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Tuesday, March 31, 2015


vada and toys

I spent Sunday in front of the television. The race at Martinsville first, then March Madness, Duke wins again. And possibly a thousand commercials, several of them multiple times apiece. It amuses Justin and Melvin that I laugh every time a viagra or cialis commercial flashes on the flatscreen. They miss the humor and I can't explain, it would sound too condescending. A hot middle-aged babe, dressed in the appearance of satin, lounging on a hotel bed, twisting slowly and writhing. The one that slays me is the white-haired cowboy in a big dually pickup pulling a horse trailer with two horses in Utah or someplace similarly rugged. He is stopped by a mud puddle in the dirt road his power vehicle can't mud-sling its way through to completion. He lets the horses out of the trailer and hitches them to his truck. The spare horsepower pulls him on through, manhood intact. I laugh at the brief sex cartoons about old people. A man and a woman, painting a bench together with dry paint brushes, get romantic all of a sudden, like, let's get it on baby, people who just met when they got the roles in the commercial after auditions. They look more like models chosen from an agency. It's Dick Clark and Connie Francis falling in love all over again. Once the old boy is convinced he no longer has to be a sheep, but can be a wolf, the second half of the commercial warns of imminent death. If you use this product, you're on your own, sucker. This shit will kill your ass. The funny part is the list of ways it will kill you is so long it requires as much air time as the seduction to buy the product. 

vada's dance

Half way through the list, I break out laughing. I think it can't go on much longer and it does. It keeps on promising at least a heart-attack if you give yourself over to lust. Just like in church. Ask your doctor if your heart is up to getting off. You already know it's a sin. If fear of God doesn't inhibit you, listen to the long sermon of the thousand agonizing ways you will die. Take a chance on love, indeed. Next, the tubular frame of a race car painted white inside a big empty garage. Engine is inserted, a body and wheels put on it, Dale Jr crawls in the window and burns rubber leaving the pit stop to go back into the race. It was a fun commercial to watch the first hundred times. Yesterday I didn't think to count how many times this commercial played during the race. It must be popular. I have no recollection what it was selling. I see the commercial an art form, each one created by artists who are making their living in advertising. The Budweiser horse and dog commercials make a brief movie full of emotion. They're good the first hundred times, too. Dale Jr has become a favorite among the drivers for commercials. He's the most popular driver, his fans are vehement and he's somewhat photogenic. He has become the Paul Walker replacement on NASCAR. Mr Cool who races at 200 mph. Mountain Dew. I'd venture that a high percentage of the newer houses built in the South have Mountain Dew cans in the walls, left by working men putting up the sheet rock, a disposal place for lunch trash. Nabs wrappers, Vienna sausage cans, empty cigarette packs. It satisfies a graffiti impulse, an anonymous way of saying, "I worked on the construction of this house." A signature. 

vada dances

Vada, three, going on four in two months, kept us entertained in an interactive way. She danced, she played with her toys, showed dolls. She came into the room wearing the blue Elsa dress from the movie Frozen, "Who am I now?" I said, Elsa, and she danced out the door, returned shortly in another dress, "Who am I now?" I said, Anna, pronounced Ah-nah, European style. Vada had instructed me earlier it is Ah-nna, not Anna. She danced out the door again and returned in a red gown of a dress and danced. I was ready for her this time. I kicked myself for not getting pictures in her different outfits. I made several pictures of her dancing. Most of them were terrible because I could not anticipate her next move. She was like a flame, unpredictable, flowing with whatever happens. Daddy and Melvin were locked in on the race. I was open to Vada. She brought in a pink plastic pumpkin full of her little dolls. She put them out on the floor. She showed me this one and that one. Mermaids, mini-Barbies, several different kinds. I stood one on top of a box that held toys, and Vada knocked it off. I put another one there. Vada knocked it off. Crystal walked in the door and said, "What are y'all doing?" I said, "We're playing doll suicide." I picked up the Cinderella doll, about three inches high, stood her on the edge of the box, saying, "Cinderella jumps from hotel window," and sent her to the floor. Crystal said, "You're nuts." Crystal in the room distracted Vada's attention from the dolls and me. Crystal came in for a rest from housecleaning and Vada jumped on her wanting to play as soon as she sat down. 

vada's room

Vada took me to her room to see what was playing on her tv. Jurassic Park. It was a scene with a man in a yellow rain jacket and a big lizard. What I saw of a moment of script and visuals confirmed this really was the children's movie I suspected when it was new. Vada pointed at it saying something was about to happen. Whatever was on the verge of happening scared her. She said, "This is mean. I don't want to watch it," and ran from her room back to the tv room. She has taken to acting. Elsa, in the movie, Frozen, has become Vada's alter-ego. She now acts Elsa scenes as if she were Elsa, herself. And she sings Elsa's song as her own. Elsa's world is a magical world for a three-year-old. From time to time, Vada will point at me like she's casting a spell and say in a threatening tone of voice, "I will freeze your heart." It has significance in Elsa's story, though I have no idea what it could be. I clutch at my heart and act like I've been zapped. It's important to Vada that I act the role she assigns me. If I don't know what it is, she explains. It is so much better for me to have a living child in the room. Vada gives me a break from the tv. Daddy and Melvin are pre-occupied and I am ready to let her show me the dolls, tell about each one, tell about her magic snowflake. She begins a performance, "Wanna see what I can do?" I say, yes, and she does a twirl, or whatever comes to mind. Vada gets me through the 1pm to 8pm tv. We snack on junk food and pizza. The flatscreen flickers, tells me where I can eat the cheapest, buy the cheapest insurance, and get more for less.   

grumpy old bastard by vada


Sunday, March 29, 2015



Today's film was the last of the Romanian film festival, the sixth, the last one I could find at netflix, The Death of Mr Lazarescu. I'd seen it a few years ago, though wanted to see it again. It was good enough to see a second time. Mr Lazarescu has a pain, asks for an aspirin, then needs an ambulance to be carried to the hospital. He was fading fast. The ambulance medic I recognized from a role in another film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which I also saw the second time. She was mother of the girl's boyfriend. Good actress. Very different characters in the two roles. She accompanies Mr Lazarescu from hospital to hospital, doctor to doctor, in Bucharest the night of a bus wreck that killed twenty and left too many injured for the hospitals to handle. In a way, the film is a muckraking look at the health care system, hospitals, doctors, indifference, ego. The different doctors were characterized well as doctor types, arrogant with the nurses and medics, brilliant minds surrounded by go-fers; go fer this, go fer that. The Bucharest hospitals were technically equipped about like Sparta hospital. They can do quite a lot and the equipment they have is good, but it is spare due to budgets. Romania is not one of the prosperous countries and Alleghany is not a prosperous county. 

