Saturday, June 30, 2018


In the earliest recorded paleotimes, in the coming to consciousness of the human individual, and in the "climax" of a culture, the phenomenon is much the same, a moment when the image, the word, the concept all come together and are expressed somehow.  This is not just intellectual, because in history the fossils are almost suddenly joined by solid expressions of emotion in the form of decoration, jewelry, objects of beauty.  Cave art dates back to about 40,000 years ago.  It's all about meaning, which is a human quality that supports survival.

"The collapse of confidence since the nineteenth century, and the turbulence which has followed, are incorporated in an historical model describing the development of western civilization. It suggests that they are threshold symptoms of a forthcoming transition of profound importance and without earlier parallel.. . . There is no suggestion that we can anticipate what will happen, but recent rapid advances in communications and information technologies are likely to play a critical formative part in a development which will involve both a growth in collective self‐consciousness and the conceptual expansion of our minds.  (Crawford Robb, 1993)"

The child who has mastered the required basic skills of walk, talk and number, now needs to acquire meaning, which comes largely from other humans but also from temperament and experience.  The force from adults might be towards conformity or towards rebellion, often seen as transcendence.

In other words, adrenarche is a time of potential.  One aspect, "what you might be" is so deep in our genetics that it goes back to our "inner fish", and a couple of tiny genes that throw the switch between male and female, so that every human being has a shadow of the opposite sex.  This is still present in humans.  I learned this from  
This an entirely new kind of learning: today's research, today's smart aleck and hyper-alert people who explain, and sound effects --not just music like a movie but also wild sounds, music that comments on the talk, startlements and jokes, mom.  Not everyone can follow this stuff, but if you can, it's great fun.

I'm personally interested as a high androgen cisfemale, having evaded childbirth partly by maintaining celibacy.  This shifts the conversation from one-unit/one-identity to identity as a process that's always on-going.  It allows for variation, differences, puns and deceptions, revelations and unities.  But the limits of homeostasis are always present.  Get too absorbed and your identity is gone -- you're a robot.  Get too intransigent about your identity and they burn you at the stake.  Or maybe just deny you any social support.

These years establish a person's "style" and capacity, are forgiven some blunders because you're just a kid, or might be punished to nearly the point of death in an effort to erase behavior that is simply not acceptable to these adults.  

In the early years of my younger brother, he saw himself as a cowboy and dressed with a cap gun at his hip, chaps, a neckerchief, and a "cowboy" hat.  On a trip to Roseburg where we stayed with my mother's sisters on a beloved farm, an Eden to city kids, the adult men decided to tease this idea of a little kid being a sheriff.  They were butchering a cow on a tripod hoist where the pickup could drive to transport it and  heavy edible organs could be carried to the house.  

My little brother, "the Sheriff", got up late, assumed his identity and went out, confronting something he had never seen before -- the carcass of a cow.  It was skinned but not bloody, missing head and feet, already emptied of guts.  My little brother was appalled at the grotesquery, the ghastliness.  My uncles and cousins joined to say that the carcass was the work of rustlers and they confronted the five-year-old about why he had allowed this to happen, since he was the law.  His horror was compounded by guilt.  His sense of himself as a competent human being was shattered.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Prefab rule-ridden patriarch dominated meaning but grand music.

At the high end of the "adrenarche" age span, in my search for meaning I went through the Presbyterian steps of youth group and so on.  I even knelt by my bed to pray, as I had seen depicted, which made my brothers snicker.  The Revised Standard Translation of the Bible came out and I decided to read it.  I read as far as Noah's daughters getting him drunk so he would inseminate them and human life could go on.

Our congregation was a small neighborhood affair with a pretentious minister hoping to go up the hierarchy.  Behind the church was a Chinese family that dried fish on the swing set, rather aromatic.  The minister was racist about it and said nasty things.  One of that family was a good friend of mine -- she still is, many decades later.  I tried to swallow the hypocrisy and failed.  it became contempt.  I resolved to be inclusive and now my meaning is guided by radical inclusion  drawing in all of existence.  Stigma is merely a challenge.

(This isn't a thousand words long.  So what.  Quakers sit in silence.)

Friday, June 29, 2018


“I have a deadly nightshade
So twisted does it grow
With berries black as midnight
And a skull as white as snow
The vicar’s cocky young son
Came to drink my tea
He touched me without asking
Now he’s buried ‘neath a tree.”

