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Thursday, January 31, 2013


Trying to get my calendric facts straight
Izapan stela from John Major Jenkins

TWEAKED … Mea culpa. Mea culpa … I’m so obsessed with calendars that I’ve leapt ahead of my research, scattergun as it’s been. Truth be told, the Izapan (Mayan) Long Count Calendar’s Great Cycle wasn’t 26,000 years … What researcher John MajorJenkins believes is that the Long Count calendar was invented in Izapa’s mix of Olmec/Mayan traditions and that, through astronomical observation of the shift in the sun’s equinox position in the stars as seen at the Izapa site, the shaman/astronomers there had hit upon the physical reality of the precession of the equinoxes, a 25,800 year cycle of changes in the night sky due to the rotational spin of the earth on its axis as it circles the Sun. Hipparchus is credited with “discovering” this “wobble” that creates a great cycle of shifting constellational alignments vis-à-vis our scan of the night sky. But Jenkins thinks it was “discovered” in Izapa hundreds of years before the Greeks caught on … So, for that reason, I’ve decided to base my new calendar on that precessional wobble, and honor the Izapans who found out about it, and the cultural phenomenon of the “Mayan Calendar’s” beginning of the 14th baktun (as the archaeologists have named it), with a nod to physical anthropology’s best guess of human arrival on the continent (somewhere between 13,000 and 25,000 years ago), and still provide a bridge to our own historic Gregorian calendar in use today around the world… I’m marrying the Christian end-numbers to a rounded-off precessional cycle of 26,000 years in crafting a new Goodtimes Calendar (GC) … Voila! Thus, my new year, 26013 (GC)

Art reading at Grand Junction's The Art Center

FIRST FRIDAYS … Camille Silverman of the Western Colorado Center for the Arts Art Center and Luis Lopez of Farolito Press held a special show, Make It New: Poets Take the House, last Friday up in the Western Slope’s queen city, and it was a whopper … Over a hundred people crowded into The Art Center’s exhibits of Christopher Z.Y. Shang’s paintings, images from Tibet, clay vessels and local artists to hear something different – four dazzling poets assembled by emcee Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer … 

Wendy Videlock and daughter Shawnee

Grand Junction local Frank Coons kicked off the evening with humor and panache. Denver’s LadySpeech took the house by storm with her evocative performance and won a standing ovation. Rising national poetry star Wendy Videlock and her daughter Shawnee, both of the Grand Valley, combined word, song and music for a masterful synthesis of sound and sense. And New Mexico poet Stewart Warren took the audience on extended flights of deep image and earth-based metaphor … An amazing evening. Easily one of the best readings I’ve ever attended on the Western Slope.

LadySpeech captivates a rapt audience
AIRPORT BLUES … It’s interesting to hear questions raised, at this late date, about the effectiveness of having a Telluride Airport siphoning air guarantee dollars away from cheap direct flights to the Montrose Airport. As a bioregionalist (member of Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft’s Planet Drum Society in San Francisco), it never made sense to me to build a tiny airport on a fragile high alpine mesa in order to bring tourists to Telluride, albeit we all came to recognize that it was great for convincing wealthy investors to speculate in the area’s real estate boom of the last three decades … But to move people, on the cheap, partnering with the Montrose Airport would have seemed to have made more sense, even thirty years ago … If we’re truly going to try to transition to a more stable and resilient summer/winter industrial tourism economy without an unsustainable real estate/construction boom component, then we’re going to really have to re-examine how we most effectively move people here in an era of rising energy and transportation costs.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer emceeing at The Art Center
POET LAUREATE … San Miguel is one of a handful of counties around the country who appoint poet laureates in their communities. It’s been a local tradition for the past eight years. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer served two two-year terms, and Ellen Marie Metrick is finishing her first two-year term. It’s an honorary role, although promoting the literary arts “in this county and around the state” is the only real duty connected with the job – open-ended enough to allow anyone to do almost anything with the title … But I’m wondering if we shouldn’t open the appointment to any poet living in or owning land in San Miguel County. Perhaps we should ask for a request for proposal from county poets to see who might do what with the job?

