Saturday, February 28, 2015


We get into so many dead end arguments about religion -- generally ending in either violence or ostracism because we consistently start at the wrong end:  the end of the formal institution rather than at the other extreme, which is the emergent meanings of people interacting with the world.

Institutions have only one faith, one demand, one principle, always the same: the perpetuation of themselves.  Beginning with small groups who share a point of view, the origination development path proceeds through buying property (declaring it sacred) and hiring specialists (often granting them “supernatural” power), excluding dissenters (heretics), gathering power through legal status that gives exemptions in exchange for endorsements, and finally justifying war.  The newest wrinkle is claiming to be a virtual person.  Not an iconic person like Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed, but a virtual person, institutional and corporate, with all the rights and entitlements of an actual human being.  At the same time, persons who are not IN the institution are considered non-persons -- animals.

Its helpful to reflect in the terms of "Game of Thrones."  The naked self-perpetuating institution clothes itself in theologies drawn from the local ecology: sky theologies in the desert, tree theologies in the forests, bison valorized on the prairie, axolotl connected to the god of deformations and death -- Xolotl in the Aztec underworld imagery.  The most clever institutions hold up the human family -- sons and kings and virtuous mothers -- because that part of the ecology is always with us.  Hard to explain a tiger salamander to an Inuit, though he’d have no trouble with an Irish selkie who was his mother and disappeared.

"This is the forest primeval."

The evolutionary point of all this is simply survival, but on two levels:  if the survival is meant to save the individual, that’s quite different from survival of the group.  For the individual, abortion or killing is sometimes survival.  For the group, anything that diminishes the total number of members is a threat to survival.  The sin/evil/heresy labels are assigned accordingly: no abortion, no birth control, no morning-after pill, no infanticide except by neglect and poverty.  Kill only "others" or those who break the succession of power.  The civil laws follow the religious thinking, because a civil society cannot afford dissension because it breaks the illusion of consensus that are constitutions and laws. 

But now we realize that the survival of ourselves and other species may depend upon reducing the number of people consuming resources.  How can global religions dependent upon birth as a sacred event respond without revealing that they are derived from different circumstances, different times?  Of course, if there is a major population die-off of humans (pandemic, famine), producing children will be highly relevant again.

She is not virginal -- simply childless.
Thus powerful like Elizabeth I, not II.

The more powerful and protective a nation is, the more patriotism it can muster, the more it becomes a religious institution itself.  If it is destructive and oppressive, or simply chaotic and ineffective, it will trigger movements from both inside and outside that will struggle to replace or control it.  This is the principle of “Game of Thrones.”  The dragons are only window-dressing.  The real power is Daenarys as what a mother is supposed to be, dressed in Della Robbia blue robes.  She’s Pinocchio’s fairy godmother, Dorothy’s Glinda the Good Witch.  In the end she is the only kind of survival that MUST survive because otherwise there will be no babies and there must be SOME.  Same with Gillie.  Violence and strategy are all very well, but in the end there is either creation or transformation or extinction.  Those are the real options of power.

The Catholic church, the Jewish diaspora, the Buddhists, the Amish and so on all know this.  At their best, they guard the basics and discard the irrelevancies.  The Blackfeet are just now trying to understand what is basic and what is irrelevant.  I’m working on myself.  The USA is having a very hard time with it, but remember that Daenarys comes from the most primitive and harsh kingdom. When she steps into the fire, she is purified enough to walk on into the future.  Otherwise, her people would be ended but, like Jesus, she frees the slaves and gains a population.  (India needs to think again -- burning 25,000 women a year won't work.)

So if we want to imitate George W.W. Martin, how do we develop our own philosophical/ecological understanding and where does it come from?  Some is inherited from the great anthropological and literary ransacking of the planet, of course.  Maybe some is from today’s dragon eggs: science as it cracks open the genome, the cosmos, and the paleo-past.  Some of it will be forced upon a person by assumptions from history and family and their genealogies, the locale of your childhood -- which may be multiple -- and the extent of your schooling.  Much will depend on what generation you are.

But the point is that spiritual meaning -- as opposed to institutional meaning -- is EMERGENT.  It doesn’t drop down from the sky, but climbs up from your bowels to your throat and bursts out as song.  It is a relationship with the universe that gives you something to put in your hand, whether a sword, a flag, a cup, a ring, or another human hand.  Possibly a paw.  Some like -- oh, you know -- roses -- but the Inuit hold bones.

You should wander a while, then sit.  You might end up on an outcropping, or floating in a spaceship or at a keyboard, trying to remember to get up and walk around now and then.  Probably not a throne of swords.  Anyway, that bit of furniture is occupied as usual.  (Putin squats there now.)  Maybe you’ll take a seat on an old unmaintained bus on a narrow high road and unsurvivably crash.  Them’s the breaks.  Or lack of brakes.  Living forever is not possible on this planet.  You could have been in the one-fifth of conceptions that barely get past implantation -- not even a zygote before they are resorbed.

Attending a church, joining a denomination, is not necessary for accessing the deep meaning we call “spiritual.”  It wells up now and then, sometimes with no warning and with no message except “you are here.”  It’s not so much the next step in evolution but in the skillful management of the brains we already have so as to step outside our assumptions without freaking.  It is not denying formal religions, but reaching back through them to their creations.  This is the way the brain itself works: the prefrontal cortex reaching back through the limbic brain and the reptile brain, until it grips the spine.

Inuit Shaman Mask

Friday, February 27, 2015


I suppose the "trope" of waiting for a letter from a sweetheart doesn't work anymore.  In the first place it was a sort of war-time preoccupation.  In the second place today's communication is via electronic device, which means a constant stream of instant gratification.  In the third place this is a rural photo and no one lives in the country anymore.  In the fourth place people who are coupled up just move in together.  There is no moment of decision to enter "adult life" together, just a matter of one's possessions being moved gradually into the better living accommodations.  Of course, since most of what one owns these days is music and the music can be electronic, then there's no awkward moment of moving out when the albums must be sorted.  Pets are kind of a breaking point, but it's not as though they're actual livestock.

