Quotidian Update 9,002.3.ab.x

Zippy would have been a name for Teddy. That little guy fairly flies when he gets going. Bear is faster — longer legs — but Teddy is more airborne. They are fun to watch out there in the Small Dusty (my yard). This is what goes on in the early morning when it’s cool and again in the evening when the heat dissipates. I wish I could run around with them.

Long long long ago in Billings, MT my Aunt Jo had a fox terrier whose name — sadly — I can’t remember. As soon as we arrived that dog was all over me, humping my leg (which outraged my mom, but he didn’t know I wasn’t another dog), leaning against me, sitting in front of me looking at me with “How about NOW?” in his eyes. All he wanted was for me to go out back with him to the pasture where clumps of alfalfa grew. And why? Well, I was six or seven, a little girl. To me, then, it was a BIG SPACE, and this little dog and I raced around back there, jumping the alfalfa clumps and having the best time. Whenever I see a spot like that I still imagine a little girl and a black and white dog having the best time ever running and jumping in the summer evening light.

I have a clump in my yard that comes back every year and I really love it.

Today I’m heading to the museum to help with a PowerPoint show. It’s a terrible thing to have been a teacher because the instinct remains.

I caught up with the hearings yesterday, somewhat, though ultimately I wasn’t able to figure out what the upshot was supposed to be. Yes, Pence did good by confirming Biden’s election. Pence did bad by not stepping up much sooner and conceding. I’ve always wondered what Trump had/has on all these people to make them toe the line. Promises? Dirt? And why wasn’t Pence speaking for himself? But then, on Jan 6 he really DID speak for himself. I dunno…

Also, what’s your take on the censorship of language? Expiring minds want to know.

Your pal,

Henry Miller

Museum and Beans

Yesterday I went to the museum to talk to the new director about the grand re-opening and my little part in it. She’s amazing. The interesting thing is that I discovered she has met Goethe. A book fell on her head in a bookstore and she met Goethe that way. She’s just starting to get to know him, and it might not work out, but it might. As I’ve read everything and own a lot and don’t need it anymore, I packed up a bunch of books yesterday and took them to give her. She was very happy to have them and I had my first ever conversation about Goethe in which no one was bored. All of us have treasures, and all of us know we’re not going to live forever. When I can, I want my treasures to go where they will be treasured.

I’m still working on my presentation. I’ve timed it, and it’s within the 20 minutes to which I limit myself so all is well. I may share it later.

The beans are growing like MOFOs out there. I don’t know if I’ve ever had happier beans. There are two growing in the same spot, but they don’t care. There are at least 23 beans in that little plot. The sunflowers are doing a pretty good job keeping up with them. I should probably have started the tomatoes sooner because I doubt they’ll reach maturity, but that’s OK. The grocery store has them, too. I apologized to the beans yesterday for not having named them or having published “their” poems, but they let me know they are themselves their poems so it’s all good. I read an article recently that said plants don’t like us to touch them. I guess that’s probably true, but after five years — now six — growing them, I am SURE my beans like having me around.

I know there’s another hearing today. I thought last night that I already know what happened. I’m happy there is evidence. I don’t think I want to play anymore. I’m kicking aside the door stop and closing the door on this one. All I can do, I have done.

Hello MARTHA KENNEDY, Your Primary Election ballot has been counted by Rio Grande County Elections. Thank you for voting!

In Hot Water

Yesterday was full of events — most annoying? Water heater went out and wouldn’t light. I called my favorite plumber — and got the owner. “Two weeks, that’s how things are going around here now.”

“Well, maybe if you have a guy up here in Monte Vista he could just stop by?”

“I’ll put you on the list. Have we done work for you before?

“Yes! You guys do the best work. You’ve done stuff for me a few times and it’s always been great.”

“That’s wonderful to hear. I’m afraid that doesn’t change the list, but if someone’s out there, I’ll tell them to stop by.”

“Thank you so much.”

