Reality

We are in the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez, which is known as an eco town. Also, someone who works for Planet Drum Foundation, a group I’ve worked with, manages a sustainability project here. But this town was severely hit by an earthquake 2 years ago, there is still rubble. This is life in the developing world.We wonder if this impacted on eco projects. We will be here a few days, I will connect with my contact person. We will also hike. Feliz ano nuevo!

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Bussing across Ecuador

The bus ride from Banos to Cuenca took us through high Andes canyons, past crashing rivers, through farm land bordered by high peaks and through some beautiful towns. It also took us through some dust filled towns and a congested, polluted ¬†city that screamed Poverty! People with broken teeth leaned against buildings, apparently ¬†with nothing to do. This of course is the legacy of imperialism and colonialism. The world’s contradictions smack you in the face in the developing world. Some say beauty is a bourgeois luxury that is irrelevant to oppressed people. Others say it is essential to them, that it is their strength and survival, and they appreciate it more than we comfortable ones do. I am with the second opinion, although this may be a naive First World hope. I will explore this question more on this trip and beyond. I know that awareness of life’s bittersweetness sings for me, I have reason to believe it is useful for all. But I must work on this.

We are in Cuenca, a lovely town in the southern Andes. More to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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POETRY IN THESE TIMES

Many writers have commented that the powers that be in a lot of cultures fear poets, and that we are among the first to face political persecution when a society turns authoritarian. I do think this is true, the examples are countless. Poetry that appeals to people’s imaginations, and deeper feeling is a threat to dictators and others who don’t want us to understand that there can be ways of seeing the world that are hopeful and that can influence people to work for changes. The poetry doesn’t have to be overtly political – Fredrico Garcia-Lorca wasn’t a political writer, but his lyrical, very soulful and heartfelt work enfuriated Spanish fascists and led them to kill him.

A tale like this one contributes to the question of what is political poetry? Many people think it is just rhetoric and expository writing that is broken into lines and maybe spiced up with rhyme, rhythm, and a touch of imagery. But other writers wonder if this kind of work really reaches touches people. It can excite the in crowd, but does it reach anyone else? The sad truth is that it can be mediocre writing. A writing teacher of mine commented long ago is that the best political poetry comes from personal experience – it talks about the writer’s life and feelings and connects them to what is happening in the world.

The other question is how do we change the political statement? I have commented on this blog that one of the biggest problems with the current progressive movement is that it is very tribal/in-groupy, does no kind of outreach or organizing, and satisfies itself with shaming and cancelling people who disagree with its perspective, including very progressive people coming from other places. I want nothing to do with any of this.

So what do I do? Time is short, but my conclusion is that I won’t write overtly political poetry. My choice is to write things that share ideas, feelings that I feel are important about nature and about the state of the culture and society. My goal is to stimulate people to see the world in new ways rather than to promote a particular political position. Maybe I can help people expand their views and question what is happening around them rather than hitting them with ineffective in-your-face stuff; I may be dreaming and I may get flamed, but that’s what I will do, and I will share some work here at some point.

Gotta run, more another time.

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I know why I haven’t Been Writing Here

Things just go on and on. We face a pandemic that goes down, goes up, goes down. Rain came to California a while ago, but it has not been here for more than a month – rain come back all is forgiven! I think the reason why I haven’t been writing is that I have been denying the fact that I need to mourn. Years ago, when I was in an environmental studies program, one of the profs used to say that we needed to figure out exactly what our relationship to the planet was. This included both the need to celebrate the world, and the need to recognize its crises, to mourn, and to return from mourning to figure out what to do. I haven’t been doing this. I’ve been looking for emotional highs from nature at the same time that I can see the damage. I have been asking nature to heal me while I have shied away from the issues. I need to allow myself to join the world both in its beauty and the pain, and not fear the problems. This is hard and it will take some work. Perhaps I have allowed myself to assume there’s no hope, and maybe that I am too od to offer anything. This doesn’t work, I must look hard at these problems. What will I do? It won’t have anything to do with politics – I accepted long ago that I am not skilled as an activist, that my talents lie as an educator and writer. But I need to go deeper and look harder at what I must express. I will try to do a journal here, periodically at least and share where I am at. I could complain about the pathetic state of politics, and state all the reasons why I think it is going in wrong directions, but I spend too much time on that. Maybe it is an escape from figuring out what I need to do. So somehow I have to come home, to both love the world and see its hurts. I will do what I can. Enough of this personal spewing, I will see where I go from here.