This is my mother in Roseburg, Oregon, a timber town.  She is one of three daughters who were supposed to be boys, but their father claimed they were "just as good" as boys.  (He came from a family-based construction firm of all boys that built the massive dairy barns of the NW at the time.)
There were originally four girls, one of whom was killed in a car accident as a teenager.  This the father handled by declaring that the family would simply pretend she was still alive.  He was not a man who valued reality.  Maybe it was because of his temperament which some would claim was Irish, though others would point out his family was in Kentucky hill country for several generations.

Approaching thirty and still not spotting anyone worthy, my mother made the best of it by becoming a force in the Business and Professional Women's Club.  She sang in the Presbyterian choir (her father's church -- her mother was Baptist) where she attracted the attention of a traveling wool-buyer, my father who was an atheist (he would willingly tell you) but attended church to watch my mother sing.

My father wooed my mother by offering her a house in the big city of Portland, where she had the idea he understood all about culture and politics.  His family did attend a lot of lectures and were major library users beside buying books.  They were quiet people.  But making bread is about the same everywhere.  This kitchen was nothing like what contemporary women expect.  It had a little "cooler," a cupboard with a screened window to the outside, and an ironing board lowered from inside one wall.  

Mama and Paul

Then the babies began to come and that made it all worthwhile, esp. when the second one was a boy.  But there were supposed to be two children.  The third, another boy, wasn't planned, but once arrived was a real charmer.  Still . . . one-third more cost, more effort, more space needed -- my father didn't rise to the challenge.

Lou and Beck

The two oldest girls were close.   (Lucy, called "Lou,"and her sister, called "Beck" for Becky though her real name was Vera.  She had read "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and was so struck by it that she renamed herself.)  Beck became an RN, trained at the early version of OHSU in Portland, so was often around in the early years of the marriage.  There was a lively on-going debate among the sisters about what a woman's life ought to be.  Lou was the big sister who took care of everyone and ran head-to-head with her father; Beck was liberated and ready for adventure; Allie married her high school sweetheart and worked hard as a sheep-rancher's wife.  She had three little girls, including a set of twins, but on the ranch three were as easy to manage as two.  

Beck was head nurse in the surgery at a Great Falls Hospital when WWII broke out.  She joined up and was stationed in Oxford and Rheims.  She was not a literary woman, but she sent us English storybooks and a French lamp with a silk shade.  When she came back, she married her sister's husband's brother and accepted that life, having four children that included another set of twins but only one girl.  Her health was not good and it didn't help to be a nurse because she tinkered all the time and took docs too seriously.  (My mother's opinion.)

May, Beulah and Lucy.  (They never called her Lou.)

My mother married a man with two big healthy brothers, figuring that they knew how to prosper and it would be safe.  She loved her mother-in-law, though her father-in-law was the one who really clicked with her.  He admired her brains.  Her sister-in-law was beautiful, a bit of a princess though not afraid of hard work, and tightly bonded to her mother.  My mother's efforts to guide everyone were not very welcome.

Ethel Grace Cochran Pinkerton

My mother's mother was a gentle woman, dependent on her fiery husband and a dependable guidance for her four ringleted daughters.  I have her mouth and teeth but not her excellent hair.  She was from a prosperous family (Cochran) and married "down."  Her mother died very young (childbirth infection) and her stepmother was not cherishing or protective.  As an older teen, she was sent to Portland to live with a family friend while all her teeth were pulled and replaced with dentures.  My mother did the same thing about the time her third child arrived.  One of the last things I did for my comatose dying mother was to pry her false teeth out and put them aside.  My own teeth have been saved by constant dentistry.  

Her name was Ethel Grace and my father's mother's name was Beulah.  My mother used to tease me by saying she had originally intended to name me for the two grandmothers:  "Ethel Beulah" or "Beulah Ethel."  Instead I was sort of slantwise named for my father's sister and my mother's dead sister.  

Great Grandpa Cochran

This is my mother's mother's father, my great-grandfather Cochran, holding myself.  This was a bit of family healing, presenting the first grandchild as a sign that old resentments were over and the family generations would go on.  This man was wealthy, proud, a pioneer in Oregon's history.

Mothers should never do this, but the need to feed everyone (or in this case offer water) is strong, along with the temptation to show how brave you are.  It was a small black bear, probably had cubs, and should not have been mooching along the road.  Today it would be driven off with noise and rubber bullets, or simply be shot.

My father's job was circulating among farm communities in the NW to promote Pacific Supply Cooperative and their wholesale products to be sold by small local co-ops.  He also did a certain amount of untangling of organizational problems.  In the photo above he has been pushing a new petroleum by-product, wax, and had persuaded my mother to demonstrate how to make novelty candles so that farm wives would buy wax.  If you saw this audience from behind, photos demonstrate, you would see that the town was so small that there was only one hair-dresser, who gave everyone the same pin-curled  hairdo.  My mother therefore was also demonstrating a short haircut topped with a beret.  

The actual candle she holding is an "Easter egg" made by dipping a water balloon into melted wax and then cut to make a jagged edge which was given a glitter rim.  You had to add a birthday candle to light it.  It was interesting that most of the candles were Christian themed: Easter, Christmas.  I don't remember any Fourth of July candles.

This jolly little group was only one of the organizations my mother belonged to.  It took me a while to figure out who these women were.  Finally I recognized the sweet older lady in front, Mrs. McPherson, my 4H sewing class instructor and a professional seamstress.  So these were 4H leaders entertaining themselves with a contest to see who could make the most fetching hat out of things found in a kitchen. I think my mother won.  I'm sure she tried to.  I would.

