Quotidian Update 9 x 10 to the umpteenth power.4.ix

Another quiet morning in the Back of Beyond. Cloudy (huh?) and soft all around. Yesterday in the morning the dogs and I went out for a ramble (calm down, calm down, I know it’s surprising, but really, take it easy). It was a crisp and lovely morning. I saw cranes grazing in a field as I was driving to the Refuge and my heart gave a little spring. “Maybe???”

I can act blasé, but I’m not. I hoped to see and hear them on our walk and we did. Right now the wooly bears are crossing the road all over the place. I had to tell them, “Little guys, you’re way too small for anyone in a car to see, so BE CAREFUL.” They didn’t pay any attention. The dogs are VERY interested in them. Halfway on our adventure ( relative term, Sir Richard Francis Burton) I heard the cranes and soon after I saw them. I think Bear noticed them before I did because she stopped in front of me. It was great.

On our way home, my phone rang (meaning my watch) and my friend Lois and her husband were on their way back from the Grand Canyon and wondered if I could meet for lunch in Del Norte. I had just enough time to get the dogs home, clean up a little and drive to Del Norte to meet them. What a great surprise! Lois’ husband, Michael, has long wanted to see the Grand Canyon, but every time they tried to go, some misadventure befell them. Now, he can’t see due to macular degeneration, but they went, they got there and within his range of abilities — known only to Michael — he finally saw the Grand Canyon.

My friend’s photos made me want to go. Like Lois and Michael, my attempts to see the Grand Canyon have been met with frustrations. It could happen… If it does, it will probably be one of life’s superlative experiences. No, I don’t have any expectations… 😉

All this made me think of the mystery of love in our lives, and I thought again of a passage in a book by Jack Kerouac where he describes what he felt driving away from his friends — this time they happened to be William S. Burroughs and his family — somewhere in Texas. He wrote that as he drove away they became smaller and smaller until they were swallowed by the immense sky of the American West. I’ve spent all but one year of my life in that very American West and the sky IS vast. I remembered thinking — soon after I moved to Southern California — that we were all trapped there between the desert and the ocean, and all we could do was parade up and down, north and south, on one freeway or another, but the skies were still pretty big, though not really vast. In time I got a more accurate view of So Cal and that perception changed, but here? From the first, the immense and changing sky of the San Luis Valley won my heart. I paint it, I photograph it, I look at it, I live under it.


We finished lunch and said our good-byes. There was something I wanted to see in Del Norte so I went one way and they went another, to cross the valley and be swallowed by a mountain pass that would disgorge them into the vastness of the American prairie.

Lois photo of what greeted them when they cross the mountains

I drove around the very small town of Del Norte until I found what I was looking for. Del Norte’s back streets (many of its streets) are dirt roads and some of the houses and garages back there are log cabins, a few log covered with adobe. I haven’t driven around back there before, and I saw a lot of things to paint if I wanted to, but at the moment I don’t know what I’m doing as an artist.

I was looking for the city hall across from which is a park. In that park is the original station for the Barlow and Sanderson Stagecoach. Once on the main drag (my street) it was moved to make way for a Dollar General store. I imagined a time when friends passing through Del Norte would have to spend the night on their way to cross the same pass. Their journey home from here would take weeks back in the “olden” days. There would be no phone call on a Dick Tracy watch, either, alerting me of their arrival.

Successful Escape from Freedom

Yesterday I spent a couple of grueling hours at the Jeep dealership getting Bella ready for winter and having the third brake light replaced since I broke it several months ago when I drove into the garage with the cargo door open. I had to order the part and I’ve had it for several months, too. The part cost almost $100 (today I find I could have gotten it cheaper, grrrrrrrr….), the repair cost $120, and the winterizing cost about $100. That was all bad enough but the worst part was the music played in the dealership. It was a culture thing.

