Saturday, February 28, 2009


Our hyacinths are blooming; spring must be here. Notice the bee at the lower-left edge of the flower.

A Fine Day For a Suicide (a true story)

Talk about a blast from the past. These are the slightly edited original notes, written immediately after the event. But first a brief word about terminology. I had just developed the concept of "Event Contingency Matrix," or "ECM," and was using it whenever I could. An ECM can be called "the womb of circumstance" – wherever it is that events come from. Events can be running along one track and then – bam – they’re on another track. I called this "contingency warping." I was developing a terminology to describe shamanism, miracles, etc. Like "God," I rarely use this terminology anymore. Here are the notes:

Quite the ECM today (Apr. 28, 1975). A burst of Events.

First, Robin came over, which precipitated a new event: Judy & Robin will bake bread together tomorrow.

Then I got $10 from my old man for taking care of his place while he was away. Very rarely get money: a significant event. Then Judy went to P.O. and brought home a $28 tax refund check. We never get money twice in one day.

She also brought home a packet of books from Dave. I immediately started reading Spaceship Beagle and was still doing so two hours later when a car pulled up outside.

Eddie and a friend came down the steps and knocked on the door. I don’t remember Eddie’s friend’s name. Let’s call him Fred. Friend=Frend=Fred.

"Hi." "What’s happening." "Not much."

"We’d like to know if we could borrow your pump," Eddie said. They were cleaning out the Radium Springs Pool and needed to pump the last few hundred gallons of water out of the bottom so’s they could paint it.

I immediately refused. "I wouldn’t loan out such a valuable piece of equipment," I said. But instantly had second thoughts so paused and said, "OK, let’s go and I’ll run it myself."

So we loaded up the pump and some plastic pipe and headed down the road. Fred was driving, Eddie was front right, and I was right rear. We turned left immediately after the Rio Grande bridge onto the dirt road along the river. Just as we got to the Leasburg Canal Road, Fred stopped so a car on the Canal Road could go on by. Instead, the car slowed, and swerved towards us.

"He’s going to turn down our road," I thought.

The driver stopped opposite Fred, and leaned out the window.

"He knows Fred so now they’re going to bullshit," I thought.

The driver of the other car was a young Latino, high school age, about 17 years old. "My Dad’s going to kill himself," he said.

I went numb. What was all this hot ECM shit I was going to write about today?

"What?" Fred asked, unable to believe what he’d just heard.

The young man’s face started quivering. He was crying. He was freaked. This was for real. "My Dad’s going to kill himself!" he cried.

Fred and Eddie sat there stunned, so I instantly became leader: needed to get INFORMATION.

"Where is he?" I asked.

"Down there," he replied. Meaning at the river end of the dirt road that parallels, on the north side, the canal that bleeds excess water from the Leasburg Canal back to the river.

"Let’s go," I said. We turned left onto Bleeder Road.

"Where’d the kid go?" Eddie asked.

"He’s already down the road," Fred replied.

We could see a camper truck parked at the end of the road.

"What’re we gonna do?" Fred asked.

"He’s probably got a gun," Eddie said.

"Better watch your ass," I said.

We parked behind the camper, and we saw a portly Latino man, about 45 years old, with tan overalls and white undershirt, standing about 30 feet away between us and the river.

The man turned to face us: a dead mask. His right hand was tucked into his overalls, concealing something.

What does one do, what can one say, in a situation like this? The guy’s got a gun, we assume; he’s freaked, so you watch your ass.

In fact, you either stay in the car (as Fred did) or you open the door and stand leaning on the top of the car, as Eddie and I did, using the car as a shield.

"Been fishing?" Eddie asked, friendly-like.

"Catch anything?" I asked, friendly-like.

The man was morose; said nothing.

The vibes were weird; normally you never drive up to a stranger and just look at him, which is what we were now doing, conversation exhausted.


After a minute he turned and walked toward the river, and became half-hidden from view by a saltcedar clump. We expected a gunshot at any moment.

"What’re we supposed to say?" Eddie asked.

"I dunno," I replied.

For all I knew, maybe the man would be better off suicided, but we felt some obligation to the crying kid and had to "do something" even if it meant just standing there. What does one say? Anything you said would be an intrusion.

The sun was shining, birds were singing, wind blowing a bit, saltcedars in bloom, muted roar from the Leasburg Dam and Bleeder Canal... what a peaceful, fitting place for a suicide.

I was keyed up and vibrating inside. No inspiration, so I just stared intently at the saltcedar clump and vibrated hard.

After a couple of minutes the man turned and headed towards us, hand still tucked into his overalls. "Move your car so I can back out of here," he said.

We did; he did; we drove our separate ways.