If you think all this is trivial and personal,  read this:

But it all stopped with me: NO children.  I thought.  It turns out that other people's children come to find you and fill up the spaces.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Winter in East Glacier

This time of year in East Glacier things used to get a little, um, exciting.  I’m talking about the post WWII years.  You could read some of the stories in “Dream Chasers of the West” by B.L. Wettstein, (2006, Riverbend Publishing), although the author is writing about the WWI years.  It was so primitive in those days that Clara Augusta Miller Smiley, who had already homesteaded in Minnesota, was repeating the feat in a cabin that could only be reached by jumping off the train when it slowed down to go uphill around a curve.  Not from a boxcar, but from the coach, because there was no depot and no dependable road.  Even when Clara came home from the hospital with her new baby, the only way to get it home in winter with the road drifted shut was to throw the infant off the train into the arms of a dependable man.  The bright side was that if he missed, the snowdrifts would cushion the baby’s fall.  Today you can see that place from the Marias Pass Highway #2 just before you get to Summit. The buildings are gone, I guess.  In old age she moved into East Glacier and her buildings became the Brown House, a pottery shop and bed and breakfast.

East Glacier is not the same as West Glacier, but they are both born of the enterprises of James J. Hill, Jr, and therefore children of the railroad. The sibs are nothing alike.  East Glacier can be one helluva bleak place in winter, even now, though the Browning teachers often live up there these days.  I rented a house there in the spring of 1971, a two-story yellow house built in the Thirties that I dearly loved, not least because I had just survived a divorce and a winter in our little ranch house on Two Medicine River which I also dearly loved.  But then I’m a nester -- luckily, a serial nester.

The viaduct underpass

East Glacier is bisected by the railroad.  The train only stops there in the summer because it is the feeder for the Big Hotel which is only open in the summer.  There is only one way to cross from the mountain side of town to the highway side and in a really fierce winter (and the one in 1972-73 was worse than this one -- ask the weather stat people) the crossing viaduct under the train tracks can be problematic.  That year, the sewer, which runs under the road, froze, broke, and filled the road with steaming water that instantly froze onto the undercarriage of any vehicle that ventured across it.


In the Fifties when everyone was already dislocated and forced out of their familiar conventional patterns, one side of town would get into a sort of enmeshed quarrel with the other side.  They stole each other’s wives, ran up too-high bills, neglected their children, and -- well, drank too much.  That’s when the two sides are rumored to attempt to burn each other out, though it might be that things just got over-heated in several senses.  Thus there had to be two grocery stores:  “Brownies” in the bottom of an old log dormitory built to shelter the railroad construction workers and “Krska’s” or the “Glacier Park Trading Company.”   They survive today, though “Brownies” is now a youth hostel upstairs and a very rewarding bakery downstairs.  In the old days no Brownie’s customer would trade at Krska’s unless he gotten into a fight on the mountain side of the tracks, nor would any of Krska’s people trade at Brownies unless his wife had run off with someone on his own side.


In the Seventies when I was divorced, there was financial trouble and population shrinkage all along the High Line.  Major changes were underway in Browning, the capital of the Blackfeet Reservation.  One was subsidized housing projects which caused the little old houses, like the ones I had lived in, to be demolished.  Moccasin Flats was partly demolished and partly sort of overbuilt so the little log cabins were crowded among newer buildings.  This meant that the white teachers had to find housing in East Glacier.  Until then, the Board would fire them unless they lived in town or on a family ranch.

The other dynamic that stretched along Highway #2 to the east was businesses that had been founded in the boom after WWII when veterans returned to start small businesses and marry Indian ranch women who were enrolled and nicely situated.  These were big handsome white guys with real world experience.  Their mixed-blood children have become major leaders in the half-century since then.  But in the Seventies the parent generation was aging, wanting to retire, selling out, or -- the saddest aspect -- running their businesses to failure because no one would buy them.  That is, they stopped maintaining buildings and inventories, let their tax bills run up, discovered that their children would not stay, and -- well, began drinking too much.  When I came to Browning to teach in 1961, Joe Lewis’ cafe was one of the nicest in town.  Now it is Ick’s, a source of abusable substances and street quarrels.  The image of Napi that Al Racine painted on the wall of the building is still there, but he ain’t eatin‘ no short stack no more. 

Great Northern Railroad, paralleling Highway #2

Things are a little better in Valier, so some rez folks are moving here.  It’s just off the rez so teachers can live here and still teach in Heart Butte.  There is no equivalent to Ick’s, at least where anyone can detect it.  In fact, this time the running to failure is more like consolidating the wealth.  The prosperous ranchers don’t live in town, but own town businesses, often collecting the better ones into the strongest families.  The rich get richer and the poor just hang on.  The churches can’t support a local minister, but protect their buildings.  Ministers and priests travel among three or four congregations, which is what I did in the Eighties.  The bars ran to failure.  Gone.  A few other businesses begin to struggle.

Bob divorced me in the fall of 1970 but I just ignored him for a while.  I was too confused to make decisions, though I’d asked him to get the divorce because he was terrified that I would divorce him and be able to take all his money.  He had bought a little ranch on Two Medicine, a couple of miles from the highway, so I went out there for the winter to let my head clear.  It was a thistle-and-gravel ranch since the flood of 1964 removed all the topsoil, but our horses were fine with that.  Their biggest problem was boredom  -- excluding hay, of course -- which they resolved by watching me move around in the house.  When I went from kitchen to front room, there were thundering hooves outside while they raced around to the window on that side.  Reality TV.   In spring I went back to teaching and moved to East Glacier.

Three developments happened without me really noticing.  One was that the alcoholic woman who took a run at Bob after his second divorce but didn't get anywhere, did better this time.  He was aging.  She moved right in with him and ended up being the fourth wife by common law, the widow.  The second was that the big rodeo series, which I had helped develop and cast, sold as a complete series to the Calgary Stampede or its collateral investors.  It was a LOT of money, enough to buy the Flatiron Ranch.  The third was that the divorce law changed in Montana and was far more generous to wives as well as including common-law wives.  But I just ignored all that.  I wanted a graduate degree and went back to Portland.  People around here were baffled -- one’s CHILDREN went to college and what the hell was a grad school anyway?  Was it worth money?