Trad. “Girls’ Skipping Rhyme” from Chokely in Wynterset

"Skipping rhymes" are a good literary type for an age that has no really good name, that time between the work of learning to walk, talk, count, and so on and the onset of puberty, which is triggered by the maturation of the adrenal glands which controls sexual maturation.  Technically called "adrenarche", the years from perhaps five to maybe twelve are about both identity and agency:  who are you and what can you do.  At this point, physiologically, sexual differences are fairly irrelevant but if the culture emphasizes male/female gender roles, they can interfere.  Some cultures consider children neutral, asexual until puberty.

The toddler's intense bonding to the caregiver begins to loosen and transition to belonging to a group, though some will have a best buddy.  As they grow, adding new friends or dropping old friends, becomes easier.   Shared interests, affinities, become more important, but they are likely to be "horizontal" same-age relationships like scouts, 4-H, camp, sports.

There's a near-genre of buddies, esp. boys, like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Two Little Savages, Penrod and Sam.  With girls, in the books I read, the puzzle of the story is how to handle being different: "Anne of Green Gables", "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm".  "The Princess and Curdie" is about pals who are two genders, but both are "heroes."  "The Secret Garden" is a group.

This age between five and nine or ten is highly attractive to some adults, which can work out if the adult accepts the growth/change of the younger one.  Sexual contact can be a problem because the child doesn't have the physical readiness to make boundaries.  Emotionally, this can be overwhelming, pressing the child out of the natural pattern into being infantile or trying to be adult.  Problems form, like dissociation or creating either incomplete or multiple identities, misleading a child about abilities and what is important.

This is when one sees death as possible, possibly even wanting it.  Murder, likewise, and a child this age could do it.  This age attracts both predators and helpers, teachers and molesters.  Some cultures put children this age to work, usually repetitious and maybe unpleasant.  This age is still controllable, but now they can see it coming and resent it.

In the past I've suggested that one's identity narrative is threefold: what happened in the past, what might happen in the future, and what is happening right now.  All three can change and all three are accounts of the individual pressed up against the environment, especially other people.  If one's understanding of the past changes, maybe by finding out something previously unknown, then the version of right now and possibly the expected events of the future are changed.  Since the child's ability to understand and think of actions is growing, all three narratives may change.  But other people have plans for the child, which might be helpful or not, depending on how they think the story can go.

Books for these ages are generally about a child who is a hero, that is, takes hold and finally prevails.  It need not be realistic and often takes an animal as the hero, because by now the child can understand that one can think in abstract concepts and imagine other minds, other worlds.  A child this age might be able to survive without adults, barely, which is a source of gripping tales.  I think of "Kim" or "Empire of the Sun."  Pluralistic and shifting times like ours should create many plot lines about kids this age.  When I read these stories, I had no difficulty identifying cross-gender and was a little startled when people began to insist that girls should only read about girls.

In the late forties and early fifties, following the story pattern of the journey, my family took long car trips every summer, supposedly so my father could attend national conferences of cooperatives at ag colleges.  The roads were paved but there were no major highways yet, no motels except little tourist camps, no campgrounds, and no one else on the road that we knew of.  We passed through country and stayed wherever we found a wide spot, often on farm land.  The farmer came to check us out.  Once we woke in a flock of wild turkeys.  My mother always inspected whatever flowers there were.  Once when we broke down in a California town she discovered in a yard agapanthus lilies, big blue balls, and the old man who lived there gave her a start.  When she died many years later, the agapanthus was still growing.  So was the aspen she illegally dug up in a national forest.

My father had two sets of destination:  one was national monuments, the churches of his civic allegiance; the other was relatives, mostly rural and small town.  I was most impressed by Florence Dickerson, mayor of Mendota, Michigan, because she had had a sinus cancer and its removal left her with a cratered face.  It took about as long to get used to as a new Star Trek character did twenty years later.  She lived with Sarah Blum, who had been a friend of my grandmother who grew up there.  My sense of America was Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and graceful old houses in places were the trees were all deciduous, all very large, all old.  