Stewart Warren in GJ
COMET ISON … Drywall Paul suggests you all prepare for Comet Ison’s incoming. Might be spectacular show later this year. Keep watch on the sky.

POLITICAL CAFÉ? … While I was going door-to-door in Lawson Hill, one citizen harangued me for a bit over tea, and suggested that we have a monthly opportunity in Telluride to meet with me as a commissioner outside of regularly scheduled meetings. I thought it was a good idea. And I’d like to see if there’s interest in the community. Coming up to Telluride from Norwood is a bit of a task, but if people would seriously like a more informal opportunity to talk with me, I’m happy to do it … Call me at 327-4767 or email


Home’s Magneto

-for Sara

So anchored am I
to the star-nicked drywall
of Cloudacre’s ceiling sky

who could believe
your insistent truth
that Orion’s belt

was buckling up
over winter’s dark steamed
fumarole at Orvis

at what seemed a horizon
too far north of
Little Cone

Up Bear Creek 3jan26013

Tweaking a North American calendar

BEYOND THE JULIAN … I know, I know. I have this obsession with calendars. Certainly the Christian calendar that we use, dated from the (unverified) date of the birth of Jesus of Bethlehem, has served us well. And it’s become an international standard. But, to my way of thinking, it’s far too religiously bound for the modern era, and far too culturally bound to our Graeco-Roman roots as North American immigrants of mostly European stock … Of course, there are other calendars … Muslims use the Hajri lunar calendar, starting with the flight of Muhammed from Medina to Mecca. Thus the current year is 1434 AH (standing for Anno Hejirae, in the year of Hijra) … The lunisolar Hebrew calendar has changed over time, but in the current Anno Mundi (in the year of the world) epoch, the current date is 5773 … The old traditional Chinese Yin lunisolar calendar can be calculated in a number of ways. We are currently in the Year of the Dragon, and the date is either 4709, 4649, or 4710, depending on the epoch used … There are many Hindi calendars, as might be expected from that hotbed of that ancient culture, each specific to different local cultural groups … So I think we as North Americans, with our New World perspective ought to craft our own calendar. For years I’ve tried to tie a calendar to the earliest humans to touch foot on this continent, but the science is unsettled. While the oldest physical anthropology evidence is 12,500 years ago, there are a number of unverified sites that are claimed to be far older – perhaps as old as 25,000 years ago … But the recent hoopla around the end of the first Great Cycle of the Izapan Mayan calendar has led to increased scrutiny on this indigenous calendric system. And to me, the start date of that calendar, some 26,000 years ago, seems to be perhaps a fitting starting point for a new Calendar specific to our place. Based on astronomical observations at the Mayan culture center of Izapa and focused on the passage of the solstice sun through the center of the Milky Way (the galactic womb for our solar system), their Long Count calendar started 26,000 years ago and was composed of 13 baktuns of 2000 years each. Since we are now in the first baktun of the new Great Cycle, I think measuring things from that start date makes more sense than something that happened in the Middle East just a couple of millennia ago … But in order to transition from the Gregorian dating system to this new dating system, I’m proposing we change our calendars from 2013 to 26013. The conversion factor is simple. We merely add 24 millennia to our current new year … In my mind, it puts our world into better perspective. It’s based on a date arrived at by the most sophisticated calendar ever created in the New World. Plus, it’s probably close to the date when the first humans reached Turtle Island.