Eddie, Fred and I went and drained the pool, and each of us said to the others, at least twice, "Wow, nothing like that’s ever happened to me before."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Garden Spider

We have hundreds of these large spiders on our place every summer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Laura's camera penetrates deep within the flower. Georgia O'Keeffe, you've got company!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meditating Sunface

When Laura and I were visiting Santa Fe last fall, this sunface called to us from across the parking lot from our motel room. She was hanging on an outdoor wall in the tourist shop we called "Jackalope Junior" since it was just like Jackalope, only smaller. "You are my people," she said, "Buy me!" So we walked over there and did just that. The owner sold her to us for a good price because I pointed out that one of her rays is broken. But we love her just the same -- after all, most of us have a broken ray or two, so she's in good company. She is now hanging on our wall at the bottom of the steps, serving as welcomer and guardian of our domain.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Virginia Creeper

Monday, February 23, 2009

Poppy and Bee

Eye Candy by Laura

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunrise Down the Rio Grande

Every spring and fall, for a couple of weeks, the angles line up so that the Sun rises right down the river. This was the view this morning. I like to get that first little diamond of sunlight before the Sun overwhelms the camera.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Iwanna Goes to Tumbleweed Hell or, Three Dog Omens (another true-enough story)

One night last winter, by the cold light of a nearly-full moon, my friend Skip and I discovered a place we named Tumbleweed Hell. It was a neat place in a prickly sort of way — acres of dead tumbleweeds piled on top of each other, inviting you inward along a barely-discernable path, and reluctant to let you go after the path disappeared and you found yourself entrapped inside with no way out. (Many real-life situations are like this, as you have no doubt already discovered, dear reader.)

When Iwanna, our Resident Alien friend from the planet Fargon, paid a visit to Skip and me at Skip’s house on July 10, 1988, it seemed like the natural thing to do to take her on a little journey to Tumbleweed Hell.

"Would you like to visit Tumbleweed Hell with us?" we asked her after we laid down our blazing guitars and incandescent mandolin, shook the string creases from our fingertips, and allowed the etheric music vibrations to gradually fade down a little.

"You bet!" Iwanna answered, always eager for an exciting new adventure like this.

Energized by our musical escapades, we set off forthrightly into the desert in the direction of the Doña Ana Mountains, and crossed the Leasburg Canal, which is the main feeder irrigation ditch for the entire Mesilla Valley north of Mesilla. The canal roared and hissed at us as we crossed it and continued into the creosote-covered hills which beckoned us onward. When we reached the Santa Fe railroad tracks, we hung a left, and headed due north along the rails.

We soon encountered our first dog omen: a dead dog body lying twisted between the tracks. It was a very dead dog body — there wasn’t much left but bones and the remnants of paw pads. Skip’s two dogs, Luna and Willow, sniffed warily at the carcass.

"Get your ass outta here!" Skip scolded them, so they skedaddled. (Luna, as it turned out, skedaddled completely out of the adventure altogether, and this turned out to be the second dog omen, though we didn’t realize it yet.)

"Shucks, I wanted to see if they would eat it," I said.

"You been hangin’ round Eveready too long," Iwanna answered.

Continuing on our northward journey, Iwanna walked balanced on one track all the way across an arroyo trestle. This task required much coordination, concentration, and muscular skill. She had passed her first test.

Then we came to a high bridge spanning a large canyon, and Skip "Walked the Outer Track," a death-defying ritual which involved walking on a sideways track suspended over a deep abyss, at the bottom of which lay certain injury, death, or worse. Successfully over the canyon, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Skip, too, had passed his first test.

(I am presently passing my second test by writing this stuff down for you. (I passed my first test by remembering all this stuff in the first place.))

Then we encountered the Guardian of the Hills (disguised as a human being out for a walk) with his three vicious killer dogs. The dogs growled and whined unfriendly whines at us. Willow’s hackles rose. She whined and paced nervous circles around her master as we proceeded along the tracks. The Guardian of the Hills knelt and restrained his two younger dogs, while the oldest killer dog made brief tentative snapping forays in our direction. The Guardian of the Hills flicked brief glances at us, but couldn’t confront our radiance directly for long.

The tracks crackled and glowed, and the ties radiated blue-green energy at the touch of our feet. Then we left the tracks, and crossed a field of blooming alfalfa. The leaves were green and the flowers were purple. The air smelled rich and green. Iwanna found a magic coyote gourd, which she tossed into the air hundreds of times as we walked, charging it with much energy and power.

Then, for the second time, we encountered the Leasburg Canal, the big Mother Ditch for our region. It was full of water. We threw rocks at the waters of the ditch. We used flat stones and skipped them across the water. First Skip skipped. Then I did, and then Iwanna. Each skip counted for something.

