Friday, September 30, 2011

Some Inspiration, or, at least empathy

Hello fellow writers. Last Thursday, Sept. 29, Jon Carroll's column in the Chronicle was terrific. Check it out. Titled: "Little Engines of Performance, Unite."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Celebrating 9-10-11

I took a walk around the county courthouse this morning by way of preparing for the first session of my class, Adventures in Nature Journaling. I was thinking about introducing various "points of departure" to begin studying and journaling about nature - bugs, stuff growing on bark, berries and seeds, etc. - and settled on leaves. As soon as I stepped into the grass, I was struck by the few leaves of maple, sweet gum, sycamore and mountain ash that had already fallen and were showing the first signs of "fall colors." The maple leaves pictured above were particularly attractive as they were decorated with dew and were lit from the side by early morning sun. They also had hints of red, orange and yellow. As our nation gets revved up for commemorating 9-11-01 tomorrow, I felt the need for enjoying the mathematical pattern in today's date, 9-10-11, and sharing positive feelings.
The Adventures in Nature Journaling class is offered through Community Education and runs 6 Saturday mornings. There is still time to sign up as each Saturday session is a self-contained, independent experience. There will be information and practice about several different approaches to nature journaling, opportunities to try different drawing, painting, writing and photographic approaches to creating a nature journal. and opportunities to collaborate on various projects or simply share experiences. Call me at 283-1746 or e.mail me at for further information, or call the college.

Don't tell me how to feel about 9-11

I’m neither more nor less patriotic than I was before it happened. I worried for days that a relative who works in the Twin Towers might have perished. I watched it happen on TV during my World History class. The kids’ responses ranged from touching to barbaric. I was numb.

While I don’t simplistically blame the USA for what happened, to think our nation’s behavior had nothing to do with it is absurd. I can’t blame the religion of Islam for what happened; it’s no crazier than the other major religions.

The genocide in Rwanda horrified me more than the tragedy in NYC, as did the massive flood in Bangladesh, and the Vietnam War and the massacre of Native Americans at Pine Ridge. I can’t explain the varying degrees of emotional or intellectual response that happen, but I can at least be honest. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by my response, and sometimes not. Perhaps the event that struck me deepest was the assassination of JFK. But then I was only 22, and I saw how that event made one of my professors cry while another one celebrated. I was standing between them, emotionally paralyzed.

So, quit putting paper flags in my newspaper and suggesting how I should respond to an event publicly, treating it like a high school football rivalry. I will deal with it privately.

Ever since third grade my patriotism has been best summarized by a Woody Guthrie song I learned that year; even though this land wasn’t really made for you and me, I do love it.

9/8/11 Joe Willis

It’s such a Pretty World Today

Look at the Sunshine”*

Thank you Buck Owens, we needed that today…

September 11, 2011

Ten years after 9/11 in the middle of a war in their country

A war to protect them and us from terrorism

The Afghan men in Helmand province Afghanistan

Have no concept of the twin towers or the meaning of 9/11

And among the things that really count

None of them have a Facebook account either

Talk about ignorant, underprivileged, Stone Age,

third world natives.


Where are American tax dollars and USAID when we need ‘em?

Lucky for us the news media is on the job

Shown a picture of the burning twin towers by a reporter

Only one man could imagine such a big building

He said this must be Kabul

The capital of Afghanistan

But he had never been there.

Back in the real world

In the center of the Universe

The place that really counts

Our young people only have a vague sense

Of what Viet Nam was or is

They know about Iraq and Afghanistan

Their friends are dying there

Sixty-six in August of 2011.

In our world where a family spends more

For Internet service than an Afghan family makes in a year

The answer to everything is just a click away

“Where is Viet Nam?”

“What movie star got divorced today?”

Just ask Google or Wikipedia or Jeeves

The answer is there in .05 seconds with 55,005 choices.

While back in the war zone after an attack

On an Afghan Talaban base camp

Where 32 civilians were killed

A marine 2nd Lieutenant was heard to say

“We missed again, we got a great body count

But not one I-pad was liberated….”

*The line is from a Buck Owens very popular c & w song which was playing as I was writing at the Court House Cafe

9/7/11 Mike Reagan

I wonder sometimes why we grieve so much for a group of alive, working, probably mostly happy individuals – who die as one in a brief moment – when those in poverty / with hunger / living under oppression are in pain most of their lives and we grieve little and do even less. It is a horror of a different kind – but one that perhaps we are all partially responsible for. Terrorism is cleaner – we can claim to be the good guys.

9/06/11 Linda Cayot

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


by Mary-Louise Ruth

... nothing becomes something much more potent, which is absence.”

-from “Ground Zero” by Suzanne Berne, Patterns for College Writing,

ed. Kirszner & Mandell.

But, what do we bring to Ground Zero

That empty space?

Hate, an absence of compassion?

Revenge, an absence of understanding?


Curiousity, inciting knowledge?

Tourists crowding to see

An empty space”,

One old man remembered

The empty site

Before the towers were built,

Flashbulbs popping to capture

a double negative”.

Berne saw “a great bowl of light”

making absence visible.

What's the loss?

1776 foot tall towers crumbling

As steel girders melted?

2753 lives tumbling down

Into ashes?

343 firemen incinerated

While doing their jobs?

A nation's innocence

We could never afford?

All gone.

Grief resurrects life

Fear extinguishes living

Grieve our loss

Empty our fear

Holy War on Terror

Ka-pow! Crash! Flash!

The Trade Centers were no more,

Pierced by jet missiles,

Attacks that blasted the world awake.

Impacts like those should have altered the spin of the planet.

Should have shaken our shackles loose,

Freed our minds to fly like the dying diving wingless brave

From the 93rd floor of the north tower.

