Thursday, February 28, 2019


Writing is one thing.  Publishing is another -- in fact, it's various things, depending on the economy, politics, and culture.  It doesn't have a lot to do with writing.  More to do with profit-makers promoting some writing and neglecting or suppressing others, according to what people will buy.

The Internet once attempted to by-pass financial profit for the users or even to some degree for advertisers.  What Facebook has discovered is what people are calling Surveillance Capitalism, which is how to create a compass in a sea of people, and then sell the trade routes.  They buy and sell what users post, without knowledge or permission, as though they have discovered a new natural resource, which they have.

Out here in Montana with one old computer and a copper wire contact, I use Twitter daily to keep in touch and to announce every new blog post I write, which in my case is something like a magazine column except more frequent and more strangely focussed on what matters to me rather than what some editor thinks will sell.  There are a lot of readers, but nothing spectacular, most of them invisible, usually more than 300 a day and sometimes more than a thousand a day.  I don't use analytics.  Lately, with my dislocated arm still hurting, I post half as much as I used to, but I expect to go back.  On the other hand, I sometimes want to stop blogging so as to write weirder stuff.  Or just do exercises on rarefied topics and methods.  I have no fantasies about writing that will survive me.

My family and relatives don't read my blog much if any.  I have made some cultural transitions that they have not, so I don't make much sense to them and I scare some of them.  They have accepted conformity in order to be prosperous, but they wouldn't frame it that way.  They do say that I am poor partly because, to their way of thinking, my mind is off in outer space or something.  I tell them "get off Facebook" and they don't want to.

Anyway, they think that posting tweets is childish and rather unsavory, a pursuit by malcontents showing off.  Trivia.  Buddies. What Trump does at dawn.  I have to admit that a lot that goes on is the formation of affinity circles who pass news around their connections.  Northwestern Canadian indigenous people -- or at least part of them -- are in a momentous struggle for identity and land.  That's not gossip.  Digesting the sea change of politics in the US and keeping in touch with developments are also a big part of my attention.  I have to admit that some things are so angrily obscene that I have to look up the words in special dictionaries, but I am rather fond of David Simon's vocabulary of hybrid insults combining low insult-words with patterned adjectives.  "You camel-driving fuckup!"

My particular fav posts are always brief.  One is Thoughts of Dog which tend to be like "Beautiful pancake you have there -- wouldn't you like to give it to me?"  The other is "The Tweet of God", which is often rueful about what He left out when He created people.

Umair Haque and Razib Kahn are two writers who open thought-doors for me.  Umair rails passionately about the chaos we are in.  Razib began as a genome analyzer explaining statistics but now has an intense political message.  Several thread-creating reporters are expert on the Mafia, Trump's tight connection with them if not the same.  They keep history alive.  Maddow avoids talking about this stuff but she knows about it and it fits with what she does say.  I don't miss a night of her unless someone else is hosting.

Umair publishes his dark convictions on Medium, which followed Blogger and Twitter as inventions by pretty much the same people.  Medium is an attempt to put writing back into the hands of the writers, but it doesn't quite work.  Partly, the writing is done by a class of chattering people with a sort of journalism attitude, often high school thinking.  Scandalously, they worry that they have nothing to say.  (Certainly not true of Umair or Razib!)  They are "curated" which means they fall back into the same old pattern of control by editors and publishers.  

So what goes onto the internet from this old computer operator falls halfway between Blogger and Medium with a sidebar of Twitter.  It works for now.  Some of it is good chapter content for a "book."  I haven't ventured into the high tech vids, pods, and personal websites.  Despite keeping a tight focus, I'm running out of time.

Lately I've been sharing personal realizations about my life trajectory.  I'll probably keep doing that.  If you think you recognize yourself, you're probably wrong.  Anyway, any story can be told from many aspects and you may simply not look at things from that angle.  And I fictionalize.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


The Polyvagal Theory developed by Stephen Porgas over recent decades and now a hot topic being developed by all sorts of people, esp. therapists, is so useful that one must be cautious when talking about it so as to stay out of the weeds, as the saying goes.

The path is the function of the autonomic nervous system in regulating the human body.  It is an evolved function that helps us to stay safe by involving others in our welfare.  The nerve involved comes out of the brain/spine at neck level and controls mostly the heart, the chest and the face.  It makes possible social joining of the individual to other people through empathy and other signings with expressive parts of the body.  It's function can be examined medically but is operated as an art, a humanism.