There is music that is ubiquitous background music, easily tuned out. Then there was the country station I was stuck with for two hours. OK, music is a personal taste thing, 100%. BUT there is country music and there was THIS, and it was playing loudly. I’m whining and I’m totally aware that this is a first world problem and I probably could have gotten up and changed it. It was Sirius XM emanating from a machine. I think the situation was worsened by the book I brought along with me. You guessed it, Escape from Freedom. I don’t think Dante wrote about a circle of hell like I just described, but, yeah. Trapped in a car dealership with bad country music and Escape from Freedom? If the dealership keeps your car over night, they give you a ride home. If not? The days of 24 hr loaner cars vanished long long ago, I guess.

So what’s new with Erich Fromm? Expiring minds want to know. I liked what I read yesterday. Fromm drew connections between Protestantism and the capitalist revolution that took place as the medieval world collapsed. He’s still ignoring the plague, but I guess it’s his book.

Fromm’s purpose in the analysis of two Protestant philosophical/theological/psychological theories is to illustrate his idea that modern freedom has isolated the individual. I began to understand the “freedom from” idea a little (not really, honestly), but this helped, “This book is devoted mainly to freedom as a burden and danger, the following analysis, being intentionally one-sided, stresses that side in Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrines in which this negative aspect of freedom is rooted in their emphasis on the fundamental evilness and powerlessness of man.”

I was raised a Protestant with semi-severe indoctrination against the Catholic Church. My very first mass was in the rose garden in Portland, Oregon. My grandmother wanted to go to mass there so we supported her. She was a Unitarian, undoubtedly raised a Lutheran (Swedish immigrants), who’d married an Irish catholic. That’s America in a nut shell (no pun intended). I felt very strange at mass but how could I really tell the difference back then from Catholic mass in a rose garden and weekly chapel at the Episcopal school I attended for two years as a tween? My first REAL mass experience was in San Diego at Our Lady of the Rosary. It was great. I loved it. I got really good at going to mass and my friend, Denis Joseph Francis Callahan was ready to sign me up for classes in how to be a Catholic (and then marry me?). The best mass of all was Latin mass at the Basilica San Ambrogio in Milan.

Clearly I was a failed Protestant, but I failed long long long long before I partook in the ritual of the Whore of Babylon. By the time I was a teenager I thought church was OK, but the philosophical/religious underpinnings were gruesome. That’s what happens when you study American literature, I guess. Fromm does a great job describing the main problem of Calvinism, something I saw myself a long time ago. It presents an image of God that’s a lot less than “divine.”

The key point to Calvinism is the doctrine of predestination which asserts that God chose at the beginning of time of time which people would be saved and which would be damned to the eternal fires of hell. I was 17 when I first met this idea and I thought, “What kind of God is that?” and probably took a hike. Then, in university, I got to read this fun little thing, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Shudder. Fromm asserts that this theory of predestination is the crux of Calvin’s whole system, “…assuming that God not only predestines some for grace, but decides that others are destined for eternal damnation…Calvin’s God, in spite of all attempts to preserve the idea of God’s justice and love, has all the features of a tyrant without any quality of love or even justice…Calvin denies the supreme role of love and says, ‘For what the Schoolmen (conventional, medieval, Catholic thinkers — maybe Erasmus?) advance concerning the priority of charity to faith and hope, is a mere reverie of a distempered imagination’.”

I wasn’t sure which denominations today subscribe to Calvinism, so I looked at that repository of all knowledge and found this: “The Reformed tradition is largely represented by the Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, Evangelical Anglican, Congregationalist, and Reformed Baptist denominations.” Puritanism is Calvinist. I don’t think this list is complete. I think Prosperity Christianity falls under this umbrella.

Fromm’s purpose in discussing these two Reformation doctrines (Lutheranism and Calvinism) is to explain what took the place of the uniform (comparatively) uniform culture of medieval Europe and gave the middle class a haven FROM freedom as well as psychologically conditioning people for capitalism, for surrendering their identity to the “machine” of capital. “Once the individual has lost his sense of pride and dignity, he was psychologically prepared to lose the feeling which had been characteristic of medieval thinking, namely, that man, his spiritual salvation, and his spiritual aims were the purpose of life. He was prepared to accept a role in which his life became a means to purposes outside of himself…”

I thought about that for a while as I listened to some faux cowboy twang about dancing with some woman on a bare hardwood floor and how that experience led them to marriage and children. After about a hundred such songs, I realized most of the songs I was hearing were about mate, spawn and die. Then my mind wandered to popular music in general and how most songs are about mate, spawn and die. Images of Beavis and Butthead went through my mind, yelling at the TV “Change it! Change it!”

