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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DONKEYS IN THE MIST

jenny and jack
 
New changes in the donkey meadow suggest that Jenny might actually be pregnant. It used to be when I went outside that Jenny would be the first to see me. The last few days it has been Jack who notices first and Jenny goes on acting like she didn't see a thing, same as Jack before. I'm looking for explanation for the change in last 4-5 days. Jenny's jealousy has waned. Jack's attentiveness has increased. The mornings I go out with carrot, Jack sees me first, tears out running and braying, Jenny looks up and walks toward the gate. Jack was maybe twenty feet beyond Jenny when I appeared. He started running. He stopped beside Jenny and looked at me quizzically, not certain of his perception. I've found he does not recognize my face beyond fifty or so feet. He looked like he was questioning. I called his name twice and held the camera up to take a picture. He started braying and ran to the gate in full bray. Jenny raised her head and took her time. She had a new demeanor. I've wondered if her foot hurt again. Doesn't appear to. Finally, it came to me that Jenny might be going into a new phase of her pregnancy. What she's feeling going on inside, I presume she does not understand, though donkeys have a complexity of knowing that I'm not able to understand. I dare not presume. Nonetheless, she's deferring Alpha to Jack, which I've only seen her do when she's not feeling right. She was gentle toward Jack over the carrots, didn't blow, grunt and dive at his neck with her teeth for receiving a chunk of carrot. She acted like it was ok for him to have all the carrot he wanted. I think I've detected a part of her belly showing some expansion, but don't know donkeys well enough to tell with any degree of certainty. Time will answer the question. The only way Jenny could not be pregnant would be if she or Jack were infertile. My thinking is she possibly conceived in February, the coldest part of this winter, meaning baby donkey will arrive in February. It takes twelve months for donkeys.
 
 
jack starts to run

jack brays
 
Jack has become my friend. In the three months before Jenny's arrival, I took my time getting acquainted with Jack, a little at a time. I was wary of him for awhile and he was wary of me. We learned to trust each other and he became my friend. He learned to trust my hands. Jenny's arrival took all Jack's attention. I left them alone for a month. They rampaged all over the meadow. Jenny did not know me. I assessed the safest place was my side of the fence, so I let them fight it out. It's been slow getting to know Jenny due to her circumstances of being taken away from her life before and muscled, against her will, into a strange meadow with a sex-crazed wild ass. I respected her grief and did not push her, let her come to me in her own time. That time is long past and by now my relationship with Jenny is equal to my relationship with Jack. Only difference, we have different histories and the donkeys have different personalities. Having seen Jenny's relaxation with women she meets, I wonder if Jack feels identity with my gender, too. We do have a personal feeling of friendship I don't yet have with Jenny. It feels like I have mutual affection with Jenny. I've only known Jenny as Alpha, which I've learned by now is not who she is, but a role. Jenny without the role is as calm as Jack. The Alpha in Jack appears to make him protective of Jenny. His attitude toward me seems friendlier in his Alpha role. Before, we were friends across a divide, and now it's like the divide has narrowed considerably. Jack has a happy demeanor about him in these days of feeling protective with Jenny. It was love at first sight for Jack when he met his babydoll. He's been smitten since their first night together. I wonder, too, how much of his apparent delight has to do with Jenny falling in love with him. She still kicks at him when he's a nuisance, though she looks at him now with affection. Asked how I know, I don't know. I feel it, sense it, interpret observation.

jack

jenny
 
Today is the third day of all-day fog. It is a cloud passing over the mountain, a very long cloud. Fog is one of my favorite features of living on a mountain. Sometimes it looks like landscape drawn on white paper with soft graphite lines. I like being inside a cloud. I loved flying through canyons of boiling cumulus clouds and I loved flying through cloud on ascent and descent. I'd feel a very minor reverie for being inside a cloud. Working on the farm, I found when tired and needing a break, I could lie on the ground on my back and watch the clouds until I see them moving. I would lie there and watch the clouds move for a few minutes, then get up and go back to work refreshed. Watching clouds move was refreshing as watching a waterfall. Seeing the fog, I feel the minor reverie as dreamlike where only the subject I'm looking at is visible, all around it, in Shakespeare's words, circled in sleep. I also think of Chinese poet Han Shan when fog is on the mountain.  
 
 
               75
 
          I wanted to go off to the eastern cliff---
 
          How many years now I've planned the trip?
 
          Yesterday I pulled myself up by the vines,
 
          But wind and fog forced me to stop half way.
 
          The path was narrow and my clothes kept catching,
 
          The moss so spongy I couldn't move my feet,
 
          So I stopped under this red cinnamon tree.
 
          I guess I'll lay my head on a cloud and sleep.
 
 
                                               ---Han Shan
                                                   tr Burton Watson
 
 

rhododendron leaves
 
 
 
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DONKEY JENNY FALLS IN LOVE

running wild african ass

A big cloud settled on the mountain today from first light to last. It I was a nice fog, not too dense. I could see the far fence of the donkey meadow, donkeys like soft pastel drawings grazing along the fence. The meadow was circled in white, trees drawn in soft, barely perceptible lines. I went out just before dark when I saw the donkeys at this end of the meadow to take them some carrots and visit with them. Jenny is different again. She walked toward the gate where I was waiting and Jack went on a tear, galloping ahead of Jenny all the way to the fence. The picture above is not Jack, but this is how Jack looks running. It's a smooth gallop that gives the appearance he's floating above the ground. He had radiant happiness in his eyes and his manner. I gave him a chunk of carrot and made his day. Jenny came walking up and reached over the gate for her carrot, showing teeth. It was ok to give Jack carrot first, he arrived first, but she was still annoyed Jack got first carrot. She raised her lip revealing a tier of white, straight, donkey teeth. I don't get much chance for a good look at their teeth, catching a glimpse from time to time. Jenny gave me a good view. It was not an aggressive gesture, just a view of her teeth to show her displeasure, though it didn't seem to be at me, but at the circumstance of arriving for the carrot after Jack. It galled her, but not much. I can't hold a carrot while Jack is expectantly waiting for it and Jenny is taking her time. I can't help it she walked and Jack ran. She knew it. I always give Jenny carrot first, honoring her Alpha status. It's not as easy for her to tear a carrot in half with her teeth as it is for Jack. Somebody had fed carrots to Jack before I knew him. I held first carrot to him and he broke it in half with just the right twist of his teeth. Jenny did not know how to break a carrot. I started tearing the carrots into chunks for Jenny and Jack too. Yesterday two sisters came by to see the donkeys and take some pictures. I took some carrots and let them hand-feed the donkeys, forgetting to note that I break the carrots first. Connie handed the carrot to Jenny and Jenny broke it with her teeth. It must be that by now she has learned how to bite carrots.
 