All this was scattered over what I thought was prairie until Boston, a rude and crowded place.  The family story was about trying to get to the Old North Church, its steeple in plain sight over the housetops.  We came to a five corners intersection with a police podium in the middle.  Desperately my father drove up to him and yelled out the window, "Which way is the Old North Church?"  The cop replied, "Any way you wanna go, bud, just get the hell out of here!"  He blew a whistle and wore gloves.

Late one night we pulled into a small midwest town with many men in the street -- angry, shouting, milling around.  Everyone was asleep except me -- keeping watch -- and my father who never stopped for the night soon enough.  Now he was blocked.  A man came to the side of the car.  "What's happening?" asked my father

"Demonstration about to become a riot.  Is this your family?  You better get them the hell outta here, mister."  I was always impressed by cussing.  Get the hell outta here meant something real, dark, and dangerous.  And grownups didn't know where to go.  I thought it was up to me to save us all, staying awake in the corner of the back seat, seeing a glow that meant fire but not seeing the fire.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Learning to walk and talk are recognized by most people as crucial steps in growing. We are less aware -- unless we are parents -- of the smaller steps in an infant's life: focusing eyes, grasping, controlling the heavy head, rolling over, kicking, and finally "motivating," either by scooting on the bottom while sitting or face-down with four limbs extended and crawling.  Finally pulling upright.  (Motivated.)

Forming the throat, tongue and mouth to produce specific sounds which are then managed into words is trickier and takes a long time, but the fire siren sounds of distress are a survival necessity.  Likewise, the coos and gurgles that soon become interaction will help a baby survive by reinforcing bonding which is the continuation of gestation, still one person enclosed within another -- this time in an emotional and social way.

Learning to walk and talk are skills accompanied by pattern recognition, which appear to be connected to movement.  The theory is that it arises from hunting in which the shapes of plants and animals become significant to all mammals.  One strong method of learning a new language is to "embody" it with gestures, maybe explicit sign-language sorts of movement like gesturing for someone to come closer, maybe putting a hand on the part named.  In the first two or three years of life, besides walking and talking, pattern recognitions in the form of the alphabet become a precursor to literacy, a complex set of coding metaphors: the letter A is the upside-down face of a horned animal, A is the first pattern in the "English" alphabet line, A can be a figure in a Pilobolus dance.  In an oral society A is not a shape but a sound.

Words can be oral or written.  The grammatical organization of words is arguably innate rather than found in the world, but it's a pattern.  Learning this pattern -- or allowing it to arise in a process -- is another early task.  If Lakoff is right -- that metaphor is the basic code strategy for thought and therefore words -- it's a continuation of matching correlating codes in meaningful patterns.  Again, this is social and requires other people.  It is also a physiological window in learning that is controversially limited to the earliest years and shut down later, possibly in the teens but maybe as early as the beginning of adrenarche, a time when skills and identity consolidate before the onset of puberty.  Some cultures begin to treat children as adults in these years, making them work or attend school, which is also work.

A famous pediatrician wrote a book about temperament mismatches between mothers and their children.  A dynamic, intense woman -- due to the vagaries of the recombining genome and how it is shaped by gestation and afterwards -- could have a quiet, somnolent infant who will be challenged by such a mother.  But a peaceful accommodating mother might have an active, demanding baby and unwittingly frustrate it.  Mismatches can be painful but sameness also has consequences that will push development in another way.

One could propose that oral culture requires other people, socializing and communicating, but that written culture is a way of evading oversight and therefore more closely identified with the writer, an access to the inner concepts (even wordless) of a unique mind.  The desire to get people to understand contends with a desire to belong to oneself.  And so later we create diaries and hide them or lock them or write them in code.  This is especially likely when caregivers are too busy to listen to babbling and then talking.  If the caregiver is unsympathetic or punishing, this can have strong effects on vulnerable developing persons who might withdraw or might attack.

On quiet afternoons while my infant brother slept, my mother would bring her letter-writing equipment to the cleared dining room table, a monster my parents bought from my paternal grandparents as a way to give them money.  She always had real stationary and used a mottled green fountain pen with golden nib and clip.  Her handwriting was unusually big but she wrote in straight lines, very legibly.  She wrote to her mother, who was dying of cancer in Roseburg, in hopes of helping her cope.  She wrote emotionally but the result was plain and cheerful.