I got up and took a walk around the building and then asked about the progress of my car. “I just saw him put the hood down. It won’t be long now. Changing out that brake light is a lot of work.” What is this “changing out” and where did it come from? And changing “up”? What’s that. Clearly I needed to get out of there. And, clearly, I did. 🙂

Bella is ready for winter and I’m ready to paint a sign over the garage, “Close the cargo door before you drive in here, Sweet Cheeks.”

Caveat: I’m not judging anyone’s faith here. I am just reporting on what I read. I’m a very firm believer that today’s smorgasbord of religious doctrines is a great thing as long as it doesn’t cause one recipe to attempt to stop the other dishes on the table from existing.

Sketchy

I’ve had a painting — or something — in the back of my mind for a while, trying to figure out how to do it and what it would be. It’s a dog painting, but this time the dog isn’t Bear.

Yesterday — it rained all day — very strange, And one day of rain is about my limit and by late afternoon I was all “Rainy days and Mondays…la la la.” I went into the studio to consider the whole thing. For some reason, it’s never a rainy day in the studio, even when things don’t work out. I decided to sketch it even though ONE thing I learned from “Rainbow Girls in Wheatland, Wyoming in 1957” is that sometimes a sketch is all (all?) a work will be. It made me a little hesitant to draw because I (think) want to paint this scene.

It’s kind of a “wet” scene, too, so pencils seem just too hard, and too dry for it to capture it. But a rainy day will drive a person to dangerous lengths.

During the time I was cleaning out my journals, I found one that is really a sketchbook. There were only a few pages that had been “journaled” so I ripped them out and saved the book. The paper seemed just right for the project I was thinking of sketching, so I pulled it out and drew.

I have had some amazing experiences out there with my dogs. This is my dog, Molly (half-Aussie, half-Malamute), blue merle, up in the Laguna Mountains (3/2000). There was about 18 inches of snow at the top — about 5500/6000 feet. You can see in the drawing what a snappy dresser I was back in 2000, taking skis up to the mountains to carpe the diem. It snowed in Southern California, a lot sometimes, but it melted quickly. We skied down about 1 1/2 miles to the pond which was in a completely different season. It was spring there.

The pond sits at the top of a ravine (it’s a small, dammed farmer’s pond kind of thing) and the air currents from the Pacific run right up that ravine. They were carrying snow = moisture. When the fog from the ocean hit the pond, which was warmer than it was, it drifted toward the water in beautiful veils of mist.

A little higher, the fog hit the Jeffry Pine trees and coated the needles in ice and then further up, snow.

Molly and I went back and forth from winter — about 1500 feet above the pond — and back to the pond several times. It was an amazing moment.

And drawing Molly? Wow. I could almost feel her beside me.

Right now, I don’t know if it’s ever going to be a painting. The ephemeral experience might be best depicted just like this, and maybe no one needs to see this image but me (and you!). I don’t know yet.

Molly

Just Another Walk in Heaven

Woke up this morning to…. RAIN????!!!!! Huh??? Ribbons of rain trailing down the windows to my complete surprise. Rain in the morning is exceedingly rare here in the back of beyond but it’s a sign of changing times meaning Fall and (OMG) WINTER!! ❄️

Teddy persuaded me yesterday (not much of a challenge) to take him out to the Big Empty. It’s so nice now. Beautiful light, beautiful breeze, comfortable temps, no deer flies. Oh yeah, I’ve said before. Yeah, well, I never take things like that for granted.