carpathian mountains, romania

The story was as much about the medic who carried Mr Lazarescu from hospital to the hospital through the night, taking an interest in his well-being, seeing his decline, wanted to translate his incoherent phrases, but doctors shut her down, talked down to her in such a way it took a woman of a powerful constitution to take it like she did and keep her own equilibrium like she did. She took it like a woman in a patriarchal society. Everybody pestered Lazarescu about his drinking while he was in such a state he couldn't understand what was being said to him, could not answer, couldn't sign a form giving permission to operate. Because he was unable to sign, the doctor sent him on to another hospital. It was Kafka's, The Castle, in the Bucharest healthcare system. It was not that the hospitals were dirty or inept. They were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. The attitudes of doctors and staff were busily dismissive like American hospitals. Mr Lazarescu was caught in an absurd circle that never ends until he died waiting for the operation that would not have brought him back. The film was in the Balkan Absurd tradition. All he wanted was an aspirin for a headache. 

timisoara, romania

The first film in the series was Aurora. Three hours. In the first half, a man who seldom talks goes about his daily routine, walks to a gun store and buys a shotgun. He breaks it down into two parts and carries it in a sports bag. He carried it everywhere he went. He went to his in-law's house, killed his mother-in-law and father-in-law, drove to a parking garage and waited. A man and a woman were walking to a car and he shot them both. He drove away in his car like it's no big deal. The second half of the film is what he does after the incident. He checked his seven year old girl out of school and put her in with a neighbor to keep until her mother came home from work. He then went to the police station, gave them the bag with the gun, turned himself in, explained he had killed his in-laws and his ex-wife with her new man. Him walking into the police station was as much a surprise as when he shot his in-laws. Did not see it coming. He is last seen explaining to the detectives what he did, the details, places and times. Never a reference to why. The detective handed him a legal pad to write his confession on. The end. Presumably, what he wrote is the story that just ended. It was a film with zero action, except in the pivotal moment that divided the film into before and after, yet from first scene to last it held my attention. I followed him with constant curiosity, before and after. The story was no more than watching this man, plain enough to be Everyman, walking and driving through his day. Turns out, it was a day he'd been planning awhile. Another film I'd like to see a second time.  

carpathian mountains, romania

Two others, The Way I Spent The End Of The World, and Child's Pose showed the world of the the working people in one and the equivalent of the American upper middle-class in the other. Two very different worlds. A well-off woman with some local power had a privileged son who was a willful brat grown up into a twenty-something. Son killed a working class child drunk driving. Mom goes through the story pulling strings she's able, doing all she can to keep him out of trouble. It comes to a deeply moving end where a transforming experience works to the best for all concerned. A beautifully made film. The characters return to life as usual following an experience that changes everything. In The Way I Spent The End Of The World, the change was the fall of Ceausescu. This was something of a theme I saw run through the Romanian series, found each one to be a moment that stands out in a continuum that continues beyond the end of the story. In all of them I found a sense of a future after the end and a sense of the past before the beginning. This perspective in telling a story seems particularly Romanian to my limited experience, anyway in the way it is visioned. Everything goes on like usual, then a transforming change occurs and everyday life is back to usual, just different. The American film, The Squid and The Whale, comes to mind having the quality of a transforming experience occurring in a continuum of everyday life. Lazarescu dies, the continuum goes on.

constantin brancusi's endless column, targu-jiu, romania


Saturday, March 28, 2015


donkey jen at breakfast

Every day I see notice of somebody else who believes the planet is six thousand years old, like it matters. I know people who believe the earth is flat, people who went to school. I'd venture that most fundamentalists believe the earth is six thousand years old. It's fundamentalist popular theology. I have no problem with them believing they're right and everybody else is wrong, as long as they leave me out of it. In the 1950s, the time of Joe McCarthy and red scare propaganda, I sat in church hearing the preacher talk about wanting a fundamentalist theocracy, force everybody to walk the line, the very same republican talk of today. I would think while he was talking that if you want the church to go out in the world and join politics with the intent of taking over, it's the end of your church. I've seen the progression of that line of thinking unto the place now that the Congress and Senate are planted largely with "Christian" intolerance, bought cheap. They see things in black and white, missing the entire rainbow in between the poles where we live our lives. Pat Robertson is now the chief fundamentalist evangelist after Billy Graham sat on the throne half a century. I heard it said Graham was the greatest man of the 20th Century, and I thought: In what category? Slap-stick? I grew up in the choir of Billy Graham praise. 


Graham was too gross for me. He was a performer like Bob Hope or Red Skelton. Like them, he was in it for the money and attention. His performance of the appearance of piety worked for him. Though I disliked intensely that world to grow up in, seeing in the news the fundamentalist takeover of government, I have insight into where they are coming from. And now I see it every day. I saw then the only outcome will be the destruction of fundamentalism. I thought they would embarrass themselves out of existence. They embarrass themselves dreadfully and don't get it. Michelle Bachmann, for example. They don't get it because they're so popular. The billionaires club bought them a tv channel to manipulate them to work against their own interest and think they're doing something big. It worked. I've put their way of thinking so far in my past, I'm grateful for the review to articulate from memory the motivation that set me running for my life like the guy in Munch's The Scream. I don't know why it failed to take with me and not the other kids in the church. My childhood reading level got "God is love," memorized verses that said the kingdom of heaven is in the heart. Why didn't I ever hear this in church as something practical to live by? Why didn't I ever hear about compassion as a way to live? Hate the communists and justify hating outsiders. God prefers white people. The God in the church was the god of Fear, before whom we shudder, tied up in knots of guilt. Only the preacher was going to heaven for sure. The rest of us were guilty as all hell. It had me twisted up with guilt for any and everything. 


Later, I had a friend in college who was Catholic and just as burned out by bogus theology as I was. Later had a Jewish friend burned out the same as I was. We found the religions we came up in empty shells found on the beach. Pretty. You can hear the ocean in them. There's something ancient and timeless about them. But the spirit is gone. It's off somewhere else with the living. My spirit was suffocated by the emphasis on fear, guilt, punishment. I found the people of my life whose intelligence I respected were the teachers at school. I wanted to be like them. They were somewhat rational, didn't live entirely in the emotional realm. I wanted out of the vacuum of an official belief system. First thing I did, like the dog let off a chain the first time, was run blindly in all directions unaware of dangers, unaware of the world outside that belief system. I wanted to sin, sin, sin. I wanted to indulge in everything I was told not to do because God didn't like it. God doesn't like anything else either. When everything is a sin, I'm free, I can do anything. It's all a sin. Guilt supreme. Control. A belief system built by the needs of the few to control the many. Then one day I came face to face, in the spirit, with Meher Baba and he told me what I already knew, God is love. This was the reward for the fifteen years dismantling, brick by brick, the construction in my head of Kansas fundamentalist theology. God is love is fun. The misinterpretation of God as fear is not fun. God is love allows me to see my donkeys with love in their hearts, embodied spirits, like humans. Under God is fear, I see the donkeys brute beasts devoid of consciousness or mind or heart. I'm able to enjoy the whole personality of my donkey friends, aware of their consciousness, mind and heart. They are aware of same in me, because I'm able to see it in them. One small example of how God is love enhances my life.