Picking up on the electricity of emotion, I brought my newsprint (no one in my family was ever denied paper) and stood on a chair at the next side.  Using a pencil, I made loops and scribbles in the style I had grasped from watching:  left to right in lines, occasional loops up or down.  I don't remember punctuating or making parentheses.  I remember the sensation, the marks unrolling under the pencil tip, the impossibility of keeping the horizontal so that my lines slanted a bit.

I was emotionless in any reflexive way.  I didn't know what percieved emotion was except for laughing or crying.  I had Theory of Mind, the ability to predict what another would do, but not why.  I could feel my mother's determination and sadness.  I did not know that some blamed my mother for her mother's cancer, thinking that cancer is caused by distress and that her distress was from my mother's marriage to my father who announced dramatically he was an atheist.  (His parents were more community-style patriots, though they had lived in Canada for years.)  It was all too confusing for a kid anyway.  Mostly fantasized in attempts to control each other.

Even now, even keyboarding through the day, sometimes I want to take out paper and use my best ballpoint (since I don't have a fountain pen anymore).  In true tight spots I use a yellow legal pad and add a colored liner to my black-ink ballpoint.  Draw a line top-to-bottom down the middle.  Pro on one side/con on the other.  The writing is often equal in length.  I try to stop fooling myself.  I believe that writing it out will reduce it to rational.

When we went to Roseburg and visited at my grandmother's house, I took my paperdolls and played with them beside my grandmother's bed, making them talk, walk around, bow, and talk some more.  Watching made her smile.  She was in the hospital near the end and we went too suddenly for me to take a doll.  

My grandfather, who was ferocious but always slipped away from fights, handed me a thin board.  "Draw a person," he said and I did in that paperdoll way with arms held out and a lot of scribbly hair like mine.  He cut out mini-me with a coping saw.  I played with her a long time.  She said polite conventional things, but no one heard her inner confused defiance except me.  Even as a toddler, I could feel what was hidden behind writing and tried to write it into the open so I could understand.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


The next time I make a list of the most basic dyads of the forming brain, I will add continuity/strangeness.  These dyads are not meant to be binary oppositions, but distinctions that form in the brain from experience, because the basic dynamic of the human stream of identity is the pressing back and forth over a kind of boundary, blurry as it may be.  When an infant comes to something strange, it goes on alert and records everything as much as possible.  This may become a more intense and vivid memory than others so that it's remembered into the future.

One of the earliest moments I can remember is as a toddler visiting a country house with my family before my brother was born.  The place itself was intriguing: a big house, a vast lawn, a cow from next door who crossed the first electrical fence, which I was warned not to touch.  Many relatives were there and that was novelty enough since I didn't know them.

At dusk I was put down on top of the quilt on a double bed.  It was summer and a blanket was spread over me.  Then the room was dark.  I was hypnogogic.

Wide swaths of light with straight edges crossed the ceiling and walls.  Intervals uneven.  No sound in the room but motors outside.  Closely hand-stitched cotton under me.  No color.  Looming furniture, dark and rectangular.  The room's door closed and rectangular.  Everything straight-edged, colorless, but swept by light.  Sound of grownups talking and laughing.  A bit of worry.  My own breathing.  Unfamiliar smells.  Everything fading.  Electric fence.  Don't touch it.  Gone.

While my baby consciousness was dealing with this as long as I was awake and paying attention, the organic brain was growing.  They say that the individual cells, while sleeping, become smaller and fluid washes through the head around them, carrying away irresolvables and incompletes.  At the same time the neurons are become more neurons and  tendrils reach out from the ones about rectangular moving light, not to name it (headlights) but to note it and then to connect the concepts to other neurons that might seem related.  (day length, dark/light, safety, adult voices only heard).  Like "extension cords," the neurons plug in.

Sameness/difference is such a basic crucial area for the brain to understand that it dominates our racial politics:  who looks like me?  Who is different?  If they are different, are they dangerous?  Or do they make me curious?  This is not necessarily conscious, but underthought that controls rational behavior.

My life has been guided by this distinction between "don't touch it" and "see what it is."  It's a contradictory principle that is sometimes rewarding and other times carries a high cost.  Sometimes the consequences aren't known until much later.  Going to an Indian reservation to teach, marrying a sculptor twice my age, entering the ministry -- are all examples of desire overcoming prudence, both being attracted and being repelled, with consequences that are often just as mixed.

