Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jon's Bad Day

When the Prescott police told me that Jon had been flown to Phoenix by helicopter they said they weren't sure he'd survive the trip. He'd been torn up pretty bad. The Prescott hospital hadn't been able to do much for him. The extent of the brain injury was too severe. Jon's legs had been broken, both thighs. The big toe on his right leg was split. His left arm had been wrenched from the socket. The bone around his left eye was broken and his scalp was peeled back. The doctor at Barrows Neurological Hospital told me he was in a coma, that his brain had been severely damaged and they had place a shunt in to relieve the pressure from the swelling. I later learned that in a traumatic brain injury quite frequently this secondary injury from pressure building up in the brain cavity is the worse. Putting a shunt in most likely saved his life. He told me that Jon would not likely wake up and if he did wake up he would be profoundly injured, most likely never speak, never walk and would in all likelihood never open his eyes. But the probability was such that if I wanted to see him I should come immediately.

I phoned the airlines and found that there was no help in such a situation. It would cost me over a thousand dollars to fly to Phoenix. I used a credit card to get a flight but it would be another day before I could get a flight. I spent the next several hours online learning about TBI, shunts, cranial pressure and other facts. I learned how little chance we had of ever seeing Jon walk or speak or understand the world around him. The next morning, the day before my flight was scheduled I got up, fixed coffee and breakfast. Margaret and I talked about things, trying to be sure we had not forgotten anything important. I had arranged to stay with friends in Phoenix. I went to the bathroom and collapsed on the floor with incredible pain in my gut. I felt myself losing consciousness and tried to call out. Margaret was walking by the door when she heard something like a whimper and opened the door. That afternoon in the emergency room I came to. There was nothing wrong with me, no reason for the collapse. We told them about Jon and they said most likely it was just stress and probably I would be alright. The next morning I was flying to Phoenix.

Jon in the ICU was like a Frankenstein creation with wires and beeping machines attached. His skin was slightly grey and the scars on his face were still bloody and terrible. They told me I could go in and see him. I managed to draw close to the form on the table. The nurse told me I could touch him. I found it hard to move but I reached out and laid my hand on his shoulder. Suddenly one of the machines began beeping loudly and I jumped back. The nurse ran over and found a wire had come loose, nothing to worry about. Inside of me was a tiny man racing in circles, bouncing off the inside of my head screaming. I walked out of the room into the hallway and slid down to the floor. The nurse asked me if I needed anything. I told her "I need my son back." There was nothing to do and I was not in the way so they let me sit there for a few minutes. I talked to the neurologist who told me all the things they do in times like this. No hope, no chance, no future, no son. I talked to the Chaplin or minister or priest, whatever. He gave me his card. I have it somewhere.

Jon's Bad Day is white stoneware with mason stains, fired in an electric kiln, about life sized.
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A little more than seven years ago I was working in the yard raking leaves and burning brush. It was a beautiful November day as I recall and I walked back to the house to get a drink. As I came into the kitchen I heard the beep from the phone indicating a missed call. I played the message. It was Jon's room mate telling me that Jon had been in an accident. He'd been badly hurt and was in a coma. They had taken him to the hospital and it wasn't sure if he'd survive. I needed to call Prescott Hospital or the Prescott police. I was stunned and for several minutes I simply sat on the floor wondering what to do. The next time I was in the studio, some weeks later, I picked up the clay and in a few minutes was looking at the Mask of Fear. This was the first of the series of masks I've done about Jon's trip through the underworld of traumatic brain injury. It's a little less than full sized, white stoneware with mason stain and iron oxide, fired in an electric kiln.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Grand Dad

You should click on this to see the details. Grand Dad Riley was a marble cutter. He carved angels, babies, flowers. In the 1970's when his old employer needed somebody to carve something that was not in the cataloged, something that required actual carving, they called Grand Dad in and he dug out his old chisels, some of which he made himself. This piece was carved out of a 4x4 pine scrap. The model was a tiny frame from a Sunday comic. You see Abner is aware of the snake crawling up his leg. The ivy winds around to the back. You can see some of the nice details like the shoelaces and the hair, but his left hand was also fully detailed as were the eyes. Lil' Abner is less than 6 inches tall. This was carved with an x-acto knife and a #1 blade. He would stop and sharpen the blade, shave a hair off his hand and carve off a few wood cells at a time. I would grab my knives, whack away at my piece of wood, break a few blades and end up with crap. Took me years to learn that in wood carving fast is slow and slow is fast. I take my time and hopefully I will someday be able to carve as well as Grand Dad. He could just as easily have carved this out of white marble but he said it was hard to get good marble these days, the 1970's. He died before completing the sculpture so one shoe and one hand are not finished. He never signed any of his work but certain details, like the form of the leaves and the bit of humor he always brought in might make it possible for me to guess at which monuments are his in the big cemetery in Louisville. I hope to be able to determine the years he worked there and then search for monuments that were put up around that time, then check for those ivy leaves or a snake in the grass. One piece he described to me had a little detail in the back of a full relief spider in its web holding down a bound fly! Now if I spot something like that I'll know it's his. He told me he made the chisels for that out of some little screwdrivers and a nail. Dad has told me about blacksmithing some with his father but he didn't do much but draw the details out for Grand Dad to carve. Daddy didn't have the patience to carve marble. I hope I do someday. You know, it would great to be an old coot sitting out back showing a little boy how to carve very slowly so that even with crappy pine you could make a masterpiece. That would be swell. I have about 35 years left to train. I hope you enjoyed the picture.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In the middle of winter
in the middle of the herb garden
three stones wait for Spring
Each dawn they look up
and note the sun.
They watch it climb
across the sky
It's highest post and then
Down to the red horizon
Not yet
Not yet.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Girls