[Ed. Note: Actually, this isn’t exactly correct. I clarified in next week’s column, but the Long Count calendar measures a 20 baktun cycle (7,886 years) that reached back to 3114 (BCE, Before the Christian Era) and was likely calculated a couple thousand years after the start date (early in but not at the beginning of the cycle of 20 baktuns). The recent Dec. 21, 2012 date marked the end of the 12th baktun and the start of the 13th baktun in this system. The Long Count calendar provided a way to measure distant times forward and backward for use on monument inscriptions. Its most brilliant insight was to recognize the precession of the equinoxes, the 25,800-year cycle of wobble that makes the constellations that we see shift in the sky. And it’s that celestial event that the calendar I’m starting to use commemorates, using the Izapan Mayan calendar hoopla as a reference point]

GETTING BACK TO NORMAL … But there’s never really a normal to get back to. Life is a constant mystery. And we seem to live a life of punctuated equilibrium – things going along smooth, in a groove, until something good or bad comes along, and smacks one’s small world around like a loose puck. What Paonia-born psychedelic guru Terence McKenna called Time Wave Zero … Getting re-elected was kind of more of the same, although doing the people’s work in campaigning or governance is always full of surprises – like San Juan and La Plata counties both turning blue, with Dem commissioner majorities on both boards … But losing my friend and co-parent Mary Friedberg was a shock that will keep reverberating throughout my life, and the lives of our children and extended family. I can’t imagine how it could be otherwise … Still I’ve got my heated buildings winterized, the potato and apple crops in, Mary’s life enshrined in her yurt, and my voluntary simplicity systems in place so that Gorio and I are snug in our routines at Cloud Acre. And Sara is in good hands with friends up in Telluride … If I’ve missed a call or failed to return an email, forgive me and try again. I hope I can keep up to speed with communications in the new year.
Victor Jara

VICTOR JARA … It’s hard to believe it’s taken 40 years for justice to be served in Chile, but finally eight retired military officers have been charged with the murder of charismatic Chilean folksinger Victor Jara back in 1973. Sad to remember the murder of this brilliant cultural leader, but glad to see his murderers held accountable, finally.

POETRY CLUB … Talking Gourds has morphed many times, from a festival in Telluride to an event at Faraway Ranch to a gathering on the Uncompahgre Plateau. For the last couple years it’s been a collaboration with a number of cultural groups for an interview-reading-gourds circle series at the Wilkinson Library … Now those of us local lovers of poetry have decided to change our venue and change our format. On Jan. 8th we’ll be holding the first meeting of the Talking Gourds Poetry Club at 8 p.m. at Arroyo Telluride, a fine art gallery and wine bar at 220 E. Colorado Avenue. This will be a chance to hear and enjoy poetry for anyone interested, not just writers. We’ll be seeking memberships in the club, although the club meeting on the first Tuesday of every month will be open to all. New members will receive a discount coupon for Between the Covers Bookstore, one of our sponsors. Wilkinson Library will be holding an event earlier that evening, and encouraging folks to stop by the poetry club afterwards … To begin this new series, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and I will be doing a dual reading. I’m going to be sharing the erotic poetry of San Francisco poet Lenore Kandel, and Rosemerry has a surprise poet in mind to read from. After the reading, we’ll have a gourds circle and give folks a chance to read their own work or read erotic poetry from people they love … January 8th at 8 p.m. at Arroyo Telluride.

Boletus edulis (Photo by David Spahr)

Boletus Coitus

now that the rains are here
I look for you every morning
your shiny head
hard, ready, poking out
from earthy covers
shrouded in moist greening hair

how I want you
virile king
mycelial talons unbuckling my dreams
sliding off each night
slippery, wet feet
diving into hunt

I carry my box
open, ready, a crevasse
for your long white flesh

the many faces of you
invite, coax with scent
thread me through naked blue and fallen golds
past deer bones, deserted beer cans
teasing with jacks and agarics
every sexy spotted red nub
making me want you more

there, right there
jutting like a bull pine
ripe, thick, ready
you dance me to you
I squeal, you wait
a fixed flower
microscopic pulses
patient as I coo
pull you into my world
lips moist
fire hot

-Blake More
Point Arena (CA)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Up Bear Creek 27dec26013

