Friday, December 29, 2017

A Letter to John

In war the dark is on nobody’s side; in love, the dark confirms we are together.
– John Berger

John, it’s been over a year since the election, over a year since Ash and I found out we would have a child. It’s a few days until the anniversary of your death. I still find myself waking in the witching hours, thinking as though speaking to you.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


The Klamath is dammed. The Sacramento is dammed. The Yuba and Tuolumne are dammed. The San Joaquin is dammed. The Columbia is dammed and the Snake is dammed. The Missouri and the Ohio and the mighty Mississippi are dammed. The Hudson is dammed, the Saint Lawrence is dammed. The Rio Grande is dammed.

Lassen is dammed and Shasta is dammed. Even Rainier is dammed. Whitney and Denali, dammed. Clouds Rest and Half Dome and El Capitan are dammed. The Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, the Rockies Canadian and American, all dammed. The continental divide is dammed, Muir Pass is dammed. Donner Pass was dammed from the beginning. Siskiyou summit is dammed, the highway there is dammed, the trails are dammed, the PCT is dammed, 2600 miles, dammed.

San Francisco Bay, Monterey Bay, Suisun Bay, they too are dammed. The headlands of Big Sur are dammed. The shore is dammed, the granite stones are dammed, the cypress trees of Point Lobos are dammed. The great waves sweeping in from the west, spume at their heads, shadows of seals and kelp backlit in the emerald water, they are dammed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thoughts in a Book: February 2016

Feb 18

There is a feeling here of being on the periphery of humanity. If the news is to be believed, the masses of humanity are concerned with oil prices, stock markets, elections. Urban concerns brought on by so many people living shoulder to shoulder. Unions, parties. Nations, borders, waves of migration and the blocks against that tide.
Those things don’t touch us except in a few ways – the price of propane and gas, worries about Trump and the tenor of political debate.
We are concerned about the human sphere, but we are peripheral to it. Perhaps I should say the ‘civilized’ sphere. We enter it when we go to town, when we buy groceries and gas. We enter it when we use Facebook and Google. We are steadily working out of that frame of reference here, where life is centered on soil, vegetables, chickens, dogs, hawks, herons and turkeys, mountains, pines and firs, snow, rain and sun, rivers and ponds, frogs and skunks. The personal, individual relationships, human and non.
It’s a matter of recognition, that we were always in this greater sphere of the Earth, of living matter. There is no way to leave it. The civilized sphere (human culture centered on cities) in that frame seems impossibly small, both in space and time. In this Venn diagram, the sphere of living matter is huge, the civilized sphere is somewhere inside it, no part of it outside the larger circle, and so small as to be invisible. In fact, if we want to examine it closely, we have to zoom in so far that the borders of the outer sphere are invisible. Then the civilized circle seems to be the only one.
Simple by discussing the fact that civilization has borders, that life is viable outside it, puts one on its periphery, relating to it, but with one foot outside it. Working to grow food on a personal scale, small enough to have some measure of a relationship with each plant, each patch of ground, puts one on the periphery.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thoughts in a book: this time last year

To progress. To move from one thing to another. Linear time. The past: worse. The future: brighter. A dichotomy of motion.
Dystopia is the inverse, but the same, a romanticized past, a future of unbearable ugliness and privation.
In the rhythms of the greater world, there is another story.


Cold in the early morning. Wake to snow-covered fields. Half-moon, bright in the rich gray of the sky, above the ridges of white and black.
Woodsmoke. Even the fence rails, even the willow branches wear a ridge of snow.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Loaves to Fill the Maw of the Light Box

Social media is a silent scream. A box full of white teeth. When I close the laptop I am left with the impression of cacophony ringing in my head. Silent as stars, their clangor of light.

They are called sites, but they seem to exist precisely nowhere. When I look up, when I come back from that abstracted place, I realize I have not felt my body in some time. All these minutes or hours, tensed, still, in this chair.

I have been educating myself and connecting with others, in this time when that is so important. Tapping at the key board is crying for action, is calling desperately for some idea of what to do. Necessary in this chaotic moment. At the same time I recognize that, as I’ve been in this online social space, I haven’t been mindful. I have been consumed in it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Inauguration Day

            For John Berger

Fire is spreading down the hill, across the floor of the pine woods. It advances like a carnivore masticating, no surcease. They walk through the smoke with their pots and jugs and pails, over ground turned to ash. They seek out the gouts of flame, pour the water in a boil of gray steam and burnt parchment tatters of the dead.
They go back to the stream for more. Their skin is painted with charcoal and ash. They soak their feet in the cold flow, the soles blistered, the heat still in them. The water is the color of bloodless flesh.