jenny, connie, jack, grumpy old batarde
photo by chris davis
 
In this picture, Chris was wanting me to kiss Jenny on the nose. I was talking to Jenny, getting her attention. She was enjoying the visitors, but unable to guess what would happen next, a little uneasy with two people she didn't know in the meadow loving up on donkeys. She and Jack have learned when I bring new people into the meadow they get special attention, affection, talked to, touched with adoring human hands. Jenny, here, is comfortable. She was mostly interested in those black mysterious things both women were carrying. She looked at them warily, ready to tear out of there, put some distance between her and them until they started pointing the black things at her. She got it as soon as the women lifted the mystery black objects to their faces. The black unknowns serve the same function of the black box I point at her. I don't think she gets it yet what the black thing does, but it's benign. She never saw anything jump out of it at her, and I've never thrown it at her or hit her with it. She has felt it with her lips that function for donkeys like our fingertips for feeling textures. I let her smell it, hold it, explore it with her curious lips, telling her it's not donkey food. Please don't bite it. She never offered to touch it with her teeth. She got that right away feeling it. I let her examine the camera until she was satisfied. I wanted her to have at least donkey understanding of what that curiosity was I pointed at her so often. My first mountain dog, Sadie, figured out what I was doing. There came a time she would stop and pose when I pointed a camera at her. She did it so consistently, she gave sufficient evidence she understood it involved her visually. I have a feeling Jenny may catch onto what the camera does. It's been a curiosity to her. She has a good mind. She'll figure it out. Jack will get it too. Every time I have brought two or three people to visit with them, the donkeys have experienced humans holding a box up the to their faces, looking at the donkeys and acting like it gives them a good time. If not projecting, I'm seeing in her demeanor the attention affirms her, helps her understand humans. She knows the boxes have something to do with a particularly human kind of attention she doesn't yet understand. It's the Alpha in Jenny that wants to understand. Jack says do what you gotta do. As long as something doesn't jump out of it onto him, he's a happy donkey.
 
jack sez: whatever

I have confidence when I step into the meadow I am safe with both donkeys, even when they're frisky with each other. I stay out of the meadow when Jack is forcing her and she's kicking him, biting at him, Jack taking the back of her neck in his teeth and walking her in a tight circle, around and around until she breaks loose and kicks with both back legs and Jack turns his head aside. I just say, Have at it, tear it up. And stay on my side of the fence. I'm never completely certain about taking people into the meadow. I have noticed Jenny is drawn to women. The woman I bought Jenny from was good to her, was her friend. It felt like I was buying a slave, separating her from her humans and her goat friends, her happy world there. Every woman I've taken into the meadow, Jenny approaches her gently and allows being touched. I tell them Jenny doesn't like to be touched, then Jenny invites them to touch her. Jenny seemed drawn to Chris and Connie. Walked up to them one at a time without any defenses showing. She was comfortable as if she already knew them. She wanted to know them. I've seen her very comfortable with the women she meets. It's like it makes her day to meet another woman. Jack likes the feminine attention to. It seems to relax them both. As soon as I see Jenny isn't going to be getting frisky, kicking at Jack, I stay back and let them visit. I like them to meet new people. Connie complimented my training them to be so gentle. It wasn't training. I didn't train them. This is their nature. I trained them by treating them the way I want them to treat me. I'm gentle with them and in turn they're gentle with me. I've learned along the way that animals, like people, give what they get. I don't hurt them, they don't hurt me. I don't boss them, they don't boss me. I regard them with respect and affection, I get same in turn. A couple days ago I was giving them carrots and talking to them. While Jenny was munching, I said to her after she'd done something that was simply charming, I don't remember what. I said to her, Now I see why Jack loves you so much. She looked at me suddenly with very clear affection, even joy. I saw this in her eye that suddenly appeared so wet I wondered if she might be about to tear. In less than the snap of a finger her eye changed its countenance from dispassionate seeing to joy. She understood every word. It told me she's falling in love with Jack.
 
jenny munching
 
Jenny's mood swings have been hopping all over the place for two months. The last three or four days she has been calm, doesn't get antsy when Jack steps too close. She has a calmer demeanor with me. Day before yesterday she was so quiet I watched her right front leg to see if she'd hurt the ankle again. No. She has a stillness about her. Jack has been aggressive with her the last weeks. After he's had enough getting kicked, he breaks her down. This morning early I was looking out the meadow at them in first light, Jack took hold of the back of her neck with his powerful jaws and was walking her in a circle. Something is going on between them that involves some powerful sexual energy. My feeling is that Jack has learned how to take control of Jenny and stay in control. She's bigger and she's the Alpha, but Jack's libido is bigger than Jenny. Jack is no longer stumped by Jenny's size. It takes some power to bring her down, and I believe Jack has found that level of power in himself. He stays out of her kicking zone when he's not wanting to tear into her and mopes around like a henpecked man. But I know he doesn't care. Part of the game. They suggest he is taking her against her will. Her stillness with Jack the last several days made me wonder. Her response yesterday when I said, I see why Jack loves you so much, the instant change in her eye almost unto a tear of joy flowing over told me she has fallen in love. I've asked her how she felt about Jack in the past. She'd indicate she liked him all right, but it wasn't love. I saw love in her eye yesterday. It was for Jack, not for me. This answers why she has been allowing him first carrot the last few days. She's most often on a tear when Jack stands too close, kicking, snorting, blowing, ears back, biting at his neck. This morning she dove at him with her teeth for getting too close while I was talking to her. Ice cream man was talking to her, not Jack. Carrots gone this morning, Jenny turned to walk back to the meadow. She walked to Jack's pile of droppings and walked right through it. It's the second time I've seen her do that. Jack saw it too. He went to her in a straight line. She walked on and Jack walked beside her. I said, Bye y'all, I'm going to my barn.    
 