Then came the third dog omen: Iwanna Drew Blood. Dog Blood. Willow’s blood. The life fluid of a living animal was released onto the ground. (Iwanna threw a stone at the water and missed, hitting Willow’s front leg instead, cutting it. Willow yelped but didn’t seem to mind too bad, actually, after the initial burst of pain subsided... she just panted and looked off into space the way dogs do.) Iwanna offered her apologies to Willow and it was at that point that Skip realized that Luna was gone. The second dog omen was finally recognized.

"I wonder where Luna is?" Skip asked.

"There sure have been a lot of dog omens today," I ventured.

We continued our seven mile journey to Tumbleweed Hell and eventually reached our destination. And guess what? Tumbleweed Hell was gone! How symbolic! Someone had thrown a match to it and burned it all up! It must have made quite a flame. Now all that was left was a 5 acre open area, surrounded by a perimeter of burned mesquites and saltcedars.

Iwanna placed her magic gourd in the center of the open area. Then we turned and began our journey home.

Friday, February 20, 2009

River On

We went out this morning, and guess what we found? The water's not very deep, but there's enough for that "wall to wall water" effect. That's a tumbleweed in the foreground.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dragonfly on the River

As Usual, They’re Ignoring the Important News

All we’re hearing about these days is “The Stimulus.” Speaking of which – our beloved masters of hypocrisy, the Republicans, are now taking credit for the stimulus “pork” that will be flowing into their districts, even though they opposed the stimulus en masse. You’ve really got to hand it to them: their chutzpah knows no limits.

But the big news got ignored, as it always does. This is from Reuters, on Sunday:

Global Warming Seen Worse Than Predicted

The climate is heating up far
faster than scientists had predicted, spurred by sharp increases in greenhouse
gas emissions from developing countries like China and India, a top climate
scientist said on Saturday.

"The consequence of that is we are basically
looking now at a future climate that is beyond anything that we've considered
seriously," Chris Field, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, or IPCC, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science
meeting in Chicago.

Field said "the actual trajectory of climate change
is more serious" than any of the climate predictions in the IPCC's fourth
assessment report called "Climate Change 2007." He said recent climate studies
suggested the continued warming of the planet from greenhouse gas emissions
could touch off large, destructive wildfires in tropical rain forests and melt
permafrost in the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gasses
that could raise global temperatures even more.

"There is a real risk
that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide
from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for
thousands of years," Field, of Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution
for Science, said in a statement.


In other words, the runaway greenhouse effect. I warned about this in the April/May 2007 issue of Grassroots Press: “When temperatures increase a bit more, and the permafrost starts to melt in a serious way, enormous quantities of CO2 and methane will be released, which will double the percentage of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. This will cause temperatures to rise even faster, which will release even more greenhouse gases, and so on. Needless to say, the climatologists are keeping a close eye on this situation.”

So now we have respected climate scientists warning about the runaway greenhouse effect, but the average American is just as likely to believe the lies of the global warming denialists. As long as the Republicans retain their power to obstruct, and the Dems remained locked within their status quo mindset, the prognosis for effective action remains bleak. Obama’s stimulus package contains some worthy environmental initiatives, but they don’t go nearly far enough. If this is the best we can do, then we can kiss our collective ass goodbye.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inching Forward

I think I’ll start posting some of Laura’s photos when I don’t have time to write anything. The Ark is on the verge of becoming habitable, and I’m feeling motivated to get it finished.

On Saturday, Mundo and his crew came out and drove the well at the beeyard. It’s a productive well – as one would expect twenty feet from the river – but even better, the water tastes surprisingly good. We might even be able to irrigate with it. We’ll have to get it tested for salinity and dissolved minerals to make sure.

Last week the Highway Department reamed out North Arroyo with a Bobcat (a tiny loader), and built up the berm a little bit. A higher berm always makes me feel safer. The district foreman made it his personal project to straighten out a kink in South Arroyo. Everybody agrees a straight shot to the river would optimize the flow down the arroyo... but the question is, how to do it? Last summer South Arroyo ran extremely hard one night, blowing out sand and sediment, and lowering the bed of the arroyo farther than I’ve ever seen it in 35 years. This is good, but means that, even after drying out all winter, the bed of the arroyo, being closer to the water table, is still very soft just beneath the surface. The foreman decided to have the Bobcat haul multiple loads of rocks to provide a bit of solidity, but it got stuck anyway. So they had to bring in a big loader to pull out the Bobcat. Quite a little project. All in a day’s work for these guys.

More homestead happenings to follow, no doubt, as well as more of Laura’s photos.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Time and Place

Everything in its own time and place.

Sometimes a high-decibel multiple orgasm comes as a welcome change of pace from one’s ordinary routine. Or then again, maybe an honest wide-eyed appraisal of the “human situation” will engender an anguished period of fasting and prayer. You never really know about these things, and this helps keep life interesting to say the least.

Stringing cliches and stock phrases together in novel and unexpected ways.

