Thursday, May 31, 2018


Rain started in the night.  Some windows were still open, but it wasn’t that cold.  Nevertheless, when I woke at first light the covers, the cats, and myself were all in a big tangled mass in the middle of the bed.  Then some trash cat came in through the flap and Tuxie unraveled herself to go attack it.   

It was easy to sleep in, because the school traffic is gone, but then the big ag machines began to pass through town.  Most of the plowing and seeding is done, but acreage is now broken and scattered over locations, so some smaller and hired-out patches still need work.  The smallest ones are too small for the biggest ag machines, but there aren’t so many small tractors around so they must wait their turn.  Not so many farmers either.  Just owners and hired hands.  

Back to sleep.  Now I dream this video from Aeon that they call the “shimmering sureal” about comb jellyfish in surf near Bull Harbor on Hope Island, British Columbia.  Primal life, tiny but indestructible, barely separated from the water by transparent membrane that keeps the simple structures in one cell of “creature”.  is the website of the artist.   “For Lindsay, time is even more of an unknown unknown. When looking at his work, we experience a kind of space age nostalgia that isn’t nostalgic; an (un)certain future that isn’t futuristic and a gap where the present should be. Lindsay’s work layers time, confuses chronology and keeps us guessing at what we are looking at, how it’s communicating, and what kind of being made it happen.”  
   Denise Markonish, Curator, MassMoCA

When I wake this time the surf is the troubled breathing of Thimble, the gray kitten, who never overcomes her respiratory infection despite my ministrations, including a little bulb I use to pull mucus from his nose — which he hates.  Thread, the black sister, is healthy.  From the early days after her birth she has always rolled onto her back and presented four tiny but combative paws to the world.  But if you tickle her stomach, she surrenders.

Up.  Open cat food can.  Renew cat water.  Look at Twitter.  Where’d everyone go?  Why is my algorithm sending me right wing junk?  They never come anywhere near where I am in terms of thought.

But it’s inchoate, shimmering surf of many creatures.  No institutions.  No birth or death.  Not even formed enough to be named.  I took my big sketched-out painting off the wall so I could work on it.  Before I left the Methodist parsonage, which had a huge picture window looking at the Rockies, I taped up a piece of paper just under the mountains and copied the range onto it.  The intention was to find out the names of the peaks when I took that tracing with me.  Why do we only name the peaks rather than the valleys when it is the valleys that are habitable and even can be passages?

Anchored here years later, I still haven’t named the mountains but I’d added a big blue Chinook arch above the line of peaks, now glued onto a canvas.  There it was for more decades — mountains still nameless.  Then the newspaper printed a line of Rockies from further south, nearer where I am now.  Each peak had its name under it.  Finally I saw what to do and glued the second range lower than the first one.  It’s not logical.  Painting is not always logical.  It’s mixed media.  So now I’ll go back with paint and put things into relationship, better colors, and in the expanses of cloud two words: “chinook” and “catabatic.”  (An unromantic student said to me, if anyone says catabatic again, I’ll throw up.  So this is an unromantic painting after all.  That person would object to writing on a painting,  Their world is limited.)

In what seems like minutes, the kittens have become half-cats and the rain has made the grass higher higher higher.  Tuxie, the order-keeping mother cat wearing a patent-leather tuxedo, has washed her progeny from end-to-end.  They don’t know whether they like it or not, but it keeps them from roosting on my hands while I’m trying to keyboard.

My house has been sinking.  The floors dipped enough to cause a marble to roll across the room.  I began to worry about the floor furnace, which is heavy, deflecting down enough to pull the gas pipes apart.  Corky Evans came and in a few hours had stabilized and leveled everything.  Now that the land is wet again, the soil will expand and hold things steady for a day or so.  This is a place where the earth moves subtly all the time.  Hemingway would not like it.

Not far from the legislative buildings in Washington, D.C., the justice seekers are working methodically.  My mother always said, “The mills of the Gods work slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.”  A sifting of flour falls out now and then.  We are impatient.

Bob Scriver, city magistrate and Justice of the Peace, used to say, “People can do anything until someone stops them.”  And “If you do something outrageous enough, no one will believe you did it.”  We’ve stopped them.  They are outrageous but we have the documents, even the reassembled confetti from the shredder bin.  Will anyone bother to buy a shredder again?  How outrageous that modern technology can hear anything, reassemble anything, identify the voices of anyone even when they are the same person.

Once something outrageous has been established, the whole scheme is sketched out, the cloud concepts become words, and some people are likely throwing up quietly among the marble fixtures of a nouveau riche class who turned out to know nothing, nothing at all.  

The surf rocks against the volcanic shore, the water becoming a little higher all the time, bits of land sliding into the sea.  It’s all happened before.  It will all happen again.  Back to sleep now that the house won't explode.  When it stops raining, I’ll work on the yard.

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