It's fairly well understood by amateur investigators that there are two nervous systems: the voluntary and involuntary, this latter of which is "autonomic" (automatic and unconscious).  In terms of the autonomic system we have understood that there are two primary reciprocities between the sympathetic and parasympathetic "modes" of coping with events so as to maintain stability and homeostasis, which is staying within the limits of what will maintain life.  We are so in love with binaries, that we've clung to the idea of these two systems as partners so much that we've not realized there is a third autonomic system that develops in early life and is of crucial importance.  Porgas calls it "social expressiveness."  Many authorities see it as the distinguishing feature of humans that allows them to cooperate and some see it as the growing edge of evolution.

The other ideas that make this system so important are those of first attachment between the caregiver and the infant and the capacity of these two to create a sort of "forcefield" between them, face-to-face.  Later in life this is called "liminal" and religious theory explains that it is a "place" that provides security and community belonging.  Leaving aside the 3rd vagal nerve system, the object relations thinkers have explored this attachment, producing books with teddy bears -- symbols of attachment -- on the covers.

Now I will indulge myself.  I am about as close to my death as I was close to my birth in the following photos.  Now, looking back and thinking through my life and present living, I find that I'm relating it to the polyvagal third function, which is protective but supports expansion and exploration.  That is, my child attachment was very strong but never really translated into social competence.  I was opinionated and a bit of a bully until kindergarten, which I joined a week late and against my will.  I've been an outlier ever since.

NE Fifteenth and Alberta in 1939 was built up by European immigrants after WWI.  By the time we three sibs were born, there were no other children on the street.  My mother stayed at home, as was customary, though she had been a career girl, and we visited only relatives, my father's sibs.  Our cousins were about the same age but "culturally" different because of our mothers, who are the carriers of culture.  My mother was different from the other two Portland mothers, who were very much bonded between each other and even had had a double marriage in Brandon, Canada.  Then those two mothers were separated when one husband had health problems that forced a move to Santa Ana, CA.  The remaining two mothers (my mother and my father's sister) were quite different styles.  There was always a subterranean riptide, very much hidden, about the "proper" way to regard life.  When I was old enough, I escaped to books.  Propriety has always been ambiguous to me.  I conform in some ways, defy in others.

This helped with making me an outlier and a good student.  My father had an MS  ag degree and a snobbish Scots idea of the best culture: Scots as he imagined it.  This was a middle-class understanding based on small-town prosperity.  Victorian values were classical music, chess, playing the piano, photography, subscriptions to slick magazines full of photos and stories, attendance at lectures, and shelves of books of all kinds.  My parents went to a major local exhibit of Rodin but closed we kids out because of nudity.  In fact, most of the things valued were thought to be adult things.   

My father had a secret hoard of books about the just developing scientific understanding of sex.  Two sibs were planned, with the help of condoms, and the third pregnancy was unplanned.  There was no notion of not going through with it, though it contributed to there never being enough money.  My mother had her tubes tied -- not my father.  When I suggested this thought about the third child recently (my mother was dead) the storm I got was equivalent to advocating abortion.  My usual narcissism, according to the family.  Stay unconscious.

Higher education separated me from family twice.  NU coincided with the very beginning of the wild '60's and 70's, so that I was attracted and approving, but I backed off to the Blackfeet Rez and allied with a man five years younger than my mother, but an identified artist who enjoyed the Victorian admiration for bronze historical and anthropological subjects celebrating white colony creation.  I bonded/attached to him, basically re-inventing my childhood over a decade.  It was about safety.

At the end of the marriage (1970) I was way out of kilter.  Again, I bonded to a strong man and then to a denomination, feeling it was an ultimate.  In fact, the UUA is a Victorian science-centered quasi-Christian context with a lot of group skills and I picked up enough to wish to enter ministry -- misunderstanding it, partly because it was changing.  The UU's speak of "learned ministry," but the days of solitary study to support brilliant sermons worth publishing in local newspapers have ended.  In my mother's style of stoic responsibility and my father's style of joking and reading, I took outlier UU prairie churches but eventually walked.  

I went right into the arms of the new thinking about a true sea change in thought.  What are humans when one accepts the existence of hominins, dozens of prototypes? How do we manage the exquisite operation of the hordes of cells and microbes that is a dynamic person?  How do we think of the inevitability of time stretching back and back and back, the interdependence of cultures, ecological flow, the artist's ability to re-envision life?

Nothing in my life has been wasted except the skill and effectiveness of my third polyvagal nerve system if it had been understood.  It is still plastic, capable of development.