Gut strings and nylon and holes in the air.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Our Pond

Every time my pasture floods – which is about once a year on average – the river leaves an inch or two of silt behind. The pond gets filled in even more. For a stretch back in the 70s and 80s I dug out the pond every winter with a shovel. It’s great exercise if you’ve got plenty of time and energy to spare. Even then, I was thinking about hiring a backhoe and giving the pond a mega ream job.

Eventually my priorities changed, and I stopped digging out the pond. Slowly, it started to fill back in. The flood of 06 hastened the process, and I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer – I had to hire that backhoe I’ve been talking about for over 20 years. This was the year for action.

It only took Paul Madrid an hour or so to dig out the pond as deep as his shovel would go – about 8 feet deep. He hit the water table, as you can see. When they turn the river on, the pond will fill nearly to the top.

I had him deposit the dirt in a circle around the pond, forming a protective berm about 20 feet in diameter. This will hopefully keep any flood waters from washing the fish away and depositing sediment in the pond. I trapped some tiny (2” long) catfish in a minnow trap last fall, and put them in a 55-gallon drum with an air bubbler. I don’t know if they’re still alive, since they’re at the bottom. If they are, I’ll put them in the pond next month when they turn the river on. We’ll also call the vector control dudes to bring us some minnows. The minnows eat mosquito larvae, and we ask the county to bring us minnows each year. They always buy a jar of honey from us when they’re here, which sweetens the deal all around.

Right now the pond looks like a bomb crater, but time will swiftly soften its contours. Once it fills with water, the walls will slowly slump, and the pond will become shallower and wider. I’ll probably hire Paul to dig it out every year or two for awhile – keeping it the same depth in the center, but widening it year by year. Eventually, I hope it will have water in it year-round. Then I won’t have to rescue the fish out of it each fall. I wonder if water lilies will grow in such alkaline conditions?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Backhoe Master

Ernie, who spread crusher fines on my beeyard driveway in December, was scheduled to dig my pond on Friday. But he had one problem: he doesn’t own his own backhoe. He thought he had a deal to borrow a backhoe from somebody else, but it fell through. At this point many people would have blown me off, but Ernie felt committed to help me with my pond, and lined up another backhoe guy for me.

So late Friday afternoon, as the sun was getting low in the west and the temperatures were already starting to drop, Ernie showed up in his truck, along with Paul Madrid, who was towing a backhoe on a trailer behind his truck. I didn’t see how they could do the work in the little time left that day.

After brief introductions, Paul got his backhoe off the trailer, drove down the dirt ramp from the shoulder of the highway to river level, and down the pasture to the work site. The first thing I wanted him to do was remove a cottonwood stump inconveniently located next to the Ark, right where our river deck is going to go.

It’s amazing how many roots a cottonwood has. Paul ripped and tore and gouged all the way around the stump, tearing out roots and great clots of dirt. Occasionally the very Earth itself shook when he whumped his bucket down extra hard. Eventually he dug most of the way around the stump, and could finally get his bucket all the way under it. A final gigantic tug and the stump tore loose, “like pulling a tooth,” as Ernie said.

Then he moved over to the pond. We have beavers here, who dig into the riverbank to make their nests. The nests are located about 20 feet from the edge of the river, and sometimes the roof of an unused nest will collapse, leaving a depression in the dirt. I had such a depression on my property when I moved here, and it seemed to be the logical place to make a pond, since it was already partially dug out. So I got out my pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow, and dug out a pond. (One does the digging during winter, when the river is low. Then, when they turn the river on for irrigation in the spring, the pond fills with water. Voila, instant pond!)

More about the pond next time. I wanted to talk about Paul, a backhoe master if I’ve ever seen one. Not only does he play his machine like a musical instrument, he has a joyous attitude to his work that’s a joy to watch. He really enjoys his work. He’s like a little kid playing with a full-sized toy. His backhoe becomes an extension of his mind, responding to his every touch. It was fascinating, watching his delicate touch on the two control sticks in front of him. He could make that bucket do exactly what he wanted it to, even shaking the last nit of dirt out when he dumped it. I’ve always been a “twenty shovelfuls of dirt to fill the wheelbarrow, then trundle it heavily to its destination” kind of guy, so I was impressed, considering that each backhoe bucketload could fill a wheelbarrow, and Paul could do a couple of loads a minute. (I hope I never lose my ability to occasionally have a gee-whiz attitude about things.)