There's a show on Cartoon Channel about a home for imaginary friends. They all look weird, of course, being cartoons and the star of the show is a little boy. Now in my universe I have a home for Retired Chickens. Audrey and Goldie here are best friends. One's a aracauna and one is a gold laced wyendotte. Audrey Beardsley used to lay the nicest eggs, light green or sometimes pale blue. They call this breed the Easter egg chicken. Goldie just laid brown eggs but they were nice brown eggs. Neither hen was terribly productive as hens go, but few hens can beat the record set by Big Red. Now there was a good hen, usually laying 4 ounce eggs and the occasional double yolk. One of these days I will get a video of these girls and post it, but that might have to wait until the website I create. You'd think an artist would have one of those things, especially when you consider that I am trying to sell my work to raise money to help pay off these student loans. Trouble is my art tends toward the figurative and websites are not figures. They're more like spread sheets and not a lot of fun to design.

The first flock of hens we had I made a coop from old shed wood with a smallish hen yard. You got the eggs by opening the door at the back of the coop, which was elevated about four foot off the ground for some odd reason I no longer recall. If the nests were not near the door you had to crawl in and reach to where the nest was. They ignored the boxes I had in there and lay on the floor of the coop. Eventually that flock of some two dozen got old and started not recovering from their moulting so I'd be dragging out water and food to some 24 hens that did nothing but try to fly out over the fence so they could go eat my hostas and any bird food under the bird feeders. So, we decided to turn the hens into food. There was going to be a slaughter and I was going to take lives. I never do that well, never comfortable with the idea, but if I was going to live in the country and grow things to eat I needed to know how to kill chickens.

Dad used to take a bird and tie it upside down to the clothesline. Then he'd take a really sharp knife, pull the head of the hen down and cut it off. The hen would spasm and blood would spray all over and several small kids would begin screaming at the top of their lungs. See, Dad was very popular with the kids in the neighborhood. He had funny stories and he had a ferret in a cage and chickens out back and this was in a John F. Long subdivision. So while he was tying up Eggberta the little kids would wander over quietly and stand just off to the side. Dad was probably not entirely comfortable with killing the hens, if only because they had names now. He'd be focused and intent and when the kids yelled it would scare the pee waddling out of him and he'd chase them all away. So you get this image of my Dad with a bloody knife in his hand chasing four little screaming kids out of the yard. Blood is dripping down his apron and some on his face and he's nervous-mad. Idiot ran with a knife, no offense Dad but really...

We didn't have clotheslines so I got hold of a buddy of mine who swore he knew how to do it by watching his Dad kill their hens. I got the big pots together with boiling water on the barbecue. We got a log with two nails in in and a hatchet and a butcher knife and just for fun a machete. The idea was to place the hen's neck between the nails and gently pull to stretch the neck out. Then a whack of the knife or axe would do a quick kill and the silly corpse would flop around, just like in the movies. The hens did not like having their heads laid on the stump. Like the flamingos in Alice's Looking Glass Land they would turn their heads to look you right in the eye. Chickens are masters of irony and they have an excellent accusatory look. After several tries one of us got to kinda hold the head down while the other tried to cut only chicken neck and not fingers. My friend(who shall remain nameless for this anecdote)did poorly on the quick kill he had promised me. Seems, like me, he had never actually killed a chicken before and he wasn't happy with the concept. The first bird was almost beheaded and the grossness of the floppy head and the blood squirting was too much for us and there followed a silent film gag of me, my buddy and the mostly dead chicken running in circles with limbs flapping and nobody flying, blood everywhere and a boiling tub of water on a barbecue. In the end we got the chicken back on the stump and properly beheaded. Then we threw the corpse into the water, held it under (maybe to drown it as well) and then pulled out a steaming, moulting, bloody dead chicken. With my fingers burning I pulled the feathers off. Where the bird was good and hot they came off pretty good and elsewhere I had to struggle. Now it's a dead, greasy, bloody chicken. In a few terrible minutes we had a scrawny old chicken carcass worth maybe a couple of dollars. It only took a total of maybe two hours and two grown men to accomplish this. I began to have some very powerful emotions when thinking of Col. Sanders.