Readers will be happy to know that most of the garter snakes I saw were alive. I scared one to make it get out of the road. How? I walked closer and stomped on the ground. The little guy stuck out his tongue to see if I was worth eating and I saw how beautiful his tongue was — blue underneath, bright red on top. They aren’t colorful snakes, so I was a little surprised. When he decided I might be an SUV and not a grasshopper he high-tailed it (most of him is tail) into the grass. Teddy was less interested in him than Bear would have been, but not much.

The sky was indecisive, and for a very short time, we walked in the rain. Teddy is still a little crazy on the end of the leash, but a lot less so than last year. He’s growing up — four years this coming January. (PSA Many new dog owners don’t realize that a dog isn’t really mature mentally until they are a few years old.) I also think that having the chance to go out alone with me makes him happy. He wants me to scratch his little head the whole time I’m driving, which, given hay trucks, isn’t possible.

“There’s something there, Martha.”
“Thanks for letting me know, little guy. I wish you could tell me WHAT.”

“Constant interspecies problem, Martha.”
“I know, Teddy.”

Bear, meanwhile, this morning, is already hinting that it’s her turn. She’s not wrong, but…

Because of the moving clouds in the indecisive sky, the light changed constantly rendering the landscape a blue and yellow, pastel world. I felt like taking pictures, so…

If you’re pining for more Escape from Freedom, well, some things are swirling through my mind. One is that Fromm wrote somewhere (I will find it again) that the charismatic (my words, not his) will say words that don’t correspond with his actions and should be judge not by what he says, but what he does. He makes the point that contradiction is a trait of these people, that their psychology is built on it. I’ll find the passage and share it next time I feel like delving into another wandering analysis of this book.

The Next Stage

Big news in the back-of-beyond. There’s a stagecoach coming to town or something, no, wait, it’s already IN town. It’s leaving town and going to Del Norte, if everything goes as many hope and plan. I don’t know the whole story, but it looks like I might be writing it. I’m pondering that. The story has been offered to me, but I don’t know yet what the story is — at first I thought it was the fancy dinner being held next month at the local historical hotel, but after not sleeping on it (I am tired of this not sleeping thing, really, really, really and literally tired of it) I’m thinking the fancy dinner isn’t the story. It’s part of the story. The story would be the actual acquisition of the stagecoach, with, maybe the process involved in getting it. I dunno yet.

Yesterday I told the esteemed psychologist/philosopher, Mr. Fromm, I had other work to do and had to put down Escape from Freedom for a bit (whew), and I researched the stagecoach. I learned that it was mistakenly painted red when it was thought all the stagecoaches built by the company painted their coaches red, but then it was learned that the stagecoach wasn’t a big one. It’s a small one, a “mud wagon,” designed to navigate narrow roads through the mountains. Mud wagons were painted yellow ochre. The small ones weighed a couple tons unloaded. Its main job was to connect mining towns. At the end of its “life,” it was connecting towns in Northern New Mexico and the San Luis Valley; once remote and underserved by public transportation, always remote and underserved by public transportation.

There were a lot of stage lines back in the day, diminishing as the railroad came to various parts of the nation. As I read about this particular line, I thought about a meme I saw on Facebook not long ago where there was a horse harnessed to a wagon and words below the photo saying, “One upon a time our vehicles were propelled by engines that avoided hazards” or something like that. Horse drawn vehicles still exist on the roads of the San Luis Valley.

Amish buggy following an Amish wagon, both loaded with women, kids and groceries. I was kind of far away and took this through a dirty windshield.


Horse drawn vehicles are slower than cars, but they get there. They have different problems, but considering how many millennia people relied on them… OH well. My reading told me that the stage went about 15 miles/hour and at what distance they had to change horses. That’s pretty much the distance between towns along my street, US Hwy 160. I found a great, contemporary picture of the big stage in action.

This isn’t the Mud Wagon that’ll be rolling into Del Norte, but the big stage. This lithograph appears to show a stage in California with Mt. Shasta in the background. It’s loaded down with passengers with the Chinese riding on top. It cost $250 to cross the west from Kansas to California. The $250 included baggage.

Featured photo: Poor little Teddy trying so hard to get comfortable.