New Poetry Club January 8th at Arroyo’s
TALKING GOURDS … Okay, I like reinventing things. Remember that Telluride Institute’s Ideas Festival – Reinventing Politics? I thought it was seminal in expanding my way of thinking about acting globally and locally. The politics of collaboration. Of the radical middle … Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and I have been having a Talking Gourds poetry series at the Wilkinson Library on the first Tuesday of every month for the past year, in collaboration with several local groups – Between the Covers Bookstore, the Telluride and Norwood Writers Guilds, Telluride TV, University Centers of the San Miguel, and the Naturita Library. We’ve had some great visiting poets, filmed interviews and performance and after the filming, held a gourd circle to allow participants to share their own stories & poems. But audiences have been dwindling … We’d like to make poetry worth hearing, and so are going to reinvent our structure, our format and our venue … Instead of the community room of the Wilkinson Library (which will stay an essential partner in this arts collaboration), we’re going to move to the club Arroyo – main street’s uptown wine bar. Poetry and wine? Li Po would approve (Li Bai in the new orthography) … 
Lenore Kandel

We’ll start on Tuesday, Jan. 8th, at a time to be announced. Rosemerry and I will share the work of two poets of our own choosing, doing a back and forth poetry performance. Then we’ll have an all-hands gourds circle sharing and discussion time … For the first one I’m going to be focusing on the work of San Francisco poet Lenore Kandel, author of the celebrated book of erotic poetry that got banned in San Francisco in the Sixties, The Love Book. Rosemerry was leaning towards a new translation of the ecstatic male poet, Rumi. The fun will be in hearing poems from each alternating with the other … As for a new structure, we want to make the group a poetry club. We’ll have memberships – I’m thinking $25 a year. And members will meet at Arroyo’s monthly club meeting (which will also be open to the public by donation), or at other local venues by invitation … For anyone interested in poetry, written and/or performed, as listener, writer or performer, call me at 970.327.4767

LIBRARY … On one hand it’s great to see people so engaged over a change in Wilkinson Library hours. It’s one of those great community services that has become essential to our vision of ourselves. But it’s also disturbing that such a hallowed institution could make such a large change without consulting its deeply involved patrons. We all realize these are hard fiscal times, and cutting back services may become the norm, unless the community wishes to impose new levels of taxation on itself. But in as small and interwoven a community as ours, it makes sense for community non-profit boards to stay in close touch with those they serve … As a commissioner, I certainly don’t want to be second-guessing what the Library Board does with its declining budgets, but I would urge that community sentiment and preferences be explored.

NUTCRACKER AT THE PALM … All I can say is “wow!” I went to the show because of kind friends and wanting to spend time with my own munchkins after Mary’s passing, and I was amazed. And delighted. As was the visiting mom from back east in the seat next to me. It was dazzling entertainment … I fell in love with the youngsters in their wonderful acting and dancing and singing. The chorus of tiny ballerinas was cute beyond belief. This was superb choreography … Kudos to Valerie Madonia and the Telluride Dance Academy and a marvelous cast of locals.

YARROW & BERRIER … Wonderful to have our old friends back on the Sheridan stage … Berrier did a helluva bang-up local holiday comedy extravaganza with partners Ashley Boling and Buff Hooper. I can tell it’s a success when long-timer Dean Rolley in the row ahead of me was guffawing as loudly as returning-from-college youngster Myles Duffield in my row. Even my 14-year-old gave it a thumbs up (and he’s picky) … It’s also a treat to have Peter Yarrow playing for us again. He’s been such an inspiration for so many years – I think I hummed my way through the Seventies listening to his music.

DEJONG … Greta Belanger deJong has been publishing the alternative Salt Lake City monthly, Catalyst, for 30 years now. And is celebrating her 60th birthday this week. Unable to attend her surprise party, I sent along this ditty.



And why wouldn’t you turn 60
in the first few days of the first baktun
of the Izapan Mayan Long Count Calendar?