Flatiron Ranch

Since then Browning has gained a tribal community college.  Valier has a booming library, looking at expansion.  More and more people not only own computers but can operate them, which means that a lot of what happens is invisible, underground, unmonitored except by the internet megamedia.  The sheriff has proceeded upwards to being a county commissioner, our best deputy has left his job, and I don’t know about the other law officers (border patrol, homeland security) who live in town.  We’re not as secure as we were for a while.  The expected boom in housing that was supposed to follow frakking has gone out with the tide, the wind farm somehow doesn’t seem to be connected to us, and the water rights that sustain wheat farming are threatened by the activation of sovereign rights the rez had all along, but never developed.

People are scared.  They act badly.  They fort up and cocoon.  East Glacier still does that, too, but -- maybe because of the tourist summers -- they tend to lean to the left instead of the right and that’s all the difference.  What both communities have in common is that they know sex is fun but money means a lot more.  In the half-century since I came, that has seemed to be about right.  Not so many drink too much, but some have turned to drugs of one kind or another.  Or are hooked on bodice-ripper romance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Do not read this unless you think Google will approve.

On August 2, 2013, I wrote a blog called “What’s So Bad About Rape?”  The main illustration was a Dolce and Gabbana advertisement of a man holding a woman down while three men stood by watching, possibly waiting.  There was a certain amount of nudity but everyone was “pretty.”  The other images were not quite so suggestive, though there was one in which a man was being restrained by a crowd of men.

This was my pay-off bottom line:


So just recently a commenter asked me why the media thinks that a woman being thrown down and raped in an alley by a stranger is worse than a man being thrown down in the same alley, beaten into critical condition, knifed, paralyzed for life, etc.  The person doesn’t ask for a pure moral judgment but asks a straightforward question about the way people react.  The commenter does not seem to realize that a man can be raped or that a raped woman might also be beaten, knifed, paralyzed etc.  But that’s not what he asked -- he asked about the way the media differently weights the two events.

The post was essentially a list.  Part of it came from a friend who counsels violent rapists in prison: not to make them feel better about it, but to help them figure out what inner maelstrom or arrogance is motivating them so they’ll stop.  I’ll make another list.

First, I want to note that this inquirer is not gender-identified, age-identified, or, let’s say, “education-identified.”  Following are things to think about.

1.  Either males or females can be raped.  Physiology for both requires lubrication.  Rapists do not normally carry K-Y jelly.  Rape without lube means torn flesh. Rape is access to viscera which are vulnerable.

2.  Raped men can be aroused as easily as raped women.  It is a deep reflex, unconscious, not related to pleasure, often related to violence and death.

3.  All rapes are by definition violent and unwanted.  In a culture defined by pride in one’s individual flesh and immediate space, it is not just physical and not just moral, but also a sanity invasion, forcing the surrender of personal identity.  The brain and nervous system is deeply confused, scrambled, traumatized esp. in an inexperienced person, which is why the idea of raping nuns and children is powerful.  Not just a physical event or even a destruction of innocence, but an attempt to destroy what makes us human.  (For the rapist as well, but they don’t get that.)

4.  Rape is a formally defined war and terrorism weapon.  It is dominance behavior.  War is arousing.  Part of the arousal is terror, contempt, rage.  Playing rape for the sake of arousal is often defended if it is done with consent, but it’s risky business in more than one way.

5.  Part of the confusion about rape is that “statutory rape” is possibly with consent and even real desire, so it’s wanted coitus.  What’s the problem? One is the possibility of conception if it is a female being raped, which is a physical burden she will have to carry as well as a psychological problem as well as a social problem she will have to manage: like how to get a good education, where to find the money for a baby, managing stigma.  In many states if she wants an abortion she will have to find the money to travel to a clinic, maybe a long ways, because there are some people who believe that punishment makes problems disappear.  All for “love.”  In some countries the problem of dealing with a rape victim is solved by killing the victim.  Her family does it.

6. HIV/AIDS is not equivalent to pregnancy.  It cannot be aborted.  It will be far far more expensive than birthing and raising a child.  HIV/AIDS will be contagious.  For the rest of one’s life it means a formal regime that will only keep one healthy with medication IF a schedule is followed, one that means weekly travel which -- in a northern climate in a remote place -- can be life-threatening in itself, requiring constant medical monitoring and invasion, that is simply unpleasant --  the meds are not exactly aspirin.  Only one-third of people in any circumstances who have this disease will have the self-discipline and determination to follow the regime.  But that’s no different from, say, diabetes or the tissue-rejection meds after a transplant.

7.  Self-discipline is a skill.  It is not a moral issue nor a psychological issue -- which it becomes in our authority-defiant society -- but a learned self-management that cannot be acquired from authority-figures imposing monitoring like a parent making you get up in the morning or do your homework.

8.  Historically women and children were “owned” by men the same as if they were horses.  They were domestic animals.  Their labor, their bodies, their ability to produce more humans which would add to the man’s wealth, all belonged to the man.  This conviction still persists and may be part of the reason men rape their own children.  They think they are entitled by ownership.  The women and children “belong” to them and therefore must obey them the same as a horse would have to.  Since rape is a benefit of owning someone, then a stranger who “uses” them is the same as a thief stealing money.  It’s interesting that often the most prudish men are the ones who find money the highest value in their practical lives.  Not sex.

9.  Until recently matters involving sex were hushed up by newspapers.  Now that the internet has enlightened us, the other media can also finally let us know the particulars, the proper terms, and the estimated pervasiveness of problems.  As when Kinsey discovered “men having sex with men” and even homosexual intercourse in stable relationships, we are hearing statistics like 20%, one in three, and even higher figures about sexually abused children, physically invaded women -- so common and accepted that people like Joe Biden and George Bush don’t hesitate to put their hands on women at public, high status, formal, diplomatically significant events monitored by cameras, microphones, and many attendants.  The conclusion has to be that keeping everything secret did NOT persuade people not to put beans up other people’s noses.  Rather it seems to have taught them that everything is as innocent as the ball pit at McDonalds.  But ignorance is not even good for children, who must be taught to keep balls where they belong.