The Essential Mary Helen Strachan, enculturated, confident and vital.

The essential function of a female is the maintenance of a household.

Because my aunts married brothers, I had a third set of grandparents.
This is Roy Hatfield, the patriarch of that family.  I'm the bigger girl.

The second child was evidently part of the household, 
a high maintenance sort because of being male.

The advent of a second child ended the tight relationship with my mother.
She was a walking woman and we used to cover miles on foot.
I don't recognize this street.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Sam and Beulah Strachan and Bruce Bennett Strachan with his BS in Agriculture from Oregon State College.  This is my father and the family hope, sent ahead to Corvallis to be an attachment point when the family came to Portland.  His thesis was about potatoes.  His first employment was mostly about sheep as a wool-buyer.  He was not the first college degree.  Sam earned his in Scotland but I don't know more than that.  Sam immigrated to South Dakota with his birth family and worked as a school superintendent in Faulkton, S.D. while homesteading.  Beulah took the claim next to his and taught school.  Faulkton was available for homesteading because of the removal of the BrulĂ© Sioux


Top: Sam and Beulah plus the three women: my mother, May, and Elsie. My mother and Elsie were married to Bruce and Glenn.  May was married to Murdock Maclean. The handsome military man was Seth, my father's youngest brother and the only one who became prosperous, a TWA pilot.  At retirement he was cut down by a stroke that left him frustrated and angry.  My father had a concussion in 1948 that subtly changed him and as he grew older suffered from some kind of personality change and Parkinson's.    Glenn, the man holding Ross my cousin, was a real estate man.  "Doc", 3rd from left, was spry and curious right up to the end and had to end a vegetative state by withholding water.  My cousin Diane and I are in the front, me on the right.  The laughing boy near my mother is Mark, my brother.  May had Alzheimers in old age.  Elsie had a period of deep depression as a young mother, then recovered and was fine until death.  She was an outstanding published poet.  When my father failed, my mother became an elementary school librarian.

So this was a web of tragedy and triumph stretching through many perils and strategies.

A slightly more recent photo of the same sibs.  Seth is gone.  A little neighbor girl managed to join the group -- she's the one on the left end of kids.  Even that early, Ross was wearing suspenders and tie.  He's my age but we're nothing like the same style.

FLASHBACK:  This might be Canada, after marriages but before children.  My father is on the floor because he set the self-snap mechanism on the camera.  May, who is considered a bit of a princess and who is devoted to my father, is on the arm of the sofa.  Beulah is sitting a little hidden to conceal iodine deprivation which has given her a goiter and motivated the soon move to Portland where there is seafood. On the end of the sofa are Noma and Stewart McClure, a deeply in love couple who never had children.  Noma taught one-room schools in Oregon and Stewart, who was deaf, kept a marvelous garden in Silverton.

Sam Strachan is in the back corner.  Seth is the stunningly sultry man in the rocking chair, already involved in flying small canvas airplanes in fields, "barn-storming".  Doc is farthest on the right.  These people were tight with each other in Canada and for a long time the ties persisted in Oregon, until after the next generation arrived.

Wedding pic of Beulah Swan Finney and Sam Strachan, who had no middle name.  He just added another S because it sounded dignified.   "Swan" is a Metis name but no one ever suggested that family was actually Metis.  From photos, they easily could be.  The Swans and Finneys were Michigan people from the southwestern quadrant.  The photo below is in the last years, early in the Fifties.

Monday, February 25, 2019


It appears that the last of my shoulder/arm damage is related to the amount I want to type. Therefore, I'll head myself off by posting some photos I intend to to remove later.  Most of them are old and will be archived, but not for use right away.

This is my maternal grandmother, from the distinguished and prosperous family called Cochran.  She stubbornly married a man named Pinkerton who was from a coalition of construction brothers and family, not so cushioned.  The bigger girl is my mother Lucy, the girl in arms would be Vera,  the baby she is carrying internally must be Helen.  There would be one more, Aliene.  "Little Women" was a story my mother cherished secretly.  The character do rhyme with these four girls.  Helen would be the Beth persona since she was killed in a car accident with Vera driving, which was never resolved.

The Pinkertons were living in Washington State where they built many of the near-monumental dairy farms.  My mother's uncle died of the fevers that plagued the swampy country and my mother's grandfather was already getting pneumonias and had resolved to move to Roseburg, Oregon, timber country and very hot in summer since it was at the bottom of the Willamette Valley, nearly over into California.  In summer the sisters and their cousins and friends went as a group out to the haystack -- when hay was still loose -- and slept in safety, cooler than in the house.  They were in the country on a little prune farm with an insufficient well.  The mother raised chickens and the father often traveled to construction projects.