Friday, March 27, 2015


constantin brancusi

It has been a two-week film festival at my house of Romanian films. Found six. Today's was a documentary of the Ceausescu years, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu. I've known little to nothing about Romania. It was behind the Iron Curtain where the only news we heard of Soviet satellites was propaganda. I remember the name Ceausescu equated in my mind like Tito of (then) Yugoslavia, a tyrant dictator. Before seeing this film, I questioned self what I knew about Ceausescu, and all I could find was tyrant dictator overthrown for I did not know what reasons. Four films made in Romania gave me a sense of the culture, what the people look like, clothes, styles, the cities, the landscape, the architecture, the cars. The second film in my at home festival, The Way I Spent The End of The World, followed a family, kids in school, working people, Bucharest, showed a life of paranoia under Ceausescu, and the jubilation when he fell. Another, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, concerned a girl in college getting an illegal abortion in a hotel room, accompanied by her roommate in the dorm, her friend. I sometimes consult the Atlas during foreign films to get a sense of place. First clue to location was the desk clerk in a hotel saying they were full, people from Bucharest. It was not Bucharest. Later, I heard in a conversation at a dinner table, "Here in Roman." Went to the Atlas, looked up Roman, Romania, in the index. Found it. Went to the map of Romania and found Roman. It is north of Bucharest on a highway that looks like it follows a long valley, something like the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, between two rows of mountains. The Danube flows through Romania. 

constantin brancusi

I've learned from studying the Atlas, Romania is bordered on the north by Ukraine, on the west by Hungary and Serbia, on the south by Bulgaria, and on the east by the Black Sea and Moldova. I know nothing of Romania's history. Just now went to amazon and bought a history that had some good reviews and a good price, a hundred pictures with the text. Just what I want. The Autobiography of Ceausescu by documentary film showed me a great deal about Romania and the people, just by what I saw. It was composed of newsreel footage for television from Ceausescu's beginnings to his end. Some b&w, some color. Film footage of big Party gatherings, speeches, rallying people to his support, Ceausescu was a politician doing it well. I saw Khrushchev visit, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Nixon, Ford, Carter, He  went to North Korea, the subject of a big celebration. In London he rode in the carriage with the Queen in a parade, waving. He was good at waving. He did it automatically in a way that looked like it was meant personally for anyone seeing it. He had a male charisma about him. Maybe what one would call a man's man. Men liked him. Or gave the appearance of it. He was a believer in Marx and Lenin. He studied while he ruled. I liked about the documentary of nothing but newsreel clips, no commentary, many of them with no sound. The ones with sound provided translation in subtitles. Mostly, it was in silence. Three hours. I saw it in three viewings. Came out of it with a sense for his period of Romania's history. And by the end, I had no more idea of why he was reviled as a tyrant than I did at the beginning. All the footage was State controlled. 

constantin brancusi

At the end of the documentary, his overthrow had something to do with what they called a "genocide at Timisoara," a large city in the western part of the country near Hungary and Serbia. I may want to google that. I looked it up. Turns out it was just as he said at the end when he was detained. He was accused of a massacre of thousands, 4,500 at Timisoara. Turns out it was exaggerated by the people of the rebellion for the press. Ceausescu said it was not like that, it was much less. Turns out, after the fog of misinformation cleared, it was a hundred. It was the crackdown on rebellion that got him executed. I knew there was a dark side to these bright side newsreel films, and appreciated that the makers of the film gave no hint of judgment. And it is apt as an autobiography as all of it was self-serving, adoring the great leader. He appeared to me to be a good leader. As age crept up on him, his walking was less firm, and his demeanor was only partially present. His mind was still sharp, but he was fading. Seems like he would have saved the country and himself a good measure of grief to turn his power over to someone else. But power was the thrill. It had a hook. Outliving a role of immense power, being a once-was, seeing your significance fade into irrelevance while you're living, is not easy to live with. I have the impression he hung on tight in his drifty years to the power his out of bounds ego could not let go. He outlived his significance and caused rebellion by the opposition. I'm looking forward now to the history of Romania. I've read a history of the Ottoman Empire, so I have the little I remember from it to make the first step. I've wondered about Romania for so long I don't remember when the curiosity began. 

constantin brancusi

I only knew of Romania that 20th Century sculptor, Constantin Brancusi went to Paris from Romania. I have a big picture book of his works. The text was written by his closest friends, husband and wife, Romanian, living in the apartment above him in Paris. I will read the text. Dadaists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco went to Zurich, Switzerland, draft dodgers during WW1. French playwright, Eugene Ionesco, was Romanian, writing in Paris in French. Historian, philosopher, Mircea Eliade, was born in Bucharest. These are not insignificant people in the chopping-block moment that cut off the progression of European art as it was evolving--the birth of the Modern, and the art that sprang from it. Eliade is one of the great minds of the 20th Century. Brancusi is the soul of the Modern. I've wondered for a long time without pursuing the question what it is about Romania that contributed so directly to the birth of the modern. The Absurd came out of the Balkans, too. WW1 was kicked off in the Balkans. Seems some powerful energy was tapped into something. The Balkans being behind the Iron Curtain so long as Yugoslavia, disappeared from my attention, having no idea about the Balkan nationalities. Then the Balkan wars, and now the different countries have their own identities again. The Soviet period brought progress for a time, while at the same time diminished the spirit of the population, put people into depression from suppressed anger and the impotence of frustrated initiative. I've learned from the film festival that Romania is pronounced with the accent on the i, the third syllable, Roman-ee-a, like Carolina has the accent on third syllable. I'm enjoying getting to know a country and its culture, how people live there. I knew nothing at all about Romania, except tyrant dictator, and didn't even know that.    


Thursday, March 26, 2015


max ernst

Saw a thing on facebook promising this could change the way I think. I couldn't click on it. It looked like something like a hugging contest. Something unexpectedly sweet. I couldn't go there, whatever it was. The intro that it's about changing the way I think did it for me. Not that I reject having the way I think changed. I'm always open to adjusting, fine tuning my thinking. I already know my thinking is based in illusion, mixing details, facts, trends, beliefs I'm unaware of, connecting the dots in my head into a skyscraper of cards. Every card a bit of misinformation, inaccurate details, images arranged into a construction composed by my own attitude toward life. What does some person on facebook who never heard of me know about my thinking? The presumption that I think a certain way is what turned me off. How does that person know I don't already think the way he's making a case for? And what if I don't? I'm half tempted go take a look at what it has to say, but refuse to. It brings to mind somebody saying a sentimental act of common decency restored their faith in humanity. Every time I hear it, I think, but cannot say, If that's all it took to restore your faith in humanity, it must not have taken much to lose it. The American madness to change other people's thinking is totally out of bounds in my way of seeing plain decency. The church I grew up in tried to convince me it was my duty to browbeat everyone I know about changing their way of thinking to the only way, the right way, the way the preacher at the church thought. I wouldn't want to lay that on anybody, God as Fear and Punishment. I had to shed that mind. It took fifteen years by school education and self-education by reading and paying attention to the people I know.  

