Friday, September 24, 2010


Ken Pearson breathed his last on Monday night. Pneumonia finally did him in, as it does so many. He was in and out of consciousness on Friday, but never responded or opened his eyes. The stubborn old Swede held on longer than anyone could have expected. The will to live was strong in that one; in the end, it was like sitting with a breathing corpse. His spirit was completely gone, but his body insisted on taking one - more - breath. Then another. Then another. Tough old bird. It was a long time coming and hard to watch, but you gotta admire the sheer perserverance. Poor old guy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dear Mom,

There are so many things I miss about you, I can’t begin to tally them all, but today, I miss being able to call you up and complain about my life.

I’m on the other end of the mom continuum now, I know the drill: my daughters call me, they’re upset about something, they tell me their troubles, I comfort them. That’s how it works. I don’t question their motives or strategies, I don’t suggest alternatives. It’s not my job to tell them what they've done wrong, it's my job to tell them that they are absolutely right, always, in every situation. Very occasionally I might suggest a slightly different approach, not because my daughters are WRONG – they are never wrong - but because the world is full of assholes who obviously don’t understand this basic, universal truth. Sometimes, I explain to my girls, you have to humor these idiots to get what you need.

Then we laugh and talk about what’s really going on. I listen closely for clues and labor mightily to keep my solutions to myself. They don’t call me for solutions, they call because they need to hear their mama tell them that everything is going to be OK. So, that’s what I tell them. I like to think that, more often than not, they hang up the phone with a load off their mind and a new sense of purpose. I know I did when my mother used to say the same things to me.

I understand that this is not a two-way street. I can’t cry on my girls' shoulders; it would upend the natural order, rob them of their trust. They would never be able to lean on me again, and that’s the worst tragedy I can imagine. I can’t talk to Mr. Oblivious, the man for whom the phrase “the sound of silence” was invented. There’s no one left in my life I can pour my heart out to, no-one who will listen intently without judgement and tell me in every situation that everything is OK.

Mama, whenever I was sad, sick, sore, sorry, whenever I couldn’t see my way clear through the darkness and despair, you’d tell me that everything was OK. You'd say, “don’t let ‘em beat you. Don’t let ‘em keep you down.” You knew whereof you spoke, didn’t you? Those words came from deep experience. I’m feeling beaten down today and god, do I wish I could hear your voice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Heracletus v. Pythagoras

In the last few months, I’ve written posts about a) my inability to deny my intrinsic nature and b) my ongoing, daily efforts to create an identity. Which is it, girlfriend? Is there something distinct, unique about each and every one of us? Some intrinsic quality that we are born with, dare I call it a “soul?” Or is creation a constant flux defined by action, foreword motion, change?

The early Greek philosopher Heracletus believed that change is the foundation of all creation. He is credited with the saying, "Everything flows, nothing stands still." Heracletians believed that fire was essential element that defines existence, and fire is nothing but constant consumption. He is the source of the famous aphorism that no man can step in the same river twice: "We both step and do not step in the same rivers." In other words, there is no permanent reality. Change is all.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Pythagoras (he of the theorem), who apparently believed in a constant, essential universal structure derived from mathematical principals and moral certainties. “Apparently” because none of his original writings survive; the only evidence for his philosophy is the testimony adherents made decades, and even centuries, after his death. Much of their evidence is muddled and contradictory, but it seems clear that he believed in an immutable soul. Life, to him, is not a process of becoming; it is a process of uncovering that which already exists. He must have been encouraged in these beliefs by his mathematical discoveries. "The area of the square built upon the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares upon the remaining sides" doesn't change. It is, was and always will be.

So, which is it kids? Are there fundamental, eternal truths that underlie all creation? Or, are we nothing but change, forward motion, will manifesting as action?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bitter Blue

Coming down out of the hills west of Weed yesterday, a hundred horses grazed in a tawny field, massive Shasta and the autumn sky in the background. Azure with a hint of indigo is, for me, the color of nostalgia made manifest. That soulful, bitter blue sends a shiver of pleasure and pain deep into the root of my being. Why am I so enamored by the end of things? The alpha and the omega, the high and the low; I'm a sucker for a dichotomy, always seeking balance in the chaos.