Four hours later he appeared himself and fixed the problem — which was dust and who’s surprised? 8 years of dust, 30 inches away from the dryer vent, seriously? He had the same vocal inflections as my grandmother which was wonderful to hear. Turned out his people came from Missouri a couple generations ago. They are farmers; he has animals — lots of them, so I heard a lot of stories about them — and of course we talked dogs and mountains. It was a great conversation, and it reminded me why I was so happy to get back here when I retired. “I hunt, but you know, it’s just an excuse to get back there.” He nodded toward the San Juans. He and his brother hunt on horseback. “Lot’s of people don’t like hunting, but we live on what we kill.” I’m not one of those people who object to hunting. I can’t. I’d rather eat elk or venison than beef any day. I’d be a hypocrite to object, as much as I love to watch those animals and feel blessed when I see them. I’ve even wondered if that love isn’t a deeply engrained human thing from millennia of hunting for survival. It’s like a lot of things in life. There’s no pure black and white. Deer and elk overpopulation means nature steps in with disease to cull the herds.

I learned that my water heater has a dust filter. He pulled it out then went out to his truck to get his air compressor. The filter is a narrow band, just a flexible plastic net. He blew out the dust — covering both of us — and said, “You ddin’t have to stay here for this.”

“I felt guilty just leaving you here alone for that.”

“Well, at least now you can take a hot shower.” I enjoy that kind of humor. The tones of home are always welcome, I guess.

This is going to be an expensive month. So, I have a couple of gigs lined up, one is an article the other is a fence.

I’m heading to the museum later to talk about the poetry reading coming up a week from Friday. After all the adventures yesterday I sat down and wrote out a talk. I’ve been to a few poetry readings, but, strangely, I can’t clearly remember any but Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti back at D. G. Wills Bookstore in La Jolla in another lifetime. I’m sure as hell not either of those guys. The other readings all fade into an image of a second story room in a half-empty downtown Boulder, Colorado, walk-up, the first poetry reading I ever attended. Folding chairs — maybe 30 — were arranged in optimistic rows. A lectern sat in front. A few students from the University of Colorado were going to read. I knew one of them? I don’t remember. From the ceiling hung two bare lightbulbs. The room was a dingy yellowish beige and the four windows that faced the street had pull-down shades. The poets fumbled embarrassedly through their poems, reading with serious, earnest voices, and then sitting down.

I don’t think it was like that for Homer when he recited the Odyssey. If anyone would like to read my talk, I’ll post it later. Let me know. I practiced last night and learned one thing which was not to choose poems with too many sssssssibilantsssss.

After all that, the dogs and I headed out to the refuge. For summer it was perfect. NO PEOPLE. Enough wind to keep the bugs off, perfect early evening light.

“I can’t believe you brought us, Martha!”
“Me either guys, but YAY!!!!”


The featured photo is me and a friend sitting outside D. G. Wills Bookstore in La Jolla in 1994. Allen Ginsberg is inside reading and so many people had shown up that they had to set up outside for the overflow. There was a loudspeaker. Extra points for anyone who can find me in the crowd. That would be quite an achievement!

Not Braveheart

The conflation of two ideas that might not even be related has become — or was it always? — very common. My favorite (note heavy irony) is the conflation of guns with freedom. I don’t have a problem with guns or gun ownership in a normal sense. I’m a good shot with a 22 and slightly less accurate with a heavier caliber rifle, but good enough to feed my family, I think Bear and Teddy might be better hunters (possibly not). Evenso, I don’t think owning a gun would protect my freedom.

I’ve thought a lot about what that word — freedom — means and I honestly have no clue. I think it’s both personal and relative. To every individual freedom means something different (throughout the day?) and, in most cases, it’s largely intangible, so we’re going to own a gun to protect our intangible freedom (and, ostensibly, our property). And, once more, freedom’s opposite is communism, another abstract idea. OH well… Liberty, on the other hand, that’s something to sink one’s teeth into. It means something…

Our incumbent “representative” is running on that abstract word and guns. Her campaign website has been renamed, “LaurenforFreedom.com.” Meaningless, meaningless, but it will garner votes because none of the other candidates are running “for freedom.” Who doesn’t want freedom?

The other evening I watched a candidates’ forum with the five people who are on the primary ballot here in my part of Colorado. One of them, the current “congress” person, who uses the word “freedom” as if it were a meaningful word, had an engraving of a long rifle of some type on the wall behind her.

Lauren Boebert (R) (with gun), Don Coram (R) (who thinks abortion is birth control), Adam Frisch (D), Sol Sandoval (D) (who was told to take down her campaign sign and did), Alex Walker (D) (who thinks old people have ruined this country…sigh. Your turn is coming, sonny boy)

Many people watching objected, calling it “campaign material,” but the League of Women Voters said it was their policy not to object to the decor of a candidate’s home. The objections rose saying, “Yeah, but she campaigns on gun rights.” The League ignored all the complaints and there it was. The “representative” didn’t say much, though she talked a lot, and some of what she said was inaccurate.