jack munching
 
 
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Monday, April 28, 2014

GRUMPY OLD BASTARD



A little bit ago I took one of those facebook quizzes that supposedly tells you something about yourself, or categorizes or baffles. There is no way the tests can be "scientific." It's pop fun. And that's the spirit I see it in. This one was what kind of an old person you will  be. Some of the questions don't have an answer in the multiple choice selection that I can affirm having to do with me, so I click on anything. This does, however, account for the unknown, which encases everything. Naturally, I got, "Grumpy next door neighbor." It rang so true I had to laugh. I emailed my next door neighbor, Allan, telling him to get ready. I've felt aggressively grumpy in the mind ever since. Looking at various posts on facebook, one of the anti-fascist sites I get memes, articles and cartoons from was saying Sarah Palin said at an NRA gathering she's all for baptizing terrorists by water-boarding. The darling of stupid white men. I started cussing a streak a mile long, out of patience with her public monotony so full of pride and so blatantly ignorant, the superstar of stupid. A bunch of white men pay her a few hundred thousand to talk dirty to them and blow smoke up their asses. The face of police state. I tell myself over and over to let it go, don't fill my mind with other people's stupid. It's a nuisance to see her spacy eyes, somebody who takes clichés for reality. I think I'm still reeling from the disappointment of growing up and seeing what I learned in school about USA and democracy and the supreme court and patriotism was all bunk. It's not anything like we're taught. Not anything like television points out. I've come to see our history as propaganda---the winners of wars write the history books---and what we had in the name of democracy became popular police state, patriotic police state. Hooray for 31,000 gun deaths a year. Hooray for corporate prisons. Hooray for beating the shit out of college students, pepper spray in their eyes in the name of The Law for practicing their constitutional responsibility to protest.
 
 
 
I can't stop laughing at the flag waver in Nevada claiming he does not recognize the US Govt. Maybe somebody needs to tell him he's carrying flag of a non-existent country. He said he recognizes Nevada law, so why isn't he carrying a Nevada flag? Maybe because nobody will know what it is? Not dramatic enough? Requires explanation? It makes me crazy that so much is made of him as a "racist" and a "terrorist." Why not just call it like it is: ignorant. Add a whole lot of ego to a whole lot of ignorance and he's what happens. The part that makes him interesting to me is that he is so perfectly the part White Man. He's a cliché of himself. His ignorance is specifically white man ignorance. He'd make a good movie, though he's on tv enough now a movie could be made from the news clips featuring him. He may be featured along with Palin at NRA rallies to blow smoke up white man's ass. Is he the next American face of ignorance? This list of the many faces is so long by now, he'll fade out of sight. Won't he hate that. Republicans have exploited the popular appeal of ignorance, which has worked very well for them. The party has a case before the Supremes requesting legalization of lying in political campaigns. It's the same as done. I can see it passing, 7 to 2. Political campaigns amount to television commercials now, devoid of substance as a sleeping pill commercial. Talking with a woman I know in the coffee shop, she said, "I'm a con-SER-vative!" I could only think: You embarrass yourself. She said, "What are you?" I knew exactly the gossip circle my answer would be reported to within the hour, and said, "Socialist." I said it to see her jump, but she didn't jump. She looked at me with a glance that said she already knew it. The conservative / liberal divide right now purports volumes of ideologies, but they boil down quite simply to conservative: not caring, and liberal: caring. It's been that way all my life. In the Sixties it was called hawks and doves. Now it's conservatives and liberals, words totally meaningless.
 
 
 
 I remember when Ralph Nader gave his support to the republican coup by judicial fiat saying, the republicans will get us there faster. He meant police state. He's been seeing it come on for several years, since before Nixon times. He saw that both parties, two wings of the Business Party, were marching us into police state, consciously with intent. The democrats are slower taking us into police state. Nader wanted to get on with it. Sooner it starts, the quicker it will be over, or so it looked from there and then to his perspective. I have an idea he was mistaken in his thinking that the American people would have a new revolution. Don't count on it. Maybe a civil war, but no revolution. It is a third-world truth that whoever rules the television stations rules the country. Liberals do not rule USA. Even MSNBC is not liberal. Television has become the beloved propagandist in our midst. It has become the authority, sacred. And I feel very uncomfortable in a world where television is sacred. I've never been comfortable in television world. They talk about red states and blue states in terms of absolutes, like NC a predictably red Southern state, I can live in a red state as well as a blue state. Either side is in relation to television. They are just participating in television. I avoid political talk with everyone, even liberals. Liberals disappoint me when they show parrotry like the republicans. I'm ashamed to identify liberal, so I don't. I am a socialist. It's a scary word to television viewers. Nobody knows what it means because it does not get explained on television. On tv, the only thing it means is enemy. I can go with that. The Lakota tribe of plains Indians became known as the Sioux, their word for enemy. They liked being called the Enemy and adopted the name. A constant reminder to them that they are indeed the enemy. Q: What tribe you from, boy? A: The Enemy.
 