10.  This does not exhaust the topic but it exhausts the writer.  I have a strong suspicion that Google is pursuing what I’ll call the Obama boomerang strategy.  When you are constantly criticized for something hard to defend but which yields a nice profit, if you comply with whatever it is that the controllers want to control, the calculated outcry from the other side may intensify so much that they will provide all the arguments and ammunition that would be useless if they came from you.  Pretty soon the critics will be overwhelmed and have to withdraw.  I certainly hope that’s the case with this sudden moral turn Google has taken.

Oh, and what about Wikipedia?  Isn’t that our marker for what the People know?  Think of something sexual so extreme you don’t know what the term for it means, look on Wikipedia and you’re likely to find a detailed description and a photo.  

And isn’t censorship a form of rape in the sense of wanting to own for profit, take identity where it doesn’t want to go?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


UNCLE REMUS is from the rabbit stories of Africa, as reframed in the southern US.  They're trickster stories, like the Blackfeet Napi.  I have two favorites.

The story of the tar baby, which I suppose you can't call that nowadays since the "tar" part came from this baby being black.  Maybe you could call it the "pitch baby" which is also sticky.  The point is that this sticky little fellow is left out where Br'er Rabbit comes to it.  Br'er Rabbit is kind of irrepressible (I identify with him) and greets the baby.  'Course the baby don't reply.  Br'er Rabbit keeps coaxing for a while, then loses his temper and socks him.  'Course he sticks to that rude baby.  So he hits him with the other fist and kicks and . . .  I forget how he gets loose.

Well, Google is my tar baby.  I've been trying for an hour to get loose from this little function and that supposedly existing delete.  I've managed to dump some blogs but not yet the things like the "reading list."  I've looked at directions and forums but pieces of the puzzle are just missing.  I don't think that's an accident.  Google has been slippery from the beginning, like when I signed up for advertising payments, but all I got was a card that said I could have $100 of advertising on other people's blogs.  It's so very easy to start a blog.  But then you hit what some people call "the Nudge" and others call "architectural guidance."  A locked door.

Google + is a little harder, but I never could tell whether I were in or out anyway.  I haven't found a story to match that.

The story I like best is when Br'er Fox did indeed manage to get his paws on that rabbit.  Right away the hoppy critter started saying,  "Oh, Br'er Fox, I know you're intending to eat me and I say go right ahead and do it.  Just don't throw me in that there briar patch over there.  I'd just suffer so much if you threw me into that briar patch."

So Br'er Fox began to get the idea that it would be more fun to throw Br'er Rabbit in that briar patch than to eat him after all.  So against the rabbit's screams of protest, that's just what he did!  Wheeeee!  Br'er Rabbit went sailing right into the thickest part of the middle of that huge welter of thorny bushes.

Br'er waits to see if he can hear a thud, but there isn't any.  Instead there's a whistle, and Br'er Rabbit bounces up through a hole in the top of all that impenetrable thorny stuff.  "Thank you, Br'er Fox!  Thank you very much!  I was born and bred in a briar patch, Br'er Fox.  It's my favorite place!"

Foiled again, is Br'er fox.  Saved again, is Br'er Rabbit.

And Google?  It never was born, never was bred, is now being shredded a bit at a time by its own hubris.

I suppose this is probably a little too explicit for them.

In the past, community morality has been a guide to what is or is not objectionable.  In Portland, the prudes went to court to bring down "Deep Throat" which had been running for three years without objection.  The court said that was clearly an indication that no one gave a shrug about it.  It wasn't even a very good movie.  (I know because I went to see it.)  So I reckon, that means "Game of Thrones" is the limit of what the internet can show.  Meaning lots of naked women but no pricks.

Uncle Remus, he laughed and laughed.  But I'm still mad.

Monday, February 23, 2015


From my blog provider  (Google):

Dear Blogger User,

We're writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we'll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video. We'll still allow nudity presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content.

The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted, but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the blog will be able to see the content we've made private.

Our records indicate that your account may be affected by this policy change. Please refrain from creating new content that would violate this policy.



I can't think what they're referring to except that there's a photo of me "stripping" aged one year old.  I was down to my socks but had my diaper on.   Are they talking about my many posts about sex?  The ones with sexually explicit or graphic nudes are from Google Images.  The most graphic and rather shocking photos I've seen and NOT used are on Wikipedia.  Very strange world.

Maybe it's this "role reversal" of my father bathing my brother.


My eye is infected/irritated from too much screen time.  I'll just stay clear off for a day or so and see what that does.  It's an 80 mile drive to the eye doc and there's another wave of polar air coming in.

If you just MUST have some Scriver time, try a new platform where I've been posting family album photos.    So far no threats to censor.  It's photos with short captions.

Prairie Mary
If I were in power, I would not run the world this way.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


A cat wanders into Mt. Palomar observatory without really knowing what it is.  She jumps up onto the observer’s chair to sit quietly in the dark.  In a minute there is a great whirring noise and the ceiling, which is dome-shaped, opens in a long slit. The cold night air comes in and so does the deepest night the cat has ever seen, because she is looking through a lens hundreds of times the size of the lens of her eye.  The cat is regarding the cosmos.  That was what college was like for me.

I even took physics that fall of 1957 and at the very first lecture the professor played for us live the sound of Sputnik going overhead, beeping.  Then he found out I couldn’t do math and threw me out.  No matter.  There were plenty of other astonishments.

Cat in the star nursery.

Just getting there alone was pretty amazing.  I had flown, but not alone.   My mother took me to the airport but partway there we realized my ticket was still on the dining room table and had to go back.  Getting into the car again I ripped my nylon stocking and said,  “Well, now I can’t go to college because I’m not properly dressed.”  She thought she knew a shortcut, but it wasn’t.  By then I was crying.  “Roll down the window and stick your head out,” she ordered.