By the end of the day we had done in seven hens and roosters and made a huge mess of feathers and blood, cut ourselves in several places, although we both had our fingers intact. Ironic that last part, eh? I suppose in the end we could have said that we saved money but certainly if you factor in minimum wage we lost a lot of money and took great risks for a fairly inferior product. It was around this time I determined that I was a lousy serial killer and if I could not do at least a mediocre job I should not do this again. I built a bigger, more comfortable hen house with a nice metal insulated door for me to walk through. I kept my flocks down to a dozen or so. And when they stop laying, when they evolve into a flock of philosophers and open mike poets I continue to feed and water but I do not kill. I see no need to slaughter living things simply because they have stopped doing what I brought them here to do, ie lay eggs. It's part of Nature, part of the Great Plan that hens will lay for a few short years and then retire. In much the same way I have retired and nobody wants to cut my head off, as far as I know. I have to go out there every day, twice a day usually, and see that they are okay for food and water and no fox has found them. It doesn't always work out, which is why we have but four hens. Hawks and foxes and coyotes have benefited greatly from our retirement home and I get some exercise I wouldn't normally get. So it's a win-win for us all, feathered and not. This spring we may decide to go ahead and bring a dozen more hens into the yard. Then I'll be once again able to justify the hauling of the food and water out back to a bunch of critters who will give me that squinkey eye and make some sarcastic remark about the hairless ape.
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Friday, January 25, 2008


The greatest full moon is the January full moon. For several nights the snow has been taking on that great blue color and then on the full moon, since this is upstate New York, we got some clouds. Still, through the clouds now and again this great beautiful face peered out. I love that moon, I get to see it when I go close the hen house. At night I don't even need to use my penlight, it's like daylight with a black sky and brilliant stars that are really planets.

With my snowshoes strapped on and my wooly coat on and my silly elf hat that covers my ears, I go out into the yard. Once I'm around the corner from the porch light I pause and look up. The air feels like a pressure against my cheeks, pushing and intruding. But if you look up at where the moon is, even with the clouds covering most of her, the clouds part and suddenly you're looking her right in the face and it's easy to forget the cold then. Sometimes my feet get hot and I see my breath and try to blow smoke rings, but on a clear January night with the ice blue crystals glancing light off all the surfaces, I don't do much but watch the light from the moon, see it land in the yard and sneak off under the pines, no doubt to take a short break after such a long trip. The berry patches are full of light, like tiny lanterns shutting on and off, like frozen lightning bugs. I stand and watch and slowly breathe in and out. Then, with my snowshoes swishing and crunching through the crystal lanterns I stride without a word to the next awestruck clearing where I stop and look up again. I do this until I can stand no more beauty like this. I shut the hen house and walk back along the path toward the house. I can see the arch before me in the moonlight. As I turn again the clouds are moving like madmen escaping a jail and I get the feeling that I am moving too, but slower and more thoughtful. There she is, the January moon, so bright, so white and yet so cold towards me. I pass through the arch, the porch light spots me and comes on and I swish my way toward the lights.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Village Stream- Ballston Spa

While waiting for the Volvo to be repaired I wandered around the village and took some pictures. I will upload some more later but I thought this one was pretty nice. The colors under the ice and the patterns of the swirling water are remarkable. Larry used to take a lot of water pictures, in fact he took a few of this stream before flying back to Washington state. I'm still using his camera, the one he gave me. It was his first digital and at 2 mp it's almost an antique, but it serves me well enough. Nothing shows the seasons like water. The colors change more in water than they do in trees. There's life in there as well. Trout and little shiny fingerlings, frogs and beetles all gather around the shore and sing or gurgle. In the summer the fireflies are so intense you think the Milky Way has come down for a drink. In the winter you hear the water flowing and the soft tinkle of ice on ice. It's reassuring to know that the Goddess has so many voices and so many forms. I feel surrounded by life even on the coldest day or the darkest night. Hope you like this one, Allison. Feel free to share anything you like.
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