An Epiphany in Escaping from Freedom

It’s true; Escape from Freedom is heavy going for me. I don’t want to jinx it since I’m also enjoying it, and it’s been good for me recovering my brain from Covid, but I’m glad I wasn’t assigned the book to read over the weekend! Forgive me for all these boring posts.

Writing about it as I read helps me process and understand, which makes sense as my academic training at those liberal indoctrination camps was to do just that. I’ve been wading through what I have found to be Fromm’s somewhat questionable and slanted perspective on the Middle Ages and the transition to so-called “modern times.” But I am a medievalist. I like those people. I like their way of thinking. I like their institutions and their religious philosophy. I like their literature and their artwork. I don’t think I romanticize the period, but everything I’ve studied has shown me that we just don’t know much about them, and we assume a lot — for example that they never bathed and had no toilets. Studying them opened my eyes to the fact that we all share a future bias, which is that humanity is better now than it was in the past (whatever that means).

Anyway, one important thing Fromm seems not to have considered, or forgotten, or intentionally ignored, is the impact of the Black Death on the change between Medieval times and the, uh, uh, I’m just going to call it the 16th century. I mean, when 60% of the population of Europe DIES in roughly a decade during the 14th century from the Great Mortality, the world WILL change. One of the biggest changes was that it gave bargaining power to the peasants, tradesmen and craftsmen who survived the disease. (“men” = humans) “You want my labor? You pay for it!” “You want the food I grow? You pay for it!” “You want my skills? You pay for them!” People even moved to places where they had a better opportunity.

But, Fromm seems to be ignoring that and that’s OK. It’s not my book. The Reformation is his destination; it’s what he wants to write about. He is interested in what we might call the “cult of personality.” So am I.

By the beginning of the 16th century, the Church was losing its power over the people. It was a centuries long process. There are 12th and 13th century poems/minnesangs that complain about the pope’s treatment of people particularly those who live far away from Rome. The pope and the emperor(s) had been at war for generations over territory and power, wars that depended on mercenaries from Switzerland and, later, areas in what would become Germany. That ONE thing right there was a big factor in the success of the Swiss reformation in the early 16th century which ultimately led to the growth of several different protestant faiths. There was the period of the papal schism at the end of the 14th century when there were two popes — one in Italy, one in France. There were also what look to us from the long lens of time as “small” attempts to reform the church — Saint Francis — and pretty much every religious order — started out with that aim in mind. My point is that the church wasn’t a static, universally loved power over the people, not at all.

It never occurred to me before that the BIG change of the Reformation was that it put a charismatic (religious or other) leader in front of vulnerable people in contrast to the times when the church was God, God was the church and Bob’s your uncle. The plague (about which Fromm doesn’t write) would have scared the living shit out of people; it was Covid times a million. On top of that, death from the plague was gruesomely ugly, horrifying, and involved the color BLACK which we all know represents evil. People were more concerned about demonic possession than disease since disease WAS demonic possession. Fromm doesn’t write that along with the years of the Renaissance and Reformation came such leading lights as Savonarola or such noble institutions as the Spanish Inquisition, witch-hunts and heavy persecution of Jews who, during the Middle Ages were, for the most part, just other people in the village.

By the 15th century, I imagine people were lost — they’d gone through a period with two popes during the Great Papal Schism; people had died all over the place and the plague didn’t completely go away; clearly God had abandoned them. As Europe picked itself up after that, many great and good things happened, no question, but there was also a spiritual and leadership gap. Religious skepticism — disillusionment — had to have been enormous. Certainly they looked for someone to blame, something to blame and they looked for something to believe in.

In beginning his discussion of the Reformation, Fromm makes sure we (meaning I) understand that he’s talking about the psychology of the leaders and the followers. I’m cool with that, and as I read I got the feeling I was about to understand the very thing I’ve been struggling with for 6 or 7 years now. And voila…

Fromm writes that psychology of the leaders of the Reformation (early 16th century) meshed with qualities in the psychology of their followers that enabled a religious revolution. He emphasizes that it wasn’t logical, but psychological, meaning that contradictions were an intrinsic part of it. Fromm writes, “The influence of any doctrine of idea depends on the extent to which it appeals to psychic needs in the character structure of those to whom it is addressed. Only if the idea answers powerful psychological needs of certain social groups will it become a potent force in history.”