I’ve studied her appearance whenever her egregious image passes my computer screen, and I see there another example of conflation. As our news has drifted further from information and closer to entertainment, the attire of female anchors has changed, too, especially on Fox. I don’t have anything against attractive, sexy women, but when it comes to the news the important stuff is the validity of their research and what they say. But viewers now expect to see a hot babe behind the mike and conflate that with the information they seek; with credibility — just like back in the day a news anchor had to be a man to be believed. So here’s my “representative” using her “sexiness” (ew) to push her agenda. People are conditioned to recognize in her tight jeans, high heels, long hair, make up and short, skin-tight, shoulder-less dresses someone they recognize as an authority — because that’s what they see on TV?

The crossed out one is from the movie Bombshell.

Just so you know, I loved high heels, pencil skirts, etc. back in the day. It’s not the clothes themselves; it’s the image. The OTHER female running for office is a different kind of young woman, but lately she’s “upped” her appearance game going in the sexiness direction. She’s an awesome young woman with a brain, viable policies and a humane philosophy.

I don’t think we humans can avoid conflating things. We are pattern-seeking beings who would like to simplify our environment, still it can be dangerous and creepy.

The Neighborhood

Yesterday Bear and I took off in the evening for the first real walk in the hood this summer. We did a little one a few weeks back, but this one was for real. It’s been a couple of years since that was our routine. 2020, really. It was interesting to see the changes; the dump houses that have been fixed up, the nice houses that have been dumpified. I don’t know where the dogs live anymore so I was a little wary about where we walked, but it was fine. My goal was the golf course, but, as it was Sunday, they were watering. Sunday is the “Everyone in Monte Vista can water” free-for-all. A few houses that once had nice lawns have replaced the grass with rocks. I’m tempted, but it would be so hot in my front yard if I did that. Shudder. The yellow rose — the Harison Rose — that came west with settlers loves it it here. Mine is blooming more passionately than ever as are all the others up and down the streets. It’s a wonderful rose that spreads like crazy with stems and branches that are covered with thorns. Ultimately, the way I’m letting it go, it will be a hedge across the front of my house.

In past years, on our evening walks, we’ve seen a lot of kids out on bikes, some with their parents, some on their own, racing around like dragonflies, making a BMX course out of the high school parking lot and campus, but last evening, there were no kids. My town was very subdued, very quiet. In a way, that was OK because it meant people weren’t out with their dogs. In another way, it was just a reminder of how our world has changed. I keep hoping it’s just my perception of the world that’s changed, but I’m afraid it might be more than just me.

More hearings are going on right now. I’m not tuning in. Yesterday I thought of Watergate — I watched all those hearings and hated every minute of it. I was also just out of university and looking for a job. It was hot, just like now, and my Juvenile X was angry all the time. In Boulder in summer there weren’t a lot of jobs because a sizable portion of the population (university students) had left town, the lower-level jobs, service, etc., were gone with them. It took me two months to find one, my job at Head Ski.

Thinking about the events on January 6, I realize I know what happened. Maybe not the details, maybe not enough to convict anyone in a court of law, but I saw the whole thing as many of us did. It’s colored my life in unimaginable ways — naturally as the event itself was unimaginable, the volume of it as a measure of where our country is right now? Beyond measuring in decibels. If I’d been in charge of that shit-show, I’d have cuffed Trump then and there and hauled him off to Homeland Security. SO…

“Hold your powers together for something good and let everything go that is for you without result and is not suited to you.” Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann

Quotidian Update MXXIII and Some Boring Stuff about the Painting in Progress

The temperature here in Heavenish (it’s no longer quite as Heavenly as it once appeared) hit temperature highs yesterday I’ve never experienced here. Bear, Teddy and I were all shocked, and talking with a friend on the phone, I learned not only were Bear, Teddy and I shocked but she and her husband were, too. Her husband had even retreated to an activity he usually only does in winter — a jigsaw puzzle.

One thing that happens in the heat is that oil paints get more schmushy and easier to move around. This is good and bad.

That only makes sense, but who would think of it? All except the holy lapis ultramarine which, I think, is blended differently, a higher concentration of pigment to linseed oil, because it’s SO transparent. If it were made like other oil paints, it would just be a wash. The current painting isn’t relying on it much. I think I just put it on my brush from time to time because it feels like a friend. It’s a fact of life that not everything is blue.