When I got to the plane, I was nearly too late but a mob of friends had come.  I had joked that I had no stuffed animals, remarking that all photos of college dorm rooms always showed lots of stuffed animals, so they had brought me lots of stuffed animals, too many to carry, but I did anyway, because this was a big ceremony for my friends.  No one else had gone off to a big fancy college and they needed to participate.  I could have used a trash bag to carry those stuffed animals but trash bags weren’t invented yet.

O’Hare at that point was brand-new with nothing but fields around it.  I went to the taxi stand and was lucky.  The driver was the father of a girl my age and though he hadn’t expected to drive way off to the South Side, he didn’t complain -- he gave me advice.  When we got to the dorm, which was a converted hotel, he escorted me in, carrying my luggage, and formally presented me to the house mother by name and origin.  I hope to heck I tipped him.

Judy Lou and I in the Loop, captured by a street photographer.

I was lucky again with my roommate, Judy Lou Farrer, daughter of a principal and former football coach.  She and Denny Meneely, one of those vigorous and sporty Southern belles, took me in hand and showed me around.  We went to the lake shore.  The strongest sensation of the first day was my bare feet in the warm sand.  I could understand that -- the rest was just a big whirl.  

My English class, the basic introductory survey if you managed to comp out of bonehead, was in a big auditorium and was taught by Bergen Evans whom I knew from TV.  He was witty and mild.  I made it my business to sit right in the middle, three rows back, and watch his face as though I were a puppy, responding to everything, so that after a while he was watching me as much as I was watching him.  Only recently did the world and I realize he was probably gay.  Somewhere behind me were Ivan Doig and Paul Winter, but I never knew them at NU.  I took Evans an attempt at a poem (awful) and he was very tactful about it.

My first class of the introductory first-year three quarters in the School of Speech was public speaking.  I think I’ll leave that alone for now.  But I still care about some of those classmates.  We've turned out far more differently than each other or even from what we expected.

The movie star returns.

When I came home at Christmas, my Jefferson walking group met me with a dozen red roses, as though I were a movie star.  I was dumbfounded!  They had said to me when I left that now my life would be so different from theirs that we wouldn’t be able to be friends.  They were right, but it didn’t happen quickly.  Me in high school: hilarious brainy person.  In college: confused struggling dummy.

Joanie’s father had told her she had a choice: she could go to college or she could buy a brand-new pistachio-green Thunderbird with a removable hard top.  She wisely chose the car.  That summer we were hardly ever out of it, at least in the evening when hot cars were out cruising.  Pearl was not a cruiser, but Joanie and Diane were definitely on the prowl in shorts and sailor hats.  When they checked at home about going out, the mothers all said,  “Well, if Mary’s going with you, I guess it will be all right.”  Ha.

Joan McGowan and Diane Milburn ready for action.

One night we were dragging Union Avenue, which wasn’t MLK yet.  Some boys raced us.  We crossed to the Washington side of the Columbia, parked and talked.   The boys invited us to take a ride in their car, which they said was the champion souped-up stock car in Oregon.  We got into their car and then they got into a race with another fast stock car.  It was pitch dark on a narrow road snaking through second growth along the river.  The speedometer said 110.  The car was shaking hard and only about six inches away from the other one.  I prepared to die.  

Then the boys wouldn’t let us out.  They said they were going to drive up to a cabin in the mountains they knew about and have their way with us.  We were feeling around in the bottom of the car for possible weapons.  Then one boy looked at his watch and yelped, “Oh my God!  I’ve gotta get home!  My mother will kill me.”  They took us back to the lonesome T-bird.  What strikes me now is how different it would have been if the boys had been drunk or on drugs.  Or if we girls had been.

I was the world's worst roommate and I hated dorms.

But that almost didn’t feel as dangerous to me as the future as seen through the telescope of university.  Judy Lou and I went down to some Loop ladies’ tea room and each had a single Pink Lady, which made us so drunk we could hardly ride the El home.  My guess is that we were all virgins except maybe Denny.  I was probably wrong.  This was before seamless nylons or pantyhose, but not tights worn with skirts.  I had a scandalous little mini-kilt, which I wore with colored tights, but it was one of two garments that when I wore them, no one would walk around campus with me.  The other was a sweater my mother knitted for me that mysteriously disappeared.  It cupped my butt.  I didn't think that was a problem.  Judy Lou introduced me to Chanel #5, Arpege, and silk-lined dresses.  Everyone had money, was on a diet, and obsessed about grades.

Must've ditched his scythe somewhere.

I didn’t really give a rip about clothes.  In 1957  I was thinking about eternity, death, destiny and foreign films:  “Wild Strawberries,” “The Seventh Seal,” “The Cranes Are Flying”, “Black Orpheus,Truffault.  I didn’t have a fuck buddy, I had a film friend, because some of the films were only shown by societies that met in strange ethnic church basements and you didn’t want to go there alone at night.  

Nine Little Rock Arkansas high school students started a riot by integrating their school -- with the help of the National Guard.  The first Vietnam combat casualty was killed but no one noticed.  Nuclear submarines were starting to prowl the ocean.  The cat's observatory viewing became colder and wider all the time, but it was a math-driven sidereal world of the mind, not the warm earth of the body.  It was the Cold War and on some random afternoon I expected a far-too-bright sky.  Then nothing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Narcisse Blood

To people away from here and even to people who are here, there is a tendency to think about “Indians” or “aboriginals” as all one thing, one type -- maybe good and maybe bad.  There are some who define them according to white academic anthropologies and some who see them as assimilated.  Few are equipped to see a category that is at the boundary between the past and the future, not as a point of division, but as a line of meshing, interacting, extending.  Narcisse Blood was one of those people.  I am honored to have known him a little bit while he was alive and grateful that he can still be seen and heard at sources like YouTube.

Like Darrell Kipp, he was a traveler, an interlocutor, a practitioner of what the French call L'entretien infini” which goes on many ways in many places.  The key word here is “place.”  Narcisse was a man of Place in the most real and living sense.  But also note that this French phrase translates as “endless conversation” for which you need two people: these people were working in dialoging and collaborating pairs but also between populations.  