You see in this post a mixture of sensory concept without words (baby tipping into sleep) and analytic writing based on scientific research.  The concepts learned in the earliest years are underconsciousness that builds the structure of the brain and guides the development of personality through the material culture and the behavior of adults.  Because "my" adults were not frightened of a big black-and-white cow but respectful of a little line of wire taught me that appearances were not the only guide.  

When my mother put me down, she was severe about it because she wanted to get back to the conversation.  Some of these people had been next-door neighbors homesteading in South Dakota and were very fond of each other.  Talk was warm and funny.  But I was clearly separated.  This is also a theme of mine.  (I call it choosing to be the cat that watches.)  

Getting home simply happened.  I didn't wake up until the next morning.  My underthought knew.  Like a part-dolphin, a little bit of the mind is always awake.  My family was teetotal, so no one was hungover or regretful or wondering what happened.  I have never learned to cope with this common phenomenon.  I can't summon up much empathy for it.

Not until I was adult did I learn that the homesteads were on land where the Brulé Sioux were thrown off or that "brulé" (Burnt Thigh) was a French word used as a distinguisher because a group of men were caught by a prairie fire and even under buffalo robes, which saved them, the ground became hot enough to burn their bare legs.  Not until recently did I begin to reflect on the practise of making the prairie into a surveyed grid and assigning owners.

Babies can only assimilate what they can perceive and they perceive what the adults can see.  The most crucial distinction is between themselves and their caregivers, just as groups are attached to their land, because it is what they know, it is what is embedded in their brain cells.  Breaking this can cause grief and chaos that challenges identity and even existence, because in the pre-human mammal structure of a creature, this is the deepest and most-likely-to save-impulse of life.

First it prevents sleep and trying (depression) and then it dictates withdrawal, recovery, reprogramming but not at the deepest underthought level which is unconscious, where babies are before they have memories because memories describe chosen consciousness.  There are many other things that are only brought up to the light by art, guided thought, sudden sensory showers of light/sound/movement/temperature.  

A creature can only work with sensory information derived through the skin by electromagnetic waves or noted unconsciously about what the internal systems are doing.  It works with metaphor and memory, connects and disconnects, stuff unsorted from long ago.  Recently it is suggested that some women have a mutated gene that lets them see four colors.  It's on the leg of the chromosome that is not present in the male Y genes.  For those of us who see the standard three wavelengths, the fourth can't be seen except by machines and those women, who can't really describe it.  No one knows of a use or a need.

There are cultures where "peace" is a fourth color.  Is it a cow (source of milk) or an electric fence (painful boundary).
Can peace nurture us or is it too dangerous?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


The accusation is that in writing about someone else, I make that person merely an excuse for writing about myself, that I have reduced them instead of illuminating them.  This universal quandary goes back to conception and I will consider it that way right now.

Once the conceptsus is defined within the container of the uterus and attached (the first bonding) to the inner wall, it is developing something like music (a life -- music is an excellent metaphor for life) within the life of the living container.  There is an interaction, a contention, a give-and-take, and some will say in a bellicose way -- a struggle between the embrace and the expanding creation -- each determined to have the resources it needs to go on making this music, playing this tune.

It is emotional, because the molecules at play are the essence of emotion, and it is structural/
interactive/connective because both molecules and perceived emotional music are made that way.  Music, growth, emotion are rhythmic, timed, inevitable.  The blastosphere is the potential of everything, the donnée, the form of a poem with no words yet.  When it has ears, it hears.  When it has a nose, it smells, when it has a nose it smells, but its eyes are closed.  When it has a thumb, it puts it in its mouth because the mouth was there first, waiting.

The first body organ to develop is the blood, because it nourishes everything else.  The first defined organ of flesh is the heart because it is the drum.  "The first recognizable traces of the heart are present by day 18; the first traces of the brain don't show up until late in the fourth week. The first functioning organ in a developing embryo is the heart -- it usually starts beating in the fourth week of development."  

If there is trouble, the story ends now.  The writer can't keep a hold on the point or has no reason to go on.  The subject is lost.

