Friday, June 30, 2017


Phone tree just called to say that last night a grizz was hanging around the boat dock by the campground on Lake Francis in Valier.  It was about 9:30PM, which is twilight.  A deputy hazed the bear off to the SE by using "cracker shells."  I heard them and thought they were early fire crackers.

Sprinklers running at the park where the Homesteader Celebration was providing food.  We don't want bears licking barbecue sauce off the grass.

"YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME" -- A Review That Became an Open Letter

Sherman Alexie murdered my best friend.  Luckily, my friend was a survivor and revived in Paris, a delighted lucky reincarnation.  I didn’t meet him there and I’m not supposed to tell you that I even know him, but he doesn’t speak to me anymore so what do I have to lose.  I still love him dearly.  He must have his reasons.

Sherman doesn’t speak to me either, but we met once in the alley behind a theatre where he had spoken in Portland.  It was the Seventies and I was the theatre reviewer for the “Portland Scribe.”  He won’t remember — his people hustled him away to a party.  He was still high from performing.

This is not a conventional review but I have to say that after this book people should finally have gotten it straight in their heads that not all Indians hunt buffalo from horseback.  And I guess I could say that Sherman, middle-class Seattle Indian, is starting to sound like Garrison Keillor.

As I read these revelations, I’m not surprised.  I know hundreds of indigenous boys with the same life-stories.  They just never wrote about it.  Some of them died too soon anyway.  And mothers like his abound everywhere, not just on the rez.  I’ve met dozens in congregations — they know who they are and why.  They’re part of the reason I vowed never to be a mother.  

Men like Sherman’s father have been my students, my colleagues, my principals, my superintendents and my fellow foundry hands.  Also one or two best friends.  Alcoholic, helped along by women, barely coping because people make hopeful allowances for them.  Very often with white wives even as they claimed to be authentically old-timey.  (The old NW pattern was the reverse:  white man — “The White Headed Eagle” Dr. John McLoughlin — and his indigenous wife.  Her previous name was McKay and she was shaped like Queen Victoria.  Not Pocahontas.)

Other Native Americans are still writing, but no one pays attention much.  The moment of the NA Renaissance has passed.  Sales weren’t that good.  The white educated women have moved on.  One Potawatomi grandfather claims that the People write for each other now.  This is true in Canada.

So what makes Sherman special?  I guess that it’s his “body of work.”  He keeps coming, no matter the stereotypes and the restrictions, hopping from one genre to another.  His family needs the money and he needs the praise, which he would kill to claim.  Sam Vaktin calls it “narcissistic supply,” an intoxicating substance that works best if consumed judiciously.  It kills some anyway, but everyone needs a little of it.

The point is he’s lucky to have escaped alive to report the news but he’s not so unique.  He just hit the situation lucky — the publishers wanted a token Indian and he was non-threatening enough to get on the bus.  He’s still there but sitting alone towards the back.  Assimilation creeps up on a person and then dumps them out the other side.

If every sentence in this book that ended in a question mark were removed, the book would have been half as long.  But life in our times is all about questions anyway.

Somehow this un-review is turning into a conversation with the author.  Pretty dangerous, actually, don’t you think?

Sherman, you need to remember that salmon do not fuck.  They rendezvous and they make beds in the gravel, but they do not touch when they spawn.  It’s all cold-water intercourse, floating in the particulate joining of egg and milt.  Of course, that’s not as funny as your version, and maybe your little story of standing in front of an audience and calling your mom on your cell phone to thank her for fucking you into existence is not so much funny as Freudian. 

I love salmon.  My father traveled for work in Eastern Oregon and when he came home on Friday night, he always bought a salmon from Celilo Falls on his way back through the Columbia Gorge so we could have it for our ceremonial Sunday dinner.  Even after salmon became scarce and expensive, my skinflint mother would spend what it took to have a wild salmon for major holidays.  They’re Scots as well as Indian, you know.  In Scotland the salmon belonged to the King and you could be hanged for poaching them.  (Not in the culinary sense.)  My love of salmon is only an entitlement to sadness.  You don’t love salmon — as you often point out, you ARE salmon.