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These Days

Ok. Here is the word. I have sent the text of my book on Chico, Ca’s wonderful Bidwell Park to the publisher I’ve been talking with. This 3600 + acre public land ranges from developed land (golf course, picnic and swimming areas, etc.) to fairly wild and rugged turf. I talk about the natural history, the human history and the bitterly fought issues that have made this the place it is. I go into positive volunteer and educational projects and speculate on the park’s future. I am now working on tightening up the bibliography and footnotes which I will submit in about a wek and a half. The small publishing house has a backlog of projects right now, I am hoping wewill get moving in November.

With all this in mind I’ve been resisting sitting at my computer and doing any kind of writing. Resisting, I tell you! Maybe I can finally work on this as the project slows down,

So very much to write about besides this report. Covid sticks around. Meantime, it’s rained hard in Californa, and we are past wildfire season it appears, but we need much, much more. The country fragments more and more. Meantime, stratafication in income and power grow. We have a rabid reactionary movement, and a “progressive” community that seems incapable of organizing its way out of a bag; instead it shouts, screams, judges, casts threats at people who offend it including many who come from powerfully progressive places. What ever happened to “We are the 99%!”? That was simplistic, but more insightful than a lot of the rhetoric we hear now. There has been a strike wave hitting the country in October, one of the most positive developments in ages. That’s a reason for hope.

What is my role in all this? I’ve said it before but I figured out long ago that I am a flub as an organizer/activist. Instead I will continue with my educational work and writing, these are the things I am good at. My book on the park is one example, I will continue to work as a poet and a writer of articles too. My goal is to emphasize and celebrate the things I think are positive and worth working for in the world. This can range from a forest in autumn to community based practical solutions for change to music and arts and silliness. Maybe I can stimulate peoples’ out of the box thinking and encourage them to look beyond rhetoric towards creative and kind ways of doing things. I will do what I can and I will make a point of writing more here. I have said that before and will do so again. See you (hopefully) soon.

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New York, New York…

WHat can I sy about this town that hasn’t been said? I’ll try. We’ve been here for two days: it’s noisy, this grumbling, laughing city that never sleeps. I don’t think canyons of concrete and steel is original, but I will say it anyhow. I don’t think I could live here, but it’s fascinating, a great place to visit.People are a lot friendlier and more helpful than their image, and there are a lot of characters (Pittsburgh too, in different ways.) Central Park is amazing – you get a lot of views of the skyline over trees, past lake shores, etc. We rambled through the Ramble, a relatively undeveloped area with mazes of paths. It’ is called a good birding area, but there were so many people they hid. Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial is always moving – a stone mosaic that says “Imagine…” There was a dude who was playing and singing a very fine version of “Come Together”. Washington Square in the Village always intrigues me – we heard a fine jazz band, and it abounds with characters, but I’m told it’s a dangerous drug dealing area late at night. We were long gone by then. Food here is great of course – vegetarian Vietnamese and Cuban so far. We are here until tomorrow.

The Museum of Natural History is very interesting – it gets very crowded. The best exhibit we saw was an extensive one on vertebrate evolution. It is very big and detailed, I might come back with a notebook one day. We also visited the Folk Art museum with an exhibit on weathervanes. There is a lot more there than you’d dream – people made weathervanes in the shapes of dragons, witches riding on crescent moons, and lots more.

We are staying on Roosevelt Island, a very fun multicultural community in the East River. Again, there are characters here! I’ve run along the riverbank looking at the Manhattan Skyline. So I can add New York to my growing list of places where I have run.

Yes, we were here for last night’s storm, part of the hurricane. We were safe inside, but people were killed and a lot of places were damaged. We heard that the city got a month’s worth of rain in an hour. Subways are still largely shut down, but the city does seem to be coming back. We will be here another day, look for more, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life.

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Been on the road two weeks

So Kate and I have been traveling without time to write here. How can I summarize? I always love visiting Pittsburgh and my family, but our activities were limited by the Delta Variant. But we had a great picnic, and lots of good discussions. Pittsburgh itself is so different from the place of my youth. As I have discussed with other Pittsburghers on the road, the town had an inferiority complex when I was growing up – it was polluted and seen as a cultural backwater, which was why it was so significant that the Pirates beat the Yankees in 1960 (I will never forget Mazeroski’s home run!) But we had our own uniqueness – and Fred Rogers. Now da ‘Burgh is trendy. We ran into the Pittsburgh Pickle Festival, a celebration of a Pittsburgh iconic symbol – fun but a bit over the top, with pickle fudge, ice cream, and beer. We also stumbled across a pogostick jumping competition. And I will always love Carnegie Institute’s collection of dinosaur fossils.

