security cams.

Animals --deer and the cougars that followed them -- interpreted the Banfield freeway, once a streambed and now the rail line for the light-rail train, to be still a waterway, and occasionally followed it to the Lloyd Center.  We learned not to chase these intruders, because the confused and frantic animals would hurl themselves through the plate glass windows, thinking the reflections were reality.  We just followed along until they found their way out.  They tell me that now the mall is gated — not to keep out cougars but feral people.  

Bob and I were in Manhattan once and paid a taxi extra to be taken to Greenwich Village to see what an artist’s colony looked like. It was 1965 and Bob was going to be on “To Tell the Truth.”  Among the crowd was a madman on the sidewalk with a big knife, slashing at the air around him and screaming.  No one paid attention.  They just gave him a lot of space.  Finally a policeman on horseback arrived.  I don’t know the outcome because we left.

In the Seventies, my animal control years, I was interviewed by Dick Klinger on his show introduced by Satie.  He turned out to be a small man who made his guests sit in a very big chair so it was THEY who appeared small.  I found a vid clip of him in his Seattle days but he’s only in the last half.  The first half is news that could be relevant today.  (The small plane that crashed into Eliot Bay killed a classmate of mine and her family.  She was one of the most virtuous Christian  people I've ever known.)

Even for the sanest and most conservative of us, life has its hallucinatory and synchronistic aspects.  Like kittens with our eyes sewn shut, we blunder through what we think are going to be world-changing elections and find ourselves smashing glass, getting slashed.  Virtue is no protection.  Courage will not turn away death.  But we are constantly renewed by the warm seeding snow, the little pecking sparrows and the tomcats who eat them -- but never all of them -- in the clever and ghastly phenomena of the “enigmatically beautiful” world.  

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