River Picture

This is what the Hudson looks like from Roger's Island, about 8 miles from my house. If you click on it you can see it full size. It's like the anti-Arizona. I've been taking pictures from this spot for almost 7 years now. I go visit during the four seasons and watch the river flow. This is approximately where they will be dredging up the PCB left over from GE's decades-long dumping. They claim it will not disturb the beauty of the place, but I suspect they lie, so I try to record the passage of time in this wondrous place. I moved from Phoenix around this date back in 1978. Big culture shock, but I fell in love with the river. When the Witch of the East, my second wife, was screwing every old boyfriend she could locate, this being her home town, I stood on the bridge overlooking this spot and considered dropping in. The cold water would have enveloped me, chilled me, put me to sleep and the pain would have stopped. I watched the water for several minutes and then a car pulled up and a man opened up the passenger door and asked me "Going somewhere?" I told him "Not really." and he sat there with the door open. I climbed inside, embarrassed that he most likely knew what had been in my mind. We drove around that night while he told me about how his life had changed some years ago. Seems his wife had been cheating on him openly and all his friends knew it. He had been pretty down then, he said, but in the end he had decided not to "let her win". He'd gone home, gotten his things and he left her. He said things got better in time and now it hardly seemed like such a big deal. She was just some slut he had had the misfortune to believe. When he was done with his story he pulled over and let me out. We were back at the bridge. Not the first time a stranger had saved my life. I survived, I left with my things and I concentrated on my artwork and the beauty of the river.
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Friday, January 18, 2008

Over My Head

Now I'm going to take a couple of minutes, finally, to write some and wouldn't ya know it I pick something so deep I might be smart to let it be. But who ever accused me of being smart, eh? Here's the deal: I recently sent some money to a group which works to free Tibet and protect the people there from the Chinese crackdown/genocide. Normally I would send money to people like this, progressive political groups, women's rights etc. I'm a dewy eyed liberal in social matters. Somebody has to be. Well, this got me on a list and now they are offering me lots of liberal magazines at 90% price breaks. Not bad, I subscribe to Nation and I'm happy with it. Sometimes it's a good idea to surround yourself with positive reinforcement of your deeply held beliefs. That's why Christians go to church dinners and Buddhists chant in groups. Actually there's a nuance of reasons for these things but let's not go there. I got this nice invitation to subscribe to Shambhala Sun, a Buddhist magazine. I was myself a practicing Buddhist for many years, chanting in an incense scented room, meditating and so forth. Not eating meat. It was nice, like dating a beautiful woman, but we grew apart and agreed to be friends. So I'm thinking about tossing in $20 for the magazine. Why not? In this packet of reasons for getting this thing was a commentary by Pema Chodron. The "o's" have double dots over them but I can't find that font so bear with me. This commentary has "four reminders" that they suggest you think about and make part of your life. Very nice.

On reading the commentaries I discovered that I just could not quite wrap my head around some of the points. Let me explain.
"Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life..." the first one begins. As Jess would say, "This smacks of speciesism." That is to say, why "human life"? Isn't animal and plant life the same part of Creation, a bit of manifestation of the Cosmic All? Then I wondered, "Preciousness? What means this term?" Why is any life to be considered precious? Oh yeah, valuable to those impacted by it, sure. Living grains are important to living omnivores and living plankton certainly precious to living whales, but overall it seems to me that preciousness is a bit over the top. Hell, there's something like 6 billion people living right now and many of them are busy dying, like all living things must do. I would expect something precious to be more rare than that. I immediately thought of an Ocean of Life and each wave comes and sparkles in the light of the Sun, and then it falls back into the Ocean and never comes back quite the same way. So in that respect you might say it is rare, but then so is any one individual grain of sand. Never two alike, right? So individual human life is common as sand and rare as a sparkle of light. But "precious" I am not sure about. Is it me or is this somehow a bit arrogant to suggest that human life is precious and not mention the rest of life? Then to say Life is precious indicates that somehow life goes away. Life is part of the Great Circle, it never can go away. The body fails, the worms feed on your nose and they fail and bacteria or birds feed on them and so on and so on. Life never leaves the building, it just puts on a new suit. So I can't say I would be able to carry with me the idea of the preciousness of human life.

"Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone..." Well I think I covered that above. Life never ends, it just begins again. Yes, the illusion of death comes to all that lives, the curtain comes between you and your past life, but you are still walking along the Path, you just don't look the same. That's my take on it and certain dead people have indicated to me that I'm not off the mark. I'm not using a revelation here, just cold logic. Everything that ever lived is still here, it just looks different. Like a nice berry pie... you got a bush with green fruit. They turn red and fall into your hand. You have ground up grains in a sack and some oils from another plant. Mix it up and partly oxidize it in an oven at 350 for a few minutes and you got a pie. A man eats the pie, relishing the sweet berries and thinking of that summer afternoon with his sweetheart, laughing and picking berries and eating the big ones. Next day some brownish, smelly crap leaves the man and is flushed away to the septic tank. The smell is that of living bacteria eating the rest of the pie. The septic tank moves the berry residue into the leach field where it transpires to the soil and is sucked by roots into the vines of a grape. A year rolls by and the man is sipping wine and remembering a summer afternoon.... it goes on and on. I repeat: Life cannot ever stop, it can only change.

"Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result, what
comes around, goes around." Well, ya want to argue about the definition of "virtue"? No, that term is so subjective the phrase has no meaning. Actions have results is a shorter version, but what else is new? Show me how an action in the field of Being could be so isolated as to have no result, even on the actor. Really, this is meaningless, except the part about going around is close enough to my previous rant about life that we can make it part of that "reminder". Then the piece goes into karma and such, which is a vastly different concept from cause and effect. Many faiths do not have karma, Christians deal with sin instead, and judgment. I think it's all hooey. You do things that have results. You die and become immaterial-spirit. You decide if you want to go down the chute again or stay where you are. Maybe you'd like to be a better human, like maybe not a war criminal this time. Maybe you'd like to be a bird and get that flying thing worked out. Heck, you have an infinite amount of time to try, why not do something novel next time? It seems so logical to me you could say it's a no-brainer. Why would my son decide to come back as a brain injured individual with not a lot of future and maybe a lot of pain? Who knows, I'll ask him if he dies before me. I'm sure at some level he had a plan. Just off hand I think I'm going to have to come back as an innocent gal so I can see what it feels like when some horny meatball guy lies to get into your pants and then never calls back. I have done things like that and it hurts my head to think of it. I'd like to contact them all and apologize for being ruled by my cock instead of my brain, but as I said to Jess men have a limited amount of blood and it takes a certain amount to think and a certain amount to get a hard on. It's an either-or situation. Not my fault, I knew better when we started flirting but by the time we kissed I had the IQ of a Cro-magnon and the willpower of an opium fiend. I'm really sorry, I feel terrible about it and I have tried to do better as I aged, but Karen, if you are out there reading this, please understand that when I was 19 and you were 16 I did the best I could with what I had to work with. It wasn't up to the task.

"Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don't want does not result in happiness." Okay, let's wonder here about the term "too focussed". When is enough too much? Not sure based on this reminder. Is she saying we should not think about being good? Why not? I try to be good every day, with the caveat that as long as I don't get a hard on I should be able to think of good things to do. Seems reasonable to me or I would not be trying. Thinking about being bad? Like Cheney can see his badness? He shot his "friend" in the face and got the victim to apologize to the family of the shooter! Oh, I have to call that bad, not good. Focusing on some quality you feel would serve your loved ones and humanity at large seems to me to be a good path to follow. That's why I send money we need for beer and sweets to children in Tibet for band aids and butter. Extremes of any kind can be bad, but that is, after all, the meaning of extreme. So don't obsess about anything. It's not easy when your dick is hard, so men have to try to catch the good ideas before checking out the cute red headed chick in the hot pants. But it can be done. I hear Buddhists make excellent lovers. Lastly I note that if we fail to avoid that which we do not want, will we not be surrounding ourselves with things we do not want and therefor we should not be very happy (happy being a good thing in this argument)? I don't want a metal screw in my finger, I don't want my finger to not bend any more. I obsess about the fact that if I am not focused on the damn thing it rises straight up on it's own like a 19 year old cock looking at a Playboy spread. I have to focus on getting it back in place so I can try to stretch the freaking tendons and gain some control over it. As of now the tendons are winning the fight, but I have an appointment for some occupational therapy and maybe they can talk to it.

A friend of mine suggests i place crystals on it every day and chant the chakras. I have chanted the chakras at various times in my life, because I wanted to be a good Buddhist and I wanted to be good. The net result was that I felt very enlightened and good while I was trying to convince a 16 year old girl with a truly good heart that it would be good for both of us if she allowed me to violate her special purpose. Chanting doesn't help if down deep inside you have chemicals flowing about that reduce your mind to a neolithic level. Jon could have chanted all morning seven years ago and still without the seat belt he still would have flown through the windshield and shattered his links to a functioning human life. That life is precious to me and I obsess about it, I focus my energies on how to make things better for him, and while I obsess on that I see my finger slowly lifting up, pointing towards heaven, or possibly asking for permission to leave the room. I don't know, I only can wonder. It's a karma of some kind, this world we live in and we should be satisfied that right or wrong, good or bad, when we divest ourselves of this mortal coil we will feed some other life and pass on the virtue of living.

Be careful flying over water, but don't obsess about it. Focus on the ride and enjoy the good view.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Studio in Winter

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This is the studio a couple of weeks ago when it was pretty cold outside. I thought I'd show you why I don't sculpt in the winter out there. Note the thermometer on the wall sitting at a cold 20 degrees. All the clay is rock hard frozen, the water is crystalline, even the plastic bags are brittle. I sometimes go out there to work on what I can do, like straighten up the tables, arrange the greenware, or unfired sculpture and sometimes, amazingly enough, I sketch. Of the three masks on the wall two relate directly to Jon and our terrible TBI experience. The bottom one is titles "Fear" and represents the first day I found out that my son was in a coma down in Arizona. Above that is "Jon's Bad Day" and it kinda speaks for itself. I'll post a good sized pic of the whole series later. The idea is to have a display of the masks in order with a written explanation of the subject below. Fear is how I started out. At various points in our journey Jon changed and my reaction was to go into the studio and work it out in clay. I suppose I could also sketch, maybe watercolor but I haven't done that much lately. I used to watercolor a lot, going back to schooldays living with Mom and Dad. I never could do portraits very well, seems a shame too. I have a couple nice ones that happened almost by accident, one of Margaret, one of a girl named Yvetta, one of Annie. I have an oil of Mom... come to think of it all but one is of women in my life.