max ernst

Since childhood, I've wanted through the course of my life to know people from different backgrounds, social circumstances, from the poor to the rich, from religious to non-religious, from pastoral people, who live by supposed-to, to ex-convicts and foreigners, Yankees too. I've been fascinated by the varieties of humanity since as far back as I can remember, always interested in people of different cultures, different nationalities, different races, different languages. I even like knowing cops. I believe our Sparta town police, now, are honorable people. It hadn't always been that way. My best friend through grade school was American-Mexican. He was as American as I was, but he was Mexican. My mother worked sometimes in a TG&Y store as accountant. We'd go pick her up after work. A Mexican girl in high school worked there, Juanita. I loved Juanita. I still love the name. She knew that Mitchell was my friend. I loved the Mexican in her. That she was Catholic fascinated me too. I was like a l dog following her around listening to her talk. I asked her once to say something in Spanish. She asked what I wanted her to say. I couldn't think of anything and we laughed. I had Mexican friends all the way through school. I didn't care that it made me suspect to the other white kids. The Mexicans were far more interesting to me than the white Baptist kids. I also did not like the way they were shut out by the white kids. I extended myself to them, wanting to know them, appreciating them as themselves, liking them especially for being different from the suffocating pride of whiteness. White arrogance toward people I knew to be valid human beings made me ashamed of my white privilege. 

max ernst

In the Navy, my friends were the black guys. I was on an old WW2 destroyer that was sold to Brazil soon after I was released. It could run, and it could ride the waves. It took a 90 degree roll one night and uprighted. I loved how the ship rode the waves. In the very worst times when three-quarters of the crew were out with sea-sickness and and puke was everywhere, I kept on going, thinking to self I'd pay for this ride, and it's paying me. I loved it, walking down a hallway bouncing from wall to wall using upper arms for bumpers, going up steps and stepping down what seemed like three feet to step up to the next step, I didn't like the aroma of puke everywhere, on my clothes too, no avoiding it, but I refused to give in to sea-sickness, because riding the waves was my reason for choosing the Navy to stay out of the Army. I loved riding the ocean. The ship had a dozen or more black guys. I liked them the best and enjoyed social times with them. They were people just like me and the other white guys that called me nigger lover. My closest friend on the ship was Muslim, from Boston. One of the guys on the ship from Texas had a cousin who was going with Joe Tex, then a pop singer on the radio. Going onshore, I always went with my black friends. They were the most fun. The white guys went en masse to the sailor bar to drink as much beer as they could and talk big man talk about pussy. With the black guys I went to jazz clubs. They knew where these places were. Had some great jazz club experiences in Europe along the Mediterranean. My friend, Ameen, played jazz piano on the order of Ahmad Jamal, and jazz vibraphone, vibes. We'd go to a club, enjoy the music by good musicians from all over Europe. During intermission he'd introduce himself to the band, we'd drink with the band and talk. Every time, the piano player asked him to play some tunes. His courtesy was never to play more than two.

max ernst

After being acquainted with a fair variety of people, weary of racial tensions, I committed to a white working class community of mountain people, a real culture. As a white dude, I felt most at home among mountain people. I found my grandmother Worthington in them. From early years in these mountains unto now I feel in the mountains as in grandmother's arms. The attitude was hers, the philosophical mind was hers, the colloquialisms were hers, and the feeling was hers. I didn't learn until I'd been here a quarter century that her parents moved to Kansas from east Kentucky, Pulaski County, not long before she was born. Her older brothers and sisters grew up in Kentucky. She grew up in a mountain home, in Kansas. She married a boy whose parents had just moved to Kansas from Ninemile in eastern Tennessee, Bledsoe County. After living here feeling at home in mountain culture as nowhere else, I learned I've got hillbilly blood, lots of it. It was one of the happiest moments in my life to learn I had hillbilly blood on the Worthington side. Great-great grandpa fought for the Confederacy and survived. One of his brothers didn't make it. I felt closest to grandmother in childhood as to any relative. She was my home base. I had fun telling my sisters in Kansas they had hillbilly blood. Throughout my life, I've regretted the divide between races, religions, nationalities in my country. In the grocery store a couple days ago, a black man I'd never seen before came up behind me in line with two items. I invited him to go ahead of me. He was so surprised he looked suspicious, backing up a step. He declined. I said, Go ahead, I'm in no hurry. He did and spoke his gratitude. Mary at the register said that was nice of me. I said, I can't stand to unload my buggy with somebody behind me who has two items. What's the rush? Then realized it was "nice," unexpected, because he was black. I've done the same for white people and got no notice.  

max ernst himself


Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Closing in on the final pages of Billy Idol's autobiography, Dancing With Myself, and don't want to finish it. A dozen pages to go and I couldn't read on, save it for another time, make it stay just a little bit longer. He's quite a good writer and he tells a good story. He's even a rock star who reads books that are not easy to read. You'd never know it by his behavior. Pedal to the metal, full on, everything goes. His first song with his punk band in London, Generation X, was, Ready Steady Go. I remember when the London punk scene withered and Billy Idol came to USA. Of all the punk albums I have in the house, when I want to hear punk, I most often put on Generation X. I started reading his story from my interest in the years 75-77 in London punk. He gave a you-are-there account of his experience with rock n roll since his early childhood listening to the Beatles and the Who. The punk moment was just right for his age and generation. He embodied the punk spirit, just about as much as Johnny Rotten did. After some time of creating a stage persona with a certain attitude, the stage persona bleeds over into one's personality. Billy Idol took punk persona all the way for about twenty years. He managed to function with a heroin habit, cocaine addiction, both at once, and everything else that came along. It's a life full of consequences of stupid actions. He had a knack, like me, for making a fool of himself at a moment that turned out to be crucial. When he had his Rolling Stone interview, he was apprehensive they'd twist him around like they were known to do and trick him into saying things he didn't want to say. 

He was so anxious before the interview, he put himself into a stupor, then exploded in the interview yelling about how he hates Rolling Stone magazine, hated the interview, told them not to put it in the magazine, regretting he'd consented to the interview, put on a shameless rant that embarrassed him terribly when it was reproduced in the magazine, word for word. He said it was good for the short term record sales, punk attitude, but it turned all the rock critics against him. He had many such incidents in states of advanced inebriation, mixed with punk attitude and rock star arrogance. I like about his telling of his story that he owns up to his arrogance and his inner stupid, his addictions, his love for the never-ending party that is a rock band on tour. In his most self-indulgent time he threw away the love of his life and their child, the other love of his life. It got his attention. For awhile. He said when the most gorgeous, hottest babes he'd ever seen were all over him, what does a man do? Making music on stage meant more to him than his addictions. His addictions kept him going, even assisted him doing the one thing he loved most unto his guiding light. His dad told him when he told mum and dad he wanted to be with a rock band, he'd never make a living a rock musician. Not many years later, Billy went home to London to see family and carried with him his first framed gold record, gave it to his dad. In a time he'd made a major mess of things from too much of everything, debilitated by it, his dad and mum flew to LA to stay with him and nurse him back to health, his mother a nurse and Irish. In the course of his life, his dad was the friend who stuck with him all the way along. 