 
 
 
I, myself, have never been the enemy of ways American. They are my own. I saw an article about something like 3,000 people expatriating from USA last year. I gave it some thought in the distant past, never seriously with intent, weighed the benefits and deficits, just a subject to think about. Where would I go? Wherever I might go from New Zealand to Turkey, I'd be "The American." Here, on Waterfall Road, I am an American, but not The American. Problem of being The American would be in getting taken for an apologist for American foreign policy, domestic policy. It would always be, "your people." I'd be called upon to answer why gun stores sell out all over the country the day after a schoolhouse massacre. At home, I'm not expected to be a branch of the State Dept. I would be asked to explain American policy, the supreme court, none of which I even care to think about, certainly not be taken for a representative of. Asked, How do Americans like police state? I could only answer, They love it. Television politics has become the same as television sports, commercials, another television event. I find it curious American democracy went away, like the Ottoman Empire, without a whimper. A very few noticed. The ones that noticed knew it was a fake democracy anyway, so nobody is beating the drum over democracy gone. Makes me wonder if capitalism will fall away like democracy did, television pretending it continues, the television viewer slow to catch on. Possibly this is the nature of transition from one Age to another, from the Age of Fire to the Age of Electricity. There is more to it than the light bulb instead of whale oil lamp. It is a natural process we go through collectively. It is bigger than the participants that keep it going, like the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We focus on the people that keep the belief system going, judge them with praise or blame, missing that it is a process of change, the players filling roles like on a stage.     
 
 
 
 
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

MY BANJO PICKIN GIRL

vada by tj
 
vada by cheyanne
 
Last night I saw one of the exciting finishes in television car racing. The cars in front changed and kept on changing. With just a few laps to go Matt Kenseth was in front holding his place, blocking Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski quite successfully, not giving either one a chance to pass him. The three of them took the high rail around the curve and Joey Logano, fourth, slipped through the opening below and passed them all. A hesitate-and-you're-lost moment. The slot opened and looked like it pulled Logano through the opening like a vending machine draws a dollar bill to itself. I don't recall seeing a driver so charged during the victory interview. Logano looked like he could jump tall buildings in a single bound. I was thinking, Joey and his babydoll won't get a minute's sleep tonight. Immediately after the win, he made the coolest spin-around smoking tires I recall. He came driving in from the left at a fair speed, his rear end swung around quick as a donkey, tires smoking, kept on swinging around until he disappeared inside the billowing cloud. He picked up the checkered flag and drifted some more. He burned the back tires off the rims and drove to Victory Lane on rims. His excitement billowed from his entire being during the interview. It seemed like he was on the verge of jumping out of his skin. He didn't see the win in sight with about three laps to go, then it happened. Evidently all the drivers were electrified from the intensity toward the end, positions changing aggressively, a little slippin-n-slidin, bumpers and fenders touching, fights after the race. Keselowski lost traction, started to fishtail, car's rear end swung up the hill, the presence of the car beside him stopped the momentum and sent his rear end down the hill into another car that helped steady his balance. The wobble didn't change anybody's momentum. Keselowski is a good driver. The save was done by slick handling. A few thousandths of a second loaded with potential to take out a dozen cars or more, he pulled it together faster than thought. These are among the moments I watch racing for.
 
 
the race: danica patrick #10
 
I have an emotional advantage over my friends I watch the race with, not caring who wins. I'm happy for whoever crosses the finish line first. A few weeks ago it was down to about ten laps, it was looking like Earnhardt Jr had a good chance at a win. Justin was standing up, jumping up and down with anxiety all the way to the checkered flag when he exploded. I sit there never getting excited about anything except moments when a driver shows an impressive level of skill. Actually, that's all I watch in tv sports. During basketball, I'm astonished by a truly slick move, same as in football and golf. I can watch all these kinds of games, while not caring a thing about any of them, getting my enjoyment seeing evidence of a high level of skill. A hole in one is fun to see, but they amount to luck. I like to see somebody hit the ball out of a sand trap so it stops within a foot of the cup, or make a long putt after reading the green perfectly. Justin watches the skill too. This morning, Sunday, he went to a bow tournament in the next county. He goes to tournaments for the practice, for honing his skill, to visit with hunting friends. Justin doesn't care about being number one. He cares about his own ability to shoot an arrow. Hunting, he likes a deer to fall straight down, not feel a thing. That takes hitting a spot the size of a dime. He does it, too. I never let anybody hunt on my land until Justin grew up to hunting age. It wasn't that I was keeping it just for him, but after about twenty-five years or so of being a purist, I turned it over to him for hunting. I appreciate his hunting ethics. And I appreciate the people he feeds hunting. When it comes to organic, it beats eating cow that's infected with growth hormones, chemical for this, chemical for that, adrenalin from trauma. Justin has a fast, brilliant mind that never took an interest in academics. He applies his intelligence to everything he does. He has taken a job at Lowe's hardware in the building materials department. He said it's the best job he's ever had, good people to work with, good management. He's worked in factories and understands hierarchy. I'm glad for him. Lowe's has a reputation for treating its workers well, and pays more or less reasonably.