This is the wedding photo of the Cochrans, Ethel's parents.  The mother died in childbirth when Ethel was a small child and the echo of this came down many generations.  It was not unusual.  There was a stepmother which was also usual.

This typical assortment of Roseburg folks includes my mother's family.  My maternal grandmother is in the middle in the two piece dress.  The white-haired woman is her mother-in-law, Grandma Pinkerton, who may have already been afflicted by breast cancer.  She didn't tell anyone until she was so far along that it stunk so she couldn't hide it.  The women of this cohort knew to be tenacious and stoic, never to be self-indulgent.  But I don't know whose boys these were.  I guess we didn't stay in touch with them.

Sunday, February 24, 2019


Looking for more info on Porges, I watched an "interview" of him by Jayson Gaddis on YouTube.  The program is named "The neuroscience and power of safe relationships."

That's not really what it was.  Porges turned out to be the thorough academician, married to a woman in a closely related field, and according to his testimony, a veteran of three periods:  ten years before children, the years with children, and now the years after children -- which he enjoys the most.  The kids are two boys, now in their thirties, working in related fields.  He had a steady stream of information and could not be interrupted much -- just deflected to a new aspect.  The more I listened, the more I liked him.

Jayson Gaddis is a contrasting generation, from that slick, self-important, shallow bunch of entitled people.  He's a relationship counselor who seems to relate mostly to the camera with a lot of gimmicks, narrow diagnoses, and humorless prescriptions for making people do what you want them to do.  He has a handsome face and a balding head.  I came to quite dislike him.  

Porges added more new information even though I've been chasing his ideas for a few days, so that I really wanted to hear more and will probably have to get his newest book.  He's quite modest about his work being part of a whole, not the ultimate answer to life and wealth.  

The idea that the oldest response to danger is immobilization which is the resort of reptiles and which was later at least partly supplanted by the mammal's "fight or flight" though in extreme cases terror will still make us freeze, was elaborated by him.  He says the two oldest and most fatal dangers for mammals are isolation and entrapment.  There is a kind of these two things  -- you and I alone together and you'll never leave me -- which is safe BECAUSE THE MAMMALS INVOLVED ARE FULL OF OXYTOCIN.  This is intimacy, the most fatal two dangers for mammals made safe for the moment.  ("Love or sex", I wanted to ask.  I suspect Gaddis can't tell the difference.  His reference is capture and retain.)

Porges says life is ALL ABOUT SAFETY, not just survival, though the two go together.  Safety is what makes it possible to turn attention to other creative efforts and cooperations.  It enables real achievement in other fields and endeavors.  With safety, survival begins to power evolution.

Other tidbits will have to wait, but for another instance, he puts considerable emphasis on the ability of speaking/hearing to convey safety.  Lower voices are safer.  I think of the screeching of many news desk jockeys.  Danger, danger, danger!  Hear about the latest threats!!!  

Muddled middle ear listening leaves off the last syllable, he says.  Scrambles the incoming messages.  I've been wondering about this.  When I make phone contact to order something or correct a mistake, I can hardly understand the high pitched chipmunk voices of the women.  (Never men.)  Yet babytalk is always high-pitched.  Porges says men talk to their dogs with a higher voice.

The best posts and vids are the ones that are like an unrolling string of info, more more more.  The whole face/heart thing to figure out.  The gut as a producer of seemingly unrelated auto-drugs.

Where is the huge insight about seriously dislocated shoulders?  Where is the one about how to survive three weeks of double-subzero weather and constant snow?  There's a lot of death under that snow until it melts and starts up the new life of Spring late in March.

Saturday, February 23, 2019


These concepts are from "The Early Development of the Autonomic Nervous System Provides a Neural Platform for Social Behavior: A Polyvagal Perspective" at  by  Stephen W. Porges1 and Senta A. Furman
For more Porges work go to  or YouTube and use the directory.

These are my takeaways:

We are still discovering major structures in the brain, what they do, what they imply.  