Some years ago Rosalyn LaPier and Darrell Kipp produced August seminars featuring Siksika scholars, another category many people just don’t register.  It was meant to increase understanding between whites and rez people.   One year Narcisse Blood and Ryan Heavyhead were invited to describe their summer’s work mapping the ancient trails and camping spots of the Nitsitahpi.  They did this walking, as the dog people did, using logic and empathy to figure out where a person would go, then employing GPS to mark the spots on the great dry sea of the east slope prairie, and then sending that info back to Red Crow College where computers recorded it on wide printed-out maps.

They were a little late, having had a bit of trouble at the border as usual, and made an entrance with us all sitting laughing at Darrell’s corny jokes.  Two handsome slim-hipped men, sun-dark, walking easy with their backpacks and wide-brimmed hats.  We were all smitten.  Darrell said,  “Welcome, my brothers.”  

These videos are about Narcisse and the other fatality, Michael Green, also a close collaborator.  

They (Narcisse, Ryan, Darrell) are “catch-fire” people, kindlers.  Narcisse was naturally a person of “oral culture” -- didn’t write much, but Ryan could handle the academic stuff, the pesky white man’s paper hoops.  The compromise was videography and the production of films.  Ryan called it being “artists of relationship” -- Narcisse said, “Let’s tell some stories together!”

At first glance these two guys might seem a mismatch.  Ryan is a martial arts standout who rehabilitates magpies and rescues rattlesnakes from their danger in an urban environment by taking them to the nearest rattlesnake community.  He always knows where they are.  These two guys were Power People, but it was the Power for Good.  Ryan's tribute video on YouTube, which includes memories from Ryan’s wife, a news account of the crash, and a direct address to Narcisse, might give outsiders some understanding.

My earliest trope as a traveling UU minister among congregations a hundred miles apart was that the land is a text which one “reads” by traveling across it.  This fits into the work of Narcisse and Ryan.  It also offers a way of understanding of death -- that it means “traveling on ahead” over a horizon, an edge we cannot see across.  We don’t know what’s over there.  Sand hills?  Another way of existing?  Yet we have the strong feeling that the people we love are not gone, just “away”.  

Several times I was on the highways around Regina for one reason or another.  Once in particular was in perilous weather, snow/ice/rain obscuring the windshield, the roadway slick, late at night, and my van heater couldn’t cope.  I had a little three inch porthole I could see out of and my passenger, an intrepid young woman, helped navigate.  More than that, when the three-inch hole shrank even more, I would pull over and she leapt out with a scraper to make the hole bigger.  We were on prairie, no settlement, no place to hole up and wait.  More traffic than anyone would expect, all of it moving fast.  

Later, on another perilous trip, this time passing the actual Sand Hills in thirty below weather, the van simply stopped because the air intake had frozen shut.  That time a mechanic relocated the intake over a hot part of the motor and it worked.

I don’t know the circumstances of this particular accident that ripped a great wound in the arts/indigenous/academic community of the prairie, but it was weather-related, they say, with all the implications of some superhuman force smashing into our lives.  It’s a waste of time to rail at the injustice and unreasonableness of it, but important to grieve a while.  Narcisse had already planted the seeds of replacement and transformation.

Down here in Piegan country there has been schism focused on the ceremonialist aspect of Siksika (Blackfeet/foot) life.  Some have seen that they could make money by going through the motions of Bundle Opening.  Others have lived the ceremonies through their families.  Both need to remember what Narcisse instinctively knew and Ryan has learned -- that the real source of human spirituality on the prairie is the land itself and one doesn’t make ceremonies real by attending a pricey workshop some weekend.  Rather one walks it.  Daily.

One of the signs of ancient encampments is a big patch of sarvisberries because the people would historically use that spot as a latrine and “plant” berries with their own bodily fertilizer.  It’s a bit funky to think about, but this is the way the world works:  recycling, renewing, surprising with consequences of long ago happenings.  

No need to dwell on it, but it’s good to look for parallels: old discarded practices -- perhaps unpleasant or maybe just not needed anymore -- that laid a substrate for something new and unexpected.  Before there are berries, there are flowers -- quite beautiful.  But where there are berries, there are bears.  Life is not all garlands.  Keep walking.

Friday, February 20, 2015


No one knows why ducks evolved such insane penises.
Argentine Lack Duck (Oxyura vittata)

Sex was a waterfowl sort of problem in our family.  Not that anyone had screwy dicks, which ducks do, but that there were two levels: one familiar and even attractive, but the part unseen was under the water motivating madly, denied, ugly, stirring up mud.  Never dealt with.

My father purported to be an admirer of women, as a photographer and as a protector of his own female family members.   But he wanted his protection to invite a kind of participation in their private lives.  He never asked me to pose nude, but rather all dressed up or then again in plain underwear -- nothing kinky.   Maybe playing the piano -- middle-class lady things.  He pulled my slightly older cousin into this once, the two of us in boudoir, brushing hair.  I think he was imagining some 19th century sentimental painting.  She tells me now she secretly thought it was too risqué but didn’t protest.  Nor did any adult.  Where did they think the line was?  This was not secret night-time stuff, but almost joking afternoon, door open.  Everyone knew.

When my mother was ready to give birth to me, my father wanted to be present.  My mother did NOT want him there.  She expected an ordeal and as a dedicated stoic wanted all her energy to produce a healthy baby.  She was one of those women who once in a while talk about the awful pain of it, but she also told about the welcome gas cone that knocked her out.  She hated being out of control.  Her very formal Scandinavian doc said not to worry.  He’d take care of it and he did.  No husbands.  The culture agreed.

This split persisted between treating every sexy or gender-assigned issue as --  on the one hand medically explainable and nothing to be ashamed of -- and yet signaling something on the other that was taboo, something deliberately kept secret.  On the one hand my mother asked my father to shave her armpits for her and didn’t hide it.  I thought the idea was to pretend no hair grew there, because if it DID, think of the other places!  