A Sammish princess by blood
& mama muse for Salt Lake City’s counter-
cultural icon – Catalyst

You continue to provide a way
to keep track in Joseph’s promised land
of dreams unfulfilled, stories proliferating

Yours is a life, star-lit, deep writ
Play hard, party harder, and work
as a way of bringing the tribe together

We need sixty more of you, Greta, my dear
Sixty more arms. Sixty more lives
Hail the goddess! Hug the human!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Up Bear Creek 20dec26012

Learning the Ecosystem Services world
gift Spirit Wheel for Annie Johnson, retired county social worker

PES … Having successfully completed my Practitioner Fellowship project with the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, I was honored to be invited to give a 20-min. presentation at the University of Florida’s annual ACES and Ecosystem Markets conference in Fort Lauderdale last week. I’d never made a scientific presentation at an academic conference before … The title of my abstact (and presentation) was “A Payment for Ecosystem Services Pilot Project Surveying for Rare Plants on Private Lands.” Almost everyone at these events does powerpoint, so I kind of stood out speaking extemporaneously about my project, tossing in some poetry for good measure … My fellowship award from 2009 covered the cost of travel, hotel and the conference, so it didn’t cost county taxpayers a cent. And I probably would have enjoyed Florida’s beach, pool and amenities – except for my first cold in several years which kept me in bed for the first two or three days of the conference. But then it’s been an exhausting couple months, and I probably needed the sleep more than the workshops I missed … But I did make a lot of great contacts and got a lot of new ideas so as to start working on expanded county PES projects for 2013.

ECOSYSTEM SERVICES … As a poet, I know that language constantly re-invents itself. Every generation renames things to suit the moment’s tastes. “Ecosystem services” sounds pretty scientific and modern. But as Carol Hasburgh, a Haudenosaunee by birth and an environmental scientist with the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council by profession, explained at the Plenary Panel Discussion on “Native American Views of Ecosystem Services and Markets: Challenges and Opportunities,” it’s a very old concept. It really means “Nature’s gifts” … As Hasburgh and Diné elder Steve Darden noted, traditional people have long recognized and honored the gifts that the natural world provides to humans. It’s only been in the last few hundred years that Western cultures that have lost their connection to the natural world, and have ignored natural inputs into their systems of “economics” and taken these gifts for granted. Now, by giving them this new name, folks are beginning to recognize the value and importance of these gifts, and their foundational worth to maintaining the health and balance of the entire ecology of the planet … It’s about time that we as a culture attempt to quantify the value of these services within the framework of our capitalist economics and begin compensating those who provide them. I’m not sure how we can kickstart that idea in San Miguel County, but I’m really interested in trying over the next four years.

GENERATION R … I hadn’t heard this term used for the upcoming crops of leaders and followers, but – overhearing it in a conversation at the ACES conference -- I think it makes sense, and I sure hope it’s true, because the future depends upon it … Out with Generation X and in with Generation Responsible.

SHROOMFEST & KOTO … Kudos to the Town of Telluride for resolving the festival scheduling impasse between two of our best local institutions. Rather than blaming anyone, I think Pamela Lifton-Zoline hit the nail on the head – we have a structural problem … If we really want to be a Creative District, we need some entity to step in and become the table of trust where the arts community can come together to collaborate, and craft a festival season with the most impact and success for everyone … And I don’t think that’s CCAASE. They have their hands full administering the town’s arts and community funding grants.

CRIPPIN … I have to say that I was very, very impressed with Greg and Julia Crippin and the funeral home they run in Montrose along with their son. They were so absolutely helpful and accommodating, so gracious and respectful, I have to admit being overwhelmed. Mary had some special wishes that could have made things difficult, but with the Crippins, they found a way to make it work for everyone … I would highly recommend them to anyone needing sensitive and kindly undertakers to deal with at that vulnerable moment right after losing a loved one.

$100 CLUB … Sheep Mountain Alliance mounted spirited testimony at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill hearing in Nucla’s Moose Lodge last month. I was privileged to hear retired Economics Prof. Thomas Power of Montana University, and give my own testimony as Colorado Green Party co-chair outlining our group’s problems with the nuclear cycle – suggesting that if we have to have radioactive energy it could be more wisely obtained through thorium energy, which has a much shorter radioactive danger period of only about 200 years … But it cost Sheep Mountain a lot of money to do this, and all the local governments see shrinking revenues and can’t really help. So, how about if some of us who believe the nuclear industry is the wrong answer to the real problem of our carbon footprint, join a $100 Club, and donate that to Sheep Mountain earmarked for their Piñon Ridge campaign? Who’ll match my $100?