Next time, the pond. Or, as I say, “Just for funsies.” I hope to be posting more about “homestead happenings” now that spring is almost here. Except for knowing that a too-hot summer lies ahead, spring is one of my favorite times of year, with the resurrection of the vegetation that has lain dormant all winter. There’s an excitement in the air as Nature explodes back into life – the river is full, the flowers are blooming, the bees are busy. Nature seems gentle and kind, in between windy cold fronts that rip the blossoms off the fruit trees. Within a month I’ll be putting my bee suit back on and, once again, become a beekeeper. Better get humping on the Ark, say what!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Resident Alien Leaves Town (a true-enough story)

On June 16, 1988, a mere five days before the Summer Solstice was to fry itself upon our parched and arid land, my girlfriend Eveready (named for the electrical battery as well as her sexual proclivities) and I had the opportunity to transport a resident alien to her Space Relay Vehicle. This alien’s name was, and still is, Iwanna Offargon. She’s from the planet Fargon. Like all Fargonians, she has the same last name. (This evidently makes a certain sense, from a Fargonian point of view.) At any rate, when Iwanna needed transportation to her Space Relay Vehicle (appropriately parked at the El Paso International Airport), Eveready and I eagerly leapt at our chance to participate in an unexpected new adventure.

We entered El Paso from the northeast side as evening fell with an audible “thump,” and as soon as we pulled onto Fred Wilson Boulevard, we knew that we had entered a different space/time reality mode. Traffic lights blinked on and off in sporadic unison like a slow-motion Morse code aimed everywhere and nowhere at once. Neon signs crackled and glowed in the darkening haze. Chinese restaurants, boot factories, and assorted military-industrial complexes beckoned in the distance. Soldier cars, driven by Bliss soldiers and emblazoned with totemic mandalas, cut through the traffic like hand grenades. The Franklin Mountains were semi-obscured by a thin reptilian haze which covered everything. The crescent moon whispered its silent whispers from the west. El Pasoans were everywhere. No matter where you looked, there was sure to be an El Pasoan in view.

But all we wanted at the time was dead lettuce.

“Having fun and sharing it is what Fargonians are all about,” Iwanna said.

“Victim mode is down the road,” Eveready replied.

“Where is the dead lettuce bar?” I asked.

Dead lettuce with sauce. And nothing else would do. We quickly became quite intent upon our quest, for all intense and purposes. We passed the 39¢ Big Gulp with scarcely a glance. The 49¢ Super Slurpee barely rated our attention. It’s DEAD LETTUCE that we want, and if we want it, you better just bet that we’re gonna get it, yeah! So we drove under the Interstate onto the frontage road on the other side from the side where we’d just been, passed a fond dude in the parking lot, retrieved ancient lip ripper memories from our collective primal subconscious, and told assorted lip stories and aphorisms, such as, “Get them lips outta you mouth — you don’t know where they been!”

“Don’t say ‘lips,’” Eveready explained with a camped-up Texas twang, “Say ‘lee-ups’.”

“I got a scientific dada and a mystical mom,” Iwanna replied.

I just sat there and took notes. (Hence the graphic accuracy of this tale.)

We passed the Bone & Joint Clinic, and it was then and there that I sensed that something was different: dead lettuce was just around the bend! And sure enough, at that very moment, from just around the bend appeared the Dead Steer Steakhouse and Lettuce Bar. So we stopped and went inside, being quite hungry for dead lettuce by that time.

“Fargon is farther out than far out,” said Iwanna by way of enhancing the conversation.

“Form is not what this is about,” Eveready replied by way of reply.

Then Iwanna and Eveready proceeded to fill their stomachs with a volatile concoction of dead lettuce, fried crustaceans, and freeze-modified bovine lactation product, while the Keeper of the Gate made lewd comments from his table and I watched in fascination, almost too preoccupied to eat my own meal of dead lettuce and dried sunflower seeds. (The Sunflower Kid rides again, but once again we digress.)

After we returned from Pause Mode, we found ourselves already at the airport saying goodbye to each other. Goodbye and God Bless. (God is the same no matter what planet we come from or live on.)

As Iwanna checked her ticket to ride, Eveready and I looked out the window and discovered a plane with a heart on. The heart was on the plane’s tail. Tail with a heart on -- this seemed a highly significant omen to lovers like ourselves, so imagine our surprise when we discovered that Iwanna’s Space Relay Vehicle Boarding Pass also had a heart on! Such a magnificent set of omens! This was just before the air-pert-nuurd walked by in the Main Human Walkway Area. (At least, that’s what my notes say.)

“It must have something to do with the Perpetual Pause Mode Effect,” I stated to each other, and we all seemed to agree at the time.

Then Iwanna performed a departure ritual for us. First, she gave Eveready a magic crystal exploding with a powerful spiritual light. “You are the bearer of Light,” Iwanna said, giving Eveready the crystal. “Thank you!” Eveready said, giving Iwanna a great big hug.

Then Iwanna turned to me and gave me two magic seeds. “You are the seed planter; nurture these seeds well,” she said. She also gave me a magic medallion to remember her by. “Thank you!” I said, giving her a great big hug.

Then Eveready stood up and flicked her bod just so, saying, “We interrupt this mood to bring you a blast from the past!” giving a little sideways half-step in time to the cadence of her chant, and right at that very moment, the loudspeaker spoke to us. “The Fargonian Resident Alien Space Relay Vehicle is now preparing for launch,” the mechanical metallic voice informed us.