The Grand Coulee Dam was before my time, but my father saw it as a monument to patriotism which was his religion.  We drove over it.  Bonneville Dam was built in my time.  We went on a tour underneath it where the turbines hummed, and we visited the lady who sat in front of a big window that looked underwater at the fish ladder entrance, holding a little clicker she used to count the salmon as they went through.  It is vivid in my mind, finned forces of life determined to push through, and the patient counter, like a fish novelist, a non-participant who watched, a guardian of the gate with the power of statistics in her hand.

I enjoyed the incident about the scornful Navajo woman who found you insufficiently Indian.  Karma seeks you out, doesn’t it?  Fishtrap, the writer’s workshop in Joseph, Oregon, once organized a summer session entirely around a panel of well-known and wide-waisted female NA writers.  I was careful not to sign up.  In fact, the whole thing blew up halfway through.  There should be a pow-wow song called Woman’s Rage Dance.

If I ever get trapped in a elevator, I hope it’s with your wife.  I didn’t know she had a theology degree, which makes me curious.  If it’s comparative theology, I find it’s excellent preparation for understanding both writers and tribes.  Have you thought of collaborating?

In the end the relationship between readers and writers is more like a salmon spawn than a bear fuck, and not nearly so intense as the relationship between a mother bear and her cubs, even when she’s unconscious in hibernation and involuntarily giving birth.  Readers forget a book is merely a rendezvous.  They demand to have the author pledged to their embrace, book after book.  In return they offer little tokens — income, of course, but also awards and fan letters, applause for onstage appearances, laughter at jokes whether or not they really understand them.

Your life, as opposed to your writing, is much admired in Heart Butte on the Blackfeet rez where mothers feel their sons must leave as soon as they can in order to survive, to avoid the drugs and car crashes.  Girls stay; girls have babies.  They want to raise their babies there until they are old enough to follow the river to the sea.  But that’s only one pattern.  Now a lot of people return in retirement.  Some have stayed to grow where they are and done well at it, for the benefit of all.  

It’s both better and worse for rez Indians now.  They don’t seem to read much, but they can text faster than a grandma can bead.  They resist drinking and know how to use rehab, but drugs are deadlier than booze.  They have a community college and are serious about it.  But they still joke a lot.  There’s less need to kill the competition.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


When my parents had died, I was the one who by default took ownership of the family photos.  They began with the first cameras, middle-class markers cheaper than pianos and family-centered in the same way: an instrument, a skill, shared appreciation.  Most people were rural, still farming for a living, and there were no cars or roads for recreation travel.

By time I began to blog, I could see that it was a way to create albums.  One was  which was sometimes joined later by people I didn’t know but who had also known the little community in the Twenties.  Another, Strachans on the Prairie, was translated into a book, self-published through  Instead of collecting photos of the people, I made a sequence of all the places they lived as they struggled to make a living in an unforgiving place by raising potatoes.  

There are no indigenous people in these photos because they had died or been gathered onto reservations.  The exception is that my father and his friend took a bicycle trip across Manitoba and passed a government school.  They took a photo and talked to some kids they met.  They knew nothing about the indigenous people and not much about the animals, even the moose they hunted, but they learned a great deal about plants, both native and domestic.

My uncle Seth in his "camp"

“It's October, 1921. Seth, the youngest, sets up a camp in the yard. He has a headdress of what are probably turkey feathers and a bow and arrow. His camp includes a framework for hanging pots over a campfire, which has attracted the attention of the camp cat. (A variant on the more traditional camp dog.) My father, who remembered these times as idyllic, made sure to get a small "teepee" for our own backyard later in Portland and took a photo of my brother at about the same age and in the same pose. Raising we kids was for him mostly a matter of recovering the past."

All born in Scotland but the littlest.
My grandfather standing in the back middle.

In the time since my greatgrandfather immigrated from Scotland with his grown children, my family has dispersed.  From a small genetic group as tightly connected and interdependent as a ship’s crew, we have become a diaspora spread across the continent, hardly anyone rural.  Many of us have never met and the grandchildren of my brother have no idea who those immigrants were or what they did.  I sent copies of the book to some of them, but it was not of much interest to them.  