People who we have seen are in various hard situations. My cousin Ed is the saddest, he is two years younger than me and going through advanced dementia. He is bed ridden and doing very little for himself. I fed him ice cream and popsickles, it was sad. We were able to give his wife support; she is an astoundingly strong and loving person. Others are in sad situations. I will reserve comment for now. But when I wrote earlier, I mentioned America’s deep melancholy right now. It is real.

We spent two days at the Delaware Water Gap in far eastern Pennsylvania. Beautiful area, we hiked a bit of the Appalachian Trail, surrounded by forests that are dusk dark all day because of the masses of thriving trees. WIld fungi of all shapes,sizes, and colors abound here, along with rushing streams and birds with thundrous calls. I also went to the Deer Creek Inn, America’s oldest jazz club and heard a jam session by a fine trio. We want to revisit this area, sadly we will need a car.

hWe are now visiting our friends Linda and Paul who live in a farmhouse in the Catskills. It’s a beautiful area; again, Covid has limited our activities. We had planned to go to a Hootenanny, but we were stunned to see the lack of masks, social distancing, and denial of the pandemic among otherwise aware people. We watched on Zoom; performances were great but the absence of masks wasn’t. It has been great to see our friends though.

We have two more weeks on the road. As we have traveled, wildfires continue in the west, the hurricane is pounding Louisiana, the world is watching the debacle in Afghaniztan – we never should have been there in the first place, but how could this have been handled? It is mild to call America and the world melancholy right now. But we will travel for two more weeks. I have been focused on revising the book I am writing but that is in a strong place now, so expect more here,

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On the road again…

Kate and I will fly to Pittsburgh tomorrow to visit family. After that we will visit various friends, and will spend time at Delaware Water Gap in northeastern Pennsylvania, where we will hike and kayak , visit old friends in the Catskills, and make our way to New York City. After that we will head t=to a gathering of old friends of mine in State College, Pennsylvania and I mean people from LONG ago – more on that later. There will be hiking too. We will then go to Texas to see some of Kate’s family.

This will be a very family and friend oriented trip, not a plunge into mystery like the trip to Turkey etc. two years ago. But it will be its own kind of adventure. It will also be sad – we will see people who are going through all kinds of hard times. That is to be expected – this is a terribly bleak time in America and in the world, nuff said there. But I stick with my position that bittersweetness is the name of the game, the best one word definition I can give to live as a human on earth. (Is that one word, actually?) Sometimes the sweetness is stronger, sometimes the bitterness is, the point is to be able to navigate between the two, and territory that lies between them as well. This is not always easy, and there are dark nights of the soul, but much to be celebrated as well.

So – we are onto a quest into the heart of Bittersweet America. More to come.

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NEED FOR A QUEST

So the other night Kate and I saw the new movie THE GREEN NIGHT. It’s a remarkable film, ambiguous and thought provoking – not the kind of qualities you often see in contemporary movies. I won’t go through the plot, lots of people probably know about it, and I don’t want to be told I am sharing spoilers. I will just say it is a classic hero’s journey tale, where a character feels called to go on a quest, faces challenges, sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds, then winds up coming face to face with themselves and changing deeply. It’s not an action film or a straight- forward one – the end is a mystery that I have thought about for the past two days.

How does a culture go on a quest, the kind that America needs desperately, the kind that will shake it deeply and turn it around? How do we get out of whirling circles and repetition of the same political and cultural ideas that have been going on for decades? Some people think that writers and other eccentrics have a responsibility to stun people and turn hearts and minds around. How do we get there? Only by having individuals embark on quests.

So – no I don’t think I can go on some kind of quest that will turn the culture around. No illusions there, anyhow I am probably too jaded. But maybe I can shake myself a bit, and maybe I can share some perceptions and food for thought. I will keep you informed about what my upcoming adventure will be as we get closer. It won’t be as huge as some other quests have been – but I will make it good.

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Back yet again

This time I do have a concrete reason for not writing in such a long time. I am nearly finished with a book I have been writing on the natural and human history of Chico, California’s Bidwell Park. I plan on submitting it to an interested publisher in mid September. I do have high hopes here, and I think it is really important for people to know about this wonderful and very complicated open space. Many issues are involved in this story, and there are many things that must be known.