Goats graze atop garbage mounds
by side of road

Egrets eat bugs from cattle
in rice fields

-Kyle Laws

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Up Bear Creek 13dec26013

On a quest for a new kind of conservation tool

FLORIDA … Leaving Norwood last week to fly to Ft. Lauderdale, wouldn’t you figure I’d hit the second snowstorm of the season? Not that I was unhappy. Goodness knows we needed the snow. But it was white knuckles all the way to Montrose for my 6:20 a.m. flight, nobody else on the road, the wind whipping a blizzard up on Dallas Divide … I’d been planning this conference for six months – had reservations and flights all lined up. But wasn’t sure I’d get to go until the last minute … It was the largest national convocation on a project I’ve been working on for several years now – Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). Hosted by the University of Florida together with ACES -- ACommunity on Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Markets and Ecosystem ServicesPartnership, the conference actually brought together government agencies, environmental groups, scientists, foundations and private businesses to provide an integrated and expanded dialogue in the ecosystem services community, including the role of ecosystem service payments and markets for maintaining resilient communities … A paper I’d prepared with the help of Dr. Joshua Goldstein of Colorado State University (where I received a Center for Collaborative Conservation fellowship in 2010), his graduate assistant Shayna Brause and Botanist Peggy Lyon of Ridgway had been accepted for the public policy segment of what were eight concurrent sessions. With the help of County Open Space and Recreation Director Linda Luther and several advisors from the County Open Space Commission (notably Jim Boyd of Norwood), San Miguel County had managed to complete the first PES project on private land in Colorado. Six ranchers and landowners had been paid to allow a survey for rare plants to be conducted on private ground, and two sites had yielded newly discovered populations of very rare Colorado endemics … It was a pilot study. Perhaps not earth-shattering in its immediate effects, although the information of new colonies of a rare plant was a clear expansion of current scientific knowledge, but it was definitely a confirmation or proof-of-concept of the PES idea … For years, ranchers and large landowners have been providing some critical environmental services – clean water, habitat for rare species, and carbon sequestration (to name only a few) – but have not received any compensation from society in return. In fact, governments (including local governments) have responded to this good work by heaping new regulations on these same folks to “protect” resources, without rewarding them for what they’ve been doing right. PES is the start of an attempt to right that wrong … If we could quantify the worth of what ranchers and large landowners do on their private land – give it a fair market value, they maybe we could begin transferring some of the wealth of those who benefit from those services (society at large, industry, etc.) to those who are providing those services … It’s part of an overall strategy of true-cost accounting – to measure the cost of products and services in our lives from cradle to grave. And the upshot of this would be better environmental protection for the natural world and fair compensation and recognition for folks who are helping provide those services to us … Dr. Goldstein envisions a “farm of the future” that would not only produce food and fiber, but would be paid in some kind of market system for the ecosystem services they provide – adding a secondary source of income and making farms and ranches more sustainable into the future … Of course, having succeeded with a pilot project, I want to take on an even larger PES project in San Miguel County – to see if we could reduce Telluride’s industrial tourism carbon footprint by off-setting some of that climate changing carbon with carbon sequestration on range lands in the West End. Courtney White of the QuiviraCoalition calls it the “Carbon Ranch” concept … Which is why I find myself in Florida tonight, preparing to hear talks and learn what’s being done with ecosystem services and markets around the country – and listening to the Atlantic surf lapping at a white sand beach outside my hotel room.