Where to go but straight out to absolution?

Never more to shutter truth out, distracted, no more.

25 thousand children pass from mortal life daily, victims of preventable diseases not prevented.

4 thousand, plus, wither each day, dust-to-dust, wrung dry by diarrhea.

11 thousand taken by the death gods, Malaria and TB, and the autoimmune curse.

Holy War on Terror

Ultimately, 2,752 crushing deaths,

Well-dignified even 10 years gone by.

Being among the counted,

Their death-day a special day of dying,

Noticed, a mirror put up to their absence,

The breath of something important to see.

Noticed, it was shocking,

Blasting the not-dying with news of…

Oh, it is hard to speak of.

22,000 young ones die each day. 1 child dies every 4 seconds. 15 children die every minute. As soul shaking as a Haitian earthquake or an Asian tsunami occurring every 10 days, 8.1 million kids die every year. Each one dies only once. It is always sudden in the mother’s heart. That day, a not so special death-day.

Holy War on Terror

Madly, the buildings burst into gorging flames,

And the structures came crashing down.

Grinding a marvel of civilization to an incinerated rubble.

One tower, the other tower, and others, mysterious, too.

How the offices and elevators were gored and ripped.

How the people grasped for what they were going to lose.

5479 die, not immunized, on every given day.

15 million orphaned, reared by kids, by soldiers, by themselves.

Two towers of power, cathedrals of work ethic and wealth,

Elevating dreams of grand society high into the blue sky of hope,

This, the sacred work of American Dreaming,

Slashed by explosive jealousy.

The richest 20 percent of the world's living

Have 75 percent of the world's riches.

The poorest 40 percent live with 5 percent.

800 million have no access to clean water.

2.5 billion have no toilets.

Holy War on Terror

The crown of sophistication tumbled that day,

Struck by a few men going too fast,

Men in hijacked, fueled-up machines,

Speeding, accelerating, faster, faster, for the cause…

No care of loss, pain, suffering, just the cause…

Pushing that agenda…forward, onward, more, more…

Eyes fixed on the goal, that single achievement.

And the terrorist said, “Terrorism against America is a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop killing our people. We had to destroy the towers in America, so that they taste what we tasted and they stop killing our women and children.”

See what we have done?

See what one can do?

Like a stone from David’s sling,

Slamming one pride open with another,

Exploding like two pillars of salt,

Two twisted, holy hells melted in a toxic pile,

One glory pelted another

And the money almost stopped moving, for maybe a minute,

While the world watched a piece of civilization burn.

Holy War on Terror

Silent killers, poverty, hunger, preventable disease, illness,

Enough suffering to make a god angry,

A daily, ongoing catastrophe, ignored,

The daily omission of awareness

Distantly dying children, one by one, every few seconds.

You can count the moments. You can count the lives.

Can you hear the soft beating of their wings?

Holy War on Terror

on the occasion of Hassan, a Man

Wave after wave

The shock of the force

Is a body-blow, a hit

Not like a wound or knife in the gut,

But strong and tiring,

Wearying, sapping,

Making me a zombie

Of tiredness, a man in a zone,

The buzz of the lamps

Overhead echoing the buzz

Buzz in my head, as if

A migraine that didn’t

Know its name—THIS

Is the feeling

Of a man who knows

His people have fallen

Without reason. What

Can I do? No, you

Do not know

What you say, You

Do not know the world

You do not know

The vermin of thoughts

Not worthy the name

Of reason. Not worthy,

Like something less than dirt

(Dirt is rich, no matter

Its crevice. Dirt, my mother,

Did bear me

So I could be here)

Less than grime

Less than slime

Less than ryme

Of a morning that fades

Before noon,

Thou art not reason.

Thou art negligible,

Oh Argument

That moved this man, poor man,

Who gave up to a black urge

That need not have been.

Who is your imam, oh reader?

Who advises you?

Do you get your hopes at the corner,

With your cigarettes? Do you

Find spirit in the gutt-sounds

Of a set of big pipes? A fine car?

A fine flat screen for images

Of leer and lure and lean?

Do you get your mind here,

On the page I write for you?

Are you outraged? Out-manned?

What, really, would goad you on?

Gut you forward to be more

Than you are, more than your mom

Envisioned for you? Where, I ask,

Do you get your cigarettes? Where

Your wine? Your beer? Your

Chocolate? Do you feel, as I do,


Wave after wave.

Body-blow, hit

To my heart, sweet heart

Where I thought I would

Keep to the side a meager

Something, a hope, a crumb

To make this life something

Something, something.

Way after way

Born after born

Keep me lord, apart

From these dire things.

I do not know who

These madness are.

I do not know who

These madness are.

I hope

You can see me

To the other side

I hope

You can see me

To the other side.

I want

I cringe

I cannot

Seem to see

What has been done

In my world.

November 10, 2009


Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Little Color for the Weekend

A week ago I posted on my blog, blackoaknaturalist, pics of a Red Milkweed Beetle that I spotted on the side of Chandler Road in a small patch of milkweed around the 5,000 "block." Yesterday, she was still there, so I got a few more pics, plus a few of my friend Mike's pansies. Then, for good measure, I'm throwing in an unusual view of Red Columbine which is still hanging on wherever there's running water or moist soil.
While most of the fields and roadside shoulders are turning brown, I like to steal a few splashes of color associated with summer before what we normally call "fall colors" take over.
I've been seeing lots of bunches of the beetles' eggs on the Showy Milkweed, so I'm confident that we'll have a good crop of these beetles next summer. They're one of my favorite photo subjects.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Recent Publications

There's This Train Unbound at Best Fiction, http://

and a fun article on Los Angeles