I never bought any Billy Idol albums after Generation X. I liked what I heard that he was doing, White Wedding, Eyes Without a Face, Dancing With Myself, and the great song, Rebel Yell. He told of a time in a NY recording studio complex, the Stones were in there recording at the same time he was. He and Ron Wood were friends. He and his band went and hung with the Stones awhile during time out for refreshments. He said Keith and Mick were drinking Rebel Yell. He started thinking about it as a song and asked them if they had any plans to name a song Rebel Yell. They said no. It was his to do. He wanted to make it sexy and did. He brought punk rhythms into American metal and made a difference. He tells his own story by album recordings, the tours that follow, and the time in between of resuming the other life of wife and kid he loved like crazy, but found it ultimately impossible to fuse the two lives. He didn't say it directly, or I forgot, but his story tells that his time writing songs, putting them together with the band, recording them, the album release and five months on the road doing what he loved more than anything in life, on stage charging up an audience with some killer rock n roll, was his life, all else peripheral. I like his spirit, his attitude toward life. He tells his story with an enthusiasm the equal of how he lived it. He gave himself to his life wide open, committed. He wrote his story in the same spirit. He had two motorcycle wrecks. The second one almost ended his career. Came close to having his lower right leg amputated, the bone crushed, broadsided by a car bumper. He's a high-energy dude with a lot of it to burn off. He willed himself healed in time for the next tour and did it. 

Not many people confuse rock musicians with artists. I'm one who does. Reading Billy Idol's life is the story of an artist the same as reading a life of Vincent Van Gogh. A good piece of music of any variety is art. I would call the Kronos Quartet playing Terry Riley compositions art the same as I would call Billy Idol's albums and performances art. He's a musician, songwriter, composer, vocalist and a performer. I'm one who sees theater alive and thriving in rock concerts. This coming Friday night I'm going to Charlotte to hear/see four hard-core punk bands, Daniel Biggins' band, The Seduction, one of them. I thought about Daniel quite a lot reading Billy Idol's story. Daniel is doing the only thing he ever wanted to do in his life with his band. He is one happy dude when he's on stage giving it all he's got as loud as he can make it. I think it's through Daniel I had some insight into Billy Idol, the kid who wanted to be in a rock band and nothing else all the time growing up, learning an instrument, looking for others with the same dream, put a band together and do whatever a kid can do, a step at a time. I've come to believe knowing Daniel helped Billy Idol come to life for me in the telling of his story. I was stuck in the middle of a thousand page biography of Van Gogh, needed a break. Read three Chris Hedges books, writing you'd read in The Nation magazine, documentary looks at contemporary history. Then I wanted a page turner. Went to amazon, Billy Idol's Dancing With Myself popped up as a suggestion going by purchases past. I knew on sight this was the book I was looking for. It fulfilled its promise. I don't believe I'll buy any of his music, unless it would be a Generation X album from 1976. I never took to his American metal period. I appreciated that he injected punk rhythms into metal, but I wasn't a fan of 80s metal and still am not. I liked his hits, but have become wary from experience of buying an album because I like one song. I can find Billy Idol on YouTube any time I want. 

billy idol 


Monday, March 23, 2015


mary hourihan lynch

Went and watched the race today, not in a good mood. Not in a bad mood either, just dissatisfied. I need a break from television every Sunday afternoon and evening. Arrived as the race started and left soon after it was over. March Madness, saw Wichita State beat Kansas State, so glad those places are no longer in my life. The only way I can figure my soul found its way to Kansas this time was maybe I saw the movie The Wizard of Oz in last lifetime while having a miserable time of it, dreaming of Judy Garland in Kansas with red shoes, there's no place like home. All my life I've wondered what kind of karmic activity in my past landed me in Kansas and a fundamentalist church to complicate it further. Could I have been drawn to the landscape from lifetimes riding a horse and wearing feathers on the plains following the buffalo? I recall a powerful moment in childhood, some time not long after learning about the Indians from my grandmother, who had an older brother who was said to have traded horses with Sitting Bull. I felt like the Indians were my real people. I got mixed up and born into white skin this time. I remember thinking in childhood, maybe seven or eight, my people will never recognize me. I am the enemy and they can never see me any other way. It was a lonesome feeling, something like lost in space. In childhood play, I only identified with the Indians. In movies and tv westerns, I only pulled for the Indians, knowing they'd lose, but they were my people. I have never felt comfortable white, especially seeing how arrogant white people act toward people of any other pigmentation. I have never felt comfortable with people of other colors, because I can't help it I'm white. I know a lot of other white people who feel the same way. We don't make headlines. We just get called nigger lovers. 

mary hourihan lynch

And that's ok. If it wasn't that, it would be something else. This is human existence. I can't change it anyplace but in myself. Racists I know don't go about hurting black people, as far as I know. Their racism is their concern, not mine. The same as I don't want racists to have a problem with me for not being a racist, I don't have a problem with racists. It's their business. I regret that the corporate takeover of our government is so vehemently racist. It's in the nature of fascism, however, you gotta have a focus for hate. Hate is the wave fascism rides. I find it interesting, not ironic, the people who call them selves Christian cling to fascism and wallow in hate. Ask any Jew who survived the Thirties and Forties in Europe. It was Christians all over Europe killing Jews, not just the German Christians. Again, my only concern is that I do no harm to Jews, black people, Latin American people, even white people. Here, too, applies being in the world not of it. I live in a multi-cultural world. I'm ok with it being multi-cultural. I like that it is multi-cultural. I am in a given race, but I do not have to partake of the arrogance of whiteness. Racism has a place, for sure, in Southern culture, but Southern culture is not entirely racist. Look at the great Southern writers. Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers. They were not racist. Though the politicians and evangelists largely are. It's about the same mix all over the country since the rise of fascist propaganda. Here again, it's the world I live in, but I don't have to be of it, don't have to do what somebody else does. And they don't have to do what I do. My racist friends know where I stand and I know where they stand. No big deal. 

mary hourihan lynch

This is an aspect of the South the people outside the South don't get. Southerners I know tend to be tolerant of people they don't approve of or don't like. Southerners want peace among one another. I don't mean there is no fighting or hate going on, but I have found on the whole Southerners to be peaceable people in their everyday lives. I appreciate Southern culture so much, one aspect that might be objectionable does not diminish the whole. Yankees don't do well in the South, only because of their arrogance toward Southerners. Condescension is obvious from the receiving end. I recall a woman several years ago, here from Connecticut, dissatisfied after a couple years. She was wanting to kick up a fuss over how some man kept his dog. She called herself an animal rescuer. She wanted to force him to take better care of his dog by some kind of idea of justice. She'd got herself into a fix that frightened her. I told her let it rest. You're in the South. You don't tell a man in the South what to do with his property, and to some a dog is property. She couldn't let it rest, it wasn't right. I attempted to explain right has nothing to do with it. I reminded her that in the South she is a foreigner, she has no backup. I recommended she let the dog issue rest. She couldn't do it. It wasn't right. She pursued it, got herself into a heap of trouble by way of threats, freaked out and left the county. She loved it here, but it wasn't enough like where she came from. She could not accept the people around her as themselves. She wanted them to be different. She was so caught up in being right, my talk about letting it go was, itself, not right. She wanted to be right. Ok. Be right. Have a good time.