After last hugs, Iwanna disappeared into the depths of the vehicle and we were no longer in direct sensory access mode with her, though our hearts were still together.

Eveready and I watched the launch preparations from the airport window. “Goodbye and God Bless, Iwanna. Godspeed on your journey. We love you.” was our silent benediction to her as we watched the last minute launch preparation procedure.

The launch itself took but an instant: a flash and the Space Relay Vehicle was gone. Our mission accomplished, Eveready and I left the airport and disappeared into the warm summer night. And that’s a whole nuther story.

—written June 17-18, 1988 (while it was still fresh)


This seems like an appropriate place to post the lyrics to a song I wrote about Eveready in 1989. She will always occupy a fond corner of my memory bank.


When I was young and full of spice,
I had a friend, and she was really nice.

She always knew just how to live.
She always knew just how to give.

She once was my heart’s delight.
She used to keep me up all night.

She helped me to understand
That love is always close at hand.

Just open up to who I am,
And love is always close at hand.

Love, love, love, love,
Love is always close at hand.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Creationism vs. Evolution

Happy birthday, Charles! In honor of Darwin's 200th birthday, I'm posting this essay I wrote in 1988. Surprisingly, the Sun-News printed it as a letter to the editor. It's hard to imagine them printing something like this today

There seems to be an ongoing controversy concerning “Creationism vs. Evolution,” and I would like to say a few words about this always timely subject.

Basically the creationists and the evolutionists are both right and wrong. Locked as they are in an intellectual battle with each other, they fail to realize that they are trapped within a false dilemma of their own making.

Evolutionists are right insofar as they believe in the process of evolution itself. There is plenty of fossil evidence which shows that species do, indeed, change over time. (However, these changes are not gradual, as Darwin believed. Instead, a species tends to remain stable over a long period of time, and then, suddenly, a new species appears.) Further evidence in favor of evolution is offered by the new technique of DNA analysis... which, for example, shows us that not only are we descended from apes, we are apes. (Spiritual apes to be sure, but apes nevertheless.)

Evolutionists are wrong when they think that the evolutionary process proceeds strictly by chance; that life is merely a cosmic accident. It used to be said that if you sat a chimpanzee down in front of a typewriter and allowed it to peck at the keys long enough, it would ultimately produce the Encyclopedia Britannica. Well, somebody took the trouble to work it out mathematically, and found that it would take many lifetimes of our present space/time universe for that chimpanzee to produce even one meaningful sentence.

Darwin didn’t know about DNA. Life is infinitely more complex than he ever dreamed. We can describe life, and analyze the DNA molecule all we want, and you know what? The deeper we go, the more life and reality itself will remain an unfathomable mystery. (Our intellects are far more limited than we commonly like to believe.) But one thing is for sure: chance alone is not enough to explain what’s happening here on Earth. Somebody worked it out mathematically, and found that the odds of random DNA mutations producing viable lifeforms is, for all practical purposes, a big fat zero. No matter how long you wait, even if you waited until this present space/time universe is dead and gone, chance alone could not produce even the simplest bacterium.

This seems an appropriate time to start talking about God.

Creationists are right insofar as they believe in God, the Prime Mover, the Universal Creative Spirit, or whatever words we want to label it with. In actuality, God has no name. God needs no name. God is beyond human understanding. For humans to attempt to capture God in a net of words is like ants trying to understand Einstein. If we wish to live a life of intellectual and semantic rigor, all we can truly say is: God is.
Creationists, of course, like to believe that they know all about God, and this brings us to the reason why creationists are wrong. They are wrong because they insist that their rigid, doctrinaire, narrow-minded interpretation of the Biblical creation story is The Truth. It’s an intellectual security blanket, is what it is, but The Truth it ain’t.

The truth is: the Big Bang really happened 15 billion years ago or whenever. Life on Earth is billions of years old, and has been proceeding according to an evolutionary/spiritual process we barely understand. A key fact to remember is that space/time is not all of reality. (This is where traditional science has fallen into error.) Reality also has a non-physical, or spiritual aspect. God is Spirit. We are made in God’s image; and we too, as conscious entities, are Spirit. To discover this reality for ourselves, all we have to do is drop our rigid dogmas and comforting beliefs, open our hearts to God’s infinite love, and wait and listen patiently. (The only way to experience God is through the heart, not with the intellect.) Eventually one discovers that God is really real, and that life — and indeed, all of reality — is a mysterious process that our intellects can barely comprehend. It is from this stance of humble awe that true illumination will come.

—April 29, 1988

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I’m finding myself curiously unengaged with the stimulus drama unfolding in Washington. I feel like an anthropologist observing tribal behavior on an alien planet.