So when Paul Seesequasis began posting early photos of northern indigenous people, it soon became one of the great pleasures of Twitter, partly because it was parallel and even woven into my life because my connection to the Blackfeet Piegan goes back far enough to overlap a little bit with his time frame which ends in 1970.  I’ve known a LOT of Indians, going back to teachers at Vernon Grade School in Portland, OR, one of which was Mildred Colbert who wrote “Kutkos, Chinook Tyee” about her own family.  When I went to buy a copy of the book, I found it online in Ireland!  She had no children.

Many of my father’s photos haven’t been posted because they are slides, which makes copying them a little more complicated because they are color.  I’ve just posted everything “as is”, maybe cropping a bit.   Once I bought my mother a book about the Jungian interpretation of photos, like the curious prevalence of photos of women, especially mothers, with bodies of water in the background that are behind their pelvises, the spring of life.  Or of how some unconscious alignment makes trees appear to grow out of the tops of people’s heads.  She thought it was very silly.  Maybe.

In terms of tribal people we don’t see many photos of households of people of the diaspora, the ones who responded to the war effort by moving to cities to work in airplane factories and shipyards.  As many enrolled Blackfeet people live off the rez as on.  I think they are publicly assimilated but privately at home the kitchens look pretty much like rez kitchens which looked like camp kitchens (stove instead of campfire) because what humans arrange around themselves is shaped by what they do.  People gathering around a table with a formica top to play cards, drink coffee, and joke would be familiar in many places worldwide.  They do it next door. 

In opposition to that, consider the tribal people as alluring escape.  Below is a PR release from the Russell Museum in Great Falls.  In the political years of AIM this way of looking at tribal life would have invited not just protest but also semi-terrorism.  They weren’t against the alluring escape idea, but they were very much of the belief that it was THEIRS, that white people were stealing it, that it was worth money.  Obviously, the money angle is relevant to the Museum promotion.  But AIM’s lesson has been lost, partly because those who are paying attention now feel there IS no alluring escape.  Maybe at the movies. 

“When Curator Emily Wilson first saw an image of Charlie Russell dressed in full Plains Indian attire, she knew instantly she wanted to learn more and had just scratched the surface of something very fundamental to his artistic process. 

“This Thursday, learn how Charlie was able to escape the modern world and create the old west of his imaginings as Ah-wa-cous, or Running Antelope. When immersed in his Indian identity, Charlie was able to anchor himself to the spiritual harmony between man and nature that nurtured his development as an artist, historian and conservationist.” 

Charlie had substitutes for a warm family life: his log cabin studio, his cabin on the West side of Glacier Park, his pals at the bar, and his favorite bordellos.  There are photos of dress-ups, but not in the bordellos.  None that are public anyway.  Our understanding of his life is that he was worthy of Jack Weaver’s statue in the Washington, DC, The National Statuary Hall Collection.  One can see Charlie standing in the background when senators are interviewed about the current political scandals.  It was crucial at the time it was emplaced that Weaver be seen as a Montanan, though he soon moved to Edmonton.  It is no longer relevant that he was gay.

Photos are a way of reflexively investigating and recording who we are, but— once made — there is no guarantee that anyone will see them.  We live in a time when we look at naked people enjoying alluring escape.  We also look at people who are naked because they have no clothes and almost no flesh in a killing environment.  There won’t be many great-grandchildren wondering what their ancestors were like.  But survivors can go to the Internet and what they see will change them.  

It used to be that photos could be hidden or destroyed — no more.  The family images of berry camp that Paul Seesequasis puts on the Internet are now immortal.  We are all harrowed by time, especially by the industrial shift away from rural life, which raked the indigenous and immigrant alike.  We can’t help longing for the alluring escape that lingers on the horizon for us all.  Sharing our memories and visions helps us appreciate where we are right now — that means each other, even strangers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


The Indigenous Author

Once in an elevator in a posh place in Seattle I overheard a conversation between two stylish middle-aged ladies.  One said, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear you lost your job.  What will you do now?

The other said, “Oh, I suppose I’ll buy a cheap computer and write a book.”  It was almost as if she thought the computer wrote the book.

Thanks to the thundering herds of literate people who believe that writing a book is a thing that anyone could do and that every book is a best seller, and who include in their own books and movies the idea of writing a book as achieving salvation (which is related to the Abrahamic admiration of the magic of books:  Bible/Torah/Koran) we still have the fantasy that writing a book really IS something.  That will make money.