Assumptions mess up research.  The autonomic (automatic, below-sub-conscious) nervous system was assumed to be binary, like all the other fav ideas of Englishmen.  In fact, under the parasympathetic system that we knew was another third one of major importance.  It is a two-step bridge across the last trimester of gestation and through the first three years post-partum.  The first part after birth is supported and regulated by sucking, the first kind of eating.  The second emerges from interaction between mother and infant face to face, as while nursing.  Failure to establish social relationship this way is the reason neglected orphans die -- the necessary neural structure doesn't develop.

The Polyvagal Theory "It is necessary to understand the phylogenetic origins of mammalian autonomic nervous systems to understand how autonomic state is linked to social behavior. This conceptualization has been described as the Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2007). The theory was derived from the identification of the two motor branches of the vagus nerve, the Xth cranial nerve, that provides both motor and sensory pathways between brainstem structures and visceral organs. The theory emphasizes not only the phylogenetic shifts in neuroanatomy of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system, but also proposes specific, adaptive behaviors that co-occur with these transitions."

This maturation process emerged from evolution across from reptile to mammal.  Reptile's response to serious danger is just to freeze.  The mammal repertoire includes flight or fight.  These responses are supported by heart rate and metabolisms of specific molecules.  The result is three identifiable circuits that regulate adaptation to challenges.  The newest one is access to learned social strategies.  The basis of social strategy is safety.  The indicator is heart rate, controlled through this vagal "brake" of nerve.  Malfunction is the source of tantrums.

Nerves called "special visceral efferent pathways" are not visceral.  Rather they are about the face, head and neck and are tied to an "integrated social engagement system."

"Specifically, the Social Engagement System includes the regulation of the eyelids through the orbicularis oculi (e.g., social gaze and gesture), muscles of facial expression (e.g., emotional expression), middle ear muscles (e.g., extracting human voice from background sounds), muscles of mastication (e.g., ingestion, sucking), laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles (e.g., vocalizing, swallowing, breathing), and muscles of head turning and tilting (e.g., social gesture and orientation). Collectively, these muscles act as filters for social stimuli (i.e., observing others’ facial expressions and the detection of prosody in human voice), and they allow the expression of the motor behaviors necessary for engagement with the social environment."

This explains lullabies, which are meant to develop the "middle ear muscles (e.g., extracting human voice from background sounds)"

"Prematurity, illness, or neglect may dampen the developmental trajectory of the vagal circuit. Atypical maturation of this circuit may be reflected in myelination of the vagus, interneuronal connections in the brainstem that form the face-heart connection, and/or corticobulbar regulation of the brainstem circuits regulating both vagal activity and the striated muscles of the face, head, and neck. The consequences of these delays or disruptions in typical neural maturation would be expressed as lower levels of RSA, less efficient reactivity and recovery of the “vagal brake,” difficulties in behavioral state regulation, poor affective tone, and diminished abilities for reciprocal social engagement behaviors."

In short, the writers are able to put in place the interaction of tissue development and nurturing as the beginning of the expressive-ability of an individual that will help him or her become an integrated part of society.  Not only that, specific physical measurable tests and standards are suggested in order to discover whether there is a shortfall.  It is a hopeful stance because of the suggestion that there are many ways to improve.

"Social behavior and the capacity to manage challenge are dependent on the neural regulation of physiological state. The neural circuits involved in the regulation of physiological state are modified during gestation and continue during postnatal life. When these circuits are easily available and efficiently functioning, then the laws of learning and the impact of experience can shape behavior. However, when these circuits are not available, either as a function of phase of development or during periods of increased environmental risk, then state regulation is compromised, social skills are not easily learned, and social bonds become difficult to establish. During most of the lifespan, the vagal brake and the other features of the Social Engagement System are readily available and contribute to the numerous opportunities for social learning to occur. Without the efficient vagal brake turning off defensive systems and blunting their disruptive manifestations (e.g., fight-flight behaviors), prosocial behavior is limited and opportunities for social learning and social bonding are minimized."

This research supports much of the work I've followed as it happens among the Smash Street Boys.  It evades conventional morality and goes to things like finding and maintaining pair-bonding, taking a place in an identified social circle, facing challenges, and calming oneself after a challenge.  Much of the photography is about faces, the "integrated social engagement system."

Friday, February 22, 2019


For a couple of weeks several disasters have been interweaving with each other in my life.  Any one of them would have been trouble enough, but added together they are barely survivable.