Several questions come to mind:

Was Obama really so naive as to seriously believe that Republicans would support him in any way? Or did he have some other agenda? Will he persist in his “bipartisanship” nonsense, or has he finally learned what we amateurs out here in the sticks already knew?

I finally came up with the correct terminology. I’ve been experimenting with “aristocracy,” “ruling class,” and “Lords of Finance,” but none of these terms really caught the essence of what I’ve been trying to say. So from now on (at least for now) I’ll be calling them what they really are: PARASITES.

A couple of weeks ago I proposed a simple litmus test to help us determine if fundamental, significant change was really happening. The litmus test is: Will taxes be raised on the Parasites? If so, then perhaps there is really hope. The answer is now in; that didn’t take long! As expected, the Parasites remain in total control. They are STILL getting tax cuts! I’m amazed that they still have any taxes left to cut.

The whole reason for cutting taxes on the Parasites is... I hope you’re ready for this... cutting taxes on the Parasites! Reducing their tax burden! Transferring the tax burden from the Parasites onto the rabble! Nothing more! All this so-called “stimulus effect,” or, as they used to call it, “trickle-down prosperity,” is mere voodoo, mumbo jumbo, meaningless bullshit. There is no “trickle-down stimulus effect,” never has been. “Tax cut” is such a simple slogan; two three-letter words which, through constant repetition, have achieved a religious significance, like saying “Jesus saves” over and over again. Tax cuts are sacred.

As taxes on the Parasites continue to be cut, we will now be hearing a steady drumbeat of “entitlement reform.” Which is code for, “screw the rabble.” There will be (literally) uncounted trillions of dollars for the Parasites, but basic services for the rabble will have to be cut, wouldn’t you know. Fucking greedy rabble; who the hell do they think they are, anyhow?

Geh. It’s not a particularly inspiring spectacle. It makes me weary writing about it. Personally, I would bleed the Parasites until they weren’t so bloated anymore -- pop them like engorged ticks -- but that’s not going to happen.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Nursery Rhymes for the Post-Modern Era


I wish I was a banker,
I’d give it all I’ve got —
A two-car Cadillac garage,
An asphalt parking lot.

I’d fill my asphalt parking lot
With Fords and Oldsmobiles,
And I’d spend all my time inside —
Busy making deals.


Flip, flod, the grocer’s shod.
The butcher has no meat.
My parlor pot is standing dry
And empty in the heat.

(a song)

Ray was a mechanic.
His brother was a manic.
He ran around the shop all day
And wouldn’t lay his wrenches down.


Wouldn’t lay his wrenches down,
He wouldn’t lay his wrenches down.
He ran around the shop all day
And wouldn’t lay his wrenches down.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Saltcedar Song


Saltcedar Sam doesn’t usually say too much. It ain’t his style. But sometimes he gets real drunk and then he’s got no choice. One night Sam and I were getting drunk together at St. Elmo’s Bar in Bisbee, Arizona when those words of his started slipping out, one after the other, like they were finally sneaking out of prison after a long sentence.

Seems he went out one evening at twilight to find the saltcedar trees SINGING to themselves.

“Wow, Sam, very strange, Sam, I mean, whattaya mean?” Or something like that — I was heavy with Coors myself at that point and couldn’t hardly understand nothing except that there were some mighty strange vibrations from the barperson sitting cattycorner over there behind the vermouth bottles, doing her knitting, pretending not to listen.

Sam wiped a fleck of foam off his week-old whiskers. “Yeah, in HARMONY, you know? The big one over here, the little one over there, and a whole damn chorus in the background, just singin’ their hearts out!”

The barperson fidgeted slightly.

I ordered another beer and excused myself. “I’ll be back in a minute, Sam.”

Sam just sat there.

When I returned to my barstool, Sam was still there, staring at the ashtray, but the barperson was gone. I had completely forgotten about the saltcedar song.

The next morning I could have kicked myself in the seat of my pants for not asking more questions. What a missed opportunity! I mean, at the very least I could have asked him if the lyrics were any good.


The hills and mesas around Dos Garcias, New Mexico are covered with olive-drab creosote bushes. They stand about 4 feet tall and are uniformly-spaced about 10 feet apart. They don’t so much sing as hum. This humming keeps other plants away, including other creosote bushes, which is why they’re spaced uniformly about 10 feet apart. (Actually, the bushes aren’t spaced all that evenly. This is because there are beat frequencies in the humming vibration, and other plants can grow in the nodes where the frequencies cancel each other out.)

Creosote forms a counterpoint to the mesquite, which prefers moister ground and gives a shrill shriek during blooming season, much like the sound of a frightened honeybee caught between a window and a screen. But usually the mesquite stays pretty quiet.