As things have developed, I am basically finished with the writing and am onto footnotes and bibliography and last minute revisions. These are not the kinds of writing that stimulate creativity, and there are times when I can’t wait to get away from the computer. I have thought for a while that I’ve needed to get back to this blog, and I am sitting down and doing it today. I will also begin an adventure in about twelve days, and am getting back to this project so I will be stimulated to write about that. More will appear about that soon.

I think my feelings about the world’s situation has kept me from sharing too. I feel kind of bleeaahh about it all. Politically, the US feels stuck to me, with no direction forward, with increasing divisions and mud slinging, Of course, and we are much better off than during Trump’s term in office, but He Who We Must Not Name remains in the background, at least for now.

But it appears to me that this mud slinging is not involving day to day people in politics. I do fall on the progressive side of things (not “woke”, but progressive – the two are not the same thing at all.) It looks to a lot of people that the current left has admitted that it can’t change things and is resorting to insulting, attacking, and cancelling people instead of organizing and building coalitions, etc. There are some signs that more and more progressives are at odds with this “woke” stuff – but at the moment, here we are. Stuck.

There is also the pandemic that refuses to vanish, and people who refuse vaccines, although there are signs that that is changing too. And climate change. It is not just wildfires in California; there are floods in China and they also hit Germany. I just heard of floods and tornadoes back in Pennsylvania, and I just read about wildfires in coastal Turkey. I’ve been having a phone/email dialogue with a very old friend, where we wonder if the world has passed the point of no return. My thinking is no, but as I wrote to him yesterday, I am capable of living in la-la land.

I do strongly believe in writers’ responsibility to create some kind of hope, so I will try to do that, including with the upcoming adventure. So here I just spewed… writing can certainly get the creative juices flowing and the sense of hope moving. So here we go and yes I have to be disciplined. Bye for now.

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Boy have I been lazy…

The problem has been really that covid days just go on, and on, and on with so little varioations. Hikes with kate have been a joy and have gotten me through all this, and I have really focused on my book on Bidwell Park, which is in truth nearly finished. But I have been lazy about blogging. Lazy. Lazy! It is hard to be enthused with ongoing social isolation days, overdoses of Zoom (I am glad for it, but I hope there can be in person gatherings before terribly long),

In the midst of all this, things really haven’t been that great in America. I support much of what Biden has done (getting us back in the Paris Accords and the WHO, cancelling the pipeline, working to improve immigration policy and Covid relief. Other policies worry me as bieing too influenced by the ‘woke”; I am very at odds with this classist/anti-intellectual/anti-scientific/judgemental/Orwellian cult, and I see a terrible amount of danger in it. I am speaking as a life long progressive here.At the same time, Trump and his cult haven’t given up, as we are seeing at the current Conservative Action Pac. This country is no less polarized than before the election. Kate and I are among the homeless progressives who are very at odds with Wokeness and with the right. There are an awful lot of us, I hope we can emerge as a sane alternative.

But spring is coming. Bidwell Park is more and more full of wildflowers – manzanitas, pipevine blossoms, milkmaids, goldfields, madrone flowers, bay laurel flowers, and I’ve heard about others sticking their little blossoms out of the ground. Kate and I had our second Covid vaccine yesterday. It was amazing how efficient the whole operation was both times. We had to stand in line and turn in certain records, to friendly and helpful people, then we sat briefly and got shots from friendly assistants who answered questions, then had to sit 15 minutes to make sure we didn’t have serious reactions. We’ve both been run down and achey for the past two days, but have had no serious reactions. I walked out into the evening last night and felt like a terrific weight had been lifted from inside me. The peach colored sunset, the labyrinth branched oaks waiting for their leaves, the cooling air. tiny birds zipping by. Onward! And I must write more here. I must. I must!

At the

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“So now it is Christmas…

…and what have we done?” Lots of you know how much I love John Lennon, with all his failures and flaws.. the human condition. Yeah, it’s been a while. Kate and I are pretty hunkered down, the pandemic ravages Northern California (and the world), but we do still manage to hike in safe ways, and manage to do ok, We read, take walks, hike safely, zoom for classes and friends, cook ( I just made a veggie German feast – Kate, who is not 100% veggie loved it!), and yeah, see some good Netflix movies/ shows. We wait for the vaccine with a lot of anticipation and hope. In the meantime we have a certain amount of tension about January. It seems very unlikely that there will be a coup or civil war in the US, but Trump is INSANE, and he is pushing some unstable people towards violence if he is unwilling to admit this or not.At any rate, it looks like the disagreements will go on without resolution. But, as my dude John sang, “Have a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year/ Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”

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