Mary's unfinished painting, Wilson Mesa

HOSPICE YES … It was an amazing experience working with Alpine Hospice to care for Mary Friedberg as she slipped into the mystery. Letting a loved one stay at home, rather than in a hospital, as they make that passage into the bardo, is a beautiful experience. Not easy. In fact, quite difficult, exhaustive and sad. But also transformative … We’re certainly lucky, in San Miguel County, to have Alpine Hospice available to help family and friends provide that level of care for our terminally ill loved ones. I found all the folks from Alpine particularly empathetic and dedicated. But I’d be remiss not to single out Nurse Tammy Clifton who was such an incredible angel – competent, compassionate, and (like Mary herself) unbelievably kind … And for me, on a personal level, it was also inspiring to share the caretaking experience with Norwood family friend Marty Schmalz-Hollinbeck, who made it possible to give Mary the round-the-clock care she needed at the end … Not only is it a beautiful place we live in, but we are blessed with some extraordinary fellow-travelers in these mountains.


Chickadee Moon

new moon hangs in the sky
near the big fat shiny glow of Jupiter
beaming love,
dissolving into the tide of light

french knots
at the tiny twig ends of the elm
glow with the fire of the rising sun
then turn iridescent green

jewels glimmer on barren branches of
the plum tree -- a gift from last nights rain
here and there frilly white ruffles of blossoms
grace her ancient arms

big rolling mist off to the south
swallows the mesa
to the north – Castle Peak, blue skies
drifting clouds

sparrows and grosbeaks share the feeder
and in the plum
a chickadee
telling nothing but the truth

-Cathy Caspar

Monday, January 21, 2013

Up Bear Creek 8dec26013

Photo by Sara Mae Friedberg

“The friendship of fools is sweet as wine.
But the tastelessness of the wise
brings true affection.”
-Thomas Merton’s The Way of Chuang Tzu

No, it wasn’t your tattoos that drew me to you, Mary
Faery, though your will blazed a fierce rainbow blue

amid galaxies discrete as your Scorpio purse of balm
& obsidian. Hailing from a long lineage of Dakinis:

Guanyin, Green Tara, Our Lady of Guadalupe
Privy to angelic transmissions beyond my ken

You embodied for me Kali & perfect sweetness
Giggling between greetings. Turning intractable

stone. A girlish smile. Indigenous traits learned
at Nagponi where you waged bureaucratic aikido

peace-corpsed in the Philippines & through
high drama, death threats, Marcos & Aquino

found your band of Ati title to the village plots
they called home. More Kennedy than Friedberg

But precise. And no, lass, ‘twas not for your warmth
tale be told, I pursued, for you were sharp as a dart

shot in the quick of the hunt. If need be, you spoke
goddess truth, regardless of icy consequence, &

calmly apprehended even tongues not known
under stress, in a mob, knife at your throat. And

though my internal Nagasaki obaasan didn’t like
the fist in your mama’s gypsy brogue, I admired you

for your brazen gracelessness. Unabashed. ‘Specially
when it cost me in argument – a price most dear for

brothers like Jimbo & I who prize disputationem -- that
rational Western Civ badminton, crucial for male coming to

understanding, but which you despised, favoring the blink
of gestalt. Of channeled voices. Of silence over sophistry

So, yes, be-rainbowed, I fell in love with your kindness
& the wild poof of your hair. And we made haste

in our kindnesses. Called them children. Danced alone
As a couple. Around fairy mushroom rings. Drummed

& ommed together -- even unto your last breath
A candle. Hot wax. Freckles of lavender & myrrh

Up Bear Creek 29nov26012

Reading a history of the Vatican

[Ed. Note: I'm starting to post all the columns that I didn't put on line after Mary died. Forgive the hiatus, but it's taken a while to get my life back into some semblance of order ]