I guess a lot of things can effect my art: weather, illness, comas. Right now I am suffering through an upper respiratory infection making it very hard to breathe. I used to get that a lot more often, especially as a kid. That was why I studied yoga, actually, that and seeing Dad put his ankles behind his head and walk around on his hands. Breathing was tough for a kid with asthma so I learned prana breathing on my own and expanded the volume of my lungs. It also helps to correct spasms, which I got a lot. It's a curious thing but Dad used to mock Yoga as a fraud, because when he was in India he learned the postures, but being an atheist he never tried to study the philosophy behind it. I recall him telling me that even they knew it was all a fraud because they even called these guys "fakers". He didn't understand they were called "fakirs" and it meant something entirely different. When he found that he could acquire the postures and yet he was an atheist he figured that meant it was all a fake. The sad thing is that if he had studied the philosophy behind Yoga he might have cured his alcoholism, migraines and lots of other things that troubled him all his life. Maybe not, maybe the lessons there could not have prepared him for pulling boiled bodies out of the bay. He saw death, touched death , smelled death and it made him know a fear that never left him. He was confronted with his own mortality and the knowledge of his own humanity, that he would rot like the rest of them. Oddly, he arranged to have his mortal remains dissected and burned. A medical school studied the old fart, cut open his chest and looked at the scars and tattoos and then when they were done they burned the flesh. If he had stayed in India, somehow, he might have been burned at the shores of the Ganges and his ashes floated into the sea. So in the end we don't have his ashes and we don't have a gravestone. I suppose it's up to me to make a centopath for him, maybe out back. I did a mask for him, part of the DeathMask series. I'm not sure he'd like that, he used to tell me I should carve more wooden horses and sell them. He liked my wood carving, although he said it was a far cry from Grand Dad's skill and I have to agree on that, but in time maybe I could have gotten better. I'm not so sure now with only nine working fingers.

I'm reading Joseph Campbell's "The Masks of God" series. I'm up to "Creative Mythology" and it's pretty exciting stuff. I wish Dad had found Campbell, I think it would have answered some of his questions. Most Westerners fail to understand the rest of the world about religion. The Yahwehists teach that their stories of creation and Moses are historical facts that happened in real places and dad knew how much of that was bullshit and reached the conclusion that all religion thought that their stories were based on history and so were bullshit. Let's face it, people being created from the sweaty armpit of a sleeping giant is a stretch. But of course they thought no such thing. Those stories were metaphors and understood as such. They helped you get past some basic questions and on to the harder ones. It does not matter in religion if we came from dust, clay or armpit sweat because we are here now and we have to get on with it. Dad limited himself but it was largely because he came from ignorance and was self taught and so he missed a few lessons, like Joe Campbell's excellent books on how religions came to be, how they work and where they can take you. For instance, Dad taught himself to raise the temperature in his hands by a few degrees in an effort to control his migraines, but not knowing the concept behind the act he failed. Oh he could do the tricks but he didn't try to understand the essentials. To him a black rock was a black rock and those who taught it had a soul were fools. He didn't make the leap to the idea that every black rock has a soul because every black rock was as much a creation of the Deity as we were. Since Dad did not want to believe in souls he refused to accept the rock as brother. He didn't want to believe in souls because he was raised in a Southern Baptist environment, and in that environment he was a sinner doomed to Hell's fires. Please note that in the end Dad did in fact burn, just not the way the preacher said. Western religion is like a practical joke that the victims just didn't get. Oddly enough, living with a drunken atheist who read aloud from the Egyptian Book of the Dead made me eventually a believer in souls, just not Christian souls. I became something like a Shinto, believing that all of creation was soul. It seemed, and seems, so logical that if I had a mind the universe must have a mind. The logic was that a mind and a soul were related like a rainbow was related to the sun. The mind was just a color in the rainbow, split out from the source by the material world in which it found itself. Maybe Dad should have read more Byron or something.

Well, in the winter I can write and take pictures. Even with a broken finger I can type, with some misspelled words but thanks to spellcheck even those can be fixed.