The grand old cottonwoods along the river, some of which stand 100 feet high, sing with deep bass notes, like pipe organs. Most of the cottonwoods are sapped by yellow-green clots of mistletoe. Many an ancient tree is so strangled by this parasite that it simply gives up and dies. So does its mantle of mistletoe, but no matter — that’s what seeds are for. The mistletoe doesn’t really sing. Instead, it sort of clatters like gray bones rubbing together.

You can stand on Garcias Peak and insert yourself into simultaneous time and see forests of cottonwood dying to mistletoe and springing up again and great tides of saltcedar surging up from the Gulf of Mexico and clumps of tarbush marching across the hills, always in the direction of the prevailing winds. The Juniper Belt oscillates up and down the north slopes in time to the Ice Ages. And always the grass, the ever-present grass, rippling like it’s on fire in a high wind.


Saltcedar trees sing softly to Cygnus, home to Milky Way star clouds which are 10,000 light years away and beckon us on, gravitationally speaking.

The trees start singing as soon as Cygnus clears the eastern horizon, and their chorus slowly swells until Cygnus tops the sky overhead. Then their song starts to fade. By the time Cygnus finally sets, everything’s quiet except for the gurgling of the river as it eddies around the snags, and the occasional short strangled screams of rabbits being picked to pieces by Great Horned Owls.

The coyote willows, on the other hand, sing only on the night of summer solstice, when they bend their tops together and howl quietly to each other.

Friday, February 06, 2009

View Up the River

This is our view looking upstream. Even during our goat era, the riverbank was never this open. On the left is the big cottonwood featured in my Dec. 11 post.

The dark trees across the river are saltcedars, and in the distance are the orange stems of coyote willows. Their orange color seems to intensify as winter progresses. Coyote willow spreads by underground runners, and forms clumps, which is why you see solid masses of orange.

The sky is our typical New Mexiblue. Ever since my Dec. 23 post about the vicious wind, our winter has been remarkably moderate – sunny, warm and dry. I call it “Chamber of Commerce weather” because it’s the kind of weather the Chamber of Commerce would have you believe we have all the time. And this winter, for the most part, we have.

Our hyacinths are already up, which is abnormally early. Next the fruit trees will start to bloom, and then we’ll have a heavy freeze. Fruit growers prefer consistent cold weather lasting as late as possible. That way, the fruit trees bloom late, and are less likely to be nipped by frost. But not this year, alas.

I’ll post this same view after the river is running bank full and the trees are greening up.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Cutting Down a Tree

This photo shows Jesus and me cutting down the saltcedar clump in the beeyard where our electric pole is going to be. This was our major Wednesday project. When this picture was taken, we had already spent an hour cutting out the horizontal branches blocking access to the main trunks. We were an efficient team – I chainsawed, while Laura and Jesus hauled brush and firewood out of the way. They burned the brush, and tossed the firewood into a pile to dry until next winter.

While sawing, I thought about the thousands of other teams around the world busily sawing down the rainforest just as fast as they possibly can – the Amazon, Equatorial Africa, Southeast Asia. Of course, the trees they saw down are much larger. And unlike me, they will never stop, not as long as trees remain to be sawed down. Since the trees on my 8 acres put on considerable growth every summer, I figure that all the tons of biomass I’ve removed this winter don’t equal the annual accumulation of biomass on my property. So I’m still to the good, carbon-wise. And I don’t anticipate ever cutting down so much biomass in one year again.

Tree ring analysis reveals that this clump of saltcedar was 30 years old. We had it all cut down by lunchtime. Then Jesus came back for a couple of hours in the afternoon and sawed the logs into firewood. Next week we’ll have the junk dude come and haul away the old refrigerator, and we’ll move the papercrete mixer to a less-conspicuous location.

It was a satisfying little homestead saga... good hard exercise; goal-directed activity with a useful result. Laura and I have always thought how nice it would be if we could clone ourselves. One set of clones could work full-time doing homestead work, keeping our place neat as a pin and cute as a button. But now we don’t have to clone ourselves. With Jesus’ help one day a week (if he keeps working for us), I’ll have this place totally organized within a year. Then we can move on to whatever’s next, which I suspect will involve optimizing the sustainable food production aspect of our microfarm. Stay tuned for further developments on the homestead front.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pebble Shadows/Slanting Gravels

He tried to imprison his cottonwood in stone, an effort to dominate the tree, maybe try to steal its power? No harmony.

Flowing curves, flowing curves,
random spacing, private nooks,
lean-to shelters, A-Frame outhouse,
Late night heat flash,
giant boulders
hidden leanings
constant schemings.

It’s possible this might be the right sentence.
Or maybe this one.
Or the third from the right typed by gaslight.
And the trailer’s shaking.
Dark and lonely, wind chills softly.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Stairway to Heaven

Actually, this is the stairway to our Ark. After climbing an 8-foot ladder into the Ark thousands of times, I'm grateful for this elegant access.