mary hourihan lynch

I don't have to be every aspect of Southern culture to live happily in the South. For example, I'm not interested in college football games or barbecue. But I do like the Allman Brothers, George Thorogood and the Dirty South Revolutionaries. The South has many sub-cultures, all of them Southern. All have that something special that is Southern. It's an identity with the South, not an ideology or political belief system, nor a religion. The South has Catholic churches and synagogues aplenty, as well as temples of all the religions. There is a Tibetan monastery in Georgia.  We live in peace as Southerners. The greatest characteristic I know of the South is the readiness to allow others to be who they are. Though certain aspects of the belief systems don't necessarily accord with what they claim to believe, it's tradition and that's the end of it. Some years ago a Yankee friend told me it is my responsibility to teach one of my racist friends not to be a racist. I said it is not my responsibility. He believed it was. I maintained it was not. I still believe it is not my responsibility to set out to change anybody's pattern of thinking, not even my right. I woke this morning with the incident in my mind, talking with self about allowing others the autonomy of their own minds. I don't know of another way to live in peace with the people in my world, wherever I live, all the way to rural Thailand. I allow them their own understandings, they allow me mine. I don't like Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door telling me they're right and I'm wrong. It seems to me basic human decency to allow others their own autonomy. If I expect to be allowed my own, then I allow others their own. For me to tell somebody else their way of thinking is unacceptable and must change, I'm giving somebody down the line permission to do the same to me.  
janice lynch schuster and her mother mary hourihan lynch


Saturday, March 21, 2015


etel adnan

Spring is here, on the calendar and in the air. The grass is greening in the donkey meadow. They graze hay part of the day and the fresh green shoots the other part, roaming slowly, heads to the ground. It must be like eating strawberries after a winter of stale bread. I will go on giving them hay while the new grass is growing. The grass has no fiber in it yet. The donkeys will need the fiber of the hay until the grass grows up a ways. I learned this from old man Tom Pruitt working with cows. May have more hay than needed. Don't want any left over. I want to give them all fresh hay next year. I'll see about getting a first-cutting of the hay this time. It will cost more than the second-cutting, but will be worth it. It won't have so many sticks and stickers, stalks and stems. The donkeys like that part. They eat the stalks and stems. I grow weary of nettle splinters in fingers and thumbs from tearing the hay apart to fluff it up for them. Jenny doesn't like for me to wear gloves. The tips break off too deep inside the skin to pry out with a needle. Somebody told me to put a spot of iodine on it daily and the splinter will rise to the surface after several days. She got it from her grandpa. It took a week. In the summer I'll miss taking hay to the donkeys every day. Thinking about taking a folding chair into the meadow this summer to sit in and read, maybe under the dogwood tree, to be present with them in the meadow. They will graze nearby for awhile, and gradually graze about the meadow as usual. I can no longer go sit by the creek in the woods and watch the trout and minnows swim anymore. It's depressing to sit and watch the water, knowing it is poison to life forms. It is symbolic of so much that mountain spring water no longer sustains life. I can go sit in the meadow with the donkeys for the same relaxing focus of attention I found watching the water and the fish before. 

etel adnan

Talking with someone last week, she said it's depressing to look at things the way they are, and asked how I can be happy and still see things the way they are. All I could say was, deal with it. It's not easy for me to live in a country where at least half the population wants fascism. Yet, there is the other half that does not, my half. Where I live it's more like seventy-five percent and twenty-five percent. I don't care about the percentage. I don't even prefer the people of my quarter of the population. I do not care about the politics of anyone I know. A few from both sides are aggressive with their belief systems. I stay away from them, seeing the people who need to advertise their beliefs to be living commercials and little more, another word for missionaries. The church I grew up in taught me to believe I must persuade others to my belief system, which I could not do. Even in childhood I knew other people had their own ways of seeing for their own reasons. Who am I to be telling somebody else my belief system is right and theirs is wrong? I didn't even know what my belief system was, except what I was told it was supposed to be. Who was I to say the Baptist religion was right and the Catholic wrong? Just because I went to one against my will? Among the great benefits to my own mental health was learning to let go of thinking my product was better than anybody else's. I learned in school that I was not the fastest runner, did not make the best grades, didn't care about being a jock, was not and would never be popular  I've learned grown up I am not the one with the fastest, most retentive mind of people I know. I don't read fast. Care nothing for competition of any sort. In fact, have come to reject competition. When I catch self wanting to do something better than somebody else, I ask, Why? That's the end of it. I'm no fun to play games with for caring so little about winning.

etel adnan

I went to my thirtieth class reunion fifteen years ago at the College of Charleston. Everybody was lawyers, judges, doctors, politicians, professors, some in tailored tuxedos, and I was a house painter. In school, nobody wanted to be like their parents. At the reunion, I felt like I was among the parents of the people I went to school with. They were way beyond me in status, income, education. I didn't care. This was not my world. People I crossed paths with for a time. They were looking for success and found it. I was looking for success, too, and found it. My success was in my inner self, consciousness, my attitude toward life. If we'd dressed according to my idea of success, they'd have been a rough looking bunch, as rough looking as I was in the party to their success. I'd become acclimatized to the mountains and this was summer in Charleston. I wore a sport coat, and sweat so bad my shirt was soaked and the jacket was wet. I took napkins from the drinks table, one after the other, mopping the sweat off my face. I felt like a donkey in a herd of horses. Glad I did not turn out like them. Didn't want to then either. It was like they went to the College for job training, to get into medical school or law school. I went to the College for my life. I knew I knew nothing and wanted to learn something. I wanted to go on learning. I wanted to learn about life on earth, how best to live it in ways that are real instead of artificial, to face my life face-on and live as who I am, not what I'm expected to be, not what society looks up to, not what anybody looks up to. I came to the mountains with the last lines of WB Yeats' poem, Among School Children, in my mind, to start where all ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

etel adnan

I was grateful when my parachute landed me among the Pruitts, people of no social status, people who worked hard and lived hard, good people content being who they are. Raising cattle to become fast-food burgers seemed a waste, yet valid as work in service to humanity. I felt like house painting was valid work in that the only waste it left was empty paint cans and already discarded rags. It amounted to maintaining what is already here, instead of adding to what we already have too much of. I loved about interiors that paint can make the walls, ceiling and floor in a room of the most modest house look as good as a Manhattan uptown interior. The four walls and ceiling make an empty canvas to add color to, create a space using color. The most beautiful my house has ever been was when it was empty before I moved in. Justin and Crystal bought a modest house with all white walls inside. She painted the rooms different colors, light, beautiful colors. The vibe in the house felt good before, and by now the vibe is remarkably higher. My heart is with the working people. I seldom made more than minimum wage and didn't want more. I wanted to live simply among people who worked hard for little return. It means I live as a reader in a world of people who do not read. It's the same among the professional class. So what's the difference? In one class the people look down their noses at the working class, feeling themselves high up. People on the ground look small from up the ladder. Samuel Beckett's story, The Lost Ones, comes to mind often as a vision of civilization in our time. It plays on the inside of my skull in front fairly often, on the inner drive-in movie screen where I see my thoughts. It seems depressing to share a vision of the world with Beckett, though I deal with it by finding it good practice in detachment, being a passive observer.

