Thursday, June 30, 2011


I’ve been offline for a week.  Here I am again.  I resurrected these glasses from the past because the new fashionable small lenses are bad for computer work.  In the summer I am a ruddy person as you can see.  And skeptical.  And aging.   A little goofy.

You might know that I have a double blog-life and that while I quit this one for a while, the other life went on behind the scenes with Tim Barrus.  “Prairie Mary” attracts readers who want to know about romantic and historical subjects: landscape, Blackfeet, Western artists and authors, small towns, geology, and so on.   They buy into the “regional” scene, find it appealing and manageable, and are happy to think about big frogs in a small pond.  For a while Montana was awash with this sort of writer, but now they’ve mostly moved to Portland.  There are two local bloggers I follow:  Kari Dell who works in Cut Bank  and Lisa Schmidt who ranches in Conrad   Kari comes from a rodeo family (I taught with her father) and Lisa raises sheep.  They are funny, intelligent, young, and very much focused on what they’re doing.  I’m nothing like them at all.
The other life is international and shared with Tim and his “guyz.”  It’s not about sex.  It’s about human society and how some parts prey on the other parts and how (whether) we can help each other survive.  This other life is as much video and still photography as print.  I don’t do much with a camera -- I’m a print shepherd.
I am so deeply ambivalent about publishing.  On the one hand e-publishing is exciting and promising and we’re really UP for it.  But it hasn’t really gelled yet and won’t without a universal format consensus that works on every device.   I see ominous signs like the beginning of infrastructure failure and national/corporate censoring.  Maybe taxation. There are times when I think that the reason someone in the Congo appears to be reading my blog (click on the map with red dots down low on the right hand column to get the particulars) is that my computer has been hijacked and has a life of its own.  (Now and then I get lists of Somali pirate seized ships that have been returned ??!!  I don’t know where they come from and can’t get rid of them -- the emails, not the pirates, though them, too.)
It’s so hard to give up the wonderful fantasy that “publishing” is an honorific event that can justify a life.  Even knowing that it probably “means” something meaningless.   At rock bottom it is only the manufacturing of objects with your words in them, promoted enough to make some money -- less and less of it for the writer. Once read, either discarded or stored. 
Fame based on a publisher’s advertising promotion means nothing.  Fame based on touching hearts doesn’t have to be conveyed in a bound paper book.  Promotion that has somehow become the responsibility of the writer rather than the publisher strikes me as rot.  Once sneering arrogantly at vanity publishing, now the publishers themselves are forcing writers into it.  Intelligent criticism and analysis of writing has fled from the newspapers to untraced locations.
I appreciated the time “off” but didn’t spend much of it “catching up.”  I did work on my two dozen two-inch three-ring-binders containing conversation with Tim over the past four years.  It has been more than the equivalent of a university education.  I feel compelled to get it organized and distilled, maybe into the hands of others.  It’s an archive that cries out for sharing.  So many need this thinking. 
It helps that “Bronze Inside and Out” is appreciated by Brian Rusted, a professor at the University of Calgary with a Ph.D. in performance arts from Northwestern University, my own undergrad alma mater.  He sees that I was trying to look at Bob Scriver’s work through the actual creation of it -- not the subject matter or how much it’s worth in dollars.  My approach to my Tim Barrus archive is likewise through the creation of it and the creation of his extraordinary life.  Tim’s focus is justice, social prophesy, living at the edge.
Mostly I resist dichotomies but some distinctions are useful so, in the spirit of means versus ends, I will use that very binary.  What means do I have?  What ends am I after?  My means are blogging -- obviously -- backed up with a specific kind of education (pastoral/prophetic/mythic).  My end is . . .   Well, the reason I didn’t stick in the ministry (this is my REAL reason and I’m being honest) is that it turned out that the “ends” of most ministers are to make money and achieve high status.  I didn’t care about those two things, though they are also the goals of many writers.
One “end” is a certain sensory life which I have here on the prairie.  The weather, crazy as it is, suits me.  The people leave me alone -- I knew their grandparents.  Low income is not a handicap.  I can keep cats.  If the internet disappeared (it nearly did when my computer died) I would be crippled but the internet is a means to the end, a kind of publishing, a speaking to the world at large.  Preaching, if you take an exceptionally broad view.
Second, I focus on a few causes:  Blackfeet, high prairie environment, Tim Barrus in the broad sense (his work).   (I’ve discarded other causes, like animal control, teaching English, ministry.) I want to keep alive the powerful access to ideas given to me by education.  That is, causes are occasions for me to focus and organize, mustering up a net of thought about them that relates to my own belief and value system.  When I was formally preaching, people paid very close attention.  I could see that they were.  Afterwards they had nothing to say.  When I asked them, they said they were still thinking about it.  My blogging seems to work the same.  I get few comments.
But I do make friends, find lost relatives, get access to materials, and so on.  The aspect most like “publishing” is that I get responses to things I wrote years ago.  Writing persists as much online as it would if it were a library book, maybe more, considering the number of used books I buy for literal pennies that turn out to have been culled from libraries.
I formed a little email group of women pretty much like me: age, education, interests.  I’m very fond of them, they came to the rescue when my computer crashed, and we visit back and forth, but some do not relate to this blog.  They don’t have time.  They don’t like risk.  My true peer group seems to be sort of edgy middle-aged men with big questions about life and human identity.  More like Tim Barrus.   Not gay, but then he's not either. 
Lately I find myself sitting, staring.  I never seem to get enough sleep and my dreams are crowded.  Through experience I know I’m working on issues at a deep subconscious level that will probably surface in this blog.  But at least for the rest of the summer, I’m going to stick to a M-W-F-Sunday pattern of posting.


Dona Stebbins said...

Mary, I don't comment often, but I always read your blog - I have come to need it, I guess.

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Thanks, Dona. Great Falls is never going to have as high class a mayor again! I'm flattered that you "read me"!

Prairie Mary

Jake Allsop said...

Keep up the good work, Maria mia!

Anonymous said...

Seeking meaning, the big picture of everything, the little picture of what our lives mean, if anything. Sometimes meaning seems to be there, sometimes we just construct something. Like throwing a rock in the water, hoping the ripples go somewhere, mean something to someone somewhere sometime somehow.

We live in interesting times. The Chinese take on it is a curse, but Americans are enthralled with "interesting." I have a few books I want to put down on paper. I am no longer full of illusions on that this means. I look at dusty used book stores, some crammed with decaying books no one ever read.

For those that have kids, that had kids, that becomes the meaning of why they lived. For those of us who didn't we have to find another thing. Besides, even having kids isn't a sure thing for making meaning or a mark in this world, if one really understands Job or Ecclesiastes.

Ultimately, we do what we do, because that's who we are, and that's what we are left with, because we really can't do much else. Free will is a cultural construct, and a central myth in this society.