Nailed it.

I give you Exhibit A. Shooting an assault rifle from a helicopter, the esteemed representative from an impoverished district in Georgia, has just (allegedly) killed a wild pig in Texas. Making America Great (Again)

Still Trying to Escape from Freedom

I could sure use rejuvenation this morning. I don’t even want to write what I’m thinking about so I’ll go to Erich Fromm which is a stream of tedium in its own way, but kind of cool and enlightening.

Escape from Freedom is so dense that I can read about 5 pages before I’m going “Whoa. Overload.” Yesterday Fromm compared the new capitalist market economy of the 15th century with Calvinism. Who wouldn’t go “Whoa, dude, huh?”

“…the medieval market had been a relatively small one, the functioning of which was readily understood. It brought demand and supply into direct and concrete relation. A producer knew approximately how much to produce and could be relatively sure of selling his products for a proper price. Now it was necessary to produce for an increasingly large market, and one could not determine the possibilities of sale in advance.”

Here’s the kicker, “It was therefore not enough to produce useful goods. Although this was the one condition for selling them, the unpredictable laws of the market decided whether the products could be sold at all.

And here it gets weird, “The mechanism of the new market seemed to resemble the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, which taught that the individual must make every effort to be good, but that even before his birth it had been decided whether or not he is to be saved. The market day became the day of judgment for the products of human effort.”

Fromm is on the brink of his counter argument — which is that capitalism freed the individual and he offers up the usual cant (or so it seems to me). Any of us could write this, but, “…capitalism…freed man from the regimentation of the corporative system; it allowed him to stand on his own feet and to try his luck. He became the master of his fate, his was the risk, his the gain. Individual effort could lead him to success and economic independence. Money became the great equalizer of man and proved to be more powerful than birth or caste.”

To me the words “success” and “freedom” are red flags. Success? What is that? Ultimately (and will Fromm go here? I don’t know) it seems to me that each person must finally determine for him/herself whether their life has been/is a success. The ultimate success, of course, is survival. Ask any animal and you get THAT answer. That is the great irony of sentient life, an irony the church attempts to address, an irony that some people attempt to reconcile through fame and, uh, success. Oh shit. And “freedom”?

Fromm closes the chapter with a long paragraph that begins with the clearest expression we have to the question of freedom; that it is ambiguous. “The individual is freed from the bondage of economic and political ties. He also gains in positive freedom by the active and independent role which he has to play in the new system. But, simultaneously he is freed from those ties which used to give him security and a feeling of belonging…The new freedom is bound to create a deep feeling of insecurity, powerlessness, doubt, aloneness, and anxiety. These feelings must be alleviated if the individual is to function successfully.”

How has that played out in our day? My first answer is “retail therapy” or, more generally, by acquiring things. I guess I’ll find out where Fromm goes, but it seems to me that is one way we free people exercise our positive freedom, freedom TO.

Meanwhile, in my little cottage industry, working on the notecard problem with some success. The black and white notecards, ink drawings, look much BETTER printed here than by a commercial company. Who knew?

Featured photo: Shriver/Wright Wildlife Area, September 28, 2019

Bearigrination

Yesterday Bear and I fought our way out of the house (seriously, poor Teddy… No no, he’s fine. I just had to force him to stay behind by shutting the door) so just the two of us could have a quiet walk on a cloudy day. I really needed it, and I think my Bear did, too. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Wait, how can something be “more perfect?” It can’t. And that isn’t even true. Snow would have made it more perfect. OH well… That’s like “More best.”

We had an audience — some friendly crane tourists had come up from New Mexico and were making do with some ducks in an irrigation ditch. “What’re you seeing?” I asked.