After a gentle, warm, persisting fall, the winter fell on us like an ax.  No one was really prepared.  Much colder temps, too much snow, etc etc.  The roads have suffered.  Best thing is the state computer map of what's open and what the hazards are.   This is a guide to the constant cameras:

In two years Trump went from being Clem Caddidlehopper (except for being urban in the most confined and limiting way) to being a big orange toad, a threat to the world as we know it, dismantling all the safeguards of the post-WWII era in the name of greed, a corruption far beyond anything we imagined, directed by the equivalent of Darth Vader-- who is not breathing mechanically but showing his prowess and insight by being seen bare-chested, riding a big brown bear.  (Aside from being impossible, a practice as useless as guiding Trump.)  Is there such a thing as "flamboyant asceticism"?  Despite Trump's tippy-top gilded apartments, when Trump is looking for comfort and safety, he goes to an old golf club, slightly rundown and probably with mice in the kitchen.  Probably an old mafia hangout with many undocumented workers.  Familiar counts.

The basic governmental principles that were important in the Fifties and better known have faded away.  Today's youngsters just ignore them.  In fact, they ignore everything but their own lives.  People who use Facebook are warned in study after study that they are linked to a machine that identifies and uses criminals.  They shrug.  The depth and expanse of networked corruption around the planet is simply inconceivable and yet the evidence is everywhere.  When I began to investigate why so many doctors within driving distance are problematic, I discovered that in the ranks of medical quality Montana is dead last.  Fiftieth.  BELOW the usual suspects, like Alabama.  To young adults all of this is evidently irrelevant unless sports are involved in some way.

It's boring to tell you much more about dislocating my shoulder until I've thought about it more and my head is more clear.  There's a thread about drugs, a thread about peripheral businesses, a thread about militarism, a thread about the quality of doctor's lives.  Then there's the problem of making plumbers angry at me.  My shower leaks, my drains suffocate, etc.

I had special probs because of being such an isolate and living in a village with a dubious relationship with medical provisions.  A sort of Chinese disapproval of any kind of nonconformity prevents constructive change.  That and newcomers determined to treat this village as the fantasy they have, not just about this specific town, but what they believe about how much humans can control their lives.  Of course, I'd believed I could survive on my own and cope with whatever came, which is false.  There is a possibly long and varying state of in-and-out chronically afflicted.

And few ever talk about the problem of dealing with the death of others to whom one has been close.  One goes on talking to them.

But I think I'll lower my rules of posting every day and maintaining a 1,000 word goal, at least for now

Thursday, February 21, 2019


3 AM.  Full moon in fog.

Distant siren. Road barely open.  Fire?

Maybe it's the mother cat warning the others that her kittens are not to be eaten.

My nose whistles.

A giant rodent is gnawing my shoulder.

Back to sleep.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


The biological canid "species" of coyote remarkably stays the same.  Even after cavorting with wolves and canoodling with dogs, a coyote looks about the same.  And watches us.  But its behavior, its variation at fitting into any ecosphere that doesn't require equipment, makes it genius in terms of evolution.  Its "fittingness," which is the real indicator of evolution, is remarkable because it can figure things out and get there in spite of danger.  The persistence is of species, not of individuals.  Variation according to what is edible and available.  Humans tend to get all puffed up about their individual identity and forget that.

Just as we discover that genes -- rarely sighted except in terms of results -- know how to get through a membrane like skin or cell wall -- coyote cleverness is only sighted in terms of results.  But beyond that -- human understanding of what a coyote is leaves the actual facts of the animal in biological or evolutionary terms and escapes through the most permeable membrane of all -- that one that barely holds our minds together.  We dream of coyotes.  We say they are "God's Dog" because surely God must be like us and keep a pet for the delight of it and surely a coyote is just a dog and all dogs must belong to someone.

Most of us have never seen a coyote or heard them singing ("Song Dogs") even though we're on the proper continent.  They shuttle through us on TV -- all the media, each other, books, photos, religions.  This "close but far" status makes them idea as instruments of Lakoff/Johnson metaphors.

Two powers we share with coyotes: group belonging with individual fittingness and empathy for what other creatures are doing.

(My arm hurts too much to go on.  Back later.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


A dislocated shoulder is more than that.  A whole upper quadrant of torn tissue, blood vessels, lymph movement, so bruised that I was navy blue from wrist to ear.  That was 2/2.  This is 2/19.

We've had a foot of snow.
Low temps set a record waaaay below zero.
I'm not going anywhere.

The youngest cat had 5 kittens that are mottled and look like baby birds.  
Their eyes are opening.

The two older cats stopped sleeping with me because I move and moan too much.  I don't moan so much now.  The two half-pints in the garage are not fluffy and fat anymore -- they're 3/4 cats.  The ugly elusive lumpy old feral still turns up in secluded warm places inside and then runs for the cat flap.