Gutenberg made it possible for the classes just below the top to own books, because printing presses made them cheaper and sources of education made people able to read.  Of course, at first they only read “improving” books like “Pilgrim’s Progress”, but then someone realized that wicked sells, so they began to “publish” (print, bind and sell) novels in shops next to the dry goods.  It was a shift in the underpinnings of society.

That was a few centuries ago.  Recently,, which daily runs a few hundred pages from histories of all kinds, ran a quote from 
Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks” by Bryant Simon"Increasingly over the last two decades, women and men with higher salaries and more college classes under their belt broke away from the sensible middle class and engaged in a new round of conspicuous consumption. …"

One’s taste in print consumption is no different -- though reading commuters had to be a little devious if reading certain books — until finally you could read from a small screen, privately, without a giveaway dust jacket.  Equivalent is the context of writing. In the days of Louisa May Alcott one wrote books in an unheated attic, living on apples, or if one were male, one had a major adventure of some sort and then wrote about it almost secretly until the world was ready.  But writing a published book was thought to be a middle-class version of winning the lottery, very much connected to deservingness, certifying that one was anointed after all.

Then came laptops and the Starbucks-related phenomenon of writing in public.  Now the plotted disaster was not accidentally leaving the paper manuscript in a taxi, but rather having the laptop stolen.  (Does no one carry around their masterpiece on a thumb drive as though it were the secret plans for the Russian invasion?  Of course, one cannot steal a cloud.)  Watching the faces of the keyboardists, one sometimes suspects they are actually just composing a spread sheet for expense reimbursement from the head office.  How middle class, but at least there’s income involved.

That’s a quick list of the changes in print transmission methods.  The equally changing content is a little harder to identify and understand.  Underlying all print is spoken language and under all spoken language is a constantly shifting set of connectomes that Freudian systems have led us to believe are bubbling ferments of inchoate accumulation.  But now, if you listen to George Lakoff and a host of researchers, we know that there is a system, as sure as bones, that guides everything mental (and physiological, since by now some will accept that the consciously mental is also physiologically based and almost entirely unconscious).

I particularly like the vid linked below because it reveals how closely “virtue” and “emotion” are tied to reading, esp. for those dedicated upper-middle-class PBS people, who by now have home espresso machines on their sleek kitchen counters, next to the planning book for their European vacation.

Part of the assimilation of the indigenous people of the North American continent has been getting them into books some way or other.  First, they were written about — inaccurately, as we now recognize.  Then nice Victorian do-gooder ladies began to create manuscripts that were represented as translations from the people.  No one wrote in their own language, not even the people themselves, except for the Cree who benefitted from devising their own alphabet.  That came next.  

Then the journals of adventures of young poetic men who felt truly at home with the indigenous cultures.  Some learned those languages.  When the college-educated indigenous began to write, they all wrote down oral legends.  Then they acquired research skills and gained access to primary records — which wasn’t easy because part of the task of escaping hegemony was through politicized destruction of “white” files and records which made librarians wary of them.  If they seemed “middle class” enough, they gradually sat down at tables to read and were scandalized.  This was “white” stuff — where was the pre-print history of the red people?

The long process of using a medieval invention, print, to express the deep structure of an indigenous world has to be based on the raw material that is the land.  No one born in the 19th century of buffalo and nomadism is alive today, but the buffalo are being restored and from satellites it is possible to locate the old trails, marked with with GPS.  A new accumulation of writing is building up in the tribal community colleges where indigenous art abounds.  It could happen anywhere — Australia, China, Russia?

This is a very long way around to get to my point, which is that the secret to deep writing deserving the idea of a “body of work” is not so much print in “books” in the sense of organized, complete, indexed and footnoted ideas or even in the flash-bang narratives of survivors, but rather in the shift to writing as creating a steady output.  People talk about a “body of work” as the lifetime output of a writer developing through the shifts and oxymorons of living, but they talk about it even after the author’s death, from the outside.

From the inside it is now possible to produce a body of work that is felt as “written” (including images, sound, movement) and through “reflexivity” understand where the deep travail is taking one.  That was always possible with a diary or journal, but to have a company of readers sharing the adventure is new.  Not always comfortable.