In India shaving armpit hair can be done by a barber.

On the other hand one of my brothers used the word “dinkus” and my father exploded because it meant to him an athletic supporter.  It was a word he learned at the U of Manitoba as an undergrad.  As far as I know, no male in my family ever wore a dinkus.  They must have been hidden from me.  Why is an athletic supporter unmentionable?  My brother was pre-adolescent and talking about something else.

All used female sanitary pads were wrapped tightly into a ball, hidden under other trash, and burned in the fireplace when there were no men around.  My mother said rather bitterly that if I found this inconvenient, I should try growing up in a household of females before disposable pads were invented and laundry was done by boiling everything in a big tub on a wood stove, including the female flannel pads which had to be presoaked.

I ended splitting knowledge between open and shut minds, as everyone did, maybe still do.  On the one hand my mother used and taught me the vocabulary of my aunt, the army nurse.  We said “perry pads” meaning perineum pads.  (Perineum --“Show me the pink!”)  My mother’s ob-gyn forbade tampax, but that was useless advice for me since I had no idea what one tamped them into anyway.  Until much later.  Not that I was numb, just dumb.  Maybe it’s the same thing in some inaccessible way.

The split persisted through life.  Some things were secret, never expressed or admitted -- like love.  Not sex -- love.  To let anyone know (esp. intimates) whom it is you really love, and what made your internal organs do what would be detectable by a female plethysmograph, was to be vulnerable.  Never even let your lovers know -- leave them the pleasure of finding it out. Leave yourself the surprise -- even shock -- of not knowing that could happen until it does.  But give the other person whatever they want.

We talk about the conscious and unconscious in blind ways, as though the body were not involved, as though only the conscious mattered anyway and then only if it could be put into words.  But if sex isn’t physical, what is?  Maybe we should rename the unconscious limbic forces, call them “the dark brain” where an iridescent, pulsing, magnetic and electric cosmos builds and rebuilds itself, using whatever the senses can transmit: gravity, engorgement, habituation, distention, evacuation.  The rhythmic dance of liquid through tubes and then the slow ooze of plasma between the crowded cells, subliminal clasping and release, wandering molecules that connect the larger organs in their orchestration of mood and action.

And yet one can change everything with conscious thoughts.  Sex is one thing: reproduction.  But around that is a universe of enticements, rewards, and arousals, some mystical -- oh, those writhing marble saints with their transfixed faces -- and some just staring for a moment, grand mal seizures versus petit mal seizures.  Now the slick paper snake comes selling pretty plastic wands for which one must buy batteries.  Always the batteries.  No one wants strings attached these days.  But remove the price tag -- that’s nobody’s business.  Still, don't lose your customer number from the back of the catalogue.

The dark brain goes back to the beginning when there was only one cell and it only had four duties: intake, evacuation, metabolism and reproduction.  Molecularly mechanical, but neglect any one of them and no more protozoan.  So the dark brain responds to all four and a bouquet of those primitive forces lingers on through the pheromones of evolution.  If the bright brain can connect to them, exploit them, make them into yearning and fetish, then the creature affected can’t help responding.  Even if it's only poetry.

No need for machinery or even a partner.  Memory and imagination can blast a person through the universe while appearing to be napping, but then you wake shaking, gasping, convulsing, having seen colors and shapes entirely new, remembering being at the edge of some new feeling -- Sound? Smell? -- never known before.  Falling or flying or flung.

What is a felt meaning?  The dark brain passes it over to the bright brain, saying,  “Here, smarty.  Give this a name.  It needs a handle.  A painting will do.  You could compose a song.  Care to tango?"  If you feel its meaning hard and long enough and can get some other person to feel it, too, then it will be real, a contribution to civilization.  

What is the name for earthworms having double-sex, each one hermaphroditic and clasping the other in softly writhing, slippery, pulsing exchange?   Scifi will write about it.  What about that tale about the whore Medusa with electric worms for hair, enough to engulf her customers and sting them to death with ecstasy?  Straight science will give it a Latin name, and a sassy poet will call it “a zipless fuck, doubled.”  A mature earthworm has a clitellum (who knew?) which excretes enough mucous to form a “slime tube around the embracing worms” which is a sort of exterior womb into which they inject their gametes, maybe with a sigh of accomplishment.  Then they crawl on their way, shrugging through the earth, while the slime tube becomes a cozy gestation cocoon.

If no other earthworm is around, the resourceful examples will “lose their heads” which become a separate worm. But they don’t make a slime tube as two worms would, maybe because that would be masturbation.  Well, auto-stimulation.

The number of hearts?  The earthworm does not have a heart.  (What song is that?) The organ in an earthworm that acts as a heart is called the aortic arch. An earthworm has five aortic arches.  (So what do their valentines look like?)  

The “brain” of an earthworm is a neural node above the pharynx, the strong devouring mouth, but then it's segmented into a series of ventral ganglions.  If the brain is removed, the earthworm will not rest; it will crawl and crawl and crawl with no restraint.  If the first ventral ganglion is removed, the earthworm will stop either eating or digging.  Each ganglion senses only its own segment, but each can sense touch, light, vibration and chemical changes.  A mild electrical field in a lawn (a battery) will bring energized worms to the surface.

Earthworms look penile but one size does not fit all.  They can be small or a yard long, sing, or smell like lilies.  I’d like to see one of those blue Amazon jungle monster worms.  Do not release your fishing worms into post-glacial timber because worms eat duff and will kill the trees by collapsing the soil.  Post-glacial forests regenerated by mutating so as NOT to need duff, since the glacier had scraped it all away.  Turn the worms out in the south where they still fertilize the soil.  

Ecology is a kind of morality.  Know your connections, your hungers, your excretions, your version of KY jelly, as you move through the fertile night soil.  

Then dream . . . erotic dreams. . . bittersweet chocolate plush, tiny blue razor-knives, warm peach chiffon flesh fluttering in the kissing wind.  The stink of grief.  All in mucous tubes, sequential, embracing, gestating.