“Ducks, mostly, mallards.” They had the gear, the cameras, long lenses, everything. They were READY. One couple even had a VW camper van (sigh dream on, Martha). They also had what some crane tourists don’t have — a sense of humor. “We saw some cranes, maybe 25,” the man gestured to a barley field to the southeast. I nodded. It’s important to see cranes. Every crane tourist wants to — well, almost every crane tourist. I’ve met a few people who were happy to see whatever they saw. Those are my kind of crane tourists. Of course, he wanted to know when they were usually here in the fall. They hadn’t come all that far — just from Taos, a couple hours away.

“They don’t come in that huge group in the fall. But, I’m no expert,” I said, “I’m just out here all the time.”

“That makes you an expert.”

“OK. Well, from where I stand as an expert, cranes do whatever they want whenever they want.”

“Nature, huh?” said the guy, grinning.

“Yeah. We’ve had a warm fall — it hasn’t even frosted yet — so…”

“You think they are affected by the weather?”

“It seems to me they are. In 2020 when we had that early snow, they were early. Well, have fun!!”

“Thanks!”

Bear and I continued our Bearigrination. It was such a pleasure walking in the cool breeze. While we didn’t see any cranes — this time of year I don’t think anyone can be out there without wanting to see them — I saw a Harris Hawk swooping low over the ground and a Red Tailed hawk hunting. Bear studied the ground with passion and feeling, liberated from the responsibility she has when Teddy goes along. When Teddy comes, she feels she needs to stay beside me.

There were many dead garter snakes along the road attesting to two things; one, they’d been dropped by birds. Two, they’d been run over by cars. I could kind of tell from the position of the corpse and it’s location on the road what had happened. I don’t want Bear being interested in them — dead or alive. They won’t hurt her, but…

Because of Bear’s attention and scrutiny to the edges of the road, I picked up a Red Tailed hawk feather and a soda (we say “pop” not “soda” in Colorado) can I might not have seen. It was beautiful, relaxing, soothing and just what I needed after my tussle with gravity on Monday. The aspen are rapidly turning up in the mountains. I couldn’t get a good photo without borrowing one of the cameras belonging to the crane tourists, but believe me, wow. The featured photo is from around Kenosha Pass and was taken by my friend Lois a few days ago.

Inflation

A big challenge for an artist like me is money framing a painting. I have another big painting on a panel that needs a frame. It’s not just for the hanging or aesthetics that the painting needs a frame; panels are a little fragile in the corners and a frame protects them. I thought of a GoFundMe for $100 and then laughed at myself. It’ll happen. I just don’t know when.

I’ve also stopped the note card business except direct orders. It’s a gamble at this point to order them printed professionally when THOSE costs have gone up a lot. I have found a way to print them myself — and the quality of the printed image is excellent, every bit as good as Vistaprint. Still, with postage going up so much, I imagine people will be sending less mail — may already be sending less mail.

I experimented with the Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming (aka The Three Graces) and that came out beautifully. I’m going to have to refine this for landscapes, but I’m optimistic.

I’m not whining. I have an income, few needs and the ability to choose (to some extent). The way I see it, after the past several years of craziness things are naturally going to be fucked up. Like other “bad” times in my life I figure my job is just to hold on. It’s worked OK in the past. I’m just really happy I bought my house when interest rates were so low and refinanced it when they went lower. Meanwhile, I live in a beautiful place, have friends and the opportunity to simplify my life to ride this out. It’s comforting and not comforting to know we’re all in the same boat. I’m a little worried by the recent election in Italy, but, as I’m learning from Fromm, people turn to authoritarianism when they’re scared and have lost faith. Maybe he wouldn’t put it that way, but it seems to me that’s what it boils down to.

One thing that’s doing VERY well are the Scarlet Emperor Beans of song and story. With 23 plants, you’d expect SOMETHING to happen and it has. Several things. One I’ve learned is how much they like living in a close neighborhood. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if you plant them directly 1 or 3 inches deep ; they’re going to come up and do just as well as the ones you’ve nursed into being in the house. I’ve learned they are just very very happy to be alive, and while they “like” my attention, they prefer it ensconced in their language which is sunlight, heat and water, all leading to a chorus of “Thank you, Martha!”