I can't sleep on my left side, so I prop a pillow there to keep me from doing it because that's how I normally sleep.

They made me unconscious with intravenous fentanyl and told me to take Advil for pain.  They said to expect to be constipated.  They didn't say what to do about it.  Metamucil.  Crackling Bran.  Stuff called "stool softener."  (Half a bottle.) 6 vids on You Tube.  Fresh apple.  Today was the first success.  This stuff only works in the middle of the night.  It was okay because I was up every 2 hours to take more Advil.

Friend brought me my mail which included a heavy package and a half-dozen books I'm still a little too blurry to read.  She's a special high-energy woman.  Her dad lives on the next block.

I've been doing the dishes one dish at a time at fifteen minute intervals.

Though I'm probably the only senior citizen in town who doesn't have a recliner, so I push a chair and a hassock together and it works.  This was my mother's chair bought when she married.  1938.  In my infancy (1939) she fed me there.  I just hate to throw things away.

A friend in Calgary helped me think through the sequence of this.  First, an ear infection that left me so dizzy I couldn't get to the bathroom.  There is a one-day town clinic two blocks away.  I called to see if they were really there and if they had time.  Because I said I might have a stroke, they told me not to come there  -- to go to the big hospital thirty miles away instead.  The road was closed.  I went back to bed for days.  Sudafed seemed to fix my ears.

Then I fell and cracked my knee hard.  Just toughed it out.  Took weeks.
This was a very bad fall.  I hadn't fallen before this sequence for years.

It scares me so much because Bob Scriver's second wife tripped on the shallow step between kitchen and garage and broke her pelvis.  She was older than I am.  She said a very big black man came and took her in his arms so she was safe.  

The nursing home wanted money, more than the insurance so she authorized her rep to hold an auction of her belongings.  She expected to die.  The auction was a big success and someone got away with a noble bust of Maurice, her brother, done by Bob Scriver.  They probably have no idea what it is.

When, against all odds, she recovered and came home, she had only a bed and kitchen built-in breakfast alcove.  She bought a computer, learned it, and we talked while I wrote the bio of Bob.  Finally she got sick again, crawled to the bathroom leaving a trail of slime, and I ratted her out to her nephew who came and got her, sold the house to afford more nursing, and -- when she died -- scattered her ashes in the Pacific.  That's where the fourth wife ended up as well, but considerably farther north.  I'm number three.  Number one is buried in her grown daughter's grave.  Bob is in Cut Bank, where the cemetary entrance is embellished with glass crowns that used to be insignia for service stations.  Was it Imperial gas?

By now I don't scream when I make a wrong move -- just squawk.

Today I made it to the post office.  There's bright sun and the temp is high enough for the pickup to start.

Monday, February 18, 2019


Finally realizing that David Quammen has discovered and expressed something world-changing and that I should stop resisting the buying of yet another book by Quammen, I crumpled and ordered "The Tangled Tree" even though the main premise is that there is no tree -- or if there is, it should be called "The Tangoing Tree" because it's all about movement.  Life is written on water.  Flowing.  Making boundaries one day and erasing them the next.

This time, in order to keep track, I also ordered a ZIP READ booklet with no author that is a 46 page distillation of what it legitimately calls "A Radical New History of Life".  Most journo's derivatives will be about David and his pet snake, since it's too cold for fly fishing and "catch and release"  This turns out to be hard on fish.  But not as hard as assimilating cutting edge science.

The actual content of the manuscript of the book is going to be easier to read, I'm sure, because there will be illustrations and human personalities.  This stuff is hard to get one's head around.  Basically it is the assertion that all boundaries have leaks -- cell walls, human epidermis, and so on -- which challenges identity and allows change, which is the essence of time morphing around and through us.  (Stop resisting!)

The code we call "genome" can be traced back through time so now we know the four mutations that had to happen to get animals from laying eggs instead of gestating babies in the body of the female, making it harder to just pop them out and leave them, as still done by a few humans.  (Those individuals tend to die out, which is inevitable when the code is lost here and there.)  There are many other little "sets" of insights.

This little "guide" is actually notes from the book that leaves out all the bios, something like the Jefferson Bible which is the Gospels with all the miracles removed.  The remainder is still pretty powerful, but I don't know of any published versions that only describes the miracles. Not to say there aren't any, esp in evangelical Sunday schools.  It would be problematic which language to use, since each written version would have implications.  I'm not sure which language describes which miracle.  I'm sure Sunday schools mostly stick to their own.