cheyanne selfie with a sylum e-scapee: cheeeez
 
 
cheyanne selfie
 
 It wasn't long after I arrived that Cheyanne wanted the camera. OK. She had a long spell of taking selfies that kept her giggling. She laughed and laughed, making all the faces she could think of. Sometimes she turned the viewer so she could not see what she was getting, then turned it over fast to see what she got before the image went away. She was playing and I was having a ball seeing her delight using the camera. She took pictures of everybody, of Justin and Vada playing, of me and Vada playing, and a good portrait of Crystal soon after she'd walked in the door from a job photographing a wedding, plumb wore out. For the above picture, Cheyanne said to me, Make a face! Say cheeez! It has been a couple years that I've known Cheyanne, and it is fun to see we have become friends. I consciously give her as much attention as I give Vada. Cheyanne is a delicate little thing. What she's been through has a stack of papers from Social Services in four counties three inches thick. Some of what we've learned has put daddy on the warpath. There is a guy in the next county Justin has a bead on. He's in no hurry, but he knows one day they will come face to face and when they do they guy will be eating through a straw for a year. His head will look like a watermelon dropped off a fifty story building. Myself knowing  a little bit of what he did to her, I want to be there to see the guy's head explode. It will take a four-wheel drive tractor with logging chains to pull Justin off him, and I, not having a tractor, will have to stand back and watch. It took me a little while to develop some affection for Cheyanne, due to her behavioral issues from the first five years of her life. She was raised by a girl Peter Pan who dragged her kids from trailer to trailer, county to county, man to man, unable to keep a job or a man, leaving the kids with the kind of people prison hasn't caught up with yet. Once when she and Justin were horsing around, she slugged Justin a good one with her fist. She was five. Justin said, Where'd you learn how to hit like that? She named her half brother three years older.   
 
justin and vada by cheyanne
 
justin and vada by tj
 
 Vada, a month from 3, is individuating. Baby Vada is in the past. She has command of the language by now; her coordination is coming on fast. She brought me her new 4-string child guitar to show me she has a guitar now. Cheyanne went to her room and came back with a Deering Goodtime banjo with three strings. She held the banjo with authority and a delight in her eyes and her face I'd never seen before. It was wide-open happiness. She showed me how to make four chords. She put her fingers where they went and explained it would be like this if it had all the strings. I told her next time she sees me I'll have a pack of banjo strings and we'll put them on it and tune it. Her music teacher at school showed her the chords on a banjo and she remembered perfectly. Turns out her music teacher lives in the house behind them, the guy they hear playing a banjo from time to time. Crystal wants to hire him to give her lessons. Seeing her eyes, her entire countenance in such light holding the banjo, I wondered if this might be answer to prayer. I told Crystal that in my years with the music store, I saw child after child learning to play an instrument, keeping at it, seeming to get nowhere, then one day the music happened. Once a kid feels the music, he or she wants to feel it again, and then it's on. She has such a competitive nature, it will make her want to play better than the other kids, will make her practice. Crystal said she learns better and pays attention better with men than with women, so it's a good thing she'll be learning banjo from a man. Once she gets going, she will be in command of her life. Guitar picker and singer, Faye Wagoner, is Cheyanne's great great grandma just like she is Vada's. Vada will want to play an instrument when Cheyanne starts. Vada will be some years catching up to Cheyanne, and Cheyanne is a good teacher, too. I have somewhere in the house a cd with Alice Gerrard singing, "I'm goin around the world, I'm a banjo-pickin girl." I may give her my Abigail Washburn cds, gradually, not all at once, and introduce her to Lynn Worth, our county's banjo-pickin woman. Feeling good about my babies today.



cheyanne selfies
 
 
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE VIEW IN A DARK TIME



Just off the telephone with my friend Kathryn. We always have lively conversation. She's taking care of her mother with dementia. I saw Kathryn was on facebook, telling me mama was asleep and Kathryn was free. Time to call. We tend to talk about funny occurrences or news that's hilarious. Of course, hilarious news is tragic news we laugh at because we have no say in anything beyond our own immediate decisions. We pay attention to the news like watching the Howdy Doody Show with Mr Bluster, Dilly-Dally, Princes Summer Fall Winter Spring, Clarabel the clown. For Mr Bluster we have Mitch McConnell, for Dilly-Dally Ted Cruz, for Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring Michelle Bachmann, and W Bush continues as Clarabel the clown. In the past I'd get excited about having such as we have for "representatives" and leaders who neither represent nor lead. A lifetime of seeing moronic people in government satisfies my questioning of how legislation in DC and state capitals got the way it has become. I used to wonder where a nation that only concerned itself with money could go, up or down or stay the same. Right and wrong are of no significance now. Truth and honesty are laughed at as naïve. Respect isn't even a word anymore. Now people ask why trust is important. I saw an article last week of W Bush painting. He is taking lessons with somebody who is teaching him well. He has begun including in pictures of himself the dead Iraqi child who is with him day and night wherever he goes. He has a specter living with him, attached to his soul. He talks about it like it's the latest clever thing. I don't like to think about him, don't like his image in my head. I've been an anti-fascist since childhood, so I'm automatically not disposed toward him. It actually warmed my heart to see he had drawn the ghost of a dead Iraqi child to himself. After all the agony and death he has directly caused to so many million people at home and abroad, I like seeing karmic justice has not failed him.
 
 
The justice of the law has failed us in Dubya's case. But karmic justice is with him. Sometimes it feels good to see karmic justice take place, like in the case of Roy Cohn, who destroyed so many lives with Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. All three of them self-destructed. Cohn came down with AIDS and died in infamy. McCarthy drank himself to death. Nixon self-destructed and went out in mortal shame. Johnson went out broken. Bush 1 set the stage to see Bush 2 destroy the family name. I used to wonder about karma concerning the people who make decisions to turn the military-industrial-complex to the task of giving the American economy a boost. A war that is not a war, torture that is not torture, to annihilate a small defenseless nation of poor people for the benefit of American corporations, stockholders and billionaires. And jobs. Shit jobs that undermine your humanity and don't pay near enough for it, but jobs. I've lived long enough to have witnessed by keeping up with current events as history much that even my most jaundiced mind could not have anticipated. Attitude today seems like police state is a surprise. Even Rachel Maddow acts like it's a surprise. It has been coming on at least since the Fifties. Vietnam was never a surprise. Iraq was no surprise. They are true to pattern. The big one for me has  been the popular repeal of Democracy followed by popular police state, accomplished by propaganda. My friend John who is 101 said the most significant change he saw in his lifetime was the emergence of the salad. It doesn't seem like much, but give it a five second thought and it becomes an enormous change. It wasn't very long ago Americans didn't drink wine except Mad Dog 20/20, Wild Irish Rose and Thunderbird. Suddenly Americans are drinking so much wine the vineyards of the world are stressed, can't make it fast enough. Both grocery stores in Sparta have big wine sections. The coffee shop sells wine. It wasn't very many years ago coffee was Maxwell House, Folger or JFG. You can even find Sumatran coffee at the grocery store in Sparta now. People used to go to bars to drink beer. Now we go to bars to drink coffee.
 