Of course, new means new problems.  Not everyone will react the same, though one hopes the viciously critical would just go away.  For a while, writing will need to be sequestered into material read by those sharing and identifying with that life — Indians writing for Indians, as it were.  That’s happening.  But it doesn’t always go back to the environment that created the tribes in the first place.  Those who open the Bundles haven’t necessarily sat for hours watching what those prairie creatures do, what their aura is, what lessons they teach, how they connect to survival, but a person still could.  Could learn to take badger and fox into one’s own body so as to dance their nature.

Swift foxes on the prairie

The missing piece for those who choose to create a body of work as a figure of process, traveling along through the world and time, is close to what for a while was called “discovery.”  The discovery is that a “body of work” is a “thing” and then that the thing is worthy, worth searching for.  Possibly not middle class or in English.  Maybe not written on a laptop at Starbucks.  Potentially beyond words.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


709 Montana

If it’s a perfect storm at sea, what is it when disaster strikes from all sides in one’s yard?  This is my yard, which most people would agree is a disaster, except maybe an ecologist.  There’s an animal bed of some kind right in the middle.  Maybe dog, maybe griz.  (I look for them but never see them.  No phone calls on the telephone tree.  No news from the bear vigilantes.)  

I’ve received a letter giving me the day after tomorrow as a deadline to mow my yard down to the conventional astroturf height.  Otherwise, a $150 fine.  Maybe $250.

My diabetes has gone out of control.  I’ll probably need to go to Great Falls for the doc this week.  Wednesday is my “payday” when I do the month’s grocery shopping and laundry.  There is no way to meet the deadline of day after tomorrow.  Ray, the mayor, has said he will “work with citizens” so long as we are making good faith efforts.  So I went over to get a stay of execution and got it.

We also got into politics a bit.  Most of Ray’s working life has been military so I threw down the glove:  “This is not a military compound.  It’s a little country town with a shrinking economy that talks about disincorporating.”

Military Housing

Then we got to the serious stuff.  He hates Obama for being “weak” and admires Trump for being “strong”.  None of the news about betraying America to Russia gets through to him.  He doesn’t believe it.  Time will tell.

So now I have to go a lot deeper and also to ask myself why I am so emotional about this issue.  (I wouldn’t be QUITE so emotional if one of the feral cats hadn’t had kittens last night, a process of screaming and running all over the house smearing blood which kept us all from sleeping.  It was 90ยบ, unusually hot yesterday, and the night didn’t cool until nearly daylight.)

It’s about expectations and the major shift in American life over the last two decades, even in this small backwater.  The main change is that the Valierians don’t want to BE a backwater now.  They want to be important and admirable and to grow, which they believe will happen if the town looks prosperous.  They see the riots and misfortunes on television and notice that the nabes were shabby and neglected to begin with.  And the people are dark.

Quite a few military or quasi-military people live in town, but not a Pondera County deputy, which has been the case in the past.  They like it here because not much happens.  Pondera County sheriff, Highway Patrol, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, FBI, ICE, ATF, and so on.  Many of them are former military.  Borderlands law applies to 100 miles from the Canadian border.  Valier is 67 miles away.

The census people say that 20% of the population is Native American.  They don’t give their criteria: enrolled or not, blood quantum, etc.  There are no Black or Asian people that I know of and only one Mexican. 

I’m such an isolate, leaving the house only for the library or gas station, that I don’t have a very good handle on a population that I only cross paths with occasionally:  older, maybe retired, men without families.  (A few women as well.)  They are not free spirits: no career artists or writers or dancers.  No band leaders, no veterinarian.  No doctors, lawyers, clergy or counselors live in town.  (I’m excepting me.)  A pretty good fraction of the population in town used to be the grandparent generation from farms and ranches nearby.  On my street they have mostly died of old age and been replaced by young families, who build on more bedrooms.

No bars, as such, but always the usual underground drugs and theft.  A lot of drunk driving and domestic abuse, but that doesn’t register.  A few men who live locally but not primarily in Valier, own a little old house as a refuge for binges.  Maybe disguised as fishing.

I’ve already tried to address the problem of the demographic hole in the doughnut: many people use the town amenities but pride themselves on not being stupid enough to live inside the town boundaries, just in the postal district.