As I was painting — with a very small brush — I heard my high school art teacher yelling, “Don’t use such small brushes! Get back from your canvas!!” No way to placate that man. I think he was a good art teacher, just not for me. Some really fine (and now famous) artists came out of Mr. Frost’s art room. I owe him a lot, too. From him I learned how I didn’t want to teach, even though, at the time I was in his “power” I had no thought of becoming a teacher.

I thought yesterday, “Mr. Frost, it’s not the brush or how close you are to the canvas. It’s what you’re doing with the brush and the canvas.” This morning I thought of a photo of Marc Chagall painting only a few inches from his canvas using a tiny brush. Godnose, Chagall’s paintings are not “tight.”

My new art materials book — which was written in the 11th century — gives a formula for mixing European flesh tones. Yesterday, looking at the woman, her hand, and her face, I went to my box of paints and got the components of my usual flesh recipe. Then I looked at the paint that was already on my palette. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Why not?” I mixed flesh according to the recipe offered by Theophilus and I loved it. Easier to use, easier to shade and?

Sadly, I was in too much of a hurry to see how things were going to look and painted the woman’s face while her jacket was still wet. OH well. That’s why God made rags, but the color? A reminder that I need to think about that face — draw it? — before I try again to paint it.

Paintings always tell me when to quit for the day and stuff like that happens when I don’t listen. There are still a lot of things wrong with this piece, but no one said it had to be a masterpiece. I have the cranes ahead of me and that is a physical problem because I’m not tall enough to reach some of them. I’ll probably lay my easel flat and paint them that way.

Creating…

The Scarlet Emperor Beans are creating my summer garden, and they are doing it with passion. These hot days (88 F/31 C) are just what the beans love most. And I? Well, I don’t love the heat but (as every summer) the initial shock is over and I begin to adapt, I know I’ll be shocked when fall arrives and the first cold nights. Then I’ll just be happy.

Meanwhile…

I’ve read a few articles about what makes a person creative. They seem to take one tack or the other. The first is that “everyone is an artist.” No. I’m not sure I know what an artist is, but I know not everyone is an artist. To be an artist, a person has to make art which, right there eliminates a lot of people. As for what is “art”? Another wormhole I don’t want to crawl into, and who cares? The second tack I’ve encountered in my reading is that creativity is the ability to solve a problem with the resources at hand. Yes.

I’m tangled up in a painting right now, and I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it. Why? I started it. That’s one reason. The studio is the coolest (in all senses) room in my house (north side). I’m fascinated by the struggle. I started it in a way I only started one other painting, and that painting was a lot smaller and the argument for the underpainting was more legitimate than with this painting. The light in the painting is the strange, unfiltered, angled light of late winter which gives the feeling that one is walking on shadows. There’s also the sense that the earth — the dirt under everything — is thawing, about to wake up for Nature’s Great Beanfield. When I began the painting, I had a strong sense of that. So I took out my trusty Natural Pigments and painted dirt with dirt. It’s set me up for a different kind of painting than I’ve ever done, but I think I like it fine, so far. Besides, who really cares? THAT is, I think, the bottom line for anyone doing creative work. If the artist cares too much it won’t happen; it’s paralyzing.

That’s been my experience in attempting to teach people to draw. I’ve had so many friends who want to draw, but who are afraid they will get it wrong. It’s a conundrum because in a lot of other subjects we learn the emphasis is on “trying hard” to “get it right.” I think creative work is a little different. Technique matters, but I think it’s secondary in the learning process. Primary, I think, is joy, the way kids have fun drawing and painting. There is a potential internal reward to any creative work, and that’s the pleasure of doing it, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you (think) you want it to. And this one? Well, I still can’t say…

After today’s work (6/11/2022)

Thunder and History

Bear and I had a challenging evening yesterday BUT Monte Vista got 1/3 inch of rain. The rain was complicit in Bear’s suffering because it came with thunder. She hates thunder, it scares her, but as a livestock guardian dog, she has to take care of her “herd” first. This which meant I did her the favor of going into my studio (small space) where she could hide from the thunder and protect me at the same time. The painting is “going,” not especially well, but it’s going and really that’s all I can ask of it (or me). I made the mistake in the beginning of thinking I knew where it was going, and I will soon go do some “unpainting.”