 
 I like to back away from the social scene and see it from afar for what we call the big picture. I like both the big picture and the little picture, both the forest and the trees. Since paying attention to the last half a century as it was happening, seeing it as history, the big picture, I have a fair understanding of patterns in American government behavior, such that new events fall into place. Joe Biden made me laugh when he went to Ukraine to tell Putin, Don't do as I do, do as I say. That is so an American attitude and so blatantly naïve to think it would have meaning outside USA, I couldn't help but laugh. He's a politician, he says what his handlers tell him to say, following script. The news has become slap-stick comedy. It is fitting Comedy Central has the most insightful news programs on tv or radio. It's refreshing to see Limbaugh on the wane, and even more refreshing to see a pope who talks about love, compassion, empathy, caring. Did that ever come as a voice in the wilderness. Yes, we are in a dark time. Democracy in America did not survive it. There is the principle that it is darkest before dawn that gives me confidence this cycle is about to turn to the light. But I'm not going to hold my breath. I won't see it in this lifetime. Seeing the cycle of what we're going through collectively as Americans and as world, it tells me the democracy we had, which was not really democracy, had to go. It was an oligarchy before the latest university study made headlines saying it is. Perhaps in this time of traditions falling away, American oligarchic democracy needed to change. To make way for the new. After a cycle of assault on what we had of democracy by the Reagan Junta, maybe the next cycle will erect  a new building on the site of the old one that was torn down. This democracy didn't work, so tear it down and start a new one. When I look at it from afar, I see the patterns and the cycles. It ceases to be aggravating. In close, seeing only the short term, it turns frightening in a hurry. 
 
 
This guy, Cliven Bundy, he's just an American white man. He's not extreme racist or any of what he's being accused of in prosecutorial terms only. He's a white man. He's no surprise. He's just ego-centric enough to say publicly what white men tend to say privately. He's been listening to Rush Limbaugh for so many years, he's just spewing what he was taught in the name of God and country. Hilarious, him carrying a big American flag riding a horse and saying he does not recognize the United States Government. White man. It's perfectly logical to him. He's not being outrageous. White man is in crisis at the moment when Others and Blacks are tipping the scale, inching toward 51%. I look at this Limbaugh hate phenomenon from the inside, up close, and it makes my blood pressure go up, makes me want to write outrageous sentences like I think they would matter. Then I look at someone I know who thinks outrage matters, and laugh at myself. I pull back to my home, to the world of people I live among, my neighbors, people I know, people I care about, Caterpillar napping in the other room, the donkeys in their meadow, my relationship with God, the people and pets I have loved who are gone. I return to Now, in the chair I'm sitting on like a drummer pounding the keyboard. This is where I belong. This is where I am. People in the news like Bundy I have come to see as cartoons of themselves. Cartoons are funny. I laugh when I think about them or talk about them. People I know who are sensible never show on the news. It seems like the sensible people have faded away. But I maintain the sensible people are alive and well. By sensible, I mean something like they don't let their opinions rule their lives. Opinions do rule our lives to some degree, but a sensible person does not take a rifle to a synagogue parking lot and start shooting people because he doesn't like Jews. I believe I could guess with a fair degree of accuracy that he's never known a Jew. He evidently thinks drag queens are special, having been arrested for having sex with one in the back seat of his car. This is what I mean by not sensible. Nobody in my world is that kind of crazy. We're crazy because we have a sense of humor and like to laugh and cut up. I prefer the world of fun crazy.
 
 
 
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Friday, April 25, 2014

FOLLOW THE FLOW

 
 
 
all pics by tj worthington
 
Focus this week is on my relationship with nature, the natural world, the uncultivated world, the wild things, the four-leggeds, the winged, the ground, the green things, earth. This world, my mountain, is my refuge, my home, my need. I know this region of the mountains so well it gets taken for granted, but not too much. I went out on a small lake in a boat fishing with Justin. It was his day off and he had to get some fishing in. Fishing recharges his internal battery. He catches a fish, kisses it and throws it back. He stopped by to pick me up and I rode with him to the next farm down the road, turn up a long gravel driveway to the lake. It's called the Willis lake. The owners live in Winston-Salem, my neighbors Allan and Gary have a stain glass studio where they support themselves selling their wares. Allan takes care of the land, a few hundred acres of largely meadow. It was the old Jim Scott place. Their boy, Sherman, went to school and revival meetings in this house. Sherman has been dead quite a while now. He was a humble man. In NC he did not need a driver's license to drive a tractor on the roads. Sherman fixed a small wooden box to the back of his old Ford red-belly to carry groceries. He drove the tractor to town for the bank, the doctor, the lawyer, the drug store, leading a long line of cars snaking slowly  toward town, temperatures rising, road rage in abundance, but nobody made a problem. Sherman's going to town day. It was excruciatingly maddening to fall in behind Sherman. Couldn't pass. There you are, 10-15 mph and can't do nothin about it. Sherman was a little bit slow and had a good mind too. The people I've known who went to school with him said he was a whiz with numbers. His mother and dad wouldn't let him play with the other boys, retarding him somewhat. The lake was put on the farm after Jim Scott sold it.
 