One thing that worries me a bit is having come from an incident wherein a finger was eaten by opportunistic bacteria I am trying to breathe while opportunistic bacteria mess with my lungs. We have to hope they aren't related because those bastards ate my finger joint and if they ate my lungs I'd be as alive as Dad much faster than I am prepared for.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I can see where someone might get into having their spoken word transcribed so they didn't have to worry about spelling and pauses and such, the actual scribe would fill all that in. That skill would be so valuable, so many people could benefit from having their words put down to paper just the way they said them. Of course, to be really valuable the people would need to read, and writing would have to be somehow understandable across the board, across the lines of class and time. I mean, to be really useful, how nice it would be to know how and what Ramses I said while puttering around His capitol. I have a DVD of my dad chatting with some of the family, some cousins, I believe, and his cadence and laughter would be lost in a simple transcription, but maybe the wisdom would not. Maybe what he said would have been handy sometime to read. I know just for a chuckle or two I recall some of his stories. I think I have better stories as far as humor goes, but his are certainly better for being real, assuming most of them are. If they aren't then there's thousands of people who would be disappointed to know. I personally love the one about him tiger hunting in India. That would be a shame to lose that one to our great grandchildren. Of course, by then the tiger will be extinct because of people not very different from Dad except they shot the tiger and Dad drove away. But I like Dad's story better because it's just like him not to hurt an animal when sober. He liked animals, and that's kind of interesting when I think of it. Not the usual stuff about the hard guy having a soft inner life, Dad wasn't soft anywhere except his gut and that was later on. No, it's that he had to have an empathy for the beasts he raised, cured, helped or saved. He had to feel as if he and the beast were somehow worthy of equal respect and succor. So he bound the wing of the same dove that he might have been shooting at before. But he was shooting to kill, not to hurt. He was shooting to eat. He wouldn't have eaten the tiger if he had shot it, so it would have been cruel, and more importantly, unethical. Ethics requires a relationship between the parties that is somehow equal.

Then there are Archetypes. These are People who stomped the earth, who made the valleys and seas. They invented Tools, or Mead, or Death. You can deal with a man walking into a jungle, drunk and wild, looking to shoot a huge animal and bring the skin home. That's a wild, really great story, but if the tiger is Tiger, then the man dies and never becomes a hero, not even to his son. But Hero, the Great Man who dares and dies (or doesn't die but who will in Time), have to die or he's just another immortal and there are so many Gods. Every freaking piss ant Pharaoh was a God. Volcanoes were gods quite often, although their idea of creation was often making a great vineyard on top of a civilization. You had all too often a God who blew His stack and buried a People, or at least a Tribe. In western Europe there is a kind of shaman called a Magi, which is not to be confused with the Three who were One. A Hierophant is another example of the same. Certain levels of archetypes can have multiple names right from the start. So you have this Merlin-Gandalf archetype of the Magic, all-knowing one, waving, speaking, doing something otherwise pretty common looking and then everything gets better. We win, our side goes home with the pig. But, in the valley below are the bones of those, just like us, who went home with the pig, too.

I have a pile of bones in the studio, most, I think, are deer. When Jon got hurt I went out to the desert and found them there. I think I wrote about it before. I've been moving them around, looking at patterns, making designs and meditating on them. One thought that came to me when I first found them in that wash was the wash itself. There are bright iron oxide colored stones everywhere in Arizona and every wash is a tonal poem of muted red and orange and brown. The bones are red, too, like some kind of chalky red. The stones broke off into reddish sand and washed around the bones of the red deer that fell into that wash. Or the young redhead who went out to party and never came back, but whose ribs and leg bones were mistaken for an animals by a man blinded by grief. Or they were just the bones collected there from a deer or a pig or a person and there are no stories, but only patterns to see in the way they move around on the table top. I have flint tools, stone hammers, bones, horns and skulls. All the things you'd need to make an altar or a bonfire(bone-fire) or if you wre a scholar maybe you find out something about a whole People and how they came to be where they were doing what they did. Great stuff, bones. Some of the earliest human art is scratches on the leg bone of a pig. Nobody thought to ask why a pig would carve up his own leg, or have it done on a bet. They just assume one of Us did it.

I'm quite sure I have seen a few gods/goddesses in my time here. There's that look about them, they can't hide it. The thing is, seriously, very few of them are Creators, so how can you blame them the way things go? You gonna get pissed at Mars for the Iraqi Occupation being a complete bust? First, it's not his domain, and second, if there was a Deity of that Problem I am sure they would take the side of the Iraqi Insurgents because we are the ones who started dropping bombs on sacred ground. Sacred to the Babylonian gods, the Sumerian gods, Assyrian... you name it. We did the Shock and Awe bit on Babylon. So when you wake the really ancient Gods and Goddesses of War you have to expect to take a few hits. They are right, though, that by and large we can just keep sending bodies to the altars of war and we won't get much backwash here at home, not from those Gods. Our Gods of commerce are capricious at best, and these ain't the best of times.