For many years, I had two small Maxfield Parrish reproductions on either side of my door: "Ecstasy" on one side, "Contentment" on the other. I guess that was my idea of balance; clearly, I don't much relate to enlightenment, I only know what I feel. Age has cooled those passions somewhat, but not much.

Do any of us ever really know one another? Admittedly, that question came out of left field, but it has been much on my mind lately. The secrets we keep from each other, the truths we cannot tell ourselves - do we ever know ourselves? And, if we don't know ourselves, how can we know others? How can anyone know us?

I am constantly rewriting the story of my identity, continually improvising a new sense of self. I have no idea when or where or how the climax of the story will come, much less the dénouement. I have no idea what the morale of the story is; I make it up as I go along, negotiating the border between ideal and reality. The angel on my shoulder has to live in this world just like everybody else.

But, the hag of the hedges rides alone.

We think we know someone and then they do something that we consider to be so completely out of character it makes us question whether we ever knew them at all. I guess I'm glad to know that I'm still capable of surprise. I wonder though, am I capable of surprising others? Could I, would I, take a hard left turn out of the deep groove that I've dug for myself? Unhitch the traces, open the gates and run free?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Predator and Prey

Driving home late Tuesday night, a big buck Elk with a full rack of antlers, 4 points to each side, was making his way towards Cottonwood Creek. I stopped the car to get a better look at him, rolled down the window. He lifted his magnificent head and, without the slightest quiver of a muscle, vaulted over a barbed wire fence and majestically stalked off into the night.

The next night, driving home late again, I saw a cougar cross the road in the very same spot, a flash of tawny hide that I thought for a moment might be a bobcat. Then my headlights caught him full on, illuminating the breathtaking size of him, that long twitching tail. I tried to angle the car lights to catch a better glimpse, but he slipped into the underbrush and was gone.

In the waning light of autumn, I am confronted by predator and prey. Can’t get more primal than that.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Woah Nellie

This photo was on the front page of today's Medford Mail Tribune:

And they call this a Blue State. I beg to differ.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Horns of the Dilemma

Here's the kind of question we ask ourselves in the Colestin: if a guest wakes up with a massive black eye, the direct result of extreme overindulgence crossed with gravity, was the party a success or a failure? A bunch of boys held the Testosterone Olympics in the meadow this weekend. The moonshine came out in the middle of the afternoon. There was much smoking of substances and cooking of meat, followed by cigars and more drinking, capped off by a semi-conscious header into the creek in the middle of the night. Yup, that's a party alright. I may have to revive talks of a liability waiver. Just kidding; my beloved friends and family are all adults who take responsibility for their own choices...I hope.

I freely admit, the meadow encourages this kind of behavior. Nobody's driving anywhere, so you might as well drink. As Ed put it, our place has the "fuck it" factor, as in "let's go to town...naw, fuck it." There ain't a lot to do but sit around the fire and imbibe. Although, really, what's better than that?

My falling down drunk days are behind me (thank the goddess), but I don't begrudge them in others. When I used to drink, my hangovers where so vile and violent, I literally thought I was going to die. It was no fun anymore and, if it ain't fun, what's the point? Nobody drinks for their health. But, if it's still fun for you, mazel tov says I. Park the car and have at it; just have a story ready for the wife when you show up in the morning hangdog, hungover and sporting a huge shiner.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Crank it

Sometimes starting a show is like starting an old car. We walk onstage, turn the key, and listen to the engine crank throughout the first song. Will the battery die? Will we give it too much gas and flood it? Will the engine ever turn over or are we going to have to get out and push all night long?

Last night’s Green Show was a little like starting an old car. I was turning the key and pumping the gas pedal through the first couple of songs, wondering if we were ever going to get this old jalopy moving. When the car won't start, I tend to pump the gas and flood the engine. No-one wants to see a performer work; it’s our job to make it look effortless.

The engine finally caught during “Dark as a Dungeon” a slow, somber song about the miner’s life; "the dangers are double, the pleasures are few." Sometimes the jump-start we need can’t be achieved with “harder, faster, louder.” Sometimes that kick in the pants comes from going deeper into the soul of a song. I have to be quiet and listen hard to catch it, but it’s almost always there.