 
 
 
The temperature was mild enough, but the air had a chill in it and a constant wind. Three guys from town we knew were on different banks fishing. Three geese swam together out in middle of the lake. Putting the boat in the water did not scare them off. They continued to swim and watched the boat as a curiosity. The wind on the water was cold. Justin threw the lure toward the bank letting it splash into the water like it jumped from the bank, then wiggles to the bottom and swims. He did not catch one fish. He said the water was too cold. I don't care anything about fishing. I go along with camera. First time I had camera in the boat, I went for landscape pictures, none of which was ever worth looking at. This time I sat and waited for It, whatever It may be. Sitting quietly in the boat, gazing all around, even the sky, nothing took hold of me. Suddenly, I saw the surface of the water like I'd never seen it before. It was familiar. Everything about it was familiar, but I was seeing it the first time. I found a zone five to ten feet from the boat where the water made changing patterns with light so fast the eye sees colors in motion. The camera stops the motion. I zoomed the camera down pretty close and pointed at the zone where the patterns were flowing and clicked. Could not see the viewing screen for the bright sky all around, so I'd point the camera at the zone I wanted and clicked. Most often had no idea what I was getting. Some were out of focus, some so blurry it was nothing, and some with sharp clarity. I made pictures of the lake's surface from distance and up close. Sunlight was dancing on the water in sparkles in certain places. The only one I aimed was the goose. Couldn't aim it but by landscape around it and zoom in from there.  
 
 
  
 
Tapped into the zone close to the boat is a very different experience from gaping at the surface of the water. Out a little ways it turns into waves on water. In this zone five to ten feet from the boat I found continually changing abstract patterns that move so fast the eye cannot see the patterns the camera stopped. Following the patterns in swift change, I'd think of how fun it would be to stand in front of a painting by Clifford Still and watch the colors change patterns so fast the eye couldn't follow. Right away, the eye understands there is no keeping up, eye relaxes and I relax. It's like watching a fire, the changing shapes and images, a quickened flow of the clouds. My Swiss cheese memory is recalling that I believe it was Pablo Neruda said the bridge between matter and spirit is water. I can't affirm or deny it, but it's awfully poetic. I think about such ideas gaping at the water in a minor trance, a meditation, fixed on the rapidly changing flow of light reflecting on water. Every living thing grows by principles of water flow, water being the earth's blood. I stand in Spring Lizard Creek that runs beside my house and someone stands in a creek in southern China, we are standing in the same water. Maybe not the same molecules, but water everywhere on earth is connected. Our blood that runs through a vein in a finger is the same blood that keeps feet warm. Justin sat at one end of the boat and I at the other, almost never talking. Not keeping quiet for any reason but we just didn't feel like talking. He was working the fishing reel with what he had on his mind and I holding the camera taking pictures of reflections on the water with what I had on my mind. We don't talk a lot. Something I learned from country people and Justin learned from mother's milk, that presence is the same as conversation. Conversation is about enjoying the presence of the other. Talking does not always have to accompany presence.
 




 
My old friends, Tom Pruitt and Millard Pruitt, brothers, grew up in what ended as Tom's house, visible from the boat. They went to school and Regular Baptist revival meetings in my house. Both have been dead about twenty years. I went to Millard's church for fourteen years. He lived in another part of the county called Glade Valley. Tom and Millard were less than ten miles from each other and had not seen each other in a number of years neither one of them knew. I suggested I take Tom in his later years to visit Millard. He liked the idea. They sat in their chairs and never spoke for an hour. Tom stood up and said it was time to go. A year or so later, I took Millard to visit Tom. They sat in silence for an hour and Millard was ready to go. Both in their late 70s. Snow was on the ground, quite a lot of it, though the paved roads were clear and the gravel roads had the snow scraped off them, snow scraped off the ice on the bottom. Both roads up the mountain were terrible with ice. My 78 Toyota pickup had one-wheel drive in the rear. Not proficient on ice. But I knew what it could and could not do. I suggested I take him down the mountain on the old wagon road that ran the ridge parallel Waterfalls creek beside all three waterfalls. Couldn't see them from the road, but can hear them. I went down the bank once looking for how to get to the third waterfall from there. I tied a 50 foot rope to a tree and used it like a stair rail walking down it backwards, leaving rope in place for the return. It was steep and sheer rock under layers of old leaves. I knew the back road would be in good shape. It doesn't melt during the day and freeze at night. I knew it would still have the snow pack on it. I know the road from driving it a thousand times and walking it a hundred times. It's bad. But I've driven a new Cadillac and a new Honda down it, owner sitting beside me chewing a hole in the seat, and we never scraped bottom once. In snow the road looked like a luge track. Millard's eyes were big as Ping-Pong balls, and we never lost traction. At the top he didn't believe I could do it. At the bottom he didn't believe I did it. It was a smooth ride compared to the others. All it took was following its flow.
 
 

 
larry
 
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

A LESSON IN DONKEY NATURE

jack

I asked Jack to teach me Donkey when we were first acquainted. I watched him closely, looking for what constitutes donkeyness. Over a few months I saw enough to think I was getting insight into what about him is donkey. I connect with his consciousness right away, but I see consciousness very similar from being to being. I connect with a dog and I see consciousness on the order of my consciousness, awareness, sees through eyes, hears through ears. We see and hear just like a mouse, a bird, a fish. I feel like it is how we interpret what we see and what we hear that is different from species to species, from individual to individual. How we interpret is through experience and attitude toward life. Jack showed me a nature I'd never seen before in any animal I've known. I was apprehensive of his back legs for quite awhile. Everybody I know with donkey experience has said, "They'll kick ya." Knowing Jack, humility stood out for me. I felt humility in Jack like we feel loyalty in dogs and their forgiveness. I came to think humility was a donkey characteristic. Everyday I'd visit with Jack, talk to him, scratch his neck. Jack is a quiet donkey, while at the same time he has the donkey way of pushing back if I want to push him out of my way to get through the gate. I'll push the gate against him gently and ask  him to move. He stands still like this is the best place in the world to be right now. He stands firm and I have to push him and squeeze through what opening he allows. It's not that he doesn't want me to come through the gate. I've come to believe he's playing. Gradually he taught me he liked to play. To donkey mind play is different from play to the human mind, but also not. Jack will stand against the gate and laugh to himself that I can't get through. He has played several tricks on me over the time I've known him, fun tricks, harmless, tricks that make a donkey laugh.