My personal problem is that my arm still hurts, it's still a cold-wave, and there are five tiny kittens squeaking in the birth box in the closet.  If they had been eggs they still would have hatched and have needed a box, which is a boundary.  Everything stinks for lack of a trip to the laundry.  But being amazed and challenged helps a lot.  This too shall pass.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


The blastsphere of any mammal is a tiny ball of few cells with a future both undetermined and responsive.

The blastosphere probably doesn't even have the impulses to go forward (meaning knowing which that direction is forward or backward) because it is fed automatically and carried in any direction.  Maybe it senses floating.  Certainly it is affected by the mother's blood contents, which include emotion, but not in any self-aware or preferred way.

As for what the embryo sends back to the mother, there probably isn't much before "quickening" when it begins to make perceptible moves.  New heartbeat joins mother's heart beat, what affects hers affects the embryonic heart.  Fetal heartbeat is distinguishable but in sync, like the rest of the developing creature.  Since all is created according to what just came before, the record of this early history will accompany this early version all the rest of the experiencing trajectory of its life.

I've always thought that the Bernini's portrait of the ecstasy of Saint Teresa looked as much like a floating fetus as it looks orgasmic, though both seem relevant.  Perhaps the oxymoronic self-contradictory sensations of such a state as "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa" are memories of pre-birth, recorded with blur by incomplete sensing organs.  Primal.

All through the gestation the brain and the rest of the body are generating and connecting the filaments and tubes that will run the body, carrying molecules and oxygen as well as creating movement.  The brain in particular is making loops of neurons that will sustain homeostasis, keeping everything between too much and too little.  The directions in the cells, the genome, are guiding everything between what is necessary and what is unique, creating a personality type that is vulnerable and reacting in characteristic ways.

The experiences after that will be filtered or honored according to this basic frame which is so deeply internal that it seems like absolute reality.  If the culture endorses this, even more so.  This is as true for a coyote as it is for a human, for all mammals.

Here are two contemporary contrasting articles about coyotes.

Saturday, February 16, 2019


Overemphasis on logic, adversarial binaries, rule of law, dated precedent has cost us the core of professionalism as well as a steady erosion of democracy.  

When I was at the U of Chicago Div School ('78-'82) the just-previous dean had recently succeeded in driving out what he called "phenomenology" because it eliminated the supernatural dimension of religion, or so he thought.  This has happened repeatedly over history.  Whatever religion is in power insists on a supernatural dimension and claims they have the only access to it.  Undemocratic as it may be, this is powerful.  But the "phenomenological" always sneaks back, often with a new name.  This time it is called embodiment cognizance.

That dean left since the Div School centers on comparative religion and history of religion.  Many of these studied entities DO claim supernatural access but not all,  Some don't divide the world simply as "super" versus "natural."  More rarely some experts did not logically and rationally describe the systems, but went to experience them.

The mantra at the U of C is "what is your method?"  The way you get to the conclusion often dictates what that conclusion IS.  Sometimes there are as many conclusions to a discussion as there are methods.  I am interested in the excluding device of the uber-rational, math-like, and the impact on professions over the centuries.  In the beginning a person who "professed" was one who had accepted the responsibility of high impact on human lives, thereby earning trust and status that was enforced by peers.  Today these people are seen as cold and greedy exploiters who claim exemption to responsibility:  doctors, judges, theologians and -- of course -- professors.

I argue that the natural corrective to the callous and and the unjust is the development and protection of the "animal" unstudied compassion for sentient beings -- maybe even the ability to connect with the world, both rock and landscape.  The great lesson of Solomon and the baby claimed by two mothers is that law *ownership" versus justice "truth" must be resolved by love.  Neither med school nor law school nor seminary is able to teach this, but it can be kindled there.

I would argue that it mostly isn't.  Two monitoring devices push love out of the professions.  One is the monetizing, listing, mathematical ways that the present law proceeds, buttressed by insurance and stigma.  The other is the reality-filtering nature of what journalism has become, always looking to please the publisher who believes he or she knows what will sell, usually something sensational.  Journalism used to be a profession.  Now it is the manicurist who can afford good presentation.

The end?  Look at our Supreme Court where one man professes to love only beer or the President who thinks we are toys to be manipulated.  The way back?  We begin with stories and memory.  And science, laughing, brings us embodied sentience, a once lost majority of human life that our technology ironically reveals once again.