On the high prairie we’ve just gone from double-digit subzero weather with snow to more than forty degrees and seeping water everywhere. The cats, feral and domestic, have discovered that they can get into the hayloft of the back shop, walk on the rafters and emerge through the rotted hole in the roof onto their own private balcony. They are spending hours at a time up there, just sitting and watching.
I’m feeling about the same — like sitting and watching — while I try to figure out where prairiemary.blogspot.com ought to go in 2018 — what the options are, what the consequences might be. Not unlike all the various committees working on the nation’s future, but with much less at stake. After all, I could just stop blogging and no one would mind. I mean, I get a lot of hits, but I don’t know who those people around the planet are or why they’re reading. If I subscribed to services that analyze data, I could find out, but I sort of like the mystery.
Increasingly on Twitter I’ve been picking up readers from Canadian First Nations people. I was already following a few Piikuni thinkers. But I’m only useful as someone who remembers the Sixties, which means (often) their parents and grandparents. I only want to finish digesting the Blackfeet materials I have, not to become part of the action.
My genetic family prefers Facebook, only one cousin tweets, but I’m still convinced that FB is an evil platform, so I avoid it. I don’t want to be part of any community or on-going conversation with a few exceptions, like my niece and her family.
In terms of “following,” I monitor websites about medicine, paleoanthropology, a few of the broader literary newsletters, Portland and Montana politics, on through the less mainstream news outlets (VICE, Ozy, The Guardian) and of course, Rachel Maddow. (She’s getting scared. So am I.) It’s getting less and less possible for me to navigate the Internet whether or not the big platforms grab hold. After all, Barracuda.com is blocking whatever they don’t like and 3rivers.net just ignores that because it only confuses them. Paywalls aren’t worth climbing, no matter how prestigious the newspaper or magazine that imposes one. By the time anything gets into print, it’s barely worth knowing. Often the most useful news shows up in small venues, not because of the reporters but because the editors are stranglers, old white men who cannot see past their desks.
The most pressing need is not so much getting rid of Trump as what happens afterwards. Like the many countries we have withdrawn from after defeating tyrants, ours is likely to be a shambles for a while whether the many indictments and trials go forward or not. (Have no doubt — they WILL.) For one thing, the whole world is wanting to reconfigure, not just the US. There needs to be major thought about boundaries, secrecy, wealth, housing, law enforcement, molecular substances that create craving, ethnic identities, and the dynamics of ecologies that keep them from collapsing.
It will take courage. So many people tell me on every level, beginning in this town, that figuring all this out is just too hard, too scary, too much of a mess. They just want to be left alone to do their own stuff, which is what people think just before the tsunami, or blizzard, or volcano, or forest fire, or earthquake, or pandemic swept over them. (On the east coast today the weather people are predicting a "bomb cyclone", whatever that is.) Some want to escape the challenge of infrastructure by just dissolving the town, the way Browning did. So one thing that I’ll keep on my agenda is the half-done book about Valier as an irrigation town and what that means in terms of both prosperity and raw existence.
It’s time to return to “The Bone Chalice” which, when I left it, was three volumes about a new approach to intense and transcendent feeling, a version that takes into account the new understanding of how the brain works. (The skull is the chalice, thought is the flame. But now I think about the source of the fuel, which is life.) It’s idiosyncratic and evolving but certainly useful to those who like the provocative. And relevant since we need to frame a new understanding of spiritual practice.
Probably enough time has passed to write a new biography of Bob Scriver, much edited from the first version, more along the lines that will make money. Less focused on indicting the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel which is now sequed into upscale elegant magazines (I love ‘em, but they’re wicked as chocolate and priced like champagne) pitched at the Western oligarchs. Like Zinke and Gianforte, lightweight members of that class, the cartel managers are doomed by their own excesses.
Maybe I ought to write about the meta-thought involved in recounting people’s lives and the many various ways of going about it: as representatives of a class or movement; as the unique individuals we deeply love; as fantasies who fit their times. (Charlie Russell comes to mind — nothing at all as fancied. Do we explain to the children who come to the museum to color mock-parfeches with their crayons why it was that Charlie so loved to hang out in brothels?)
Or maybe it’s worth addressing what is happening this moment politically, which is that we go to uproot corrupt and ignorant big-shots and discover that there is a whole underground related system of other culprits — hangers-on, opportunists, kleptocrats, and scairdy cats. We’re morally infected and sex has nothing to do with it. But it’s viral.
Houses that are so vast that the floors must be cleaned with big machines, fabulous kitchens where no one cooks in houses where no one lives because they are only investments (while hundreds and thousands die in the streets from exposure): they seem normal because the American video crime shows use them for sets. Someone has a Rolodex of them.
Families have suffered a similar tragic fate. The voluntary ones, unrecorded and not based on reproduction, are sometimes the ones who succeed, the ones who stand by their members even as traditional families are torn apart by immigration rules or simple economics. These are the ones who do not sell their children or abandon them to already crushing numbers in the foster system.
In the end, I don’t mind writing about cats and thinking about “feral” as a category. The lives of small animals are always absorbing. Not necessarily “cute” even on YouTube where all the stereotypes go to play.
Not down the rabbit hole -- out the cat hole to freedom.