One interpretation of writing or any other art is that it is a phenomenon of meeting and even merging between two people, writer and reader.  It happens in the liminal space between them where perceptions are formed, playfully abandoned in favor of other forms, and create themselves as synergies between two tunes, two instruments.  To spin it out, there must be a spool to catch it.  If the writer is cut off, turned away, dark and unseeing, then that's one thing.  If the writer goes on spinning, like a spider who is building a web without a care for any Other spider, that's something else.  We need more concepts, words for the process itself instead of categories of the product.

What does the one "written about" want, even need, ideally.  It patterns after the gestation of a person.  The one written about, written to, is trying to be born.  Not every time, but in one way.  That makes the writer a container, a womb.

As soon as the brain begins to form, it begins to feel concepts -- emotions, not thoughts.  Think of music.  Basic concepts of life are forming along dyads that keep the embryo and finally the growing baby alive.  They form the limits of homeostasis, of the conditions of life itself.  They are "baked in," defining the person and their life until the final Gingerbread Man.

and so on to 

Too much this side and one dies; too much that side and one dies.  Only a little out of the mainstream, and one is distorted, challenged, bent like a seaside evergreen.  This is true of this whole list, including the emotional music of being loved or disregarded, which can become a compass needle.

Spirituality is feeling these wordless sources.  When one reads about saints feel, they use these terms and often say they are feeling both sides at once: freezing but burning up, falling endlessly in the safe arms of a person.  This is especially true in "religions" that are defined and policed by institutions, protected by but contending against government.  Who gets to be the most important Other?

The writer is as much receiver as singer.  The material culture strings the harp, keys the brass, shivers the violin with a bow.  But one can invent profane and obscene instruments and pound out the drum of fucking or herald with bursts of farting.  The limits are deeper than words or convention, but always embedded in the flesh of the writer.  Each molecule inscribes the finished sonnet in tiny atoms, cell by cell.

"Structure. Each stanza ends in a full stop and tells a clear part of the story – but a lack of punctuation within the stanzas means the meaning is sometimes unclear. This gives the poem the feeling of a dream."  The feel is in the mouth, the ears, the lungs, the heart, and the genitals.  All their organic structures.  A spine holds the organs in an orderly cavity, but the bone is jointed, possibly broken, and threaded with busy messages about how to hold the instrument.  It is the granary of the material culture, filled with pellets of observation and memory, ready to be ground into editability.


I always try to write these essays (attempts) so they are a thousand words long, because I seem to run out of steam at about 800 words.  If I go get more coffee and come back, I will know 200 words more.

This time I will leave you, the reader and possibly volunteer subject, to write the rest but not on paper.  Maybe.  This space is about you.  

Monday, June 25, 2018


Thimble and Thread -- their eyes are much better today and they did a lot of romping.

I live alone in a very small shabby house in a small village that prides itself on nice lawns.  I "have" four cats, two big and two little -- or actually half-size cats, all related.  The two big cats are mother and daughter.  The half cats are the daughter's last batch of kittens.  One male, one female.  The male is gray, first-born and named Thimble.  The second is male, black, named Thread.  I didn't ask for them -- they just happened.  The grandmother was raised in a back shed, the mother and her kittens were born in my bed.  

I didn't ask for them.  I just went to sleep with one big fat cat beside me and woke up with a not-so-fat cat and her kittens.  I saved the two and should not have.  They have not prospered.  For one thing they're inbred.  For another they seem to have afflictions, esp. Thimble.  This town is overrun with feral cats.  Now and then a plague sweeps through them, though some claim it's an outbreak of poisoning and it may very well be both.  Others claim that city people constantly replenish the supply of cats by dumping off unwanted pets.

Anyway, the four cats who come into the house are constantly interfered with by garage cats, from generations back, whose mother died last winter.  There's fighting and screaming and stealing.  I jump up to see whom to save and from what.

This is good, because sitting is the new smoking (in terms of health impact) and I sit way too much because of writing -- all day if I can get away with it.  I stand to open the door or close the door or just look out the door to see who's out there.  I go to wash my hands because a half-cat just leapt onto my shoulder -- which is much better than shinnying up my leg with claws -- and it had something sticky on it.  Probably tree sap, but why take chances.  (The big cottonwood that is my joy also needs defending because is on the property line and the Southern Baptist church has members who want to saw their side off because it will be neater and easier to mow.  This time of year it drips sap on everything, which is not as nice as making "summer snow" fluff that drifts everywhere.)