MEA MAXIMA CULPA … Interesting to the see the Holy Mother Church of my childhood disintegrate into scandal, repression and recriminations. The ex-seminary listserve that I belong to from a California long gone (circa 1963) featured a Maryknoll priest last week (their seminarians walked down the hill to study with us diocesans at St. Joe’s, Mountain View, before the ’89 Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the campus apart at the seams) by the name of Roy Bourgeois – a well known peace activist of the Berrigan brothers’ wing of radical Catholicism. Father Roy has been excommunicated by the Vatican and kicked out of his order for advocated for women priests … And this week there’s a damning review of Alex Gibney’s cinematically documented exposé of the scandalous pedophilia tolerated by the Church’s all-male hierarchy, Mea Maxima Culpa … Often that phrase is translated as “through my most grievous fault” and was an incantation, the Confiteor (“Confession”) that altar boys had to make during one section of the old Latin mass, where -- on one’s knees before the stairs to the altar – an acolyte had to bow over, just short of prostration, beside the priest, and repeat, two of us in unison, “Through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.” Quite dramatic … The film has no less drama, and a lot of induced revulsion over what the Church has allowed and sometimes even tolerated (in exchange for money). And while shocking, and quite disturbing to modern sensibilities (let alone ethics), it fits a pattern … I just finished studying (one’s education should never end) British Canonical scholar J.N.D. Kelly’s The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (Oxford Univ. Press, 1986). It’s a fascinating read, from saints like St. Victor the First (189-198) who excommunicated churches in Asia Minor for celebrating Easter on a day different than the Romans did and Christians and Gnostics for suggesting Jesus was a good man but not god and St. Damasus the First (366-384) who hired gangs of thugs for rampages against supporters of a rival for the papal robes that left hundreds dead on Rome’s streets, to warrior popes who rewarded their sons and nephews with cardinal hats, maintained lavish palaces with mistresses and/or young boys and employed flagrant bribery, like Julius the Second (1503-1513) and Paul the Third (1534-1549). It’s a tainted history that makes mincemeat of any foundation for papal infallibility … So, while sad, the current state of spiritual disarray at the Vatican, is, quite frankly, nothing new.

 SETH … Denver’s Open Ranger maestro of music & spoken word has published his collected, A Black Odyssey (Mercury HeartLink, Albuquerque, 2012). As friend and Western Slope Poet Laureate, he asked me to do a backcover blurb -- de rigueur in the world of published poetry (a small niche world composed of paper, dreams and metaphor) … “Every day it’s that blank page / a smooth flat placid white man / of a face” … ός μάλα πολλά … Here’s what I wrote for him … “SETH has always been an experimenter willing to push the cultural boundaries, happy to take the Apollonian crowd on tour of society’s Dionysian underground. His improv poetry jams at Denver Merc are legendary. Poetry plays. Performance art. Expect to be surprised.”

NORWOOD … I love living in a town so small that the teller at the bank knows where my lost wallet is because her daughter clerk at the market told her about it, and a checker at the same market alerts me to my photo in the current issue of High Times that I hadn’t seen yet.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “Every now and then an astronomer needs to leave the office behind, travel somewhere remote, away from an urban hullaballoo, preferably somewhere with high elevation – and confront the night sky in all its naked beauty.” – Anna Frebel, assistant professor of physics at the MIT, “Four Starry Nights.” Scientific American (December, 25012)

WHITE DRAGON SOCIETY … I don’t know if it exists, but one almost wishes it did. National socialism or Reagan/Bush capitalism -- where the Fed and industry run government -- seems an unwise version of democracy. I think of myself as a Green farmer/democrat, or maybe a Jeffersonian citizen politician (though I have to ask myself, how could a lover of freedom own slaves, or run a carpenter nail business on the whipped backs of young black boys to finance his colonial Monticello lifestyle?) … Rather than count on any White Dragon deus ex machine saving us from our world leading military industrial complex, I’m shooting in my small sphere locally to nudge the middle over to the left, ever so gently … Radical change, done quickly, rarely sticks, and only invites a disastrous pendulum swing. Luckily this last election it swung left, and gives us a chance to work beyond spinning conspiracy theories.


Amid a Storm of Clear Skies

Wilson Peaks (photo by Carl Marcus)

 mf danced off
last night
in my arms
as i ommed
to an almost full moon
above a raging sea of mountains