I’m no Felix Mendel, but these all came from one packet of five seeds. The first year I planted one. I harvested seeds from it and, the next year, combined the seeds from that plant with those I had remaining from the packet and planted three. The next year I planted four. Then six. Then and then… They are all related to each other. I wonder if they’ve naturally selected in some way to do well in my small garden plot. This isn’t their native land by any stretch, though the altitude is. “This species originated from the mountains of Central America. It was most likely cultivated in the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala around 2000 BC.” And more.. Eat the Weeds

The Scarlet Runner Bean has also been called …Aycoctl by the Aztecs, and Ayocote by the Spanish. It’s native to Central America and has escaped cultivation in many areas. This bean is still on the home kitchen menu in its original range but the rest of the world grows it as an ornamental. Lots of folks also use it as a nectar attraction for hummingbirds and butterflies. Historically, Scarlet Runner Bean was in English and early American gardens by the 1600s.

There are some dozen and a half cultivars now. (Cultivars are made by man, varieties are made by nature.) The Dutch Phaseolus coccineus v. alba has white flowers. The “Butler” is stringless, “Painted Lady” has red and white flowers, the “Kelvedon Wonder” is an early variety with long pods, “Sunset” has pink flowers, and the “Scarlet Emperor” …has scarlet flowers. Under right conditions the Scarlet Runner Bean is the most productive of all the planted beans.

Various red runner beans…

I think next year I’m going to try a new system because this year’s system – with all those plants – wasn’t great. It wasn’t even a “system.” It was kind of “Oh shit, what do I do now?” My past methods didn’t work with so many plants. Then, because most of the light is at the top of 8 to 10 foot plants, they got top heavy. Reaching for the sun, a couple almost fell over. I guess I have a few months to research wires/netting etc. Anyway, out of this strange summer, that began with my not even wanting to mess with a garden, I have learned a lesson. Mess with the garden. It might be the best part of the whole show.

Dude Tries to Go to Work

“Well, Lamont, I guess this is some kind of weird fate that I’m going to live with an albatross in this two bedroom beach house.”

“You don’t like it, Dude? I thought I’d be good company.”

“You’re pretty messy, Lamont. I can’t believe you don’t want to live with the other albatrosses on the beach.”

“Problem is, Dude, I can’t. My albatross brain has imprinted to you. Birdbrains, you know? Besides you know what they say, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’. I don’t know if I ever thanked you.”

“No. But you’re welcome anyway.”

“You going out?”

“Out?”

“With your board?”

“I have to go to work today. It’s been weeks since I turned up at the museum. Lucky for me they’re an understanding bunch, and when I told them I’d taken in an orphaned albatross, they just thought I was deeply and environmentally cool and gave me a paid leave of absence.”

“From the Smilodon suit?”

“That and the research, you know, scrapping tar off bones to find out what they are.”

“Right. Well, when do we leave?”

“Lamont, you can’t come with me. You’re going to have to go out there on the beach with the other albatrosses when I’m at work.”

“That’s terrifying.”

“Why? You might find out you like them.”

“What do I say to them?”

“Maybe just shut up for once and listen. Find out what albatrosses think about, what worries them. Learn how to be an albatross because you’re going to be an albatross for the duration, Lamont.”

“I know what they think about. Just like the rest of us. ‘Mate, spawn and die.’ What else is there? When will you be home?”

“I dunno. 7 ish. You going to have dinner ready for me? No no no, never mind, just kidding. Please don’t bring dinner.”

“Images of fish guts just flashed through your mind didn’t they, Dude? I don’t see why I can’t come with you. I’ll be quiet.”

“It’s dangerous. You’ll be drawn to the water in that pond and let me tell you, you DON’T want to go there.”

“I’ve BEEN there, or have you forgotten? Thanks to you.”

“Let it go, Lamont.”

“Is there a dumpster?”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past iterations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

My response to the Rag Tag Daily Prompt today — bottle — is a link to the first episode of Lamont’s and Dude’s adventures.