The bottom line is that people here are not inclined to think outside the box.  No new businesses are started; some move into town.

Military residential tracts are supported by federal money.  Taxes are paid by a replacement law substituting federal money, as is the case on an NA reservation.  This takes care of infrastructure without taxes from citizens who are individually responsible for maintenance.  If there is anything the military has in abundance, it’s skilled manpower.  Small towns everywhere are feeling the loss of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and appliance repairpersons.  Few are willing to mow lawns for hire, even if it’s a flat lot with a riding mower.

Much of how people guide their lives is economic necessity, but also there is a cultural component.  We have put college degrees ahead of almost everything else, believing that this is the key to security.  But it’s not.  It’s a map out of town and a put-down of those who stay here.  Worse, college degrees are so necessary that they are like marriage licenses used to be — maybe they mean something and maybe they don’t.  Too many people think they have college degrees when they only have post-high-school degrees, Education-Lite.  (Sort of like the nurses-for-doctors switch.)  Not a life-skill that teaches people to learn, but a document soon made irrelevant by time and technology.  And sometimes an outright racket.  Even worse: consider Missoula where people get raped in the dorms and the profs smoke only the finest pot, send the low grade stuff to the rez.  (I can’t tell you how I know this.)

My emotional surge over the state of my yard might be seen as strange since my job with the City of Portland was regarding exactly these issues.  We addressed nuisances of all kinds, debris of all kinds, including dead bodies.  Noise was a major issue.  Yards that gradually fill up, esp. with rusted steel machine parts that are all too available in shrinking railroad and shipping centers where warehouses stand empty.  One city crew did nothing but board up abandoned buildings.  This is the context of most crime shows on TV and therefore the mental context even here in Valier.  We feel with our guts that if we can keep all that out, we will have saved ourselves.  I went on ridealongs with inspectors so I know how bad it can get.  Far worse than anything in a small High Line town.

But we slip into the same attitude that the Portland nuisance inspectors came to when people were defiant.  “Don’t get rid of the complaint.  Get rid of the complainant.”  The other day I heard a man describing how the sheriff was ignoring him, though he had real troubles.  He had been got rid of, made invisible.  I ration calls to the sheriff very carefully to keep from being labeled a curtain twitcher.

My expectation was to live in this ramshackle house, writing until I die.  Since 1999 this has been possible.  I’m proud of my writing, which is not in “books” but in an accumulated body of work over time that reaches around the planet, not printed in books but forwarded endlessly.  In a way my problem is that I’ve lived too long.  In another way it is that there are too many people and they are nothing like me.  I am an Arab to them, but I’m safer if they don’t know it.

New Valier Fire Engine

Ray is a good mayor.  He has the foresight, connections and drive to do things like get us a new fire engine, badly needed.  I respect military backgrounds.  (My brothers were Marines.)  But there is a big difference between being military at a base in Montana and being military in an occupied country where the fighting is either guerrilla-style or bombing raids.  Who can be sacrificed as collateral damage without people paying much attention?  Valier is more like the latter and yet not like either.  There are no commanding officers here.

Monday, June 26, 2017


India Ink drawing

A human being is essentially a sack of sea water with self-contained creatures living inside that we call “organs.”  There are two ways of circulating the sea water so that the organs survive.  One is piped and carries little discs full of red oxygen, everything pumped by a heart attached to lungs which open at the top to the general atmosphere where the oxygen is.  The lung-pump is called a diaphragm and is a sheet across the entire mid-body, an internal tide-maker acting inside a ribbed calcium shell structure arching in a bone dome above the diaphragm.

Most of the other sea creatures have to do with taking in food, treating it, and throwing out the residue.  Also, a side pouch for making replicas, small fetal humans.  But on top is a semi-sequestered creature, twinned, that lives in a bone chamber and sorts out the coded electrochemical messages from small sensitive creatures called eyes, ears, tongues, nose, and maybe as many as 200 specialized one-celled organisms throughout the tissues of the entire body.

Everything must stay wet to work.  Alongside the piping of the blood vessels are other fluids.  They are like liquid bread: all the same basic recipe but varied according to need with inclusions and subtle chemical differences.  Like all the rest of the body, to survive the lymph system must stay within the stream-banks of limits, which means that the inclusions and proportions must be constantly renewed and filtered.  