Health is part of the reason I'm here.  Twenty years ago a heart doc in Portland told me I had early congestive heart disease and time grinned.  I had barely enough money to move here, thinking I would have just enough time to write Bob Scriver's autobiography before I died.  I did that ("Bronze Inside and Out") and more, but my new doc says he can find no signs of congestive heart failure.

But since I'm a little too preoccupied with health issues, chasing them through Google, I chase cat diseases along with my own.  The problem for both of us is money.  Health industries are voracious and there are too many professionals out there repelled by "practice managers" and insurance companies, missing the professional status that used to be theirs, overwhelmed by the new wave of redefined and discovered problems, that their idea is to charge high, limit time, and retire early.  So I Google when I'm between doctors and sometimes behind their backs.  That won't be necessary if this doc sticks with me.

When I got my blood test results, of course my cholesterol and blood pressure were high -- I measure them at home all the time.  But three other molecules were marked by the lab:  monocytes and basophils were a little high and A/G ratio was a little low.  Of course, I googled.  They suggest a mild infection, although I imagine that I'm suffering from everything I read.

Monocytosis is the state of excess monocytes in the peripheral blood. Examples of processes that can increase a monocyte count include:
Basophils are a type of white blood cells. Basophils are the least common of the granulocytes, representing about 0.5 to 1% of circulating white blood cells. However, they are the largest type of granulocyte. They are responsible for inflammatory reactions during immune response, as well as in the formation of acute and chronic allergic diseases, including anaphylaxis, asthma, atopic dermatitis and hay fever. They can perform phagocytosis (cell eating), produce histamine and serotonin that induce inflammation, and heparin that prevents blood clotting although there are less than that found in Mast cell granules It used to be thought that basophils that have migrated from blood into their resident tissues (connective tissue) are known as mast cells, but this is no longer thought to be the case.
A/G Ratio  A low total protein level can suggest a liver disorder, a kidney disorder, or a disorder in which protein is not digested or absorbed properly. Low levels may be seen in severe malnutrition and with conditions that cause malabsorption, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).Apr 10, 201
I'd been thinking about zoonoses, infections that are shared between species, so I began to look at cat diseases.  The big cats seem healthy except that they "slip" their pregnancies so have more "heat" phases than are strictly necessary.  The kittens have crusty and oozing eyes, respiratory tract infections, and one is severely underweight.  They have every symptom of Q fever, a disease called by Coxiella burnetti, a bacterium.  It's mostly Australian although a scientist brought some to the Bitterroot Valley super-lab and it escaped briefly.  But many bacteria and viruses have similar effects.
Local opinionators stretch out between two extremes:  kill all excess, diseased or runt animals.  (The vet charges $50 to kill a cat.  I took him the uncle of these kittens, who had only one testicle and lost every fight so that he was a bloody mess.)  I could probably just squeeze these half-cats to death, but I can't bear to kill kittens once they open their eyes.  The other strategy locally is to abandon unwanted cats near a farm, but that is from the days when farms had cows and mice.  Today they have poison and I'm told the coyotes soon finish off an unwary cat.
Cat vaccines tend to be only 30% effective.  I can't afford them.  If I took these cats to a shelter (I can't -- there aren't any here.) they would be disease vectors that infected the whole population.  If I keep them warm, fed, talked to, they may just survive and recover.
So the cats keep me aware and pursuing disease.  They keep me on schedule by wanting to get up at the same time, eat at the same time, go in and out at the same time.  A disturbance in that scheme means something is wrong and I'd best respond.  Screams mean invaders.  A sudden thundering stampede through the house ending under the bed means a dog is loose. They're like canaries down a coal mine.

More than that, I have no children, my family is dispersed, I stay apart from neighbors for various reasons, and my "circle" is through the internet.  I need a certain amount of skin contact and conversation and there they are beside me, come to find me and tell me, "Mrrrfhlm mmmkk," which is only unintelligible if you don't have enough context.
I saw a strange thing on the internet.  It was a cage for a canary in a coal mine and attached to it was a little cannister of oxygen for reviving the bird once it had keeled over from carbon mono.  Then they could take it down another shaft.  So far half-a-dozen unapproachable feral cats have died that I know of.  No oxygen cannisters for them.  I'm the oxygen for these four.