My challenge yesterday was reliving the events of January 6, 2021 when insurrectionists attacked the capitol building in DC. On the REAL January 6, 2021 I was working outside, and had the news on my phone because Congress was set to confirm Biden’s election victory. I never expected what actually happened to happen. No one did except, well, those who did.

The House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by a Democratic majority, put together a committee to investigate what happened that day. It’s nominally bipartisan with two Republicans, both people of immense integrity. The are now televising the investigation — on prime time — and against my better judgment (ha ha) I decided to watch.

There was some surprising testimony by members of Trump’s government — Bill Barr and Trump’s daughter, among them — decrying Trump’s wish that they lie about the legitimacy of the election. There was some scary stuff — not the videos of the day’s violence which is scary in a normal way, the way we expect violence to be scary (though maybe we’re jaded now, I am…). The scariest thing I heard was one of the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers — far right groups who organized ahead of the insurrection — who said, “Trump has only asked for two things from me; my vote and to come to DC on January 6.”

I listened, wondering what kind of mind (other than that of an adolescent in the throes of first love) would glom that passionately onto someone like Donald Trump (or anyone?) with that kind of blind passion? Liz Cheney made the point that the government of this country was designed to foster allegiance to the rule of law, not to an individual person. I’m sure that people today don’t think about the historical period in which the Constitution was written, but it was after a revolution that challenged the historic Divine Right of Kings.

I’m glad I watched it, just as Bear was glad the thunder stopped. It’s available to watch on Youtube and various other places if you wanted to. I think the hearings are not going to avail much, though, except for the historical record. Those who have a rabid fascination with Trump will not question anything as a result. Diehard Republicans are likely to view it as a Democrat machination. But for anyone else it’s an opportunity to see/hear the whole story in one place.

Here’s a good summary of last night’s hearing.

Home on the Range

I grew up with cowboy songs and while “coulee” and “draw” figure prominently in my favorite cowboy song, the word “gulch” is nowhere to be herd (ha ha ha I’m so funny). BUT the word shows up in titles to cowboy stories and songs, usually, “dry gulch” which is meant to evoke a dusty trail on the cattle drive north from Texas or maybe a bunch of outlaws hiding from the good guys, “I reckon they’re waiting down in that dry gulch. Be careful Lamont. I think they’re holding that eastern Dude hostage.”

Sadly, Lamont WASN’T careful and that explains how he became momentarily extinct back in the 19th century and Dude was dragged across the cactus flats for a good ten miles, not that good for HIM, of course. It’s an idiomatic use of “good.”(for disambiguation type “Lamont and Dude” in the search bar of this blog).

I never got all that interested in TV or movie westerns and I only read one Zane Grey novel, Wyoming, which, as it happens, has a protagonist with MY very name — Martha Ann. I thought that was pretty cool, but the story didn’t grab me. It was just a fiction dry gulch to me.

The “old west” was too close to fascinate me as a subject for fiction. At dinners of the extended family, I listened to stories of the “old west.” Maybe less old than the gold rush(es) but still pretty rough and woolly. I was interested in the settlers and REAL cowboys — like my uncles were when necessity put them out there working cattle. But other times they were working in wheat fields. Other times? I don’t even know. All work was gig work — seasonal labor. The family didn’t own any property to speak of. I’ve wondered sometimes who they might have been if it hadn’t been for WW II. WW II took one of my aunts to Washington state to work on ships. Another aunt became a nurse. Another aunt was already a teacher. It sent my mom to “normal school” and to the reservation to teach. My Aunt Martha went to DC to work for the OSS. It sent my uncles to war. Really, how DO you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

But… the nostalgia was passed down to me. I loved my family and I loved their stories, and, obviously, I love the Big Empty. In 2014 (as they would say) my “chips were down”, I gathered up my “winnings,” and came home to a world where men in cowboy hats drive trucks and there are more cows than people. I believe the heart carries within it images of home, and it might even be a place a person has never seen. The featured photo is one of my first photos of the Refuge. This is one of the first photos I took of the San Luis Valley near Monte Vista.


I sang this song for my 6th grade choir grade at the private school I attended in Omaha, Nebraska. My teacher, who’d been in Mitch Miller’s choir, stopped me before I could finish. “There’s more to music than cowboy songs.” Well, maybe, but it’s a beautiful song. This is a very un-fancy version.