etel adnan, herself


Friday, March 20, 2015


A beautiful foggy day. I call fog beautiful for the way it gives the natural world a sense of a Japanese screen. Rhododendron leaves glossy wet, the crooked limbs in the foreground darkened by the mist of rain. Last year's leaves cover the ground, a soft carpet speckled in shades of reddish brown from light tan to dark like a pointillist painting. Green spikes of daffodil leaves, six to eight inches long, point straight up in clusters, poking through the carpet. Snowbirds and chickadees peck among fallen pine needles, reddish brown. The birds hop and run about, slate-gray and white, quick bird movements. The female cardinal wary, pecks a seed and raises her head to nibble the seed out of the shell, looks in all directions, flew to a rhododendron branch. I suspect a psychotherapist would call the birds hyper-vigilant. The squirrels are too. Heads darting back and forth, looking in all directions, each eye covering half the way around. They appear to shift attention from eye to eye while seeing from both. The cautious bird survives. They have predators in the air and on land. A momentary lapse of attention is all it takes to be snatched out of the air by hawk talons or from the ground by cat claws. That's ok, too. They go on to their next lives and the hawk or cat has a good meal. The cycle of life. Hopping and flying candy bars. Out another window I see Jack grazing a mound of hay in the fog.

Talked with friends on the phone twice during the day. Both complained and drooped to the ground within over how boring it is to have a wet, overcast day. And I was enjoying it, admiring the richness in colors on a wet, overcast day, the windows Japanese screens. The sunlight bleaches colors, while rain and fog bring out the colors, make them shine. I don't understand seeing a beautiful day like today dreary. It wasn't even bad to go out in. Walked to feed the donkeys and back. Walked to the mailbox and back. Did not get wet either time. It was as beautiful to me out in it as a sunny day. I live simply because I want to be close to the elements, the weather, the seasons, day, night. All the green things were perked up and cheery, feeling good, glowing on a warm day above freezing, wet on the leaves and the roots. Winter grows wearisome after several months, heat going all the time, cold floors, but it's not a problem. My car drives well in snow and mud. I have sweaters, coats, heavy socks and hats. As long as I keep the electric bill and the kerosene bill paid, I'm ok. Winter is the time for feeding hay to the donkeys and extra seeds for the birds. Whatever the weather, I go out to take hay to the donkeys and think nothing of the weather. If it's zero, I dress for zero. It is a love gift I'm taking them, so it is not an inconvenience for me. It's what I do. Rain, I wait til the rain calms down. The donkeys stay in their shed during rains. The rains don't last long. It's not like the donkeys go hungry. They stand in their den, side by side, and gaze into their meadow in rain.

photos by tj worthington



Wednesday, March 18, 2015


found art

The last couple days have been peculiar in such a way I suspect an arrangement of the planets. Here at home, quiet, staying out of other peoples' issues, an email invited me to participate in a civic project I questioned seriously for three days and said ok. A couple weeks later the one who emailed me before, announced she has other things to do and I'm to call so and so and tell him what I want to do. I see no reason to call. There's nothing I want to do. I was asked to do something I hesitate to get involved in and now am told to ask permission to do what I don't want to do. The end. I'm not going past this. Something that starts crazy stays crazy all the way through and ends crazy. It's a natural law. I did like the frog that was dropped into boiling water. Gone. Then I learn one of my friends has pulled some undermining shit on another of my friends. I wasn't even disappointed, it was so in character. Today I saw two women I know hate each other playing like best friends, sweet and happy. No more working on projects that are not my own and no more civic anything. I had my learning years ago. I jump into what I already know is there, get burnt, jump back and laugh at self for not paying attention to self. Told to ask permission to do what I was asked to do pushed me over the edge. It's what I call a Sparta Experience. The part that blew me away, I didn't even have to leave home to have a Sparta experience. It came to me out of the blue. This was the very thing I was wary of that made me hesitate three days to answer. I don't want to do it anyway, and I sure don't want to do it told to ask permission. I saw another friend today throw away a really good and good-paying job out of neurotic fear having to do with self-esteem, unaware yet the job is gone. 

found art

I want to stay home, yet it finds me. Last week a form letter in the mail telling me to report for jury duty in Statesville, an hour and fifteen minutes interstate run, each way. It gives me the willies to think about driving on the interstate, bumper-to-bumper, side-to-side at 75 mph in packs like in a nascar race. I'm not in that much of a hurry anymore and don't care that much anymore. Fortunately, I'm in the age zone excused if requested. Requested right away. The form went out in the mail same day it arrived. Notice came yesterday I am excused. Thank you with all my heart court system of North Carolina. This jury duty form letter came at a time in the life when I don't want involvement in other people's business. It's the freedom that goes with being outside the circle of "making money." Like this craziness that flew in out of nowhere. Other people's mental energy zoomed in on me makes me crazy. It's one of those come-here-I-love-you-get-back-I-hate-you gestures. It's not a matter of being mad. I'm not mad. I've just learned, well enough to get it. Back in 1983, after I'd been here seven years, thought I'd check out the arts council, see if there was anything going on. Preacher Millard Pruitt, whose church I was going to at the time, said, when I told him I'd connected with the arts council, "That'll last about a year." My back went up. I took it for a smart-mouthed thing to say, chose to ignore it. The arts council turned out to be a High Meadows country club women's club. After a year of dreary meetings I committed to involvement in something participatory and egos exploded in my face. Had I not left of my own will, I'd have been invited to leave. 

found art

I told Millard Pruitt what happened and asked, "How did you know it would be one year?" He said, "I know Sparta and I know you." He had worked in the Dr Grabow pipe factory, managed an Esso gas station that is now the Exxon, drove a mail route, kept a farm and was active in the county Republican party. Politically, he thought Jesse Helms was too moderate. He wanted to nuke Iran and blow up the world with Reagan the Great pushing the buttons. He had a brilliant mind outside politics. In politics he was a cement head. He was the embodiment of the Groucho Marx song, Whatever it is, I'm against it. He was everything Yankees like to point the finger at the South about. He was all the words that freak out young liberals, bigot, racist, used the enword, anti-women's rights, a John Bircher Baptist, the Republican party today. Going by what I've learned by now in my own experience, who I am now would say the same thing to who I was then, it'll last about a year. And my reasoning would be the same, I know Sparta and I know you. Then, Sparta and I were mysteries to each other. Now, Sparta and I know each other fairly well. They're glad to see me stay home and I want to be at home. I always see people I am glad to see in Sparta. This is the aspect of Sparta I appreciate most. It's where I see people I know. I like Food Lion because I always see someone I know to speak with for a few minutes. Drug store, hardware stores, bank, gas station, and I head home. Town people and country people are two different cultures. I like people of both town and country. And I like the people I know from Away. 