Having taught the ancient armies of the East how to defeat the young upstart empire of America, the Merchants of War sell the People to their new masters. Comes of re-reading the Book of Five Rings and watching a fine Kurosawa film. Kurosawa was well versed in Archetype theory when he directed Seven Samurai and the rest. Rashomon is a fine testament to the Trickster as any I've seen. So in all things the concept of Honor is brought up, the concept of Ethics, is brought up, as if these were so common they didn't need much definition, just some filling in the spaces. Like which People is it that the Hero is sacrificing himself for, or nearly if he has another miracle to perform? There's a lot of people and a lot of tribes, more, I think, than the number of Gods if you include Corporations. Here in America we have a myth that a Corporation is the same as a Person, that is they have the same rights and even sometimes, more rights. Because Corporations are like lots of People and so they have Lots of Rights. But still, in the end a corporation can only be a person and absolute power corrupts any person, always, by definition. Only a Hero or Magi is safe from ego and we don't have one of those handling things in our world today. We have Lawyers, and Corporations, and Pundits... all kinds of new Archetypes designed to fill in the gaps between the Gods and frankly I don't think it's working.

You know why I don't think it's working? Because people with machetes are cutting people's arms off, even when the people in question are very young and defenseless. People are blowing themselves up, flying into buildings, standing up in a crowd. That's how I know it's not working. This is why I go back to the earliest Archetype and see where We went wrong. It's Mama. Her and Her big Tits and Her eyes. The first Mama was a Bird Goddess. She took care of Her young, even throwing Herself in front of a Hunter to save Her children. The hunter remembered Her flying up at him when he found the nest, and how She tried so hard to protect Her young. Mama Pig was also very soon a part of our pantheon. She with Her numerous babies and Her numerous tits. She provided for all. But those who watched closely saw the Turtle snap up the ducklings, or the hawk snatch the chicks of the Mama Grouse. It confused a few, for why would Death so easily defeat Mama? A closer look reveals all the Mamas in the soil, the bodies, the water and the air. She's freaking everywhere! So Life goes on and Mama goes on, but She can be very disappointed in her babies. And Mama disappointed can be Dark Mother, the Crone, taking us down. If you are going to wake up your mama, you might want to do it from a safe distance. Now ask yourself, where is it safe to be from the Mother of Life? Looks bad for the miscreant.

So I plan my garden, collect the seeds and make sketches. If the spring is dry enough, we'll have new kilns and we'll start on some wood carvings, all of this in spite of the Recession, the War or the Other Crap. You still have to gather seeds and plan or the Garden goes to Shit.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sister names

My sister called me a name I cannot spell, but a fictional nanny invented it in a Disney movie. What if it means I have head lice or something? I have to type quietly as the Juncos are outside waiting on the feeder and I'm in here typing on my blog. They have keen if smallish ears. The Chickadees are patient and wait higher up in the trees. They know I'm a sucker for a feathered face.

I'm reading too many books again. The ones on consciousness collide with the ones on mythology and religion and then I have strange dreams. They want me to believe that some of my anxious moments are because my mother stopped suckling me to take a day job. They want me to think that I wanted to kill dad for having sex with mom instead of me. They tell me Tut married his sister, or half sister. I can't imagine being married to my sister, even half of her. Cher would keep me spinning in circles buying wine, tea and antiques. Jean would make me stay in the kitchen scrubbing pots all day. She'd tell me it was because I did such a great job, but it would still be me with the steel wool.

I gotta take a minute to comment about typing with this damn finger. Okay the steel pin in it stops it from flopping around like a half inflated balloon but this lack of feeling at the end and the lack of responsiveness in the middle makes the whole task of typing for a four finger typist a hell of a pain in the butt. So said I will move on....

There's a cardinal outside, not the Catholic kind, the feathered kind. He seems to have two wives or maybe a wife and a blatant mistress but they keep hopping about from branch to branch as if maybe if they got the right angle on it the feeder would reveal a seed cache or something. Tough luck, guy. I'll fill the feeder once I get this rambling , nagging thought spilled out. Why do you suppose somebody called them Cardinals? If they are named for the faggoty uber-priest then why aren't the under-priests named Robins or Chickadees? Maybe Woodpeckers? If the uber-priest is named for the baseball team are there groups of 9 priests called Dugouts or something. What is the connection between birds, priests and baseball? Ya gotta wonder. Three shrikes and yer out!

I'm going back to the beginning of this whole blog and redacting some of these ramblings, combining them with more from the TBI support group list and trying to do something like a book from it all. I'm hoping my sweety big sister will send me copies of my father's diary during WW2 and my grandfather's diary during WW1. I have a diary from the Civil War but it's from the grandfather of Teddy, my brother-in-law and best dead friend a guy could ever want. I'm sure he'd like me to use it. I have been thinking about records and sculptures and thinking maybe I need to put it all together and come up with a thread that could guide me out of this maze. Because I am not sure anymore what to do, where to turn or what is happening next. That's how life is, so you record the past. Otherwise you end up like Nostradamus and late night TV show host Meatball Adams.

I suppose it's best to start at the start and work your way up but somewhere in them posts will be events I have managed to forget and it may just piss me off again. Let's see.