Now I’ll cheat in a politically incorrect way by quoting Wikipedia.  Thanks to the uncredited person who wrote this about basic lymph:

Lymph is the fluid that circulates throughout the lymphatic system. The lymph is formed when the interstitial fluid (the fluid which lies in the interstices of all body tissues) is collected through lymph capillaries. It is then transported through larger lymphatic vessels to lymph nodes, where it is cleaned by lymphocytes, before emptying ultimately into the right or the left subclavian vein, where it mixes back with the blood.

“Since the lymph is derived from the interstitial fluid, its composition continually changes as the blood and the surrounding cells continually exchange substances with the interstitial fluid. It is generally similar to blood plasma except that it doesn't contain red blood cells. Lymph returns proteins and excess interstitial fluid to the bloodstream. Lymph may pick up bacteria and bring them to lymph nodes, where they are destroyed. “Metastatic cancer cells can also be transported via lymph. Lymph also transports fats from the digestive system (beginning in the lacteals) to the blood via chylomicrons.

“Lymph has a composition comparable to that of blood plasma, but it may differ slightly. Lymph contains white blood cells. In particular, the lymph that leaves a lymph node is richer in lymphocytes. Likewise, the lymph formed in the human digestive system called chyle is rich in triglycerides (fat), and looks milky white because of its lipid content.”

The word lymph is derived from the name of the ancient Roman deity of fresh water, Lympha.”

First we learned all about the genome; then the epigenome which can turn individual genes on or off in response to the environment; then the connectome which is the pattern of connection of brain neurons that responds to particular modes and tasks, and then the microbiome.  “The human microbiome (all of our microbes' genes) can be considered a counterpart to the human genome (all of our genes). The genes in our microbiome outnumber the genes in our genome by about 100 to 1.”

Now we begin to learn about the glymphatic system, which is a specialized part of the lymph system in the brain.  It’s in the interstitial spaces between cells and sometimes in a channel parallel to the blood system.  It’s the stuff that washes through the brain at night to remove the day’s debris, and it interests Alzheimer’s researchers because it should be removing amyloids.

But I’m interested in where all this fluid in the head comes from, cascading down through the sinuses, along the bone of skull both inside and outside under the skin, becoming mucus and tears and snot, pooling in the sinuses, running out the nose, draining through the pharynx.  What makes it move, aside from gravity and muscle contractions?  It’s so minute and complex that I don’t quite get it yet.  

But two important concepts seem to be the “parenchyma” which is whatever tissue is part of a working “sea creature” organ (such a basic term that it’s used for plants as well); the ependyma; and the “choroid plexus, which is a plexus of cells that produces the cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. The choroid plexus consists of modified ependymal cells.”  These little cells not only excrete the fluid, but also are equipped with cilia (moving hairs) that push it.  There are four “choroid plexuses”, one for each brain ventricle.  “The ventricles of the brain are a communicating network of cavities filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and located within the brain parenchyma.” 

Since I don’t have hydrocephalus (for which I am grateful), why would I pay any attention to all this stuff?  It turns out to be related to eye problems.  In a world where even an MD can’t offhand tell the difference between an optometrist and an opthalmologist, this research about the glymphatic system of the eye is invisible.  
I am very aware that if things are going wrong with my eyes, the retina swells and blurs print.  My glaucoma scores (pressure inside the eyeball) are rising and that also seems related. 

Messing around in the research protocols, the scientists injected India ink in “paravascular spaces around the central retinal artery and vein, whereas the lumens of these vessels remained unlabeled.  The deposits were located between collagen fiber bundles lining a slit-like space.”

India ink injected in optic nerves!  What an opportunity for dark poetry!  (Some of the research was done on dead humans.)  I’ll give it a try:

Of course, as usual, India ink 
is a misnomer
since it was invented by the Chinese
In the neolithic time 
of cereal domestication
when the people learned to make bowls
And lamps so that 
India ink is made from lampblack, 
a fine soot,
applied to paper
with a needle, injecting 
the eye 
with the heroin of ideas
so the brain
what to make of all this and can leave a map 
on a scroll
for times that prefer
soft brushwork.

May I have more, please?

But not too much.
The tentacles of my eyesight want to grasp you.
Not crush you.