found art

It sounds like I'm coming from a love/hate thing for Sparta. No. I don't have a hate thing for Sparta in any degree. Only a love thing for Sparta. I accept Sparta's personality as I accept the personality of any of my friends. It is a place to see people I'm glad to know, glad to live among, glad to be in their world. Driving to and from town today, I saw familiar houses of people I know and don't know, and fields, seeing familiar mountain landscape in foreground and background. Everything I see is home. My life before the mountains I hardly ever remember anything from. Still have friends from before the mountain experience, just a few. I don't keep in touch with relatives. We live in such different worlds, we don't have a lot to talk about anymore. They think I live in the toilet of the world and that's where I think they live. They don't want to come here and I don't want to go there, so we don't see each other. I've lost touch with all my cousins. They don't mind and I don't mind. I left everything that went before in my life when I settled into the mountains. I set out to be a solitary, though the necessity of working to generate income took awhile to transcend. I have come into my solitary time and love it, keeping a good flow in motion that isn't too fast. I've worked consciously with my own psychology such that mind is quiet by now. It rattles my flow when a Sparta Experience drops in at home. I apply the rigor learned along the way: if you don't want it started, don't start it. I have a choice. 

vada and found art


Tuesday, March 17, 2015


jack (l) and Jenny (r) at breakfast

The donkey meadow has a green 5 o'clock shadow. Wednesday I noticed the first hint of green, Thursday a little more. Overcast and rain, then the last two days of sunlight and warm nights, the donkeys are roaming about the meadow nibbling where they can find something long enough to bite. The fresh grass must taste especially delicious to them after a long winter of eating hay. The last several mornings I have been not so careful with my fingers giving them carrots. Both Jenny and Jack have touched my fingers with their teeth in such a way they could have bit, but recognized it was my finger on contact and moved their teeth to the carrot. It showed me they have no intent to bite my fingers and I need not be protective of fingers from here on. Out in the field with them, I walk around them close enough to make them automatically wary, but they show no sign of discomfort and I feel comfortable too. I feel affirmed every time I walk close behind Jenny and she doesn't even change the rhythm of her munching. I've been careful not to surprise them. They taught me early that donkeys are wary of human arms. They're unpredictable and they grab donkeys and control them. I've never controlled them physically. I've only controlled the donkeys mentally by showing them I am interested in their well-being and appreciate the persons they are. I was told so many times in the first months to carry a stick, they'll kick me, warned repeatedly. I knew otherwise. Like the time I had three kittens two weeks old and their mother ran under a car. I went to the vet to buy formula and ask for some tips. I was told they would die. I knew they would live, but also knew he wouldn't believe me if I said it. He would see in time. Caterpillar's eighteenth birthday is coming up soon, Mother's Day. 

siesta time in the donkey meadow

The four-leggeds that have lived with me taught me their ways, their natures. I found when I allowed them to be themselves, not correct and scold them, not hit them, not talk down to them, and pay attention to their communications, the four-leggeds are benign, loving people who want to get along and be happy. Jack and Jenny are gentle and content with each other all day and all night. Sometimes when Jack brays, Jenny gets antsy, backs up to him and fake kicks him until he stops. I'm wondering if she's jealous because she can't bray like him. Her bray is a high-pitched squeal. I have the impression she is frustrated with herself. She's been trying a year and a half to get Jack's bray and it will not come to her. I'm guessing it pisses her off that Jack is such a good brayer and she can't get it; she's bigger than him and ought to be able to bray bigger too. She squeals like a hound dog in pain. She dislikes it so much she has stopped using her bray and just squeals. I do get the feeling she is intimidated by Jack's bray and resents him for it. It fits Jenny's jealous nature. I wonder, too, if the excitement seeing the Ice Cream man with morning carrots that sets Jack into a bray might excite Jenny too. She gets jealous over the Ice Cream man, wants him all to herself. Sometimes they back up to each other and have a fake kick-boxing match. Both hop up and down in back like they're kicking, but only touch each other with their back knees. It's play for them. No intent to kick or hurt. They just get excited and this is what donkeys do when they get excited. I take sweet grain to them in the mid afternoon. When it's time, they stand at the fence and bray for me. They back up to each other and pretend kick, hop up and down on the back legs, doing what donkeys do, sparring without hitting. 

jack (l) and jenny (r)

I reach over the fence to pour the grain. I like having the fence between me and them. They get rambunctious in a way that they forget everything else but the grain. Jenny will have it first. I walk the fence to the place I pour some for Jenny, her beside me, chin over the fence smelling the container, squealing, ears back. Jack is close, wants to be beside her, but she kicks and keeps him back while he squeals and groans, makes sounds like a whimpering child crying. I pour it for Jenny and she's eating before I finish pouring. She doesn't care if I pour it on her head. Next, Jack squealing and dancing, his nose to the container over the fence, crying, groaning, squealing to have his grain. I pour it for him at the same spot every day and he, like Jenny, is eating before I'm finished pouring. They're done with me. I get too close and their ears go back. I'm not afraid of them kicking me the other side of the fence. They get so excited over the grain they lose consciousness and then I'm in a donkey mosh pit. I don't see any need to train the excitement out of them. They learn my ways, I learn their ways. Rather than attempt to stop them getting excited, I just get out of the way and let them have at it. Jack is a happy spirited donkey by nature. He forgives readily and defers to his baby doll, Donkey Jen. He loves Jenny so much he's in bliss in her presence. Jenny loves him the same. They appear to me to beam in the presence of the other. My presence changes everything for them. This afternoon they were out in the meadow resting on the hay they were eating, siesta. 

jack's legs

I saw them through the window and thought Id see if I could sneak out the door and creep behind the white pine trunk as out of sight as possible. As soon as I set the camera where it could see them, Alpha Jack saw the camera and me. He went to braying. Jenny stood up, backed up to him and hopped up and down, forcing him to stop. He took off in a half gallop running to Ice Cream man for some grain. Jenny followed walking. They are as gentle with me as children. It's my love vibration that allows them to let down their defenses. I keep my arms down at my sides around them. I don't make sudden movements to frighten them. They are skittish as cats. I do with them like Jane Goodall did with the chimpanzees. The donkeys don't like to be touched by surprise. I keep my arms down and my hands to myself. I touch when they want to be touched. Today, I saw Jenny rubbing the bridge of her nose on the fencepost. I put my hand on the bridge of her nose and rubbed her where she was scratching. She wanted me to hold my hand still and she rubbed her nose on my hand where she had the itch or whatever it was she was scratching. It was fun for me to let her scratch her nose on my hand. The only place Jenny likes to be touched is on her back at the front shoulder where the stripes cross. Jack likes me to rub that spot for him too. After I rub Jenny on that spot, she likes for me to rub her neck, her spine, her rump, the shoulders of her legs. She will even let me rub her legs now. Touching legs was off limits for a long time. Jack loves to have his legs rubbed. Jenny will let me rub her legs after seeing me rub Jack's legs. She gets jealous and wants the same for herself. I like the love energy that flows around us the times of day we're together. It makes us gentle with each other.  

feisty donkeys