jenny

Jack was here about four months when Jenny came into the meadow. They went through such a time I stayed out of the meadow for a month. Jenny and I did not know each other, and she was a rampageous donkey, kicking Jack every time he came anywhere near her, which was all day every day. I thought I'd leave them alone to work out their dominance and their relationship while I stay this side of the fence. I was slow getting to know Jenny as she was so preoccupied with a donkey that had a one-track mind. She was an aggressive donkey. I couldn't tell if that was her nature or if it was a result of circumstances. I talked to her every day at carrot time and she gradually came to like me. In a few months I felt confidence Jenny would not kick me, same confidence I had with Jack. First weeks with Jack when I'd felt like I could go into the meadow with him, I was petting his back while he chewed a carrot. His dinger started extending. I took a step back, put both hands up in a halt gesture, and said, "This is not what we're about, Jack. We can't be close if you're going to do that." It never happened again. He has taught me that a great part of donkeyness had to do with understanding. Many times I've just spoken to Jack and he understood, showing evidence of it. I thought I had a good understanding of donkeys when Jenny arrived in the meadow. I had asked Jenny, too, to teach me donkey. First thing she showed me that what I'd learned about donkey from Jack was Jack, not Jenny. She is a very different donkey, very different nature. Where Jack is humble, Jenny is a haughty woman. Jenny is in charge at all times. She's not passive aggressive. She's just aggressive. If Jenny were to be a work donkey like in South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Jenny would have to be taught humility. I was about to say she'd be a difficult donkey to handle, but I'm also seeing her with another donkey that is attempting rape on her regularly.
 
jenny kicks jack
 
Jenny is a sweet donkey with me, one on one, but when Jack comes around, jealous Jenny pulls her ears back and swings her ass end around and thumps him on the ribs with a hoof. I've been wondering recently how much of Jenny I know as Alpha Donkey behavior and how much is Jenny behavior. I've not had anything to go by since she's always in relation to Jack. Last week she twisted her right front ankle while they were donkeying around, Jack hotter'n a two dollar pistol at Bull Run, and Jenny kicking him. Jack returns for more like he's saying, Hurts so good, baby, do it again. They neck-wrestle, twisting their heads over and under each other's head, each trying to bite the other and protect self from a bite. I see a kind of martial arts sparring. Play. It's hilarious to watch. I could not tell if Jenny favoring her right front hoof had to do with a hoof infection or a sprained ankle. I wanted to think it was a sprained ankle, but had no way to tell. Jenny will not have her legs touched. She doesn't like to be touched anyway, but legs are always off limits. I honor that and don't insist. Jack would let me look at his foot. I thought I'd let it go over the weekend to see if it gets better or worse. I'm happy to say it was better. She only limped four days. I noticed during that time Jack had taken the role of Alpha Donkey. He usually walks with his head lowered a bit, but in these days his head was up and ears up all the time. He stayed in the middle of the meadow and the high places where he could see best, body taut as a bull, firm on his feet. He was no different with me and was gentle with Jenny, like he wanted to protect her. Jenny walked with her head lowered at the same angle Jack walks. Aggression was gone from her. Sometimes at carrot time she will pretend she's going to bite my finger, just to see me jump, to give herself a laugh. The days her ankle hurt she never played her pesky games, and she let Jack take the first carrot like she wanted him to have it. It appeared the jealousy was gone from her.
 
 
jenny
 
First morning her limp was gone, Jenny was Alpha again, biting at Jack, kicking at him, wanting all the carrots for herself. Jack was so easy about it I realized Jenny did not have to fight Jack to get her status back. She is the biggest of the two. Alpha is her natural role. She knows it and Jack knows it. It must be Donkeyness to understand the role. Evidently a survival mode in the wild. A pack of dogs defers to the biggest dog. Among humans, money determines Alpha status. I do not understand their thinking, so it came to me a surprise seeing Jack take the role of Alpha, automatically, and Jenny went into the role Jack had before. Jack was not aggressive toward Jenny, possibly because she was not trying to hump him all the time, though he'd have loved it. They switched roles back to their original places in the night. At morning carrot time Jenny was back, kicking, biting and snorting at Jack for standing too close. When they woke up in the morning, they both knew Jenny was Alpha again. Jack was as automatic with the change as Jenny was. This suggests to me that Alpha status, at least between them, is not a matter of desire to be number one. It simply goes to whoever is biggest and in good health. Jack played his Alpha role as casually as if he had known how to do it all along. Upon giving the status back to Jenny, he went back to laid-back Jack who would rather stretch out under a shade tree and listen to reggae. I feel like Jenny would rather be dancing to techno. Yet, when she's not Alpha, she has her headphones on listening to R&B. I've been curious recently to know the Jenny that is not Alpha behavior. I feel like I see now that the Jenny I know is the Alpha. It's because Jack is always nearby. It's in the times I talk to Jenny, looking at her eye-to-eye, I feel affection from her. Sometimes she seems to melt into the exchange. Jack takes a step too close and she's snorting, biting at his neck. She runs him off and she's back for more listening to ice cream man talk to her. In the days she let Alpha go, the Jenny I knew was the affectionate Jenny. Now I'm able to see the affection I thought I'd seen is really there. This is how I know to feel safe behind Jenny. The little window that let me see Jenny's nature inside the Alpha behavior gave good insight into Jenny. Now I feel like I know her better than ever.   
 
jenny wants a kiss
 
 
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