Friday, May 19, 2017


Valier, MT, Baptist Church

These days I hate to wake up.  Sometimes.  But on other nights I struggle to wake up.  Which is worse, thick dark dreams that pull up primal emotions from childhood or finding out what revelations are deconstructing the world as we know it?  Yesterday I was dreaming — not about my mother’s death but about her reaction to HER mother’s death, which was long, slow and painful in my primary school years.  No one explained.  She wept alone in the dark.  They said that her marrying an atheist gave her mother cancer. 

Yesterday two of my ordinarily dignified and enlightening internet listservs went to war within themselves.  An editor in a Snob-Brit setting rejected a Third World reviewer and mocked his spelling.  On a different listserv another crowd rose up in outrage over the issue of whether one “race” (an out-moded concept blasted apart by what we know from DNA) can write about people from another race.  (No one questions whether white publishers can publish writing about people from another race because white is pretty much the only race most publishers are.)

NO one in my little town even knows any of this happened.  Granted, both listservs are in Canada, but that makes it worse.

On my block one neighbor with a long rap sheet flies a Confederate flag with a skull in the middle.  I dread contact with him so much that I’ve totally neglected my yard.  He’s come stumbling over for help for an overdose once.  I don’t want that to be repeated.  His teen step-daughter has been removed.  At least that’s the theory.

On the other side is a Southern Baptist Church with 17 members.  There is an empty lot between us and the cottonwood tree that I try to protect is on the property line.  There is almost always a church member who wants to claim that tree and cut its branches back.  They don’t have any interest in the smaller and worse tree at the back of the property line, but they occasionally mow down their own lilac hedge along the alley.  They have removed all trees except those on the parking strip and have planted no new trees on their property.  They generally don’t water their grass, though they cut that, too, usually on a riding mower.  The other side of their lot is a gravel parking lot the length of the building.  

This time the predator was not the minister but rather the formidable wife of the retired prison chaplain who used to work in Shelby in a CCC private prison.  Her plan included putting a bench under the tree.  She didn’t realize that I hang stinky fly-catchers in that tree or that the tree drips sap.

When I would not let her either cut back the tree nor furnish its shade, and when I criticized letting a quite young child run the mower (during MY chaplaincy, which was in a hospital, I once tried to comfort a child whose feet had been shredded by a riding mower), she lost her temper, mounted the mower and cut grass in a frenzy.  I didn’t know a mower could move that fast.  I have no idea what the arrangements for insurance are over there.

Returning indoors to wrestle with my own temper, I soon heard a knock on the door.  It was Sheriff Deputy Gobert.  I assumed that church woman had summoned the law, but that wasn’t the problem.  Since I can’t work outside, my plan is to put up a table in the driveway on the church side under that tree so I can sort and pack books I’m discarding.  That driveway is my “patio” under the tree.

In the process I discovered a copy of a stack of xeroxed papers.  I had returned the originals several years ago, but the owner claimed she never got them.  So I took the copies over to her house where her husband accepted them.  Now Officer Gobert had been sent to claim the originals or, what she seemed to think existed: the “book.”  I had copied the papers to use as reference for a book, but never wrote it.  I’m throwing out as many projected book ideas as actual books.  Books are obsolete.

Officer Gobert is a reasonable man and we had a pleasant half-hour looking through my collection of books about Blackfeet.  He owns copies of some of them and was impressed by Adolf Hungry Wolf’s four volume masterwork.  In the end it appears that this woman, who is supersensitive about a book her father wrote that is now blamed for mocking Indians, wanted the deputy to remove my copy of that book.  She buys every copy she can find, in the belief that this will make everyone stop maligning it and her father.

So this was basically the same war being fought on those Canadian listservs except that it was right on my doorstep, in the same unreasonable and demanding context as the church member next door — so convinced that I had something that belonged to them, an unfair advantage that meant I was damaging them and that should be addressed by authorities.  (Officer Gobert is quite impressive in his sheriff’s uniform.  He’s BIG.  And ARMED.)

When I watch Rachel Maddow talk about the lengthening and broadening investigations of our government, I realize that even though I was educated in the days when high school students really DID study civics and history, there are many, many things I never knew, that had been instituted since the Fifties, that had been created by precedents of other cases, or that have been percolating along beneath most people’s radar for decades now.  

Most people seem to think there is one investigation and that it is only about Trump, but as time goes on we are told (Well, Rachel is told — because she asks experts all the time and then tells us) that investigation began last July; that it reaches down through Paul Ryan (not just Michael Ryan); that it is both civil and criminal; and through multiple agencies including local, state, and national sources.  Some of it is possible because of treaties with small island nations who used to shelter financial records.  Much of this involves chess-like strategy and the spirit is that of video gaming.  SPAT!  GOTCHA!!

Game of House and Thrones of Cards.  People are abandoning ship.

My escape is to furiously write all morning and by “morning” I include a couple of hours around 3AM when the internet is not so jammed.  Of course, it is still being meddled with, by providers, techies, hackers — all small-time since I have nothing worth spying on.  But they could invent something.  There could be a knock on the door by the law, or maybe this time the FBI/CIA/ICE or whatever, with a battering ram and a warrant, possibly for some other address that they’ve gotten wrong.

I should be intimidated, but in fact it’s so out-of-my-control that I’m merely fatalistic.

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